I Wonder

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I’ve wondered lately if I’m a good person. I’ll say it to myself. I’ll let it marinate.

Sometimes I contemplate it so hard, that I lose track of time.

Hours go by for me without one word uttered. It blurs me in and out.

I never discover the answer. My mind never commits one way or another.

Today, I started feeling the familiar twinge of a migraine.

Light sensitivity, nausea, searing pain, intense fatigue.

It’s one of the many symptoms of this mental illness circling inside me.

It is the curse of thought, self-doubt, and a deep unrest within me.

Am I a saint or a devil? An angel or a demon? Good or evil?

The middle ground has disintegrated around me.

I can only replenish the sadness.

I can’t eradicate it.

I can only chip away at how much I care.

 

Little Victories Vol. 5

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Hello!

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this area, and it feels like the time to contribute again. I hope everyone has been well and thriving this holiday season. A lot of things have been shifting in my life lately, and processing it has been hard, particularly in the two weeks. I’d forgotten to take some time out of the chaos to remind myself that there are things worth celebrating. So, I’ll get to it!

Kindness-As I’ve alluded, things have been a mess for me lately. After a rough few weeks, flashes of old, scarring situations have surfaced. I seized the opportunity to write them down for this blog, to hopefully start a conversation with people who may be feeling similarly or raise awareness that mental disorders are sneaky bastards. I’ve written two entries so far, resulting in some great email conversations with individuals. I urge you to read them and join the conversation. Mental health continues to be considered an unsavory topic, and often people are uncomfortable with talking about it. I had this instance last weekend after my mom followed me into a room and watched a panic attack ensue. She would not address it. She kept talking to me like the attack wasn’t happening. Blindness to or unwillingness to understand mental illness is a true detriment to the individual healing process and societal empathy.

But there have also been some people who have risen to the occasion, and have helped me through the issues. They have supported the weight of it, propped me up when it felt crushing. For them, I am truly grateful.

Sleep-Finals crept up for grad school too quickly. After an incredibly hectic semester, I felt ragged. Finals seemed like an unnecessary hurdle for the end, so I procrastinated my work slightly. This meant I had two weeks where I had extra late nights. However, I achieved a 4.0 semester! My celebration of this will be a weekend of true rest starting tonight. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this. In my true nature, I have pre-scheduled naps tomorrow and Sunday to ensure I complete what I have set out to do. Only one work day stands between me and R&R (I can do this!).

Music-With the emotionally chaotic  few weeks, I’ve turned (even more so) to music to get me through. Like books, music has been a staple in my life since the womb. I grew up playing instruments, stuck with professional lessons on the piano for 14 years, achieved awards in percussion, and started lessons on the violin this year. Music builds me up and allows constructive ways to reflect and relax.

Thanks for reading today. Your support has not gone unnoticed. Happy Friday!

This Broken Brain

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A 2004 high school snapshot:

“I’m addicted to hurting myself,” I said with a dry voice. Dry eyes.

“What do you mean?” My friend said.

I lifted my sleeve as high as it would go. They eyed the burns, the jagged cuts.

“Fuck.” they said.

“I don’t know what to think of myself. I think I might be suicidal.”

“The hell you are!” They said.

I saw the anger steaming from the top of their head.

“Fuck you!” They said.

The words worked into my brain.We sat together in their car near my parent’s driveway. It was our space for honesty, a closed off sanctuary.

“I’m telling your parents right now!” They said, jumping out, violating our rule of secrecy.

“Please don’t.” I said. “I can’t handle them knowing.” I pulled on my hair to make my scalp sting.

They walked toward the front door, my mind capturing it all in slow motion.

I leaped out too. I ran. After a mile of a full sprint, I jumped into the woods of familiar trees and familiar scopes.

I hid. My parents were going to disown me. I knew it.

I watched the world fall dark. The woods began to turn on me. I walked away from the road, hearing the wind rattle the dead leaves around me. Hot, stinging tears fell from my face. My eyes worked against my brain, as it tried to squelch the pain.

As anxiety began to surface, I started singing.

“So this is odd. Painful realization that all has gone wrong, and nobody cares at all.”

The dark accepted my words. The cold air whisked them away.

My skull throbbed, echoing the scream rising in my throat.

I wandered, blindly. The trees became ghosts, wailing shadows for monsters ready to pounce. I heard the wind playing its sad melody with a creaking door in the distance.

