Posted in Uncategorized

Unplug, or you might get Stuck

I thought I would divert from the political climate for a bit and talk about another issue that seems to be pressing: How much time we spend “plugged in” to our devices and games. I began really marinating on this topic when Sony announced Playstation VR, a futuristic headset that allows anyone who wears it to become immersed in the game they are playing. I know that there are other VR headsets out there, Samsung being one of them, but since I am a Sony Playstation fan girl, I really only feel the need to speak of that particular headset.

I can’t help but think of movies like Wall-E when it comes to this particular topic.

Then I really start to delve deeper into my thoughts, and remember that there have been countless dramas warning us about the potential harm of VR. Though I hate to admit it, the show Sword Art Online comes to mind…

Now I am one of those rare people who is actually on the fence about this show, joining my favorite YouTuber Arkada, I love the first few parts of it but hated the latter half of the first season and didn’t even bother with the second. So I’m just going to talk about the parts I watched and enjoyed.

Here’s the synopsis from Crunchyroll:

n the near future, a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online has been released where players control their avatars with their bodies using a piece of technology called: Nerve Gear. One day, players discover they cannot log out, as the game creator is holding them captive unless they reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss.

Now I did leave out one key plot element of the story: If the players die in the game, they in fact die in real life. I won’t go into the fact that they completely screwed this up and didn’t use it to it’s full effectiveness as the show went on, but in the beginning they used it very well. Death as we all know is permanent and they really made this fact weigh on our protagonists in the beginning.

I believe that shows like SAO and Wall-E are, much like Brave New World or 1984, cautionary tales for the twenty first century. See we spend SO much time on our phones now, I won’t lie I’m guilty too, that we tend to put these blinders on and only see what we want to see. We don’t really appreciate things as much; things like a hand written letter instead of an email, or a flower growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk (something I always thought was a great metaphor for nature vs industrialization). We are too busy playing Pokemon GO to realize that there are actual animals out there we can go see (though I wouldn’t recommend throwing things at them), sure it got people outside and off their butts, but it didn’t solve the underlying problem that we spend way too much time plugged in.

I know that it’s hard to not be plugged in. After all this world is fast paced, and just about everything is digital. Hell I wouldn’t be able to do this blog post without being plugged in. But my point isn’t to just drop everything and become a goat-herder in the Alps for the rest of your life; it’s to realize that there are much more beautiful things out there. Think about the last time you saw a sunset, or felt sand between your toes, or went on a stroll through the woods; what did you feel then? Chances are you didn’t feel the weight of responsibility that our digitized society places on you. You were in that moment, mindful of everything around you: the feel of the breeze, the smell of the ocean or earth, and the way the sun danced on the horizon.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an author that I discovered a few years ago. His book Wherever you Go, There You Are talks about mindfulness and meditation. The practice of mindfulness has helped me immensely in my struggle against depression and anxiety, and it’s something I encourage all of you to start practicing. The great thing about mindfulness practice is that it can be done anywhere, from your cubicle to your car.

Be in this moment. This world is fast-paced, and people will run you over. But remember that there are things in this world, beyond your screen, that are worth your attention. Those things are precious, so don’t loose sight of them.

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Posted in Personal Post

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

I can remember believing in Santa right up until my double-digit years. My Mom was responsible for instilling within me a deep love for the Holiday season, I’ll never know the strength and endurance it took for her to keep up that faith.

My mom died in 2001, and that first Christmas without her was hell. It was just awful, everyone was walking on eggshells because they were trying so hard to make it special when it just couldn’t be special anymore. It hurt more than anything I could imagine, my heart was broken and there’s still a few cracks in it.

But as I got older, and the years kinder, I began to realize that my mother instilled within me all the tools I needed to make Christmas special. She made sure that we always spent it with family and friends, and, while presents were exciting, it was the time spent wrapping those for others that was more important. I still ache for her, I still long to hear her voice and have her wrap her arms around me, it still hurts. It will always hurt, but the pain becomes more bearable I suppose.

