Irrational Survivors Guilt

I recently reconnected with a small handful of friends from my high school years.  Though they had been amazing friends in so many ways, I had distanced myself from them because they were loosely tied to a past I wanted so desperately to forget.  I naively believed that if I left all of it behind me, pushed it into a closet or under the bed and pretended it didn’t exist, it wouldn’t be able to hurt me anymore.

After everything happened with my mother shooting my father, I was sent downstate to live with my sister for a little over a year.  During that time, I was blessed to meet some of the most incredible friends someone lost in my personal turmoil could have ever hoped for in life.  We were an odd assortment of misfits that just clicked.  Some of my happiest memories of that time were spent with them on Saturday mornings, helping them pick music to put on the air for a weekend radio show, getting happy meal toys with our lunches and wearing silly props from the party store.

When I was bounced around back upstate, we all tried keeping in touch at first.  As my life got increasingly hard, I began pulling away from them, though.  In part, I was ashamed of how much of a mess I had become.  Because of events I had no control over, I had gone from being an honor student to living on the street.  But a bigger part of me was in full flight mode.  I hoped if I ran far enough, fast enough, away from my past, I could somehow escape it.  Though they were not a part of the trauma, our friendship became yet another casualty of it.

Here and there over the years, we’d connect briefly and exchange pleasantries, catch each other up on the here and now.  But our exchanges were always brief because I had never stopped running.  If I stopped to let anyone in, my past might catch up with me and I was too terrified to risk that happening.  Eventually, we lost touch completely.

Life in the past year has changed so drastically, though.  I have gone to the edge and somehow miraculously lived to tell the tale.  I have found my voice and begun to write, to talk about all I’ve been through and to face my demons.  As fate may have it, one of these amazing friends from my past stumbled onto me through my author page.  It was incredible to reconnect with one, then another.  I had finally stopped running and I longed to talk to them all, to reconnect, to apologize and to invite them back into my life with open arms.  I was healthier now.  I was no longer ashamed of my past.  I had gained so much perspective in life that I couldn’t wait to share with them all.

…and then the other shoe dropped.

I was informed that the third amigo of the trio of guys who had made that time in my life more bearable and kept me from collapsing when my entire life had imploded had killed himself a couple years ago.  I won’t go into the details that were shared because they are a deeply personal thing and have no place being thrown out there, but this news crushed me.  I know I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but it ate at me just the same.

I’ve struggled with depression myself.  I know that beast well.  I’ve walked that line of wanting to give up, wanting to give in, wanting more than anything for that pain to stop.  I know what it’s like walking through life wearing a mask, smiling to convince others you’re okay while you’re dying inside.  And I know what it feels like to have only two gears – either that soul-crushing agony that rips you apart inside or that complete numbness that makes you question why you’re even bothering to hold on anymore.  I’ve walked that path alongside him without ever knowing that he was there.

I will always remember him as this larger than life, creative and passionate guy that could always make everyone laugh.  I had such a crush on him years ago.  He had this flirtatious spirit, these eyes that pulled you in and this smartass smile that made all the girls swoon.  I’ll never forget that one day years ago when we found ourselves making out in the backseat of our friend’s car, sure in our teenage naivety that if we did it under a jacket, no one would notice.  I’ll always remember the last time we talked and how passionate he was about teaching and making a difference in the world.   He had such an amazing heart and such a kind soul.  The world truly needed him in it.

I find myself beating myself up even though I know I’m being irrational.  Realistically, there was no way I could have known.  Part of me keeps thinking, though, that I should have been there, should never have pulled away in the first place.  Maybe if I had been there, I would have seen something, been able to say something, made some sort of a difference.  That rational side of me also knows that I was in a different place a couple years ago, still drowning in my own depression.  I’m not sure I could have made a difference to anyone because I barely mattered to myself at that point.  But a huge part of me is caught in that “shoulda, woulda, coulda” loop of blame, feeling like I failed in some way because I didn’t know, wasn’t there.

