A Decade Mental Health Reflection

10 years is a really freaking long time. Looking back I think this may have been the most transformative decade of my life because so many monumental things happened.

I graduated from high school and college. I got my first part time job at Wendy’s (a fast food restaurant in America) and first full time job (that I reluctantly quit). I fell in love twice, lost my virginity, had my heart broken many times and bought a house with my boyfriend of nearly 3 years.

**I’m going to be writing about self harm and suicide. If this may be triggering for you, I suggest waiting for my next post. Talking about self harm is triggering for me still but I want to talk about it openly and honestly.**

Self-Harm

During this decade I learned about depression and anxiety, finally labeling how I had felt for most of my life. I cut myself for the first time in 2011 in my college dorm room because I felt an overwhelming sense of depression and loneliness. This action impacted my life quite a lot. I used it to cope with my mental illness when I was at my lowest points for many years.

You can still see some of those early scars on my arms in the right light. I usually notice them in the summer when the sun shines the brightest. It takes me back to all of the pain I felt in those moments, when I thought this was the only way I could survive each day.

Therapy

Back in 2014 I was in my last year of university, I had returned to the main campus after spending a year in a big city and abroad in England. I struggled so much to readjust to life on campus but I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus, I had no energy and no drive to attend classes or do my assignments.

This brought me to seeing my first therapist, Jennifer. She was the total opposite of me personality wise, she was straight-laced, practical and put together while I walked into her office a total wreck. She was a counselor at my university that I saw every other week. She helped me take those first steps to sorting through my mental illness which lead me to the therapist I have been seeing since September 2016.

I love my current therapist. She has been with me through my very darkest times struggling with intense suicidal thoughts and daily self harm. I saw her twice a week for months until I got a grip on myself. Once I finally made it to once a week I was so proud of myself. I now see her more or less on an as needed basis which I never thought would be possible.

Suicide

After a bad breakup from my first love, my life was in shambles. Before this I had occasionally had suicidal thoughts but they were not even close to the level of intensity these were. “Kill yourself” was on repeat in my mind constantly. I couldn’t have a moment of silence without hearing that phrase.

I never attempted suicide, I think because I had such a strong team of professionals supporting me. My therapist, doctor and psychiatrist were helping me, I didn’t want to let them down by dying. And we were all working to find a medicine that would help me.

Since being on medicine I haven’t had intense suicidal thoughts. I have them occasionally  if I’m at a low point but other than that I am ok.

I’m sorry this post is so long but I wanted to write up a brief bit of my mental health journey from this past decade. In 2010 I wouldn’t have expected for all of this to happen. Life surprises us, it surprises me on a regular basis.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Depression Makes Me Flaky

Canceling plans and  not showing up to things when I say I will has been a constant in my life recently. I am falling back into depression which makes me want to stay home all of the time.

Day to day activities like going to work have been very challenging. Yesterday I couldn’t make it through the day so I left two hours early. When I got home, those feelings of emptiness evaporated. My boyfriend had off yesterday so I got to spend some extra time with him which is always a plus since he works a lot.

Yesterday I also was flaky in my personal life. I lied to my friend saying I was working the day of her wedding and couldn’t come. Why would I do that? The regular, not depressed Megan wouldn’t do that.

I also flat out didn’t show up to my cousin’s last soccer game of her lifetime. I told her I would be there then just didn’t go. I feel so horrible about it, what kind of cousin am I?

I feel like a hideous monster that needs to run back under the bed. That I should’t talk to anyone because I will only let them down in the future.

Reflecting on my actions my stomach turns, my heart races and I can’t shake the feeling that I am a terrible human. My depression has such a deep influence on me that I haven’t made any decisions without consulting it.

“Depression, I was invited to a party what should I do?”
“We are not going. We are staying home, Megan.” 

My hands are stained red with guilt that I am a bad person for telling lies and being a flake. I was raised to always tell the truth but lately my nose has grown 5 times it’s normal size.

Does your mental illness make you act out of character? Do you ever cancel plans because you’re not mentally well?

My Healing Journey

At the beginning of the year my number one goal was for me to work on healing myself from the inside out. I had put my own inner healing on hold for a long time. I had pushed down the most painful memories of my childhood in hopes I would never have to think about them again. Over these last eight months more and more old wounds have been resurfacing. Old wounds that I forgot were even there were resurfacing. This was finally my time to work on healing myself.

