Can You Hear Me Now?

It has been a while since I have posted publicly to my blog. At times I feel it is best my thoughts remain private, but right now, I only feel I need my voice to be heard.

I don’t know how many tines I have written about the invisible terrors mental illness causes. I have probably spoken on this topic far more than I could count. One thing I often don’t talk about though sexual assault. Now for those who may be triggered or have a hard time reading about these types of things, I do encourage you stop now. I would never want anyone else to relive trauma.

Now, every form of abuse I have suffered still causes me problems in my life. This very specific form of abuse however hurts me in ways I can’t even comprehend.

I want to tell a brief story. There was a young man who came to my work place looking for a home. Now, to everyone else, he probably seemed normal. If anything, maybe he seemed to be a tad bit conceited. To me, he was different. This man’s personality, his actions, & his mannerisms flipped a switch in my head. In my mind, I have seen him before. Even though I probably had never actually met him, my mind knew him. My mind recognized his mannerisms and set off a warning alarm. My body’s fight or flight defenses turned on because all of a sudden, It wasn’t a stranger. This man wanted to hurt me, degrade me, rape me.

I don’t know him and he probably is an okay guy, but from past experiences, my mind and body thought this man was threatening. It pulled to mind gruesome memories and details that I never wanted to think. Now, do you want to know the worst part? It was noon and I still had to work six more hours before I could go home and cry.

One of the worst feelings a sexual assault victim can feel is degraded and unheard. My mind screams internally and my body feels numb. Those same describing words could be used to describe several of the sexual assaults I have survived. I’m fighting this deadly feeling and I can’t say a word.

Why don’t I say something? Well, times like these happen more often than I care to admit and if I said something every time, I would surely turn into the boy who cried wolf. That is why I stay silent. I keep quiet until I get to a time that my body produces a physical reaction: sobbing, yelling, convulsions, hair pulling, etc. I wait until this happens because I know people will see something is actually wrong. They will be able to hear me. They will be able to understand. It’s like my mind is screaming “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW!?”

I hate living life like this. I’m in constant fear. I wonder if anyone can relate. My therapist suggested I get a doctors note so if I feel unheard, people will believe me. My everyday life consists of trying to stay calm and trying to remain normal. I practice many coping skills throughout the day just to function.

Sometimes it’s even worse after I go to therapy because it brings things up that I would rather ignore. I have been hurt too much and I’m mad that it’s able to control me. I’m mad it can hold me hostage. I’m mad it can take me away from my work. I’m mad that it effects my intimacy with my husband. My mind is mad and now it’s screaming at all the men who hurt me “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”

That is why I wanted to make this public. I want people that know me, to hear me. I want them hear the silent screams for help. I want others who read it to relate or to hear others. Think of the four closest women to you. Now pick one. Statistically one in every four women are sexually assaulted in their lives. Let our voices be heard. Because sexual assault isn’t just a “me too” Facebook post and then let’s all forget. Sexual assault is a monster that devours its victims daily.

So this goes out to those who feel like they can’t be heard. And I ask those around me, can you hear me now?


Waging The War Behind My Face and Above my Throat.

The war for the brain is a fight that is hard to win. For starts, you are fighting your brain by using your brain. How do you fight off the flu using the flu? I’m my case, my mind is constantly under the control of a mafia of sorts. This mafia has one goal, to destroy and kill. The Mafia stand guard at all hours though anyone that saw me wouldn’t know it. Their favorite time to attack is when I’m alone or at night. They see quiet and darkness as their greatest ally. My brain can put up a fight, but after a while the attacks drain me. Imagine being stabbed in the shoulder and it starts to heal a little but then you get stabbed in the shoulder again, over and over, and this open wound never has a chance to fully heal so it begins to fester and get infected. Now the simple stitches won’t work and you need to find medication and refuge to stay away from that damn man that keeps ripping your shoulder back open. The thing about the brain is no one can see the wound, no one knows what’s happening with it, and there is absolutely no way to turn off your brain. Trust me I have tried. I could sleep 18 hours a day to avoid thinking; to avoid feeling. I could distract myself for hours but the second I’m alone, the second I try to take a breath, I’m being attacked in all directions. Depression is not some “oh I’m sad, just get over it” Depression is a war. I’m not fighting sadness. I’m fighting a battle that has left me as good as dead This mafia will not give in until either they are destroyed or I am destroyed. Am I’d be a fool to say this is easy, but I’d also be a fool to give in to the fight. Not this time. No, this time, I have far too much to live for.

