Cultivating Self Compassion: I am Enough

woman looking at sunset
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There is something forming in my conscious that sounds familiar, but has felt foreign to me until recently. It’s a seed that is growing in size, full and impenetrable. It’s resting on the collective conscious of “what is” and longing for the wisdom and strength of what has left us. My spirit gravitates toward a space that is shared between what I have absorbed and what I have chased. This new landscape is difficult to articulate, I only know it is defined by my very own view of the world, and, I trust it.

I’ve spend many years in anguish. I didn’t feel I was enough. I was never smart enough, kind enough, talented enough, good enough, organized enough, wealthy enough, etc. There was never enough of me to feel “enough”. Every endeavor was designed to be a means to an end. It was as if every activity I engaged in had to have a value assigned to it. If I relaxed completely, letting go of counting the “inventory” of successes and failures”, I’d feel anxiety and shame for letting down my guard and not fulfilling my duty. I’ve always been driven, a perfectionist, determined to excel at the activities in which I invested time and energy. One can see quickly where this is headed. Over time, I grew deeply disappointed, depressed, and anxious.

I wanted more for my life. I expected more from people. I even expected more from the world. I was downright devastated when I awakened from the dream where I had expected those around me to be kind, honest, and authentic. I did have a few people in my life who were healthy individuals. However, I had spent most of my time in conflict with those in my life who were unable or unwilling to change. I allowed these people to suck up my time, energy, emotions, and thoughts. It was my mistake. I’m still unraveling and unpacking the last few years where the trauma of my past became intertwined with the trauma of certain loved ones. Was I indeed trying to save myself by holding on too tightly to their trauma? Again, this elusive seed that is growing within me tells me that it’s all about to change. I’m often giddy and joyful, nearly feeling free. It’s a foreign feeling as I sit in the space of so many colliding and conflicting emotions, but having the ability to process without impulsively acting. This is new for me, and I’m sure I will backslide a bit, but I like this feeling a lot. I’m going to work to maintain this.

I had a session a week ago where I was talking to my therapist about the distance I have purposely created between me and a loved one to “keep me safe” currently. This person is a relative and so it might be difficult to completely remain disengaged permanently. It is someone who has hurt me quite a bit and her lifestyle continues to concern me. My pattern has often been to confront when I am concerned. This has not benefited me as the person I am confronting does not want to change. My therapist, was pushing me a bit, stating that I could be engaged on some level if “I accepted her where she was at right now”. I quickly shared reasons why I could not do so. They were good reasons. It’s very hard engaging with this person and our relationship is quite fractured. Still yet, this “push” from my therapist of acceptance bloomed inside of me. I cannot quite articulate how so, I can only say that it was another window into a different way of existing outside the “cage” I have been inside of for years.

And so, all of this has been filling me with curiosity and even joy. It’s as if I took the pliers  and gently took off one of the steel bars of my cage.

Tonight, I sat making Christmas ornaments for my loved ones. It was an imperfect process and I realized some things were a tad off. In the past, that would have bothered me a great deal. I let it go this time. I said to myself, “I don’t have to be perfect”. I noticed the tension rising: “I should redo it, it’s not perfect”. It dawned on me how most people probably would’t even notice what I saw as “imperfect”. When did my world become so calculated and precise? That isn’t the world! I instinctively knew it was not! I know the trauma in my past created a pattern of perfectionism. I smiled at myself at the thought of finally being free of this pattern. It dawned on me rather quickly that because I had placed such high expectations on myself, I extended the same to loved ones. And often if people were unable to meet them, it was a reflection that I was “not enough”. Somehow, their inability to meet my expectations was my failure. I believe this is why I have fought so hard, at times, with these individuals. Truthfully, I should have “accepted them where they were at” and retained my dignity by not fighting or pleading for their involvement in my life. It was this realization, that I’ve had before, that has now cultivated a greater awareness. It’s as if another layer has nearly been revealed and I’m eagerly awaiting for the next chapter of my life to begin!

I believe it’s a “way of living” that I have missed out on due to trauma and my continual entrapment within it. I know it starts with me and knowing that I am “enough”. I am inherently worthy, we all are. Operating from that optic alone frees me from a lot of desperate behaviors where I was relying on others to affirm my self worth. Whoops! Not a great idea as people are often totally oblivious to your struggle and have their own full plates. And then, there is the awareness that I no longer need to listen to the voices of others either defining me or telling me who I am or not. I am accepting all of me, the imperfections, the mistakes, the mess, and the comeback. I can see all the complexity and  I embrace it. I don’t have to explain it to others. I am at a point now where despite all the messes, I’m pretty proud and impressed at the way I’ve cleaned them all up! I am learning to live more in the moment and I enjoy using all my senses as I lose myself in the experience of life.

The complexity of life, the sadness and the joy, are held simultaneously in one space in my heart. I am more level as a result and joy is finding me in many places. I’m sure I will be able to express the growing light inside much better in time. I’m glad it’s been uncovered and it is glowing brightly. It was there all along, but had been dimmed by many years where I was searching. Just thought I would try and share tonight as I continue on my journey of healing from the pain and confusion of trauma. Love and light!

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It’s Nearly Time to Take Flight: Abandoning Your Cage

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Long ago, a bold, little bird was stuffed into a small, steel cage. There she sat, on her wooden swing, occasionally belting out a sweet, soulful song. She was careful not to sing too loudly.