 

I grew up in an abusive household facing abuse from my mother on a daily basis. I suffered from this abuse from a very young age up until my early adulthood. I suffered from physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. The most damaging towards me was the psychological abuse.

 

Growing up I always knew there was something “off” about my mom because of the way she treated me. I was the oldest child and I guess my mom figured she could take out all her aggression on me. My brother was extremely lucky because my mom treated him completely opposite of how she treated me.

 

A month ago I read a book about healing from Narcissistic abuse. It opened up my eyes to what narcissistic abuse is all about and it confirmed for me that it was the abuse I suffered from growing up. It confirmed my theory that my mom was a narcissist and the symptoms & actions described fit my mom perfectly.

 

My entire life I could never fully be myself. My mom was the one who called all of the shots during my childhood. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do, if she didn’t like it then I couldn’t do it. It was like my mom was trying to live out her life through me. I wanted to play piano and my mom hated that, she threw away my piano books because she didn’t want me to play it. I wanted to do gymnastics, but she told me no & convinced me that I was never good enough to do it in the first place. She hated me having friends and never let me hang out with my friends. This occurred throughout my entire childhood.

 

She terrorized me, manipulated me, and controlled me my entire life. This book opened up my eyes to how abusive a narcissist can be and how evil they can be.

My mom caused me immense pain growing up. She told me things no child or person should ever have to hear especially from your own mother. I was screamed at so many times. She told me lies like that she didn’t want me born, she wished she aborted me when she had the chance, no one in my family likes me, I’m a burden, I have no friends, I’m fat, I’m not pretty, and I’m not good enough. She RARELY told me she loved me & meant it.

 

Now that I’ve reached adulthood and have started my own healing, I feel like I’m starting to find myself all over again. My mom never let me express who I was so I was always fitting into the mold she wanted. I finally feel like I’m starting to find my own identity and who I truly am as a person.

 

At first I felt like I was going through an identity crisis because I didn’t know who I was as a person at first. It’s forced me to dig deep inwards to get in touch with my true authentic self. I’m still learning who I truly am on a daily basis. I’m starting to finally feel free again since I no longer have to conform to what she had led me to believe my entire life.

I Hate Myself and Don’t Deserve Good Things

Anxiety. Depression. PTSD. Codependency. On any given day, I’m dealing with one or more of these issues. It has taken several years for me to understand what I’m going through. I didn’t realize I was codependent until recently. That one hit harder than the others. Most of my behaviors stem from one of my issues. It feels like my entire personality is a lie. Everything I held with pride as part of who I was; it all comes from poor mental health. I’ve had a minor identity crisis for the past year. I’m rediscovering who I am as a person.

The first thing I discovered about myself was I didn’t like myself. Most of that dislike grew from anxiety and depression. And from not receiving much of any positive attention for the majority of my life. I rarely receive compliments. When I do, my first thought is to point out my flaws. The next thought is that person is lying. They’re not genuine. I’ve been working to ignore these thoughts and say thank you. It feels selfish sometimes to only thank someone for anything. Then I remember how much one thank you would mean to me. I’ve rarely gotten a thank you for anything.

I spent my life not aware of how much I disliked myself. I often felt I didn’t deserve happiness. I felt I had to earn it in some way. But no one could tell me how to earn it. Life doesn’t come with a manual. No one tells you how to take care of your body. No one tells you how to make friends. No one tells you how to talk to potential romantic or sexual partners. Not for me anyway. Most people have their parents and families in these situations. I didn’t. My parents were dealing with their own issues.

I’ve searched for things I like about myself. Easier said than done. I have a daily mantra. I don’t always remember to say it. But I’ve been saying it more often. On bad days, I’ll say it 10 or 12 times. And each time I repeat it three times. It’s like exercising. I do 10 or 12 sets of three reps. The mind is a muscle. It gets stronger overtime. Nothing happens overnight. Positive thoughts lead to a happier life. I’m improving. I’m healing. But I’m nowhere close to the end.

