The Voyage and Worthiness

I am worthy

even when I don’t feel like it.

There’s so much of my past self that I don’t

resonate with at all anymore, but I love her just the same.

She was growing.

She was doing her best.

She fought hard to get me here.

Thank you for being with me. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Angel love and rainbows.

Love, Francesca.

Having a Mental Illness as a Kid is Tough

I truly believe that I was born anxious.

I had serious separation anxiety as a baby up through most of elementary school when I was away from my mom. This lasted for way longer than it should have for a normal child.

As a kid, at least in my experience, I didn’t have the brain capacity to understand my emotions. I couldn’t express my feelings plus I didn’t want to. I thought that what went on in my brain wasn’t normal therefore I didn’t want anybody to know.

I struggled in school socially because of anxiety. I hated being with people I didn’t know, I didn’t like the focus to ever be on me and I always wanted to keep to myself or to my couple friends.

If I was put into a situation that made me anxious, I would cry. At 6 years old I couldn’t explain why I cried so often in school. Saying, “I cried because I didn’t like how everyone was looking at me when the teacher made me stand in front of the class.” never crossed my mind. Also if I said it, I’m not sure anybody would have understood what I really meant.

I remember taking a quiz or I was doing a worksheet in first grade. For some reason it made me upset, maybe I didn’t understand how to complete the sheet, I don’t know. Whatever triggered me made me cry which inspired the girl across from me to announce to the whole class that I was crying. My nightmare of everybody looking at me became a reality which made me cry even more.

When I reflect on being little, I so often think about the struggles that went on in my own head. I try to think about the fun things like my brother and I playing with our Crazy Daisy, going to the beach, eating ice cream and playing Pokemon Blue Version on my Gameboy Color.

I found childhood to be difficult and I think a lot of it has to do with my mental illness. Reflecting as an adult I would describe myself as being uncomfortable in my own skin. I always felt like I was in an itchy sweater that I wished I could take off so I could be anybody else but me.

I think that constant awkwardness was a result of anxiety and depression, two words I didn’t know until I was a teenager.

My awkwardness has decreased as I’ve grown but only in the last couple years have I felt comfortable in my skin. It’s been one long road to accepting myself for who I am.

Fellow Bipolar Writer readers and writers, did you have signs of mental illness as a child? If so, did you understand what was going on in your mind? Did adults around you see that you were struggling?

Anxiety Controls my Mouth

I’m not sure which to blame this on, GAD (generalized anxiety disorder) or the social anxiety, but one of those has caused me some problems! This has been going on for as long as I can remember. Anxiety decides to abuse its’ power and control my mouth. What do I mean by that, you might be asking? Or maybe you’re not, but still. I have this tendency to have the urge to say something, and yet my mouth stays clamped shut and my vocal chords go into hiding.

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I’m not “too sensitive.” I’m mentally ill.

It hurts when people erase us – our struggles, our scars, our victories, our invisible battles, a part of our lives that shapes us and our paths in ways others will never comprehend.

It hurts when people erase our mental illnesses.

gabriel-762937-unsplashIt’s like being told that everything must be your fault, a result of your flaws and weaknesses and choices; that it’s inconceivable that there is an invisible destiny carved into our bones by genetics and external factors of trauma or tragedy, leaving us learning every day the forever-evolving face of our mental illness and how best to get through the new day.

How many of us have at some point been told that we can be a little “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “too involved” ? How many of us have felt that we’re being told that our pain, our exhaustion, our hopelessness, our control over our minds slipping through our finger tips, are our fault? Our choice, even?

For me, I’ve heard it countless times.

“You need to toughen up.” “You’re too soft for this world.” “You can’t be so sensitive and expect to be treated right.” “You shouldn’t let things affect you this much.”

And in my head, with internal hot tears of anger and hurt at the erasure of my pain, of the war I have battled without complaint or surrender for as long as I can remember, all I can think when I hear that is, “thank you! So! Much! I am cured, of my depression, of my anxiety, and finally, presented with the easy to make and simple choice of “tough” or “sensitive,” I can continue my life with contentment and joy, never again to be pestered by the whisperings of my own mind! Bless you, kind sir!”

miguel-bruna-503098-unsplashI’m a little angry about it, I guess. And I should be. Because, when I’m at rock bottom, at my wits end, my life falling apart, my mind urging me to figuratively hit “quit without saving” on my existence, when I’m crying in the shower and in the elevator and in the moments no one is watching, when my hands are shaking as I desperately count the pills from my doctor and the consequences of absence from work, from relationships, from the world, are knocking on my door demanding that I attend to responsibilities even though I can barely attend to myself –

You telling me I need to “toughen up” and not be “so sensitive,” is erasing my mental illness, and you’re erasing the victories I win every single day with them, and you’re erasing the fact that mental illness is ugly, real, and that I am so so much tougher than you could ever imagine, because I face their hideous faces every morning.