Behind the steel bars, she felt safe. The steel structure became a way of life for the little bird. Inside the cramped cage, she was often lonely, but the distance surrounding her kept her boundless energy and enthusiasm somewhat confined and at a tolerable level to those who were easily annoyed by the sometimes boisterous bird.

Time passed and the little bird grew weary. The cage was becoming a hindrance and was getting in the way of connecting with the other birds. The little bird had to chirp loudly to get the attention of the others and often she felt invisible and unloved. What once made her feel safe was now making her feel distant and sad. The little bird often was angry and tense without truly knowing why. She stopped singing and swinging and sat in her small, steel cage brooding over what to do. This went on for quite some time.

Then the rain began. It was slow and steady rain at first and the little bird was able to avoid getting too wet. But, this was temporary as it one day really began to pour, raining “cats and dogs”. The wind picked up and the rain was blown sideways, completely soaking the little bird. And the poor little bird had no idea what to do. So, she sat in the soaking rain, shivering, waiting for someone to come save her. People often came, looking on, perhaps giving her some morsels to eat, but they were just as confused as she was and had their own storms to weather. So the little bird continued to sit in the rain, softly singing a ballad and perpetually wondering what she could do.

The storms raged on night and day. The little bird thought she might die and even longed to on certain days. She felt lost. She was isolated and had become embittered and even somewhat mean, at times. The cage that she fled to for protection was now endangering her life and song. She had stopped singing entirely and it took everything she could muster just to get through the day and survive.

Still yet, the little bird continued to question. She never stopped trying to understand why she was so alone and what to do about it. Was this really her destination? Why? She was persistent and was determined to find an answer.

After years of being isolated and alone, she was studying herself one day and noticed the steel bars surrounding her. She had seen them before, right? Perhaps so, but since she felt she needed them maybe she overlooked them. She started to take a very hard look at the steel bars surrounding her and spent time acknowledging the role they have played in her life. She began to realize that the bars had become “part of her”. She quickly implored: “Are these steel bars not separate from me?”. Instinctively, she knew the bars had held her back. But, she was frightened at the prospect of leaving them. Initially, she did not even know it was a possibility to leave!  She was scared and excited all at once at the discovery that the steel bars were separate from her and perhaps she could leave the small, steel cage! Time passed and these thoughts churned in her mind night and day as she tried to make sense of it all. What does it all mean?

And then one day, it happened. The little bird was swinging in her cage. She had started to belt out a few songs. The sunlight was illuminating the cage. She was studying her cage and her eyes landed on the door. It was ajar! Funny, the little bird thought: “I never noticed that!  How did I not notice that the door has been slightly open the entire time”? The little bird was curious and cautious all at once. Joy flooded her little being. She knew that she was nearly ready. She wasn’t sure what it would be like outside the cage, but she knew that, in time, she needed to abandon the cage to truly recover. There was a way out of the misery that had entrapped her for so long! Her time had come to be free, to soar effortlessly, free from the cage that had chained her.

Sometimes the answer that we long for means letting go of something we did not know we could release. We have to be extremely persistent like the little bird to find the answer. Years can pass and we can nearly give up. But, don’t! Be relentless in your pursuit to find the peace you deserve. It is yours to have. Keep going.

 

Cultivating Your Songbird: Letting Go to Love

IMG_4452I’m in a bit of a hole at the moment. I am again fighting change and dragging my feet, clinging to what needs to be released in my life to finally be free. I’m caught up in the confusing web of chaos and lies that has captured my time and attention for years. Lies that were told to me by others and lies I told myself in order to maintain the status quo and thus promote a false sense of security. I keep returning to this vacuous space where I once stood unaware that I was alone. I still occasionally employ the same old scripts that are in need of retiring. There have been times that I’m so overcome with grief that I’m desperate to return to the steel bars that caged me. I enter briefly into those dark and confining spaces only to realize that the chatter has silenced and I’ve actually been alone all along. It was all a mirage, a swinging mirror that was clanking against the steel cage, a distraction that resulted in hours of endless, mindless preoccupation. The cage was now empty and I was in full awareness of the solitude that shrouded my little song.

My first realization as I stood, alone, was the deafening silence surrounding me. It’s been my voice all along, chirping desperately into the empty spaces, echoing and bouncing off the stone walls, that has kept me tirelessly hooked and responding. In this new silence where I have all at once stopped singing, I hear nothing. I’m enveloped in soft and silent spaces that communicate vast solitude and begs for my somber, but awakened soul, to fill the empty spaces and soothe the rough edges that were created from fighting and flying solo for so long. It’s time drop the armor so that I can spread my wings of self discovery and visit the places that I have cut myself off from in my desperate attempts to get love from those in my life unwilling to give it.

I’ve stopped fighting and have began grieving the losses that I had truly never gained. Those longed for connections and I were never even in the same room together. It was the chatter of my own voice I had been wrestling with while the objects of my longing were only able to see my rage and hurt. My desire to connect and rebuild was foreign to them as they remained in their cage on their post, constructing their own soliloquy. The more I fought to connect with these individuals, the more alienated I became, until one day I woke up to the tune of silence. Determined to love myself, I discovered that I had finally freed myself from those who had no real desire to commune with me. This painful discovery was the beginning of my freedom from my cage, and was my first steps toward self-love.

I recently have been in the dance of wanting to connect again and have had those old urges to reach out. I realize that this is part of the grieving process and as much as I would like to speed through and be flying free, there is only so much I can do to hasten this difficult process. Sometimes, it means getting sucked in to old patterns of thoughts and behaviors and even potentially fighting once again for a connection that does not exist. Often, if I am truthful to myself, this connection never really existed.