My biggest fear with all this is I may never heal enough to have a romantic relationship. I’ve stepped back since I realized I was codependent. I want to work through that before pursuing romance. I don’t want to fall back into old habits. I’m certain I’ll be ready one day. But I feel older than I am. I’m too set in my ways being alone. I’ve wanted children but that doesn’t look like a realistic goal anymore. I’d be happy with a partner to share my life with. First, I have to believe I deserve good things. No one will love me until I love myself. 

Running Towards Hugs.

I am making moves towards my next goal of moving back home after moving out of state a year ago. I applied and applied for jobs until I finally found something that would suit me. I felt immediate relief in signing the offer letter. I know it was the right choice. It isn’t because I fear not having a roof over my head, a lease ending, a job I am at risk of losing or anything of the sort. I just am relieved to be headed back to something familiar. I let my mental health care fall by the wayside and that it has never been so apparent that what I had been doing was working.

I moved here to remove myself from stressful situations that I was in. I was constantly guilt ridden (because of my own issues) and putting a lot of strain on myself to appease others. I know that moving doesn’t solve all your problems, but being far enough away where I couldn’t volunteer to be the fixer did. What I didn’t know is that I would be moving in with family who don’t hug, who don’t really socialize the way I am used to, and to be frank have a drinking problem. Alcohol has never really been my scene. I have always been aware enough of my own issues to know that alcohol will only worsen them. Being around it is depressing and lonely. On one side, I have a dad who indulges often and I now know why the phrase “functional alcoholic” is a very real thing. He holds a job and he isn’t angry or anything, but it sure pisses off his wife and that negativity is stifling.

I haven’t been hugged or had human contact aside from a handshake it 93 days. NINETY THREE DAYS. You don’t realize the impact such a small gesture makes until you don’t have it. I only hear I love you occasionally (aside from when I call my mom). I don’t see anyone except on the weekends even though I live with them because our hours are so different.

All of this has just piled up and then I stopped taking my medicine. Most of us have been there and thought we were okay, but we probably also had people who said “hey, you aren’t yourself” or asked if we were still taking care of ourself. That doesn’t happen here and my self care abandonment has gone unmentioned if it was noticed.

12 days until I move. I am packing up my stuff and my cat and headed to the land of love.

Take care of yourself wherever you are. Take your medicine. Go to your doctor. Hug someone you haven’t in awhile. Ask someone how they are doing. It sounds so cliche and I really just want to punch people in the stomach when I see their half hearted post about being there for anyone who needs it on facebook. I get it though. I understand the sentiment. I just hope that we can all think of how we feel and how we hide it.

Growing Confidence

Over the years I have found myself pushed to the back burner by other people. This normally happened when I was interested in a female person. My high school sweetheart, my basic training love interest, my best friend that I fell in love with (even though she was taken). For the longest time I thought that I wasn’t good enough and that’s why I was never their first choice.

But a couple weeks ago something happened and I finally realized that I have worth. I had reconnected with the basic training love interest. I visited, had an awesome time, and expressed that I was interested in trying to build a relationship. They said the same thing. Yet when I got home that didn’t seem to be the case. They wanted time to heal from their relationship that had ended a while ago. Which I could understand… had they not been swiping on dating apps! It was then that something sort of just snapped! I said to this person “I am a motherfucking catch! I’ve got my own home, I’ve got a job, I have goals and I’m earning my degree, and I have kept my kids alive for quite some time.” Then I told them they were to scared to seize the moment and go for what was right in front of them.

So I stepped away from it.

Then I stepped away from the best friend.

Then I told a woman I had been talking to off when she made a comment about wasting her time talking to me if I wasn’t going to facetime. She had never directly asked me to facetime, just made a round about comment. After I told her off she apologized and told me she found it sexy that I was willing to put her in her place. So… now I’m dating someone. Someone who isn’t going to be offended, or pissy, or use what I think or feel against me.

I might not be perfect. I might have mental health issues. But I am still an amazing fucking person! An it’s time I started to see it, believe it, and act like it.

So if you find yourself pushed to the back burner, if you are the side chick/dude, or if they only make time for you when they need you; work on walking away from them. You deserve people who make you a first choice.

Due to recent events, not mentioned here, I had to make my personal page private. I would love if you want to follow me. So comment here or go to my page to request and invite!

