Blog Posts

Mental Health Raw and Open with Special Guest Catherine Parlee

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ybbzu-d999ed

Hi, and thanks for listening to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show, we will chat with Catherine Parlee. Catherine is an amazingly strong, beautiful woman who is not only in recovery for an eating disorder, but she shares her story, and her blog, to help educate and empower other young women to embrace the beauty of their body.

Catherine and her blog can be reached at www.instagram.com/edrecoverygurl

Thank you for taking the time to learn about Catherine’s journey. I appreciate all of you listeners.

Until next time, please be safe and take care of yourselves and each other. 

J xxx

If you enjoy my work, please feel free to make a small donation to help me with out of pocket costs, especially during this pandemic. 

www.paypal.me/jodybetty

www.Ko-Fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

Music Credit: Jay Superior

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest and Best Selling Author, Sharon Stewart

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-89r42-d5d864

Hi, and thanks for listening to another episode of the Mental Health Raw and Open Podcast. On today’s show, we will chat with Sharon Smith, Author of the newly released book “Healing the Little Woman Inside, Stories of Rebirth and Renewal. She is also the and owner of a nonprofit Charity called Simply a New Me, where she teaches and empowers young women to be strong, and brave and speak out.

I am humbled and honored to be a part of Sharon’s book, and her vision of healing as many people as we can. Education reduces ignorance.

Sharon can be found on

Instagram as Simplyanewme

Facebook as Sharon Smith Stewart

or at www.Simplyanewme.com 

Thank you for taking the time to listen and maybe even learn something new. I appreciate all of you. I hope you all have a good week, and until next time, take care and be well. 

J xxx

If you enjoy my work, please feel free to contribute to help me with some of the out of pocket fees.

www.Paypal.me/jodybetty

www.Ko-Fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

Music by Jay Superior

 

Mental Health Raw and Open Penny Hollick Memorial Tribute

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-rbbav-d513c1

Hey everyone,

So, this is a solo podcast, and without a doubt the hardest one I have ever had to do. It is a memorial tribute to my dear friend, Penny Hollick. She was one of the strongest, bravest, and beautiful souls that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She lost her fight to cancer Monday, Feb 24, 2020. A day that I will never forget. 

I did this podcast so I could share a bit of my friend with you all, and would really appreciate you having a listen. It is not too long.

Thank you, and until next time, take care and be well.  

J xxx

paypal.me/jodybetty

Ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

 

Season 2 Ep.4 Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Jay Doodnauth

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-sxdn7-d45c00

Hi and welcome to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show, we will chat with a very close friend, Jay (Superior) Doodnauth. Jay and I met at the premiere of his short MH film called Perspective. It is incredibly poignant and I would recommend watching it if you have the opportunity. I believe Jay has a link posted to it on his Instagram.

On top of being a film producer and director, Jay is a creative genius and an incredibly good musician. He also spends a lot of time supporting and speaking about Mental Health, and all round, is just a fantastic human being.

Please take some time to have a listen.

You can find Jay at:  https://www.instagram.com/thinksuperior              https://www/instagram.com/perspectivetheshortfilm

or on Facebook @jaysuperior

or on Soundcloud  soundcloud.com/jdsuperior

Thank you for taking the time to listen. It means a lot to me, to be able to have an avenue besides writing to share stories, and hopefully help to lessen stigma. Until next time, take care and be well.

J xxx

If you enjoy my podcast or websites or blog, please consider making a small donation as there are out of pocket expenses and I am on a very limited income. Thank you.

Paypal.me/jodybetty

Ko-Fi.com/jodybbwtips

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Shreya Patel

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-idry7-d3912d

Hi and thanks for joining us on another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show, we will talk to my dear, beautiful friend, Shreya Patel. Shreya is an Actress, a Film Director and Producer, A model, and was recently chosen as one of Forbes’s most influential people under 30 years old. Shreya is also a fierce mental health advocate, doing work with Bell Let’s Talk, and sharing her story with others.

You can find Shreya on Twitter and Instagram: @imshreyapatel

Thank you for taking some time from your day to spend with us. Each and every listener is appreciated. Until next time, take care and stay strong.

If you enjoy my content please consider a small donation to cover out of pocket expenses.

https://paypal.me/jodybetty

https://ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

Music provided by Jay Superior

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Brent Lyles

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-ttec2-d2a23c

Hi, and welcome to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show, we chat with survivor and therapist Brent Lyles. Brent suffers from mental health issues and openly shares them in order to better connect with his clients. Although he still deals with his diagnoses, he has turned his obstacles around, and now helps others not to suffer as he did. It was a great conversation with Brent, and I look forward to our next chat.

Brent can be found on Twitter: @itsbrentlyles

Thank you again for taking the time to listen, perhaps learn something new, and share. The more people that are educated increases the likelihood of ending the stigma surrounding mental health.

If you enjoy my content, please consider a small donation to help me cover out of pocket costs, it would be greatly appreciated.

Until next time, take care and be well.

J xxx

Paypal.me/jodybetty

https://ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Caroline Cook

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-2d2cz-d0c1f1

Hi and welcome to Season 2 of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s episode, we will chat with Caroline Cook, PTSD sufferer, and mental health advocate. Caroline works hard to educate the masses about the seriousness of TBI’s, and she helps Vets who are facing numerous challenges upon their return home.

You can contact Caroline at:

Email: ptsdmhadvocate@gmail.com

Twitter: @CarolineMCook1 and @oneworldonepeo1 and @globalvetswalk

Libsyn: ptsdawarenessmentalhealth.libsyn.com

Thank you for listening and taking the time from your day to learn something new. Please feel free to share the podcast with anyone that may find it helpful.

Until then, take care and be well.

Jody Betty TIPS, CCR

Jodybetty.com

@onelastkick71 and @bwpeersupport

Owner of Brave Wings Trauma and Crisis Informed Online Group Peer Support. Private groups starting the first week of February. Please contact me for further information.

www.Paypal.me/jodybetty

www.Ko-Fi.com/jodybbwtips

Music by Jay Superior

 

 

 

I Will Never Say Goodbye

A while back I wrote a blog for a dear friend of mine, who is battling cancer. For those of you who may not recall, or did not read it, my friend is the reason I write. She is the reason I share my story so openly in writing and on my podcast. We have never met. We’ve only chatted on the phone and text, and on Twitter, which is where we originally met five or six years ago. I had just been diagnosed with a handful of illnesses including Borderline Personality Disorder, and had just started up on Twitter, discovering an enormous mental health community. She was one of the first people I followed. Something about her screamed “safe person” which doesn’t happen to me often. Many people with BPD were traumatized or neglected in their childhood, so when we started to chat and no red flags were popping up, I started to slowly let her in. We shared our stories, our journeys and our lives with each other, and although they were drastically different, the emotions we felt from our situations were basically the same.

Fast forward a few years, and not only is she a dear friend, but she has become like a second mom. I lost my mom when I was 19, but felt my friend held the qualities that my mom would have had, should she have lived. Without her encouragement and support, I would not be getting published in three separate anthology books this year; I would never have had a blog, and certainly not a podcast. She stuck with me during my often long, depressive episodes, reassuring me that things will work out eventually. She has my back, without question. I am not sure I believe in unconditional love between humans, but if there was or is such a thing, she would be the closest thing I have to compare to my idea of what it “should” be. Shit, if I’m being brutally honest, she is a huge reason I continue to not succumb to the illnesses. You see, my friend has been battling for her life, literally, for the past few years. If she is brave and strong enough to fight the evil that is cancer, then I must somehow summon the strength to continue fighting the darkness that calls me so often. I have to stay strong. I have to be a rock of support for her. As I tell her every time we chat…anything, anytime.

I fucking hate cancer. It has taken so many lives, for not only me, but hundreds of millions of people around the world. It is insidious, non-discriminatory and vile. It tears people away from their loved ones, far before it is their time to go. It left a permanent hole in my heart and soul when it took away my mom, and yes, time may ease the pain a bit, but nothing will fill the void that feels as vast as the universe itself. My friend is a true fighter. She has tried every possible chemotherapy treatment, endured the pain of radiation and even had a stem cell transplant. Things were looking up for some time. The cancer went into remission for a while, but like a snake in the grass, it reared its ugly head, spread out and attacked. Every effort was given by the doctors, and despite her loving sense of stubbornness, and great sense of faith, this cancer is now terminal.

It kills me inside knowing I am utterly helpless, and unable to fix this, or take the pain away for her. As most of you know, I have spent most of the days of my life with suicidal thoughts and actions, so in a millisecond I would trade places with her. She has a loving family, a good life. It should not be her time; it should be mine, so she can continue to enjoy the life she deserves. Sadly, there is no swap button or I would have hit that when she first got sick. There is no fairness or sense to when someone’s time is up and there certainly is no way to prepare for the pain that you know is coming with unstoppable force. I have lost a few people since my mom, but no one close enough to put another hole in my heart; another void in my soul…until now. I am not ready.

I’m writing this blog, because I cannot keep the tears from falling for long enough to express it properly. As soon as I think about it, I feel the tightness in my chest, the quivering in my voice and the burning sensation behind my eyes, which are desperately trying to contain some of the tears. I write this because I cannot bring myself to say goodbye. I just can’t. I won’t.  I don’t know how to. I know how to provide her the best support I can. I know how to love her, and listen, but letting go is just surreal to me. I think it is fair to say most people don’t like to say goodbye in most situations, not just with death, but people with BPD usually have attachment issues, so letting go can feel like someone tearing a layer of your skin off, inch by inch, leaving exposed nerves which for us, represent feelings, so even the slightest tug on your skin can cause indescribable pain. I have stopped and started this blog for hours. None of the words seem right; perhaps because there are no right words. I hope the brief letter below manages to somehow express all my emotions, and conveys to her, the importance and influence she has had, and continues to have in my life. This, by far is the hardest thing I have ever had to write in my life.

My dear friend; you are my confidante; my source of strength; my fountain of positivity; my inspiration, and so much more. I know time is not in our favour, and these words may be premature and not necessary at the moment, but I wanted and needed you to know what I simply can’t say. You know how much I love you, and that you’ve become not only one of my closest friends, but the closest thing I’ve had to feeling “mothered” in almost 30 years. You have given me unconditional support, encouragement and most importantly, unconditional love. Not for a single moment did I ever feel unloved or worthless. You challenged my thoughts and made me feel that unconditional love between people is possible. It may be the only time I experience that, so I want to thank you for filling a small part of the enormous void in my life. I want you to know how much your encouragement and belief in me meant, and the huge factor it had in helping me discover the paths I am on now. My blogs, the chapters for books, my podcast, all because you never doubted my abilities, and constantly reminded me that I would succeed, and that you were proud of me for achieving these things, despite my fear of failure. Your strength fighting this horrible illness, kept me alive more times than I could count…after all, if you could stay strong enough to keep fighting cancer, I had to stay strong enough to fight life.

Now, we face a different path; one that will physically separate us but will never be able to divide the bond that we have. You are a part of my heart, and I will carry that with me always. I will miss you so very much. I will miss our chats and texts. I will miss your words of support and encouragement. I will miss hearing you say I love you, but I won’t forget that you do and always will, and not even death can stop that. I know that you know I would trade places with you in a millisecond if I could. I wouldn’t even think twice, but that is a wish that unfortunately I cannot make come true. If I could, you know I would be sitting beside you through your journey, and I would never leave your side, however a few thousand kilometres makes that not a possibility. Please know that my heart, my love and strength is there for you 24/7. Not a moment passes that you don’t cross my mind, or that I am not sending you as much light, as I can muster. It has taken me a few days and thousands of tears to get this letter to this point, but I can’t seem to find the courage or the words to wrap it up. What can I say aside from thank you; thank you for being in my life and allowing me the privilege of being in yours. Thank you for never leaving me, for loving me and for your unwavering belief in me. Well, you know I don’t do goodbyes well at all, so I am not going to say it. I will finish simply with this…I love you and I always will. You will never be forgotten. We’ll see each other again one day soon. May you find your peace.

Until we meet again.

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Rosie Cappuccino

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-73a5d-ca2fc5

Hi, and welcome to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show, we will chat with a friend of mine from overseas, Rosie Cappuccino, in London, England. Rosie and I met on Twitter and found we had a lot in common, with us both afflicted with BPD. (Borderline Personality Disorder) In this episode, we will talk about BPD, and how it has affected our lives.

Rosie writes about BPD in her blog www.talkingaboutbpd.co.uk 

Rosie can be found on Twitter at:  @TalkingAboutBPD 

Thank you again for spending your time with us, and if you learn something new, please feel free to share the podcast. 

Until then, be well and take care.

Jody Betty, TIPS, CCR  Jodybetty.com

Owner of Brave Wings Trauma and Crisis Informed Peer Support…Groups starting January 6th. Email me at  jody_betty@hotmail.com or BraveWingsTIPS@gmail.com

If you enjoy the show or my blogs, please feel free to donate a few dollars to help me cover the out of pocket expenses incurred.

www.paypal.me/jodybetty

or 

http://www.ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Jenn Sadai

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9dmsv-c86f27

Hi and thanks for tuning in for another episode of MH Raw and Open. On today’s show, we will chat with Jenn Sadai. Jenn is a domestic abuse survivor, a feminist, a mental health advocate and a multi-published (six books) author.

Jenn is currently working on an anthology book, Women Ready to Rise, in which I am fortunate enough to have a part of my story shared in a chapter.

Jenn can be found on Twitter @AuthorJennSadai

Her six books are all available on Amazon. The link below is to her Amazon author page with all of her books.

https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=jenn+sadai&ref=nb_sb_noss_2 

Thank you again for taking your time to listen, and if you learned something new, feel free to share. Until next time, stay strong and be well.

JodyB, TIPS, CCR

Owner of Brave Wings Trauma and Crisis Informed Peer Support. Groups starting January 6th.

Please email or contact me on twitter @onelastkick71 for more information.

http://.Jodybetty.com

If you enjoy my content and wish to help support keeping the show running, my PayPal and Kofi links are below. Every dollar helps with out of pocket costs.

https://www.paypal.me/JodyBetty

https://www.ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

 

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Nick Rambo

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-vdatw-c75aa3

Hi there,

Thanks so much for listening to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s episode, we are joined by my friend Nick Rambo. Nick lives with and battles depression, and is an open and honest mental health advocate. Nick also lives the life of a homesteader which has its challenges in itself, and is also fighting for legal cannabis in his state.

You can reach Nick on Twitter: @GlacierValleyHW

Thanks so much for taking the time to listen. Please know I appreciate each and every listener. Until next time, take care and be well. xxx

 

If you enjoy the podcast or my websites, please feel free to help with the out of pocket costs incurred to run them. Links to donate can be found below.

https://www.paypal.me/jodybetty

https://www.ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Madeleine Black

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-wpyxq-c667dd

Hi, and thanks for tuning in for another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will chat with Madeleine Black, who is a rape survivor, an author, a TEDx speaker and a warrior battling for rape awareness across the world.

You can find Madeleine on Twitter: @madblack

Madeleines TEDx talk can be found on YouTube: https://t.co/8Ig0p3XS0E?amp=1

Madeleines Book “Unbroken” can be found on Amazon: https://t.co/Cfgi1wZ79p?amp=1

I hope you enjoy the show, and thank you again, for taking your time to listen. I appreciate all of you. 

I would love if you would pop over to my new site jodybetty.com and subscribe there as well.

If you like my content and would like to help support the out of pocket costs, the links are below. Thank you.

https://www.paypal.me/JodyBetty

https://www.ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

Until next week, take care and be well. xxx

 

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Karen Unrue

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-xsv75-c56314

Hi and welcome to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will chat with the amazing and eccentric Karen Unrue. 

Karen is a survivor, a life coach, an author, and a fierce mental health advocate.

Karen’s book, Blue Jellyfish Syndrome can be found on Amazon at:

https://t.co/CWPBAaglFm?amp=1

Karen can be found on Twitter as @KarenUnrue.

I hope you enjoy the show and thank you again for taking the time to listen.

Take care and be well.

If you enjoy the podcast and wish to help me cover the out of pocket costs, you can donate at the following link:

https://t.co/CWPBAaglFm?amp=1

 

jodybetty.com

Paypal:   https://www.paypal.me/jodybetty https://t.co/HBlTTvAje5?amp=1

 

Music Credit: Jay Superior

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Matt Pappas

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-xq97k-c49515

Hi and welcome to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will chat with Matt Pappas. Matt is a life coach, an author, an advocate, a survivor, a podcast host and he also works with the CPTSD association.

Matt and I have been friends for a few years now, and he is a fantastic person, and I am happy to share this episode with you all.

Matt can be found at:

Beyondyourpastradio.com

and

Beyondyourpast.com

I hope you enjoy the show, and as always, thank you for taking the time to listen.

Be well.

 

https://t.co/qHSWsDksO4?amp=1

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Betsy Ross

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-spte7-c38fc6

Hi and thank you for tuning in to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show, we will be chatting with US Veteran, Author and Advocate Betsy Ross. 

Betsy’s books Fight, and To Fight Again are raising awareness to the struggle that Veterans face daily when trying to come back from war and resume life in society. Her advocacy has helped many to not only talk about their struggles, but to reach out for help as well. Her book is well worth the read.

Betsy’s books can be found at:

https://www.amazon.com/Fight-Betsy-Ross

I hope you enjoy today’s show, perhaps learn something new, and if so, pass on the message. Spreading the word helps keep the conversation open, which is very much needed.

Thank you again for your time, and until next time, take care and be well.

Jody xxx

 

If you enjoy my content and wish to help support my out of pocket expenses, please feel free to leave a small donation through the link below.

https://ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips  or  PayPal.Me/jodybetty

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Michael Landsberg

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-q72wu-c2b0ec

Hi, and thank you for tuning into another episode of the Mental Health Raw and Open Podcast. On today’s show, we are joined by the founder of #SickNotWeak movement, and one of my dearest friends, Michael Landsberg.

Michael was a TV host for decades, before transferring his skill set over to radio, where he hosts a highly popular morning TSN Sports show. Michael is a forerunner in opening the conversation about mental health, and has traveled across Canada to speak and spread his message of strength and hope, and to remind people they are not alone. Michael has been awarded many times for his work in the Mental Health area specifically.

You can reach Michael at @heylandsberg on Twitter.

I hope you enjoy the show, perhaps learn something new, and please, pass on the message. Spreading the word helps to open the conversation which can then lead to people reaching out for the help they may need.

Thanks again for tuning in, and until next time, be well and take care.

 

If you enjoy my podcast or websites, the link below is for smaller donations to help me cover the out of pocket expenses for both. Thank you.

 

https://ko-fi.com/jodybbwtips

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest, Therapist Denise Cazares

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-q2sf4-c01fed

Hi and thanks for tuning in to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. I can’t believe this is the 13th episode already. Thank you to my guests, and my listeners. I truly appreciate you all.

On today’s episode we are chatting with Children and Family Therapist, Denise Cazares. On top of being a therapist, Denise is also a mental health advocate and a blogger. You can find her work at:

Thepursuitofhappinessblog.com

I hope you enjoy today’s show, and I would greatly appreciate any donations to my Ko-Fi so I can help to cover my website expenses.

Until next time, take care and be well. xxx

 

Mental Health Raw and Open World Suicide Awareness Day

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-kbskq-beef8c

Hi everyone,

It is World Suicide Prevention Day today, so I wanted to drop a short episode on awareness. Suicide rates have been increasing exponentially with no ending in sight. I would really appreciate if you could give this a listen, then maybe send it to a friend to listen and so on. 

Suicide, the word is noticed, but often the actions leading up to it are not. Check on your friends and family. Ask the question directly…”are you having suicidal thoughts”, it IS NOT going to put an idea in their head, however, it may, one day, save a life.

Stay strong and be well my friends, and thank you so much, as always, for your time.

Jody xxx

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Emily Painter

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-6hpme-be5201

Hi and welcome back to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. Today’s guest is a good friend of mine, who flew up from Florida to speak at the Premiere of a short film called Perspective. It was a pleasure to hear her speak and tell her story, and I am thrilled she’s with us today to share her story with all of you.

Emily Painter can be reached on all social media handles as @emilyspeaks30.

Thanks again for listening, I appreciate each and every one of you. Until next time, take care and be well. xxx

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest, Therapist Vincent Fitzgerald

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-uyeuf-bd7477

Hi and welcome back to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. I can’t believe this will be my 10th show already. Time flies when you’re talking with such fantastic people.

On today’s show we will chat with a close friend Vincent Fitzgerald. Vincent is a wonderful man who pursued his goals and overcame his issues to become a therapist. Vince is also an author and mental health advocate.

I hope you will give this a listen as we talk about BPD, Depression and anxiety.

Vincent’s links are below…

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/vincent-j-fitzgerald-short-hills-nj/311753

Blog: https://healingprose.com

https://www.facebook.com/vincentevolves

 

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or wish to be a guest on the show, leave me a message and we will get something set up.

I hope you enjoy the show.

Take care and be well. xxx

 

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Sarah Schuster

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-eisa3-bc75c6

Hi, and welcome back to another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. Thank you for tuning in and spending some time with us. On today’s show we will talk with my dear friend Sarah Schuster. Sarah deals with depression and anxiety, and still manages her job as the editor in chief for the mental health section of The Mighty, which is an enormous site online, focusing on both mental and physical health. The stories are written by people from around the world who want to share their journey in writing. If you haven’t had a look, please do so. We hope you enjoy the show.

https://themighty.com

Mobile Mental Health Crisis Response Teams…A Wave of the Future?

I have been passively suicidal since I was eight years old, when I had my first attempt. Since then, I have dealt with these incredibly invasive thoughts day after day, and have survived a handful of actual suicide attempts. Over the years, I have learned a variety of coping skills to allow me to keep these thoughts as passive ones, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have times where these techniques simply do not work; times where I feel I have lost all hope and I am encompassed by the darkness of these thoughts. Over the years, I have thought of every possible way to take my life but with a lot of hard work, I have held those actions at bay for nine years now.

I have a really hard time with some classifications of anti-depressants, primarily SSRI’s, and the side effects have been so extreme they have actually increased my suicidal ideations ,and decreased my ability to put my coping tools to work. My thoughts become uncontrollably irrational and my actions tend to follow to follow suit, adding in a healthy dose of impulsivity. I can feel the difference in my mind that the medication is making, and none of it is good. I was recently on Zoloft and as soon as we increased to 100mg is when my mind went haywire. I chose to suffer through for a few weeks, in hopes that these side effects would subside, but unfortunately they just worsened, and my thoughts went from passive to actively planning a route out. After a few days of this, I made the decision to reduce back down to my original dose of 50mg and wean off to nothing from there.

The decrease did not go well and I found myself in a heavy and dark place that was swallowing me whole by the minute. A few weeks ago, after a particularly hard start to the day, I was feeling so unsafe that I was actually afraid of myself. I was afraid that I would no longer be able to employ any skills that had kept me alive for so long, and so, I made the decision to try to reach out, the question being, to where? I often don’t feel much relief talking to a crisis worker as so much of the conversation is scripted, and my fear of hospitals far outweighs my fear of death. I researched resources in my area and happen to come across Peel Crisis Services, who run a hotline around the clock. The thought of calling them was of little interest as I expected just another crisis worker, saying the same things that the last one did.

Hesitantly, I picked up the phone, dialled the number and waited about 18 minutes to press the call button. The line rang, and rang, followed by a message saying that all the crisis workers were busy and I could either wait on the line, or leave my name and number and someone would call me back, and so I opted for the easy way out and left a message. My phone rang back less than ten minutes later and although I was riddled with fear and anxiety, I answered. There was a young gentleman on the other end of the line, which immediately threw me off, as in my mind, I had expected a woman to call, however, he was quite gentle and pleasant and after ensuring my immediate safety mentioned that they could send a mobile crisis team to my home which would consist of a specially trained, plain clothes Police Officer and a social worker. I hesitated at first, not sure if I was comfortable having a cop at my house, but decided it was the safest space for me to open up.

About two hours later, my anxiety through the roof, they arrived. I let them in, sat them down and proceeded to have a panic attack. They talked me through it, got me settled down enough and we began to chat about what had triggered me into crisis in the first place. They were both, incredibly kind, compassionate and sympathetic. They actually listened and allowed me to express my feelings without fear of judgement, or fear of hospitals. They ensured me several times that their job was to ensure my safety at home, and at all costs, avoid going to hospital. The social worker asked all the standard questions but also went a bit more personally into my case. They stayed for almost two hours, by which point I was calm and rational. They left me with some information pamphlets, the 24 hour crisis number and a resource to another service to look into. They also said they could write a report detailing our conversation and submit it to my new psychiatrist once I have seen her. All information remains confidential and is only accessible by Peel Police internally. All in all, it was a good experience, which helped to ease my fear of police and opening up to strangers.

The downside is that due to the volume of calls, and the lack of funding for trained Mental Health Officers, it leaves only six teams to deal with about 700000 people meaning that this is a one-time service. I am hoping that as the number of people with Mental Health issues increase that eventually the funding will have to come, out of necessity if nothing else. In an ideal world, all officers would be trained to deal with people with mental health disorders, which would eliminate thousands of unnecessary trips to the ER, where they also don’t have the ability to deal with you. I have to say, I am disappointed that this could not be a “lifeline” of sorts, and I am back to the futility of crisis lines, but for the time being, it is what it is, and perhaps one day it will change.

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest JP Leet

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-qgd7h-bbaf36

Hi everyone,

Thanks again for tuning into another episode on Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will chat with my friend JP Leet. Jp is a survivor, blogger, and advocate and host the Depressed Not Dead podcast where he shares his stories and struggles.

I hope you enjoy the show and again, questions, comments or wanting to be a guest….just send me a message. This platform is for anyone who is willing to share their stories, in an effort to help others.

JP’s links are below

http://www.jamoalki.info (blog)

@Jamoalki (Twitter)

http://www.jamoalki.info/podcasts

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Dawn Brenner

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-szjsy-b9f4de

Hey everyone, I hope you’re having a good week. On today’s episode we will chat with Author and Advocate Dawn Brenner about Mental Health Advocacy and suicide prevention.

I hope you will be able to join us, have a listen and maybe learn something new, and if you do, please spread the word.

Twitter: @ANewDawn_AA

Website: (link: http://anewdawnaa.com) anewdawnaa.com

Kk-fi— (link: http://ko-fi.com/B0B2TN59) ko-fi.com/B0B2TN59

Insta: (link: http://instagram.com/anewdawnaa) instagram.com/anewdawnaa

YouTube: (link: http://youtu.be/bNzhkHCw2ZY) youtu.be/bNzhkHCw2ZY

ProjectSite: (link: http://ditchthemaskcampaign.com) ditchthemaskcampaign.com

If you have any questions or comments or wish to be a guest on the show, send me a message and we will get it scheduled.

Until then, take care and be well.

Jody xxx

I Have Never Learned to Love Myself

Three simple words…I Love You.

People always say if you don’t love yourself you can’t love anyone else. Is that a truth or just one of those things “they” say? For me those words could not be more untrue.

When I was growing up my Mom told me she loved me all the time. I fully believed her and I repeated them back with truth and feeling. My father on the other hand hardly uttered the words. My extended family said them on all the appropriate occasions, and dutifully I replied. At that time in my life, with the exception of my Mom I held little truth to their words, or the words of any adults for that matter. I always felt “surface loved”; like they loved me because that is what “family” is supposed to do. I wondered if it was because I was adopted and not their blood, that they would never love me like they loved each other. It is an awful feeling for a child to feel so unloved; the only saving grace being my Mom.

This feeling not only continued in my pre-teen years, but actually got worse. With my Mom dealing with domestic abuse and depression, the belief that it was somehow my fault started to sink in and the feeling of being unlovable deepened. Maybe it was something I did, or didn’t do that made him so angry, or maybe I wasn’t a good kid and that is why she was so depressed. My self-blame turned into self-hatred, which directly correlates to the feeling that I cannot be loved. Was Let me clarify, it is more than me thinking I don’t deserve love, although that is a huge part of it, but that I actually can’t be loved. It is something I have felt as long as I have memories, and although it has wavered in degrees over the years, it never left and still hasn’t to this day.

My teenage years were mostly consumed with taking care of my Mom, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and although bond between us was deep was also full of my teen angst. I could not get the love I needed from my mom, and because of the years of sexual abuse which had recently ended, I looked anywhere I could find for some love and attention. I went through a promiscuous stage, as do many survivors, where the only physical affection I was repeatedly shown aside from my Mom, was in a sexual manner. Even though you realize seeking love this way is wrong you do what you know, repeatedly and still never feel loved.

When my Mom died, I lost the only person who I felt loved me, and the only one I could love.

As an adult, I have learned to love other people, and not just on a surface level, but to the fullest extent that I know, however, I have not learned to love myself or accept true and lasting love. I have allowed two people to really love me, as they have stuck with me during the dark times, but those three words from anyone else, I question. After all, if I can’t be loved or love myself, how can anyone else possibly do so? I require a lot of trust before I can believe those words, and quite frankly, most people do not stick around long enough for me to accept them as truths.

Fast forward to now and the “Twitterverse”, where I have made some very good friends who have stuck with my through the hard times. I don’t have as much difficulty telling them I love them as I do accepting their words. Please don’t misunderstand; I certainly believe that they are truly meant by whoever spoke them; however the fear of accepting and believing them means I will have to learn to love myself, which I have no idea how to do. How do I change something ingrained in me since I was put up for adoption? I have been to therapists, read countless books and articles. I know exactly why I feel like this, yet I still can’t fix it, learn it or unlearn the ingrained thought.

So, if I tell you I love you, know that I mean it to the full extent that my being allows, which will likely be different than yours. If you tell me you love me, please know I do believe you as much as my heart will allow.  As the saying goes, “I’m listening but I can’t hear you”. How I wish that was not true.

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Dennis Ellis

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-m4ix6-b92323

Hey, welcome back and thank you for listening, and for your support. On today’s show we will chat with a close friend of mine Dennis Ellis. Dennis and I had spoken for quite a while on social media, and then last year, I was lucky enough to be able to connect with him in person. We are both afflicted with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), and have many of the same symptoms and thought processes. If you have BPD, or know someone with BPD, please have a listen, and if you learn something new, please pass it on. BPD is at the top of the list of mental health issues that sadly end by suicide, and has an enormous stigma attached to it.

Thank you so much for your time,  your willingness to learn and try to understand something new.

Be well and stay strong.

J xxx

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Diana Fletcher

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-fi2vc-b85549

Hi there,

Thank you so much for tuning into another episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will be chatting with a dear friend of mine, Diana Fletcher. 

Diana Fletcher is a writer, life coach, activist and speaker. She is the author of the best-selling book Happy on Purpose Daily Messages of Empowerment and Joy for Women revised and expanded edition.

 

Thank you, and be well xxx

You can find Diana Fletcher’s social media and book link below.

Diana can be contacted through her website www.dianafletcher.com

@DiCoach on Twitter

Book link…   https://tinyurl.com/y6pms79o

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Carl Waggett

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-53e43-b788d9

Hi, and welcome to the fourth episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will discuss PTSD, and specifically the effect it is having on our first responders. Carl is a firefighter and the founder of PTSD Bunker Gear for Your Mind, where he posts informative videos and podcasts about PTSD.

You can find Carl and his team at:

http://www.ptsdbunkergearforyourbrain.com/

or on Twitter @PTSDBunkerGear, and @PTSDGear.

Thank you again for taking the time to spend with us. I hope you find it informative and perhaps even helpful.

Be well my friends. xxx

 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest Anne Moss Rogers

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-mxkqr-b6c7ed

Hi and welcome to the third episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will hear from Anne Moss Rogers, who is a suicide loss survivor, an author, a TEDx speaker and a suicide awareness and prevention advocate. Anne and I connected online a few years ago, and to see how far she has come, overcoming terrible tragedies, is truly inspirational. I feel lucky to be able to call her a friend. This show will discuss suicide, so if you are listening, make sure you are also doing self-care.