I know I’m taking this personally because I’ve recently been so close to the edge myself, but I can’t stop thinking that this should not have happened.  There is no reason in this world why someone like him should have felt so lost, so alone, that he felt suicide was his only option.  I wish I could find a way to go back, say something, do something, change things.  Save him.  Let him know he wasn’t alone.  Let him know I’ve been there, too.  I understand.  Tell him that it would be okay.  Promise him that I’d be there, that he wouldn’t have to face life alone.

But I know how depression works.  It twists everything into absolute negatives.  It convinces you that NOBODY understands, NO ONE cares, NOTHING will ever get better.  It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by friends and family that love you.  Depression isolates you and makes you feel completely alone.

The truth is that what’s done is done.  All the “shoulda, woulda, couldas” in the world cannot change it.  No matter how much I wish I could change the past, I cannot unring that bell.  No matter how much I beat myself up for not being there, it’ll never bring him back.  The world has suffered a terrible loss.  It has lost a man that loved music and laughter and wanted to make a difference and change the world.

I’m truly sorry Matt that I was not there for you when you needed someone.  I’m so sorry you spent your last moments feeling alone and without hope.  You deserved better out of life.  You deserved a better friend in me.

Please know that every time I encourage someone to keep fighting, not not give up, not give in, that in my heart I will forever be speaking directly to you, wishing I could have saved you from that ledge, pulled you back in time.  The world has lost too much already.  It cannot afford to lose any more.

For all you once meant to me Matt and all I should have been there for you, I am truly sorry.  Words cannot even begin to express how sorry I truly am.  I love you sweetie.  I’m so truly sorry I wasn’t there.

 

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 9/28/16.

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A Long Overdue Letter to Myself

I have been struggling with mental illness my entire life.  Just recently, I began writing and speaking out about my struggles with depression, anxiety and ptsd, as well, shouting from the mountaintops to anyone who could hear, hoping not only to help others understand but to battle the stigma attached to mental illness, as well.  When I was approached by another author to write a segment for his upcoming book about depression and recovery, naturally, I jumped at the chance.

You see – when my world fell apart, I had two choices.  It was either sink or swim, live or die.  Though a large part of me wanted more than anything to surrender and have the pain stop, there was this little kernel inside of me screaming to never give up, never give in.  I mustered every ounce of strength I possessed and began to fight like I’ve never fought before.  I began to write about all I’ve been through.  I wrote like my life depended on it because in so many ways it did.  By pulling my demons out into the light and exposing them, I felt I was finally able to begin to heal.  I had found my voice.  Writing had become my passion, my life blood.

I published a book about my life.  I began blogging, as well, hoping to reach out to those struggling with depression themselves so they would know they were not alone.  I found myself writing to help others understand mental illness and to speak for those without a voice.  With each new piece I published, I hoped to start a dialogue and reduce the stigma.  While I found some healing in trying to help others through my writing, the focus had shifted off of myself.  I was no longer writing for myself; I was writing for a cause.

When a fellow author, James Withey, asked me to contribute something to his The Recovery Letters project*, a book set to be published next year, it was enormously huge for me.  He wanted me to write a letter to someone out there struggling and suffering, to let them know I understand; To give them encouragement and inspiration to hold on, be brave, be strong and continue to fight on.  The idea of such a letter struck a chord with me.  Everyone deserves something like that.  Unfortunately, though, what you deserve and what you get are sometimes entirely different things.  I could wait a lifetime and never receive such a letter from anyone else.  So I decided to write one to myself.

Today, I go full circle and return to where I first began, first found my voice.  I shift my focus inward and once again make myself a priority.  It is so much easier to reach out to others with encouragement than to face my own nightmares.  The truth, however, is that I must face my own demons if I have any hope of slaying them.  Once again, it is sink or swim time, live or die.  While it terrifies me to look inward, I am not ready to surrender quite yet.  I have too much living still to do.  I deserve to matter.  I deserve encouragement.  I deserve hope.  And so I write to myself:

Dear Beth,

I know you are scared.  You’ve been through so much in life and are so tired of fighting, of struggling and of hurting, but you have to be brave and hold on.  You’re so much stronger than you know.  You’ve come so far in life.  So many people have tried to break you, yet here you still are, still surviving, still holding on.

