twenty six

Getting older is weird – in the moment, it feels exactly the same as it did last year, and the years before… but really, everything has and will continue to change. It’s hard to believe that, at one point in my life, I didn’t see myself being around this long… there is a part of me that wants to sit my younger self down and tell her how many obstacles she will overcome, and explain that failure doesn’t diminish her self worth. She will hit a rockier bottom than she has ever experienced before, she will lose herself in a city that doesn’t stop, skipping meals for coffee because it’s less expensive. She will hurt the person closest to her and then beat herself mercilessly over it. She will cry, wish she hadn’t left home and fade into the dark backdrop of depression. But, five years later, she will have built a solid foundation for a successful life, she will have a job that she loves, a home full of cats and a partner that has stuck through it all. She will have access to opportunities and choices that she would’ve never, previously, thought possible… and all of this will start from the, seemingly, unending darkness that enveloped her. And it will envelope her, as mental illness does, more than once

I remember my middle school self, having to read an essay about my self harm experiences in front of the entire eighth grade class. I was sat in a plush arm chair in the school theatre, hot stage lights bouncing off my face – my hands shook as the words left my mouth, and then the speakers above me… I don’t think I’ve heard a silence quite like the one that followed, since. The best way to describe it comes in the form of a quote from one of my favourite authors:
“It was the patient, cut flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.” ¹
In that moment, it felt like me and everyone around me was just waiting for it, waiting for the day that I didn’t show up to class, waiting for me to die. I accept that this perception probably existed only in my own mind, but at the time it felt so real.
Maybe you are asking yourself what relevance this has to anything? I spent a lot of my life, after that moment, fearing this silence. Fearing, being honest about myself and my mind, might be met with a quiet so thick it could smother me. I imagine, laying on my bed after reading my deepest secrets to an auditorium full of students and teachers, and promising to never speak about it again.
It took me 13 years, to be candid about my experiences, to see a therapist, to accept and validate myself… and I don’t think the teenage me would believe that today, at 26, she would be writing and openly speaking to people about mental health. That for every person who empathizes, there are multiple who want to learn, to understand; That, while silence is scary, it is sometimes necessary; That she would become an advocate for herself for the first time… and for that, I think she would be proud.

 

¹ – Quote from The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss

~positivity

It’s safe to say that the last month has been nothing short of a massive (for lack of a better term) cluster fuck. The days have been lengthy and overflowing with negative physical, mental and emotional mojo… but! While shoveling myself out of this pile of personal garbage I’ve discovered some little gems of positivity, small reminders that live in my pockets, that can be dug out and held up to the light during the minutes and hours that seem impossible.

  1. I may make a lot of jokes about trading my body in for a new one, but this is probably the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in this skin, my skin. Yes, most days are a battle and, yes, I do sometimes feel like it is constantly working against me… but maybe that’s why I’ve grown to appreciate it the way that I do now. It is, truly, the first time in my life where I can say that I am connected to my body, and while I may not understand what it is doing 98% of the time, I can at least look at myself in the mirror and love the person who looks back at me.
  2. The people in my life are amazing. From my fiance to my family, friends I’ve had since grade school to friends I’ve had the opportunity to make at my place of work… they are all the most accommodating, gracious, compassionate, just genuinely beautiful people and I couldn’t imagine going through all of this without them.
  3. My experience is valid and my time, like everyone else’s, is short. I can’t be held responsible for anyone’s happiness but my own and that is okay… it’s okay to stop and say that something makes me uncomfortable, even if it upsets someone else, because I deserve that right. I’ve lived a lot of my life thinking that I needed to come last in a long list of priorities – no more!

There are more, but these are the three that I have been channeling recently. I can attest to the fact that it is difficult to manage mental illnesses while also dealing with physical illnesses – it becomes hard to distinguish whether how you feel is because of one or the other, until it all melds in to one rampaging illness bull that knocks you on your ass every chance it gets. Lying, defeated, in the mud becomes more and more appealing each time you hit it, until you no longer want to stand up and bare your own teeth in retort… that’s where I’ve been lately, in a state of belief that says:
“Nothing will ever get better. You will be sick for the rest of your life, all of your friends and family will leave you behind because you are a lifeless burden that deserves nothing but the havoc you are receiving.”
Luckily, I’ve been able to look at myself and see something completely different. What I, now, see is a woman with ambition and goals and love coming from all directions… there are definitely hurdles strewn about her landscape, but, maybe if she takes the time to stop and love herself a little more before approaching, clearing them won’t be as daunting a task; Positive thinking won’t make the bull disappear, by any means, but it will make digging your heels into the dirt and putting your fists up a hell of a lot easier.

 

05/30/2017:
I woke up in a body that wasn’t my own this morning – or maybe the bits and pieces that identify me are still sleeping somewhere and I am what is left to wade through the day. Attention span is limited, zoned out yet extremely aware of the pins and needles making their way up the arms and legs attached to this body.