But back to Santa.

See it wasn’t really Santa that I believed in, it was magic. I believe in magic. I believe that there is something in this sometimes shitty world worth fighting for. What that something is, well that varies person to person. There is a lot of really awful things happening in our world right now, but I beg of you please don’t become jaded or cynical. I know it’s awfully hard, but here me out.

Francis Pharcellus Church was a newsman, in 1897 he received a letter from an 8-year old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, asking if there was such a thing as Santa Claus. Now Church was a newsman, he was probably weathered and maybe a little jaded himself; after all adulthood wears on us all. He could have just as easy tossed this letter aside, forgetting about it and disregarding it as a silly childish whim.

But he didn’t.

Something moved Church, maybe he was a father, maybe the childish scribbles on the page before him moved him to think that this was the most important piece he would ever write. For if children can’t believe in Santa, what hope do we have for the future?

On Sept. 21, 1897 The New York Sun printed the letter and Church’s response to it, it has become the most famous piece of newspaper editorial ever. Allow me to quote it:

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart

I’m far from a person of religious belief, such as a Christian or what have you, but I am someone who believes that there are things in this world that we just aren’t meant to understand. There is an inherent good in this world, there is beauty, and there is love.

This Christmas do what makes you feel love, peace, and remember: Yes, there is a Santa Claus.

Posted in mental health, Personal Post

Graduation: One Year Later

I must warn you all that I’ve had at least three beers (and working on my fourth) before writing this so it may be a bit more expletive than usual.

giphy

It has been a year since I’ve graduated college and as I sit here unemployed, in crippling debt, and broke I tend to let my mind wander. I allow it to wander across the plains of my fucked up brain and explore, explore the good, the bad, and the really ugly of what led up to that piece of paper that now collects dust in a frame–why I went through all of the blood, sweat, and tears to get the damn thing.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been the ideal student, I’m the daydreamer. I’m intelligent…when it comes to things I really like, things like literature or history, or the arts. Math? Fuck that shit. Letters and numbers are separate entities and should remain so. My mom was the one who showed me that all subjects mattered, whether I thought so or not. After my mom died, I became a volatile force, I was excelling at my literature classes but failing everything else. To this day I’m pretty sure my shitty Christian school gave me a diploma so they wouldn’t be held responsible for my farce of an education because there’s no way I could have graduated with the grades I had. But that’s neither here nor there, the point is that I was a terrible student after my mom died because I didn’t have a reason to live and get good grades anymore. I only went to college because I was terrified that she would haunt me the rest of my days if I didn’t.

I spent four years in a community college where most people spent two and six years at a university where most people only spent four. I had no fucking clue what I wanted to do with my life, and if I’m really honest about it, I really didn’t even want to live it because of all the shit I was going through. During my time at the university I was hospitalized twice for my mental health, and suffered several suicidal ideations (of which I never acted upon). I had to re-take several classes and spent many a minute in the bathroom suffering from panic attacks. I suffered in silence because I was afraid of ridicule. I didn’t reach out because I was a loner and trusted few.

It wasn’t until I had a creative writing class that I felt it necessary to share my story, I don’t know why and to this day I can’t give you a reason why I did it. Maybe because I felt safe there, maybe it was the amazing professor, maybe it was the students in the class, hell it was probably all of that. I think I was also just so tired, tired of hiding, tired of carrying this burden on my own. With ink and paper, the encouragement of my professor and peers, I was able to release. I was able to share my burden, even if it was just on the page.

Throughout the rest of my college career, I kept that class in the back of my mind. And on December 19, 2015, I was able to walk across the stage and get my degree that I had worked my loving ass off for.

So why did I go through all of that? Why did I even bother?