I hope you will join us, learn from us and spread the word so together we can knock down the barriers surrounding Mental Health.

Thank you, and be well.

J xxx

Anne can be found via the following links…

annemossrogers.com

(link: http://emotionallynaked.com) emotionallynaked.com

Facebook Business Page: Facebook.com/emotionallynaked

Twitter: @annemossrogers

Linked In: linkedin.com/in/digitalmarketingexpertise

Instagram: instagram.com/annemossrogers/

 

·
 
 

Anne Moss Rogers

 
 
 
 

Mental Health Raw and Open with special guest G. Donald Cribbs

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-u2nwt-b605f4

Hi and welcome to the second episode of Mental Health Raw and Open. On today’s show we will be chatting with a good friend of mine, G. Donald Cribbs. Don is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and advocate an author and a newly licenced counsellor. Please join us as we travel Don’s journey together.

Be well.

Jody xxx

facebook.com/gdonaldcribbsa

instagram.com/gdcribbs

twitter.com/gdcribbs

Link to Don’s book The Packing House

 https://www.inkitt.com/stories/thriller/232589?utm_source=shared_ios

 

 

 

Mental Health Raw and Open Introduction Episode

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-uhzzg-b53e41

Hi, and thanks for visiting and/or listening. On this episode I am doing a brief 20 minute introduction to the podcast, and to myself. I will do random short episodes talking about my Mental Health issues, but will focus primarily on having open and candid discussions with my guests, which include sufferers, advocates, therapists, authors, life coaches and many more.

I really appreciate you spending a bit of your time with me.

Take care and be well.

A Miracle Drug for Depression?

pills for blog

 

It is being touted as the new “super drug”, a true breakthrough in the treatment of Treatment Resistant Depression. It has just been approved for use and is the talk of the mental health community. It was discovered in 1962, first used on humans in 1964, and was approved for use in the United States in 1970. It was and is used extensively for surgical anaesthesia and acute pain management, and is also used in the veterinary field for the use of sedation in animals, however, because of its high and dissociative effects; this drug has been popular on the party scene for decades. It is a close relative of the drug PCP, and its effects are stronger than both cocaine and speed, raising the risk for accidental overdose. The drug I am referring to is Ketamine, also known as Special K, or as big pharma is calling it Esketamine, branded as Spravato.

It was first identified as having antidepressant potential in the late 1990’s and since then studies have shown tremendous results in helping relieve the symptoms of depression. At low dose levels, Ketamine infusion therapy has been proven to redevelop the neural pathways in your brain that have been damaged by debilitating mental health or chronic pain conditions.  Unlike typical antidepressants which take up to six weeks, sometimes more, to take effect, ketamine can start to relieve depressive symptoms in as little as four hours. It requires initial treatment of four to six sessions, and ongoing maintenance treatments once stabilized, and because of the physiologic change it causes, many patients can feel improvement in as little as one or two treatments.

Treatments are administered in a clinical or hospital setting, and patients monitored for two hours afterwards to check for potential side effects and at no point would a patient be sent home with Ketamine to administer to oneself, which helps to minimize the risk of addiction. Common side effects include disorientation and confusion because of the drug’s anaesthetic nature, drowsiness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and nausea, which are no worse than those I have experienced from SSRI’s and both typical and atypical antidepressants.

It sounds promising doesn’t it? For someone like myself who has been dealing with depression for nearly 40 years, and tried a dozen different medications, it provided me with a sense of hope and the possibility that something could finally lift this cloud of darkness that has overshadowed every aspect of my life for decades. I have researched, read and studied up on all the information I could soak in about this new drug and despite my fear and hesitation, I decided that should it become readily available, I would be willing to take the risk and try this new treatment. After trying so many medications, all of which failed and some which made me worse, this could be the one thing that might actually help me and the thought of being able to live a life, for me, far outweighs the risks.

For the first time in ages, I was optimistic about the possibility of feeling even a bit better, however this optimism was quashed by the absolutely ridiculous, eye gouging price big pharma is selling this drug for. To be clear, as a party drug, a Ketamine pill costs somewhere in the range of $20 – $25, and will last you at least six hours, especially if it is crushed and either snorted or injected. In the pharmaceutical and developing world, the wholesale cost is between US $0.84 and US $3.22 per vial, which even with the incredibly large price hike, would still be considered an affordable source of treatment. This, however, is not the case at all.

The average Ketamine Infusion or nasal spray treatment cost for depression is US $500 per session, and as I mentioned earlier, you will need on average four to six sessions to start, and realistically, who knows how many you will need to maintain. So basically, if you do not have $5000 lying around, you can count yourself out for this type of treatment anytime soon, which infuriates me. Money should not be the deciding factor on whether or not your brain becomes healthy, especially when the profit range of big pharmaceutical companies is in the billions of dollars, yearly. Yes, there may come a time when it is common enough to be accepted as a form of treatment by the insurance industry, but I do not foresee that in the near future.

So once again, the world spins for rich people while the rest of us are stuck in ruts, and never ending holes of darkness. The inaccessibility for the average person to receive proper mental health care is astounding. What little hope I held, was ripped out of my hands by the sight of a mere dollar sign and the thought of my life improving dashed before my eyes as the darkness swooped back in with a smile.

The Unspoken Reason behind My Tattoos

tattoo for blog

I have always been a lover of tattoos. I got my first one when I was 20 and have not looked back since. I currently have 13 (and counting) pieces of body art, each one reflecting a beginning or an ending or something that is close to my heart; each one representing a piece of my life, or revealing a piece one of my many layers. There was a time when we glared and stared at those with tattoos; mainstream they certainly were not. People tended to judge a person for expressing themselves with body art, and were often forced to cover them in social situations; however, in the last few years tattoos have become so popular among so many cultures, sexes and ages that it is now considered to be socially acceptable to most.

People get tattooed for many different reasons and as I mentioned above, each one of my tattoos was done during various stages in my life and although they outwardly represent something, they also all have an inner meaning. My lotus, for example, reminds me of what beauty can grow in the mud. One of my quotes is a memorial quote for my mom. It is in Latin and translates to “until we meet again”. My elephants represent my bucket list and a spiritual connection I have with these magnificent creatures.

The one reason I have never discussed is that for me, tattoos are both a deterrent and a safe and productive way to self-harm. As someone who spent many years self-harming, I wore my visible scars without shame. I did not shy away from wearing a tank top because of the scars on my arms, and I did not get tattoos there to cover those scars. They were always a non-issue for me, funnily enough, more so than the ones that are not publicly visible. For some reason, I hold more shame in those. Of course the tattoos covered many of the scars on my arms, but now that I have them, and have attached meaning to them, I am almost guaranteed not to cut them. Not only did I spend money on them but I am proud of the actual artwork and simply do not want to ruin that. After all, I would not take a blade to a canvas on my wall, so why would I take one to my arm. Art is art.

People self-harm for a variety of reasons, most being related to underlying or ongoing trauma, but all resulting in wanting the same thing…a release; a distraction from that emotional pain, even if only for a minute. For me it was a way to release my anger without putting my fist through the wall. It was a self-punishment for all the things I have done wrong, or for the feelings I could not understand at the time. Physiologically, when you self-injure (or just get hurt) the body produces and releases endorphins, which mimic the effects of morphine, to counter the pain. This release gives a rush or a “high”, and one can become addicted to that feeling just as one can get addicted to drugs, gambling or  alcohol. Not only is the high addicting but the distraction is as well. It is a free few minutes where physical pain takes over emotional pain and you get the tiniest of breaks, but at least it is something.

If you have never had a tattoo, it can be quite painful, depending on the area of your body, and the length of the sitting. It is after all, a cluster of needles penetrating your skin repeatedly and rapidly in the same area. It forms a scab as any other wound does which lasts for a few weeks and when the healing is done, you are left with a reminder of why you got that particular piece of artwork, what it means to you as an individual.  For me, being tattooed not only fulfills my urges to self-harm but provides a marker of certain times, people and places. It is one of the only times where I cannot focus on my illnesses. Between the pain and the conversation with my artist, there is little room for my issues to surface. It gives me a few hours of painful peace, and as contradictory as that sounds, it is a welcome break from the thoughts in my head.

The Unfairness of Life

 

This piece is so emotional, and so close to my heart that it is written through tears and with love.

As I have mentioned a few times, when I first joined twitter a few years back, I really had no idea what to expect. I had no clue there was such a huge community of support, especially surrounding such a sensitive topic like mental health. There were people from all regions and backgrounds, with incredible diversities but all with one thing in common…their support for others dealing with the similar issues. At first, I did not have my name on there and just stayed in the background observing, but then I realized I could post whatever I wanted with true anonymity. One day, after a particularly hard week, I posted a bunch of quotes surrounding the topic of suicide, and within 30 minutes I had a few private messages which I decided to check. They were all lovely people, offering to listen, offering to share their stories with me, offering to validate and sympathize. I read them, closed them and went about my day.

A few hours later, while back on social media, I kept thinking about one message in particular, from a lovely lady in the United States, feeling it had drawn me in enough to warrant a reply. At the very least, I would thank her for reaching out and offering to help, but instead she messaged me back right away, and although I may be open and blunt on paper, I am slow and hesitant to open up one on one, yet before I knew it a conversation had started. She was positive and encouraging and supportive; all things I was lacking at the time. We chatted for a while. I thanked her, as I felt a bit better from our talk, and in my mind, that was that.

Well, boy was I wrong. She continued to check in on me a few times a week, all the while making me feel more comfortable to share my story with her, as she was reciprocating. At the time, I had just started my blog, and she, being an author, was kind enough to take the time to read a few pieces that I had written. I was stunned when she came back with nothing but compliments and kind words for my writing. She encouraged me to continue to write and read most everything I published. I felt so incredibly lucky to have found such a kind lady, who was also helping me pursue one of my true passions.

She, herself, is a survivor of childhood abuse, domestic abuse and a long term recovering alcoholic. She is writing a memoir that has been picked up by a known publisher. She is far into her emotional healing from horrors of the past. She shows me a sense of courage and determination, and for she also has her faith. She was doing radio events, and everything was finally moving in the right direction when a terrible fall, with a complex broken elbow would change the direction of her entire life. During the scans of the arm, it was revealed she had a spot of bone cancer. The elbow was repaired surgically and the cancer was attacked aggressively. She endured rounds of chemotherapy, with endless bouts of sickness. She suffered radiation treatments and the pain that comes with them, and in order to try and put this nasty disease in full remission, she underwent a stem cell transplant.

After suffering near two years of hell, she was finally in remission, and although still exhausted and sick from the strain of all the procedures, she was determined to get right back into the swing of things. She continued to work on her book and heal, both physically and emotionally. Her three month check-up was clear, as was her six month, but for some unknown reason, just a month later, the cancer returned. She was immediately placed back on chemotherapy pills, which again, knocked her on her ass, but failed to help. They

Doctors added a third drug which made her so sick, they not only took her off that, but off the other ones as well. They would wait until this illness had passed and then reassess which medications to put her back on. She went for a scan which showed the cancer had spread to two other areas of her bone, and the decision was made to take her off her chemotherapy pills. She will undergo an eight hour intensive, last resort chemo session but if that doesn’t show any efficacy then she will no longer take any medications.

Funny how time means nothing to us as the minutes and hours pass but when our life now has a shortened timeline, time takes on a whole new meaning. She has made as much peace about the situation as one could expect, and her faith is helping to alleviate her fear. She will spend the time she has with her family and loved ones, and hopefully knock off a bucket list item or two. She will enjoy every minute of every day as she knows now that time is not just a word, but a series of moments, of memories, of cherished events.

I try to be stoic. We talk weekly on the phone, and I try not to let the tears out. It is not time for that, it is time for my unconditional love and support, but if I am being honest, the minute I hang up the phone I breakdown. The thought of the inevitable breaks my heart and makes my blood boil with rage. Of all the people, I can’t understand why her. I know there is no reason or rationale for cancer but this is simply unfair, and due to my daily issues with suicide, the unfairness of it all is heightened. I would give my life for hers in an instant, and she knows that, unfortunately life doesn’t work like that. The ones who should, and want to live die, and those who want to die live.  She is like another mom to me, and I try to hide the fact that this is a huge trigger for me, having not being able to do nothing but watch my mom die of cancer, and being as completely helpless in the same situation yet again.

I have chosen not to identify her as it is not my story to tell, and when she is ready, she will speak. In the meantime, I hope she knows that she has had a huge effect on my life, in more ways than she could know. I hope she knows that her strength, bravery and positivity have kept me going on numerous occasions. I hope she knows that she is one of the few people in my life that has actually climbed my endless walls and made it over, and for that, I am so very grateful. I hope she knows I would switch places with her in an instant, but since I can’t and she continues to fight, so shall I. I hope she knows how much I love her and how grateful and appreciative I am to have her in my life. I hope she knows I have her back as she has always had mine. I hope she knows she is one of the few people to make a landmark in my life, and I will never forget that. Thank you for being you, and thank you for accepting me. I love you always.

 

Silence is a Killer

dythymia1

 

As the numbers of deaths continue to rise at an exponential rate, it baffles me that we are still so afraid, so ashamed and embarrassed to talk about suicide. I don’t understand how the topic will trend on social media for a day or a week for World Suicide Prevention, and then suddenly, all is quiet again and the subject is swept under the carpet until the following year. How is something that is so prevalent in our society, and highlighted by the media, still not talked about within the schooling system, or even within the family? Here in Canada, we just legalized marijuana. Immediately, the government has spent countless millions on advertising to educate the masses on everything from the effects of marijuana to how to approach the subject with your children. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for the responsible usage of weed, however, the number of people that have died from using cannabis is so minimal it is hard to find statistics. Suicide, on the other hand, has statistics aplenty, yet never have I seen an advertisement on how to talk to your children about suicide, or even show the rising numbers in an attempt to bring public awareness. It is still so stigmatized, that most of society just closes their eyes and ears and pretends it doesn’t exist…until it affects them directly.

Somehow there are so many stigmas attached to one single word that as a society in general we think that if we don’t talk about it, it will never affect us, while at the same time believing that talking about it actually increases the incidents of suicide; neither is true. Try to apply that same analogy to a physical illness such as cancer and it sounds like a ridiculous concept. Avoiding and or talking about cancer has zero relevance to whether or not you acquire the disease, so why is suicide any different. We have to wake up and realize that depression, anxiety, bipolar or BPD, for examples, are not mental health issues or problems, they are brain diseases and even injuries, and sadly suicide is often used to escape the pain that these diseases cause. Even by using the term “committed suicide”, it sets the undertone for archaic thinking, whereas saying that someone had a brain disease and died by suicide adds a whole new perspective to things, one in which perhaps we can focus on the reasons for death and not concentrate solely on the method.

Where have we gone wrong educating our youth, and if it is not going to be a formal part of the education system then how do we, as a society reduce a stigma that is in itself perpetuated by the medical system.  At some point in time, most parents will have the dreaded sex talk with their kids, but how many will sit down and discuss suicide, and is that because we lack the education to do so, or simply because we have adopted the theory that speaking of it will instil ideas in our children. I have been suicidal nearly my entire life, and not once did someone else put the thought of acting on it in my head. For me, being suicidal is a symptom of my types of depression and just knowing that fact alone has saved my life countless times.

The people who know best are not the ones writing the textbooks or prescriptions but instead those of us who have survived. You simply cannot even begin to describe the intensity of emotion that drives one to killing themselves, unless you have been suicidal yourself. It would be like trying to describe what it is like to have cancer without actually having it. You may think you understand, you may try to understand, but it is impossible, regardless of how much you “educate” yourself on the subject. So maybe it is up to us, the survivors to teach the masses, not from a textbook but from lived experience. I know that sharing my struggles with suicide has led to more people reaching out than I ever could have imagined. I may not have the answers to their problems, I do however have the empathy necessary to make people feel validated and less alone, and empathy is not learned through any textbook, it is acquired through life experience.

I can’t save or help everyone, but the more I talk, the more others realize it is ok to do so. The more we survivors put ourselves out there, despite the fear of backlash and shame, the stronger we get and the number of lives we affect rises. If everyone talked about suicide with one friend, and those newly educated people tell one friend, sooner or later the stigma will have to be reduced. We, as a society cannot sit back and let these numbers increase. We must scream it from the rooftops as if our lives depend on it, because for many, it does. Silence is a killer.

 

 

A Moment in a Mind in Crisis

TRIGGER WARNING…

When I write my blogs, I usually choose a topic and attack it both personally and subjectively, and at those times, I am of relatively rational thought. By no means am I emotionally disconnected to what I write, I feel the words I put on paper in hopes you will feel them too. Today is a bit different. It is the first time I am trying to write a blog in the midst of a suicidal crisis, so my apologies ahead of time if my thoughts are as disorganized on paper as they are in my head.

I certainly cannot speak for anyone but myself, but many people I have talked to have expressed feeling many things in common with how it feels to truly be in the middle of a crisis. Please understand that the last thing I want to do when my mind is attacking me with swords and daggers, is reach out to anyone, for a multitude of reasons. My suicidal brain does not have a single ounce of rational thought, meaning that I am fully enveloped in emotional thinking. The words that people say, or write, which might make sense at other times, no longer do. Instead those words of kindness and support bounce off of me like bullets on a Kevlar vest, which makes reaching out, seem somewhat futile. It becomes even more of a frustration that I can see these people trying to grab my hand before I fall, but my illness won’t allow me to reach all the way back; I fall just short of your grasp and continue to plummet to the bottom.

Not only does asking for help require a great amount of strength and vulnerability, there is an intense sense of fear as well… fear of who to trust; fear of what is safe to say or who it is even safe to reach out to. For me, the fear of cops and being locked up in hospital far outweighs the fear of death, which makes talking about the subject even more precarious. I hesitate to call crisis lines because I cannot be completely honest without the threat of the police hanging over my head. The conversation then becomes very guarded on my end and if I can’t open up, then there is no point for me to continue talking, which leaves me feeling even more unheard and invalidated and just increases the depth of my suicidal thoughts.

Pure raw emotion comes through me in fear, in anger, in frustration and desperation. The darkness is so present I can hardly see my hand in front of my face. The tears flood my keyboard as I search for the right words to describe the pervasive thoughts that invade my mind with the force of an army, and the resilience and strength it takes to put up any sort of fight. This is nothing short of a war; a fight for my life, with battles occurring not only daily, but hourly as well. There is no fairness on the battlefield, it is a matter of surviving in any manner possible, or dying, and the impulse for the latter is like a magnet drawing me closer and closer.

The fear of facing another day with this amount of pain has become far worse than the fear of death.  My emotions feel like nerve endings, firing off electrical impulses every few seconds, and the thought of ending that is what my emotional brain sees as the rational thing to do. During these times there is a small, rational piece of me, always fighting to have its voice heard, but feeling like it is being drowned out by a loudspeaker. The thoughts of feeling peace, even if it has to be through death, become forefront in my mind, as during these times, I truly can see no other way out. The thoughts of suicide become omnipresent, al l consuming and comforting to my emotionally shattered mind, but despite the utter despair of days of crisis, I am still here somehow, trying my best to explain a moment in a mind in crisis, in hopes that others who have hit this level of despair feel less alone, even if only for a minute.

 

 

Post-Outing Hangover

 

 

A few weeks ago, I took myself completely out of my comfort zone and attended a Mental Health event that was hosted by a good friend of mine. The speakers were all people I either knew or were familiar with and the 100 or so attendees were all people dealing with or supporting someone with mental health issues. The anxiety building up to the event worsened as each day approached, but somehow, I managed to pull myself together enough to leave my house and make the long trip by myself. I had arranged to meet a friend there, and basically paced up and down the hotel hallways until he and his daughter arrived. The deal was I would be left alone for as little time as possible in order to attempt to keep my social anxiety at bay, and they kindly made that happen for me.

As the night progressed and the speakers each went through their stories, my anxiety began to calm. It was almost a surreal feeling to be in a room, surrounded by people who all have similar thoughts, behaviours and illnesses. Aside from the soccer field, this environment was one where I actually felt like I fit in, and finally wasn’t the oddball in the room. As I listened to these people I admire, their stories resonated with me and I realized that in one way or another we were all connected. We had all come together to fight one thing, the horrendous stigma of mental health. I was even lucky enough to connect with a few twitter friends, in hopes of maybe developing a friendship outside of online social media.

All in all the night went well. I was able to take down my guard a bit, and remove part of my mask. It was the end of the night and the saying goodbye that immediately started to bring me down. I know I will see some of these people again, but having severe abandonment issues makes saying bye a very triggering and emotional moment. I pushed these feelings aside and tried to focus on all things I was grateful for that evening and made my way home, proud that I had the courage to go in the first place.

Waking up the next morning, it felt like a tsunami of emotions flooded me. It was as if the night before had been merely a dream and reality was not only slapping me in the face, but punching me in the gut as well. It was waking up back in that uncomfortable, self-deprecating mind of darkness, where the thoughts are so pervasive it takes all of my energy to stop myself from sinking to the bottom of the pit. The reality of knowing that the safety and security I felt among people was just for a few hours that night, and not something that is in anyway a part of my daily life. It is the fear of not feeling that way again. It is the thinking that I didn’t deserve to feel that way in the first place; the questioning of whether I let my guard down too much or if I showed too much behind my mask.

This phase, which I call “post-outing hangover”, completely nullified the emotions from the night before, and for me, this often happens in a matter of minutes. My brain reinforces all the negative talk that runs constantly through my mind, and before you know it I am digging myself out of yet another black hole. It is awful second guessing everything I said, did, or didn’t do, wondering what social behaviours were displayed properly, or if I was as transparent as I feel. I sometimes feel that because my mind is so full of self-hatred I believe that everyone can see the emotions I am feeling…as if they can see that I am depressed, or insecure, or as if I have projected those feelings onto them, thereby increasing my anxiety and sense of insecurity. It is a vicious cycle that I have yet to get a full grasp on.

I am pretty isolated right now, for a variety of reasons, so going out in itself is a task, never mind if it involves anyone outside my closest circle. The thought of going to an event or even a lunch date becomes a process of weighing the benefits of going versus the detriments of post-outing hangover. I have an event coming up in two weeks, and although I am fully committed to going, I will say, I am dreading the emotional letdown of the following day as I know it is coming, but I have yet to figure out how to stop it. So this time, I think I will try to shove down that anxiety and those insecurities and just enjoy the night. I am looking forward to this and am hoping that the more I go out, the easier it will become, and perhaps the following day I will be better equipped to handle the tsunami of emotions. I hope to sit with them, and then let them go and concentrate on the moments I enjoyed instead.

My Anti-Depressant Withdrawal in a Nutshell

pills for blog

 

I have always been leery of mental health medications. Between the advertisements and the paper insert with the three reasons it may work, and the 150 possible risks ranging from nausea and headaches to blurry vision, tremors and death. The true irony being the warning that anti-depressants can actually increase suicidal thoughts and actions…isn’t that why I am going on them in the first place? A friend of mine always reminds me that we must try anything possible if we truly want to get better, so despite my reluctance, I hopped on the medication bandwagon just over two years. I tried well over a dozen SSRI’s, SNRI’s Tricyclic’s, and mood stabilizers, both new and old school until we found something that seemed to be lessening some of my symptoms and so I stuck with that, finally comfortable with the side-effects. Well that lasted about six months and then my depressive symptoms came back in full force, so once again, off to search out the latest and greatest medication that will help me “recover”.

I don’t have a psychiatrist as I am on yet another year long waiting list, so both the introduction and maintenance of my meds are reliant on my family GP and myself…and I have found it not only helpful, but necessary to educate yourself as much as possible on what you are adding into your system. I went and requested to try Effexor as I had both heard and read that it has had positive effects on many people, at which point my family GP did point out that it is one of the hardest to come off of and will require a low and slow weaning process. I brushed it off thinking that is what they tell you with all anti-depressants anyway and that this could not be much different.

I started with the lowest dose at 37.5mg and slowly increased to 75mg and was not feeling much better, so knowing the minimum clinical dosage is 150mg I made the jump straight up. I figured since the drug had been in my system for a while that doubling the dosage would be fine, so I got a prescription and started the increase. I really didn’t notice much change at first, other than increased “brain fog”, a few more headaches and some nausea, all which I knew to expect thanks to the 10 page warning insert. I managed these side effects for the next few weeks until they just became part of my daily being.

About three months into the higher dosage, I felt my mood plummeting at a rapid rate and no matter what coping techniques I used, the deeper I sank. I found myself not only living in my usual passively suicidal set of mind, but also burdened with extremely active thoughts and plans. I know my moods well and felt that this was definitely enhanced by the medication increase. I also developed some digestion issues which required me to take a medication that has a bad reaction with Effexor, but it was highly recommended to me by the gastroenterologist to get on these new meds as soon as possible, which would require me dropping off Effexor a lot more quickly than recommended. Now I have dropped cold turkey off of cocaine and Benzos , so in my mind, it could not be worse than either of those had been, either physically or emotionally.

So, picking and choosing between my mental health and physical health, I dropped the Effexor from 150mg to 75mg. The first few days seemed manageable and then suddenly it felt like I was slapped in the face by an emotional brick wall. My emotions were bouncing by the minute, with no control and no direction. I could not stop crying, whether someone said something good or something bad, I was in tears. My suicidal ideation went from high to rampant and fit right in with the rapid cycling of my moods. I felt like the last piece of my rational mind was now gone, and my survival was based solely on instinct. These dangerous and pervasive thoughts would not leave my mind, be it day or night, and quickly became all-consuming. I wondered how I would survive without that tiny piece of rationality that has kept me going all these years. I kept reminding myself it was the withdrawal of the medication enhancing the thoughts and that did not mean I could act on them, despite my often impulsive behaviour.

So, I am now about 3 weeks through withdrawal and although a few others have noticed a decrease in the amount of mood swings, the intensity of them is so bad I fail to recognize anything good. My brain fog is starting to decrease slightly, but it still feels like my brain is on a spinning top, non-stop. I am still crying over nothing and everything and find myself angry and frustrated a lot of the time, with or without reason. My suicidal ideations have not ceased or even lessened, I do however, feel slightly less impulsive, like maybe a small part of my rational brain is coming back towards the surface.

I think I am struggling with the question of how I will know that the drug is out of my system completely. It has been a long time since I have only been on two medications and I frankly don’t remember what it feels like to be off them. My mood swings are often rapid and enhanced due to my BPD anyway so where lay the line drawn between the two. I realize it is just a matter of time and the withdrawal will be over but in the meantime, each hour seems like a day; each emotion feels like it is burning through my skin, each tear leaving a scar on my face. All I can do is hold on, and hope that these enhanced feelings are primarily from the withdrawal and that my BPD is not that far out of control again. I hope that the worst of it is over now and in the near future I may balance out again.

Please remember this is only my experience and each person will react individually to their medications and withdrawals. This has not changed my mind on the benefits of mental health medications, it has taught me the valuable lesson that weaning off slowly, when at all possible is definitely the safest way to go.

 

 

Looking for help with a media project

Hey there everyone, I hope this message finds you well. I need some help please…I have a media opportunity to meet one of my readers that has been helped by my writing, the article below specifically. I am looking for someone in NY or any of the surrounding states. If interested, please message me at @onelastkick71 on Twitter or jody_betty@hotmail.com.  Thank you in advance for your assistance. Stay strong my friends. xxx

 

 

 

I Want You to Want to Live

 

SUICIDE….Catch your attention yet? It’s a shame if it didn’t because the actions most certainly will.

The rate of suicide is on the rise worldwide in all age categories. It affects all ethnicities, cultures and religions.

 It is bias free.

It is a last resort, a desperate attempt to quell the never ending and relentless pain that monopolizes your mind. It has become the only feasible way to rid yourself of the burdensome weight that has dragged you to this level of despair.

That is how I feel anyway, the countless number of times I have and do fall into the darkness, and because I can empathize, take a minute to read this letter to you.

Dear You.

If you are reading this there is a small piece of you that wants to hold on.

I am so proud of you for reaching out, even if you have done so without words. You have kindly given me a few minutes of your time, and I do appreciate that.

I want you to live.

I want you to want to live.

I won’t feed you some bullshit like it’s all going to be ok with time because it may not be, and it may not turn out as you wish, but you will never know if you don’t stick around to find out. I will instead tell you I am here with you and let’s take this a minute at a time.

I will remind you that although I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I will be by your side to find out.

You are so important.

I won’t make you feel selfish by telling you to stick around for your family or friends, because I know you feel that leaving would not only end your burden, but theirs as well.

I will tell you that someone loves you despite how you feel inside. I will remind you that you are not and never will be a burden. You may not see or even hear it, but your life is valued by someone out there; it is valued by me. I don’t know you, but I do care because I can empathize with your pain; I feel it myself.

You are incredibly strong.

I won’t ever tell you that you are being dramatic and don’t really want to die.

I will instead be here to listen and validate your feelings because they are as significant as you are.

I am so proud of you for still staying with me.

I won’t ever tell you things could be worse, or that other people have it worse than you and don’t want to die.

I will acknowledge your despair and lack of hope. I will never compare your pain to another’s. It would be like observing two gunshot wounds, one in the chest and one in the leg. Yes, it is worse to get shot in the chest, but it does not take away the pain of being shot in the leg.

You are beautiful.

I won’t use the old adage “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

I will say that your problems might not be temporary but I will be with you and help you to find a coping mechanism that works for you. I will tell you that suicide is simply not a solution.

I won’t shove the ideas of therapy or medication down your throat as that will not help at the moment.

I will ask some of the most important words of all “how can I help?” I will provide you with a suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255 or text the word “start” to 741-741.)

You are a warrior.

You are a survivor. Your track record of making it through trauma, heartbreak and devastation is 100%.  Despite the rocks life has thrown at you, you have emerged with scars and grit. You have proven those wrong who expected you not to make it, those who gave up on you long before you gave up on yourself.

You are amazing.

You have a purpose in this life, whether you realize it at this point or not. Your book has so many chapters to be written. You are needed, your voice and your story are essential for someone, be it a stranger or a friend.

You are your own hero. You have done what you think you cannot do. You have looked death in the face, stared it down and walked away having won another battle in your war.

If you are still reading this, I am incredibly proud of you for stopping what you were doing, and giving me a few moments of your precious time. Just reading this is the beginning…you have extended your arm, you just have to unclench your fist. I implore you to keep this conversation going, be it with a hotline, a friend or family member, or even me (@onelastkick71). You have taken the first step; let’s make it to the second together.

You are loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will I Ever Know Who I Am?

 

who am i blog

 

I don’t like mirrors. I avoid them whenever I can. It’s not just the fact I am insecure about how I look, it’s more that I catch myself staring intently, looking for any speck of what used to be me; the me that used to have friends; the me that used to be somewhat social; the me who wasn’t afraid of everything. I stare even deeper to try and reach a piece of the confidence I had playing soccer but it had never really carried over to other areas of my life, so it, along with everything else is either buried or gone. Instead I see the reflection of a shell of a person; a lifeless being with shadows of trauma below my eyes. I am starting to forget who I was, pre-illness, if there was such a time.

My sexual abuse started when I was a baby, in multiple foster homes, and continued over the years until I was 14. I had multiple abusers, all outside the home, none of whom were family, but as I think back over the years I, realize some were only teenage boys themselves. It makes me wonder if there ever was a pre-illness me, or was I traumatized so young that I never stood a chance not to be sick. Perhaps my pre-illness self is just a collection of memories I have formed, pictures I have seen and stories I have been told. Maybe I have gathered all this information and processed it in order to make some sort of sense of what happened and why.