It’s not that we’re “too” anything. It’s called mental illness.

Mine are called Depression and Anxiety. Whatever yours are called, kudos to you for fighting quietly or loudly or neatly or messily. However you win your battles, even on the days you lose, you’re not too sensitive or emotional or self involved or at fault. None of it is your fault. Call it what it is, and don’t let people who don’t understand convince you to agree with the shady voice in your head that tries to convince you it’s all on you, because it’s not, and I hope this is your daily reminder of that.

–  Steph

Son, I’m Sorry I Gave This to You

I am a 41-year-old mom with three children. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. My mother also suffers from anxiety, and she revealed to me that my grandfather was also known to be an anxious man. It’s in our family, we pass it on to the next generation, like some diseased baton in a relay race. The person in front of us reaches back accepting the gift without even looking behind them. I didn’t volunteer to hand this over to anyone; I’m sure my mom didn’t hand it over to me with ease either. I couldn’t prevent this from happening – well I suppose I could have chosen not to have children. That idea makes my heart ache.

A few weeks ago school started, and we started to see my six-year-old son becoming tearful at night. He asked me if he could be “absent” from school the next day. After some digging in it appears his new teacher (a male) is a rather tall man with a big voice. We believe my son is intimidated by him. I jumped, not brushing this off, and I spoke with the teacher and the school counselor. Both were receptive and helped to make plans to follow up with my son. All parties are seeming eager to understand my son’s feelings of “being sad and nervous” at school. I felt really good about the first step I took. I felt like we were making progress just by opening up lines of communication. I felt like I had given him this ugly scar that he will have to try to hide from others for the rest of his life and I don’t know how to help him because I so often don’t know how to help myself.

He had a soccer game on Saturday, leading up to the game he doubled over in the back seat, crying and telling me his head and stomach hurt. He didn’t want to play. I talked him into sitting on the sideline with me to watch, hoping he would want to join his team when he was ready. Thinking ahead, I brought his gear, and he changed his mind and played. He played with enthusiasm too! The process of leading up to getting him on the field was his first panic attack, at least the first one I have witnessed. He did overcome it, but I know what it is.

My husband and I deliberate for hours after the kids were in bed. What are we doing or what are we NOT doing right? What can we change? What can we do better? Will the other two children be like this too? Surely it has to skip at least one of them?

I know people will read this and say I shouldn’t apologize, but I am. Pardon my writing while I switch to talking directly to my son as if he (a child) could understand everything here.

I’m sorry, son. I know. I know what it’s like to want to do something so badly, but fear holds you back. I know what it’s like to think you can be something great, yet being the center of attention is terrifying. I know what it’s like to feel like no one wants to play with you, and you are too shy to make eye contact or ask others if you can join them. I know what it’s like to lay awake at a sleepover and beg the sunlight to pop through the window so you can feel like you belong with the other kids again. This is a lonely and scary road ahead. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I haven’t figured out how to dig myself out of the deepest crevice I threw myself in years ago. I am more than halfway out, I have overcome so much, but I’m not stupid, I know there is more. There will always be more.

I promise to you that I will be here for you to shake in front of, cry, throw up, or feel like you might poop your pants (yeah, isn’t that one fun). I will be here when you feel like eating in front of people is difficult, so you don’t (that phase passes I promise). I will hold your hand in long lines, tell you it’s okay to take a break and it’s okay to walk away – that’s not all true though.

You see, sometimes you have to shake alone, lose your breath alone, and let your mind race around one topic, alone. Sometimes you have to eat before you go out to dinner, sometimes you have to face the long line (or order it from Amazon), but most importantly you CANNOT always walk away. Sometimes you have to face it head on, and it will suck. It will be hard. It will be harder for you than it is for others and no one (but me) will understand how hard it is.

Seeing you torn up over a school day or a soccer game has stirred some triggers in me. I have sensed this early, so I promise you that I am going to help myself and help you. I am going to look for answers for both of us. This is new territory, but I know there aren’t always going to be answers. When that happens, I will lay in bed with you and read you Creepy Carrots and talk about Lego and Nerf guns. You are a kid. It’s not fair that you feel this way already. I’m sorry that you do. I’m trying to help. I want to get you the help I didn’t get myself until I was older. When you wait to get help it feels like the darkness of anxiety settles in your bones and it’s harder to shake. Maybe there is hope that we can get ahead of that happening. I’m not sure. Right now I want to make this easier for you. I don’t want you to suffer like me. I love you so much. I’m sorry I gave this to you.

Fingers to Sky

Photo Credit Pixabay