Good and Bad Days

I honestly hate thinking about healing or being in remission. It terrifies me to no end. I’ve heard it described like a constant upward moving roller coaster. It has highs and lows but it is steadily moving up. The problem is a huge word that I hate to think about. Relapse

Relapse happens every time I think about grabbing a knife, crashing my car, or just a passing thought that I hope I never wake up. Each and every time I start to spiral, I feel like I am back to square one. I know this isn’t true, but if healing exists so does relapse.

Perhaps I like the idea of being sick and I hold on to my illness like a security blanket. Perhaps that means I am still very sick.

Regardless, I think that instead of thinking I’m getting better and hope I don’t relapse, I will start thinking in terms of good and bad days. So the past 3 days have been bad and today has been a good day. If I track everyday as a good day or a bad day, I feel it will help me remain more comfortable with my progress. It’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay to have good days. This way of tracking my my health helps me take my emotions out of it.. which is obviously a a hard thing for me.

I judge myself so harshly. I think we all do. The problem is when I become paranoid about every single thing I do being wrong. It becomes this self fulfilling prophecy. I feel judged, I judge myself more harshly, I look for ways people could judge me, I feel judged. It’s a cycle. A deadly cycle.

What do I hate most? The never knowing. It’s like I’m constantly living my life on the edge. A good day could become a bad day at any second. Even this thought scares my to the point of wishing I could just give up. Today was a good day but I hate thinking that at any moment it could make a turn.

How am I supposed to live a normal life. How am I supposed to hold a job? Buy a house? Have children? I’m living in fear of my own brain. My own body wants me dead. That’s why I have to try so hard to take it one day at a time. When that is too much, one hour or one moment at a time. I’m tired, no… exhausted just trying to get through each and every day one moment at a time. But what other choice do I have? Certainly not a good one. I must continue this mundane existence because that’s what I am supposed to do, but why?

In 200 years, my name will only be a name on a gravestone is some cemetery. Hopefully, that gravestone will reflect many, many years of life. Even though “hopefully” is hard to say when I dance with the thought of death so often. Right now, I’m not living for myself. I’m living so I don’t hurt others. That’s a daunting fact to face. So I’ll keep thinking about my good days and bad days. I’ll live moment by moment. I’ll live. Even if I really wish I didn’t have to.

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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?

How Porn Helped Destroy my Life

This is a huge thing to talk about, shameful even.  Last night I read an article about porn destroying relationships.  I have read I lot of articles similar to that.  The Fight the New Drug campaign is raising awareness about how harmful Porn is.  I have a story that I think should be told, regardless of how ashamed I am of it.

I grew up pretty innocent to the world.  I knew a little about sex from some videos we watched, but I hated ever trying to talk about my curiosity with my parents out of embarrassment.  So when I was twelve or thirteen, with the internet now at my disposal, I wandered into a world that changed my life forever.

At first, it was pure curiosity.  I have to admit that figuring things out is probably fairly normal.  Things went wrong when reading story’s and seeing pictures turned to video. Knowing very little about what sex was, these videos were truth.  They showed me not only sex, but what a relationship between a man and a woman was like in private.  This is why several years down the road, when I was in an abusive relationship, I perceived it as normal.

I became obsessed with this idea that my worth came from what men thought of me.  It started out with just wanting to be liked.  When I perceived a man liked me, I became open to him.  Then if he ever did something that I now realize no man should do to a woman, I would accept it and move on.

The result of this was abuse and eventually the first time I was raped. You would imagine the after all that, I would see reality, but unfortunately, as Porn still continued to be I my life; I would constantly see unhealthy relationships.  I would crave the attention of a man, but I was unaware of how to actually obtain it.

Fast Forward a few years.  Now I am in the pit of an aweful bout with depression.  My faith in God (the only thing I held onto during my college years) was failing.  My life was deprived of its meaning.  I needed a way to feel better. I was completely and utterly desperate.

