When Your Heart Is Breaking

I drove to school this morning listening to  a Rachmaninoff piano concerto while taking in a breathtaking orange-red sunrise over the Eastern Cape veld.

As always, the 35 minute drive allowed my thoughts to wander.

I was thinking about gifts. Blessings. Questions with no answers. Faith. What we believe to be true about God. The “WHY’S” we so often ask.

A friend is going through something similar to what I went through in my mid 30’s, wanting to settle down with the “right” guy, wanting to start a family, maybe feeling a bit desperate because the “right guy” is nowhere to be found! And sadly, the potential “right” guys are running a mile because no man wants to be at the center of the frustration of a  30-ish female with her biological clock ticking louder than the Big Ben every hour on the hour.

big ben

noooo

 

…and the WHY’S just keep coming…

( What follows is not another “Okay, here she goes on a religious mission”…I’m not about to hit you over the head with a virtual Bible. Stay with me to the end please)

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Why Is God ( or the universe )allowing this loneliness? Why is God not answering my prayers? Why did God allow me to move to this place when He knew the unhappiness I would experience here? Why is God silent?

Why, indeed???

Why does God allow loneliness, death, loss, heartbreak, violence, war, the impact of the Corona virus for that matter?

We don’t know.

I often asked my mom “What will I do when you die?” Because the two of us were attached at the hip . She was my shopping, eating out , wine drinking partner and the two of us got up to all kinds of irresponsibility. She would say “Lets see what the waiter does if I order a bottle of wine with breakfast? ” And we would giggle at the waiter’s flushed face all through the entire meal.

Or … “I feel lucky. Lets go gambling!” ( on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of a hectic teaching week)

“Some day is today. I’m going to buy that Michel Herbelin watch right now !”

And off she went, buying the super expensive watch she’d been eyeing for months.

She was living on borrowed time. And I think she sensed it. During the last year of her life, she lived life to the fullest, doing whatever she felt like, not worrying about the opinions of others. She had fun, she was happy.

When I asked her what I would do without her she always said : ” You will receive grace.”

And I did.

Of course, I was heartbroken. But my life continued. I was comforted.

To me, the answer to our “WHY?” lies in the fact that God did not promise us an easy life on earth. Just because we are “Christian” or we try to be good-ish people we are not given a guarantee that pain will not be part of our lives. We are here to learn. Our lessons are painful.

Now read the words below. For me, they are true.  We hear that WE WILL NOT BE ALONE IN THE STORM. The storm will come, make no mistake. BUT WE WILL RECEIVE COMFORT.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” – Isaiah 43 : 2

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We need to trust our path. Because if there is one thing I know for sure from my own life  it is this :

God’s ways are not our ways. 

God takes our wrong turns and turns them into rights.

God gives us pain so that we can understand the pain of others.

We are , in the end, meant to serve.

Albert Einstein - Coincidence is God's way of remaining...

Quotes about Way god works (29 quotes)

 

( ps. I understand that many reading this post will say “I don’t believe in a God”. I also know from experience that during my worst depressed times I was so completely irritated with so-called “Christians” throwing bible verse at me, saying my faith just wasn’t strong enough. If this is you, I get it. But I have come to know that there IS a path for each of us. Sometimes the reasons for our suffering come many, many years later when we can look back and say : “Ahh. God, now I get why.”)

Stay strong.

 

Kicked The Kitchen Cupboard Yet?

( written on Lockdown DAY 70 in South Africa , 10 weeks in )

Don’t do it. Kick the kitchen cupboard. It hurts. I know because I’ve done it a few times during the past two weeks. You can safely say that emotionally I am now crazily swiveling between ANGER and SADNESS if you look at the 5 stages of lockdown emotions proposed by Anne Marie Collins.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-8190399/The-five-emotional-stages-coronavirus-lockdown-impact-mental-health.html)

 

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One minute I’m crying in the bathroom,  the next I’m furious with the world.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why. I’ve been trying to analyze the emotion objectively but so far I can’t call it any specific thing. It’s just THERE. Like in the movie Bird Box where they all land up living “happily ever after” in a huge glass bird box…It’s all beautiful and peaceful and harmonious except that THEY CANNOT LIVE OUTSIDE THAT CAGE. Trapped forever with a glass ceiling as your sky.

Trapped. Freedom deleted. Dog on a long chain, walking until the chain snaps you back to reality. Pressed down. Controlled. Manipulated into the “new existence” our lives have become. Cut off, confined, closed in, imprisoned. By a tiny little deadly thing hanging in the air we breathe.