All your life, you’ve had people telling you that you were unwanted, unlovable, broken, damaged and a waste of space.  You’ve let other people define you and determine your worth.  You’ve bought into every cruel word they’ve spoken, believed every lie.  You need to stop listening to others and begin listening to yourself.  Listen with your heart.

All your life, you’ve faced abuse from others.  People have laid their hands on you in anger, treating you like a punching bag instead of a person.  Men and boys have touched you in ways a little girl should never be touched.  Their abuses have stolen your identity, broken your will until you felt more like an object for others to use and abuse than as a person.  You never deserved that.

Everyone you’ve allowed yourself to love has torn your heart out and stomped on it.  You’ve begun to believe that love and pain go hand in hand and that sooner or later, everyone leaves.  They’ve made you feel like you’re not enough so often that you’ve begun to believe it.  You internalize their actions, always blaming yourself for never measuring up.  Even when they’ve cheated, you believe somehow you’re at fault.  You’re not.  You never were.

You were taught young to put up walls.  Never let anyone see what hurts you because it makes it that much easier for them to hurt you next time.  Never let anyone in.  Never be vulnerable.  You are so terrified of letting yourself be hurt that you walk around numb, afraid to feel anything at all.

You’re so used to hurting inside that you’re not sure how to feel anything else.  Though you paint on a smile so others don’t worry, you’re always crying inside.  You’re not even sure what happiness is most days.  You’re afraid of letting it in because it’s always fleeting.  Happiness never seems to last.  You greet it with wary suspicion because you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Though others have abused you and broken your spirit more times than you can count, you’ve picked up where they left off.  You need to own that sweetie.  You’re harder on yourself than anyone else has ever been.  You’ve let them all convince you that you’re worthless so you treat yourself as such.  You beat yourself up for everything, regardless of whether or not it was even your fault.  While you’re able to accept the flaws and mistakes of others, you tear yourself down for every misstep and every defect.  You never give yourself any breaks.  You need to stop that.  You’re slowly killing bits of yourself every bit as much as all their abuses have.  Please be kind to yourself.

In so many ways, you’ve surrendered to your depression.  You’ve accepted that this is just how your life shall always be.  You’ve begun thinking of it as something familiar, akin to a friend.  Your depression is not your friend sweetie.  It is not there to comfort you or help you.  Your depression speaks in lies.  It wants to beat you, to break you, to tear you into little pieces, shattering you so badly you can never recover.  You need to stop being polite and welcoming it in.  You need to stop accepting it as your reality, your lot in life and fight it.  It only has power and control over you if you let it.

I know you’re terrified of life, of letting anyone else in and of being hurt again.  You’re scared to death that you’re not strong enough.  So many times you’ve cried out “no more! no mas!”, positive that you could not survive anymore heartache, sure than any more abuse would kill you.  It’s okay to be scared.  It’s okay to be vulnerable.  But never let your fear keep you from fighting.

Whenever you’re not feeling strong enough, you need to remind yourself of everything you’ve survived in life.  Keep reminding yourself of your strength.  You are a hurricane, a tornado, a force to be reckoned with.  You’ve been battling monsters and demons for over forty years now and you’re still going strong.  There is not anything you cannot overcome.

I know you’re scared, too, of putting your heart out there again and that is okay.  Love will come again in time.  Don’t give up on it.  Don’t let the actions of a few bad apples make you jaded or close off your heart.  Love is a beautiful thing and you deserve that in your life.  You deserve to be loved and cherished with as much fervor as you have always given everyone else.  Just make sure to learn from your mistakes next time.  Never again settle.

You need to let go of all those negative labels others have used to define you because none of them are even remotely true. You are fierce.  You are beautiful.  You are smart.  You are strong.  You are a warrior.  You are a survivor.  You are an incredible person Beth.  You have such a warm, loving heart – no matter how much other people have broken it, you always manage to reach out to help others.  You have so much to give to the world, Beth, and to yourself.  You are a blessing.