I have an old wooden hope chest in which I keep important things from my past. There is a lot of stuff from my mom when she was alive, assorted photo albums, the odd knick-knack and all my soccer awards. Once in a while I will have a peek, and look at the awards and medals and letters to try and remind myself that I was good at something, very good in fact, from a very young age until I stopped playing a few years back. I see my name on the certificates, I see the team photos with the trophies and I know that playing soccer was my passion yet I cannot feel the emotions that should come along with the situation. I see me smiling in the pictures, but I see a darkness and heaviness in my eyes every time. I long to remember these moments of apparent happiness, but even more than that I long to feel them because maybe that would help identify who I was back then and point me in the direction of who I am now.

The eyes that glare back at me in the mirror now have lost their sparkle and have that medicated haze; the effort it takes to smile, is almost not worth it. It is almost like I see myself as a jigsaw puzzle with the main pieces missing, so you will never be able to see the entire picture but spend hours trying to figure it out. The problem with trauma is that we often bury it so deep to block out the pain that we lose any good memories that came around that chunk of time. My brain does not have a day or two blocked, it has months and years of forgotten memories and with each chunk of time that is lost, it feels like a piece of me is lost as well. I wonder if I will ever remember who I was, or have these illnesses stripped me of those memories and emotions forever.

I spend so much time trying to figure out who I was I don’t know who I am currently but maybe the key is not locked somewhere amongst the traumas of the past, maybe it is to be found in the here and now. Perhaps it is not so necessary to figure all that out; perhaps my time is better spent figuring who I am now and who I want to be going forward. Maybe, just maybe, everything from the past does not require an explanation, just acceptance. If I focus on the present, maybe I will find those missing puzzle pieces and become a whole picture.

 

My Journey with Suicide…a book excerpt

I was eight years old the first time I tried to kill myself. I was already in an unbearable amount of emotional pain from being bounced around the foster care system, being physically and sexually abused, and neglected for the first 18 months of my life. Even after I was adopted I still found myself a target for sexual predators, so to continue down this path of sheer terror made no sense to me, even at such a young age. I lacked self-worth and had a shattered sense of being. I never actually felt like I belonged anywhere, no matter how hard I tried. I felt like a burden. I was full of shame and anger and never thought I could be loved the way I needed to. I did not think I was worthy of compassion, empathy or safety, for if I was, how could these acts of abuse keep happening. I thought it was me; something I was doing, wearing, or perhaps how I smiled or talked.

I took the bottle of pills because I had been warned several times not to touch them. My Mom had told me plenty of times they would make me very ill and could even kill me. It was difficult to get them all down and by the time I had, my body was rejecting them and I began throwing up. Skipping all the details in between, it ended with a trip to hospital, my stomach being pumped and an interview with a social worker explaining to my Mom that the incident must have been accidental, as no eight year old has a full grasp on the concept of death. It was my turn next, not to be cared for or empathized with, but to be lectured on the dangers of pills, and the importance of listening to my parents. This speech was followed by an informative ten minutes on death and its permanence, and all the people that would be “sad if you died”. He spoke to me like I was a normal, undamaged child; they all did. No one knew the underlying darkness running rampant through my mind.

The subject was never brought up again.

As the years continued so did the abuse and although I survived multiple abusers, I was left as a shell of a person; fragile and angry, confused and scared. The more frequently it happened, the further I pushed these memories and feelings to the back of my brain. I wanted to lock them in there and throw away the key. I had survived each time by dissociating so I felt nothing at all, and spent a number of years afterwards in the same frame of mind. I walked through life as a shadow. I did not feel happiness, or sadness, I just did not feel.

I was 13 when I had my second attempt. I fully understood death by then, having had experienced the loss of my grandfather, which reinforced the permanence of the situation. I felt so alone. There was no one I could go to. The domestic abuse kept my mom in a state of depression and I felt like an unwanted burden. To me, there was no one who would miss me. I did not belong here or anywhere, so I cemented my plan for an exit. Within 12 hours, my stomach had been pumped, my wrists bandaged and I was on my way home with my Mom. There was no disguising this had not been accidental, so instead they labelled it as attention seeking. I was deemed to be irresponsible, untrustworthy and  told if I kept crying for attention in that manner, one day, when I actually needed someone, no one would help because I had “cried wolf” one too many times.

I was shipped off to therapy this time, in an attempt to find the underlying root of my attempt, or so I thought. It lasted six sessions. I was informed I was uncooperative for not talking much and that my childish attempt to scream for attention was exactly as it sounded a cry for attention done in an inappropriate and irresponsible manner. “Normal children don’t act out their behaviours, they use their words” he commented, emphasizing that my actions were not normal, which I took as I was not normal. Words stick at such a young age, if only they knew that words leave a psychological scar that lasts much longer than a bruise. The berating only forced me deeper into my shell, until the point where I simply refused to speak which caused an enormous level of frustration and tension. After a brief conversation with my Mom he deemed I was not suitable for therapy, and with that, I never returned, but six hours with him had left me further traumatized, insecure and introverted.

Later that year, when I was still 13, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and so that became the focus of the following six years until she finally lost her battle. It was pointed out to me on more than one occasion that her being sick was primarily my fault from all the stress I had caused her over the years. Ironic, given that my Dad, the one who made domestic violence a part of my life for eight years, was the one reiterating those words. At that point, there was no way I was going to tell my Mom anything that could cause her further stress, so the abuse, the suicidal thoughts were further repressed in order to survive what was happening in the present. I tried to carry on normal activities with faked enthusiasm, all the while wishing it was me dying and not my Mom. To this very day it is still haunts me, and I find myself often triggered by the death of youth, knowing there are so many people wishing to die, that would trade their lives in an instant, myself included.

The years immediately following my Mom’s death, I lived two lives. One revolved around schooling, soccer and partying, where I was outgoing, somewhat confidant, and I had friends. Having no fear of death, I drove fast, partied recklessly, engaged in whatever drug was the latest fad ,and simply put, I had not a care in the world if I died doing any of these things. That way, people wouldn’t be upset for me getting into an accident the way they would if I ended my life. The other life revolved around the constant thoughts of suicide that ran through my head as routine as any other thoughts on a normal day. The time alone, the down time, was what was killing me. The past, the regrets, being unable to save my Mom, all of these things sent my mind spiralling down into the depths of darkness. I had many plans on how to end my life, things that would work now that I was an adult, but something held me back, and I plodded along, doing my best to keep the darkness at bay.

The years passed and I continued to work and play soccer but now, most of my energy was spent on an internal war. I fought to stay in the light, but the memories, feelings and behaviours all brought me down that dark tunnel. It seemed unavoidable; you can only repress things for so long before they claw themselves free and dig a way to the front of your mind. I tried an anti-depressant for the first time but came off after six months as I felt like a zombie; sure I may have been able to function without getting emotional but that is because I felt no emotion, nothing good, nothing bad, just blank. I decided to try talk therapy and made my way through more than a handful of social workers, psychotherapists, psychologist and psychiatrists and just could not find anyone I felt safe enough to open up to, so after a few years of bouncing between therapists, I decided to call it quits. I wasn’t feeling any better anyway, and was spending money left, right and center, to wake up still wanting to die.

As the years passed, the depression and anxiety continued to build, filling my mind with the thoughts that I am not worthy of a life, that the pain would never end and things would never change. The lies our mental illnesses tell become truths in our minds which then becomes the truth in our reality and I fully believed every single one. I was convinced that since nothing had improved over the years that the only way to lessen the pain was to eliminate it completely, even if that meant eliminating myself. I told no one of my plan. It would be precise and I would not fail again, I couldn’t face the shame if I did. I got the supplies I needed, wrote the necessary notes and chose a date. The sense of relief was enormous; just knowing that in a few hours I would finally be at peace lifted a weight off my shoulders and for the first time, I felt free. I felt in control of my life for once. The nightmares from the past would finally be put to rest. I spoke to no one that day. I made no attempts to reach out; I simply went about the day normally, knowing that the time had finally come.

I awoke a few hours later, having had thrown up, and covered in the remnants of drywall and dust. The piece of wood was snapped in half, one piece on my thigh, the other to the side of me. The hook remained intact and as I inspected it I noticed the inside was near rotten. It had held my weight during the test phase but snapped under the pressure of the actual event. I did not know whether to laugh or cry, so I did a bit of both. It was about an hour before I willed myself to get up. I could not actually believe this had happened. I thought I had every aspect, every scenario covered but obviously not. Ironically having felt not wanted my whole life, here I was, giving up, and death didn’t want me either. I brushed off my clothes, lay on my bed and passed out for almost 18 hours. When I awoke, I thought perhaps the whole thing was a dream but I was again astonished by the mess that lay before me and the rope burn on my neck. I felt like a failure, after all, what kind of loser fails at three major suicide attempts. I decided this would be a secret that I would take to the grave with me. I was far too embarrassed and ashamed to tell anyone. I cleaned up the mess, and spent the next few days in bed sleeping off the pill hangover, allowing the bruising on my neck to start to fade.

I vowed to never tell a soul and pretend this incident didn’t occur, and along with everything else, I shoved it in the back of my mind, under lock and key.

The next few years the depression worsened. I lost interest in almost everything that had previously given me pleasure, I lost a lot of friends and I did not live life, I merely existed, floating through the days in a fog. I could not feel happy; I felt either numb or deeply depressed and the internal battles in my head drained me more and more each day. My thoughts of suicide went from passive to active, and I once again actively started to plan my death.

I had my breakdown three years ago. I took a few weeks off work to rest and heal, which led to a day trip to hospital, where I was deemed to be “not an immediate suicidal threat” and would not be held. I was seen by a psychiatrist, diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Dysthymia, given some medication and was booted out the door. My head was spinning and my thoughts worse than before I went in. I went home completely overwhelmed and yet again started to plan my exit. These diagnoses seemed like a death sentence to me, and I felt I could no longer endure a life like this.

My therapist helped me through the crises periods and knowing that I enjoyed writing, suggested I start a blog anonymously where I could tell events and chapters of my story, which may not only help me get those locked up things out but also may help connect with others. I was hesitant at first, worried about the reactions of others; worried about not writing well enough to share on a public forum. My first blog was a pretty brief and basic introduction to me and my past, and surprisingly enough, not only did it get read, but it also received comments which were actually positive and supportive. This inspired me to write another, which prompted the next, and so on. The support I was receiving from the mental health community was astonishing to me; complete strangers reaching out to offer their support and understanding without judgement.

It was a particularly dark night and thoughts of suicide were running rampant through my mind. I had gotten adjusted to using a crisis line, but found that the words I heard each time sounded so scripted. They were not true words of compassion or empathy, and they certainly were not the words I needed to hear at the time. Feeling frustrated, alone and misunderstood, I decided to write, however, instead of venting my frustrations on paper, I decided to turn it around. What would I need when I am suicidal that I am not getting from crisis lines or anyone else? What words would resonate with me at such a desperate time. I know I didn’t want to hear the routine speech on how things will get better, or that this situation is only temporary. I did not want any more numbers to call, or to be told to go to my local ER. I did not want to hear falsities and untruths. I wanted someone to be real with me, someone who could empathize, or at the very least sympathize with how it feels to truly be at the end of your rope.

I sat in the darkness of my room, grabbed my laptop and began to write. I wrote as if I was writing to someone directly; someone who may be at the very edge I have been so many times. I wrote the words I longed to hear for so many years but failed to find. I did not tell them that things are going to be ok, because I don’t know if they are. I did not use the old adage “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”; I cannot guarantee you that these problems will go away. I didn’t label them as attention seekers or take their threats of death with a grain of salt.

I asked what is perhaps the most important question…how can I help? Or what do you need from me at this moment? I reminded them that they are strong and brave for making it this far, and that their problems may not go away but that they will grow stronger and be better able to cope with them. I told them that regardless of the fact that they can’t see it, there is an exit to the dark tunnel they are lost in. I ask them what it is that has kept them alive this long and remind them to hold tightly on to that. I told them they are understood, that their pain is valid, and most importantly that they are not alone. I am candid and frank because those are the truths I would want to hear at my most desperate moments. I wanted to feel like I wasn’t alone, and that what I was feeling was justified and understood by another who had gone through the same thing. It was so important for me to not feel judged for my thoughts, but instead have someone sympathize. I published it on my blog, including my Twitter handle and also sent to an online Mental Health Magazine, and went to bed, feeling a bit better and a lot safer.

Within a few days, the article was published on the site I sent it to, and I felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that my words would now reach a wider audience and could potentially affect a greater number of people. Within a day I had 20 messages in my inbox. The next few days I was inundated with emails from people saying thank you; saying that they felt understood and heard for the first time ever. I figured I was getting this response as the article was relatively new, but over two years later I have received over 800 messages, and they still continue to flow in. I was astonished, and still am, that so many people have read this article it is a top search on Google. The number of brave people reaching out to tell me their story or to thank me for telling me is an absolute honour. To know that the pain from my darkest times was finally channelled into something positive touches my heart and soul. To have my words comfort others the way I wanted someone to do for me gave me a sense of purpose. I continue to advocate for zero suicide and have and will continue to respond personally to every message, in the hopes of being a small light during the dark times. When you reach out a hand, someone will take it. You are never alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Did I Freeze

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Trauma comes in a multitude of types, forms, variances and degrees. No one person’s trauma can be experienced the same as another’s, nor can it be compared. The biology of our bodies react the same, prompting us to prepare for danger through fight, flight or freeze, but our emotional responses, however similar they may be, will never be the same. Even if we experienced the exact same trauma, simultaneously, surviving an accident for example, our brains are wired to see the world differently, and therefore we process information and react based on our individuality.

For a “healthy” person, the emotional response would be somewhat in accordance to the situation, and the body’s physiological response would naturally rebalance itself. The hormones that flood our body in response to trauma would, in an appropriate time, return to the levels that keep us balanced. We would then be able to process the event in both a rational and emotional manner, until it makes enough sense to satisfy our needs and allow us the ability to both live and thrive in the future.

For a traumatized person, the world is already seen with a tainted view. It is, for us, a dangerous and scary place where we have been victimized, brutalized and left to protect ourselves. It is a world where there is no room for the emotional brain, only for the instinct of survival. Yes we still get the hormonal signals to fight flight or freeze during the trauma, the difference being is our system never really balances back out. Long after the trauma, our bodies are still secreting those hormones and we are constantly living in a stage of hyper or hypo vigilance. This is not only true of those with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but it is the truth to the millions of other victims of trauma. The past does not get resolved and filed away in an orderly manner, but instead it settles itself smack dab in the present.  Even though the trauma has stopped occurring, the resulting effects have become so deeply ingrained in the way we think, that they affect our every thought and move in the present. We may have “moved on” because time has passed but parts of us are literally and physically stuck in those moments of trauma. We are constantly on the edge or overly aware. We are worried about abandonment. We fear trust and the act of getting close to someone.

I have been abused in numerous ways. Sadly most did not allow for flight or fight so the next survival instinct kicked in… to freeze, which I did, like a deer in the headlights. I wanted to fight but was physically unable to, and God knows I wanted to run but my legs seemed paralyzed and there was nowhere to go. So time and time again, for years and years I just froze, put my mind in a different place and tolerated the abuse. I remember being angry at myself all the time for being too afraid to run, being too weak and too meek to fight back and too afraid to speak and have no one listen. The abuse finally ended in my early teens and I continued to go about my life as if nothing had happened, but with a dark cloud of anger hanging perilously over my head and the thing about deep seeded anger is it generally gets turned inward long before it is expressed outwardly.

Over the years, this anger eats away at your mind, heart and soul. This sense of being hyper vigilant becomes a part of your very essence. It feels like it is no longer a choice, but an innate and ongoing reaction, which exhausts you to your very core. Not only is my mind stuck, but my body is too. The same stress hormones that were released every time trauma occurred have slowed down but never stopped. My body is releasing hormones to keep me constantly alert based on the traumas of the past, regardless of the fact we are in the present. So effectively, my body lives in the present with constant biological reactions from the past.

There are no pills, or easy solutions. There is no “putting the past behind you” and moving on. Even if you think you have put it behind you, your body will remind you that it is still there.  It will remind you with mysterious physical ailments, or flashbacks triggered by something as simple as a specific noise or smell, and it won’t stop until it is faced head on and dealt with in one form or another. The body and mind are one, and healing can’t occur solely on one part of us, both aspects need to be addressed in order to try to heal from the trauma.  The mind needs to be able to communicate with the body to let it know there is no danger or threat in the present and the feelings that are occurring are just trauma responses, or our survival instincts kicking in again. We can however try to focus on the present moment through mindfulness or breathing techniques, both which keep us focused in the present instead of allowing our bodies and minds to think we are trapped in the past. With time, practice and training, we can rewire the obscure way we see the world, and replace it with a version in which we are in control and feel safe and secure.

 

 

The Darkness of Night

Trigger Warning…

 

The night sky was dark and cloudy; the streetlights shining a dim glare on the sidewalk and the road beside me. It is late. Only two cars pass me on my walk, their bright headlights shining upon me for a brief moment in time. I am numb. I can no longer feel anything but dead inside, like a walking corpse. The walk itself is only about ten minutes, but seemed like an eternity. The thoughts that run rampant in my head finally silenced. I was focused, determined and would not be deterred this time. I was like a horse with blinders on, focusing only on what was ahead of me.

The train station is huge, and scarcely lit at night. The parking lot, full to the brim in the daytime is barren at night. All I can see is painted white lines, one after the next in such perfect unison. There is one white SUV parked closest to the station. It has the GO Transit logo, so I assume it is either belonging to a working security guard, or alternatively, was just not needed that night and left there. I approach the station with caution noticing only a small light inside. I glance through the windows looking for a moving shadow or some clue if it is empty or not. I determine no one is there and proceed on my way.

The fence is quite tall and jagged at the top, obviously to deter people like me from climbing it. A little extra effort, a couple of cuts and I dropped into the long grass underneath me. I could see the tracks right in front of me. One was for the eastbound trains the other for the westbound ones. I knew at this time of night there would be no passenger trains, only cargo trains not even slowing down for this station. I needed to get to the platform but my legs seemed to fail me, so in the grass I sat thinking about how my life had finally got to this point…again. These moments are the ones you spend rationalizing that what you are going to do is ok. That I am never going to get well, that I am never going to thrive, only survive; that I had such potential which I let waste away. The list of regrets goes on and on and is topped with the eternal loss of hope. Nothing is ever going to get better no matter how hard I try, no matter the meds I take, no matter the therapists I see. I see only a repetition of the pain that brought me to this point in the first place; I see the continued choices of paying my bills or eating daily. The future looks like the black hole to me…never ending.

Time became a blur. I didn’t know if minutes, or hours had passed. I had left my cell at home to make it easier for whoever might need access to my contacts. My butt ached, my eyes barely open, the tears had yet to stop flowing and finally there it was…the shake of the ground, the bright spotlight and the roaring engine. It was now or never. I had to get to the tracks and had not much time to do so. I started scampering up the hill and towards the platform. I got there in time. I would only take one second. Close my eyes take a step and finally find peace.

I could feel the speed and the wind so close to my face it felt like I might get sucked in like a vacuum. The roar of the endless numbers of cars carrying who knows what deafened me. The train was so long, and I had at least a full minute of opportunity yet I had stood motionless the whole time. I waited until the caboose passed and made my way back over the fence and down the empty road to home. Some people have the life scared out of them; I needed the life scared into me, anything to feel alive again.

 

 

So Honored

A quick hello to my readers and a thank you all for following me and taking the time to read my blog. I want to share something a little different with you this week, in light of the events of suicide that occurred this week. I hope that not only will you read it, and let the information sink in, but that you will share it with as many people as you can. The more people that access this at a time of crisis, the more opportunities to save lives.

Thank you again,

Jody xxx

The First Person I Thought of When I Heard of Anthony Bourdain’s Suicide

The Stigma of Mental Health

The statistics are eye opening.  One in three girls and one in six boys will experience some form of severe trauma during their childhood which, in most cases,  may be the precursor to the one in three that will be affected by mental illness. There was a time, not too long ago, when not only was it uncommon to know anyone dealing with a mental illness but it certainly would never happen to you, or anyone in your family. Anything mental health related was not only swept under the carpet, but pushed down the stairs and locked in the basement, and the problem with that is, it always seems to sneak back up to the main level.  The stigma and bias against those with a mental illness has always been, and despite all the progress we have made in many areas of humanity, becoming less judgmental and more empathetic have never been at the forefront.

I would like to say that I am not a statistic, but I am one of the one in three.  I experienced multiple traumas throughout my childhood which opened the doors to a variety of mental illness diagnoses. I was told as a child that my feelings of being down were merely a part of growing up, and that is just the way some children were. The doctors and my parents both attributed it to the abuse I incurred pre-adoption, although at the time the details were somewhat unknown and basically said the past is the past, so leave it there and move on. So I did. I buried my past traumas as deep as possible, continued to downplay the present ones, and despite two suicide attempts, I continued on, attempting to fake any sense of normalcy. This pattern continued through my teenage years and was greatly exacerbated by the death of my mom when I was 19, and when I buried her, I also buried the trauma that came with her death. I survived through my twenties and into my thirties before having another suicide attempt and finally being officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but as with the rest of my life, I fell into the old habits and survival techniques which had kept me alive thus far.

I managed to keep a roof over my head and although I cycled through quite a few, I always managed to have a job. I was active in soccer and had a social life with a pretty good circle of friends until my late thirties when slowly my depression started to take over. It slowly sucked my energy, my confidence and my social life down the drain. I felt little pleasure in the activities that used to keep me going, and I lost interest in life. Just trying to stay alive became a daily battle. The judgment rolled in and friends started to slowly dissipate as my depression took ahold of my life. I finally reached my breaking point about 18 months ago, lost my job and took a trip to the hospital to reach out for some help. I was refused admittance as I was not “enough of a threat” to myself or others, but they did put me in touch with a psychiatrist who then diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder and Dysthymia to add to my depression and anxiety. Although I am not generally into putting labels onto people, in this case I found my diagnosis to be quite a relief. It provided not only an explanation to many of my behaviors but a sense that perhaps I was not alone in my battles.

I thought maybe my diagnosis might be a relief for others as well, those who had to deal with my rapid and intense mood swings but the more I shared the news, the less my phone rang and the texts became fewer and further in between and within six months, I had lost my job, and all but a few friends. My family had already outcast me years ago, labeling me as troubled and once again, I found myself feeling so alone I could not rationalize a reason to go on. I wondered if I had instead been diagnosed with a physical ailment, would I have been judged or would I have had to face the same discrimination and bias. Sadly, the answer is no. Physical illnesses are socially acceptable and often come with a level of empathy, whereas mental illnesses are still treated like they are taboo, and if we just ignore them for long enough, perhaps they will simply go away. Unfortunately, that will never happen and with the rapidly increasing numbers of diagnosis, it seems society will have to finally deal with the reality that no one is immune. Just like cancer, mental illnesses have no discrimination or bias on who they affect. There is no culture, no religion, no gender or amount of money and fame that provides protection from mental illness. So think twice before you discriminate or walk away from someone who is affected, because chances are it will affect you, a friend or family member and the more open we are to acceptance the less we will judge.

 

 

 

 

The Complex Fear of Losing Your Therapist

blog-fear

 

I was 8 when I saw my first therapist. She was a social worker and had been assigned to me to find out if I had purposefully or accidentally taken the bottle of my Grandma’s blood pressure medication. I remember her fidgeting with a pencil the entire time she was questioning me about if I knew what death was, and how taking those pills could have killed me. I stayed quiet, nodding at all the appropriate times and within the hour it was determined that I had no idea what suicide was, therefore there could have been no intent in my taking the pills and I must not have realized that taking them could have caused irreparable harm. I remember my Mom yelling at me pretty much the whole ride home while I sat silently, tears dripping down my face because I had failed. I was still alive.

Since my attempt was labeled an accident there was no follow up counselling, and although daily life continued on I felt the grip of the darkness, holding on tighter and tighter each day, and could not understand how nobody could notice. I was twelve when I slit my wrist, more a cry for attention than a true suicide attempt, but it worked and I was shipped off to therapy. They asked my mom if they could speak with me alone, and with her consent I trailed along behind the grey haired man with the thick rimmed glasses. I really don’t know what I expected from counselling, I just know that someone else had to help me get better as I was not succeeding on my own. I settled into the oversized chair as he crossed his legs and pulled out a note pad. He went through the basics of my past with me and then with the stern face of a school principal began to lecture me about cutting myself as a form of getting attention and that if I cry wolf too many times no one will ever help me. I zoned out for the rest of the session until he called my mom in the room to inform her that it was not an attempt, but a negative way to get attention. The tension on the car ride home was so thick there was no knife or sword in the world big enough to cut through it. I was yelled at, grounded and the subject was not mentioned again.

Between then and now I have seen over 18 people, including social workers 20 years younger than me, psychotherapists fresh out of school, psychologists referring to Freud, and psychiatrists so disconnected from the real world, I have no idea how they continue to practice, aside from the fact that they can prescribe meds.  Many of these meetings only lasted a session; some went as long as six months, but I never found anyone that I actually connected with enough to be able to open up on an emotional level. I repeated my story over and over, telling it like it was a movie I watched last night, with complete emotional disconnection. I found myself unable to speak much at all when confronted with a male therapist, which accounted for over half the people I saw. The others were either lacking in compassion, or just lacking in practical knowledge and trauma education. Some of the sessions were straight out of books I have already read, which would piss me off because I am not a classic textbook anything. I am a person with an illness that needs appropriate guidance and support.

I gave up the whole idea of therapy about 15 years ago when I found that neither therapy, nor self-help books had helped me at all, and I chose to accept the fact that I was far too damaged to be repaired in any way. Even a suicide attempt that I managed to escape being hospitalized was not enough of a wakeup call to reach out for help. I shoved everything to the back and pretended to function in society as much as possible, but the truth is I was drowning in depression and suicidal thoughts. The mask we wear in public shows a much different face than the one we wear at home. This act continued until three years ago, when the years of pain and pressure built up and I snapped. I went to hospital, mostly just to get in the system and after six hours of waiting and one hour of diagnosis, I left for home with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, a prescription and three follow up appointments. I foolishly thought that since I now knew what I was dealing with, and had medication, it couldn’t take too long for me to feel better. Well after six weeks of meds that did nothing but make me sleep, and three follow-up appointments, not only was I not feeling better but I was horrified that after my last appointment, I was left alone to monitor my behaviour and meds with no support system at all. I was placed on a waitlist for a psychiatrist; however the average wait time was 11 months or more. It was at this point I realized I had to take things into my own hands.

I educated myself about all types of meds and learned as much about Borderline Personality Disorder as I could. I ordered books and workbooks on both Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and dove right into them, intent on both teaching and healing myself, and although they were educational, I was still emotionally disconnected. That is when I decided to try therapy again. I sent out about 50 emails to various therapists briefly explaining my story and my dire financial situation and received 49 rejections. There was a younger girl, maybe late twenties, early 30’s who had agreed to meet with me and discuss my situation, and although I was very sceptical, I vowed to attend the meeting, after all, what was the worst that could happen.

I was greeted that day warmly and non-judgementally and the kindness in her eyes could not have been faked, and after our first appointment, she reduced her rate substantially and agreed to take me on as a client. We have met weekly or bi-weekly for the last three years. She was not intimidated by my BPD and the push pull factor attached to that. She not only brought out my feelings, but validated them and the pain that comes with them, and as luck would have it, she is a trauma focused therapist, so there was nothing I had to hold back anymore. The trust took me about six months to develop enough to delve into anything emotional. BPD is primarily an attachment based disorder and for me to open up required vulnerability, which means I have to test you to make sure you won’t abandon me, and she never did, despite the frustration I must have caused, she always made me feel validated and safe. Her office soon became my only safe space in terms of being emotional, and although I know things were kept professional, I could tell her care and concern was truly genuine. BPD makes me form attachments quickly, and she soon became “my person”…the only one I could be true to myself with and open up more than I had ever done before. It may not seem like it, but in the past three years, I have progressed in my healing quite a lot. She helped me in every way she possibly could.

I had no intention of stopping seeing her. I figured I would be in therapy pretty much for life and expected at least a few more years with her in hopes to see some more progression, and that is when the other shoe finally dropped. She informed me she is moving away and not doing therapy for the foreseeable future, and although I know why she has to go, it does not lessen the feeling of abandonment and the extreme emotions that accompany it. I am terrible at goodbyes and cry at the thought of the upcoming day. I feel such an immense sense of loss it has left an empty pit at the bottom of my stomach. I feel lost, not knowing what to do or where to turn. The thought of starting this process all over again with someone else terrifies me. The fear of suddenly not having the only support I am true with is devastating, and I fear the depths my mind will sink to when the time comes. The chances are slim I am going to find another person I am this comfortable with that is both trauma informed and willing to cut their rates to the amount I can afford. I am afraid of losing all the progress I have made, afraid of no longer having that safety net and scared to be on my own.

So the weaning off process begins in hopes to make the transition a bit easier for me, however, I have a feeling my BPD is going to drag me back to the depths of hell but this time I don’t have the proper resources to help pull me out. I truly am sad and lost and the future suddenly seems so uncertain. I will miss her immensely as to me, she is irreplaceable.

I Want You to Want to Live

 

 

 

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SUICIDE….Catch your attention yet? It’s a shame if it didn’t because the actions most certainly will.

The rate of suicide is on the rise worldwide in all age categories. It affects all ethnicities, cultures and religions.

 It is bias free.

It is a last resort, a desperate attempt to quell the never ending and relentless pain that monopolizes your mind. It has become the only feasible way to rid yourself of the burdensome weight that has dragged you to this level of despair.

That is how I feel anyway, the countless number of times I have and do fall into the darkness, and because I can empathize, take a minute to read this letter to you.

Dear You.

If you are reading this there is a small piece of you that wants to hold on.

I am so proud of you for reaching out, even if you have done so without words. You have kindly given me a few minutes of your time, and I do appreciate that.

I want you to live.

I want you to want to live.

I won’t feed you some bullshit like it’s all going to be ok with time because it may not be, and it may not turn out as you wish, but you will never know if you don’t stick around to find out. I will instead tell you I am here with you and let’s take this a minute at a time.

I will remind you that although I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I will be by your side to find out.

You are so important.

I won’t make you feel selfish by telling you to stick around for your family or friends, because I know you feel that leaving would not only end your burden, but theirs as well.

I will tell you that someone loves you despite how you feel inside. I will remind you that you are not and never will be a burden. You may not see or even hear it, but your life is valued by someone out there; it is valued by me. I don’t know you, but I do care because I can empathize with your pain; I feel it myself.

You are incredibly strong.

I won’t ever tell you that you are being dramatic and don’t really want to die.

I will instead be here to listen and validate your feelings because they are as significant as you are.

I am so proud of you for still staying with me.

I won’t ever tell you things could be worse, or that other people have it worse than you and don’t want to die.

I will acknowledge your despair and lack of hope. I will never compare your pain to another’s. It would be like observing two gunshot wounds, one in the chest and one in the leg. Yes, it is worse to get shot in the chest, but it does not take away the pain of being shot in the leg.

You are beautiful.

I won’t use the old adage “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

I will say that your problems might not be temporary but I will be with you and help you to find a coping mechanism that works for you. I will tell you that suicide is simply not a solution.

I won’t shove the ideas of therapy or medication down your throat as that will not help at the moment.

I will ask some of the most important words of all “how can I help?” I will provide you with a suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255 or text the word “start” to 741-741.)

You are a warrior.

You are a survivor. Your track record of making it through trauma, heartbreak and devastation is 100%.  Despite the rocks life has thrown at you, you have emerged with scars and grit. You have proven those wrong who expected you not to make it, those who gave up on you long before you gave up on yourself.

You are amazing.

You have a purpose in this life, whether you realize it at this point or not. Your book has so many chapters to be written. You are needed, your voice and your story are essential for someone, be it a stranger or a friend.

You are your own hero. You have done what you think you cannot do. You have looked death in the face, stared it down and walked away having won another battle in your war.