Raise a Glass to Change

Have you ever looked back a year or two and thought about all that has changed? I think a lot of people do this.  Some see change for the good, others for the worse.  Ragardless, change is bound to happen with time.  Noticing change as it happens harder to recognize.  Usually it happens so slowly, or so suddenly, our brains don’t even process that a change has taken place.  It’s only when you look back that you can see a full picture. 

In the age of Facebook and the newer feature “memories” looking back and see everything that has changed has gotten a bit easier.  I usually look at my post from 7 years ago and shiver in disgust at the annoying teenager I appeared to be.  Facebook mainly captures such shallow memories, however, that it is harder to see any real, valuable changes.  Of course I was annoying 7 years ago.  I was an immature high school senior who thought she knew everything. Of course I have matured since then.

We all mature in different ways.  Our mental ability to navigate in this world usually grows.  Social cues and behavioral norms usually become more learned as we grow older.  Today, I saw a type of change in my life that is a harder one to see.  My regular therapist was recently blessed with a baby boy, so I was placed with a temporary one until she comes back from her leave.  Luckily, the person I was today was a familiar face.  The woman who walked through the doors to call me to her room was recently hired into the office I go to.  Before that, she was finishing her PHD while interning at the inpatient mental health center of Holland Hospital.  How do I know this? Well, she worked there during the many months that I spent during the very dark days of my life.  

Today all of those memories of suicide attempts, addiction, horrible abuse flashed through my mind.  I thought for sure that this is what she would remember me for.  I wasn’t wrong about that, she sure did remember that woman in which she did psych evaluations on and even a case study.  She didn’t treat me like that woman though.  She knew I wasn’t who I was a year ago.  Through our conversation, simply by telling her what’s happening in my life now, she was able to show me how much progress I have made.  She revealed to me the true extent to how much I have changed.

I expressed to her me fears of becoming that woman again. I told her how I didn’t want to fall back into a deep depression. I ranted about the fears I have of the mania that may consume me and turn me back into an addict or worse.  She showed me again, how much has changed.

Since stepping back into real life I have been able to build a life worth living.  That is a life that I don’t want to end.  That is a life that I don’t want to manipulate and destroy.  It’s a life I want to live until completion. I have so much to live for. My family, friends, job, passions, and dreams are all so important to me now.  More than ever, I want to succeed.  I want to help others succeed. 

Today, I had a glimpse of my old self and realized how much I and my situation has changed.  I have worked so hard over this past year and for the first time, I can say it has payed off and I’m proud.

So raise a glass to change.  In this life, we will live.


When the Pieces Don’t Fit

I have, for a long time, struggled with the almost invisible clash between modern medicine and religion.  There are some who go to extremes on way or the other.  Being the subject I advocate against, Mental Health, seems to be one of the hardest clashes against religion.  Being a pronounced follower of Jesus the Christ, I sometimes have a hard time myself trying to reconcile how all of it works. What is spiritual, what is physical, or is everything a combination of the in between? For answers I look to two places but still I find a hard time finding an intersect.  Should I give up everything I know of mental illness or do I abandon my faith for lack of understanding? I think both are an extreme but I do have so many questions left unanswered.

The topic was brought up today as I met with my old roommate from the Mission School.  As we enjoyed raspberry iced tea and created with watercolor, we were able to discusse life, work, friends, and of course God.  Through our conversation I felt as if I was playing devils advocate.  For every statement she made I had a question to counter.  It made for great conversation and even knowing the amazing nature of our friendship, it was ultimately the best time I’ve ever spent with her. 

We discussed mental illness and both agreed that there is undeniable evidence that it is indeed physical.  The issue however came in when we started discussing spiritual aspects.  She asked me if I have forgiven myself for suicide attempts and wanted to know how I was feeling about an unfortunate circumstance surrounding my time at the School.  That’s when I started to question things.  If my illness is purely physical, should I be repentant of something that I had no control over? Or did I have some control and just made a wrong decision? We talked about spiritual warefare and though I don’t deny it’s existence, I have a hard time believing it plays a role in mental health.  We did say it was physical after all.  Do prayers help more than medication? How could medication be a cure to a spiritual problem? None of it fits together.  

