Not Putting the Pieces Back Together: New Beginning

The final months of 2016 and the beginning months of 2017 were very trying and marked the end of an era for me.

Brief Summary:

I was swinging between depression and mania, I impulsively quit a job that was bad for my mental health, I lost my apartment, went through 3 jobs in 2 months, was misunderstood by family and friends, kicked out by my family, slept on the street and in hotels for awhile, taken in by a shelter, found stable employment, got a new place, found a therapist who has opened my eyes to communities such as the hearing voices and antipsychiatry movement, my psychiatrist is not that great but I advocate for myself, and basically, after all that hell, things are looking up.

I’m starting over from scratch. Most people talk about putting the pieces back together but I don’t want to put the pieces of my old life back together. It was full of toxic relationships, bad mental health professionals, bootstrapping when it was wiser to change course, medications that were doing more harm than good, low self confidence, begging to be accepted, and listening to people who don’t live with my illness or more importantly live my life.

Through adversity I have begun to discover myself. I have become more grounded more self aware and was forced to face some harsh truths. I had been living in a fairly tale world propped up by people who choose to lie to themselves but I can’t or won’t do it anymore. I don’t know where I’m headed or where life will take me but, although it isn’t perfect, the life im building is one I am fighting tooth and nail for, one I feel contentment with. I’m finding my peace, what works for me, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Farewell Grandmom Bell

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So thats it, you’re gone. Its funny, I started working on a family tree a couple of years ago and there were so many questions I wanted to ask you, so much I realized I didn’t know about your life. I kept meaning to ask you these questions, to get to know you, but I didn’t. Our phone calls seemed like the wrong time to do it because I didn’t call much and those were catch up times plus keeping you on the phone more the ten minutes was a chore, of course I always meant to call more, but when we think we have time we neglect to do those things. We get so caught up in ourselves and our lives that we forget to make time for those we love.

I came to visit you last August because your grasp on life was slipping away and I honestly didn’t know how to react. On the days leading up to my trip I thought about all the things I wanted to say to you because it might have been the last time I saw you alive, and it was. But words failed me, I froze up, and all that was left was me clumsily trying to help take care of you. I covered your feet with a blanket, I brought your drinks to you, I tried with those small actions to say everything that was in my heart. I don’t know if you heard me but I hope you did.

All I’m left with now is memories. Memories of your famous home made pancakes, your love of Passions, General Hospital, and Days Of Our Lives, how you would affectionately call me a coon, and memories of summers long ago passed when life was simpler and you were still here.

My aunts, uncles, cousins sometimes tell me things about your life that you never personally shared with me. In those moments I get a glimpse of someone I never knew. I always wondered why you didn’t share anything about your life with me. Was it because I didn’t ask? Was it because of our distance? Were you just a private person like me? I’ll never know but I have to admit it hurt a little. Part of me feels like I never knew you. And the chance to get to know you is passed.

You leave behind a big family. A family that will never forget you and how you cared for all of us. Thank you for everything, I love you, and I’m glad you are finally at peace.

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Recovery is a lie

Is recovery a lie? I think it is but we all have different definitions of recovery I guess. Recovery for me has always meant a life free of symptoms of my mental illness or at least learning ways to cope that would allow me to function seamlessly in the largely neurotypical world, neither thing has happened for me and I don’t believe it ever will. I’ve been “in recovery” for pretty much my entire adult life and things aren’t getting easier they are getting more challenging.

I have seen people online declare themselves recovered from mental illness when they can’t do things like hold a job or go outside on a regular basis. If you can’t work, function in your society the way that is expected as a non-ill person in what way are you recovered? Your illness is still hindering you, you are still sick. Even the people who work, have families, and do all the “normal” life things who are considered recovered will often describe how hard it is but they bite their lip and power through.

I’ve done everything in different combinations. Medication, exercise, meditation, herbal supplements, vitamins, therapy, dietary changes, none of it works. Sure it can make things less sucky but mental illness will always suck, always affect you, unless you are one of the lucky ones whose illness just disappears one day.

Recovery is a lie. It’s one of those meaningless over positive concepts somebody made up to give the mentally ill hope, but its a sham. I’m done believing and done hoping, it will always be hard, it will always affect my life, I will never have sense of normalcy.

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I Breathe

Eyes wide, 

Each step intentional, 

I breathe consciously, 

Inhale peace, 

Exhale strife, 

I’m breathing through my life, 

Each moment aware, 

I feel the pain and despair, 

I breathe, 

I feel the contentment and peace, 

I breathe, 

I listen, 

I learn, 

I transform, 

I breathe. 