If you are still reading this, I am incredibly proud of you for stopping what you were doing, and giving me a few moments of your precious time. Just reading this is the beginning…you have extended your arm, you just have to unclench your fist. I implore you to keep this conversation going, be it with a hotline, a friend or family member, or even me (@onelastkick71/bravewingstrc@gmail.com/jodybetty.com). You have taken the first step; let’s make it to the second together.

You are loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes There Are No Reasons

 

 

TRIGGER WARNING…Talks about suicide.

 

It was seven years ago tomorrow at 11:53pm that I found myself crumpled in a heap on the floor, covered in broken pieces of drywall and dust, with a jagged, rotten piece of wood to my side, complete with the hook that held the cord that was still wrapped securely around my neck. I was, stunned, in shock and had no reaction other than to sarcastically grin before I broke down sobbing. Everything had been so precisely planned and timed. The plan, methodically set out, had been executed to perfection, with all the plausible outcomes considered…or so I thought. There had been little to no give when I had screwed the hook in the wood, or when I checked it, the first, second and third time to make sure it would hold the weight I needed it to. The cord had been strong enough and remained tied to the hook by the knots I had securely fastened as it landed in my lap. The chair remained tipped over in front of me, having fallen and landed resting against my coffee table. In a hazy mess of tears, I crawled out of the cupboard and glanced up to see the gaping hole in the ceiling that had led me here, to this seemingly frozen moment in time.

I am unsure how long I sat on the floor in shock with the cord still wrapped around my neck, but it seemed like an eternity. The tears flowed down my face as I gasped to catch my breath, and the reality of the moment slowly started to sink in. Everything I had hoped and planned for had gone horrifically wrong in one inexplicable moment; my last hope of ending this life destroying pain had come crumbling down into tiny pieces, literally. I untied the cord around my neck and threw it to the side of me, feeling the release of pressure from around my neck, and slowly tried to pull myself up off the floor. My knees buckled, and I stumbled towards the couch before collapsing in a sobbing mess. I cried until I heaved, and then cried some more until the shock wore off and the exhaustion set in, and all that was left to do was close my eyes and hope that when I awoke this whole thing had been some sort of nightmare and not a reality I would have to face.

I woke from discomfort early in the morning and was slapped by the cold hard truth when I opened my eyes. This had not been a dream, nor a nightmare, but in fact, an unwelcome reality check. The mess lay strewn across the carpet, the chair still resting against the table and the broken piece of wood still lying in pieces in the cupboard. I slowly sat up and made my way to the washroom where I flicked on the lights only to see the redness of the cord marks starting to bruise the skin on my neck. The tears started flowing again and I crawled back into my bed not ready to face the reality of yet another failed attempt. How I got to that state of mind was not the question rattling around my brain, but how had this gone so very wrong? The anger started to build, and I got out of bed to analyze the situation. I looked at the splintered wood and then stared at the hole in the ceiling above. I picked up the wood, looking at it from all angles, and wondered if there was perhaps a pressure point in wood as there is a glass, and that is what had caused it to break under the weight of my body. I unscrewed the hook looking intently in the small hole, wondering if perhaps I had somehow screwed it in too far and caused a small crack, which led to it just giving out. There were no visible explanations. The pieces of the puzzle were just not adding up, further adding to my anger and frustration. Failing was one issue, but not knowing why was eating at my soul.

Fast forward seven years and I still struggle with the fact that there is no concrete answer. There are only the words I put in my mind as truths, in an attempt to accept what had gone so wrong, and to try and make some peace with events that were seemingly unexplainable to my rational mind. After so many years of near misses and desperate attempts at self-harm and death, how I am still alive. What is it in me that seemingly won’t die under the most desperate of circumstances? Where does this subconscious fight come from when I am consciously trying to destroy and end my life? The question of why I am still alive nags at me like a mosquito buzzing around my ear. I wonder daily if I am just a such a failure that I can’t even, after three attempts, successfully end my own life. I search for my conclusions through my writing and sharing my stories with others, and the only conclusion I have come up with is that perhaps, at the exact moment of each attempt, it just wasn’t my time. There is something keeping me here and maybe half of the struggle is letting go of searching for the reasons why. Maybe they are just not for me to know. Maybe all I am supposed to do is continue fighting, continue advocating and reaching out. Perhaps that in itself is the reason I have been looking for.

 

A Sincere Thank You for Your Words

thank you

 

 I had my breakdown almost three years ago now. I was severely depressed and dealing with both active and passive suicidal ideations and although I had started therapy, I soon learned that an hour of support a week was not going to cut it. I didn’t know what I would do all those nights alone, when the darkness of my thoughts far outweighed the darkness of the night air. I never want to be a burden so I kept as much to myself as possible, subsequently leaving me no one to talk to, which is where the crisis line came into play. As long as I watched what I said, it was a way to vent to a stranger, a non-judgmental ear, who would not feel burdened by my words, just provide a safe space to both speak and listen. I tried numerous different numbers, through a variety of networks and agencies and aside from being put on hold for up to 40 minutes, the people I encountered at the other end of the line were calm, respectful and generally kind…but one thing was missing; a true sense of understanding. The words said to me, throughout all the agencies, sounded like they were coming from a training manual which left very little room for compassion or empathy. Nevertheless I listened to these seemingly empty words and by the time I got off the phone I was either too tired or too frustrated and preoccupied by this approach to helping people to bother putting any plan into action. So off to bed, I would go, to cry myself to sleep.

One night, after hanging up the phone with yet another crisis volunteer, I realized not only had I memorized the “script” that was being said to me repeatedly from number to number, but that these words were vague and non-specific to my actual crisis, and perhaps that was the reason they never really seemed to sink in. I sat and thought for a moment. Instead of hearing that repetitive nonsense, what exactly was it that I needed to hear at my moment of crisis? What words would help to lift the blanket of darkness that envelops me during those instances? What might give me a glimmer of hope or provide me with that last bit of strength I need to resist the impulsive urges that call me late at night when I am alone? In the darkness of my room, I reached over, grabbed my laptop and began to write.

The next day, I reread my words and immediately decided I could not post this new blog on my site. After all, did I sound like I was speaking for the masses? I don’t voice anyone else’s opinion but perhaps I had crossed the line this time and these words reiterated only what I would want to hear which may not comfort anyone else at all. I put it in a writings folder on my computer and just like the dozen others, assumed they would never be read again.

A few weeks later, after pulling myself far enough out of the hole to see a small patch of light, I slipped and once again found myself at the bottom. Not knowing where else to turn I found myself right back in the same cycle of repetitive phone calls that often left me feeling worse rather than better. One particularly bad night, I had finally had enough of feeling like I was not heard or understood. There had to be other people who went through these types of experiences; there was no way I could be completely alone in my thoughts, so I went back onto my laptop and opened the file with the blog I had written just a few short weeks ago. I read it over and over again until my own words sunk in enough to calm me down a bit, and at that moment I decided that if these words were enough to help me, what is the harm of putting them out there for someone else, in the off chance that they might actually get read, and do some good. I posted the article on my blog, pinned it on my twitter page and even sent it to The Mighty to see if they would be interested in publishing it.

The following morning, I noticed a few more messages than usual in my Twitter inbox, and to my astonishment, by the afternoon The Mighty had my article up and published. I went to bed feeling a tiny sense of purpose that is otherwise buried in tar. When I awoke, I had over twenty messages from random strangers and as I read them I felt tears well up in my eyes. All of these people were feeling or felt like I did and the reality that I might not be alone in my darkest thoughts started to sink in. These people were saying thank you to me, saying how my blog stopped them from acting impulsively or that they no longer felt alone, and for the first time in their lives they felt both heard and understood; that they felt a sense of much needed validation and a saw just enough of a spark of hope to get them through the night.

That was almost three years ago now, and these messages, these words of kindness and appreciation have not stopped. If anything, they have actually gone up as exposure of the article has vastly increased. Now as much as this blog may sound like it is a self-indulging pat on the back, it truly is not. I am humbled each and every time someone reaches out to me in the moments that their lives may or may not hang in the balance, and I want to say thank you. Thanks to each and every one of you who had the bravery, the trust and the willingness to confide their darkest and deepest secrets and traumas to me…a virtual random stranger. Thank you for being strong and for reaching out your hand when you least expect someone to take it. Thank you for allowing me to believe in you and perhaps instill a bit of that in yourself. Most of all, thank you for taking the time, in your moment of crisis to read my words, and know how honored I am, to have those words reach you.

Nothing remains the same. Life is a flow of constant change, so please believe what I said. Things will not always be as they are, and you are going to be ok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anguish of our Self-Criticism

At what point in our lives did we become so self-critical.  Did we learn it or is it just inherent? Why are we so hard on ourselves and so much easier on others? Did we make some huge mistake we have never gotten over? Is it something someone said that stuck in our heads as a child that still rings loud and clear now? Is it something our mothers once said we should be able to do, or our fathers wanted us to achieve and they didn’t know that their words, wrapped up in a list of expectations, would stick to our hearts like glue, haunting our souls and making our heads spin with an image of ourselves we cannot accept.

We are a society that thrives off of adversity, and pointing out these characteristics often starts in early childhood when we begin to highlight the negatives… “You should be able to do this by now” or “you should be better at…” or any of should have’s for that matter, they all leave little notches in the personality we are trying to carve out. The education system often spends more time explaining that your child needs to improve in whatever area, than they do pointing out the positive’s, and this continues through all of schooling and carries over into the work world. For example, if someone is not good at public speaking we recommend a book or ship them off to a course to improve that skill, but what if, in fact, that skill is just something that person is not good at, regardless of any amount of training or research. Instead, this person who is actually fantastic at accounting gets judged for being poor at one thing instead of being praised for what he is actually good at. We are always pointed in the direction of fixing ourselves so the focus on the negative becomes predominant, resulting in that inner critic we all deal with at one point in time or another.

It’s the voice in your head that convinces you that those “should have’s” from so many years ago still hold the same power. It is the voice that tells you that you aren’t good enough, pretty enough or smart enough. It is quick to point out any mistake or error in judgment and likes to ponder over those that have already happened. Our inner critic is just flat out mean. We tell our friends and family not to be so hard on themselves, and then we are harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else. We blame ourselves when blame does not apply and feel guilty about what we “should have” done better, or could have done differently. Our critic implies that if we try something new, we will fail and therefore holds us back from even taking the first step, and the sad thing is, even when the negative is somewhat balanced with the positive, it always seems to leave more of an imprint.

If we let it maintain its power over our minds we will soon become accustomed to the negativity, so much so that we form our thoughts based on the lies it has told us. It is amazing…the power of the brain to convince itself of something that feels so incredibly real but is based upon negative untruths, and unfortunately there is no magic pill to silence that critical voice in your head. There is no shortcut to muting that voice; it is a matter of practice and time. In the meantime, tell it to shut the hell up. Tell it there is no longer space in your mind for it to occupy. Remind yourself that you are smart enough, pretty enough and good enough every time it tries to tell you otherwise, because you are. That voice served its purpose at the time it was needed, but we don’t need it screaming throughout our lives, we want it down to a low murmur. So try something new, say what you have always wanted to say, do what you have wanted to do. Stop letting that voice of adversity rule your thoughts and actions. Regardless of what that voice says, if you fall, you will get back up.

 

The Safety of my Comfort Zone

comfort zone sign

What is comfort? According to any dictionary, it, amongst other definitions, is a state of ease and satisfaction; a feeling of relief or consolation. It is that place where we feel safe and most soothed, one that is perhaps hard to describe to others but you know what it is and what brings you there. Is it a state of mind; a place, a thing or perhaps all three? It is completely individualistic and among the billions of people on this planet, no two states of comfort will be exactly the same. For me it is all three. There is that comfort zone in my mind in which I can retreat to in times of need; there are the calming sights, sounds and scents I get from being anywhere around water, and there is that favorite old hoody which, after all these years, has more holes than material.

I like my comfort zone.  I like its familiar sounds, scents and sights. I like that it envelops me with that same sense of coziness as my favorite old sweatshirt or torn jeans. I like that it provides a sense of safety by building a wall which guards watch over incessantly, protecting me from others and myself. It is the one thing I feel I have control over, even though I know full well that it is fear that actually keeps me within its protective confines. It is often the only place I can find relief from my afflictions, and some sense of solace.

Remaining in this place of contentment has its advantages. Since I feel I have some semblance of control here, I can convince myself that it is the only place of refuge to seek shelter from the mental storm that is my mind. I can persuade my thoughts to believe that this isolation that feeds my fear is the only way to stay safe; the only way to remain protected from both people and the threats of everyday life, and allows me to safely function within the little sheltered world I have created for myself. It allows me to survive, but fails to let me thrive.

Stepping out of my comfort zone brings forward a number of powerful emotions, with fear leading the charge, followed closely by toxic shame and self-criticism. It is the place where the “what if’s” kick in and my inner critic takes over in a twisted effort to protect me from what could happen outside of this shell I have so carefully constructed. After all, I could try something and fail miserably or I could risk putting myself out there and getting hurt again. With the possibility of danger looming at every corner, red flags get raised in my mind and make me want to retreat back into the safety of my comfort zone. This, however, does not allow for the true experiences of life’s pleasures, for as much as it protects me from harm, does it also protect me from good. Putting myself out there requires me to be vulnerable which, is an uncomfortable state for most people, not just me.

Life sometimes presents itself with an opportunity or two that are too good to pass on, and regardless of my fears and insecurities I have taken the chance. I have put myself intentionally into a situation in which I could very well fail; a situation that requires not only a step out of my comfort zone but a leap. I have weighed the benefits versus the negatives and although in my mind, they balance out quite evenly, I am now “out there”, at full risk, in the hopes that this journey will not only help my healing but others as well. I am taking classes online to become a Trauma Recovery Coach, and although I feel a bit out of my league as compared to my classmates, I hope that this could be the opportunity I have been waiting for; perhaps even the reason I have survived this long. It has been years since I have had the opportunity to further my education and perhaps this road could lead to that sense of meaningfulness that I have been searching for my whole life and although I am terrified and second guess my every decision, I have chosen to stick with it, no matter how quickly the road may become unpaved and bumpy. At least now, I am driving the car.

Suicide and Adoption, is There a Genetic Link?

Happy Monday to all my readers. I hope this note finds you all healthy, safe and strong. My monthly blog column at MindBodyThoughs is up if anyone wants to have a read. Thank you all for following me, it really is appreciated.

Jody xxx

http://mindbodythoughts.blogspot.com/2017/09/genetic-link-with-adoptees-and-suicide.html

 

Sent from my iPhone

The Emotional Paralysis of my Dissociation

 

I have a large compass tattooed on my shoulder and I still feel lost and overwhelmed.  I have no sense of direction and no map to point out if I am heading the right way, or if I am wandering further into oblivion. I have looked inside and outside for the answers, or at the very least for some guidance but I still find myself waking up questioning not only who I am, but why I am here. What were the reasons I survived three suicide attempts, it couldn’t be luck for all of them could it? What am I supposed to be doing in this life that I have been given a third chance at?  It certainly has got to be more than spending my days fighting my illnesses and my nights wondering what could have been. It has got to contain more than just struggle and strife; more than just years of trying to heal. When is that elusive day when I will go from surviving to thriving, or will I ever even get there. Is there a place where my emotional and rational brains both work at the same time and my future path will finally show me my direction.

I have trouble staying present in the moment. As with so many survivors the past not only haunts me, but it has interwoven itself through my thoughts and emotions, distorting every view point I have and interfering with every relationship I have. I have a hard time discerning that the same traumas that have been a reoccurrence for so many years of my life are not going to repeat themselves. The terrifying feeling of being repeatedly abandoned as a child, resurface every time a trigger presents itself, and my automatic reaction is that of an angry child with the same feelings of being lost, helpless and unprotected yet again.  I can’t help but think that trauma is going to occur again and either lash out or go numb as my form of protection.

Lashing out as an adult with a screaming, angry toddler trapped inside you does nothing but cause harm to yourself and those around you. There is no functioning between my rational brain and my emotive brain and the emotions take over and become vocalized in an extremely negative way. My other habit is numbing, or dissociating, which I have been stuck in for a while now. Dissociation for me is like being a visitor in my own body, and an outsider in my own mind. It is like watching a video of me going through the motions and actions of each day, without actually feeling through the emotions, like being an observer. I manage to “function” through the day but feel little attachment to what is actually going on; paying little attention to my surroundings.  I generally spend my time between hyper and hypo vigilance but dissociating doesn’t allow me to bounce around like that. Instead, it literally mutes my feelings. It doesn’t allow me to sink to the bottom levels of being actively suicidal, but at the same time it does not grant me the ability to feel pleasure.

Dissociation numbs my creativity and my sense of self and fills me with self-doubt. It has taken me weeks to put words to paper and even as I type I question the validity of my writing itself. I question the relevance of what I am saying and how it is being worded. I worry about it not being good enough, not keeping up to the level I have set for myself. Being numb does not allow me to write from my deepest emotions. It does not enable me to be raw and vulnerable; it does not allow me to be.  It takes any sense of direction I had and fills it with questions and negativities from an un-emotional, yet not quite rational perspective. It protected me when I was overwhelmed as a child, and it is once again doing its job, even though the same danger is not there. I am not a weak child anymore; I am an adult who has resources and strengths I did not possess then. I am no longer a victim and even though I don’t know what path is mine to travel, as long as I am journeying forward I’m heading in the right direction, and perhaps with some guidance I will eventually find my way.

 

Should the Right to Die Include Mental Health?

 death blog

 

It was 1988 when my mom wrote the first in a series of letters to our Prime Minister at the time, Brian Mulroney, regarding being able to end her terminal illness in a manner in which she had some control. It was in 1989 that she contacted the Right to Die organization based in Oregon and after numerous rounds of correspondence was mailed a book written by the founder about euthanasia. This book was not only a memoir but contained information about certain drugs and the amounts that would be required to overdose. The letters and pleas continued, to no avail, and after battling cancer for six long years and deteriorating to the point of having no quality of life, on September 10th 1990, she took a lethal overdose of pills in the comfort of her home. She had spoken multiple times about this plan over the previous months and made it quite clear she had no intention of dying in hospital.  She already had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order and wanted to have some control over the last moments of her life.

She lay in her bed for hours but had merely slipped into a coma which caused enough concern that she was transported to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital and saw her lying motionless, she looked so peaceful, like she had fallen into the deepest of sleeps. She remained comatose for almost a week before shocking everyone and waking up, which no one could explain given that they said the number of pills that she had consumed would have killed a horse. She had nothing but painkillers and IV fluids and continued to rapidly decline. There was one more failed attempt in hospital before the last one finally brought her the peace she was so desperately seeking. That was October 5th, 1990. She had written nearly 100 letters.

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada made physician assisted suicide (Euthanasia) fully available to all mentally competent Canadians with terminal illnesses. Prior to the ruling, assisted suicide was illegal in Canada and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. There are strict laws governing the process, such as assisted suicide not being available to minors and only available to those residents eligible for Canadian healthcare. It cannot be used to relieve the suffering of any mental illness or long-term disability and patients are not allowed to arrange to consent in advance to dying, for example in cases of dementia or Alzheimer’s. This protocol has sparked debates in many areas but none as big as when a parliamentary committee recommended that people with mental illness be eligible to seek euthanasia to end their lives in the same manner of those with a terminal illness.

An estimated 90% of suicides in North America are associated with some form of mental illness.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize euthanasia in cases of terminal illnesses 13 years ago, and in that time, the practice has become legal in Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland as well as in five U.S. states…Washington, Oregon, Vermont, Montana and New Mexico. In Germany, doctors are able to provide patients with the necessary drugs for a medicinal suicide, but are not allowed to take any part of the actual suicide, such as guiding the patients or supporting their hand. The feelings are mixed when it comes to people’s beliefs of right and wrong, but if you have ever watched another human being slowly, painfully, rot away with not an ounce of dignity left, it might just open your eyes to the reasoning.

Assisted suicide based on psychological suffering is permitted in the Netherlands, Belgium and Quebec. A 2015 Netherlands euthanasia report stated that there were 5306 assisted deaths that year, with 41 being for psychiatric reasons, and 81 for dementia. In early 2012, a group called the Life-Ending Clinic went into operation for people whose doctors refused to assist in their suicides. The clinic has pushed the moral debate to its highest peak by helping people with chronic depression to die, and allowing some dementia patients to sign a euthanasia declaration in the early stages of their disease. In the past five years the number of assisted suicides has doubled and in Belgium it has increased almost 150%, amongst which has included people who have had autism, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic depression. In two of the more famous cases, the women had suffered from multiple mental illnesses over the years, tried pills, therapy and everything else possible before giving up on the thought of their lives ever improving. Should doctors respect their wishes to die in the same way they would respect the wishes of a patient with stage four cancer?

With regards to mental illnesses, the biggest issues are whether legalized euthanasia can lead to a suicidal frame of mind based on a desire to escape prolonged suffering, and whether a person suffering from chronic mental illness has the capacity to make such a life and death decision. Given that mental illness can distort thinking and impair judgment, perhaps on the finality of the consequences, we have to question is it the rational mind speaking or the voice of the illness. “Right to Die” advocates point out that doctor assisted suicide would be less traumatic than a hanging or gunshot, for everyone involved. The protesters say that accepting euthanasia as an option for the mentally ill would create a presumption of sanity for those who attempt suicide or request assisted suicide as candidates are supposed to be mentally competent to make an informed and voluntary decision. Statistics say almost all people who die by suicide have mental health problems and there lies the conundrum.

Having had three failed suicide attempts myself, I question if I would even be here if euthanasia was available here in Canada for chronic depression. I wonder where this debate will take us in the future, but for now, I continue to fight.

 

 

 

Swallow My Pride

Sometimes life throws so much at us at once, we can no longer stand up without the assistance of others. We have to drop our guard, allow ourselves to be vulnerable and reach out for help regardless of our pride or shame. I had made it my whole life keeping both a roof over my head and employment until my breakdown over a year ago. The trauma of severe sexual abuse as an infant through to my early teens resurfaced and led me to a hospital trip where I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depression with suicidal ideations and self-harm, and severe anxiety. I have since been in therapy and on medication and am trying my best to heal, but life keeps piling it on and I no longer can see a way out without any assistance, which means dropping my pride, which for me, is the ultimate sacrifice. I am on insurance disability who is now threatening to kick me off in 8 weeks, as that is the time frame they have deemed that I will be better enough to go back to work. I wish that was the case as I truly don’t want to stay in the system forever, but the truth is I am simply not well enough yet. I had to move which increased my rent and I am now facing the possibility of having no income. I will need to get a disability lawyer to help me get the rest of the time off that I need to heal, but because disability is already limited funds and with having to move, I simply cannot do this on my own, and unfortunately I do not have family to turn to for help. I am asking with all sincerity and humility for any financial help anyone could provide to help me get a lawyer. Anyone who knows me knows I would never reach out in this manner unless I was desperate, and right now I am. My time off will not be in vain as I am going to be working towards a being a certified Trauma Recovery Coach so I can give back, and help others. I would be humbled with any assistance anyone could provide to give me a helping hand. I promise to return the favor tenfold. Thank you so much and please be well.

https://www.gofundme.com/disabilitylawyer

 

Lost In the Darkness of the Jungle

 

dark jungle

 

They say that without darkness there is no light, yet I see not even a glimmer of light right now, like it has dissipated into tiny particles and scattered into obscurity, leaving me surrounded in a blanket of gloom.  I feel like I have been dropped off in to the depths of the jungle with no flashlight or compass, nor the light of the stars to guide me, with a deadline to somehow make my way out and back to a place where the light shines again. It feels like every step I take is through the thickest bush lined with vines of thorns and branches of spikes. I glance up hoping for even a glimmer of light to help light my trail but the density of the leaves form an umbrella of shade. I start a climb uphill only to have the earth give away under my feet. I have no sense of direction and feel like I have been wandering the same path in circles, or perhaps just always heading the wrong way, yet I keep walking.

I feel lost. Lost in every possible way; lost to the point that even if I was handed a map, I am not sure I could find my way out. Maybe I have been lost in this darkness for so long it has become my comfort. Perhaps a part of me doesn’t want to find a way out, not because it is easier to stay but because it is what is familiar to me and the unknown is frightening. Maybe there is an invisible string that pulls me back every time I follow that flash of light because I have unfinished business here. It might even be that I have convinced myself that without light I will finally succumb to the darkness, in which somewhere lays the only peace I can see. Why do the answers come so much easier in the shadows than in the light?

I am grasping for hope. Grasping on to anyone or anything that can help to fuel the reserve in my empty tank; probing for any reason, any purpose to continue this trek. I have looked and pulled from within for so long there is very little self-reliance left.  There is no unlimited stockpile of strength hidden somewhere deep within. There are not enough learned behavioral techniques in my mind to overcome the ingrained negativities that keep drawing me back into the darkness. I clutch on to anything I can…words, pictures, memories…anything that can provide a hint of this elusive thing called hope. I rely on my empathy for others to encourage myself to continue on this journey, after all, I may want out of the jungle but I certainly am not willing to drag someone in there with me to accomplish that.

I am afraid. Afraid that perhaps this jungle is actually my home; that there is no beaten path for me to follow or make to find my way home, and that the darkness is actually where I belong. I am afraid that no matter how hard I try or how far I travel that I may never find that glimpse of light, that smidgen of hope that is bright enough or strong enough to guide my way. I am scared of looking up to the jungle always covering the night skies, fearful to look forward because I can’t see far enough through the thick brush to see my hand in front of my face, and looking behind me all I see are the trails of cuts and bruises that have gotten me to this point. I am afraid that my thoughts are far too at home in this place and that the darkness has always felt comfortable for me and perhaps the needle on my compass is just pointed here.

I can’t at this point even say why I continue to walk this unlit, beaten track, or why I continue to plod through the mud and stumble over the uneven ground. I don’t know why I insist in looking up in the hopes that there is a crack in the canopy where just enough light will peek through to at least point me in the right direction when time and again, the blackness is all encompassing. I stumble forward, unguided, trip over broken branches and fall right back to the place where I started, yet despite the mud weighing me down, regardless of the cuts and bruises incurred with each fall, I continue to rise. I somehow manage to stand back up time and again, after losing my bearings, and keep searching for this seemingly elusive path of light.

 

 

 

I Speak Because I Can

blog i will not be silent

 

I leave my social media private messaging open for anyone who may need a friendly ear or some advice and have received countless kind emails and messages from people of all ages, in all types of situations. It is humbling that random strangers can muster enough trust in me, also a random stranger, to not only reach out, but to express their deepest fears and emotions. I am by no means a counselor, just a survivor who may be able to offer a different perspective based on my knowledge and experiences. I want to thank those of you that have reached out for having the courage to do so. As the saying goes, the first step is the hardest.

I started a blog last year to not only help heal myself but with the hopes that maybe some aspect of the traumas I have endured will make at least one person feel less alone, or perhaps a bit more understood. I am completely open about my experiences and almost always have gotten positive feedback and encouragement. The people who have been ignorant have been few and far between and generally their comments just roll off my back. However, for the first time this got under my skin to the point where I am now going to respond with the hope that a little education, ignorance does not have to be.

I won’t bother copying and pasting the entire message as you should get the idea with the following few quotes…

Why do people like you insist on reliving your past in a public forum for everyone to see? It’s the past for a reason, get over it. Everyone had their own childhood issues but do you see most people whining about it online? You had plenty of time to tell someone when you were being abused or sometime shortly after, but after thirty years, it’s time to move on. Complaining will get you nowhere…”

“…are you not embarrassed enough that you were abused and now decades later you think anyone is going to believe you…”

“…and anyone who has attempted suicide three times and not succeeded is simply seeking attention. There are enough resources online that you shouldn’t need three attempts to end your life. You are obviously sick in the head and should seek professional help.”

The message continued for another few hundred words but I am guessing you get the point. So, Mr. Ignorant, allow me to reply.

The fact that you say people “like me” screams the type of mindset that you hold. We are not a stereotype, we are warriors. We are survivors of atrocities and horrors that you could not comprehend. We went through more trauma in our early and formative years than you will likely suffer in your lifetime. As a child I was afraid to speak for a multitude of reasons, and that carried on through a large part of my life, until one day I found my voice and so now, I speak because I can. I am no longer bound in fear and silence as I am no longer a victim. I use my words to in an attempt to educate people like you who are bound in stigma. I write on behalf of those who have not yet found their voices and to let others know they are not alone. The fact that you asked if I am not embarrassed enough about my abuse already says a lot about your mentality. The last time I checked I did not molest myself, so what do I have to be embarrassed about? I was merely a child who was preyed upon by some very sick people and was unable to defend herself, and whether or not anyone believes me or not does not sway me from my purpose. Those who don’t believe me simply don’t have the privilege of being in my life.

Your comments about suicide actually left me stunned for words, which is not easy to do… so shame on you for not only saying that, but for thinking that. People like yourself who’s views are based on stigmatisms believe that you are untouchable, and that nothing like that could ever happen to anyone you love, and just based on statistics alone, if you know more than four people you likely know someone affected by a mental illness, which in some cases leads to suicide attempts. I won’t even begin to try and explain to you the complexities of suicide as you are too close minded to learn. Just know that anyone who has sunken low enough to make an attempt to take their own lives is suffering a sense of hurt you could not comprehend, and in most cases, for them, at the time, it seems the only way to truly end the pain is to end your life. 99% of the time it is not a cry for attention like you have insinuated.

So, to sum it up, thank you for reminding me why I speak and write and advocate for mental health…it is people like you that keep me motivated.

I speak because I can.

 

 

 

Just an update

Hi everyone, I hope you are all well. I had an article published at Consumers Health Digest and have included the link should you want to read it.

https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/real-stories/the-stigma-of-mental-health.html.

 

I also did an interview which was turned into a short audio story on Soundcloud. The link is here…

https://soundcloud.com/stream

I will be back with a regular blog on Monday and just wanted to sincerely thank each and every one of you for taking the time to support me and my writings. It really means a lot. Be well and stay strong.

 

 

 

 

A Compelling Letter from Death

blog pen and letter

 

I have travelled the world from coast to coast, over and over since the beginning of time. I have seen the blessings and the sufferings of all of mankind. I have seen the souls of men, women and children through war, disease and famine. I have no sense of discrimination or bias. I do not judge.  I know not of religion, race, age or culture. It does not matter the riches you may or may not have had, or the tragedies and traumas you may have had to endure. It does not matter how much time you may or may not have had, or what you have or have not done, as upon the time of my arrival you are all the same. You are all on an equal playing field and at some point you all will have to face me, our meeting is inevitable; it is fate.

I am death.

I have a thousand faces, disguised in forms you recognize and many you cannot imagine. I am called to collect the souls that are loved and the ones who are forgotten. I pick up the leftovers of the damage mankind has caused to itself with war after war, century after century. I’ve gathered those of the innocent and naïve and those of people so heinous there are no words. I have watched the greed of mankind lead to millions of souls being stolen from starvation and disease, all for profit. I have seen the damage humans are willing to do to each other over the smallest of things and I am there to pick up whatever is left. I have forever been left saddened over collecting the souls of those who have departed too early; those of the children who never had the chance to grow and develop and live a life. Those who were not given a chance and their imminent meeting with me came long before it was due.

I have seen the beauty as well. I have seen the kindness and generosity that is possible.  I have seen things at their purest forms. I have watched strangers help one another with no expectations and loved ones support each other during the most trying of times. I have watched love bring together people whose paths undoubtedly would never have crossed had it not been for this serendipitous connection. I have watched the weak fight and raise above their struggles and the strong reach a hand out to help. I have watched the rich share with the poor and the poor share with the poorer. I have observed altruism from humans extend to every living creature, from one corner of the world to the next, and watched the innocence of children spread joy and laughter across the seas.

