Last Night

Last night, you dragged me home from the pub -drunk- after a drink too many of Chardonnay. And this morning, as I nursed my hangover, you  shared with me how scared you were last night. And yet, I have no recollection of the night’s events.

You are not the only one to tell me that you’re scared. My therapist says that my nihilist attitude scares her. My friends and family keep checking in on me, because they are afraid I might act on my suicidal thoughts. Strangers keep a distance and think twice before befriending me, because I scare them away.  And I know you have my well being in mind, I know you want the best for me, and you mean well when you check in on me. But, still, it hurts to know that I scare people.

Let me tell you how I feel. I’m scared too. I scare myself every night. And when I wake up in the morning, the fear is still there. I am scared by my suicidal thoughts and even more so that I can’t stop them. I am afraid that I might not be strong enough today and engage in self harm. I am scared by my bitter attitude, knowing that it pushes people away and leaves me on my own to fend for myself in this scary world. I’m scared of my urges to drink and smoke, because I don’t know if I’ll be strong enough to not act on those urges. I’m scared to look at my bottle of medication, because it triggers more fears. I wake up afraid, and go to sleep afraid; I can be my biggest enemy.

Last night, when you dragged me home and told me how scared you are, I wanted to hold on to you, keep you close, and tell you how scared I am. I don’t want to scare people away, because I know how it feels to be scared of myself. Last night you experienced what I experience every night. (and sometimes every day)

So please, when you feel afraid, know that I am just a frightened little girl and I need all the support I can get. I know it’s hard, but together we are stronger and together we can conquer our fears.

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Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall…

You watch me
Wipe my tears away
Tear-stained kerchief
Lone star on the field.
You watch me
Apply extreme black mascara
Glittery eye shadow
Concealing puffy, red lids.
You watch me
And you’re silent
Don’t you know
That silence is consent…

You watch me
Spread a soothing layer
Of warm, vanilla cream
Atop my fading scars.
You watch me
Examine fingernail scratches
The sad evidence
To hellish dreams.
You watch me
And still, you’re silent
How could you?
Silence is consent…

You watch me
Don a pair of jeans
As I silently hope
For it to be alright.
You watch me
Comb through my hair
As I try to embrace
Another day of struggle.
You watch me
In absolute silence
If you only knew
That silence is consent…

You watch me
Swallow another pill
And you know deep down
It won’t fix anything.
You watch me
Smother on lipstick
Trying to feel pretty
When all I feel is self-hate.
You watch me
And you’re silent
Mirror on the wall,
Silence is consent…

Hope. Do Not Give Up.

I’d like to introduce you to the driving force in my life. Meet hope.

I haven’t realized what an important role hope played, until I’ve hit rock bottom and attempted suicide. Only when hope was lost and there was nothing left to save me, have I learned that hope is life in itself. 

Hope – to me – is going to bed every night at bedtime despite me knowing full well that I’m probably not going to sleep. It is getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed and going out to face the day. It is giving my medication another shot, hugging myself after beating myself up, smiling at myself in the mirror, daring to dream of a brighter future, reaching out for help, speaking to my doctor, simple acts of caring for myself, and the list is so much longer. Hope – to me – is life.

It isn’t easy. In fact, it is a hellish road. It is a lot easier to bang my fists on the table, throw a tantrum and then give up. It’s so much easier to keep my eyes closed in the morning and pretend the sun hasn’t come up. Instead of going through the process of finding the right medication, which isn’t a lot of fun, I’d much rather turn a blind eye to reality and forget about medications, doctors and side effects. And yet, I still fight. For despair and losing hope is dangerous. To me, hope has become a matter of life and death. For when hope is lost, and there’s nothing left to hold onto, thoughts spiral out of control. The next step? Suicide.