Stay strong.  Always keep fighting.  Never give up.  The world needs you in it.  Your children need you.  You need yourself.

With all the love you deserve in this world,

Beth

* The Recovery Letters is a labor of love created by James Withey.  Amongst other places, The Recovery Letters has been featured on the BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4’s ‘All in the mind’, the BBC News app, ITV’s ‘This Morning’ and Vanity Fair magazine.  He has a book contract with Jessica Kingsley Publishers to publish a book of current letters from the site alongside new letters. It will be published in the US and the UK in August 2017.

 

biplogo

Republished on Bipolar Life on 9/26/16.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 10/13/16.

helpmindsheal

Republished via The Mighty on Help Minds Heal on 10/14/16.

selfgrowth

Republished on SelfGrowth on 10/17/16.

The Shooting

~ Dedicated to All the Doubting Mustafas Out There ~

Every now and then, when I try to open up and begin to share my past, I find myself faced with a Doubting Mustafa – someone who seems completely incapable of believing anything without seeing the evidence first-hand.  When you’re someone like me, who has been abused and traumatized my entire life, being hit head on with that kind of doubt is overwhelming.  When they respond incredulously and ask to see proof, it always feels like they’re accusing me of lying.

Beyond the years of day to day abuse of varying kinds, one of the most singular traumatizing events of my childhood was the day my mother shot my father.  It is a difficult story for me to share because my whole world changed in an instant.  I went from being a straight A student busy with babysitting, cheerleading and other mundane teenage things to being bounced around for a little over a year, ultimately ending up on the street.  It wasn’t until years later that I even finished high school, earning my g.e.d. while going to college while my children were at school.  But all that is a story for another day.

The day of the shooting began like any other.  My mother had been a mess since my father had left a few months before, always either yelling or crying.  She had been erratic and abusive my entire life, suffering from an often untreated, sometimes under-treated mental condition we did not discuss.  I had waited upstairs until she left for work to begin my day.

I went to school just like any other day.  Between second and third period, while I was at my locker swapping books, my guidance counselor approached me, asking me to come up to her office with her.  I had assumed it was because my grades had begun to slip.  She knew how strict my mother was about my grades.  An A grade was acceptable.  An A- was not.

She paused to hold her office door open, motioning for me to go inside first.  The next few seconds have replayed in my nightmares for years.  She reached out, put a hand on my shoulder and calmly said, “Your dad has just been shot.  He’s in critical condition at Albany Med.  They’re looking for your mother.”

The next few hours felt like an eternity.  They were not sure where my mother was so I was not allowed to leave the school, not even to see my father who, for all I knew, was dying.  Cops were stationed by the entrances just in case she showed up at my school.  I spent a few hours up in the guidance office in a haze.  Friends came in here and there to check on me.  It was all a blur.  I was numb.

At one point, I asked to go to one of my classes.  I just couldn’t sit in that office any longer. I had completely forgotten that I had an oral report due in the class I had chosen to attend.  The teacher had always been firm yet fair.  I tried to calmly explain that I could hand in my written copy but that I could not do an oral presentation that day.  Despite repeated pleas, she kept informing me that failure to do my oral report would result in an F.

Finally, I snapped.  I brusquely informed her that, “My FUCKING father has just been shot.  They’re looking for my FUCKING mother.  If you want the FUCKING report read, you can read it your FUCKING self.”  It was the one and only time I ever cursed at a teacher.  I honestly didn’t even feel like myself.  I was still looming inside that cloud of numbness and shock.  I was quietly excused from doing my report.

I heard afterwards that classmates were all talking about how cold I was, attending classes like nothing was wrong after something like that had happened.  None of them knew that I bawled my eyes out for a couple hours before that class and many hours afterwards.  I had just been well-trained not to let others see what hurt me.  I refused to let my walls down and cry in front of other people.