Through my studies of psychology and philosophy, I have learned a lot about the state of human existence.  The brain is complex and masterfully created -by The Creator.  However, when studying the bible I learn to “lean not my own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  So if I can’t trust my perception of reality, how can I even believe in God at all.  Of course, the great philosopher Rene Descartes built his entire belief in a higher power upon the phrase, “I think, therefore I am”. But how can I believe anything if I can’t even trust my own understanding. Does the brain contain the soul? Is the soul a separate entity entirely? Are the two entertwined while on this earth? 

Realizing that got away from mental health some, I believe it is relevant to the conversation.  I believe and trust my understanding of modern medicine, specifically psychology and psychiatry.  I also see how my understanding aligns with what I’ve witnessed in my own life and with others.  But does this disprove the existence of God? I don’t believe so.  I have seen so much evidence for the existence of the God of Moses, to say he’s not real would be ignorant.  Somehow these two things exist together and I just can’t wrap my mind around it.  That’s okay though.  I don’t think I have to.  It is something I would like to know more about.  I’d love to speak with psychologists and theologians and learn as much as I can. I do believe that those of us with mental illnesses in Christian communities need a voice and I hope to be that.  

I think the best way to end this post filled with questions is with some truth. I am alive because God created me.  I am alive because modern medicine continues to save my life daily.  God created medicine for us to utilize.  God loves me.  I have bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. God could take those away from me.  He could choose to allow medication to manage my symptoms for the rest of my life.  No matter what, God is for me. He is for you. I am for you too.

Thoughts and feedback would be great! If you know a lot about the topics discussed please contact me and let’s have a conversation.

Killing the Lions

My heart is beating out of my chest. My head is spinning.  I’m hyperventilating out of control.  I can’t breath. I’m crying. Hi, I’m anxiety. 

Anxiety, everyone knows the name.  Fewer know how incredibly crippling it can actually be.  As an advocate for those suffering from mental illness to someone who suffers from a variety of illnesses myself, I can personally tell you anxiety is not just stress.  Anxiety Disorder can take someone from being fine one minute To being a crippled state of panic the next.  Anxiety can feel anywhere from a tense, teeth gritting feeling, to a heart attack gripping you with pain. Pain, real, physical pain.

I recently told my boyfriend,

It’s all of it. The mania, the depression, the anxiety…  It feels like I’m at a constant battle with myself and it’s exhausting. The worst part is people don’t understand. I can’t say, “sorry I’m not feeling well because of a cold”.. I have to say it’s depression or anxiety and I get responses that range from, “well that’s okay, you can do it. You’re fine.” or “You don’t have to be anxious. There is nothing to be anxious about.” The thing is, I know all this but I still am (anxious or depressed) but there is literally nothing I can do about it. My brain wants me dead. It’s kicking my ass and I’m trying to be normal, but on days like yesterday and then today it keeps me down and then I feel guilty for not being present and it makes it worse. I’m so sick of this. I know you struggle with anxiety but I wish you could understand how deep this is and what I’m feeling… I just want to be “better”.

The heart of it still stems from something I’m constantly speaking on.  That is, mental illnesses are not looked at the same as any other illness.  It is so easily dismissed.  The problem is that it is so real.  The problem is I can’t convey that to others without feeling like a flake.  I’m not if others feel that way but I can imagine many people suffering the way I am, probably do.

Maybe I’m compiling and I’m sorry if I am, I just know writing is the only way I can calm my mind without using drugs or doing something even more harmful.

I write for me but I also write for others.  My friend, family, and followers: if we can raise awareness of this issue.  If we can continue to press into others and let them know that this is real and we are fighting, then maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference.

“Behind my eyelids are islands of violence.  My minds shipwrecked this is the only land my mind could find. Who knew it was such a violent islend; suicidal crazed lions have been trying to win. Blood is running down their chin.  I know that I could fight or I could let lions in.  I begin to assemble what weapons I could find, because sometimes to stay alive you’ve got to kill your mind” -Migraine by twenty øne piløts

The artwork chosen for this post is a visual representation of the above quote.  I painted it while I was in the hospital a few months ago. The medium is watercolor. If you like it, please send me songs or quotes about mental illness and I’d love to turn it into a piece of art.