It isn’t easy to hold onto a small, almost-extinguished, light when life punches you in the face. My brain is constantly in overdrive, thinking so fast and so much. I’m pretty sure if brains could suffer from heart attacks, I’d have a brain attack. The demons living in me are wrestling me and constantly knocking me over. The light at the end of the tunnel is merely a dream. Still, I will listen when my heart whispers in the language of hope. Because hope is life. And I will choose to live every single day. 

When hope is lost there is nothing else left to live for. Yes, hope is the driving force of life. Hope is what has kept me going for the past year, through all of my painful struggles. And when I lost it, it only made me realize how precious it is. And even through my setbacks, crying and screaming, I still hope. I learned to understand that those setbacks are a part of the recovery process and as long as I don’t give up, I can allow myself to take a break sometimes. A break is okay. Giving up, quitting and losing hope is not.

And so, I dare to dream. One day, things will be okay and I will be in a better place. For now? Now… I hope. And you? You should hope too… This too shall pass. And light shall come soon enough. 

Cheers! To hope! 

Let’s Be Stigma Free

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all. – Bill Clinton 

And yet, three out of four people suffering from mental illness report to be experiencing the stigma associated with mental illness. There is no denying that the stigma is out there. Fortunately, society is slowly gaining more awareness of mental health. Still, the stigma isn’t completely gone; it’s merely lurking in the shadows.

I have repeatedly encountered stigma myself. I’ve watched people change their attitudes towards me as they find out I take medication for my mental illness. I’ve had to deal with rejection and being shamed by the people closest to me. I witnessed the eye roll accompanying the word crazy; and the ease with which people label and classify others. Truth be told, it did not make me feel better. In fact, it has stopped me from coming forward and reaching out for help when needed for fear of the reaction. It has made me feel guilty, ashamed and second class. And it shouldn’t have.

The toughest battle I have to deal with, though, is self stigma. Unfortunately, people with mental illness are aware of the stereotypes about them. Knowing those stereotypes, has made me very self conscious, which means from awareness it has gone to internalization. The more those stereotypes, generalizations and misconceptions are internalized, the more my self esteem plummets. And when self esteem is low, it is a lot harder to reach out for help when needed. 

It’s hard for me to talk about stigma when every day is spent judging myself and beating myself up for what I’m not. It’s almost foolish to expect people not to judge when I degrade myself in my own heart. Sadly, though, self stigma is a direct result of public stigma. 

Dear friend, I’m writing to both of us today – you and me. I will work harder to accept myself for who I am, with my flaws. I will reach out for help when I need it. I promise not to let the stigma get the better of me. And please, in turn, don’t judge. Accept, respect and don’t expect. Educate yourself and try to get rid of those negative beliefs. Every single person makes a difference in fighting the stigma. You. And me.

Let’s bust the stigma.

I Am Not Perfect

I am human. And yes, I have faults too. Yet, unlike my friends, my faults are obvious and up for discussion as I suffer from mental illness. 

One of my toughest issues is learning how to navigate relationships. Friends are important to me, as mental illness can sometimes make me feel isolated and alone. Unfortunately, though, it is hard to be my friend. Trust me, I’ve tried. 

My friends reading this will know what I mean. They will know, as they have continually been shut out. They have to deal with rejection every day. They have to listen to my fifteen minute rants a dozen times daily telling them why we shouldn’t be friends. This behavior is in direct contradiction to my statement above that friends are important to me. I know. 

One of the toughest issues I battle is extreme fear of abandonment and rejection. Every time I suspect that I might be rejected, most of the time it’s based on irrational assumptions, I will begin a frantic effort to ensure that I am not being rejected. I will ramble about my horrible personality and how nobody will ever be there for me, until my friends will reassure me that I am not horrible and they’re glad to be here for me. Some of you might think of it as manipulative behavior; but it is not. At that moment in time, I am unable to clear my brain of those thoughts. My body enters a fight or flight mode as it has encountered danger; rejection. And the only response I know is to reassure myself that there is no danger. 