I am coming for you when it is your time, but I implore you not to call me early. I beg you not to take matters into your own hands regardless of the darkness that you feel, or the loneliness that seeps deep into your soul. I ask you to think twice, three times, or a million times if needed, before snuffing out the flame that represents your life. I will do that for you in due time. I have seen lives turned around in a matter of moments or a perhaps years, but the one constant is that everything changes.  Nothing remains the same. The seas rise and lower, the mountains shift. Your situation will change, the circumstances will change, your emotions will change and you will change, and what may seem impossible to face now will eventually be a memory; a stepping stone in your climb up to the light. You may not see it now but your life is a onetime gift and I plead with you to hold on to it like the rare treasure it is. I come for too many souls who have had no choice, but you do.

So, do not seek me out, we will unite when the time is right.

 

What Depression Exhaustion Feels Like

blog im tired

 

At some point, all people get tired. Sometimes it is a physically tired body that is run down and overworked and requires some rest to heal itself, other times it is an overwhelmed mind that needs some rest to clear out and organize thoughts. Often it’s a combination of both that drives us to exhaustion and forces us to slow it down a bit, and take some time to rest. There’s that tired where you can’t stop yawning, the one that nothing will cure but a good night’s sleep, and there’s a tired from actually sleeping too much, and then there is a tired that comes with depression and other mental illnesses. That feeling of being tired from dealing with a mental health issue is difficult to explain to someone who has never felt that.

 It is not something you can empathize or sympathize with, because in your mind there is no reason I should be so exhausted. After all, I am off work right now and have no set agenda, so much of my day is spent “resting”, therefore how could I be so tired. You might even be thinking that if I got off my ass and started doing more during the day or perhaps even did some exercise, that might alleviate the feeling of being so wiped out. Perhaps a routine during the day or a more regular sleep schedule would solve the problem, or maybe add a nap. You mean well with your suggestions and ideas and I appreciate the effort, but this kind of tired can’t be solved by any of the above.

This type of tired is like a constant state of exhaustion that riddles your body from head to toe. It is not a have a few cups of coffee and perk up kind of tired. It starts from the mental exhaustion that is from the daily wars that you fight inside your head from whatever mental health issue you are battling. It affects your emotions causing hypersensitivity to complete numbness and running the emotional gamut in between and having to constantly explain or justify it, believe it or not, is, in itself tiring. This type of tired makes you feel weak and vulnerable whether it is a reality or not. It makes every decision ten times harder to make and often means not being able to think clearly and focus or forgetting the simple things that before, you would have remembered.

For me, depression tired means my legs ache and every step feels like I am carrying a ball and chain, leaving me to wonder how I could possibly get from point A to point B. This fatigue creeps up my body sitting heavily in my stomach and tying it in knots before working its way up, making my neck and shoulders ache to the point of not wanting to lift my arms or hold my head up. The thoughts in my mind are rapid and unrelenting and my brain is tired from trying to slow them down, and in some way organize and process them. It means spontaneously bursting into tears for no apparent reason with no apparent trigger. It means feeling tired when I wake no matter what the quality and quantity of sleep is. It means having to summons strength from somewhere within my already drained body to get basic things done leaving me at a point of exhaustion that simply cannot be described.

My soul is tired.

I don’t expect to ever be my old self again but I would like to have some energy back. Depression has drained enough from me already.

 

 

 

 

BPD and My First 15 Minutes

Blog 15 minutes

 

The moment my eyes open each morning, the same thoughts run through my head.

Here we go again, another day of fighting non-stop battles in my mind, another day in which I begin the day as tired as I end it.

The variations of thoughts that can overwhelm my mind in an instant have started; the first domino pushed down as the rest clatter and fall one by one, each one affecting the next and the speed picks up as the pattern continues. The rapid and often uncontrollable intense mood swings are my BPD’s worst nemesis.

Well as much as I want to stay in bed all day, I know I won’t sleep and the lying around will lead to even more destructive thoughts. I wonder if she has text me.

I sit up and as my eyes slowly start to open, I grab for my phone, knowing that something as small as a text, or the lack thereof could set me on a BPD ride for the day. Keep in mind there is nothing wrong with the text, it is usually as simple as a “morning” or an “I hope you slept well”, both perfectly nice words to wake up in the morning to. If for some odd reason I have had a good night’s rest or don’t wake up feeling quite as emotionally drained it seems so easy to just respond with a “good morning” and continue on with the conversation. However if I am on the BPD edge, the thought process is quite different.

Oh look, she did text…a morning and that’s it? Omg maybe she is mad at me, or upset with something I said or did. Maybe she doesn’t want to talk to me anymore or know how I am doing, or maybe she doesn’t even love me or want to be with me anymore. I don’t blame her, I am impossible to be in a relationship with and maybe I really am not deserving of love and no one wants me. I hate being like this. I hate feeling out of control over these mood swings and I am never going to get better, no matter what pills or what therapy, I am just too damaged to be fixed.

At this point, the tears start as I have a morning pity party sitting on the edge of my bed. This sadness, and these tears often goes on for hours as my mind continues to emotionally attack itself, but every time, at some point, the sadness turns to anger.

Who cares if she only said morning, I don’t need to wake up to some generalized text anyway. I don’t need to wake up to any texts at all because I don’t need you or anyone. I have gotten this far on my own and I don’t need your help. Besides, it’s obvious you don’t care because if you did you would have said more than just “morning”. You are just like everyone else who loves me on the surface and abandons me, the past repeating itself over and over. Fuck this life and everyone in it anyway. I am alone, a complete failure and a waste of space. I shouldn’t even be alive.

I sit up in bed and return the text with a casual “morning”.

Umm it’s been five minutes and still no answer. Here we go again. Should I ask what I did wrong or just leave it alone? Why won’t she just answer, it only takes a few seconds. Maybe she doesn’t have time to talk to me or really doesn’t want to and is ignoring me.

 

My phone vibrates and I quickly reach for it to read the message…”how are you?”, and the way I respond may very well set the tone for the day.

Does she really want to know how I am or is she just asking to be polite? Should I keep it simple and just say that I am ok or do I be truthful and tell her that I have only been up for ten minutes and my emotions are already bouncing up and down? What if she doesn’t want to hear it for the hundredth time? I am sick of listening to myself so why would she want to know. God, I am so pathetic.

I decide to keep it simple and reply with an “I’m ok”, to which she replies “good”

Does she seriously think I am ok? Since when am I ok? I am a mess and always will be. Why does she think that today would be any different? What is wrong with me that I think like this and why can I not get this BPD under control? She is only asking how I am, a perfectly normal, nice question and yet my brain takes all these statements and twists them so fast I can hardly keep up. I just want to be normal, whatever that may be. Is it going to be another day of this hell? I am so tired already.

All these thoughts and emotions have occurred before I have even stood up from my bed. Up and down that many times within 15 minutes. Welcome to the beginning of my day and thanks for taking the ride with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Me and BPD

 

Borderline Personality Disorder basically feels like all your emotions are attached to your nerve endings, which are all protruding from your skin. They are constantly tingling and even the slightest breeze initiates a sense of pain that would be almost incomprehensible to someone who has never felt it. They fire off at even the smallest of triggers with the ferocity of an electric shock, no matter the time or place, for undetermined periods of time. It’s like being sunburnt to the point of blisters and the pain of having to put the cream on, then the gauze and top it off with the constant irritation of clothing; or like having open sores after having ripped the scabs off, only these sores are affected by words and actions instead of touch. Being around people can in itself be a challenge, but it seems for me that the closer you are to me, the more reactive my emotions are.

It’s been just over seven months since I decided to deconstruct the wall that was guarding my heart and allow someone close enough to not only invite them in, but actually allow them to cross the threshold and shut the door behind them. It is a constant daily struggle to not to rebuild my walls while slowly pushing them out the door, or to just run out the door myself. The vulnerability that is involved in a relationship is a constant trigger to my deepest fears of abandonment and being un-loveable, and regardless of the constant reassurances I require and receive, the terror continues to surface. I question things that are said or not said, done or not done, and always seem to read between lines that are not even there, creating unnecessary negative scenarios that trigger me even further, causing me to either internalize the pain or lash out, neither of which are particularly healthy. With BPD, vulnerability is far more than the feeling of being susceptible. It is more like walking down a dark alley, naked and defenseless while trying to keep an eye out in every direction knowing that nothing can protect us, from others or from ourselves.

Almost all of my relationships have had a sense of instability. Distant friends seem to be the easiest relationships to maintain because there is limited contact or communication, but the closer I am to someone the rockier the road becomes. My closest friends and my relationships often face the brunt of my BPD episodes, and despite my trying to control the impulsiveness of my words and reactions, I always seem to fail and for this reason, very few stick around. Despite my explaining my illness thoroughly it is just too much for them to understand and it is overwhelming. In fact, unless you have BPD you can sympathize but not truly empathize. The outbursts are so impetuous and the words so often hurtful that when I am rational, I can fully understand why no one would want to stay. If someone said those things to me, I wouldn’t stick around either, yet a few have chosen to stay, chosen to overlook and see past the emotional eruption I throw their way, and for the life of me I don’t know why.

So to those who have stayed in my life despite having to put up a shield from my words and my BPD driven actions, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. You have chosen to peel back the layers of my illness and look for the good beneath. You elect to not only see the positive qualities in me but point and try to bring them out. You put up with my erratic moods and my pushing you away with one hand while reaching out for you with the other. You remain loyal through the hardest times of my life and not turned your back, proving to me that there are people in my life who won’t abandon me, there are people who can love me, undeterred by my illness. I don’t test you on purpose, nor do I mean any malice with my words and I am working on learning to try and control both a little bit better, but in the meantime I want you to know your love, trust , loyalty and patience mean the world to me as I travel along this healing path. I truly love you and you are my family now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drowning In the Waters of Depression

 

 

drowning blog

 

I don’t know if it is the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or the depression, or the two of them that work together to try and pull me into the water, after securing boulders to my feet. Regardless of the fight left in me, the weight of the rocks pull me slowly under the water, before sinking me to the cold, dark bottom. These are the times I find it hardest to keep going, to keep fighting. These are the times where I question the progress I have made in therapy and wonder why I don’t yet feel better, or if I ever will.  These are the times when the smallest of things irritates me, getting under my skin to the point of feeling angry. These are the times when I cry the most, feel the most frustrated and misunderstood. These are the times that I wonder if I should fight to cut those boulders off and float to the surface or allow the water to fill my lungs and put my mind and body to a final, peaceful rest. I have clawed my way to the surface more times than I can count and will continue to do so.

For me, these major depressive episodes can come on as quickly as the blink of an eye. They are often triggered by the simplest of things, and last anywhere from a few days to a few months. These are not BPD depression episodes which tend to bounce my emotions around more rapidly, like the lines on a heart monitor. These are feelings of hopelessness and despair compounded with an overwhelming sadness that leaves upon me, an invisible heaviness I can physically feel yet cannot accurately describe. This depression sucks the life out of me, emotionally and physically leaving a sense of tiredness that I can’t control. The simplest tasks like getting up and having a shower or doing the dishes can leave me feeling like I just ran a marathon. The exhaustion of doing something so menial leaves me wanting to crawl back into bed and sleep the day away, and the frustration of that, draws me further towards the bottom.

The depression eats away at my desires. It sucks the pleasure out of the few things that once brought me joy, and replaces them with a complete lack of motivation. It feels like there is just no reason and no ability to see more than an hour ahead. Anything further than that feels impossible, and pointless. The depression makes my mind foggy and takes away my clarity and focus. It makes something that comes naturally to me, like writing, become a daunting and overwhelming task, as if I have to dig for the words instead of them just flowing. This depth of depression takes away every last ounce of hope I have. It makes the sunshine less bright and the flowers lose their wonder.

This type of major depressive episode has an inner monologue that drowns out any voice of reason. It is louder than and stronger than the positivity in my mind, or the therapeutic techniques I have learned to put into practice. It feeds my inner critic with falsehoods so convincing, I have to stop myself from believing them, and remember that depression is a master liar. It amplifies every negative thought or action I have ever done in my life. It takes the words from voices of my past, reiterating that I am a failure, that I am worthless, that I am all those things they said and repeats them over and over like a skipping record. It slowly eats away at my hope replacing it with overwhelmingly realistic scenarios of negativity that are as easy to fall into as a pit of quicksand. It makes me question my existence, my purpose and if I will ever be able to do anything more than just survive.

However, despite the despair and fear, I remain to fight. Despite the feeling of being constantly weighed down, I continue to fight the war in my head and survive its battle scars. I realize this will not last forever. It will pass just as the other episodes have. I know that regardless of the depths of dark, cold water I am pulled into, that I will continue to fight to untie those knots and release those boulders so I can take another breath and perhaps each time, I will spend be able to spend a bit more time at the surface.

 

Is the New Method of Suicide Note Online?

 laptop writing

 

 

I have been passively suicidal for most of my life and actively suicidal three times. I know what it feels like to be carrying a burden so heavy your legs can no longer hold you up. I understand what it is like to see nothing but darkness and pain in your future and to have lost every last ounce of hope. I realize the amount of pain you have to be in to get here; to reach the point where death seems like your only option, the only way out. Without getting into the gritty details, let’s just say with my last attempt was meticulous and organized. To me, suicide is a very personal and private thing and I do not want to traumatize anyone more than they may already be. I wanted to make sure the authorities found me and not leave that scar upon my friends. I think most suicidal people would tell you they are not trying to hurt anyone, they just don’t know how else to end their pain. To them, this is the only way out.

That being said, I ponder the people who are determined to make their suicide public. What drives them to jump in front of a train packed with commuters at rush hour? Is there any maliciousness towards others? Why not wait for a cargo train or an empty one? Why affect the lives of others intentionally? Have you felt so invisible your entire life that you felt this method of suicide would draw some attention to you for the five minutes of “fame” you will get as they mention you once on the news or in the papers? Do you feel that because you are in so much pain, then others should be too? These are questions that remain unanswered because there is no one left to answer them.

Technology has done so much for our society and we have come so far in such a short time. The internet has provided endless amounts of information and resources. It has connected people across the world, whether it is family or new found friends. The advancements are rapidly changing and many things become fads until the next new thing is available. We were once excited about the fact we could make a video and put it on the internet for the world to watch at any time but now that is “old”, as the latest and greatest allows you to post live and to show the world a piece of your life at the very present moment. Sadly, there seems to be no limit to what people share, or what people are willing to watch, hence the alarming raise in the number of online live suicides. Again, what motivates someone to share both the preparations for and the last moments of your life with the entire world, and what kind of twisted individual do you have to be to sit and passively watch?

The examples were certainly not difficult to find.

A 12 year old girl, who had previously broadcast a few times that a family member had tried to rape her, hangs herself from a tree, live streaming the whole 40 minute video. Not only did people watch her live, but many of those people online actually encouraged her to kill herself.

Another girl who had spent her life being bounced around foster care hung herself from the shower door of her bathroom, while 1000 people watched her make her preparations, many ridiculed her. A friend saw it and alerted police but they did not arrive in time.

A 20 year old university student went on a message board and offered to kill himself online if he could get help setting up the live video stream. 200 viewers watched as he chased down pills with vodka, barricaded his dorm room door and then set fire to it while he waited to die lying under a blanket. No one online called 911.

Those who turn on their webcams during the darkest, most desperate moments of their lives must feel a need for someone to bear witness to them, or perhaps wish that somebody out of the thousands watching the suicide would care enough to intervene and alert the authorities. They feel like finally their name will be heard and remembered, however within minutes of the video being taken down, most of the viewers will have already forgotten their name.

The internet provides an outlet to suffer in public, to share pain and gain the attention desperately needed, however in these cases, perhaps the internet is just the new form of suicide note. Even though social media sites “prohibit” the promotion of suicide or self- injury and ask viewers to report to authorities immediately, there is no enforcement or regulation for these things. It is impossible for the sites to monitor everything which shifts the burden to the community to help stop bad things from happening. There are now groups of volunteers who monitor many of these live sites hoping to intervene before it’s too late, or perhaps before it is even started.

What I find deplorable are the ones that watch. Are people so disconnected and desensitized that they can sit in the comfort of their homes and not only watch, but encourage a child to kill themselves. Unfortunately it isn’t surprising that online viewer’s tap into these streams, it is almost human nature. There’s no such thing as an accident without a crowd gathering and standing on tiptoes in order to see the person lying on the ground, or people slowing down to stare at the car accident.. Violence and destruction are everywhere in society, from the news to the entertainment industry. Perhaps there is a fascination with other peoples pain because it’s only one gesture removed from our own, or maybe it is just bystander apathy, which basically is a social phenomenon where people are less likely to help someone in need if there are other people present. We are all relying on someone else to make the first move, to differentiate themselves from the crowd, when in fact we should all feel a moral responsibility to help someone at risk, whether you take it seriously or not. How is it going to sit in your mind years from now that someone who was seriously sick killed themselves while you egged them on?

I have been on both ends of suicidal situations and I know the anguish you can feel inside and the desperation to get any bit of attention, but posting a suicide attempt live is the ultimate cry for help, and I will never understand how anyone would take the time to not only watch someone make preparations but taunt and encourage them to carry through with that attempt, most often with fatal results. Think about it, someone’s life was in your hands and you made the conscious decision to do nothing but watch them die. It frightens me, the number of people who feel no moral obligations. We are all human.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We All Just Want To Be Healed

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We all just want to be healed. Regardless of what type of traumas we survived as children or adults, or which illnesses we have been diagnosed with, the end goal is the same. We want the pain and the burden of guilt and shame that we have carried for a lifetime to be eased. We yearn to somehow lessen the effects of our traumas that we drag along like a ball and chain, be it with medications, therapy or a combination of both. We’re looking for our piece of happiness and a sense of peace, but it seems that at some point in time, we all hit our “breaking” point and perhaps that is what starts us on our journey down the seemingly elusive path of healing.

The road to healing is unpaved, unstable and full of unseen hills and curves, yet we trod along, often taking one step forward and falling three steps back. We may see some progress and then suddenly become overwhelmed with emotions which send us spiraling down into the darkness of depression, yet somehow with the lure of being healed, we eventually manage to claw our way back up to continue our fight. This cycle of ups and downs may slow down our progress but as long as we advance in a forward motion, we will get there eventually…or at least that is what my therapist tells me.

As much as healing is the ultimate goal, I struggle with two major issues down my path, the first being, what exactly is healed? The concept is not only completely foreign to my mind but also seems completely unattainable. I can imagine it would be like the weight of the world being lifted off your shoulders, or like being able to have days where your mind does not perpetually attack you and send you into a state of emotional frenzy for minutes, hours or even days. I picture fewer tears, less ups and downs and less fear. I imagine rising in the morning and not having those instant few moments of wishing I hadn’t awoken. I picture a more emotionally stable life with healthier relationships and positive choices. Is that being healed or a fantasy I have created of what I wish things could be like?

What is often forgotten on the path of healing is that in order to get there, I have to give up my two best friends, in my case, depression and anxiety, both of which have lasted longer than any one person or thing in my life. Even though I despise the depths of the darkness I am pulled into, there is a sense of comfort there simply because of familiarity.  I have been wading in those waters for so long I no longer know the feeling of walking on dry land. I would have to walk away from the safety of my passive suicidal thoughts, the one thing I can control. I may not be my illnesses per say, but they have certainly been with me long enough to become a small part of my identity, regardless of the obvious negative aspect, and I am supposed to just lose pieces of me and trade them in for the unknown?

The same applies to my negative coping mechanisms. I have been in weekly trauma based therapy for over a year and have been taught many new, positive ways to handle different situations. I have learned different techniques to recognize where my emotions are coming from, that perhaps they are a trauma response from the past. I have been shown how to try to regulate the impulsivity associated with BPD. I have listened, learned, read books and done worksheets and yes, have even taken a few steps forward. However, learning and putting into practice are two different things. When I am of rational mind I am calm enough to remember these methods and perhaps even put them to practice, but when I am emotively driven, the new habits are kicked out the door by the old ones which have become instinctual. They may not be the healthiest ways to cope but for me, they are tried, tested and proven. They have helped to get me through the hardest of times from the earliest of ages. They have kept me safe and alive until this very day, and again I am expected to surrender them and replace them with methods that in my mind are yet untested and unproven.

The path to healing involves a whole lot of uncertainty and blind trust. It means being willing to lose those parts of you that have provided safety and comfort for all those years. It requires an open mind, an open heart and the aspiration to learn. Don’t get frustrated with not making instant or even quick progress, as it takes hours and hours of practice to replace a negative coping mechanism with a healthy one, which will take patience and dedication. All of these twists and turns on my path of healing have tested every emotion and reaction possible, they have pushed me back as I am struggling to step forward, yet I continue on. I am not yet at the point of replacing all of the old with new and have found that as long as I have the comfort and availability of the old tucked in the back of my head, then the new seems a little less frightening. It’s like wading into the deep waters but knowing there is a lifeboat within reach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dread of Losing My Sanctuary

 

no-sanctuary-for-blog

 

I have lived in the same place for 13 years now. It is a small, cozy apartment in a historic house in a quiet, old area tucked in the suburbs. Over the years I have made it as much my own space as possible. It is well suited to my needs and most importantly my budget. When I first moved in, it took quite a few months for me to feel just physically safe. The blackness of the backyard, the creaks of the floors above and the surrounding sounds kept me alert at night for months on end, and despite me being surrounded by my possessions, it was well over a year before I started to feel the emotional safety I desperately need. Having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and major depression, I tend to isolate myself from people and places as much as possible. When I am alone and safe, I can be me without worrying about others reactions or feeling insecure I can cry, scream, shout, be in the silence or do whatever it is that comforts me at the time and I don’t have to deal with the anxiety from the stigma surrounding mental health.

My house is being torn down for property development.

Very often, survivors of childhood trauma have difficulty finding a sense of both physical and emotional safety. For me, it comes out as an intense feeling of uneasiness in public places and increased anxiety in social situations. My mind and body have become hyper-sensitive over the years which leads to me feeling like I am always looking over my shoulder, keeping my senses and emotions on high alert.  Most survivors have created their own place of safety, whether it’s at your therapist’s office or your home, a room in your home, it is a sanctuary; the one place you can just be you without fear of stigma or judgment. It is a space that provides you comfort, ease and a sense of peace.

Nobody enjoys moving. It is a big change and causes anxiety and stress for many people but when you have the addition of a mental illness to the situation those feelings increase tenfold. There’s the organizing, the checklists and the packing. There is the packing and unpacking of the truck and organized chaos while boxes are being carried to their according spaces. There is the hassle of having to dig through stacks of boxes to find the simplest of necessities and the frustration of not being able to do so. You desperately want to unpack everything, find its place and put it away as soon as possible in order to gain some control over the chaos that has become. Chances are you did not pack your home in a day so it is somewhat unreasonable to expect to unpack within the same time frame. Sure, you can relax somewhat now that the biggest part is done, but that does not necessarily put you at ease. For me, there is the stress of getting to know a new area, with new neighbors and new landmarks. There are the new creaks and noises to adjust to while I lay in bed at night. There is the gradual acclimation to the new places and spaces that I have filled with my décor to turn the new into the comfortable.

The specifics of when I will have to move are one big unknown. I have a rough idea in my head, but the fact that it is not concrete, leaves it out of my control, and has me at great unease. I have about four months to save for first and last month’s rent plus moving expenses, and that is even if I can qualify given I am on Long term disability right now. I have made countless lists of what needs to be done, down to the smallest detail and am as prepared as I can be this far ahead of time, and yet my anxiety spikes and my depression spirals down every time I think of it. Quite simply put, for me, it is far too much change. It requires time to adapt to a new environment but being able to make it a safe place, a sanctuary could take months, and that leaves me emotionally vulnerable, scared, depressed and anxious. I understand that I will have with me the things that make my home comfortable, but for a survivor, feeling comfortable is far from feeling safe. It means I have to deal with the loss of my safe space and a period of limbo until I can create a new one.

So in the meantime, I can do little other than wait. Wait and hope. Hope that the fear and anticipation won’t push me deeper into the darkness. Hope that my anxiety does not continue to snowball into a million negative scenarios and enhance the issues from my BPD. Hope that things will work out the way they are meant to be. Those thoughts however do not seem to be easing my fears.  Change is inevitable.

 

 

Just A Quick Note

I wanted to sincerely thank everyone who takes the time weekly to read my blog. It really does mean a lot to me and is very humbling. I try to post weekly but wanted to  inform you that for the first Monday of each month I have been asked by a good friend and fellow survivor to be a guest blogger on his site, so if you are still interested in reading you can find the posts at mindbodythoughts.blogspot.ca. My regular posts will be on here except for the beginning of the month.

Be well and stay strong.

My Lack of a Blood Bond

 

broken-family-blog

 

I always knew I was adopted. It wasn’t sprung upon me in my teenage years causing to question my upbringing, nor did I find some conclusive sheet of paper which would turn my life upside down. It simply was a subject that was open for discussion at any point in time. I was 18 months old and had bounced around the foster care system since birth, and by the time I arrived at my parent’s home, not only was I emotionally and physically scarred but I was also aware that this was yet another family who might get rid of me like the rest had. I know I did not understand the word adoption, or perhaps even the concept, but I knew it felt different.

My mom was up front with me from day one in explaining that I had a birth mom, but that I was chosen by them to be a part of their family. As I grew older she let me know that she would help me look for my birth parents if that was something I was interested in and over the years, curiosity popped in and out of my head…who did I look like? Who had the blue eyes? Who was responsible for my pudgy little fingers? While those questions were always at the back of my mind they never became much of a priority, unlike the constant nagging of the “why” question. All I knew at the time was my birth mother was young and unable to take care of me and given that none of my foster homes opted to keep me, there must have been something wrong with me, and the fear of being “given back” was a constant shadow in my mind.

Growing up, there was not a lot of time or emotional space to think about finding my birth parents, as the domestic abuse in my home started when I was five and ended when I was 13. My sexual abuse, which occurred outside the home also started at five and ended at 14 and my mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 13 and lost her battle after six long years. I was 19 when my mom passed away and although over the years, the curiosity of my origins had grown bigger, the guilt about doing it after my mom died was overwhelming and once again I pushed the issue to the back of my mind.

In my early 20’s, I was given some information about an Ontario adoption registry that allowed both adopted children and their birth parents to register on a computer program which would then search for a match. I filled out the form, forgot about it and continued on with my life. Out of the blue, when I was 24 I received a big unmarked brown envelope which I proceeded to hand to my girlfriend at the time, told her to open it, thinking it may be a book from a college I had looked into, and ran in to get us coffee. Upon my return to the car, I find her in tears with the envelope in her hand saying “it’s your past”. To be honest I had forgotten completely about it and the shock set in as I started to read the first of the pages.

My birth mother was half black, half Irish and because she had died that year in a fire I was given her identifying information, her name and birthdate etc. She had indeed been a young mother with a history of addiction and mental health problems. My birth father was of Italian descent with blue eyes and darker skin and there was very little other information about him. My birth mothers mom was still alive, and I was also informed I had two half-sisters, and with my permission and a few exchanges of letters, a meeting was set up. It is a very strange feeling to be handed family and expected to have some sort of instant connection simply because we share some DNA, especially considering that blood relations had never been a part of my life.

As the meeting approached, I anticipated the many scenarios that could occur, and although I can say honestly that I wished for a close knit family, I went in with as few expectations as possible. It was odd to finally look at someone who has some sort of resemblance to me. My birth mothers mom was a kind, elderly lady who was just thrilled to meet her grandchildren, and like many people of that generation, was not willing to divulge much information about the past. My middle sister had actually lived with our birth mother on and off for five of six years, however following numerous suicide attempts, she was permanently removed and placed into foster care. My youngest sister has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) complete with minor facial and hand deformities and is mentally challenged but was thrilled to meet her sisters for the first time. All in all, the meeting went well, and with the promise to remain in contact, we all went our separate ways.

I noticed within the following weeks a sense of resentment and anger building up towards my birth mother. I get she could make a mistake and not have the ability or support to quit her addictions, and therefore would lose custody of me, but the fact is, she was given six months of after my birth to clean up and prove herself as a worthy parent. She was given supervised visitation rights which she repeatedly showed up high, or still drunk from the night before, and as the weeks passed, the visits lessened until one day, she just never came back. It started to eat at me, what type of woman could prioritize alcohol and drugs over her children, not just once, but three times. Why could she not have at least tried to get me back, not just wash her hands clean and get back to her routine, free from the burden of a screaming baby? How could the cycle just continue to repeat itself with no intervention until a child has to be born with mental deficiencies and physical deformities? Were there more than just the three of us? Perhaps someone who didn’t register, or did she finally figure out that birth control was not as rare a diamond?

As I aged and became more aware of mental illness and addiction and the effects they can have on someone’s life, I began to be able to make a sense of peace with the anger I was feeling. Yes, I will always feel abandoned, but in this case, perhaps it really was the best scenario. My birth Grandmother passed away within a year of the meeting, and I would love to say I have two sisters who I am super close with, but despite my numerous efforts to reach out, the reality has become Christmas or Birthday text, usually initiated by me, and often lacking a response. I have made peace with that as well. I have no expectations of either of them, and as I said, you can’t just put three strangers in a room and because of one common factor, a birth mother, expect a bond to form instantly, or in this case, at all. I care about them of course, but do I love them? Hard to love someone you don’t know.

A blood bond means nothing to me. A chosen bond means the world.

 

Accepting Grief for a Lost Inner Child

 

grief

 

Grief; the one and perhaps only word that could invoke more emotions than the word love is near impossible to describe. It’s like a tsunami of emotions that suddenly overwhelm you to a point you did not know you could reach, while your mind is caught in the eye of the storm, spinning out of control.  It is a physical pain that encompasses your whole being, tightening every muscle in your body while sucking the air out of your lungs; even breathing becomes painful. The tears stream down your face uncontrollably and if it is possible, your heart physically hurts. Grief involves a major loss of something we are attached to, and is not limited to what it is most associated with…death. There is often grief involved with the loss of a home, job or even a friendship.

There is no timetable that comes with grief; it is completely individualistic and situational. There is no right or wrong way to deal with it, there is only what is best for you. Sure, there are common stages that the majority of people will deal with when it comes to grief; the denial and anger, the bargaining, depression and eventual acceptance, but each person will experience them differently. These stages may sound familiar if you have suffered a deep loss, like a death, as you may have passed through them on your path to healing.

We learn how to mourn for other people, great losses and even material attachments, but have we ever been taught, as survivors, that it is ok to mourn all that we lost?  We lost our innocence and our ability to trust. We lost our voices out of fear and shame. We lost the developing identity that may have been, had we not been violated. We became empty shells with no functional ability to process the trauma occurring. We could not fight, nor flight and so we froze, and the survival portion of the brain took over, to save us from the trauma we could not handle. In essence we lost our childhoods, and we need to grieve such an immense loss in order to heal.

Grieving for an external loss seems to come more naturally than trying to grieve for oneself. Trying to understand the loss of your inner child not only involves having to acknowledge that you still have an inner child, but also accepting the fact that the “little you” was hurt and violated and bears no responsibility for the trauma endured, which is something many survivors struggle with for years. We became experts at denial the instant we were defiled and we continue along that path until we are emotionally strong enough to deal with the truth.

Anger is almost innate for most survivors. It starts with the abuse and sometimes lasts a lifetime. We are rarely presented with the opportunity to express the anger we are burdened with to the source that caused our pain, and despite carrying it around for so long, we are often incapable of outwardly expressing it appropriately. When anger becomes internalized, as a child we act out in a multitude of ways, and as we age these behaviors can lead to self-destructive habits such as addiction and self-harm as methods of coping. We may be able to get help dealing with and properly expressing our anger and recognizing its effects on our present day lives through therapy, or a workbook and although I believe it eases up in time, mine certainly has, but I think it is something we shall carry with us to some degree through the rest our lives.