I’ve been involved with people from family members to partners that were often too unhealthy to truly connect. I wanted the connection so desperately that I often brutally demanded it. Growing up with others who were often distant emotionally, has left me stunted and uncertain as to how to get my needs met in the relationship. I was never allowed to express anger openly growing up as a child and certain family members were unable to connect in intimate and safe ways. I’ve always longed for what I instinctively knew existed, but I became horribly ineffective at obtaining it from others in my life. I stayed in sick relationships for too long, ruthlessly insisting that we connect and grow together. These ineffective tactics only served to alienate me and make me feel depressed and, at times, even suicidal. I felt unlovable and unworthy because the few people that I desperately wanted to receive love from, displayed over and over in actions and words, that they were not concerned with my welfare, one time even expressing to me: “I don’t even think about you”.

For years, I was determined to get my needs met from the few people in my life that haphazardly remained, often involving themselves when and only if they needed something from me. I knew I was being used, at times, but I accepted their excuses and even made excuses for their inability to connect with me so that I too could receive love. I was desperate to get the occasional crumbs and willingly remained engaged with these individuals in my life. I moved across the country for two people in my life and I was there for these individuals at times when their lives crashed and burned. At their lowest time, I was the one standing beside them, encouraging and supporting them. For one of these individuals, this meant helping her even bathe and cooking food for her and allowing her to stay at my home after she nearly died in the hospital to an illness related to her substance abuse. However, once she was back on her own two feet, she again began to distance herself, argue with me, and leave my home going back to her addiction. Over and over again, I was left by these two individuals who seemed to only need me or want to connect during times when they needed my help. I rarely said no, but over the last few years the chatter in my cage increased and I began to act in ugly and mean ways to desperately demand and insist they get the help needed to heal and thus, be able to connect with me and others. Obviously, this did not bode well and I ended up swinging in my little cage, alone, in the deafening silence.

The most difficult part of my journey was realizing that the connection never really truly existed in the first place. I was desiring an authentic and genuine connection. One that involved truth and honesty and reciprocation. Sadly, I learned over time that these two people I was hung up on in my life where not well enough to truly connect and they both broke my heart. I don’t feel that either of them are even connected to themselves and both often gain their love and adoration from a safe distance from those who care for them, but are not truly connected to them. There is a difference between loving someone from a distance and truly connecting to them. I learned that the walls they had built were too high and the communication received from me only served to overwhelm and confuse them.  I had to let go of both of them. I still love them, but remaining in a distant relationship where I was often used and abandoned only served to make me bitter and angry. Several times I have recently fallen, crashed, and burned, and neither one of these people even took the time to contact me and provide support, not even a brief phone call.

Both of these people in my life whom I loved dearly, were lessons to me. I learned a lot from loving two people that for whatever reason were unable to love me back. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from this difficult journey:

  1. Love thyself. This sounds pretty simple, right? But, there is so much tied into this tiny little phrase, that it is actually multi-layered and extremely complex at the same time!  I learned that once I stopped demanding love for myself, silence engulfed me. This was intolerable, at first, as I wanted to go back into safe spaces and become preoccupied by what had chained me. Why? Because that was more comfortable in the end. I realized though I would be right back into the painful cycle. This is when I realized what it truly means to: “Love Thyself”. it means to clear your plate of items and people that are not meant for your time and attention. Let them go, as hard as it may seem as doing so will allow you the space in your life to be filled with people and things that serve you. This is not being selfish. It is you “loving yourself” enough to direct your life so that you are not endlessly responding and engaging in things or with people that zap your energy and therefore diminish your true potential. You deserve people and things in your life that honor and respect you. When you get wrapped up with individuals that are not honoring you and are abusive or neglectful of your needs, it actually is a choice you are making to remain comfortable in old patterns and thoughts. Love yourself and free yourself from those patterns.
  2. Leaving sometimes means you are going to an unfamiliar place, it’s ok. My life is in major transition. I left an abusive relationship two years ago. I am distancing myself from certain family members because of addiction issues and my inability to help them. I am currently not working because my mental illness was exacerbated by all the change in my life. I am without money or a job and it is extremely stressful. I am completely unraveled and have absolutely no idea where my life will end up! I am living with someone currently as I had no money saved up and am going through the process of applying for SSDI. I also have chosen to not date because my life is in so much upheaval currently that I would not want to invite another person in to the chaos. It is a very scary and disorienting time for me. Because I spent so much time trying with people who did not try back, I am a bit isolated with less support than I would like. So, I know deep down that I am headed to a different place, both spiritually and physically. It is my responsibility to breathe life and beauty into all the spaces I let grow dark and damp.  Let in the light!!  I don’t know where I am going, but it will be somewhere and I am hopeful that loving myself and putting myself in the center will rearrange my life “furniture” in a beautiful and inspiring way. So, to anyone out there who is struggling and feels “knocked down” by what life has thrown you, BREATHE. It’s ok to not have all the answers at once. It will come. Just put yourself first and let go of anything weighting down your wings!
  3. Forgive yourself! This is a big one. I made some huge mistakes in my life. Oh man, the chaos that ensued. I was always one to “throw caution to the wind” and go with my gut feelings. I did not realize at the time that living so haphazardly was not an act of self care or love. My life blew up before me and became unmanageable really quickly. In the last half decade of my life, I became a raging mess. All the times I dropped everything for others, I was now left alone to deal with my chaos myself. I rescued others, but no one came to rescue me! I felt betrayed. I was mad and enraged and hated the world. I then became ugly as a result and made even more mistakes, hurting myself most of all. Breathe. It is a very difficult life lesson to learn, but when you don’t love yourself and put yourself as a priority, you are going to get hurt. For most of my mistakes, I really only had myself to blame. I was swinging madly in my cage, chattering and tweeting up a storm, belting out a dramatic melody. And, for the most part, I was alone. It’s important to embrace your innate humanness and forgive yourself. I’m actively involved in this very process and feel it is an important component of cultivating compassion for yourself and others. We can love more fully when we forgive.
  4. Have firm boundaries. I used to let everyone in to my life and I disclosed my life story to anyone who would listen. I was “an open book”. I’m learning that perhaps being so open and inviting is not the best practice. I want to believe everyone is kind and has my best interest, but life experiences has made me the wiser. This is hard for me because it goes against everything I learned growing up. I was taught to be giving and kind and to accept everyone!  And so, I am trying to have better boundaries and to “say no” when it regards something that I do not feel comfortable doing. This is a new landscape for me and it will take adjusting and trial and error. But, as I work on putting my life as the priority, I will say no more often to the people and things I really don’t want on my plate. 