See when you have a mental illness you’re constantly reminding yourself of the things you can’t do, things that seem impossible. It’s not you saying those things, it’s your illness lying to you–daring you to even try to defy it. It tells you that you’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not enough. I believed it some days, and others it was silenced by the little spark of defiant hope that I had.

My point is this: Defy the voice that tells you that you can’t. Defy the voice that tells you that it won’t get better. I got my degree to show myself that I am capable of doing great things, that even if I never get my dream job (novelist preferably), or I never get out of debt–I can still put my feet on the floor in the morning and say I’ve lived. I woke up. I breathed. That’s a huge victory for someone who didn’t think life was worth it.

So live my friend, breathe the air of life and suck it all in. For it is beautiful.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

A love letter to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth Theory

Joseph Campbell, you have inspired me for years and I am only just now realizing that it’s your Monomyth Theory that has captured my imagination and it’s one of the many theories that has given me a critical mind.

First let me start by explaining the Monomyth, the theory presented in his extraordinary work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I recently saw a video that explained it beautifully, and I just had to share with the world.

What do some of your favorite modern day heroes (Katniss, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, etc.) have in common with the heroes of old (Hercules, Odysseus, etc.)?

monomyth

First of all, let’s think of the above diagram as a clock:

12 o’clock: Status Quo – What is the Hero’s current status?

1 o’clock: Call to Adventure – The Hero receives a mysterious message, an invitation? A challenge?

2 o’clock: Assistance – The Hero needs some help, this is usually from someone older or wiser or both.

3 o’clock: Departure – The hero crosses the threshold from their normal, ordinary world and enters the special world.

4 o’clock: Trials – Heroics is hard work. The Hero solves a riddle, slays a monster, escapes from a trap, etc.

5 o’clock: Approach – It’s time for the Hero to face their biggest ordeal–usually their worst fear.

6 o’clock: Crisis – This is the Hero’s darkest hour, they face death–possibly even die, only to be REBORN.

7 o’clock: Treasure – As a result, the Hero claims some sort of treasure–special recognition, power, etc.

8 o’clock: Result – This varies by story–do the monsters bow down before the Hero? Or do they chase him?

9 o’clock: Return – The Hero returns to their ordinary world, crossing the threshold once again.

10 o’clock: New Life – This quest/journey has changed the Hero (for better or worse), they have outgrown their old life.

11 o’clock: Resolution – All of the tangled plot lines are straightened out.

12 o’clock: Status Quo – Upgraded to a new level, nothing is quite the same once you’re a Hero.

Okay, so why is this such a big deal? Why does it matter that Katniss and Odysseus share more than just a Greek name?  Because the hero’s journey isn’t just Katniss’s or Odysseus’s journey, it’s your journey. See Katniss was a normal girl thrown into an extraordinary circumstance–a circumstance that seemed way beyond her capabilities to overcome. Yet through the sheer strenght of her will, she did it, she did it because she had something and someone to fight for.

In the cave you fear to enter, lies the treasure you seek.

What is the treasure you seek?

 

For more information on Joseph Campbell, check out the Joseph Campbell Foundation:

http://www.jcf-myth.org/

Posted in mental health, Personal Post, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving

When I think about this past year, it’s hard to not get discouraged. I’m talking about my own personal struggle–not the political turmoil and rampant depressing events that occurred this year (though some of that played a part). My mental health has been the forefront of this year, especially towards the latter half of it. I struggled with suicide and deep, dark bouts of depression and crippling anxiety. I questioned whether or not it was worth even continuing this life that I was living, and a small part of me still challenged that thought but it was exhausting and I was beginning to lose hope.

I enrolled in the Partial Hospitalization Program to avoid a full term hospitalization where they would keep me for god knows how long. The PHP is a program that helps people who have been hospitalized for mental health issues get back on their feet, and it serves as another way for those who are on the precipice of a hospitalization. I was there for two and half weeks, I won’t go into detail of the therapy or the medication changes–but it helped me immensely.