Bargaining is the normal reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability in a desperate attempt to regain even just a small piece of the control we lost as children. For years, we play the “what if” game, wondering  if we had only done something differently or if we had spoken up,  would things have been different?  As children we can’t do much bargaining because we are unequipped to do anything other than go into survival mode. As we age, beliefs depending of course, we sometimes try bargaining with a “higher power” in an effort to trade or give up anything we can think of if the abuse stops. Sadly, however most survivors do not end up dealing with their trauma until adulthood and by then, bargaining seems futile.

Depression, I would say, affects nearly every single survivor at various degrees, during their lives, sometimes sporadically sometimes never ending. It may have started when we were young but was not recognized until we were teens or adults and therefore it is often not until we are in our twenties and thirties or later that we can even begin to truly process and try to heal from the trauma we suffered as children. With the grief of any major loss comes such a heavy sadness and emotional weight not only at the time of the event but often for years after. Depression is certainly not limited to grief but is a true indication that something deeper lays beneath the surface.

Acceptance for survivors is multi-faceted, non-linear, and for some may never happen. It is difficult to accept any loss, but to accept losing a childhood that can never be reclaimed is a long and arduous process. It becomes further complicated because often our abusers are family members or friends making it even more difficult to acknowledge such a betrayal as our truth. With proper support and perhaps therapy we can to try and learn to accept the traumas that have melded us into the people we are today.

So grieve. Grieve for your inner child and all the losses that you suffered, but show yourself the same support and caring that you would give to anyone else.

 

Do I Have a Fear of Fear

 

blog-fear

 

A while ago, a friend of mine told me to write about what I am afraid of, and so I promptly wrote a blog on the first topic that popped into my head, abandonment, then I closed the topic on fear. Fear is individualistic and what makes me afraid may be nothing to someone else, but it was pointed out to me today, that perhaps I am afraid of a lot more than I think, or may be willing to admit. For survivors of childhood sexual abuse, fear is something that is deeply ingrained from whatever moment it was that forever changed your life. Fear is an emotion that is most commonly brought about by a perceived threat or danger and usually induces a reaction of flight, fight, or freeze.

As children, when we are being abused there is not the option of flight; if I could have run away, I obviously would have. Having the ability to fight back is also not possible given the average size difference between a child and a perpetrator. I am small in stature and always have been and I gave all the fight I had but could not hold off a teenager or an adult. That leaves only one option; to freeze. To be so afraid, you literally are physically and mentally frozen is our only way to survive the experience, and because we are most likely molested multiple times this reaction becomes habitual and becomes a repeated pattern throughout our lives.

I think I am afraid of fear, if that is even possible. One thing I do know is I’m tired of it. I’m sick of it kicking my ass at every corner and causing me to look over my shoulder both physically and emotionally. I am exhausted from being bouncing between hyper and hypo sensitivity. I blame it on my illnesses and convince myself there are other reasons…I’m too nervous to go there, I am too shy to talk to them, I’m too insecure to try that, and the list goes on. Sure, they are likely enhanced by my disorders but the common denominator, regardless of what I try to label it as, is fear; the root cause of so many emotions. Even as I write this now I find fear of what you, the reader, will think, lurking in the back of my mind.

When I become overwhelmed with life, or with my illnesses, the freeze instinct kicks in for me. I feel so inundated with thoughts and emotions that my mind can no longer differentiate between a past threat and a perceived one, so my habitual response is to shut down and become emotionally and physically disabled. My mind can’t handle the intensity of so many emotions, so the instinctual answer is to shut down all emotions, thereby removing the perceived fear which will lead to me being hurt again, while physically, my body becomes exhausted and numb from being riddled with tension. It is those periods of time, which vary in length that I find it difficult to focus or get anything done. I am in survival mode and whatever strength I have left is used to bring me out of that frame of mind.

The fear of failure is a big one for many people but it does not necessarily mean it will stop them from trying to achieve or accomplish something. Being a survivor with the added bonus of having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) takes whatever emotion, in this case fear, and enhances it to a level that feels like sheer terror. To step outside my comfort zone feels like jumping off a cliff with a parachute and not only convincing yourself that it won’t open but actually preparing for the disaster, with not even a glimmer of hope that it might actually open. So I spent most of my life staying within the confines that I had set and became very good at the things within those boundaries, but did not venture much outside of those lines, for fear of not succeeding. For fear of what not only others would think or say, but fear of my own inner critic which I already battle with daily.

The fear of being vulnerable is also incredibly difficult for survivors because as children someone took advantage of us when we were most susceptible. I think that is why so many survivors build such a thick wall of emotional protection around them, anything to avoid that feeling again. I know for me allowing myself to be emotionally vulnerable is a daily battle, like splitting the day between being a bricklayer and being part of a demolition crew. It involves stepping outside your comfort zone if you are to let someone in and that for me is incredibly difficult. I feel like a turtle extending its neck to take a look around and perhaps get a different view, which then suddenly gets spooked and reverts back into its shell, becoming more afraid to come back out each time.

As with the rest of my healing process, I am a bit impatient and would like to speed the whole process up until I get to the point that fear no longer rules my life. I want to just wake up and feel safe and confident enough to take on the world. I am, however, a long way from that, and so as with everything I proceed forward with baby steps. Starting this blog and allowing my writing to be put out there for others to see is a step in the right direction and as with anything although the first step is the hardest, the second is required to move forward.

 

 

 

 

 

Enduring the Emotional Drain of the Holidays

 

 drain

 

I, for one, am glad it is all over. The hustle and bustle, the rushing, the stress, the pressure, the preparations and the nonsensical expectations placed on a single day. It’s not like it’s a once in a lifetime kind of day but rather the type that reoccurs as yearly as the seasons. It’s not just the recently passed Christmas and New Year’s but any other day of the year that qualifies as a holiday that often triggers survivors, and people struggling with a mental illness. Societal pressure to find the right gift, to spend the right amount of money, to visit the right people and act in the appropriate manner and to make the occasion perfect all add to the already heavy load we carry daily.

Society’s representation of the perfect family gathering for the perfect holiday occasion is shoved down our throats in T.V shows, movies and advertising. Take Christmas for example, the generations gathered happily around the extended dining room table, passing the stuffing and mashed potatoes with a smile, to be followed by an evening of family stories around the piano, filled with song, laughter and good times; the stereotypical storybook family. For survivors of trauma, just the very thought of the above scenario can send us into a downward spiral, as it is likely that for us, it is no more than a fantasy, since more than likely our fairytales were turned into nightmares long, long ago. It is more apt that our guards will be up and we will be walking on eggshells and protecting boundaries while the argument about the stuffing rages and Uncle Bob has already passed out on the couch. It is likely that the dysfunction will trigger our past traumas leaving us to revert to whatever coping mechanism we can grasp.

We hardly have time to open our gifts when the Christmas items are ripped down off the shelf and replaced with Valentines, then by the time we open our heart shaped box, the Easter Bunny has taken over, and this societal norm continues for every holiday, year after year. Marketing lures us into all the holiday hype when in fact, most of us have forgotten the actual meaning of the day. Does no one else wonder how a religious rebirth turned into chocolate bunnies?  The entire premise of Valentine’s Day is to show your loved one how much you care on Feb 14th with flowers and chocolates, but what about the rest of the days? Why can’t love be shown in random ways on days we don’t have Hallmark cards for?

Many survivors feel as lonely as I do on holidays. It doesn’t seem to matter who we surround ourselves with, what festivities we attend or how distracted we try to keep ourselves. There is a perpetual, nagging sense of emptiness and loss that is carried daily and entirely enhanced on holidays. Perhaps we wish for just one page from that book of fairytales. Perhaps we still wish for all the things we lost and cannot reclaim. Maybe we want just one family gathering where we feel loved and can be true to ourselves, free of judgment and shame. Maybe we wish for one Valentine’s Day where we are the recipients of the tokens and acts of love that we have never received, or did so with strings and repercussions.

So surviving the actual day is one thing, but the emotional crash that often occurs after the holidays can be just as intense for a survivor as the actual holiday itself. I know for me, it takes an immense amount of emotional energy to deal with the both the holiday build up, and the end of buildup. The depression tends to set in quickly and heavily afterward and regardless of my attempts to keep my hopes and expectations lowered out of instinctual self-protection, there is always a sense of disappointment;  a reminder of my loneliness on days when there is societal pressure for family, or outwardly expressed love.

So be good to yourself around any holiday. Surround yourself with the things or people that make you happy and bring you peace in the present moment, because no amount of hope will change the past. Remind yourself that despite the label, a holiday is just another day, another 24 hours, and that you have managed to get through all of them so far with strength and resilience, and the next one will be no different.

Words That Will Never Be Heard

writing-no-hearing

 

Some words, no matter how many times they are spoken will never be heard. Such has been the case with my Father and me since I can first remember. Regardless of the subject, my words are on a one way path, without a pause, to be inattentively listened to and immediately disregarded; the judgmental responses locked and loaded. The never ending tension wafts silently through the air as I tiptoe amongst the eggshells.

I first met my father when I was adopted at 18 months old and although I obviously can’t recall, I believe our tumultuous relationship began shortly after that. Between me being traumatized by pre-adoptive abuse and his lack of patience and narcissistic behavior, I truly believe the relationship was questionable from the start. When I tell people about our history, the domestic violence and emotional and verbal abuse, I get questioned as to why I still attempt to maintain some form of a relationship with him at all, and the only response I have to give is “he’s all I have left”. After my mom died and I told my family I was a lesbian, they slowly all just faded away, like turning down the dial on a chandelier, and the last one standing was my dad.

I have learned over the years that you cannot change anyone else’s behaviors, only your reaction to them and I realized the pent up hurt and anger over the years was only doing damage to myself. Despite my attempts to express my feelings to him over the years, my words are invalidated and my past is swept away, hence the reason for this letter in a place of safety.

Dad,

I am going to start with the positive, something you failed to do for my entire life, and say that I do both recognize and appreciate the efforts you have made to try and become a better person. I can’t say I understand whether it is you mellowing out with age or if you actually had the intentions of becoming kinder and slightly less critical. Either way, know that it is very much appreciated. I would love to be writing a letter about all my fond memories of my childhood, but I think we both know the reality of the situation. When the bad is blocked out it takes the good along with it.

I am grateful for the times you have been there for me in the past few years, however that does not, and never will make up for the damage you inflicted to my developing personality. All I ever wanted was validation and for you to accept some sort of responsibility for the fact that your actions cast a shadow over an already dark childhood, and I say wanted,  because I am trying now to make peace with the fact that acceptance is not in the cards. Even a simple “I’m sorry” would indicate that you admit that harm was done, but those words still elude my ears.

The domestic abuse had effects on me you could not comprehend unless in my shoes. The nights of sleeping so lightly I could hear a pin drop; the fear that, if I fell sound asleep, I would not be able to intervene. The nights of having Mom take refuge in my bedroom in the hopes to avoid another beating, hence the desk propped against the door. The terror instilled in an already frightened and traumatized child ongoing through adulthood. You took my only place of safety, my refuge from the sexual abuse that occurred while I was looking for any excuse to remain out of the house. The still haunting visual memories of walking into a rape scene, the sounds of the cries on the nights I lay helpless or the nights I got between the swings trying to be the protector, all as crisp as the cold winter air.

The verbal and emotional abuse and narcissistic behavior, by far, caused the most damage; the words scarred so deeply they changed my very being and my perception of myself and of life. The years of trying to live up to unrealistic expectations led to the unsatisfactory feeling of never being good enough, not just for you, but for anyone or anything. The words failure, useless and no good bounce, among many others that bounce around my head like the ball in a pinball machine, with a ricochet that is just as tenacious today as it was back then. All the condemnations, judgments and passive aggressive sarcasm trampled my sense of self-esteem and crushed it into grains of sand, which never had the foundation to build a proper castle, then or now.

I’m saddened to say that I could continue on about this for hours, reiterating the broken pieces of my childhood and how you not only induced a great deal of my trauma, but enabled the rest. I wish you realized what it was like for me growing up…the loneliness, the lack of trust, the fear of both violence and words, and feeling like I was both invisible and silent. I question if I do exist in your eyes in any other way than being the “black sheep” or the sounding board for your slander. I wish you had truly listened to me when I told you about the sexual abuse and how it affects my life to this very day; instead you negated the fact it ever happened and invalidated all the encompassing emotions I felt.

 I have realized over the years, the things that are hurting me do not affect you at all and the only solution I can rationalize is to change my reactions to your words. To stop seeking approval and validation that will never come, and in essence to drop any and all expectations, is my end goal. The wall between us was constructed brick by brick over the years, and is far too thick to penetrate now. I will never allow you to hurt or affect me like you once did. I will set the boundaries this time and if you cross them, I will walk away, because at this point, I really don’t have much to lose.  That is what is best for me on my path to healing. It’s my time now.

 

 

 

 

 

If You Have Survived the Next Five Years…

 5-years-later

I have been, to far more than my fair share of funerals in my lifetime, ranging from acquaintances and relatives, to friends and family. Without a doubt the hardest one was my Mom, not only because she was my only form of real love, but also because of the age she passed. It seems that when a person dies at an older age, we can more easily rationalize their death…they had a good long life and that is just part of the life cycle, whereas the younger the person is, the less sense it makes; the more difficult it becomes to find a justification for its occurrence.

This past week I was at a funeral service for a beautiful 15 year old girl, tragically hit by a car. The outpouring of support was unlike anything I have ever seen before. There were hundreds of kids gathered to not only pay their respects but to provide a network of comfort and a foundation for  each other and the long healing process that lies ahead. The service itself was beautiful and the speeches touched the heart, one more so than the rest. A grade 8 teacher had handed out an assignment to his classes whereby each student had to write a letter to their future selves which he would then mail back out in five years, when they were in grade 12. Sadly Maddie didn’t make it to grade 12 but the letter was read and the irony of the words she had written to her future self “I hope you have found some peace” left not one dry eye in the crowd.

At the reception I could hear the murmurings of many a person talking about how not only a letter should be written by every student to their future selves, but how it had inspired them to go home and do so themselves, and so I thought I would give it a shot.

Dear future me,

If you are reading this, it means you actually made it another five years and for that you should be so incredibly proud of yourself. You were so close to running out of both hope and strength years ago and yet you somehow mustered up the courage to continue on. Make sure you reward yourself well for this achievement. I hope you are happier and a bit less emotionally heavy than you used to be. I hope you kept up with therapy and learned how to effectively manage these illnesses and you are at least a few steps beyond surviving, perhaps on the way to thriving. I hope you wake up in the mornings now without the heaviness of not wanting to be alive. I hope you have maintained the close relationships you had and that those people are still near and dear to your heart, and that you have continued to grow and allow yourself to love and truly be loved.

I wonder if you are still as insecure as you were, and if you are still letting fear and anxiety influence both your decisions and actions. I wonder if you still feel so alone or if you have finally found your place in this big world. I wonder if you have found a balance between being hyper and hypo sensitive and spend less time riding the emotional rollercoaster. I wonder if you have managed to forgive yourself and perhaps not silence, but shush your inner critic enough to have boosted your confidence a wee bit. I wonder if you have continued to keep your heart under lock and key or if you have enough self-love to let someone truly love you. I wonder if you kept writing or if this blog is buried along with your words.

I hope you continue to fight. I hope that no matter what happens you muster the strength and courage to face it and not to give in to the darkness that called so often. I hope you learn to love and accept yourself for who you are and continue to move along the path of healing. I hope that your BPD no longer controls your life and that after five years, mental health stigma is so much less than it is today. Most of all I wish for you some peace, in your mind, heart and soul. It is there for you if you keep digging. Don’t give up.

                                                                                                                                Love, Me

                                                                                                                                               

I Was In, Out and Diagnosed in 20 Minutes

Where has common sense gone in this world? Why has almost everyone in power or a position of stature lost the ability to see outside of their small circle of reality? We spend hundreds of millions on war, and space exploration; we have politicians committing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraud with no repercussions, yet our healthcare system is falling apart. Cancer patients waiting months for treatment, seniors waiting up to two years for surgeries, and as for mental healthcare, you would be lucky to see a therapist that is not private, within six to nine months. However, as with everything, the same problems do not apply to the upper echelon, and sadly those are the ones in power, and hence, nothing changes, or if it does, it’s a long time coming. Canada’s healthcare system is not what many may think.

My experiences in terms of the mental health aspect of healthcare system have been less than favorable, especially in the last year. I have been left on hold for over an hour, on numerous occasions, on several different crisis lines, as they are primarily unfunded and run by volunteers. I was turned away from a hospital before even seeing a doctor, but after waiting 4 hours, for “not being suicidal enough” and was then sent home with two valium and a list of crisis line numbers. I have had to carefully manipulate my way through the hospital system in order to gain short term access to a psychiatrist just to prescribe the medications I am taking, and of the psychiatrists I have seen, I have been diagnosed and prescribed medication each time in less than 20 minutes, and with the exception of one, left traumatized each time.

I have no issues with therapy, I go to therapy, and have done on and off for years, and I believe everyone should look for whatever type of practitioner works best for them. I personally have tried multiple therapeutic approaches, with social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, and I encourage everyone to search for what works best for them. I try not to use my blogs as a forum for a personal rant, but this time I am going to make an exception due to the level of frustration I am at with the upper echelon of the mental health society. Again, this is not against any one individual, nor is it a generalization of all psychiatrists, just my personal experiences.

                To: The Psychiatrists I have seen,

I understand that you consider yourselves at the top of your field, above psychologists and social workers, and your hourly rates certainly confirm that. I understand that you had to work hard to become an MD and then further that with another four years and I understand you believe you have earned instant respect because you are better educated than the average person. I also understand that you have trained to learn multiple types of mental illnesses and their corresponding medications, I wonder if there was a class on how to deal with actual people, and not just look at them as an illness. I understand and that you do indeed have the ability to diagnose what condition you perceive I have based on set guidelines that I can easily find online.  What I question is how you possibly come to any thoroughly conclusive diagnosis in under 18 minutes, which would be considerably less time than it took me to write this blog.

Your general demeanor does not emanate compassion or empathy but rather that of a judgmental human textbook. Your handshakes upon greeting are cold and businesslike. You started to judge me the minute I entered your perfectly appropriate office and sat down. You have noticed if I am competent in personal grooming and if I am dressed “appropriately” for the situation. You have taken mental note of whether I am fidgety or talking too quickly as you pull out you IMac to start taking notes. The questionnaire is basically the same regardless of where you are: Have I felt depressed for more than 2 weeks consecutively? Yes, 40 years. Have I experienced some sort of trauma? Well if we had spoken first before diving into the Q & A you may have your answer. Have I heard voices or am I paranoid? Have I been hospitalized? Have I had suicidal thoughts or behaviors and/or thoughts of self-harm? Have I thought of harming others?  Do I drink or use drugs? Do I have attachment issues? Am I reckless and impulsive? The questions roll on, yet not once have you asked how I am, or even what brings me to your office. You glanced briefly at the brief history of me you have been given, and still, not a question that is not on your form.

12 minutes have passed.

You finally peel your eyes away from your screen, close your laptop halfway and lean forward with a feeble attempt to make eye contact. You reach into a drawer to grab a notepad and pen, and proceed to diagnose me with multiple illnesses, which you jot down on the paper. You grab a small pink pamphlet that has basic information on Borderline Personality Disorder (one so basic I could have written it after my first diagnosis) and proceed to explain how I fit into eight of the nine criteria so that is what I have. Again, not once have I had a chance to explain anything about my past or how I am presently feeling.

16 minutes have passed.

You briefly explain and write down the types of therapies that are beneficial, and then proceed to tell me which pills will work best for my depression, or anxiety, or whatever the diagnosis of the day is. You finally make eye contact, and ask if I have any further questions…funny, as I don’t recall having been given the option to speak, never mind ask questions, and tears the sheet off the pad of paper to hand to me. By the time I can fold the paper in half, you are standing up with a hand extended towards me, thanking me for coming in and walking me towards the door…I barely remember standing up. You say thanks again, give my file to your receptionist, go back in your office and close the door.

20 minutes have passed; I have been diagnosed with four separate mental illnesses, and have been prescribed medication accordingly. In 20 minutes!! I feel like I have been sucked in and spit out of the eye of a hurricane. My mind is spinning, my heart racing and to be quite honest I am extremely pissed off. I don’t care what books you studied 20 years ago, or how much practicum you may have, you have forgotten the most important aspect. People are individuals, all of whom do not fit into your selected, in the box, criteria.

Allow me to diagnose you in a paragraph. You are neither, better or necessarily smarter than I am, you simply are better educated. You had a life that allowed you to follow your goals and you look down on people like me who have not had that same luxury in life. The pretentiousness of your office, with your degrees displayed front and center, with the appropriate text books on the shelf speak volumes about your sense of self.  Your lack of eye contact makes it uncomfortable for your patient and shows an apparent lack of sympathy.  You diagnose not based on the individual client in your office but by the textbook, or by the small criteria boxes you tick off as you ask your questions, without truly ever listening for an answer. You prescribe whatever the latest medication on the market is, without a true knowledge of what is best for that individual, and regardless of side effects. If I come back and say the side effects are too much, or it’s not working, your first comment is that I have not given it enough time to work, and if I continue to complain you prescribe the next thing on your list, having no idea what a medicinal rollercoaster you have put your patient on. Years of experience gives you hands on knowledge, but it would seem most of you missed the class on dealing with people. It is possible to keep a level of respect and professionalism and also have a sense of empathy. It is possible to actually listen, and to ask questions that are not listed for you. I don’t care how many degrees you have, or how long you have been in practice, you cannot properly diagnose anyone in 20 minutes, and certainly not without speaking with them, and actually listening. Not everyone fits into the preconceived boxes you want to place them in….and perhaps that includes you.

I am not a 20 minute diagnosis, and you are not a paragraph.20-min

When The Thought of Suicide is Paramount to Survival

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Despite the rapid increase in numbers in the past few years, suicide still remains a taboo subject, something we don’t want to talk about and generally don’t until it hits close to home. Despite the recent and ongoing efforts of the media to increase general social awareness on the topic, it is most often spoken of as a statistic rather than in terms of preventative measures, and those numbers will continue to rise as long as we, as a society keep looking away. Talking about it does not encourage it but instead helps to opens minds and lines of communication and promotes understanding and empathy.

As you may, or may not know, I have survived three suicide attempts, the details of which are irrelevant right now, as the causes take prevalence. I did not just wake up on three separate occasions and impulsively decide to kill myself, rather the combination of years of abuse and the consequent depression, BPD, dysthymia and anxiety wore me down to the point of seeing no other option to end the pain. That is the depth that some illnesses go, convincing your mind and lying to you to shatter and leave only a glimpse of hope, if anything at all, and without that, what do we have to hold on to.

Being a victim of childhood abuse, be it sexual or otherwise is the ultimate loss of control for a child. It is not only the trauma of the acts themselves but the sheer terror that accompanies it. In most cases the perpetrator is someone we know or at least are familiar with, and the fear of repercussions is almost insurmountable. This loss of control is one thing that has carried over into numerous areas of my life for years. No one likes things that are completely out of their control, but for the survivor, that is enhanced tenfold, to the point of becoming a trigger of the past, that is how it is for me anyway. Any situation that I have little to no control over triggers my mind back to the childhood traumas when I was also helpless, and amplifies the intensity of my depression and anxiety to a level I cannot explain.

The years of domestic abuse I watched was just another thing that was completely out of my regulation. No matter what efforts I put forth to try and interrupt or cause a distraction failed and with that another major loss of control in my life. When the domestic abuse stopped, the cancer began, and dealing with my mom’s six year battle and her impending death was the ultimate loss of control. Having to just sit helplessly and watch someone you love die a slow, lengthy death is a torture I would not wish on anyone. Even going through the process of recovery requires a relinquishment of control by having to “follow the lead” of a therapist. Often when I am trying to try to heal a past trauma in therapy, the resulting triggers bring your mind right back to the times when I had no control and that feeling consumes my present and adds to the fear of the future.

Suicide is in my control.

As unorthodox as this may seem to someone else, the thought of having complete control over whether I live or die has provided me, many times, with enough of a sense of comfort to make it through what may have been an otherwise unsafe night. While it seems like the rest of my world is turning into chaos and growing further out of my management, the fact that I can control something as essential to life as a breath gives me a sense of strength. I do realize in essence, everyone is in the same position, being able to end their lives, but being passively suicidal most of the time, I often feel that is truly the only thing that is in my control; and just knowing that provides enough hope and comfort to get through those nights, and live to fight another day.

A Simple Gesture of Kindness is Free

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Having survived three suicide attempts and having had two friends who died by suicide from their mental illnesses, I have become quite passionate and open about my own experiences, in hopes that one day, they may help someone. I have also, for many years, contended with bouts of self-harm and try to reach out to as many people as possible, in an effort to provide alternative methods of dealing with the pain. I leave my DM (direct messages) open to anyone on my twitter account (@onelastkick71) so anyone who may be struggling can reach out anonymously, know that someone cares and they are not alone.

I am no therapist by any means. I have been to countless numbers of them over the years, each with their own approach on how to best “fix” me based on their numerous years of reviewing textbooks, attained level of education and job experience. Now don’t get me wrong, I see a psychologist and am an advocate for therapy if that is something that works for you in your healing process, however I truly believe that regardless of the therapeutic viewpoint, suicide and self-harm are sometimes best empathized by survivors. I am certainly not equipped to handle a full blown suicidal episode, and have and will always do what is necessary to make that person’s safety a priority, however there is often a buildup point before reaching that extreme state and that is where I have found my life experiences have been most helpful to others.

I know in my case, and I believe, in many others as well, that sometimes being suicidal does not necessarily mean we want to die, we just want the pain to end, and our illnesses have convinced our minds that suicide is the only option, the only way to find some peace. The people who reach out have accomplished the hardest part by taking the first step and asking for help, even if it is only someone to listen. You don’t have to understand what the person is dealing with in order to listen without judging and to provide kindness. I know from experience that it is often easier to communicate such desperate feelings to a stranger, rather than a friend or family member, if not only due to fear of judgment or repercussions. I know there have been times when I have called a crisis hotline, only to be left on hold so long I have hung up in frustration and tears, and all I really needed at the time was someone to lend an ear and make me feel cared for and wanted. It really does not take much to be one of those people, and doing such a small thing can greatly impact a life.

Self-harm can be an addiction like drugs or alcohol or anything else we do compulsively. For me, it has gone in waves throughout my life, sometimes going away for years at a time, and generally surfacing amidst a trauma of some sort. The endorphin release and distraction from self-harming may only be temporary but at the time I am looking for any sort of diversion from the immense pain I’m feeling inside, that I simply don’t know how else to release. Again, something as elementary as allowing someone to speak can be a long enough distraction to slow down if not stop the impulsivity that often comes with self-harm. I understand the need for pain, or self-punishment but have learned over the years that there are less harmful things to do that provide the same type of relief without the long term consequence of scarring. There are plenty of resources online for not only people who self-harm, but for concerned friends and family members. The people I have spoken with I have not only given other options to but also made deals with them… if the urge presents itself, we will contact each other before acting, and as basic as that may sound, just knowing someone else is fighting alongside you can be motivation enough.

With the people that have reached out, I have formed emotional connections  and incredible friendships merely by being able to empathize with their mental state at the time, after all, having BPD, I have spent the majority of my life dealing with both these subjects. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to know that the trauma I have been through actually helps to positively affect a life. I have received numerous random thank you messages from those who have found help through my writing, and for that, I am extremely humbled. For the many people I have spoken with online or on text, thank you for being brave enough to not only reach out to me, or anyone but for allowing enough trust to let me try to help. Reaching out truly is the hardest part, but know when you reach out your hand there will be someone there to hold it.

 

The Emotional Frenzy of the Snowball Effect

 

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It often starts off with the simplest of negative thoughts. Sometimes it is triggered by something someone has said that I may have misconstrued, which is easy to do with BPD and the lack of tone in text messaging, and at other times it is just my mind beginning its uncontrollable spiral downwards. Is it caused by anxiety and fed by depression? Is it common among those without a mental illness? How can one simple word or thought turn into such negativity and self-hatred? What makes our mind spin out of control with such fury? How is it we are upset about something in the present yet within minutes we are condemning ourselves, yet again, for things we did or said when we were children, or young adults?

The snowball effect really is the perfect analogy. Starting out with that first handful of cold, white wonder, and as we roll it along, it collects snow from whatever direction we push it and does not stop building in size until we effectively stop it. My thought process is really not much different; a random negative thought travels through my mind and gathers the other negative thoughts, until they are in a ball so big I feel physically heavy from the weight. Just the other day I read something into a situation that was not even there and instantly started with the first thought of self-doubt…there’s so much wrong with me; followed by I’m a failure, a loser, not loveable and so on and so forth, which then somehow spirals either backward or forward. Those initial thoughts of present day self-hatred, guilt or shame, or whatever emotion, have now triggered past situations in which I felt the same way, so now, not only am I fretting about how I feel about myself today, I am also travelling back in time collecting all the negative emotions that have been stored with each trauma, and bringing them to the forefront, in essence creating a snowball of negativity, which, remember, started with a single negative thought.

This exact same analogy applies to future thoughts as well, and when anxiety adds fuel to the fire the downward spiral now includes the future. Yet again, one simple dark thought can take me down the hill of negativity, projecting all the things that are going to go wrong, the bad things that are going to happen, or all the ways I am going to screw up or get hurt…and the list continues. Funny, because I don’t ever recall being able to predict the future at any other point in time in my life, but suddenly through this snowball effect, I am psychic and not only foretelling the upcoming events in my life but in my mind, actually trying to prepare for them, and keep in mind, nothing has even happened.

For example, I have to move in the spring and just the thought of doing so after being in my place for 12 years is causing me extreme stress and triggering past traumas. Now, my rational brain knows that after all that I have survived, a move certainly may be traumatic, but will not kill me. It is simply a change that I need to adapt to, as with everything else in life. The emotive side of my brain however, has begun the snowball process. What if I can’t find a place, or can’t afford it, or it’s in a bad area, or they won’t accept pets, or I don’t like it and I can’t get comfortable enough to call it a “home”…and those are not even the worst thoughts. Snowballing even bigger, I have also created the scenario of all of the above happening and ending up homeless or in a shelter, which then leads me to question if any of it is worth it and perhaps this is now the excuse or reasoning I need in my head to justify taking my life, as I am simply too emotionally exhausted to start over, yet again. So now my thoughts have sunken into the darkness of the ultimate finality over a sequence of events which I have created in my mind, most of which are likely never going to happen.

A single negative thought leading to a scenario of death, in five minutes or less, which in turn leads to an uphill battle to get out of the darkness, and as soon as I see the light, the self-defeating cycle repeats.

Is it possible to stop the snowball or at least slow it down? Is there a way to restrain it so it doesn’t reach the bottom of the hill, but perhaps comes to a standstill midway? Having BPD increases impulsivity which can also include thoughts and not just actions, and in my case racing thoughts and lack of verbal restraint are making the struggle more difficult. I am learning the first step is to recognize that original negative thought as quickly as possible because if I at least know the snow is starting to gather, I can be better prepared for the storm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suicide: An Insiders Perspective

Brave Wings; The Blog

Suicide. The word itself is stigmatized with weakness, and shame. We judge people who kill themselves as being selfish, people who just gave up. I mean really, what could be so wrong in ones life to drive you to actually end it? Suicide leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the survivors…the loved ones who are left wondering why, or if they could have helped. Well I hope this perspective can help you, the non-suicidal person to take a journey in the thought process of a suicidal person, so perhaps you can better understand and either be able to help or at least cope.
I am not going to speak on behalf of all suicidal people, but this is my story. First of all, you need to be made aware that most if not all people who attempt or succeed at suicide are dealing with some sort of mental illness…

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The Emotional Vulnerability of Love for a Borderline

 

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Relationships in the best of circumstances are tricky waters to navigate. They require not a captain and a first mate, but two co-captains, who are not only plotting out a similar course but are willing to stick together when the tides change your direction. Surviving childhood sexual abuse leaves emotional scars that twist your views and feelings on life and relationships, and the after effects tend to weave their way into various areas of your life, often on a subconscious level. One of the main attributes of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) aside from the intense fear of abandonment is a pattern of unstable interpersonal relationships. For me, the combination of the two is like being a one eyed captain trying to navigate the seas on a raft, with no compass and a map in Latin. In dealing with both of these things I had to self-protect in order to survive and my coping mechanisms involved shutting down amongst many things, trust and love.