That is when I turned to men.  When I talk about my years of fighting mental illness, many are surprised when I say that my ‘rock bottom’ wasn’t even when I attempted suicide. That is because, it was in this period of my life that I actually felt dead.  Death would have been a lesser evil than the things I experienced.

So rock bottom started with this. Turning to the online dating app Tinder, I searched for love.  Instead of love, I found desperate men.  Some were straight about wanting a one night stand.  Others were more subtle. Like the first guy I invited over while I was home alone. (I’ll mention that at this point I was living with my parents as a way to control my environment to keep me from suicide.) All he said he wanted was to dance, I guess I was to blind to realize he insinuated so much more from those words.  He started kissing me, pulling on the bed.  This progressed quickly and before I even had a chance to understand it all, he finished pulling off the condom and drove away.  I was so unsure in that moment how I felt. We had sex, that meant he liked me.  I was on top of the world.  That is until, I tried to message him on tinder later that day and I realized he had blocked me.

After that, I quickly turned back to the thing that made me happy to try again.  The next couple weeks are an unforgettable haunting blur of hooking up with someone, being happy, then getting crushed to a new low when he left.  I started giving my body in exchange for attention.  I was a prostitute.  One after another, different men drained me of any true happiness and destroyed me.  Nobody even knew the trouble I was in because on the outside I was happy.

It wasn’t until a vey scary night in a sketchy motel room that I realized I needed help.  I arrived and he looked nothing like his picture.  He had a thick accent to which I still can’t place.  He reaked of whisky.  The moment I walked in he locked the door.  He started undressing me without even a hello.  That’s when I realized what was happening.  He grabbed my arm so tightly I was bruised.  He held me so I couldn’t move. He spat on me and degraded me.  I was fearing my life.  After two rounds with me I was able to escape when someone knocked on his door.  I cried the whole way home.

I told my friends who were very concerned and I got help.  My parents had to find out at the hospital, I could hardly face them.  I was angry they knew. I was angry at myself. I was angry with God.

Once I got out of the hospital a week later, I knew two things: I was lucky I didn’t get pregnant or have any STDs and more importantly, I was lucky to be alive.

Now, a few years later and I still know I’m lucky to be alive. I think back to how I thought sex meant love and how that ultimately drove me to do extremely stupid things.  Now after lots of healing from Jesus, therapy, and friends.  I can now tell the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship.  I’m able to look at my boyfriend and not fear him because I know the root of his love is not surface level.  I’m able to praise God for freeing me from what could have been my death.

So there is my story.  I dislike Porn for many reasons, but the way it destroys lives is why I believe we as a society need to fight it.  My story as horrible as it is, could be considered tame in comparison to many others. I don’t want my future children  to live in a world where a ten year old can access it.  That’s why we need to fight it.

A work in progress…

It all started with a simple snap of the mind. One single phrase brought to my mind terrible visions and pictures of things I wish I could have long forgotten.  

That is how it started. This week has been a first.  It has been the first time since I have been stable that I truly have started to feel the weight of all that happened during the last 4 years.  It has hit hard by bringing me feelings, memories, visions, and pictures.  It has brought my mood into a place of depression.  It has me fear mania when I feel myself rise again, so I try not to let myself rise. 

I think a lot of it is medical and thankfully I will be seeing my doctor soon, but as it stands, I have to admit that I hate this.  The thing about depression or bipolar disorder is you constantly feel like you are under attack.  Literally, your mind wants you dead. Mine does anyway.

Part of it is that I don’t think I have even began properly dealing with any of the trauma, because we have been so fearful just for my everyday life until this point.  So now that I’m doing better, the harder stuff is starting to surface.  As much as I wish I could never think about the abuse, the rapes, the addiction, I know I have to in order to heal. I know I have to to move forward.