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Tell Me

Just over two weeks ago I broke up with my partner of almost two years. June 2nd, would have marked two years. That’s a lot of 2s! I am not sad. I do not miss her. Though if you ask her I’m the biggest liar ever. Among other things. I see all the things now.

While I am not upset that the relationship ended, I am upset that no one said anything sooner. Now that it is done, my therapist says my partner had been exhibiting power and control behaviors. My mom is no longer holding her tongue and gladly speaks her mind.

Why did no one say anything sooner? I know some will say that “you have to come the conclusion yourself” or “it was your choice to make.” But how do I make that choice when I can’t see what’s happening. It’s like I was blind until a certain point. Everyone around me seemed to see these little clues. They noticed snide or rude comments she made. Or how one thing or another actually seemed like a rule. It would be one thing if you said “Hey Amanda, what she said isn’t ok.” An I blew you off. But no one even said that!

I see now I was manipulated a bunch. At the end it got worse and was much easier to see. But why did it have to get so bad? I am a victim of emotional abuse and I have been most of my life. While I actively am working to heal and become my own person, I’m still kind of blind. I am going to make mistakes. Sometimes I need help seeing.

So do me a favor, please. If someone you know is being manipulated, or mistreated, tell them. They might not listen. They might get mad. But tell them and then just be there for them. When they finally get to the point where they are ready to see, they will know that you were there. That is important.

Say something.

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That Time I Almost Went to Disneyland

Growing up, my family never went on any vacations. One year when I was eight, we traveled to Tennessee for a family reunion. I didn’t know anyone on that side of the family and never made friends quickly anyway. I don’t remember any other time we traveled somewhere that didn’t involve moving. We lived in about six or eight different states before I turned six-years-old. We were always moving to a new place. My father worked for interstates as an electrician and we traveled to where he would work. We settled in Oklahoma and stayed for several years.

I thought my childhood was normal. As I got older, I repressed most of my trauma. Any memories I did have, I didn’t think were that bad. I thought everyone lived through things like that. I looked at photos a lot as a child. I’d see pictures of myself as a baby or toddler and never remembered anything from that time. Most people don’t remember being a baby. I saw pictures from before I was born. These were interesting because it was life prehistory. A time before life. More often than not, my family had to tell me who was in the photos.

One photo from the summer of 1986, the year I was born, showed two little girls standing in between their two parents. The mother was pregnant. The photo looked faded and old in the standard four by six size. They were my two older sisters and parents at Disneyland. There were other photos of the girls on various rides like the teacups. The rumor is they no longer have the teacups ride. At the time, the family lived in Southern California and would for another two years. In those first two years of my life, the family never went back to Disneyland.

I went through grade school hearing other kids talk about their time at Disneyland. I would joke and say I’d never been, but I had the food. They’d look at me in confusion. I would explain my mother was pregnant with me when the family went. They would nod and look awkward until the subject changed. I grew older and older sharing this same story. People would become enraged shouting how they didn’t understand how I had never been to the happiest place on Earth. Before now I don’t think I could have comprehended what happy meant.

I have ridden rollercoasters where they take your photo. My picture would show me grimacing. I didn’t think the rides were as exciting as everyone else. The rides which pushed the limits are the only ones I find exciting. The only rides I actually smiled in the photo. I can think of two. No more. As a kid, I don’t think I would have appreciated Disneyland for what it had to offer. I’m not sure if I will now. It’s rare to find someone in their 30s who hasn’t been to Disneyland. The closest I’ve found is someone was 25 or 26 when they first went.

I’m not saying my family stopped going on vacations after I was born because of me, but I am saying my childhood was not great and enjoying things can be difficult. I’m not sure when I’ll finally get to visit this magical place. Part of me wants to and another part cares less and less each year. I think I will go one day and it’s possible I’ll go alone. Just so I can say I did it. But I think the point of a place like that is to enjoy it with people you love. That’s the part I’m still working on.

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Self-Sabotage.