I say all of that to give a background as to how important my friends and family are to me. When you’re going through a depressive episode, you can be very reclusive and isolate–because you don’t want to be a burden to others, or you feel scared that they won’t love you anymore for whatever reason. I pushed people away, people that I shouldn’t have, people that I love dearly, and would rather die than hurt them.

But my family and friends persevered, they knew that it was not me but the illness that was doing this. They loved me, they called me, they kept pushing against this wall that I had built until it came crashing down. I wanted so much to just fall off this precipice, to make the pain stop but they kept pulling me back. They never gave up on me, nor did they allow me to give up on myself.

This Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. It is hard sometimes to remember them, especially when I’m falling back into depression. I remember them, I remember the coping skills that I learned, but most of all I feel that love searing through my veins. It keeps me grounded when I want to fly off the handle, and it keeps me sane when I want to curl up in a ball and give up.

I want to let you all know that you matter to someone, more than you ever know. You are their entire world and you are important. Someone is thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving dear friends.

Posted in feminism, Personal Post, Uncategorized

Taking a Tough Look at Myself

“I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me.”

Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto

Maya Angelou introduced me to that particular quote by Terrance, a Roman playwright and philosopher and ever since I saw her talking about him, I’ve done my best to try to internalize it. But unfortunately I am human and I tend to forget it, forget that I have all of the components in me to be the next great inspiration or the next element of destruction.

As human we tend to forget that we are indeed flawed and there aren’t many differences between you or I. I won’t be so presumptuous as to say that I have never said anything racist or hurtful, I won’t pretend that I am perfect. That would be stupid and haughty.

A very dear friend of mine and I met for coffee yesterday and I always enjoy talking to her because she is everything that I believe a person of faith should be: understanding, empathetic, compassionate, nonjudgmental, and accepting. She considers herself Christian, but she is not radicalized–I absolutely cannot say how much I respect her.

We talked about several things, the main thing being about the results of the election–if you want my thoughts and feelings you can click the said links. Both being self-proclaimed feminists, we feel about the same. We talked about how hate crimes have run rampant since the election of Donald Trump, and how people are one way in front of a crowd but another way in front of their peers. I referred to a particular photo I saw on Humans of New York’s Facebook page (here is said photo), it wasn’t the photo that really captured me, but the caption underneath:


“I think a lot of people live on the borderline of racism. I work in a machine shop with about thirty older guys. I don’t think there is one bad guy in the group. You’d like them if you met them. All of them love their families. But I’d say that I’ve heard eighty percent of them make racist comments of some sort. A lot of the older guys drop ‘n bombs.’ But if a black guy walks up, they’ll be friendly. They’ll even go out to lunch with him and share a meal. I honestly don’t think they see themselves as racist. Every one of them will deny it. They’ll point to the black guy that they’re friendly with. They won’t point to the things they say when he’s not around.”


It struck a chord with me–but I wasn’t really sure how to process it. I was ignorant to think that I hadn’t been guilty of doing that myself, but I wasn’t ready to face it. Then my dear friend sent me this video:

I realized that I had been guilty of saying racist things and condoning racist behaviour.

I also realized that a lot of my racism was simply born out of the environment that I live in (super conservative, narrow minded thinking, small town that meets all of the stereotypes), and being young and stupid. Before I became the person I am today, I was a super radical christian who was on the precipice of a mental breakdown because I also had a strong sense of justice. I chose to be that way because it was the only way I thought I could be, I was a naive kid who had just lost her mother and was looking for anything to make the pain go away. I don’t condone my behaviour, looking back now I know why I was that way but I’m not going to say it was right. I am rather ashamed of it because I abhor hypocrisy, and I feel like a hypocrite. However I also realize that I can’t really focus on that now because it is in the past and there’s nothing I can do to change it now. I can only focus on being a better person today.