And, so my little songbird is singing a different tune these days. It’s a tune of self discovery and self love. I believe we are here to learn and to love. Sometimes, I get discouraged because I am getting somewhat older and I wish I had learned these things earlier. I feel behind, like I must catch up. And then I feel perhaps it has all unraveled this away for a reason. No matter when you begin to sing a different tune it truly makes no difference. Belt it out and embrace it! This is your song to create and continually sing throughout your life. I hope it is full, with a joyful melody, layered with beautiful harmonies!

Here I Am, Standing at the Horizon

woman wearing purple hooded jacket sitting on rock
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I’m looking out at the horizon. It appears untouched, uncertain, and foreign. I’m feeling a bit frozen. I know I cannot return to what I left as it is in ruins. I’ve seen too much to unsee it and go back. I have a keen awareness that I have finally left and am grappling with a strange, new reality that hasn’t come together yet, nor does it feel familiar in any way. My eyes scan the horizon and my heart if full of doubt and fear. I question my ability to navigate the terrain below.

I guess I’ll just hang here for awhile and stop frantically searching. Perhaps the goal is to give myself the time to grieve what I have lost and to let go of needless investigation of things that are outside of my control. It’s time to bring my focus on what can actually be accomplished today. Too much thought and worry often leads to fear and inaction and very little is accomplished when I am this way. Clinging to constant worry was one of my ineffective coping mechanisms that stemmed from trauma. Worrying has not only rendered itself useless, it has also damaged relationships and caused health problems. I am aware of this now, but have only recently began to acknowledge my ability to disengage from the situations that harm me.

I was hanging on to people and ideas that were not fruitful for me. I’m still processing why I put other people before my own development and health. Obviously, I had something to gain from remaining engaged. It could have been, in part, to avoid my own work and pain. Change is difficult and perhaps it is easier to detach and become engrossed in someone else’s struggle. Being a part of someone else’s healing might of made me feel useful, less unworthy, and visible. I would have felt like I mattered had I been able to help someone.

People were not ready and they were not asking for my help. Their fractured lives left little room for connection in the way I longed for and desired. Its too difficult remaining in a relationship that centers around chaos where I continually worry and fret over everyone’s safety. My voice has become hoarse from screaming for so long. I’m exhausted and I feel silly when I acknowledge that my pleas for lasting change have never really amounted to anything. I think of all the time and energy that I could have been pouring into my life and loving myself. Perhaps, the screaming was actually a plea to connect with and care for myself. I was angry and upset at others who I felt had abandoned me, but in reality, I was the worst offender. I had repeatedly left myself on a mission to help and “save” those who repeatedly declined my help. At least now, I am questioning my behavior honestly and courageously. I’ve been hurt so much that I’m willing to take a harder look at myself.

I am exhausted at the endless attempts to connect to the ones I love. I’ve begged and pleaded for way too long, losing my dignity, winding up devastated and depressed. No one came to embrace me and instead I only ended up completely isolated and alone. And yet, I was unwilling to remain silent. I was also not ready yet to embrace and accept “what is” and to let go of my desire and dream to connect. I would look around and see evidence of others in my life who appeared connected and happy in their families and lives, and I was unwilling to let go of what I felt “should be”. In my hurt and anger, I added fuel to the flames, making an already dismal situation, worse. I was never truly left, because I was never actually connected and together with the ones I loved. I had spent a lifetime trying to connect to people who were either unwilling or unable to join me.

I know that it’s time to leave the hopeless reality that has consumed much of my time and energy. I literally have no idea what I am doing or even what is next. I only know that accepting “what is” and “letting go” of ineffective ways of coping will more than likely open up windows in this musty and stuffy old house. Perhaps, light will flood into the windows and I’ll discover areas of myself that have been neglected and untouched all these years. Maybe the sun will flood in providing warmth and even joy. In time, I might even create a new and familiar space that is all mine that I will call “HOME”.

I hold doubt and hope in my heart at the same time. This space is unfamiliar, but feels somewhat safe. I’m just going to put one foot in front of the other as I learn to listen and trust my own voice. I’ll be grieving, letting go, and learning all at the same time. Most importantly, I hope the manacles that have bound me in the past to places of despair, release and fall heavily to the floor. I’m venturing into the unknown with new intention and resolve and my eyes are open, scanning the horizon.