Today I want to analyze some of my personal extremes… like that one, up there. It’s kind of a trip, looking back on an exact moment, the feeling of that moment, and knowing that the feeling was real but not being able to relate to it at all. I remember writing more than that small excerpt, trying to explain the state of mind with a metaphor, realizing that it made zero sense and deleting it; I had a creative writing teacher who always insisted we write in pen, because everything we put on paper has meaning, even if it doesn’t fit what we are trying to say at the moment. Unfortunately, I can’t recall which grand metaphor I was trying to make, I only remember the intention behind it: to create a bridge for myself, to understand what puts me there and how to cope with it.

It’s difficult to explain, or to even comprehend, what it is like to look at yourself and your surroundings and feel like a stranger – the face you see in the mirror is slightly skewed, it feels as though you are treading through thick molasses, yet, the world moves around you at high velocity. Before you know it the day is gone, and you haven’t had a chance to move past the difference in your eyes or how hard it is to breathe… there is very little recollection of what happened, other than it did and that is the end.
When days like this happen I become hyper aware of my own insignificance, really, the insignificance of everything. My job, my home, my relationships, the mind, the body, all of it, have zero significance on a cosmic scale and none of it is worth the importance it is given… but
I choose to give them importance.
Maybe that’s what the difference between my normal mind set and this unrelatable, ball of nothingness I feel is.. (as I write this, a glimpse of the metaphor has come back to me):

imagine, you are strung up, from all angles, in the center of a redwood forest… you are in a circular clearing one hundred feet from the ground, with thin wires wrapped around your wrists and ankles, you are alone. You have to get down somehow, or else you will die of dehydration/starvation, but how?
If you struggle, the wires might snap, sending you plummeting to the forest floor.
If you yell, no one will hear you… except for wild animals which might seek you out and wait for your eventual demise in hopes that you may become a tasty snack.
It is there, it is the opportunity to make a choice, to believe in something, embrace both the negative and positive outcomes, that is the difference. To believe that, maybe, you can use the wire to swing to a tree and make your way down; maybe, you are closer to civilization than the tall forestry leads you to believe, and an s.o.s might be heard. To believe that you have real, tangible options besides waiting to die.

You have real, tangible options besides waiting to die.
I have real, tangible options besides waiting to die.

health.

The last two months have been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster – it’s been a frenzy of fear, excitement, stress, disappointment and more fear… and now here we are. I’ve spent a multitude of hours in the hospital this week, and have more waiting for me in specialist offices and testing rooms.
At the beginning of April, we thought I was pregnant. Everything came to a complete stop; it felt like our whole world was crashing in on itself, but in it’s wake creating something new and beautiful. It’s hard to quantify exactly how we felt, other than sudden terror and elation. Needless to say, despite my symptoms, that is not what was happening… which is, admittedly, a little heartbreaking. I never thought that the idea of having a child would bring me so much genuine happiness.. but it did, along with a peace amongst the chaos that is my life. So, having that officially taken away from me and replaced with my current situation is difficult.
For any of you who do not know me, or maybe haven’t read some of my other posts, I have a lot of health problems. Most of them are unknown, or at least have been unknown for a very long time. Health is a huge anxiety point for me, this stems mostly from having severe symptoms with no explanation or treatment for many years… it’s kind of a vicious cycle really:
feel sick > feel anxious > feel more sick > feel more anxious > feel even more sick > feel even more anxious etc. etc.
and this is just health, this doesn’t include all of my other internal and external stressors.

Last week I started to feel exceptionally strange… I mean, I had been feeling strange for a couple of months but everything seemed to be amplified. I could barely get down full meals, I felt faint, my body was constantly sore – especially my stomach. Then, over the weekend, I started waking up with excruciating headaches and extreme nausea. Monday, it took me 2 hours to finish a bowl of oatmeal and fruit, I had to choke down lunch, which almost immediately led to me in the work bathroom, sick, for an hour. Two days of hospital visits, maaaaany blood tests and ultrasounds later – I’ve been told I, more than likely, have Crohn’s disease and a growth on my pancreas. On one hand, this whole situation terrifies me, having a name to my problems makes it all the more real, and then to add another unknown on top of that puts me in a weird mental valley that I can’t quite climb out of. My rational mind knows the chances of this growth, or mass, or whatever, being dangerous is quite small… but there’s that rampant anxious side that grapples and holds on to the worst possible outcome, no matter how small the chances. On the other hand, I’ve been trying to get answers for my health problems for years. It is really disappointing that it has had to get this bad for doctors to start taking me seriously, and accept that not all of my problems are mental, but at least we are on the right track. I have real specialists that will be helping me figure out exactly what is going on in these guts and I’m thankful for that, even if it means a bunch of tests and procedures that I’m really not looking forward to.

The majority of this week I’ve spent in my house. I’m lucky enough to have a boss and team that understands my needs and is flexible with me and my ever growing list of ailments. I’m also lucky to have a partner who is willing to drop everything to help me, drive me to appointments, tell me I’m pretty when I’m really not and make me laugh when all I want to do is curl up into a ball and freak out.
Today, after the craziness and stress of this week, we get to go to the island and decompress – forget about everything going on for a couple of days and recenter before going back to the normal city grind on Tuesday.

