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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Control

normal-life

For the past two weeks I have been taking a Mental Health First Aid class. Today was the final class(I received my certification, woo!) and before we took the quiz for certification we covered psychosis. Naturally, as someone who suffers from psychosis my ears perked up and I sat up a little straighter interested to hear what the instructor would say about the topic. I was also on the look out for stigma or other problematic statements or ideas. Thankfully, the instructors and the students were relatively understanding, and the discussion was constructive and informative.

One thing the instructor said really struck a cord with me and inspired me to write this blog. The statement was something like this:

“People affected by psychosis are often very intelligent. They had put together lives and high aspirations prior to the onset of psychosis so many of them feel shame that they have lost control of their lives.”

This is the story of my life. My illness started when I was in college, it was my Junior year in fact. I was close to finishing my degree and had hopes of going to grad school, I was actually in contact with a few. That summer I started to experience psychosis and went home. Things went back to normal for awhile after I got home and when I got my first place and was making positive steps in my life to get back to college, I had my first psychotic break.

This has been my life for the past eight years. I take a few steps forward but eventually things spiral out of control and I have to start over again. Its gotten to the point where I’m considering using supportive social services because at the place I’m at right now I don’t know if I can handle going back to my full time adult responsibilities so soon after my last set back in November. I feel ashamed, I feel broken, I feel scared. I don’t know how my life has become what it is.

I used to proudly wear my badge of high functioning but now I don’t even know if I deserve it anymore. I get that functioning isn’t static, that people need more support during some periods of their lives than others; but, it still hurts to admit that maybe I can’t hack life at the moment. I’m constantly chasing normal but it continues to elude me.

Even with all that though I’m hopeful. The statements made by that instructor made feel like someone gets it. My family and friends may not understand but there are people out there who do. People who understand exactly what I’m fighting for and why I keep going. People who understand exactly the beast I’m fighting and how hard that can be. People who see that the life I’m living was not the life I envisioned for myself and still see my dignity as a human being even when I’m at my worst. It helped relieve me of some of the responsibility I feel for things I have no control over. It helped me realize I was carrying around shame and helped unburden me of some of it. They say words are powerful things and you never know how your words will touch people, even perfect strangers. That educational statement touched and validated a part of me I didn’t know needed to hear that.

 

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