What 'Bird Box' is really about - Insider

 

 

We went to East London last week. It is our closest city, about 125 km from the farm. A trip to try and get back a feeling of normality in our bones.

But nothing about the trip felt “normal”.

Yes, you could walk into shops, even buy winter clothing, but without being able to try them on first. Police tape closing off all changing rooms. And with a “no return” policy in place.

Yes, there were people around. People with worried eyes, quickly getting what they needed and then getting the hell away from the place. No shared smiles, no greetings, no WARMTH.

No music in the shops. Never thought I would miss the music in shops! Even Christmas music would have been better than the awful silence!

Jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh
Hey, jingle bells, jingle bells
Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
In a one horse open sleigh!
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Remember those irritatingly jolly times in malls just before Christmas?
I miss it. I really do!

Shopping was like a visit to the pharmacy. Clinical, cold. Quick, before you caught whatever illness the person in front of you in the queue had.

We bought lunch at a garage shop, eating chips and drinking Cokes  in the car on the way back. How I missed our usual pasta joint…alive with smells, cheerful Saturday crowds, great food, LIFE…!

 

3 Restaurant Snack Trends to Watch—or Steal

I’m going to steal these words from  :

“In this pandemic, it’s almost as if we’re living in a collective state of suspended animation. Shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, quarantines and social-distancing mandates have all led to a persistent, almost eerie, shared discomfort. Life under lockdown can feel like being adrift on the Atlantic: we’re desperate for any sign of land, yet nothing but an ominous, uncomfortable vastness looms. That vastness is uncertainty itself.” 

(https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaboissiere/2020/04/29/covid-19-lockdown-when-will-this-feeling-end-how-to-manage-through-uncertainty/#2c995b6112d6)

I spent some time crying on the bathroom floor today.

Why?

Because I can feel my depression rearing it’s ugly head. The lethargy, the pressure on my chest, the irritation, the rapidly beating heart waking me in the middle of the night.

Because I’ve turned into an overcritical parent. I’m tired of dealing with my cooped up kids. Fighting more, constantly hungry, missing their school and their friends. 

I’ve become a swearing under your breath type person.

I resent not being able to do my job the way I used to. 

I resent the amount of chocolate I’m devouring daily. 

I resent the fact that my life feels so out of control and even more the fact that I can’t see or predict the ending. 

From my ship to yours…as we drift in this storm…

Don’t kick the kitchen cupboards.

Try slamming a door or two.

It works better.

And may we keep our sanity in this time of extreme trial.

 

 

 

 

SNAKE (part 2)

I wake up covered in vomit. There’s a tinge of daylight outside the shed. It’s cold. So cold.

O God, no.

Why did you make me wake up? I pleaded with you, God. Did you not hear my voice? Did you not see my life? My struggle?  WHY , God?

I lie in the vomit on the sandy floor and watch the sunlight creeping up, up, up  in the sky.

A new day has dawned.

I am alive.

And so is the guilt.

What have I done? How will I explain this ? How, o God, will I carry on ?

It’s the thought of my son that gets me to move.

I walk to my car. Slowly. My legs are wobbly, my brain fuzzy, there’s a roaring in my ears. The world outside comes into focus, then disappears into a bleak black and white landscape. But I start the car.

I start the drive home.

(ps. This was a record of my 4th suicide attempt. I survived an overdose four times. During the above event I swallowed enough tablets to have killed me. They didn’t.

It is now ten years later. 

My life has made a complete turnaround due to the correct medication, cognitive therapy and eventually Electroconvulsive  therapy  (ETC).

When I posted SNAKE (part 1) I ended up feeling like a fool. 

I felt that the post was overly dramatic and that people who read it would think I was just looking for sympathy and attention. 

But I feel that if someone ( even just one person ) read the post and saw the eventual positive turn my life took afterwards, I was prepared to feel a bit foolish!

Remember this :

The suicidal brain is not functional normally anymore. The suicidal state ( which I call “The Snake” ) is convincing the individual that THERE IS NO WAY OUT. It is hard to argue with your own brain when it has become suicidal. Your brain is telling you death is the only relief. But if we can just WAIT IT OUT for a few hours, the suicidal impulse does pass. 

There was a time when my first impulse after an argument, a hurt, a rejection was to swallow endless amounts of pills. 

I now have a warning and a reminder on the door of the medicine cupboard . It says :

“Die Jirre lief jou, Finish en Klaar!” ( Afrikaans for : God loves you. No Ifs and no Buts)

To me these words mean :

STOP.