Eventually, they located my mother.  She had checked herself into a local psych hospital.  I was finally allowed to leave the school and see my father.  Peeking out from the edge of the bandages covering what was left of his mouth, he winced as the one corner of his mouth turned upwards into a smile.  Trying to give me some semblance of peace of mind, he tried to joke with me.  He gestured to either side of his neck, where the other bullet had entered on one side and exited on the other, and informed me he had Halloween all set this year – all he needed was two bolts.  Through my tears, I tried to smile back – I’m not sure that it ever made it to my lips.  He kept trying to joke as I felt my life crumbling around me.  It wasn’t long until my sister told me to wrap things up and ushered me out.

I always hesitate to share this story because it always feels like there’s a 50/50 shot that I’ll find myself in the company of a Doubting Mustafa – someone looking at me like I must be pulling their leg.  Whenever someone starts in with questions, looking for verification and validation, I find myself wanting to scream.  Why on earth would anyone make anything like that up?    Did they not hear my voice crack or see my eyes mist over?  How could anyone doubt my story  when the pain is so clearly there even after all these years?

So – in honor of all the Doubting Mustafas out there who need to see proof in order to believe it, I have gathered a few pictures of old newspaper clippings I had googled one day.  I had bookmarked them to link to anyone who doubted me because I’ve become accustomed to proving myself again and again.  This time, I took screenshots to save to my blog.  I sincerely hope this puts all of those doubts to rest.

shooting4

 

This was one of the first articles I remember reading after the shooting.  It was printed the day after it happened.  I didn’t see it until months later – a friend had saved me clippings in case I ever wanted to read them.  I admittedly threw them away because nobody needs newspaper clippings to remind them of one of the most traumatic days of their life.

 

shooting2

 

This article, and others that followed, admittedly irked me because they got my father’s middle initial wrong.  I know it’s such a trivial thing, and most likely a slip of the finger since the S-key resides right next to the D-key on the keyboard, but it still ate at me for some strange reason.  I had seen other articles, as well, that had small factual errors like the wrong street address or incorrect number of children, things along those lines.  Each mistake always seemed glaring and made me wonder how many simple things reporters got wrong on a daily basis.

 

shooting6

 

This was one of the last articles printed about the shooting, almost three years after it happened.  A couple months before her sentencing, I remember visiting my mother in Albany County Jail to tell her I was pregnant.  When I got home, I received a call from my uncle, my mother’s brother, telling me I should “get an abortion and stop shaming the family”.  I always found that call ironic because once you have to inform someone of a pregnancy while they’re in jail, an upcoming baby is not the shame anyone should be worrying about.

She shot my father twice.  One bullet went in through his cheek and out the front of his mouth.  The second shot was fired as he was running back towards the big heavy metal doors on the bottom level of the Dutch Quad where he was hoping to find cover.  That shot went in one side of his neck and out the other, amazingly missing everything vital.  The shooting didn’t kill him – as soon as he was able, he moved to the other side of the country and disappeared so I lost him just the same.  Years later, cancer did what two bullets couldn’t.  We reconnected just in time for him to share his diagnosis.  I got to reconnect with him for a few months between his surgeries and chemo.  By the time he entered hospice, he was so sick he couldn’t even remember me.

For her crime, my mother ultimately got time served counted between her time in Four Winds, the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center and Albany County Jail, places she flitted between when she wasn’t out on bail.  Five years of probation was tacked on, as well.  She shot my father twice and more or less got away with it.  In her last act of vengeance against my father, she managed to outlive him by two months.  I’ve since heard that in her last years, she finally got the treatment she needed and got her bipolar disorder under control.  I never got to meet the woman my mother was when her mental illness was not in the driver’s seat.  We had been estranged for a couple years when I got the call she had died. They both passed away in 2010.

To this day, it honestly amazes me that she could sign out her gun from the police department storage days before the shooting and still walk away in less than three years with probation and a slap on the wrist.  Even more incredible, though, is the thought that anyone would ever listen to me tell my life story then ask for proof that it truly happened.

Removing Toxins

Everything that is toxic can kill you.  Some work quickly, dropping their victims almost immediately.  However, not all toxins are fast-acting.  Some build up slowly over time.  But they are all poisons and, regardless of the speed in which they work, all will eventually kill you.