That being said, living behind that wall of safety also limits both our life experiences and the corresponding emotions. We miss out on a lot because we are lacking in confidence, and remaining behind our wall in our comfort zone is a lot easier than facing the unknown fears outside. In my mind, it is a matter of weighing out risk versus reward. Is the risk worth the (in my mind) inevitable pain that will come at some point? I also tend to compare if this impending pain could be worse than something I have already been through, again trying to measure out the risk, and when emotionally rational, I realize there is very little in life that could traumatize me any more than has already occurred. Now don’t get me wrong, that by no means implies that I have broken down my wall and jumped head first into my fears. It is more of a case of taking down a few bricks at a time, enough to sneak out, but leaving those bricks within arm’s reach in case we need to rebuild in a hurry.

Being a survivor, I carry with me a sense of shame, a lack of trust and self-worth, and the constant feeling of being a burden. I have major attachment issues already, which are severely increased in intensity with BPD, and the combination of those plus the depression and anxiety leaves me feeling almost unworthy of a relationship. How could I burden someone with my baggage and complexities without feeling guilty, or expect someone to put up with the frequent and extreme mood swings that come with BPD. If I feel all these negative things about myself, how could they not be clear and apparent to someone else, or is it me projecting my thoughts onto somebody else? Do I even know how to love properly, or can I trust enough to let someone pass through the door in my wall? Am I just too messed up to be loved? All those things have run through my mind so often, and for so long they have become true to my emotive mind, and so I deem myself unworthy of a relationship, and by convincing myself of this it becomes my reality, and it is shoved to the back of my mind as a truth that no longer needs dealt with, after all, there are more pressing issues to deal with at the moment.

Life tends to throw things our way at the most unexpected times. It happens often in therapy, where you think you have done the work to get past an issue, and boom, there it is in your face again, and all you can hope is to put some of the new coping mechanisms into action before the innate instincts of self-protectiveness so quickly take over. So after having spent the last few years convincing myself I would be alone for life, suddenly someone walks right on in. At first, I don’t take anyone’s interest in me seriously because I can be a convincing outside package but when they find out the truth about my emotional instability and the traumatic past, they don’t stick around anyway. In the past, I have tried to hide it, but one can only mask their true identity for so long, so this time I decided I would just get it over with up front…part of the basics “I love soccer, animals, ice cream, and I am diagnosed with more mental health issues that you can count on one hand”. After my spew, I put my phone down, fully expecting that like everyone else, that would raise enough red flags to have her running in the opposite direction, instead, the conversation continues. She starts asking questions about the BPD, and every answer I give her comes with no reply of shock or judgment. The longer we talk, the more she asks and although she may not understand everything, she seems to be accepting it, which is amazing, but also sets off my BPD abandonment issue; the closer they get, the more it will hurt when they leave. It also raises red flags with the survivor part of me that has yet to develop a proper sense of self-worth. So as the days pass, some of my past comes out and again it is met with understanding and empathy rather than intolerance and apathy, which brings both a sense of ease and fear to the table. Ease because the comfort level has almost a sense of familiarity to it…like you have known each other for years and the fear because the closeness is completely overwhelming. Taking a few bricks out of my wall was the plan, but now there’s a full door, someone standing at it, and not leaving.

I would like to say after all the therapies, workbooks and readings that I employed all my acquired and practiced coping mechanisms and I am dealing with the situation in a rational manner and a level sense of emotion, but that would be untrue. Instinct and BPD took over in full force and although I tried to fight it, it carries the same comfort and familiarity as that favorite old sweatshirt you just can’t yet let go of. So BPD has this fabulous quality that in essence makes you test people as a child would test their parents, almost a form of “go away you are too close” to “please don’t leave me”, and with everything else BPD related, these emotions can bounce around five times a day or 100 times a day, with almost incalculable speeds. So I push her away, thinking every time will be the last and she stays, so I pull her closer, and the cycle repeats. I discount the positive things she says about me and she patiently reinforces them, without hesitation. BPD also includes this fantastic trait of impulsivity, which for me, is primarily verbal, and when my words precede my thoughts, she doesn’t get angry, but quietly listens and asks to learn more about BPD and depression. I figure if I tell her about the suicide attempts and constant thoughts as well as the history of cutting, that will be her breaking point, and she will definitely leave, but instead, says she is sorry I had to go through all that, and allows me to express the ideations at my darkest moments, without fear of judgment. My mind is spinning…this is not how life works for me.

Fast forward to today and even with countless number of tests, the rounds of verbal impulsivity and the rest of the issues that come with my mental illnesses, she remains, and despite the inconvenient circumstances which I will not get into, she makes sure I wake up to a morning text, and go to sleep with a sweet goodnight. Despite the physical distance and her hectic schedule, she makes an effort to spend time with me and is always willing to provide an ear to listen or kind words of support. I have only ever had this depth of relationship once before, many years ago, and she remains my best friend to this day, and always. I am trying again to learn to accept love, to believe I am worthy of it and to grasp the idea that someone sees not what I think of myself, but the things I can no longer see, and as much as the BPD is screaming at me to push and pull, I am trying to recognize when my emotive mind has taken over so perhaps I can control the impulses a bit better.

This is a big risk for me, letting someone get this close, allowing vulnerability and trust all while trying to put a muffle on the BPD which is screaming about fear of being left, yet again. That being said, being a minimizer I convince myself that the possible impending hurt of being left can’t be worse than the other traumas I have endured to this point in my life. My instincts (my gut feeling) have kept me alive this long and if they are saying take a chance, then I follow that path. After all, the heart truly is a remarkably resilient organ.

I hope she knows how appreciated and cared for she is, and how thankful I am for her support, patience and understanding, and for choosing me and following me down this often dark and unpaved road with me, when she easily could have exited and taken the highway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Safe Place That Saved My Life

 

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The physical aspect of child molestation eventually ends but the emotional destruction does not leave the tiny shoulders carrying the burden. Instead, it grows with you and casts a shadow of overwhelming darkness for years, decades and sometimes for life. I was molested for 8 years of my childhood and its residual effects ripple through all aspects of my life, flowing like a river from guilt and shame to self-hatred and unworthiness. It takes only a few minutes of trauma that severe to change everything you had known to be true; to shatter your ability to trust words or actions; to instill a fear that chills your tiny soul and fill you with the confusion of what is right, what is wrong and what is normal.

The first time I was molested I was five. I remember it as clear as the movie I watched last night. I remember something related to every sense. I remember the color of the couch and the blinds that draped the sliding glass doors. I recall the taste of the banana Popsicle I was given when he took me back outside to play like nothing had happened. The details are not necessary, but as you can well imagine after that day I became a different little girl, all in just 10 minutes. My ability to trust teenagers and adults was shattered, as was a piece of my soul.

In many cases of molestation the perpetrator is a direct family member, relative or someone you know and trust well. My abuse took place outside the home and involved multiple offenders, both teenagers and adults. When I was younger, there was a piece of me that believed that this was all normal; that this is what happened to everyone, not just me. There were not a lot of kids my age on my street so for me the norm became if I wanted to play with the older kids I had to spend time in the garage first. I was about 8 or 9 years old before I realized there was something wrong, but starving for attention, lonely and running from domestic abuse, I went back, over and over. I would rather go through that 5 or 10 minutes of hell than be alone and without friends. This routine continued with a few different people until I was 12, and convinced myself that promiscuity was the only way to get attention. This way, I felt I had some control over both the perpetrator and myself.

I am often asked how I survived through the actual physical incidents and the accompanying pain. The answer is not difficult to explain, however unless you have been through childhood sexual abuse, it is something you will never understand. The brain has its own built in defense mechanisms, flight or fight being the most common example, but when the trauma is too much to cope with, a part of the brain shuts down as its method of self-protection. I believe the correct term in today’s world is dissociation, but there were much fewer labels in my days, so simply put I went to my safe place. Everyone’s version of a safe place will differ, but the reasons for its creation are generally the same. For me, I closed my eyes and went to the one place I felt safe and confident…the soccer field. I had played since I was five years old, and immediately took to it. My confidence, my safety, the game, all things I had some control of on the field. I was needed and wanted without the dreaded precursor that was my life off the field.  I was a part of a team and felt like I belonged somewhere for the first time in my life.  So, when my mind needed to shut down to the extent of full protection, my body followed suit, which somehow lessened any physical pain involved. For whatever period of time it was, I learned to quickly get to my safe spot and not leave until it was long over, and that became habitual. You do what you know.

I would like to say that I have dealt with every incident and am completely healed from the abuse. I would also like to say I have a million dollars, but neither statement holds truth. I have done my best to skim through the pages and end each chapter, but the ripple effect is continual in my life. It still casts a shadow over my ability to trust, form healthy relationships and develop a full bond of intimacy. There will always be triggers and for me, certain scents, textures or sounds will send me back to those times of horror, but this time as an outsider looking in, feeling helpless to save the child below. The visits are short and emotionless now, and although I no longer have to retreat to my safe place, I do believe it will always be with me.

 

 

3 Ways I Struggle With My BPD

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Although Borderline Personality Disorder is becoming one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses; it continues to be one of the least understood.  Perhaps its diagnostic frequency is due to the wide range of symptoms it presents. At some point in time in most people’s lives, I am sure they have exhibited a trait or two off the list of BPD criteria, however, I have all but one, and the symptoms and  mannerisms are not once and a while, but every minute of my day that I am awake. So, in an effort to enlighten as many people as possible, I am going to share some of my personal experiences related to the recognized symptoms of BPD.

  1. Impulsive and Risky Behavior

Borderline Personality Disorder is a life of extremes where we bounce from happiness to sadness, each emotion felt at a level far more intense than the average person.  Impulsivity is the tendency to act with little regard for restraint and without considering the consequences. For many people affected by BPD these bouts of impulsivity and risk taking behaviors go along with the periods where we are at the extreme top end of the scale. The BPD symptoms of impulsivity can present itself in many ways but some of the most common are:

  • Substance abuse
  • Overspending
  • Gambling
  • Self- Harm/Suicide
  • Promiscuity
  • Binge eating
  • Reckless driving

I have an addictive personality by nature and genetics. I have been through a gamut of both recreational and prescription drugs becoming addicted to a few different things along the way.  My drug addictions were all short term and I was able to “control” them by replacing the heavier substance with a lighter one, until I was weaned off one and addicted to a lighter drug, the supposed premise being that I replace the more damaging substance with something a little less harmful.  In most cases however, until the source of the addictive behavior itself is identified and dealt with, the addiction will always linger.

I also struggle with self-harm and suicidal thoughts and have done so for the majority of my life. Obviously my suicide attempts were unsuccessful but my body tells a story with its scars; each one tells a tale, and I wish I could tell you I remember what  they all represent, and why they are there, but those memories are limited to only a few. The common denominator however is the instigation factor, rejection, whether it is evident or perceived it is completely real to me. The suicidal thoughts become so heavy I feel like I am anchored to the bottom of the ocean floor, dark and drowning. I have learned to allow myself to have those thoughts, and feel the corresponding emotions, as fighting them only seems to increase the urge. I will say that although I may not have control over these thoughts, I have learned to make sure they only stay thoughts and do not turn into actions.

  1. Unstable and poorly regulated emotions

BPD feels like having your emotions on constant sensory overload or like being in the eye of an emotional hurricane. Regardless of which emotion, the intensity presents at a level which is almost indescribable. The best comparison I can think of is…imagine your most devastating moment of grief, pain or anger, double it and live with it daily. My feelings can get so intense I feel like the only way to deal with them without physically hurting myself or verbally abusing others is to shut down emotionally, or dissociate from those feelings. It has been a safety method I have resorted to since before I can remember, and a skill I have yet to let go of.

Adding to the intensity and unstableness of my emotions is the frequency they occur. On a good day I am lucky to have only 3 or 4 mood swings, ranging from anger to tears, lasting maybe 15 minutes to an hour each time. On a bad day, I can expect at least double that amount and the length of time varying so much it is too difficult to keep track of. It is like living in a state of hypo or hyper arousal every single day, which on paper would look like the ups and downs of a physically unstable person on a heart monitor. The lines go way up, then drop way down with no real predictable pattern.

So now I am rampant with intense emotions bouncing from feeling ok to being severely depressed, emotions I can barely understand and yet I am expected to have complete control over them. I am working through therapy to try and get a grasp on them and will admit that my defeats far outnumber my victories in this category.

 

  1. A pattern of unstable relationships

Given what has already been mentioned above, there is no surprise that Borderlines have a greater difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships of any kind. My relationships may be very intense, unstable, and alternate between the extremes of over idealizing and undervaluing people who are important to me. It stems from fear of rejection and abandonment and encompasses a whole lot of push and pull and testing, almost like a child would test a parent, to see if you are just another person who will leave. I lost a lot of friends due to this aspect of my illness, as the average person cannot understand why one day I am their best friend and next I’m pushing them away, simply to see if they will come back. If you do this enough times, most people don’t come back, as they simply can’t handle the emotional whirlwind. For me, it makes perfect sense. I have to test over and over and if you come back, I am able to build trust. I guess this is why I have very few friends and trust very few people.

This pattern of unstable relationships is not only confined to friends, but affects family, co-workers and just about anyone I come into contact with for any extended period of time. I am always so afraid that people will leave that in order to maintain some control; it is easier if I make them leave and they don’t do it on their own accord. It makes socializing with friends and family terribly difficult and establishing relations with co-workers just as hard. As my resume would indicate, I have a hard time holding a job for more than a few years as the random emotional outbursts are generally not welcomed in a workplace.

Being social and wanting to have people to love and who love you is a part of human nature. It is something I desperately crave, yet at the same time, doing so leaves me vulnerable which usually ends in me getting hurt. It feels like the proverbial being stuck “between a rock and a hard place” and simply not yet having the skills or tools to dig myself out.

So, I continue to try a bit more each day. I try to be conscious of my push and pull and attempt to lessen the number of times it occurs. I try different techniques so that my anger does not unleash its fury instantly. I try to limit the amount of time I allow myself to feel suicidal, not that it always works, but the effort is there. BPD is a constant learning experience, and it’s a good thing I am up to the challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tormenting Trauma of My Body Memories

sad-along-crying-on-couch

TRIGGER WARNING

 

My body starts to tense up as I toss and turn in a semi-dreamlike state which is drawing me into a darkness that I have no control to fight off and instantly I am back there again.

The faces, with their every small detail and expression; the voices so clear I am convinced they are beside me, taunting yet again. The sweaty, stale scent of the room with the bed placed under the window and the walls covered with hockey posters and shelves with trophies and various awards. There are clothes strewn across the blue carpeted floor as one would expect of a teenage boys room. An old acoustic guitar rests against the wall at the foot of the bed and the natural wood markings of its body keep my eyes focused. I imagine walking over to pick it up, strum a few chords to see if it has been kept in tune.

The bedroom light went off and the door closed tight, leaving only a glow from the hallway under the door just enough to prevent total darkness. My eyes were so heavy and as the seconds passed, I was losing focus and I found even the shadows blurry. My body tingled in a strange way, almost like the “pins and needles” one experiences when their foot “falls asleep” and although I still had some feeling, I felt so heavy, as if my body was actually sinking into the bed, and one by one, each limb became almost impossible to move. I try desperately to speak, to utter any noise at all yet no sound came out, my mouth unable to open enough to even form a word. My mind is foggy but in an innate state of terror and the thoughts of what I believed to be impending race at the speed of sound.

Fight or flight is kicking in rapidly and my heart feels as if it beat any faster it would explode. I find it hard to get a deep breath as my breathing has become somewhat labored. The adrenaline is surging through my body, I can feel my core temperature rise and I am willing myself to move…to budge just an inch, to be able to lift a hand or kick a foot in defense, or make even the slightest noise that maybe someone would here, but instead I lay in a semi-conscious state of paralysis.

Time stood still. Every minute seemed like an hour of eternal hell. I could hear them the whole time as they talked about who would go first and were they sure “he” had put enough in my drink. They high fived and tagged in and out as one would see in a tag team wrestling match. My mind is screaming stop, screaming for help until it just shuts down completely, in a state of inexplicable numbness. I cannot fight, nor can I flight, I can only focus my mind on one thing, which happened to be that old acoustic guitar. My body although immobile is still sensing the pain of the vile acts that are being committed, while my mind drifts away to a place where the sun shines brightly, the sounds of the ocean float in the background and it is just me and that guitar creating our own melody.

The rest of the events do not need to be detailed, but as with everything, this too eventually ends. My blurry eyes scan the room for a clock, as I have no idea if I have been there for ten minutes or hours, when I catch the red glow of the digital clock on the dresser to barely make out that it was precisely midnight. My right side seems to be able to move a bit, but certainly not enough to even roll myself off the bed. My head is foggy and pounding and my eyes yet to come to a clear focus. The struggle to move exhausts me and I find my eyes closing and my mind uncontrollably drifting away.

I can’t recall the exact time but it is just before 5a.m. when I wake, feeling groggy, disoriented, nauseous and sore. I stumble around in the dark, my hands grazing across the wall blindly feeling for a light switch in an attempt to find my bearings. The brightness of the light blinds me and I feel a surge of blood rush to my pounding head, as I scan the floor for my pants. The pain is excruciating as I pull them on and I notice my shirt is torn, so I grab a sweatshirt I see lying on the floor and cover myself up. The blood is a slow trickle and I estimate that I can make it home before it soaks through. The house is dark and quiet and the smell of booze and vomit wafts through my nose as I make my way down the stairs and towards the door where I notice people sleeping on couches, chairs and the floor tiptoe across the hardwood floor hoping that a creak will not wake anyone.

To this day, I am not sure how I got home, or when. I do remember lying in bed pretending to have the flu for the next few days and taking at least 50 showers but still being unable to get rid of the feeling of being dirty. It is on the fifth day when I realize I need to seek medical attention as nothing seems to be healing as I had expected. Through the onslaught of questions by the medical staff, followed by the police I remained silent… “I’m sorry, I don’t remember what happened”, “I’m sorry, I am not sure where I was or who I was with”.  The grilling finally ends, and I am released and free to go home, where I would spend the next month digging a hole in my brain deep enough to bury this memory for life. Over the years I would have random flashbacks of this event which I would then convince myself was mixed confusion with the abuse I suffered as a child. For so long the memories flashed in and out like a rerun of a bad TV show but they carried with them no emotional attachment.

Fast forward to the present, and after multiple rounds of therapy, I finally found someone who would introduce me to the concept of body memories. The mind has a remarkable way of self-protection from traumatic memories, but we tend to forget that the body itself has its own sense of memory. I noticed this not long ago when these memories began to surface again through my dreams. Now, not only would I have the lingering effects of the flashback but my body felt stuck in a place between fight and flight; muscles uncontrollably tense, anxiety and heartbeat racing, phantom pains and a sickening feeling in my chest and stomach. My mind may realize I am presently safe and not in harm’s way but my body is stuck back in the moment of trauma. A temporary distraction for the mind may be possible but that provides no reprise for the body. The relaxation techniques, the mindfulness and self-care have yet to stop the body memories, which for me can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.

I am trying to cope with them the best I know how, but often that just means riding out the wave knowing that sometime soon it will lose its force and flow back out with the tides.

 

 

 

The Jar That Protects My Heart

heart-in-a-jar

 

 

I like to keep my heart in a jar; one of those big glass ones with a lid on the top that is punctured with a few holes. Perhaps similar to one you may have used to hold a captured grasshopper or firefly as a child. You were careful to make sure there was enough air going in the jar to sustain this living creature, but made sure the holes were not big enough to allow for an escape. Keeping my heart in that metaphorical jar provides the same type of sustenance, only emotionally instead of physically.

Childhood sexual abuse instantly taints your view of love. Chances are you were not grabbed off the street and assaulted by a stranger. In fact, most of our abusers are family, friends or someone we looked up to and respected. They were people who conditioned you over time to believe you were loved, or claimed to love and care about you. They are the people we are told we can trust and those who are supposed to keep us safe, and as children, we wouldn’t even question that there could be an ulterior motive. We did not realize that this love and affection comes with immeasurable consequences that will weave their way into every aspect of our future life. What we did learn however, is that with love and affection, comes trauma, broken trust and pain.

Survivors are riddled with a profusion of emotions that run the gamut from A to Z. Some are so deeply ingrained in our minds they have gone from emotions to behaviors. The guilt, the shame, the sense of worthlessness, just to name a few, changes your views on both yourself and others. We often feel that we cannot understand ourselves, and find it hard to express and cope with the overwhelming feelings we are experiencing. I am not sure there is a survivor out there that didn’t wish they did not feel the way they do, or wish to wake up one day having forgotten everything and being able to start anew. You would do anything to be that imaginary person without a painful past, or to be able to turn time back and prevent the abuse in the first place.

For me, this is when my jar also got a lock and key. My heart had grown misshapen with every trauma, and since they continued to happen, extra security was required. It was a constant test, an ongoing battle to let just enough of my heart out to be able to function and not enough to be hurt. I am one of those people who needs to be loved, but really does not know how. Accepting love does not come naturally, as it innately comes with a sense of fear and pain. For me, it is a process of testing; putting a bit out there and just as quickly reeling it back in; being able to give a little while still remaining self-protective.

 

Self-blame casts a dark shadow. Consciously or subconsciously there is a piece of you that blames yourself for what happened and even though you understand rationally that is not the case, it carries with it the burden of not feeling deserving of being loved. Personally, I have found it an extremely rare occasion where I have found someone I feel could actually love me for who I am and would accept me with all my emotional baggage and painful past.

With all the people in the world, why would someone choose me? Why would someone actually volunteer to walk the difficult path with me, when there are millions of paved roads to choose from.

That being said, having a guarded heart not only prevents some of the pain, but it also inhibits the opportunity for something good. You may find that there are those rare, precious people who come into your life and seem to pick the lock without you even knowing. They encourage you to loosen the lid a bit at a time, until it is off, and captivity or freedom now becomes the option. It is now up to you to decide if the benefits outweigh the risk. Is being hurt worth the possibility of being loved? As with everything in life you will never know until you try. So I say, take the risk. Allow yourself to truly enjoy the feeling of being loved and loving someone, because whether you believe it or not, you are worthy and deserving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Persistent Darkness of My Suicidal Thoughts

 

 

 writing-girl-2

 

The thoughts never truly end. They stick with me like my shadow, but appear not only when I step into the light. They carry a weight that pulls me back two steps for every one I move forward, hindering the progress I work so hard to achieve. They are like a nagging voice trapped in the back of my mind, calling me towards the darkness. An irrational voice that spends its time trying to negate every positive thought I have worked to achieve. Thoughts as strong as the tide nipping at my ankles, trying to pull me back out to the unknown depths of a vast sea. I have survived this battle three times physically, and mentally in the thousands, and although my last physical suicide attempt was years ago, the emotional battle is a daily ongoing.

Not too long ago, I was told I had chronic suicidal ideations, which I did not know was even a thing to have. Apparently because these thoughts began when I was so young, and have been so constant for so many years, they have become more of an innate nature than a learned behavior. My first attempt when I was eight years old certainly was not the first time I had thought about dying. It was, however, the beginning of me understanding the results that would come from my actions. It was when I realized that whatever this death thing really meant, it held one guarantee; I would be free of pain. 

I am not sure the quantity of pills I swallowed that day. I do know that the entire incident was written off as a simple accident; a case of a child not listening, misbehaving, and testing the limits. In those days it would not have even been a fleeting thought that there could be any intention behind my actions. I was taken off to therapy to have a professional tell me it was not possible that I was suicidal. What possibly could I have gone through in eight short years that would prompt such an act of desperation? I was told I was confused, just feeling sad, and that it must have been a mistake. I certainly did not understand what death was. I was invalidated, judged, misunderstood and brushed aside.

As the years continued, dying became a regular part of my perception of life. The thoughts were increasingly darker and lasted longer and I had devised hundreds of plans in my head…the where, the when and the how. I had no remorse for the people I may hurt as none of them had protected me when I had needed it most, and perhaps they were the root cause of this unbearable pain I lived with hour after hour, day after day. My second attempt was significantly more serious and resulted in a hospitalization in which my stomach was pumped and my cuts stitched up. I was berated, chastised and again, invalidated by my parents and a team of health professionals. It wasn’t me wanting to end my life, it was a teenage act of rebellion; it was a selfish cry for attention that should not go unpunished. I was released three days later. There was no follow up appointment and no trips to therapists or social workers. The incident was a closed topic and was not spoken of again.

I gave up on the actions over my teenage years, but the thoughts and plans continued. I knew I would   be unable to proceed until after my Mom had died, and the preoccupation with her battle with cancer had been the one thing that had kept me alive. The number of times I prayed to switch places with her was countless. In my mind, she could live and I could get the peace I was so desperately seeking. Watching the slow process of a loved one dying just reinforced the thoughts that lived in the darkness of my mind; suicide was the quickest and only way out.

My mom’s death destroyed my world and the thoughts of dying became increasingly welcome. The only person that loved me was gone, and I no longer had to live, or hold on to this overwhelming pain that was consuming my life. I could finally feel peaceful, free and safe. To this day, I am not sure what kept me going over the following years. I awoke to the sadness of having woken up and went to sleep praying not to wake. The thoughts were rampant and instinctual. If something bad happened, it was manageable only because if worse came to worse I could always just end my life. Suicide became the instant solution to anything and everything that caused me pain, and although I knew that one day I would lose my fight, I carried that as a sense of comfort.

I had one more attempt which was meticulously planned and carried out, and to this day I cannot understand why I am still here. It simply should not have been possible for me to survive and I have spent so much time analyzing why I did, but as I have come to learn over the years, I guess it simply was not my time. Perhaps my life had an underlying purpose which I had yet to discover.

Fast forward to present day, and I find myself still searching for that reason, that explanation as to why I lived. I would like to say I have no more thoughts, and no more plans, but that simply is not the case. I am not sure if I will ever experience a day when they don’t at least drift across my mind. The actions may be under control for now, but they can sneak up on me with the velocity and ferociousness of a tornado and I will always have to remain aware and alert to keep them at bay. I will always be searching for something to provide the same sense of relief and comfort as those thoughts do, but as long as I am searching, it means I am fighting, which means I have yet to give up.

 

 

 

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The Fear of My Emotional Oversensitivity

 

emotionally sensitive

 

Borderline personality disorder and relationships are like oil and vinegar; without constant attention to stirring they separate. The rollercoaster of emotions we live on takes us from extreme highs to abysmal lows, with little warning and varying frequencies. We don’t seem to have much of a middle point or grey area when it comes to reacting emotively, and our emotions are so substantial they keep the rational mind at bay. Despite the necessity and desire, it is not easy for us to make or keep relationships whether they are friendships or something more and in most cases we understand the challenges you face trying to maintain relations with us; how could we not? We live them every day.

I was never a loud, boisterous child. I have been insecure since I can first remember and tended to stay on the reserved and quiet side. I wouldn’t say I was the initiator of friendships but I certainly had no lack of them in childhood, and because of playing soccer and being on a team, I had friends through my teenage and college years. During your mid-twenties to early thirties peoples tend to come and go as their lives take different directions and as you age, you tend to be more selective of those who you call friends or start relationships with.

Although I was not properly diagnosed until somewhat recently, the tendencies of my BPD were lurking beneath the surface my entire life and became exacerbated in my thirties. It was then when I first started to notice the intense fear of abandonment and the lengths that I would go to in my relationships to avoid it. I would try so hard, albeit unsuccessfully to mold myself to both meet the needs of and please the people around me, walking delicately on eggshells as to avoid any misstep that may result in them leaving. The mere thought of being deserted would bring me to the brink of a panic attack and incite every negative thought of self-worth that had ever passed through or taken up residence in my mind.

Due to this incessant fear of being left we are consumed by this range of extreme emotions that is often expressed in what may seem like random outbursts, despite our want to contain them. The smallest thing that may be an indication of abandonment we take with the utmost of severity. Something as simple as not having a text answered or not being included in something can send us on an emotional rollercoaster in such a brief period of time. We may go from being fully loving and supportive to emotionally withdrawn in moments due to the scenarios we are creating in our heads, regardless if  there is truth to them or not. In our minds we truly believe that this is the beginning of the end; that whatever action or thing which is upsetting us is actually the first step towards you making a separation, or distancing yourself from us.

The ability to set healthy boundaries in relationships is remarkably difficult with a mind that is set in a world of black and white. We are either in a relationship or out and there is very little grey area in between. In a relationship I am passionately loyal and loving, but tend to love too quickly and with a friendship it becomes a case of becoming attached too swiftly. Although easing into things and taking it slow may be what we truly desire, our illness is simply not fond of that premise. Our illness tells us if it is good jump in and when there is a danger or fear of abandonment, close down or jump out as a method of self-protection, and regardless of how hard we try, this emotional fluctuation has become an innate reaction to a long, deep seeded fear.

Contrary to popular belief, people with BPD are not manipulative or attention seeking and our behaviors are in no way meant to hurt anyone, especially our loved ones, and doing so unintentionally fills us with much pain. In most cases we love and care too much, we just don’t have the proper tools to either cope with our emotions or effectively express them. Our illness directs us towards the negative coping mechanisms that have become both comfortable and reliable. Our seemingly unprovoked rants and outbursts to the slightest things are our instant reactions to a perceived danger, whether it’s abandonment or hurt, and despite our contempt for our own behavior, it often takes years to unlearn.

There are days when I still hate feeling like I am a walking open wound, but I am gradually learning to accept this oversensitivity. I thought it was a character flaw to be emotionally raw, but am learning to realize that if you take that away, you remove the very essence of my being. You would take the part of me that is empathetic, creative, loyal and loving. You would strip me of my deep appreciation for the little things in life and the awareness and compassion for the pain of others that has become second nature to me, and although I will continue to work on emotional regulation, I will no longer change the foundation of my very being for anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Things I Should Have Said

 

writing

 

I survived childhood domestic abuse. My mom did not. She may not have died directly from the abuse, but I believe that her spirit and body were so broken over the years, that when the cancer came, there was just not enough fight left. I had a few years before she passed to say what I needed to say, and at least 100 times I had it all planned out. I would tell her everything, and not hold anything back this time. I had decided I would accept the guilt that would come after dumping such tremendous weights on a dying woman. I waited for the “right” time which in reality, never happens, and before I knew it, she was gone. It was too late and these burdens I carry would be left unsaid and unheard….until now.

It is often quite difficult to say anything bad about the dead, almost as if we feel it an unfair fight, as they have no voice to defend themselves. This ideology can often lead to the deceased person being put “on a pedestal”, and their positive qualities being highlighted, which is alright, however it usually involves us either minimizing or completely disregarding the negative. I did this when my mom passed, spending years trying to erase the negative, and remember only the positive, however, the mind does not work like that. We have to embrace the bad as well, in order to heal and move on, and although my Mom was an involved, loving and caring parent, she failed to protect me.

The arguing and fighting was the normalcy I knew and a constant around my house when I was growing up. The beatings were a little less frequent, a lot more intense and the images are seared in my head like grill marks on a steak.  When the violence finally stopped I was told to get over it, to be like my mom and “just move on”. After all, most of the time it wasn’t me being beat directly so why was I still stewing over it? The topic was closed, a part of the past and it was time to grow up and live in the present….words that played over and over in my head for years to come.