WAIT.

THINK.

I hope my post has reached someone ready to end things.

I hope you WAIT. STOP. THINK.

And know that you are not alone. Your situation is not without hope.

“Die Jirre lief jou. Finish en KLaar!”       

   

If you would like to read more I’d love for you to visit my personal blog about my life on a farm in South Africa and my career as a teacher at a rural Xhosa school. 

https://teachingtough.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNAKE ( part 1 )

The evening starts with the best of intentions. I have bought snacks and the wine is cooling in the fridge. Candle light flickers across the dining room ceiling. I pray that my restless 18 month old son will go to sleep soon. This evening is important. I need to make it work.

Conversation between me and my husband starts to flow instead of falter. The wine is relaxing my nervous brain. It literally feels like a flipped switch. Icy cold insides, followed by warmth and comfort. Thank you to the god of alcohol.

And then suddenly he says something. Something about how I’m handling our hyperactive son. I take it the wrong way. He says.

He says he didn’t mean it to sound quite as harsh. He says it’s the alcohol clouding my judgement.

…and ….we’re off!

Accusations flying. Bitter words. Angry, resentful words. Blame, disappointment, disillusionment with how ours lives have turned out.

His hands are in the air and he says he’s going to bed. Because this argument is pointless. We are going around and around in circles.

He turns his back on me.

The snake is there. Just like that. Inside my mind.  I’m not thinking anymore. I grab the pills from the cupboard where I’ve stored them. Grab two bottles of wine from the fridge. I’m in the car. I know I’m driving too fast. I don’t care. I can’t anymore. There is no way out. I can’t be a mother. I don’t want to be a wife. My son deserves so much more. I need to leave so he can get to that good place where someone capable will take care of him.

I’m on the dirt road. There’s a shed in the distance. I turn the steering wheel sharply towards it, landing in the veld. I flatten the accelerator , my only aim to reach the small building.

When the car stops, I open the first bottle of wine. Drink from the bottle. Open the pills and start swallowing them in handfuls. They stick to the corners of my mouth. Swallow, swallow. More wine, more pills. Until there’s nothing left.

I’m on the floor in the shed.

God. I can’t. Forgive me.

I say these words as I fall asleep.

Aaaaaand…Action!

Examine the image closely.  Imagine yourself on that stage, under those lights. Imagine all those seats filled with students. There’s anticipation in the air because they are finally quiet. Ready for the show to begin. All eyes on you. On your every move. On your outfit, your shoes, your hairstyle. Is your heart beating a little faster?

Mine certainly is!

Image result for teaching is

I am a socio-phobic extrovert. I was born a complete extrovert, easily talking to whoever, whenever. I sailed happily through primary school, a confident child.

In High School my little world came crashing down. I had gained some weight and by Gr 11 I was bullied daily about my appearance, my glasses, my nose, my “nerdy” long school uniform. I was the academic and music award type, not the party type. No boy ever looked in my direction. The bullying became so bad that I spent a week sitting in the school toilets in my Gr 12 year. I refused to go back to school and eventually completed Gr 12 through a correspondence course. Social phobia, extreme anxiety and depression hit me full in the face. To cut the sob story short, I spent most of my twenties and thirties avoiding people and social situations.

Which brought me to my choice to spend the first 10 years of married life on a farm, having very little contact with the outside world.

But Extrovert me started rearing her head more and more …she was alive and well, it turned out! We can run but we can’t hide from our true selves…

Extrovert me was in agony. No people, no daily goals, no money of my own, no control over my own life! Enough was enough!

Enter…Mrs O, or ” Mam” English teacher as my kids call me. ( find my teaching tales about life as a teacher in rural South Africa here http://teachingtough.wordpress.com)

Teaching brought the personality I was born with out in full force. There are times when I almost have an out-of-body experience, looking at myself from a distance and thinking “Who is this person talking to 40 teenagers ??? ”

Ten years ago I would have run for the hills.

I am so grateful that I didn’t.

Being “The One On Stage” takes it all out of you. Remember, you are a teacher from the moment you drive through the school gates to the moment you drive out. And being “The Teacher” means you are actress, mother, nurse, councellor, disciplinarian. For those hours on the school grounds you are “ON”.

You can’t show weakness, illness, tiredness. Embarrassment, doubt or anxiety. You have your role, and you have to play it. That is your job. Projecting confidence. Showing control. Shoulders back, steady voice, efficient.

Does it take all you’ve got to give?

YES.

Is it worth it?