“Follow me,” it sang. “Find me.”

I walked on. Sharp chest pains begged me to stop.

“So you buried all your lover’s clothes and burned the letters lover wrote, but it doesn’t make it any better. Does it make it any better?” I said

“You’ll never know,” something said.

I kept on. “And the plaster dented from your fist in the hall where you had your first kiss. Reminds you that the memories will fade.”

“You aren’t worth the memories.” I felt claws.

“So this is strange. Our sidestepping has come to be a brilliant dance where nobody leads at all.” I said, softly.

“Yes. You are lost.” A heavy weight landed on my shoulders. I cried out, falling hard.

With a ragged breath I said, “And the picture frames are facing down and the ringing from this empty sound is deafening and keeping you from sleep.”

I stood up.

“Stay lost, empty one.”

I ran away. I didn’t look back to see what had tried to catch me. I pushed my lungs as hard as they could muster as I saw the edge of the woods ahead.

I sprinted out, came to a stop, and doubled over. My mind hit its no return zone. The urge ground myself with pain welled beneath my  skin. A haze fell over my brain.

I grasped for reality as my mind hung on to the song. “And breathing is a foreign task and thinking’s just too much to ask and you’re measuring your minutes by a clock that’s blinking eights.”

I spied the screeching door in the distance. My mind focused, and walked toward it. I closed my eyes for long stretches of time as my legs continued on autopilot.

I reached an obstacle. I touched the wooden fence blocking my way. Numbly, I put a food on the bottom rail in an effort to raise myself over it. I heard an abrupt sound, scarily close to me. I looked up to see a white figure brush past me at full speed. I slipped, knocking my chin on the fence as I fell sideways. I cried out, from pain and fear.

I looked up expecting to see Satan standing above me. Surprised to find nothing, I looked around and my mind came into focus. I heard galloping steps and saw the horse moving alongside the fence.

“Well, this is incredible, starving, insatiable. Yes, this is love for the first time. And you’d like to think that you were invincible.Yeah, well weren’t we all once, before we felt loss for the first time? ” My voice project into the open space.

I noticed the horse’s agitation as I realized that the air felt right for a storm. I backed away from the fence  toward the woods, feeling braver.

“Well, this is the last time,” I said, laying down next to a dense tree. I covered my body with leaves and closed my eyes.

A little while later, I called a friend to help me.


*lyrics by Chris Carrabba

 

This Broken Brain

 

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Part 1:

One afternoon in March, I called the suicide hotline. I had hit my breaking point. My body was completely numb. I was afraid of myself. I needed to be honest about what I was planning to do. I needed help.

The connection established.

I said, “I’m going to commit suicide.”

The person, said “Don’t do that.” An annoyed tone crept up among their words.

“Do you have someone to talk to?”

“No, that’s why I called you,” I said. “I really need you to help me.”

A burning sensation filled my chest cavity. Admitting that was hard.

The person, increasingly frustrated said,”God says suicide is a sin.”

This was my first time calling this line. I was shocked at what I was hearing. How did any god have any say in what was happening at that moment? How was that supposed to help me after stating I was going to commit suicide?

“I’m not religious.” I stated, blandly.

“Well that’s your problem.” they said, pointedly. “You don’t believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ, your savior. You wouldn’t feel this way if you did.”

“I’m an Atheist.” I said. I had not fully believed that thought until then.

They scoffed.

I hung up.

I focused on how much I couldn’t feel. I couldn’t sense anything except my burning heart.

I picked up something sharp. I made a tiny nick near my ear.

Nothing.

I watched little beads of red surface in my mirror.

I was tired. Exhausted. Unprepared.

My body fell to the floor.

I  woke up after dark.

Numb.

Little Victories Vol. 4

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Things are pretty busy around where I work at the moment. We’ve hit our peak time, and it’s been hard to stay caught up each day. Some things had to be put aside in order for me to survive the past few weeks. I’m hoping things will slow down as we near the holiday season, so I can focus on getting the extra stuff done in the day. I have been running on fumes from the piles of things I had to do outside of work. Last night was the first night in over a month that allowed me to get home before 9 pm. Stress and anxiety caught up with me this week, and I almost broke down. I wanted to give up everything that had been keeping me up so late at night, the papers that required writing and reading, the events that wouldn’t end on time, the duties around the house, all of the obligations that kept me away from my family.