I did what I was told, and pretended to move past the first 13 years of my life. I repressed as much as I could, trying to convince myself and everyone else that I had been unaffected, that there were no long term effects on my life.

I lied…to myself and everyone around me, especially my Mom.

It didn’t just affect me; it traumatized me, scarred me and destroyed a great portion of my childhood. I should not have had to become an adult at age five. I should have been playing and exploring the wonders of childhood, not getting ice packs and Kleenex, making coffees and listening to and consoling my Mom. I should not have had to sleep unsoundly, and be on high alert at night with her in my bed, holding on to me tightly, out of pure fear, and the hope that he wouldn’t start the beating in front of me. I became a safety net for her and tried to step up as the protector. It was me moving the furniture in front of the door and sitting outside her bedroom door crying, pretending to be sick as a distraction. It was me who walked in the room in the middle of a rape and it was me always begging not to move back home again.

These are not things children forget. These are not things that children can just “move on” from; in fact I don’t believe adults can either. My mom certainly did a good job acting like it never happened which may have been easier given most of her thoughts were understandably consumed with her cancer, but she never truly moved on either.

I should have told her how much it hurt me, how much it took from me. I should have told her I turned my lamp back on every night in case I had to get up quickly to help. I should have let her know that I became hyper vigilant and didn’t (and still don’t) sleep soundly through any night because I was too afraid I would miss her cries and screams. I wish she had known that showing me the bruises and telling me the details was the wrong thing to do, that I was a child, not a confidante. I could have told her how angry I was inside every time we left home and returned shortly thereafter because it would be better this time and that he was sorry and it wouldn’t happen again. I wish she had known how much it added to my  fear and distrust of adults, and my “unnecessary and dramatic” outbursts of anger, and that how  I was reacting was learned, and not me being a bad kid. I should have let her know  how badly I just wanted to be a kid and experience life with some semblance of innocence and joy.

I should have, I could have, but I did not.

 

 

I Have Never Learned to Love Myself

3 words

 

 

They are only three words. Apart they can be used in so many ways, yet together they make an imprint on your heart and your mind. Together they can take you from smiles to tears; from bliss to blackness or from being yourself to doubting yourself. They can bond people or rip them apart. They can be said with passion and desire, or said with no meaning, in a habitual manner. They can be spoken among loved ones, families and friends. Words don’t discriminate and these three are worldwide, barring no culture, race or religion. They are needed to be heard and felt by all living beings.

Three simple words…I Love You.

People always say if you don’t love yourself you can’t love anyone else. Is that a truth or just one of those things “they” say? For me those words could not be more untrue.

When I was growing up my Mom told me she loved me all the time. I fully believed her and I repeated them back with truth and feeling. My father on the other hand hardly uttered the words. My extended family said them on all the appropriate occasions, and dutifully I replied. At that time in my life, with the exception of my Mom I held little truth to their words, or the words of any adults for that matter. I always felt “surface loved”; like they loved me because that is what “family” is supposed to do. I wondered if it was because I was adopted and not their blood, that they would never love me like they loved each other. It is an awful feeling for a child to feel so unloved; the only saving grace being my Mom.

This feeling not only continued in my pre-teen years, but actually got worse. With my Mom dealing with domestic abuse and depression, the belief that it was somehow my fault started to sink in and the feeling of being unlovable deepened. Maybe it was something I did, or didn’t do that made him so angry, or maybe I wasn’t a good kid and that is why she was so depressed. My self-blame turned into self-hatred, which directly correlates to the feeling that I cannot be loved. Was Let me clarify, it is more than me thinking I don’t deserve love, although that is a huge part of it, but that I actually can’t be loved. It is something I have felt as long as I have memories, and although it has wavered in degrees over the years, it never left and still hasn’t to this day.

My teenage years were mostly consumed with taking care of my Mom, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and although the bond between us was deep was also full of my teen angst. I could not get the love I needed from my mom, and because of the years of sexual abuse which had recently ended, I looked anywhere I could find for some love and attention. I went through a promiscuous stage, as do many survivors, where the only physical affection I was repeatedly shown aside from my Mom, was in a sexual manner. Even though you realize seeking love this way is wrong you do what you know, repeatedly and still never feel loved.

When my Mom died, I lost the only person who I felt loved me, and the only one I could love.

As an adult, I have learned to love other people, and not just on a surface level, but to the fullest extent that I know, however, I have not learned to love myself or accept true and lasting love. I have allowed two people to really love me, as they have stuck with me during the dark times, but those three words from anyone else, I question. After all, if I can’t be loved or love myself, how can anyone else possibly do so? I require a lot of trust before I can believe those words, and quite frankly, most people do not stick around long enough for me to accept them as truths.

Fast forward to now and the “Twitterverse”, where I have made some very good friends who have stuck with my through the hard times. I don’t have as much difficulty telling them I love them as I do accepting their words. Please don’t misunderstand; I certainly believe that they are truly meant by whoever spoke them; however the fear of accepting and believing them means I will have to learn to love myself, which I have no idea how to do. How do I change something ingrained in me since I was put up for adoption? I have been to therapists, read countless books and articles. I know exactly why I feel like this, yet I still can’t fix it, learn it or unlearn the ingrained thought.

So, if I tell you I love you, know that I mean it to the full extent that my being allows, which will likely be different than yours. If you tell me you love me, please know I do believe you as much as my heart will allow.  As the saying goes, “I’m listening but I can’t hear you”. How I wish that was not true.

The Tyrannical Voice of My Anxiety

 

Anxiety is depression’s evil twin; where one can be found, the other lurks nearby. They work as a team, pairing up to make your path of healing follow longer, unpaved roads.  Imagine yourself sinking in sand; the depression is the sand that is holding you down, the anxiety is piling more on top to make sure you stay there. There is nothing to grab onto to pull you up, and no matter how hard you fight you end up buried.

Anxiety is an emotion that most people will feel at least once in their lives. For some, this anxiety is situational and when the trauma or loss has healed, the anxiety is either lessened or gone.  For me and many other people, that same anxiety is not only heightened but prolonged, and does not always need a “situation” for it to occur.

Anxiety has its own unique voice in my head which causes added stress and worry. It makes me overthink every moment of every day. It makes me question not only all the things I have done in the past but all the things I am doing now, and plan to do in the future.  Anxiety causes me to doubt the simplest of decisions, and often prevents me from making any in the first place. It takes a normal situation like a resolved argument with a friend or family member, and forces me to question if it is really resolved or not. Something like a text not being answered in an “appropriate” time frame can blow my feelings disproportionately out of control. Imagine walking by a group of strangers that are laughing and your first instinct is not that someone must have said something funny, but that they must be laughing at you. That is what anxiety can do

The scale of anxiety ranges from a rapid heartbeat and tightness in your chest to a full blown, debilitating panic attack. I would like to say mine is somewhere in the middle, however it is exacerbated by my BPD which slides me up the scale a bit. There is no chilling out, or relaxing or even calming down, and telling me to do so is definitely an unwelcome idea.

Anxiety makes me think poorly of myself. It makes me think I am unwanted and unloved and reminds me constantly of the life I had “before” my illness. It makes me wonder if I am good enough to have friends and what they and everyone else thinks of me. It makes me afraid and nervous to attempt anything out of my comfort zone, with the dreaded fear of failure looming. It sometimes feels like the world is closing in on me, and there is nowhere for me to escape. It can be emotionally draining, frustrating and exhausting.

The stigma surrounding anxiety is not conducive to healing. The comments… “Just cheer up”, “it’s all in your head” or “life’s too short to be sad and afraid”, all may be said with good intentions, but are the last things I want to hear. Do you not think that if I, or anyone for that matter, could “just cheer up”, we would do so as there is no enjoyment in anxiety? There is no pleasure in keeping quiet in a conversation because I am afraid my words will be judged. There is no fun in the fear that is felt when I am put in the spotlight or made the center of attention. The worst part about this relentless source of negativity and doubt is that rationally you know it is lying but you just can’t quell the voice.

 

I Want You to Want to Live

 

 

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SUICIDE….Catch your attention yet? It’s a shame if it didn’t because the actions most certainly will.

The rate of suicide is on the rise worldwide in all age categories. It affects all ethnicities, cultures and religions.

 It is bias free.

It is a last resort, a desperate attempt to quell the never ending and relentless pain that monopolizes your mind. It has become the only feasible way to rid yourself of the burdensome weight that has dragged you to this level of despair.

That is how I feel anyway, the countless number of times I have and do fall into the darkness, and because I can empathize, take a minute to read this letter to you.

Dear You.

If you are reading this there is a small piece of you that wants to hold on.

I am so proud of you for reaching out, even if you have done so without words. You have kindly given me a few minutes of your time, and I do appreciate that.

I want you to live.

I want you to want to live.

I won’t feed you some bullshit like it’s all going to be ok with time because it may not be, and it may not turn out as you wish, but you will never know if you don’t stick around to find out. I will instead tell you I am here with you and let’s take this a minute at a time.

I will remind you that although I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I will be by your side to find out.

You are so important.

I won’t make you feel selfish by telling you to stick around for your family or friends, because I know you feel that leaving would not only end your burden, but theirs as well.

I will tell you that someone loves you despite how you feel inside. I will remind you that you are not and never will be a burden. You may not see or even hear it, but your life is valued by someone out there; it is valued by me. I don’t know you, but I do care because I can empathize with your pain; I feel it myself.

You are incredibly strong.

I won’t ever tell you that you are being dramatic and don’t really want to die.

I will instead be here to listen and validate your feelings because they are as significant as you are.

I am so proud of you for still staying with me.

I won’t ever tell you things could be worse, or that other people have it worse than you and don’t want to die.

I will acknowledge your despair and lack of hope. I will never compare your pain to another’s. It would be like observing two gunshot wounds, one in the chest and one in the leg. Yes, it is worse to get shot in the chest, but it does not take away the pain of being shot in the leg.

You are beautiful.

I won’t use the old adage “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

I will say that your problems might not be temporary but I will be with you and help you to find a coping mechanism that works for you. I will tell you that suicide is simply not a solution.

I won’t shove the ideas of therapy or medication down your throat as that will not help at the moment.

I will ask some of the most important words of all “how can I help?” I will provide you with a suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255 or text the word “start” to 741-741.)

You are a warrior.

You are a survivor. Your track record of making it through trauma, heartbreak and devastation is 100%.  Despite the rocks life has thrown at you, you have emerged with scars and grit. You have proven those wrong who expected you not to make it, those who gave up on you long before you gave up on yourself.

You are amazing.

You have a purpose in this life, whether you realize it at this point or not. Your book has so many chapters to be written. You are needed, your voice and your story are essential for someone, be it a stranger or a friend.

You are your own hero. You have done what you think you cannot do. You have looked death in the face, stared it down and walked away having won another battle in your war.

If you are still reading this, I am incredibly proud of you for stopping what you were doing, and giving me a few moments of your precious time. Just reading this is the beginning…you have extended your arm, you just have to unclench your fist. I implore you to keep this conversation going, be it with a hotline, a friend or family member, or even me (@onelastkick71). You have taken the first step; let’s make it to the second together.

You are loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Through the Glass Window of My Emotions

Window writing

 

 

 When I am around people I don’t know well, or even strangers, I often feel translucent. It is as if they do not see me, what I am wearing or what I look like. I feel like my tanned skin becomes like a glass window, through which anyone can see, and if they do stop to glance in, they do not see muscle and bone, but instead see my truths. It’s like a video tape of my life is constantly running, over and over, for everyone to see, and no matter how hard I try I cannot close the curtains.

Insecurity is a bitch, rearing its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. For me however, it does not just attack in the moment, but every moment; anywhere, anytime, not giving me a minute’s rest. Insecurity does not walk alone. It is best friends with that prevalent negative voice that replays in your head over and over, with one feeding off the other. I don’t want to feel like a stranger’s random glance is a dirty look, or a group of people laughing, are doing so at me. Rationally, I know both of those things likely are not occurring, but convincing my mind of that is a different story.  I am tired of feeling the fear and anxiety that is brought on by these insecurities. I don’t want any spotlights shining on me putting me at the center of attention, I really just want to blend in, or at least feel like I do.

I wondered what the root of my insecurities were, for a long time. I blamed everything from the sexual abuse and the domestic violence to the insults and degradation. It must be something from my childhood that has caused these feelings so deep they feel innate.

It must be one of my illnesses then; maybe the Borderline Personality Disorder, or the Major Depressive Disorder, or the Complex PTSD.  Could I throw blame at the dysthymia or lifelong suicidal thoughts? After all, feeling insecure is common in many disorders, so it must be one of the illnesses then, or perhaps the mixed cocktail of diagnosis.

I can’t recall the moment the light bulb finally turned on, but I can tell you the revelation that came with it. My insecurity around people may have started out with past traumas however, the one place I did not look, was inside. I self-project the negative feelings I have about myself onto everyone around me, bringing me right back to the part about feeling translucent. I feel like by glancing in my window you will instantly see how I feel about myself. If I feel ugly that day, why wouldn’t you think the same? Since I feel like a failure, how could you not see me that way? If I can barely like myself, how do I expect you to do so? Since I know what my scars are from, that random person I pass on the street must know too. I could go on and on, but I think the point is clear.

“Rational emotions” should be an oxymoron.

Sadly, sometimes when that proverbial light bulb turns on, it shows a glimpse of light in the darkness but does not lead us out. So now I have identified the problem, which is me, how I fix it, or is it even repairable. Will I always feel insecure around people that don’t know me? Will I forever avoid people, places and things like I often do now?

There are no pills for this, that I know, and the years of intermittent therapy have yet to help improve my insecurities. I have tried reading self-help books and doing the corresponding workbooks, to no avail. The answer lies in the same place I failed to look in the first place…myself. The day I stop feeling ugly or like a failure, or like a walking scar will be the same day I stop thinking you see me as I do. It will be a day where I feel self-assured and fearless. It will be a day when I feel finally feel free.

I imagine what a wonderful day it would be.

               

 

 

The Challenge of Surrendering My Expectations

 

 surrender

 

I am not sure if I love my father. When he says those dreaded three words…”I love you”, it is as if the words are merely skimming the surface of my being, they become words with little meaning. When I do repeat it back to him, the words flow out habitually, feeling both empty and emotionless. Rationally I know there is some form of attachment on a deeper level, but I can’t find the words to accurately describe what those emotions are, nor am I sure I want to go digging to find out. As the past has unkindly and repeatedly reminded me, there are certain fortresses that are built with such strength and resilience they can no longer be broken down. As one brick is chipped away, three more have taken its place and somewhere behind these layers of safety and self-protectiveness lay my emotions for my father.

Not often was the abuse directed at me, but at my mother instead. I have a few memories before the first beating, but they are like scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that can never be made into a picture. The cries and yelling had startled me awake but the uncertainty and fear kept me under the blankets. It was shortly after Christmas, the tree was still decorated and a few opened gifts remained lying about. My mom was crying and I had sat on the loveseat next to her, with a box of Kleenex and one of the toys I had received for Christmas. I remember feeling uncomfortable with her tears yet feeling the need to console, so I placed my small hand on her back and started rubbing. I brought new tissues, her cigarettes and emptied the ashtray more than once. I hugged her tight and told her everything would be alright, although I could not begin to understand why my dad would hit my mom until she bruised. I was almost five years old and that was the first day I began construction on a wall to keep my father out.

He perpetuated the typical abusive cycle; first was the beating, usually at night, followed by a morning of pleasantries and breakfast like nothing had ever happened, and wrapping up with some sort of gift for both my mom and I…and repeat. I cannot begin to tell you how many times this occurred, but according to him it was only a few, and my memories are highly exaggerated. To this day I can’t fathom any five year old imagining being dangled out a bedroom window, held only by her ankles, as her father’s desperate attempt to get at her mother, who was hiding in her bedroom. I can’t conceive of anyone who would want to create that sense of fear for themselves. I can’t imagine a child wanting to walk on eggshells for perpetuity around a person who is supposed to provide unconditional love and support.

The sad thing is I much preferred any type of physical abuse compared to the emotional assaults I was dealt. The bruises fade, the cuts turn into scars and fade with time, but the words stick like crazy glue and seem like they are on a never ending loop, playing over and over again in my head until they become part of my belief system. Words alone can destroy an adult’s sense of self, so for a child in their formative years, they can cause extreme damage to the way we see not only ourselves, but the world as well. The words to this day still run rampant in my mind…

“You’re stupid”

“You are a failure”

“You will never be anything”

“You make it hard for anyone to love you”

I could go on and on, but I think the point has been made. I would rather a scar for every letter in all those words than to have to spend tremendous amounts of emotional energy unlearning the damage done by what was said. The spoken word can never be retrieved.

Why do we seek approval and validation from the people that don’t give it? Can we not brush them off and focus on the ones who approve of us and accept us for who we are; is it innate or a learned behavior? I know that I have spent the majority of my life seeking some sort of approval from him. I waited for years for the validation that I had been sexually abused; that it wasn’t something I had made up to get attention. I hung on to the hope that one day he would admit and own up to the damage he caused me. “One day” has yet to come.

I see my Dad every two weeks when we meet for a coffee that lasts no more than an hour. That is my quota. I skip most family functions aside from funerals as I know my Dad has expressed his disappointment in me to both family and friends. I have learned that my life is much easier when I expect nothing from him. What I need is never going to come and waiting with bated breath is only causing myself more pain, so I have made as much peace with it as I can. I no longer tolerate the verbal abuse and take charge of the direction of conversation which stays at a superficial level. It feels like it is too late to look at him as a father figure, so I could best describe it as an awkward surface friendship.

I am learning to accept only what he has to offer and to not hope for anything more. I have learned to understand that he is not going to change and all I can do is change my reaction to him. I realize perhaps he does love me in the best way he knows how, regardless of if it fulfills my needs or not and just letting go of that expectation has relieved a tremendous amount of my hurt and anger. For once in my life, he is no longer in control; I have finally taken that power back.

 

 

A Few Things to Remind “Little Me

 

 

  • writing girl

 

I started out wanting to write a letter to my inner child; a letter to the frightened and traumatized little girl I was. I planned to write it in a tone that I would speak to a young child, when it suddenly donned on me that my inner child is more like an inner mini-adult. My trauma started as an infant, and I truly feel I have never fully felt that sense of innocence that is the marvel of childhood. I have watched my best friend’s son grow from an infant to now, being seven, and the wonder, innocence and excitement in his very being as he discovered the world was not only a delight to see but an awakening of sorts for me. Through his eyes the sights, scents and sounds were all so innocent and full of awe and adventure. How refreshing it was to see the discovery of life with a fresh, unbiased view. For me, the sights were a bit darker, the scents not so fresh and the sounds a bit more frightening. Imagine it as if you were always wearing sunglasses; you can see the light but it can’t quite reach you.

I haven’t ever given great thought to speaking to this inner child of mine and I really don’t know what I would say. Would I take the practical view and point out the obvious things like tell someone this time or don’t even try to trust adults; would I point out that spending that much time with older kids could be dangerous? That spending that amount of time hanging out in the park or on the street could lead to violations?

Would I be angry? Would I yell at my inner child for not doing something to make things stop; from my dad hitting my Mom to the boys and young men who violated me? Would I be mad that I never told my Mom as not to burden her because of what she was dealing with, or that no one noticed the behavioral changes? Would I tell myself to not let that anger internalize and to try and get it out in any way possible, because keeping it in will lead to a destruction of sense of self which may never be recovered?

Perhaps I would blame my little self; believing somehow that my silence just attracted more predators; that it must have been something I wore or the way I acted that allowed the abuse. Blame myself for not being brave or bold, or for seeking attention in the wrong manner from the wrong people. Blame myself for not having a sense of confidence or a voice to speak up with. Would I tell l tell myself to direct the blame where it is deserved; not only the perpetrators but all the people who failed to see the signs, or would I blame myself for not giving the right signs, or  perhaps not enough signs.

I wonder if I would tell her it’s ok to have fun or that it’s ok not to be on guard every moment of every day; That it is ok to be a kid and laugh and play and not take on adult responsibilities or that it is safe to trust some people and that not everyone would hurt me; That it was ok to believe that Santa was real without a sense of skepticism, or that what was happening to me was not happening to all the other children and that it was not normal. Would I say how important it is to remember the details of the good times because the darkness will eventually take over, losing not only memories but chunks of time.

After all these maybes and “would-bes”, I think I finally know what I would say:

Dear Little Me

Your life is going to have more curves than straight lines. It is going to be a rollercoaster ride that you will want to, and will repeatedly attempt to jump off. Know that the failures when jumping were meant to work out as they did. You are going to see and experience things no living being should have to and you are going to be scared, but I need you to stay strong. I need you to do exactly what you did, because those actions were what got me… from you to me. I need you to be brave and valiant and not let them completely destroy your mind and remember your body is just a vessel for your soul. That no matter what happens or what anyone says, none of it, absolutely none of it is your fault, and it never will be. What you will go through will make you stronger than you thought possible and that will eventually lead to you having a voice…a voice for all the children like you that can’t speak. It is said that you are only given the life tests you can handle, so hang in there little one, because despite what may seem like insurmountable odds, above all, you are a survivor.

 

 

 

Why Did My Self-Esteem Fail To Thrive?

 

 

writing sad girl

 

If you could achieve the right chemical combination to somehow create and bottle self-esteem you would be a billionaire. It would fly off the shelves faster than the production rate, with hundreds of millions seeking its miracle cure, myself included. What has happened to us as a society? We all can’t come from tragic pasts, abuse, neglect or broken families. There must have been some who were raised with love and affection, yet regardless of age, culture, race or religion, so many are bonded by one commonality; a lack of inner confidence.

Self-esteem is essential to live a healthy life; it is more fundamental than the normal ups and downs associated with situational changes.  For people with good self-esteem, normal ups and downs may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs drastically impact the way they see themselves. People with poor self-esteem often rely on how they are doing in the present moment to determine how they feel about themselves. Possessing little self-regard can lead people to depression and other mental illnesses. It can cause people to fall short of their potential and to tolerate abusive situations and relationships.

Our self-esteem evolves throughout our lives as we develop an image of ourselves through our experiences with different people and activities. Experiences during childhood play a particularly large role in the shaping of self-esteem. Building self-confidence is something most parents try desperately to achieve. They praise us when we do well and encourage us when we are trying. They want to send us out into the world feeling confidant, strong, believing in ourselves and able to keep a sense of self through all life’s twists and turns. Then there are parents who have low self-esteem themselves and spend more time discouraging and berating, whilst convincing you it is for your own good…”tough love” as they call it. So how is it, that regardless of upbringing, the number of people who are completely confident is few and far between? Has life beaten that many people down? Are we more sensitive than previous generations? What has caused this influx of loss of confidence? It’s like an egg timer…our parents fill all the sand up at the top, yet somehow life turns us upside down and we are drained and empty before we know it.

For me, I feel like my sand never filled up the top, but instead, the timer was always leaning on a slant downwards. As my Mom tried to fill it up, my Dad and the predators took it away. I was never an outspoken kid, or the one who wanted to be the center of attention. I never wanted to be chosen to answer in class even though I knew what it was, and I skipped almost every oral presentation up until college. Too many eyes on me make me want to crawl out of my skin and that has never changed. I still have difficulty walking into a restaurant or bar alone to meet someone and I don’t do well doing things on my own. Insecurity feeds off of lack of self –esteem.

I have experienced confidence in two different areas of my life; soccer and skiing. Both I became quite accomplished at which seemed at one point to improve how I felt about myself. I knew in my heart that I was good, and for the first time there was something that no one could take from me. My Dad could say all the negative things he wanted and it didn’t hurt.  This self-esteem thing was like a shield, keeping me safe, with the words bouncing off it and never sinking in. The sad thing was, with the end of each match or race I found myself empty again, the sense of pride and confidence sunken back down to the depths of my normality.

Not a day goes by where I don’t wish that sense of self-esteem carried over to other areas of my life, spreading like wildflower seeds carried by the wind. I try to bring myself back to those memories in my mind and make a desperate grasp at not only remembering, but feeling  what it felt like to “feel good” about yourself, however, as with everything unused, it fades with time. I can picture myself holding the trophies, or being on the podium but for the life of me I can’t remember how it felt, which is not only frustrating, but painful. It is like when my Mom died and within five years I could no longer remember her voice, no matter how hard I struggled to do so. You want something so badly yet it always remains slightly out of your grasp.

I have dealt with and overcome a lot in my life, but no therapists, no self-help books, nothing I have tried has allowed me to gain a positive sense of self, and I am at the point where I wonder if it is even possible. Self-doubt and self-hatred continue to plague me from the moment I open my eyes to the moment I drift off to sleep and I wish to wake up one morning, feeling good about who I am and what I have done for others; to stop not doing things because I don’t have the confidence and I am afraid. Even as I write this, I don’t believe in my heart it is good enough or helpful enough to make a difference. I often question why I continue to write these words and the only reason I can come up with is I don’t want anyone to feel like I do.  It is an awful feeling to doubt your own truths.

 

 

Did I Know It Was Still Abuse Then?

 

 

 stop-child-abuse-1

 

Since I have suffered depression since my first memories, the accompanying frame of mind and sense of self, over the years, becomes the norm. So if I have technically never been “well”, how will I know what it feels like if I ever achieve it? Will it be like a light bulb going on in my head finally lighting up the path to happiness? Will it feel like a wave coming in to shore and gathering my pains before retreating back to the sea? Will my life just make sense one day and suddenly I will find my meaning and purpose in this life? Will the shame, guilt and blame finally be gone? Truthfully, I have no idea what it would feel like, as I have never attained it. I could create a hundred scenarios about what it would feel like, but the one I would wish for the most would be to simply feel lighter, both emotionally and spiritually. I imagine the sun shining a little brighter, the world not being so frightening and the glass actually being half full.

I have been to multiple therapists over the years to cover various aspects of the traumas I have been through. Every therapist has a different approach so some want you to relive the memories of the past; some wanting to focus on how the past affects the present and some still stuck in the archaic world of Freud’s.  There is every type of behavioral therapy you can think of, hypnotherapy, psychiatrists and psychologists all specializing in one area or another. Therapy is often like the medication roller coaster, you have to try a bunch until you find the one that works for you. My sexual abuse seemed to always be the prime area of concern so that is what we would discuss, over and over. We went over how it’s not my fault, and not to self-blame and to place the responsibility where it lies. We went over of some of the events in detail, others we just skimmed over. I’ve lay on a couch, sat in a fancy chair, and watched them scribble on notepads, question me and analyze my answers. I read the self- help books they recommended and did the corresponding workbooks. I must be better after all that…right?

I still have some triggers, but they are mostly scent related and I don’t have much of a reaction other than the cold chill that runs up my spine. I have stopped blaming myself or feeling ashamed and come to realize that predators will always find prey, and since I was just a child, it was and never will be my fault. However, at what age are you not considered a child? I know what it is in the eyes of the law, but in your own eyes does it differ? With a lot of work I was able to let go of some of the trauma from when I was young and helpless, but what about when I was 12 or 13? Was I not a pre-teen/teenager then? No longer a small helpless child yet I allowed these events to continue. I did not speak up even though I was not threatened. I did not have to fight back as there was no aggression. Did I just submit willingly? Was it consensual on my half even though he was over 40? Was it me going through a promiscuous stage, seeking attention the only way I had received it from men?

At that age, was it my fault?

I had to have known better. I must have known it was wrong, so why did I not stop it. Repeated sexual abuse can sometimes become like a routine in your life. It has happened so often, it just becomes what you know. Or does it? This is where my struggle lies; where I cannot yet forgive myself, or not blame myself because I am not sure I will ever be clear on whether I somehow encouraged it by not speaking. I can’t remember what I was thinking or what I was feeling at the time, I just know what my actions were and I know I struggle to accept them as abuse. Somehow in my mind I have put an age on my “child” abuse, and not included that period of time, perhaps because I my mind is screaming at me that I was no longer  a child, and should have had some responsibility over my actions. I mean I had already been through so much by 13 that I considered myself an old soul and had plenty of responsibility caring for others…just none for myself.

So, I guess I’m not yet “better, despite all the work and the thought that one chapter of my life was finally closed, however I am now starting to wonder if it ever completely will be. I wonder if the load I carry can only lighten, never leave. Seems like healing one thing often opens a new wound and the cycle of healing perpetuates itself with no end in sight, so on with the fight I go.

 

I Can Do This, It’s Just a Day

 

writing calendar

 

I need to remind myself often that it’s just a day; 17 hours or 1020 minutes of time awake. Good, bad, or indifferent, it’s just a day like all the ones before it. I made it through years of trauma and somehow made it this far, so whatever this day brings, I have every intention of making it through this one too. I have many bad days, where I can’t pinpoint why, I just know I feel heavy and sad. I wish for to awaken again in a different mindset so I can start again and it won’t be a bad day. I wish for the control over my mind that some people have, to influence their own thoughts in a positive manner but instead, I have mastered the ability to negatively self-talk, even at a subconscious level. I try to sort through the mess inside my head, filter through the past and trying to shove it aside so it isn’t affecting my present. It isn’t easy and even with practice and a desire to change my mind set, I fail far more often than I succeed.

It’s just a day.

Some days I feel like I can’t possibly take any more and even taking my next breath seems painful and exhausting. I become blanketed in a darkness so black no light could ever shine in. I often feel defeated, like I have fought so many battles yet despite my best efforts remain wounded from each fight. Although my fears are mostly inanimate, these fears are very real to me. I feel like I was robbed of my innocence, my ability to trust, my sense of value and self. The violations inflicted on me were out of my control which makes you angry, but I don’t have a proper outlet, so I just internalize. The voice of negativity comes through a loudspeaker and does not turn off.

It’s just a day.

Rationally I know I am not my thoughts and that my illness is lying to me. I know I have to dig in and draw from a reserve I rarely use, in order to fight the negative thoughts and get through the day. I know these thoughts should not define or control me, but on some days they do, and I have come to learn that the less I fight them, the shorter their visit is. I try to accept that it is simply a bad day and attempt to accept these negative thoughts and their emotional side effects. I want to allow myself to feel them, without allowing losing my control. I try to remember that I have been through thousands of days like this and still managed to survive, what makes today any different?

It’s just a day.

Days like these I spend too much time trying to decipher what thoughts and actions are illness related and what are just habitual. I find myself questioning if I have a purpose in this world, and if I do, will I ever find it, or at least get a clue. My illness reminds me I will never truly feel accepted or a safe sense of attachment. The negative voice drowns me with guilt and blame for driving my friends away, even though I now realize my conduct was BPD related. I fail to remember that I have an illness, I am not an illness.

It’s just a day

On these days I will learn to remember I don’t deserve to be judged, and that it is ok to have my own voice scream loud enough to drown out the negativity. I will convince myself that I own my thoughts and no longer have need for the adverse and disparaging ones that have I have been fed to me for years. I will become able to see that I am valuable and deserving of love simply because I exist. I will remind myself I am not alone, and that asking for help does not minimize my strength, but perhaps enhances it. I will remember there is an online community where people validate your pain, and hear, not just listen. I will train myself to reach out to without embarrassment or feeling weak, instead of internalizing to the point of thoughts and possibly actions of self-harm.

It’s just a day.

I will conquer these minutes, these hours, and these days. I have fought to survive this long, is there a point of giving up yet? I will feel better one day, and possibly do more than just survive the days, maybe one day I will thrive. Perhaps I could make a difference and use my negatives to help educate others. I would really like to learn to love myself and trust others enough to let them love me. I want to subdue that fear somehow as I think I might feel a bit less alone. You are worth giving yourself the same love, affection and respect as you do to everyone around you. I hope to realize one day that I am worth the same love, understanding and respect as I give to those around me.

I’ve got this.

It’s just a day.