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Opening Up: Is the risk worth it?

I’ve been at this mental illness thing for a fair bit now and Im starting to wonder if maybe things were better when I kept my struggles between me, my therapist, and internet strangers. I had a therapist about two years ago who encouraged me to let the people around me in as a salve to my loneliness and lack of support. I had been lonely, alone in my struggle for years, so her advice gave me hope. Hope for understanding, help, support, and to basically not be in the trenches alone. But here I am two years later alone in my struggle. 

The thing my therapist, or I should probably say I missed, is that I had my reasons for keeping these people at arms length and there was also a reason they didn’t probe; they weren’t equipt to handle what I experience. But I thought maybe I had faulty thinking or maladaptive relationship habits, so against my better judgement, I let them in. 

The end result of all this was the loss of two friends and struggling to accept family for who they are because I really want to be done with them. I’ve been mocked, had my intentions questioned, been judged harshly, treated to a healthy dose of ableism, all the while struggling to keep my head above water. I’m already down and the kicks keep coming.  I have honestly been struggling with feelings of bitterness towards neurotypical people in general. 

But I see and acknowledge my mistake. I opened up to people who were not safe. I was so lonely I forgot my boundaries. Opening up, being completely honest, comes with a risk and I’m not sure its worth it. 

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Consider The Coconut!

While listening to my Pandora radio station “RENT,” which has seed songs from all my favorite musicals, I heard the most inspiring song called Where You Are. This song is from the Disney musical Moana. I haven’t seen the full movie but I did catch about twenty minutes of this movie and I do not believe the message of the song is the message of the movie. But, I think think the song makes a very valid point which I am just learning. 

The background story to this song is that the character Moana has a fascination with the sea but her father is trying to convince her the island is the only place she needs to be in order to find happiness. Here are the lyrics that caught my attention:

There comes a day
When you’re gonna look around
And realize happiness is where you are

Consider the coconut
The what?
Consider its tree
We use each part of the coconut
That’s all we need

We make our nets from the fibers
The water is sweet inside
We use the leaves to build fires
We cook up the meat inside

For year I have been looking for happiness, for change, outside of myself and my circumstances. “If I had a different job” “if I had new friends” “if I moved to a new city” “if I made more money” etc. Always grasping at something, always raising the bar, and the changes never brought me lasting happiness. So I’ve realized I’ve got to find happiness where I am, in my current circumstances. 

Its cliched but true, happiness really does come from within. I’ve been meditating, practicing mindfulness, integrating buddhist ideals into my life, and working on dialectical behavioral thearpy; these things together have helped me change my thinking. They have helped me find contentment and acceptance in my circumstances. This contentment has led to gratitude and spontaneous moments of joy when doing something as mundane as walking down the street. And while I’ve only been doing these things for a couple of months, I have observed and felt a real change inside in how I feel and think which keeps me motivated to keep going. 

Lets make the coconut a metaphor for ourselves, our minds, feelings, and spirits. If you introspect, contemplate each part, listen to them, you will find that all you need to be happy is inside you. 

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Self Acceptance

I have been looking for acceptance and understanding in all the wrong places. This is a realization I’ve come to recently, like today. For years I thought, “if i could just find my tribe” I would be complete. Thats whats crammed down our throats by society. In countless teen movies and tv shows there is a trope where a misfit finds a boyfriend, friend, or group of friends and becomes their true self. Or has a dysfunctional family that comes together and understands each other eventually. This even plays out in adult dramas, comedies, and rom coms. The message is clear, in order to become self actualized you need other people to make you whole. 

And so, I fell into the trap. I have been looking outside myself for people to make me whole since I was a teen. I thought it was normal to look outside yourself for acceptance, love, and understanding. I looked to family, then to authority figures, then to friends. I looked online in forums, chatrooms, dating sites, even hook up sites. Looping around and circling back within all those categories. And I always came up short. 

I wanted what pop culture promised, someone who truly understood and accepted me flaws and all. I had been hoodwinked. I mean maybe it is possible but not in my experience so I have been forced to turn inward. To give myself compassion,  understanding,  and love. 

I spend a lot of time giving openly and outwardly to other people compassion, love, and understanding hoping to get it in return, but I haven’t been giving it to myself. Today I make the decision to treat myself the way I treat others. To become my own tribe. 

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the universe, deserves your love and affection” -Sharon Salzburg 

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