I Don’t Really Want to Die, But…

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I don’t really want to die, But…

I’ve been fighting a war with my family for too long now. A war to feel believed, seen, valued, and considered. A war to stop the enabling of addiction and dangerous behaviors that are harming the ones I love. A war to get people the help they need so that they can recover and have lives that are peaceful. A war to bring forgiveness and closeness to our family. A war that always ends with me raging into the battlefield, losing my dignity, and feeling like a failure. I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live fighting this war any longer that I never win, not even one, single battle. And my family isn’t winning either. Those struggling do not have access to quality care or to economic opportunities to empower them. This life, is becoming too heavy.

I don’t really want to die, But…

I’ve been battling a war of mental illness for far to long, with too many barriers to treatment. I continue to fall through the cracks, even though I am educated and an advocate for myself. Treatment has been interrupted over and over again by insurance being dropped when I’ve lost jobs. I’ve been told for nearly a decade now that DBT Therapy is the most effective treatment for my condition, and yet, I have not been able to access it due to costs, waitlists, or loss of insurance coverage. I am currently on a waitlist for DBT and have applied for a grant to afford the cost of the program. I have been advised by my therapist to not work until I go through the treatment which is 6 months to a year. I am likely to fail at work again if I attempt working and then treatment will be disrupted. So I wait anxiously for an answer on the funding and for my turn to come up on the waitlist so I can finally get help.

As a mental health patient, I have experienced poor treatment where I waited 36 hours to be admitted only to be forced to leave treatment the next day when I was not ready to go. I have been treated poorly in the ER and have had symptoms ignored while practitioners made inappropriate comments about my mental health status. Due to not having stability at work, I have lost insurance coverage that has inevitably disrupted care and continuity with providers and as a result I haven’t gotten the treatment needed to truly succeed at work. It is a vicious cycle that has nearly destroyed my confidence and health.

I don’t really want to die, But… 

I’ve been waging a war for years against employment discrimination that has left me unemployed and devastated. After experiencing discrimination at several workplaces when I requested accommodations for my mental illness, I have decided to throw the towel in for now. It’s not only physically and mentally draining to work with a mental illness, but it is traumatizing when individuals treat you unjustly after having disclosed significant private information about a highly stigmatized illness. I have repeatedly, in good faith, handed over my personal health information that was requested to put accommodations in place and each time it backfired. I left each job feeling more and more vulnerable and without a recommendation for employment from my supervisor. My faith was completely shaken when one of my last employers, a state agency that provides services for individuals with disabilities, actually denied me access to employment, firing me after a medical leave at my very first accommodations meeting. I was devastated. Again, it is hard enough to work through panic attacks, severe depression and anxiety, mania, etc. without the additional stress of discriminatory practices.

My quality of work was never in question at any job I held, it was the symptoms of my illness that caused concern and employers were unwilling to accommodate me. As a result, my right to work has been denied. Treatment for my illness has been interrupted over and over again due to loss of medical coverage and having to move to avoid homelessness. This has caused numerous relapses of depression and anxiety. I have even developed PTSD from losing jobs, experiencing nightmares and severe panic attacks when starting a new position. It’s been a long and difficult struggle that most dismiss because they lack awareness and understanding of what it is like to live with a mental illness.

I don’t really want to die, But… 

I am fighting a war to meet my basics needs while government programs like SSDI and SSI  reinforce to me that I am insignificant and unworthy. In the midst of severe stress and anxiety where I am having to rely on others to help me with housing and my car payment, SSDI and SSI are hanging up on me, lying to me, and blaming me for mistakes hey have made in processing my appeal for my disability benefits. They lost my paperwork of 95 pages, joked about shredding it, and once it was resubmitted at their request, did not use it in deciding my case. And even though it was not my error, they have refused to redo it.

I have been researching reviews of these programs and their behavior is common. Apparently, these agencies likes to torment those who are already on the edge. Listen up America, we pay into a system that isn’t there for us when we one day may become disabled and need the help. The process is beyond grueling and torturous,  especially since I would much rather work if only I could!! I am living with my ex-spouse out of need, am having my parents help with my car payment, am visiting the food bank, receiving food stamps and a cash benefit of $197 monthly from an Aging, Blind, and Disabled program. I’ve been deemed eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation, but I have been waitlisted for these programs as well.  Guess what America?  You can be doing everything right: trying to get treatment, trying to get training, etc. and it simply isn’t accessible in our country!!

I don’t really want to die, But…

I in a constant monthly war with my hormones that wreak havoc on my physical, mental, and emotional well-being. I have been struggling for years with Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I have literally sobbed in doctor offices and have explained over and over that each month for 3-4 days I am suicidal and feel like hell.  I often want to go to the ER because my whole body hurts and the anxiety is un-paralled.  No one seems to understand my sense of urgency or how bad I feel. It has destroyed jobs and relationships. And, is literally a hell of sorts every single month. I found out recently 15% of people who suffer with PMDD attempt suicide. I feel somewhat validated that I am not alone, but still no one is helping me and I am often dismissed and invalidated.