I want to be a force  of good in this world, I want to use my talents to make it better–even if it’s just a little bit. To do that I need to constantly look at myself and make sure that I’m practicing what I preach. I also have to be gentle with myself, remember that I am a flawed human being and accept that I will make mistakes but I must learn from those mistakes an be better.

I think we all can learn something from each other, if we just take the time to sit down and talk. We can be a force of good–and I intend to use my talents constructively instead of destructively.

Posted in feminism, Personal Post

“You voted for WHO?!”

The struggle I’ve been facing is dealing with people in my immediate family, or some acquaintances/friends, that voted for Donald Trump. My first knee jerk reaction is to just  not talk about it and avoid it like the plague–however that can only work for so long.

I’m an “avoider,” I haven’t always been that way but it’s how I am in this current moment because its a coping skill that I’ve developed in order to basically deal with all of the stuff that was surrounding me. Avoiding can be a healthy skill to an extent, you deal with it when you’re ready, but avoiding something forever is just not plausible. As I can attest to, it causes more anxiety the longer you avoid it.

So how to deal with such a volatile cocktail? How to face it with an open mind when you feel in your heart that they voted for someone who is a sexual predator, someone who treats women worse than the very ground  he treads upon. How could they vote for someone like the very person who assaulted you?

I have to remember that this is not the reason that they voted for him, nor can I demean or belittle their intelligence. I have to find a balance of not agreeing with them, but also still being respectful and loving them. I don’t have to worry about many of my friends, I tend to surround myself with people of like minds and pretty easy-going. However you can’t choose your family, you can’t just not speak to them either–at least I can’t.

I was talking to someone about this, I was expressing my distress with the issue and they said something that was very helpful (forgive my butchering of the quote): “To vote was their right, and it’s a right that we must treasure. They voted for the candidate that they believed would bring the most effective change–not because he was a sexual predator. I know that it’s hard to accept.”

To my family who voted for Donald Trump, know that I still love you but I will have a hard time accepting your decision because of my past experiences. I am still living with and dealing with my sexual assault, and I will be for the rest of my life–I’ll overcome and not be as fragile, but it will always be a blemish on my heart. I want to have a civil conversation with you, because that is how understanding is bred, that is how ties are strengthened.

Love is productive. Hate is counterproductive. Peace is constructive. Violence is destructive. I wish to be a force of positivity against such negativity.

Remember dear reader, at the end of the day, if you want to be the change in the world–it must first start with love.

gandhi

Posted in feminism, Uncategorized

What is the State of Our Nation?

I’ve been asking myself that since about two in the morning last Tuesday. I haven’t slept much since then, as my anxiety and my racing thoughts have been running wild across the plains of my mind.

You may be thinking: “Oh you’re a feminist, so you voted for Hilary cause she’s a woman.” or “This is just another post where a whiny millennial didn’t get their way.” or even better: “Trump won, get over it–it’s not the end of the world.”

Maybe not the end of your world. Why? Because you, you who feel like Washington has turned it’s back on you. You who feel that our capital needed to be “shaken up.” I get it, truly I do. You were tired of the same old politics, and the corruption.

So you elected someone you thought would change that. You practiced your right to vote, I’m not condemning you for something that so many people don’t have the liberty of not doing. To be honest you have the right to stop reading this now, this is America and freedom to do what you damn well please is a blessing. But if you don’t stop reading, if your curiosity is peaked, then I want to state this:

These are my opinions, this is my blog, and I will exercise my right to say what I want and how I feel. Feel free to leave a comment, but know that you won’t change my mind.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me start by saying that yes I did vote for Hilary Clinton, no I didn’t do it because she was a woman, yes I consider myself to be liberal in some sense, no I don’t believe all Republicans are evil, and yes I am a feminist. There, now let us dive in to why I am wondering what has become of our country.