I have always been a giver, but how much of that is out of guilt? I made a lot of poor choices as a kid. Namely that I used to have quite the reputation as a thief. I’m talking anything from a small item to money. Always from people I knew. I don’t really get the urge to do that anymore. It was never done out of necessity. It was as if the desire would come over me and I just did it impulsively. I have come to learn that this could have been a sign of the bipolar at a young age, but I don’t tell my family that. I don’t like to talk about it with them. I think that they might see it as an excuse. If they come to the conclusion or correlation on their own then that is fine with me. I wish that I could tell them that it was the reason for things, but I really don’t know. All I know is that I don’t feel that way when I am taking my medicines.

The trouble is that I feel like I am forever trying to make up for the shit that I have done. I am trying to be the daughter, sister, and friend that I truly feel like I am. So I overcompensate. I put myself in debt to make sure that everyone has what they need and admittedly, things they don’t. I buy elaborately priced items that I know they would love, put off a bill of my own to make sure that I am doing everything in my power so that they don’t get that feeling I gave them. The feeling that they have lost control of things and I am off living my carefree life.

They shower me with words of gratitude and it doesn’t feel deserved. It feels like I should be doing these things because of the things I have done in the past. I feel like I owe them. Honestly, I don’t even feel like my mom would speak to me if I didn’t do these things because I feel like when she thinks or mentions my past she is disgusted with me. I am disgusted with me.

It’s disheartening when I really think about the reach and ripple effect that my mental illness has on my life. It has been about seven years (I think?) since I last stole something and yet the guilt feels like yesterday. Honestly, I don’t think I ever truly felt guilty about my acts when they happened. If anything, I felt guilty that I got caught. I felt bad for me. That is the one thing that makes me feel like my mental illness WAS the cause of the chaos. Yes, I made the choices. But the feeling that I was untouchable and didn’t care about the consequences? That isn’t me.

I think that everyone wants to explain away their faults and mistakes. I don’t want to be the person that doesn’t take responsibility for their actions. I also don’t want to be the person that can’t move on. I changed my behavior, dug into the root cause, apologized, made amends, and yet now I am enabling more reckless behavior. I don’t know that the feeling of betrayal and anger will come rushing back to my family members should I stop helping and doing. I also don’t know if I am strong enough to just let them go should they decide that I still have making up to do.

I know deep down that if people are only okay when you are doing for them, then they are not people I need in my life. I just know that it wouldn’t be completely unfathomable for them to still harbor anger with me. Realistically, I don’t think that it would go as far as total disconnect from my family, but my conscious is a funny thing. The way I treated them is an ultimate betrayal and I just don’t know how to shake it.

I can see how this is a sort of self-punishment or form of coping, but I find myself wondering if anyone else has made such poor choices and also experiences mental illness? I feel like a criminal (honestly I was in the grand scheme of things) and a fraud.

Living in a Shadow

A couple weeks ago my partner told me that she felt like she was living in my ex husbands shadow. We of course had a conversation about it at that time. I don’t really remember the full outcome. I’ve got a shit memory. But I do know that I even before she mentioned it I was trying to minimize things that might make her feel like that.

My therapist is not the greatest and he bugs the crap out of me when he interrupts me talking. He also says “I know you’ll go home and think about this.” A bunch. No. No I won’t think about it. I can barely remember what breakfast was.

That being said I still go. So when I went to therapy I mentioned what she said about living in my husband’s shadow. What he said stuck with me.

Almost all of us are living in someone’s shadow. Be it good or bad. The people who came before our current people influence our lives still.

People of our past may not fill us with sunshine and happy thoughts. But it’s not about what happened. It’s how we handle it now and how our current people handle it.

Sometimes a compromise is needed. “Please don’t do/say that. It causes flashbacks.” Other times it’s just a matter of letting it go completely. Knowing when to let go of the fight is something I’ve been learning to do. Somethings are worth fighting for or over. Others not so much.

All the arguing over living in someone’s shadow does is cause unneeded stress. So I don’t do it as much anymore. There are times when I feel like I am living in the shadow of my partner’s wife or ex girlfriends. Sure I’d like to say something because it bugs me. But I take a breath and I let it go.

We are always going to live in the shadows of people before us. In a relationship. At work. With our children. Anywhere really.

Then the people who come after us will live in our shadows. Because even though we live in someone’s shadow most of the time. We can still cast our own shadow. We can still stand out somewhere.

 

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