All of this is to say that I didn’t have a lot of time to read and de-compress. Last week, I had kept to a schedule, but as soon as Monday came this week, I was dead on my feet and all of my drive to “be something” left me. I had to push myself into survival mode, to make it to the end of the week. I shut down emotions and shifted my priorities to focus only on tasks. And that is how my schedule has been: wake up, work, event, work, bed—5 am-12 am each day.

Next week begins the last month of this kind of schedule. I will have survived four months of literally running from one meeting to the next, the 3:30 am alarms, the phone reminders that I should have gone to bed before 12 am so I could receive more than two hours of sleep, the anxiety that woke me up even earlier, and the depression that I constantly fought to keep from slipping.

I’m so close, and that’s my victory.

Little Victories Vol. 3

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Everyone. I’m going to be honest with you. This week was busy, but has been so good. It’s amazing how much staying grounded in the whirlwind of my schedule has helped to keep my self-esteem up. I made sure that read a little bit each day, even if it wasn’t for long. If you’ve kept up with me, you’ll know that books keep me calm during the long haul, and during the times when I can’t remember who I am. When I forced myself to read when I was on the verge of stressing out, I was able to recharge myself and clear my head. I hope to keep this habit up, because books helped me see the positive things that happened this week. What I saw was:

How strong I am. I keep my schedule so tight, that I’m booked out (accident pun! love it!) from 6 am-9 pm, Monday through Friday. I’m good with this for now, because I can see how the things I’m doing now will not only ease up soon, but are helping me tremendously with my future.

How wonderful my spouse continues to be. I’m not a person who expresses feelings well with men. Situations in my past have resulted in a fear about what men expected me to be. I didn’t grow up with a great example of humane men. I grew up knowing I was different than others, too. I didn’t like hugging or touching. Holding hands with anyone (even friends) made me break out in an anxious cold sweat. And then, I met my wonderfully, non-aggressively, persistent husband, who didn’t worry that I couldn’t express myself with embrace, but I could with words and acts of kindness. I don’t struggle as much with being affectionate, but it took a lot of patience on his part to feel comfortable.

This week, he knew that I couldn’t focus on intimacy. It’s a positive stress point for me, but stress nonetheless. He knew I was in business mode, that I would come to him when I was able to hug tightly again. He let me be my quietly distracted self, and then last night I gave him a big hug (on purpose!) and felt open and happy with him.

How much I’m trying. I fail at being positive a lot. If I’m not prepared, I can let things get me down really quickly. Anxiety and depression can get overwhelming sometimes, like a choking smoke. Last week was rough for me. I was on my last speck of energy, and it felt like I was ready to throw the towel over a lot of things. I let myself feel it, fully. Ally Tymo, from #SoulSparkChat once told me that allowing myself to feel what’s rushing through me will allow me to heal more steadily. Her wisdom came at a really good time, and I’ve been implementing this thought daily. It’s innately human to feel, whether it’s negative or positive. It’s humanity’s blessing and curse. This past weekend, I let myself unpack emotions that I had kept bottled, one at a time. I let myself cry when I needed to. I let myself be upset and angry. I also let myself be unabashedly, chaotically happy. It felt so happy to let it all out, and feel content with who I was. I even let myself write something beautiful…but more on that later.

That’s all for me today. Now, it’s your turn! How has your week been?

 

 

 

Little Victories Vol: 2

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Another stressful week has passed. On Wednesday, I had to stay home from work, having developed a migraine from hell. Most Tuesday evening, I attempted to stave it off, but alas, on Wednesday I woke up feeling like something was crushing my skull. Thursday, my head was sore, but I braved work with the horrible lighting and bad computer monitors. I worked Tuesday through Thursday, I worked on a dimmed screen to ease some of the pounding, twitching, and pain that commenced.

I’m not great at taking any time off when I’m feeling burned out or stressed. I work until I make myself sick, which isn’t healthy. I know this, and I’m making attempts to change that. Stress unfortunately comes with the territory of my current position, along with graduate school and other obligations I signed myself up for.

Taking Wednesday off was a huge improvement from my normal actions. I felt how badly my body and mind felt, and forced myself to recognize that it was time to implement self-care. It’s incredibly important if I want to live a long and happy life.

So today, I’m celebrating the little break I gave myself, to allow myself to breath in this busy life of mine.

What are you celebrating today?