When most people think of toxins, they think of chemical compounds to avoid, which could make you seriously ill or even lead to death.  However, the world is full of people and things that can be toxic to us, that can slowly kill parts of us, our hearts, minds and souls.

So many people are toxic to us.  They are the ones who blow us off repeatedly or like to knock us down so they can raise themselves up in life.  They are the people that refuse to accept our diagnosis and accuse us of being drama queens when we try to talk about our feelings.  They are the manipulators, abusers and narcissists who twist their words and actions so that we internalize their bad behavior as somehow our fault.  They are the ones we call our “friends”, “family” and “lovers”, but never act the part.  They are the people we have invested our time and heart into loving, yet they only bring negativity back into our lives.  They are toxic.

There are thoughts and behaviors that are dangerously unhealthy.  When we take responsibility for and beat ourselves up over the actions of others believing ourselves to be at fault for things we had no say in or control over, we are slowly poisoning our soul.  When we accept the cruelness of others as truth, believing ourselves to be damaged, broken, unlovable and unwanted because others have told us so, we are slowly destroying our heart by believing we do not deserve to be loved.   Every time we give up control to our mental illnesses, surrendering to our demons, we are killing a part of who we are.  All those negative thoughts we allow to creep in and take over, pushing us to believe all hope is lost, are toxic.

We make choices all the time that are toxic to us.  When we rely on food, sex or substances for artificial highs or to make us forget reality, we are poisoning ourselves.  When we accept failure as the only possible outcome so we become too afraid to even try anything anymore, we have accepted defeat before we have even begun. When we choose to invite people back into our lives who have hurt us before, opening the door to allow them to hurt us again, we are inviting poison back into our lives, as well.  Whenever we make poor choices that we know will ultimately kill us, we are being toxic to ourselves.

People who want to live long, healthy lives do not go around drinking bleach or drain cleaner.  We know it will kill us.  We put warning labels on them and take great care when they’re around.  We warn our children not to touch them, never to drink them because poisons can kill.  Yet, when it comes to toxic people, behaviors and thoughts, we welcome them in with open arms, in turn teaching our children by example that they are all okay to have in our lives.

I know it hurts to remove those fixtures from our lives, even if they are not good for us.  We are nostalgic creatures at heart.  We try to rationalize holding onto people and things that are corrosive because we crave the familiar and the comfortable, even if it is not healthy for us.  We need to start weighing the good and the bad and acknowledge whenever the negatives outweigh the positives.  We need to look at how much time, effort, energy and love we put into relationships versus how much others are willing to give in return.  We need to be honest with ourselves when our thoughts and actions that are self-sabotaging, causing more pain than pleasure in our lives.

We need to work harder, not only for our own health but the health of our children, as well, to remove toxins from our lives.  We need to look at the people who constantly bring pain, drama and unhappiness into our lives and say “No more. You are not healthy for me. You need to go.”  We need to push aside our destructive thoughts and call them out for what they are – a product of our mental illness – liars who wish to break us from the inside out.  We need to catch ourselves when we make big decisions in life and question our own motives.  “Is this choice a healthy one?  Am I considering the ramifications of my actions? Am I likely to get hurt?”

We need to be more selective about who and what we welcome into our lives.  We need to be more proactive about removing anyone and anything that has been proven to be toxic.  We need to stop poisoning ourselves and stop allowing others to do it, as well.  We need to fight to become healthier.  More importantly, we need to teach our children how to be healthier.  Our first step is to begin removing everything and everyone that we’ve allowed to destroy and kill parts of us over the years.  After all, you cannot heal from a poison while it is still coursing through your veins or your life.

selfgrowth

Republished on SelfGrowth on 10/17/16.

Putting up Walls

In these months before the next presidential election, politics seem to be the topic on everyone’s lips.  Because I walk a middle line, leaning one way for some issues and the other for others, I’m bombarded by comments from people on both sides of the fence.  This morning, as I was scrolling through my facebook feed, I came across a meme that spoke to me, though not in the way that it was intended.  It said:

You don’t build a wall because you hate the people on the outside.