I am a survivor of sexual assault. I was assaulted just five months after the death of my mother. I am a survivor of suicidal thoughts, and I have PTSD, severe depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. I struggle every single day to find a reason to get out of bed and to keep living. Now my nation, my home, has told me that I am less of a person because I am female, because I have a mental illness, because I stand in solidarity with those who are “different.”

Why do I feel this way you may ask, to which I respond: “How can I feel any different?” Look at his campaign, all I saw was a complete and total disregard for women. I can’t respect someone who says “Grab em’ by the pussy, they’ll let you do anything.” or something along those lines. To the men I ask you: What if he was talking about your daughter? Or your mother? Sister? Aunt? Girlfriend? You must have at least one woman in your life that you care about. If there isn’t then you are excused from reading the rest of this.

Imagine how I must feel. For most of my adult life I was ashamed of what happened to me, why? When someone molests you, you go through what is called a “grooming” period. This means that they are basically gaining your trust, making you believe that everything is okay. They make you believe that it is you who is in the wrong, not them.

Add that to the cesspool of how we as a society treats sexual assault, it’s not easy. A fact sheet from the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault states this:


 

Not all survivors find it necessary to report sexual assault to the criminal justice system in order to move forward from their experience. In fact, some feel that the criminal justice system re-victimizes them in its process. Some survivors find that the services provided by a rape crisis and recovery center or similar provider are the only services they feel comfortable pursuing. While measuring rates of sexual violence can be difficult, there is no uncertainty in the national data that the majority of sexual assaults are never reported to police.

It is believed that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to the police.

Due partially to low reporting rates, only 9 percent of all rapists get prosecuted. Only 5 percent of cases lead to a felony conviction. Only 3 percent of rapists will spend a day in prison. The other 97 percent walk free.


The report goes on to list why people, particularly women, do not report sexual assault:

Survivors cite the following reasons for not reporting a sexual assault:
• Fear of reprisal
• Personal matter
• Reported to a different official
• Not important enough to respondent
• Belief that the police would not do anything to help
• Belief that the police could not do anything to help
• Did not want to get offender in trouble with law
• Did not want family to know
• Did not want others to know
• Not enough proof
• Fear of the justice system
• Did not know how
• Feel the crime was not “serious enough”
• Fear of lack of evidence
• Unsure about perpetrator’s intent

Society is quick to point the finger at any other criminal but a rapist. In a report done by CNN, it is actually scary as to why women do not report their offenders. This tweet sums it up perfectly I think:

@RachelintheOC (Rachel Thompson)

Because people require proof, even for children, and accuse us of lying or wanting attention when we did nothing wrong

That is why those women didn’t report until just a few months ago. That is why I am so upset that a sexual predator is now in charge of our nation. How can I feel safe now? I’m scared to even walk down the street, I’m scared for my female friends, for my sister, young girls…I am legitimately terrified.

fullsizerender

I honestly don’t know what else to say, I’m hurt by this decision and I need time to heal; as do the rest of us. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way when 97% of rapists walk free. So if you do feel this way, if you are upset and hurt–I am here to validate you. I want you to know that there are people who feel the same way.

So what do we do now?

We March.

We Speak up.

We fight.

I am not one to stand before a crowd and profess my beliefs, but I am one who will take up the pen and use it to fight.

donnatroyquote

So let us rise.

Posted in mental health, Personal Post, Uncategorized

And so she placed a semicolon at the end of her sentence and turned the page

If I were to think of my life as a book, it would be infinite. I would never run out of pages to write new things on, nor would my pen ever go dry. If you would have asked me just a month ago what my life would be like, I would have simply said “Nothing…I can’t see any hope right now.” Or I would have put on a brave face and tried to look happy—pretending that I wasn’t thinking about suicide or dying; Pretending that I was okay and I could “handle it.” Each night I would go to bed and secretly hope that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning so I wouldn’t have to face my life again, so that I could get some real peace and rest because I was so tired. I was tired, I was beaten down, and I was beginning to think that death was the only release from all of this.