 I don’t really want to die, But…

I grieving the loss from a war I waged for nearly a decade with a Narc where dreams were dashed and faith destroyed. I was abused physically and emotionally and wish I would have had the self esteem to leave earlier. The relationship helped to carve out my self esteem, setting the stage for self love. I grieve the loss of time, loss of family I could have formed, and potentially the opportunity to have children. While others post pictures of their beautiful children on FB and social media, I’m reminded continually of a few bad choices I made which not only robbed me of potentially a family, but also nearly destroyed my trust in men and in myself. I am fearful to start over again and I’m getting older. I am not completely hopeless, but it is a hurdle to overcome.

And so, I really don’t want to die. I was serious about that. I want to live. And, I actually want to GIVE even though I have little at the moment. I still have dreams to make this world a better place despite the struggles listed above. I want to help others realize their dreams. I’m writing to bring awareness of the system failures that we have in this country from incompetence to discriminatory practices that are “breaking people”. We simply must help and love one another. We must do this for each other, You and I. Post this message if you like and share it. I earnestly want to hear other people’s stories of struggle as I know many are struggling in a system that is preventing people from recovering. The systems need to change and people need to turn towards one another, not away. I don’t have all the answers, I do have ideas…. and I have love. Love is what is needed to turn things around.  Spread it… every single day. 

“We shall overcome”

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Trauma, Addiction, and The Cage

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It’s a paradox of sorts, clinging to addiction to feel so alive, when, in reality, it’s bringing you so much closer to death. And still, you continue to cling to the chaos, relentlessly pursuing the false narrative that somehow you’re safer when high, distracted and disconnected to the misery weighing you down. These endeavors always leave you feeling alone and helpless, constantly craving a manufactured bliss, forever held captive by the entity you feel “sets you free”. An all or nothing approach renders you trapped as relapse is inevitable followed by binges and despair. This cycle is familiar to so many, even those foreign to substance abuse. Addiction wears many hats, is delivered in a variety of packages, yet yields the same emotions of despair, isolation, guilt, and helplessness.   

This cycle of highs and lows becomes interrupted, at times, giving the opportunity to peer through the curtains, pierced by the light that comes flooding in, bringing in too much visibility of the gaping scars and bruises that cover your war torn frame. Wincing, you’ll hastily pull the curtains shut…. But, wait, not so fast. The light and the stillness that surrounds you is exactly what is needed to heal. Truthfully, the sun feels good.  Maybe it is time to bask in it and marvel that you still exist despite the bruises and scars. And, seeing them in the light may make us realize how strong we actually are.  If you are sitting there in the stillness and silence with the sun warming your skin, you have survived thus far.  It will be the stillness that saves you.  When you quit running and sit in the light and warmth, it’s easy to see that the war has always been with yourself. It’s time to turn towards yourself, accept reality completely, and sit with the pain. Sitting with the pain now, will protect you from suffering needlessly. 

I have been fortunate to never struggle with substance use, but I have struggled with addiction. I struggle with gambling and have lost a lot of money and time sitting at slot machines. I currently manage my addiction by self-banning at the casinos that are closest to me so I rarely gamble. Even so, I think of gambling often as a way to escape and distract myself from emotional pain.

My sister and some of her adult children have suffered with severe and persistent addiction issues for several years now. It has affected our whole family and relationships are strained as a result. As the one who has continually confronted and questioned, I’ve been alienated and scapegoated. I am unable to trust those in my family and feel discredited, dismissed, and ignored. I feel I have attempted reconciliation many times, but it’s always during times when there is need for my help and during a crisis. When it is quiet, no one is reaching out to repair or to connect. I have been hurt and even suicidal, at times. But, I am healing and want to stop the continual bleed and learn how to communicate effectively and safely. I often get ugly and abusive by raging and have ended up losing my dignity many times. I’m ready to let go and be free.

The damage that has been done on both sides is too great to reconcile. I personally don’t want to continue risking my emotional health for people who actually feel that my goal has been to have my sister’s grandson taken from the home and potentially placed in foster care. My goal was actually to help those in the home that were using to get help if they would accept it. My goal was to encourage the mother of the child to get her GED and work so that she could actually provide for the child. Currently, she is 20 and doesn’t even have a driver’s license. My goal was to help her eldest daughter get the treatment she needs for both a mental illness and an addiction that has been a factor in recent incarcerations and violent behaviors that have occurred in the home. My goal has always been to help facilitate the healing process so that people can connect in healthy ways and live a life that is full and peaceful.

I longed for the people in my life to recover and to take back their lives. Selfishly, I longed for the connection I had with them before we all lost ourselves in the fire that consumed much of our interactions and occupations. I have missed my family greatly. After years of fighting, I was struck one day recently, by realizing that what I was grieving was not the loss of my family to addiction, but the loss of never having had a close family in the first place.

Memories of abandonment as a young child flooded me and I winced in pain, tears flooded down my cheeks. In an instant, I became aware that I had been holding on to a fantasy of closeness and protection that never truly existed for me. Sadly, I feel it didn’t exist in the generation before me either. My spirit was longing for a space that wasn’t often occupied by others in my family. Love was present, but displayed in sometimes ineffective endeavors which were overshadowed by addictions and other mindless preoccupations that served to provide distance from anything too emotionally charged or intense. I held the intensity of the family and was a constant source of confrontation, always demanding connection and change. However, I was always losing connection, moving farther away from the target I had aimed towards.

The process of confrontation has never been productive. Instead it has often revealed the old, archaic habits and fears that get recycled over and over again. This brutally painful process left me grappling with my grief, completely unraveled and confused.