Honestly,  the hardest thing for me to face is the part a rarely speak of.  I have called myself a harlot or a prostitute in the past but nothing seems to fit what happend.  I was messed up.  I was numb to everything in the world.  This is what I always refer to as my rock bottom because in my life, I don’t think I could have groveled any lower than I did.  I’ve been told I was victim.  I have also been told I’m not what I did, but no matter, it is still something that makes me sick every time I think about it.  I’ve wished the word whore be tattooed on me so people know exactly who I am.

But is that really who I am? During my darkest days, I did some awful things that should define me… but they don’t.  Strangers would never guess that is what once was.  I’m free from it outwardly. I also know in Christ I have a new Identity. One that is in him.  

Freedom from the memories is what’s still holding me.  And it’s not that I want to forget because it’s all a part of my testimony. It drives me to be the best me I can be.  I just don’t want it to haunt me. I don’t want to fear.  

So, I guess I’m still human and still dealing with my demons. We all are. We all have to. 

Not sure what else to say.

Shalom

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.

Shalom

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.

Hello darkness my old friend…

I used to say a lot, now, I say a lot less.  I don’t say publicly how I’m doing much anymore.  I believe that’s okay though.  Not everyone needs to know my state of mind anyway.  Facebook culture kind of draws new types of interactions between people.  Some is good, some is not so good.  I don’t think my past cries for attention on Facebook were worthless.  They spoke to a real need I was having.  I just think that Facebook is not the outlet in which anyone should reach for that type of attention. Reassurance will never come through the words on the other side of a glass screen. 

With that said, I do believe it is incredibly difficult to have real conversations about my illness without some sort of judgement being passed.  Maybe that is why I liked Facebook better; it is far more passive.  I can tell people I’m feeling awful and a few will say they love me and that is that.  If I tell someone in person that I am emotionally awful, I am more likely to get a response that minimizes the words I said and how I feel. I have many theories for this, but no matter why  people dismiss my feelings, the result is the same.  My feelings are dismissed.  The hurt is real and that’s why I and many others tend to keep our emotions bottled up.  It’s a lot easier to pretend they don’t exist sometimes.

I’m bipolar, however, and unfortunately my emotions do exist.  I have highs and I crash from those highs.  My lows are deep and powerful.  As much as I hate suicide it still crosses my mind.  Yet no one besides those closest to me- my boyfriend, parents, roommates- know those things still linger. I’m hurting in silence.  I have such a wonderful job where I get to wear a smile all day and make others smile.  I couldn’t be happier there, but when I get home I’m gone.  I fail to exist in an active society.  I have gotten to a place that when I put all my positive energy into work or my minimal social life,  whenever I get the chance to retract to my room and dwell in a temporary state of lack of existence, I do. I fight for my life every single day.  I fake a smile -because I know if I don’t, even fake it, I would just give up.  That is never an option for me.  

This isn’t a cry for help, nor is it an apology for being “absent”.  This is simply an explanation of my wellbeing.  I want people who care to know where I am and why I am.  I do not think that I should feel guilty for not being a great friend or person right now. I’m sick and fighting and if I feel better I will be back.  I think any illness, mental or physical, should be looked at as a person fighting for their lives. Good days, bad days, and everything in between defines our battle. My hypermania comes more often, my depression comes back still severe, and my anxiety exists now to harm me even more at a physical level, but I’m still here.  I learned this past year how to meditate and be mindful of my every step. I have learned how to distract myself from bad thoughts.  I’m constantly learning to radically accept my past and future for what it is and the thing in which I can’t change.  I am also fighting for change where I see brokenness.  I’m a fighter for the marginalized and oppressed.  I gain passion from seeing the empowerment of those who have been given so little opportunity.  So here is where I am, dear ones.

I hope the next time you see someone, you don’t just see the outside, but you make sure to find out what they are fighting in their soul. 

“You don’t know the half of the abuse” – heathens by twenty one pilots
The photo used for this blog post was taken by my amazing sister and friend Kaitlin. Find her work on Instagram at Kaitlin Grant Photography.