The problem? Nobody wants to spend their days reassuring again and again. And yet again. It gets tiring, boring and burdensome. After hearing three times a day of what a horrible person their friend is, everybody starts getting fed up. And after being pushed away for too many times, everybody begins liking it and stays. 

Now, my fear of abandonment renders destructive behavior which causes rejection. The fear of rejection is then intensified and the destructive behavior continues at an even more aggressive pace. See? 

Being my friend is nearly impossible. My brain works on overdrive. Every statement a friend makes is dissected and analyzed a thousand times. I will sometimes respond to statements three days later when my friends have long forgotten what they’ve said. 

Why am I writing this? First, as a note of gratitude to my friends for still being around. Thank you. Your efforts haven’t gone unnoticed and I appreciate it and it means so much to me. Also, I am writing this to explain to them where this behavior stems from. I am not trying to say that this behavior is excusable. All I am saying is that I am trying my best to work on changing my behavior. I am training my brain to shut those niggling thoughts out. I’m teaching myself coping skills and better ways to deal with my fear of rejection.

Thank you for bearing with me. Even with my faults. And a piece of advice, it’s ok to tell me when I’m too much. 

Nobody is perfect. Not even me.

To Remember. To Forget.

To remember
What normal feels like
To remember
An older version of myself
My strengths
My abilities
My talents
And the person I am.
To remember
When I used to laugh
To remember
The regular ups and downs
The smells
The sights
The sounds
And the person I am.

And to forget
That the struggle is real
To forget
What life has done to me
My mistakes
My faults
My choices
And the person I am.
To forget
What the future might bring
To forget
The ripped jeans I wear
The bruises
The scars
The wounds
And the person I am.

I write to remember
And I write to forget
My pen; my tombstone
My writings; my memorial
My life
My heart
My thoughts
And the person I am.
I write to remember.
And I write to forget.

Recovery and Potato Chips

Recovery is a journey. Yet, no map or compass is provided to aid in this journey. I, alone, have to figure out each morning the steps I will be taking that day. I have to decide on the supplies I’d like to carry with me as I’m trekking; and leave the unnecessary behind. 

Setbacks happen. Because logic. And sometimes those missteps are overwhelming and affect my ability to see how far I’ve come on my journey. Setbacks make me believe that I am at the starting point all over again. They make me believe that fighting isn’t worth it; that my effort in holding on is futile. I forget that I am so much less suicidal today than I was six months ago. I forget that when I am feeling suicidal I am so much stronger now in fighting those thoughts. I forget that I used to be in the ER every other night for anxiety and severe PTSD symptoms. I forget. I forget. I forget. 

And when setbacks are overwhelming all I want to do is curl up in a ball, stay in bed and just cry until my tears run dry. And sometimes, I do just that. Like yesterday. I was depressed and angry at myself that my schedule became messed up again. I’ve worked hard to keep a schedule and trying to adjust to my meds. And yesterday, sleep wouldn’t come and at that moment, that meant my hard work was pointless.

I stayed in bed all day, ate two family sized bags of potato chips, didn’t shower or brush my teeth and delayed my medication intake by a few hours. Not good. Not good. Not good. 

I woke up this morning feeling horrible. I figured I might as well stay in bed another day and have another bag of potato chips. As I was debating the idea, I remembered how far I’ve come in my journey and the small successes I’ve celebrated each day. I remembered my old self and the newer one who incorporates coping skills to the best of her ability. I remembered the warrior in me, the obstacle fighter, the mountain climber, the untrodden path hiker. Real hikers pause their journey too sometimes. They set up their tents for the night and resume when they feel recharged. I must not let my bad choices of yesterday influence my choices of today. I will accept my yesterday because it’s part of my recovery. It is a part of my journey; my life. 

One day I will tell the world how two bags of potato chips made me realize that setbacks are ok and I can fight again tomorrow. 

I ain’t giving up that easy. My journey is important to me. Setbacks and all. And I am slowly learning to make new and better choices each day.