I was left alone a lot when I was a young child. I was fearful of my step-father as he was often explosive and unpredictable. My Mom worked and my older sister was rarely at home as she was out with friends socializing. I can recall having nightmares and feeling abandoned and afraid much of the time. My sister would come home and stir up problems as she was very rebellious and she would constantly “butt heads” with my step-father. I remember her threatening to run away one afternoon after a heated argument with Dad. I sat there on her bed watching in shock and disbelief as she packed her things. My heart sunk and I was paralyzed in fear, feeling panicked and abandoned. Things felt chaotic and out of control, and I did not feel close enough to anyone to feel protected and safe.

A lot of these past feelings continue to play out again and again as I hopelessly watch the chaos resulting from years of drug use in my sister’s home. I’m not certain if there is current drug use or not, but there has been recent assaults and an incarceration. It’s impacted relationships and has significantly diminished the potential that exists in each of her now adult children who all struggle in various ways. I believe my desire and intensity to help my family stems not only from love and concern, but also from my own feelings of not being protected in times of crisis. The intensity is higher because of my own feelings of abandonment and fear. Their situation in many ways is dire and in need of intervention and yet the constant refusal to work with me and professionals to truly get help has left me feeling perpetually victimized. I’ve finally recognized the unhealthy pattern and am eager to disengage from a hopeless relationship where my needs are continually not met, in order to process the grief of never really having had a close-knit family. It’s going to be ok, because in my stillness, I have discovered the root of so much that I have been struggling with for years.

This feeling of abandonment that has driven so much of my impulsive and destructive behaviors has finally been uncovered. I understand now where it stems from and can work to give myself the protection needed to finally feel safe and ok. And, I can grieve the loss while rebuilding in love. I also will be disengaging with people and situations that re-traumatize me. I love all of my family members and I can recognize that they are all struggling in their own ways. I also know that I have, at times, added to their struggle and have hurt them. Still yet, I am convinced now that disengaging and grieving, while processing the past, is the only way to move forward in a peaceful and healthy manner.

I had to let go of certain people in my life to clearly see why engaging was so damaging and invalidating for me. Trauma results in so many ineffective ways of coping, involving habits and addictions that can be extremely destructive. These negative ways of thinking can trap you, keeping you continually preoccupied with picking up the pieces that fall as a result of employing them. I’m going to one day be completely free from the cage that has confined me and the ineffective coping mechanisms that has kept me trapped.

I would guess nearly all addictions and negative coping mechanisms result from some deeper pain within you that feels too difficult to process. The light that floods in and the stillness that surrounds you is a gift of discovery if you are willing to do the difficult emotional work. The freedom you will feel from letting go is the purest form of joy that I have ever tasted. It leaves me feeling peacefully connected to myself. That is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. It cost absolutely nothing and is pure, its benefit, endless.  Peace and light to all. Wishing you light along the journey toward wholeness.

I Will Rise, I Will Love

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I am again in the midst of leaving and letting go. This act of self-love has left me captivated in thought.  Much of what I was clinging to throughout the years and wearing in heavy layers, is shedding, leaving me unraveled, naked, and new. I would have never guessed that the process of healing would leave me in a space of solitude, and yet somehow embracing it. It’s strangely odd and yet liberating at the same time.

I have often wondered if those in my life have realized that this imperfect process of anger, and even rage, is my voice growing in relevance and determination. I believe it to be lost on most of them in their continual defenses of behavior that has been damaging to me and others that I love. People become trapped by their own trauma and are often unaware that their behaviors and words communicate strongly that they do not believe you, hear you, or value you. People forget that action is truly the only litmus test for revealing someone’s true beliefs and intentions. And often, people do not act.

I spent a lifetime living in fear, paralyzed by the unpredictability of an adult who lived in the home who exploded often in anger and rage. I was only a child and was unable to escape from the situation. I recall living in a hyper-vigilant state, unable to breathe, always on guard. My small voice wavered as I reached out with courage to 2 adults in my life. I was quickly invalidated and told in so many words not to trust my own instincts and perception of reality. All of me wanted to be out of this situation and be safe. Years later, I was again invalidated by people refusing to accept accountability, and instead offering excuses that these erratic and explosive acts that I endured as a child, were never witnessed, but occurred when they were away from the home. There was an apology issued, but they didn’t express complete accountability, dismissing themselves from addressing the behaviors at the time because they weren’t really there to see them. Again, an indicator that perhaps what I experienced was fabricated somehow or less serious.

And so, I remained vigilant and ever ready to protect myself as best as possible and I often disassociated as a result. I remember times during these explosive situations that I disappeared. I recall the beginning of the event and the individual reaching to shake me, and then I recall nothing. I had faded into empty spaces, protecting myself from the assault, not only physically, but spiritually as well. I was broken and silenced as a result and did not feel protected or safe. This communicated to me on a deep level that I was not worthy to be protected by the adults in my life.

As a result of the ongoing tense and uncertain environment, I grew paranoid, depressed, and fearful. It has had a lasting impact on my life. For years, I felt expressing anger would kill me and even now when angry I feel unable to breathe. As I write now, I am severely anxious and tearful. My expression of anger now comes at a high cost. It is often explosive and leaves me feeling exhausted and anxious. I am still learning how to safely express it.

Years have passed with mental health diagnoses and medications and I’m still searching for the part of me that disappeared. I fight tooth and nail with family members regarding an addiction that has fostered loose boundaries and trauma of another sort. Deep neglect has not only destroyed the potential found in early adulthood of those I dearly love, but it’s limited their ability to have boundaries. It’s crippled their confidence to execute independently and as a result some do not have an education or a job. When asked, they are unable to articulate goals for themselves and are often absorbed in desperate activities to numb the pain stemming from their trauma. Restless and unable to often act, they engage with others who are on the same destructive path.