You build a wall because you love the people on the inside.

I found that to be profound because I am admittedly the queen of building walls.  I don’t even have to think about putting up walls because it happens naturally for me.  I have been hurt so many times, had my heart torn out and my soul beaten to a bloody and disfigured pulp, that I put up walls to protect myself.  I am scared of being hurt again.

Even moreso, I’m terrified of letting others see how damaged and broken I am, petrified that if they saw all of me, they’d abandon me and I’d be alone again.  I put up walls to keep out family, friends and romantic partners.  I build layers upon layers of walls, sometimes letting some people in a little, but rarely ever farther than the courtyard.

I build walls and I paint on a facade.  That smiling, happy, everything is absolutely peachy veneer to convince others that I’m okay.  I’ve been wearing masks my entire life, being the person others wanted me to be even if it meant losing myself in the process.

I’ve always been okay not only with hiding a good portion of myself but of losing parts of myself, as well.  I’ve never really held myself in high regard.  I sometimes half-jokingly talk about learning to like myself again.  I never even say love, only like.  I usually turn it into a tongue-in-cheek statement because laughter is a great cover for pain, but there is a lot of truth to that statement.

I’ve never been able to say I love myself because I’ve never believed that I do.  I’ve been bombarded my whole life with the cruelty of others, telling me how awful, horrible and unlovable I am in every way.  When it is all I’ve heard for years and the voices keep multiplying and hitting me from all directions, it’s near impossible not to believe them true.  If I am that horribly broken and damaged individual that should never have existed and is a pure waste of space, why should I expect love from anyone else, or even myself?

Yet now this random meme, two simple sentences read while waking up on an early weekend morning, has flipped my entire world upside down and around on its head.  Perhaps, somewhere deep inside, part of me has never bought into the cruelty of others.  Perhaps, despite the depression chattering in my ear trying to convince me otherwise, I am worthy of love.  I, somewhere deep down, love myself.

I must love myself because I am forever building walls, trying to protect myself.  I know how fragile I’ve become after being shattered again and again.  Some part of myself believes not only that I need protecting but that I DESERVE it.  I deserve miles upon miles of walls, layer after layer, to try and keep me safe from harm.

I find myself laying here, still in bed with my laptop, completely floored by all the love I’ve shown myself over the years.  I’ve taken that love for granted.  I’ve allowed myself to buy into that notion that everyone that hurt and abused me was right.  I’ve believed that I was so completely unlovable that I didn’t even deserve loving myself.

Yet all along, somewhere deep inside of myself, I’ve carried a love so strong and so deep that it has silently been building walls for decades, not because I truly wanted to keep others out, but rather because deep down in my soul I loved myself so deeply that I knew I had to keep building to keep myself safe.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 10/6/16.

helpmindsheal

Republished via The Mighty on Help Minds Heal on 10/7/16.

Suicide Prevention Month Through the Eyes of Someone Who has been Suicidal

I feel I must begin by stating that I am not currently suicidal.  The constant bombardment of suicide chatter all month threatens to push me over the edge, though.

Please don’t get me wrong – I find it wonderful that the powers that be on social media have chosen a month to focus on suicide awareness.  There is so much stigma surrounding mental illness that anything that starts a dialogue is a blessing.  However, this month is extremely hard for me.  I have stood on that proverbial ledge and contemplated jumping.  This month is a steady reminder of how close I came to giving up.  Each new post or tweet renews those feelings, each time I speak up, I tear open old wounds.

When Suicide Awareness Month hits, I find myself confronted with the topic of suicide from all angles, inside and out.  Much like being surrounded by the sights and smells of delicious foods makes you hungry, the steady barrage of posts about suicide rubberbands my consciousness right back to that deep, dark place I struggle to avoid at all costs.  My mind is already inundated with thoughts of suicidal ideation, that little demon that tries to lure me in with abstract ideals.  That imp swears that death would be freeing, drifting away into peaceful nothingness away from all the pain.  I already struggle to push those thoughts away, choosing to continue my struggles rather than surrender to that beast.  Yet during September, I not only have to battle my own mind but external sources, as well.