Thankfully, things are starting to even out – I can even eat solid food again! So, hopefully, this time away has and will continue to recharge my batteries for getting back to business as usual… or, at least, as “usual” as I can muster for the coming weeks.

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re-personalization [tw]

Let’s talk about depersonalization – a topic I’ve covered before, where as a teenager and in to my early 20’s, I took on forms of myself – that weren’t real – to cope with my day to day life. It’s safe to say that that particular mechanism is no longer at the forefront, but I still experience depersonalization/realization regularly… in fact, any moment where I am able to completely shut off, I do. I let my mind take a backseat, put my body on autopilot and just let time pass – completely empty.
Since starting this blog I’ve had to come to terms with a lot of things, things that, until this point, I haven’t really spoken about – I’ve recognized myself dissociating in the middle of conversations, my brain tries to power off at random instead of under my controlled conditions. Maybe it’s because I’m frequently digging around in memories I actively try to repress, and have repressed for many years.
Below is a poem I wrote as a way to “talk therapy” myself into releasing these things I’ve kept under lock and key for so long… it isn’t great or well thought out – but that is kind of the point.

this is going to get dark, gritty and graphic – there are going to be parts of my life spoken about that maybe you don’t want to know or you don’t want to accept – take this as your warning.

 

 

 

 

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a post about death – a thank you to Suzy Berhow

I don’t think it’s a secret that death scares me. I’ve said it before and I will say it again… there is nothing I fear more than death. It is the ultimate uncertainty and, normally, even thinking about the outcome of death sends me in to a spiral of inescapable anxiety, like the fabric of my very being is being torn away and I am left to dwell in the worthlessness of my existence, that will inevitably end in nothing… Yet, it’s constantly on my mind… It’s unhealthy! I can’t cross a street, turn on an appliance, be home alone etc. without considering every horrible way I could die at any moment. I’ve become a slave to my own mortality, rather than embracing it; instead of living and appreciating the life I’ve been given, I hide behind my mind made shield that does little for actual protection and more for sheltering a person scared of living too much.

I’ve been trying to work my way out of these habits recently, leaving my house more often, enjoying the company of friends and colleagues, allowing myself to take in my personal goals and what I want from my life, because, eventually, it will all end. And as much as I hypothesize, I don’t know when or how it will happen. Why spend my limited time on this planet fearing something that I will never understand… something I truly believe no one is meant to understand. As an extremely wise man once said, “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” While my mind is no where close to well-organized, I hope to, in time, appreciate my life enough to accept death as it is.

One of the most influential creators, for me personally, created a jewelry line recently called “Dust to Dust”. Her view of death inspired me to talk about this and really delve in to my own personal relationship with it. As with most people, I’ve lost both family and friends at all different stages of my life, I’ve also almost lost myself. Suzy’s collection, and video announcing the collection, was a reminder to me that death comes for everyone… and that isn’t a bad thing, nor is it something that I can prevent. It’s going to come when it’s meant to, and that is okay.
I also decided to purchase a piece of the jewelry, as my own reminder that nothing lasts forever, and that when my time comes, I will be ready to welcome it.

 

 

spring cleaning

It’s been a little bit since I’ve written something. I could chalk this up to many things, but instead I’m going to encapsulate the majority of it into one basket: spring cleaning. So here we go,

I had been broiling – a half step away from boiling over for months. I’d watched people bowl me over, without apology or even the slightest (perceived) care for my well being… and it just kept happening… I truly lost respect for myself; how do you respect someone who doesn’t seem to deserve it from members of her family, her peers or her friends?
Post-facing that statement, there was, and still are large stressful things happening in my life that have nothing to do with anyone but myself – but! Post-facing THAT statement, it seems that some people feel entitled to an inside scoop of my life when the reality is: I do not owe any one an explanation as to how I am feeling, because, quite frankly, some things are nobody’s business but my own. And just because I am not ready to talk about something, to anyone, does not mean that it doesn’t exist. I am not going to be pressured in to proving my own personal validity any more.

The last couple weeks have been spent finding my self respect again, re-learning what I want from my existence and the people that are part of it. I’ve been mentally unloading, something I haven’t been able to do in months, and setting up healthy boundaries. I’ve been socializing with friends I, almost, forgot I had because I’ve been so wrapped up in all of the bullshit that goes with anxiety and trust and limits. I’ve been teaching myself to be present instead of constantly looking back – teaching myself to let the sun touch my face instead of constantly looking down.
In doing these things, I’ve unpacked a lot of brain boxes. Years worth of relationships and expectations and things that I’ve just never really let go of – and I’m finally coming to terms with my worth, minus the words and actions of other people… I’m also coming to realize that I don’t need toxic relationships, just because they are family or because they are long standing. I’m sweeping up the dust and the clutter and I no longer care how long you’ve been around – if you are contributing to my mind being a mess, I don’t want you here.

I still have a lot of tidying to do, mentally, emotionally and physically – but I am on the right path, and that is what matters the most right now.

 

p.s, in normal “me” fashion, I’ve dyed my hair bright turquoise – hello spring!