However…

On the other hand I was still grasping on to the that tiny little sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe tomorrow would be better. That I would wake up and actually be okay—that dying was easy, living was harder and I could do this. I had to do this. I didn’t really want to die, there was a desperate part of me that wanted so much to live…no matter how painful it was.

This is the real struggle of someone with a mental illness. Someone who is trying each day to try to see the positive through all of the fog and muck, through all of the intrusive and obsessive thoughts—the feeling that you “should” be able to control this but can’t. The facade that you play a part in is society thinking that mental illness isn’t really a thing, it’s not real—and if it is you’re really crazy and belong in a home. If you can’t see it, then it can’t be real right?

Society doesn’t give people who suffer from a mental illness nearly enough credit. Imagine having someone follow you all day long and say things like:

“You’re stupid.”

“You’re worthless.”

“You are not enough.”

Then imagine this person getting louder and more aggressive, and there’s nothing you can do to defend yourself or make them go away. You can’t get away because they follow you where ever you go, and they continually berate and taunt you. Pretty scary isn’t it? That’s the closest analogy I can use, that’s what it’s like—those voices, those thoughts—they can be dangerous and all encompassing. You start to believe them even though you don’t want to, because it’s woven into your very heart—or so you think.

“You are not enough!”

That’s what I kept hearing over and over again, no matter how hard I tried to not think it—I did. I had no idea that there was any other way to think except negatively about myself. If I was too confident I was arrogant, if I was too humble I was annoying and didn’t know how to take a compliment. I wanted so much to just run away but you can’t run away from you—no matter how hard you try or how fast you run. I hated the person in the mirror, I hated the person in the shoes I was wearing, I hated everything about myself because I had sunk so low in my depression that I couldn’t really think of anything I liked about myself. I couldn’t really do anything that I wanted to do because I didn’t want to be around people and bring them down either. So I isolated, I regressed slowly into solitude because that was where I thought I belonged.

That’s when things really got bad.

Human beings are not solitary creatures. We are not meant to isolate and escape for long periods of time. I would spend hours upon hours in my room alone, either playing video games or sleeping because those were the only things I was good at. I sunk deeper and deeper into depression. I became more and more anxious, and suffered from more and more flashbacks from my past that I had pushed away in hopes that it would just go away and I wouldn’t have to face it. If I hadn’t continually went to my doctors appointments or lived with my dad, I shudder to think what may have happened. It was about the end of September when my therapist flat out said to me: “Lauren, I’ve never seen you this low...” That’s when I realized that I was in desperate need of help. I knew that if I continued down this road it would lead to my suicide. My consciousness had become so warped and collapsed….

You’re stupid

You’re worthless

You are not enough

That I believed in my heart that I was worthless and there was no point being here in this life because I really had nothing to live for. Even though I knew it wasn’t true, that I had a family that loved me, friends devoted to me, and a future ahead of me (even though I wasn’t sure what it held)…I still had to fight with this demon that told me:

You’re stupid

You’re worthless

You are not enough

That is depression. That is anxiety. That is mental illness. You feel so much and you love so much that you’re so afraid of loosing it all.

I enrolled in a local partial hospitalization program for mental health. Basically it’s 2-3 weeks of intense group and individual therapy that gets you to look at what you’re real issue is. The big issue for me was unresolved trauma, trauma that I don’t want to go into here, but know that it was bad enough for me to be diagnosed with PTSD. That’s the other thing I struggled with was acceptance. I didn’t want to admit that I had PTSD because I felt as though I didn’t deserve it because I hadn’t been in a war zone. The truth is that PTSD can happen outside of a major war zone, it’s called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” for that exact reason: It happens after someone witnesses or experiences severe trauma. That trauma can be sexual assault, witnessing something deplorable, etc. Society has no right to dictate what is traumatic for some and not others—we are human but we are also very different. It has taken me a long time to accept that I will have this illness for the rest of my life and I will always have to monitor it like someone has to monitor their blood pressure or blood sugar or diet. Acceptance is huge in the path to wellness, and I am learning that I can’t just run away and avoid past trauma. I didn’t get here overnight, and my journey is still well on the way—however I’m in a much better place than I was a month ago.