I know I am in the unique situation to give an insight into suicide because I have attempted it myself.  I try to reach out and speak up when I am able because I understand how important it is to talk about, but it is draining beyond explanation.  Imagine taking your worst days, your biggest traumas, and rehashing them again and again for a month.  Imagine spending a month seeing those around you tweeting and retweeting about that pain, encouraging you to talk about it again and again.  My own mind already haunts me, tormenting me regularly with the traumas of my past.  On top of that, I am now bombarded with well-meaning people who want to discuss suicide. Many truly do not understand mental illness so they cannot comprehend how hard that conversation is for me to have once, let alone repeatedly over the course of the month.

I imagine things aren’t any easier for those who have lost someone to suicide.  Hearing the topic discussed for weeks must tear open the wounds and begin a month of steady mourning.  I see them, too, trying to speak up about their experiences and their loss.  Grieving is hard enough to do on your own terms without having to do it publicly again and again.  My heart always goes out to them.

I try to stay strong, to remain positive, to not let it eat at me, but that little demon already has ideation playing in my mind on a loop.  It doesn’t take much for suicidal thoughts themselves to start digging their way into my psyche, as well.  Each story shared by others is heart-wrenchingly relatable, each time I speak up, it’s beyond devastating.

As much as I want to get involved, to speak out and help others, I know my limits and cannot share as much as others may prefer or believe that I should.  I know the upcoming battles others face because I’ve fought them all before.  As much as I know this month is beneficial for so many, it is pure torture for me.  I spend the month feeling raw and glaringly alone.

Please be patient with the survivors of suicide, whether we kept living ourselves beyond our attempts or are people who have survived the loss of loved ones.  Talk to us and make sure we’re okay.  Keep us in your hearts, thoughts and prayers.  Speak up when we cannot.  This isn’t a battle just for the survivors of suicide.  It is important that everyone keeps living and keeps fighting so together we can make the world a better place.  Even one more life lost because someone feels worthless and alone is one life too many.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 9/11/16.

I’m Allowed to Say you Hurt Me..

I lost a friend recently and it tore my heart and soul in two.

 

I confess that after originally writing this blog, I deleted it.  I have since returned and gutted it, removing all details and leaving behind only vague sentiments because it kills me to think anything I’ve written about how I felt has hurt him.  I have since edited it multiple times, trying to find a balance between discussing my feelings and showing compassion towards someone who once meant a great deal to me.  The blog has, much like the friendship, been forever altered and lost along the way, a bare shell of what it once was.

I have bravely faced the traumas of my past, discussed rape and sexual abuse without flinching, written about the abuses I’ve endured through a wall of tears, all without backspacing or deleting a single word.  Yet somehow the thought of speaking a negative word about someone I once held so dear to my heart gave me pause and made me second guess myself and pull this blog from my site.

The truth of the matter was that, though I was hurting inside myself,  I feared hurting him and irreparably damaging our friendship more.  I’ve lost so much in life – I was terrified of losing him, too.  Despite how much his words and actions have hurt me, I still thought fondly of him and was overly protective, not wanting anyone to think poorly of him.  I still found myself wishing I could be there for him.  I wished things could be the way they used to be.  I missed having him in my life.

However the truth is that he hurt me terribly and damaged our friendship beyond repair.  I know I’ve done things that have hurt him, too, and for that I am truly sorry.  Unfortunately, though, some words once spoken cannot be taken back; Some actions cannot be undone.  I know it bothered him that I’ve written this about him, but I am allowed to say he hurt me.  I am allowed to say he has broken my heart.  And I am allowed to let go and walk away so that I can begin to heal and move on in life.

Please know that I wrote this not to hurt him but rather for my own healing because I can no longer hold my pain inside.  I wrote because my soul has been cracked and broken so thoroughly that holding this in would have shattered me.  I needed to let it out.   I also needed to pull away so I could process things and make sense of it all.  I need to heal.

Funny how I could live with my ex for eleven years, yet losing this friend left a bigger crater in my heart than my ex’s departure ever could.