I often see the same patterns of enabling destructive behaviors and an throwing money at the situation which does nothing to address the underlying issues that are perpetuating the devastation. I see some of them being invalidated much like I was as a child, their voices downed out by the guilt of those not awake enough to accept accountability and truly address the trauma they endured as children. Adults in their lives that have kept them bound to inaction with behaviors of enabling and their own addictions, whether it be food, drugs, gambling, sex, etc. I do sporadically see efforts to remedy things, but these efforts are often coupled with enabling. I recognize the complexity of things, still yet, people turn away from each other, instead of towards each other in accountability and compromise. The guilt and shame associated with their mistakes impedes healthy patterns of reinforcing consequences and having expectations. This may eliminate some of the guilt, but does little to address the root problem which is the only way to truly heal and recover. The cycle continues. And not only is it heart breaking to watch, it has prevented me from connecting to my family in a normal and healthy way. It’s too hard for me to watch the pain and not address it.

I have fought alone for the past few years with no one really joining in and I’m exhausted. I recognize my own mistake of staying engaged and working harder than those who are struggling with their addictions. Often, I have been ignored and devalued by the ones I love and this results in nasty rage with abusive words. These words, expressed in anger, are what they continue to focus on instead of their destructive path. They easily forget thatI have reached out multiple times in kindness, offering support and help.

Engaging with members of my family is a continual and complete reenactment of past abuse. I am often ignored and abandoned, and my concerns are downplayed with no action taken. Many times I am told, in so many words, that I am not seeing things correctly.  People become defensive and my credibility and intentions are questioned over and over. I end up feeling devalued and misunderstood. I have walked away many times and no one knocks on my door, worried and concerned. And when I return, people expect me to nearly deny my reality and erase the past history in order to dwell in their complacency and avoidance of the issues. It’s a continual bleed that no one wants to acknowledge or treat. I am tirelessly running around alerting people of the grave injury that needs immediate attention and treatment while others ignore, flee the scene, or argue with me that treatment is not really needed. Exhausting, really.

I wonder sometimes if they realize my rage and even abusive words is my bloody, messy process of carving out my self esteem? The voice of the child that sat frozen in fear for years has shattered into a million pieces and is finally tasting freedom and self worth. Of course, I am angry. What has broken them and muted their voice, has also broken me. And yet we turn away in our pain, instead of towards one another to heal. Historical patterns I will one day be free of because they serve no purpose.  They have no space in my life. These pattens have paralyzed me and my family and are no longer effective. I am in the awkward process of letting everyone know that I am awake. My voice is strong and clear. And I’m shedding the shackles that I’ve lugged around for years.

The initial softened words that my voice shared were tolerated. But the sharper ones, full of piercing frustration, are deafened by those still clinging to the familial fabric that has been created and perpetuated by the abuse and trauma that we all experienced at one time or another. Your voices have often faded into addiction and complacency, too fearful to rock the boat.  Rocking it might mean getting truly messy and feeling too much. I get it.

I hurt physically. I am fearful, letting the waves of grief crash into me. And, yet I am relentless in my resolve to heal.

I will rise. I will love.

I have screamed enough, often becoming ineffective in delivery as my newly freed voice was clumsy in delivery due to years of hurt and anger bound by silence. I bounced around from being appropriate to being purely abusive and was awkward and uncertain. Shouting at those hurting who are hidden behind their active addictions that erode their lives and potential. I don’t want you to disappear and I’ve been tirelessly banging on your door, if only you could see me and sit with me. I have a lot to share. I know it’s not time and fear it may never be time. I have to let go in self love to become stronger. I can’t hang around watching the devastation when no one hears my cries, it re-traumatizes me. I am right back there being shaken with no one listening, validating, or caring to protect my spirit. I am strong enough now to protect myself and can leave what is hurting me. I pray all of you find your strength.

Many times people get stuck in roles: older siblings, parents, etc. I’m eager to break these molds and discover common experiences between my family members. I implore parents to release their adult children, realizing their uniqueness. Children pass through us and never truly belong to us. Often these familial connections become so enmeshed we can no longer be effective with setting boundaries because we see them as extensions of ourselves. Their realities are completely separate from the one we hold in our minds that only belongs to us on a personal level. Age and order has absolutely no relavance on maturity and spiritual growth. It is the work you are willing to do on your spirit that defines you. It is a personal journey in the end. However, clinging too tightly and enabling will keep children tide up in the story of their parents, instead of creating their own story. Having expectations is crucial in developing esteem and growth. Pain is a necessary part of life that no one can be sheltered from and the sooner a person learns how to cope with pain, the quicker they will not only be more self-sufficient, but will have a richer life. People are free when they step away with their own separate story of what took place and honor their own reality.

I’m getting help in unpacking all of this and moving forward in my life. I’m disengaging from the heaviness to learn how to engage more effectively while honoring myself in the process.

And I will rise. I will love. I see so much of the cycle and I long for others to find their voice and be free. I remain in solitude in this space, filling my spirit with self-love and validation.

I will rise. I will love. The time is now and I will aggressively pursue my health, even if alone. In this beautiful place of solitude, I will cultivate MY voice and MY strength. And I am so grateful today my voice has been found. It is a hard lonely road at times that people often do not understand, but one worth traveling.