I’ve become fascinated with the semicolon. The purpose of a semicolon is to start a new sentence where a period would go. There’s a project named after it and as a writer I have to say I approve, because it’s an excellent way to promote hope.

To those of you struggling right now I have this to say to you:

You are enough. You are validated. You belong. The best part of your story is still being written my friend. Stay and find out what you were made for and find out what happens after the semicolon. Turn that page, I promise you it will be worth it.

Posted in mental health, Personal Post

An Open Letter to Those considering Suicide

Dear Friend,

I want you to know that you are validated in your pain. My feet are a different size than yours, but I have walked in your footsteps. You’re hurt, you can’t bear the ache in your soul–it has penetrated and left you weak, and exhausted. You may not even want to die–and yet you do. It’s not a black or white issue I know that, it’s not simple or everyone would understand. Your brain has collapsed, your consciousness is foggy, and you feel nothing but the sheer agony of whatever pain your depression brings you. It’s so…loud.  Louder than any voice you’ve ever heard, it’s deafening, and it’s so powerful that you believe everything it’s saying to you:

You’re stupid.

You’re worthless.

You are not enough.

You would be better off DEAD! 

Friend I’ve followed down this dark path for many years…I’ve struggled with those thoughts that you may be feeling now. And I say feeling because they burn, and sear through your mind like molten lava. I want you to know that your pain is real, that you’re not crazy–your feelings…they are important. I want you to know that it is okay that you hurt, it is okay that you cry “for no reason.” It is okay that you feel so much, and you wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s okay my friend…

You are a human being. You are not depression. You are not your diagnosis, you are a human being of this universe who has a purpose. Human beings were meant to feel friend, to not do so would take away an integral part of you. An extremely wise individual told me once that our emotions are not us. Yes we are responsible for our emotions, but they are not who we are.  You are the greatest person in your world friend, you are important and you matter. You are enough.

I know it sucks, it hurts like hell and you are broken–but you can rise dear friend. You are not just an empty space, you have something beautiful to give to this world. I know you’re teetering on the precipice right now, and it feels so agonizingly lonely–but you’re not alone my friend. I want you to know that there is hope, for someone to feel so much you must know that. To have made it this far…that’s an accomplishment. You have made it to a new day each day, a new hour, a new minute–all the while having those demons following you. Do you know how much strength it takes to do what you have done? Do you know that you are one of the strongest people in this world? To challenge, even a little bit, those thoughts and feelings of worthlessness takes a tremendous amount of strength and hope.

Whatever plan you have at the moment, or even if you don’t have one, I am begging you to not go through with it. Please friend–you would create a void in this world, you matter to someone, even if you don’t think so.

You are not a sinner, you are not evil, you are not a bad person, and you’re definitely not selfish. You ache, you long, and you’re suffering. You’re sick, not selfish. If you had cancer everyone would understand, if you took medicine for high blood pressure everyone would accept it. Just because you can’t see a sickness, doesn’t mean it’s not valid or real.

Put it down friend. You are a beautiful story, a story that is continuing. You are at the semicolon, not the period–please don’t end your story now. Your story is important, you may not think so but I’m here to tell you that it is. It took two hospitalizations, many suicidal thoughts, and a bunch of medicine to help me realize this.

Life isn’t easy friend. It will beat you down and break you. But don’t loose hope, there is something in this world worth living for. You matter very much friend. To have a mental illness–it means many things to different people but you are the author of your story no one else. That’s the beauty of it friend, no one can take your pen from you. You are the author! You can continue, there is hope.

So take up your pen and begin again at the semicolon;