YES. Absolutely, 100 % worth it. Even for a scaredy cat like me.

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I Give Myself Two Thumbs Down

Think positively.

Look on the bright side.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Don’t worry; be happy.

Yeah; my brain’s not getting that memo. Despite hearing the merits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or sitting through counseling sessions advocating positivity, I seem determined to stay stuck.

Negative thinking is easier. I’m used to it. I deserve it.

Let’s say a good thing happens, like a job promotion. It’s easier to remind myself of a few “facts:”
-No one else was available and that’s why I got it
-It probably wasn’t as high of pay as someone else would get AND I should get paid less
-Just wait till my boss sees how I perform; he’s likely to demote me again
-The company may collapse and I’ll be back where I was. I’d better not get comfortable.

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Cognitive Behavioral Thinking and methods like it are designed to break the ease and habit of negative thinking. I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at breaking habits. I am so accustomed to seeing the dark side of life that I just do it. I would rather do it.

Further, as I said, that’s exactly what a person like me has coming to her. I am not smart, talented, good, or hard-working enough for the good stuff. Or -here’s the funny part- if I am, then I need to look around and acknowledge that I’m stealing that from someone else who deserves the goodness more.

Guilt.

Criticism.

Insults, even.

They are all designed to keep me in some pit of self-loathing so I do not ever rise up and see what’s possible.

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Why? Besides the ease, habit, and entitlement to rotten rewards; I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failure and disappointment. As terrible as I feel sitting around in my Venom cloak of darkness, I am convinced that situation is far better than risk. Depression must be better than hurt from expectation.

Right?

A few, happy balloon-like humans floating above the pollution say, “No.” Do I listen? Do you? If you’re anything like me, you ignore them. Sometimes, you pull out your trusty Nega-sniper and try to pick off a few. Why do they get to be happy when you know all the awful things sludging around us?

Yet, some part of me envies them. Some part of me wants to fly.

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Photo Credits:
Image by moritz320 from Pixabay
Glenn Carstens-Peters
Yanny Mishchuk
Jonathan Borba

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

In The Face Of Mental Illness

There are often many things that fall by the wayside due to mental illness. They include, but are not limited to, hygiene, relationships, motivation, academics, social interaction, romance, honestly the list goes on and on. Though the one thing that I miss the most is probably a mixture of relationships, social interaction, and romance. I’ve had several romantic relationships in my years, none of them ending well, but also providing invaluable experience on what NOT to do the next time. I happen to have a rather uncanny ability to be attracted to women with their own mental health issues. It seems that out of all my romantic relationships, I have not had a single one that didn’t get rocky because of mental illness, mine, hers, or both. For example, my most recent relationship, which was several years ago now, ended because my partner was slowly killing herself through eating disorders and self harm. So, try as I could, I offered her as much help as humanly possible for someone struggling with their own mental health, but nothing helped. I imagine that she was where I reached with my depression not too long ago, where you just accept that life will be this way forever. After a year or two together, I couldn’t bear both watching her slowly fade away, or deal with my own depression. Unfortunately, even though I cared for this woman very deeply, still do actually, I had to end the relationship for my own mental health.

Romance is already a tricky subject for most people. There are those that believe that there is a single person whom matches the other perfectly. Which, from a scientific standpoint, is certainly plausible, as there are nearly 8 billion of us on the planet thus far. Then there are those, like myself, who go through numerous, often painful, experiences, both learning to love and be loved, until they find the right person for them. Humans are supposed to learn about love from their parents, both in an emotional viewpoint, as well as physical (Y’know, the “birds & the bees” talk). For those like me, this doesn’t happen. From my perspective, my parents never had what you would call a “healthy” marriage. So, right there is strike one, I couldn’t learn the correct way to love someone. Also I’ve discovered recently that the love from my parents is often conditional, though they claim otherwise. Strike two, couldn’t learn how to be loved in a healthy fashion. Then finally, the only person in this world that I felt that shared an unconditional love for one another, my grandmother, passed away in 2009. Which, honestly speaking, is still rather difficult for me to speak about. And there is strike three, losing the only “real” and “healthy” love I’ve ever had, caused me to rely on the “unhealthy” love that I experienced as a child. Then cue the numerous, highly unhealthy, incredibly painful romantic relationships that I did have in my teenage and young adult years. Still to this day, I yearn for the kind of love that my grandmother and I shared. I mean, it’s natural isn’t it? To want to be in a healthy, equal and fulfilling relationship with another person.

Now, I do care for my mother, very deeply; and by all accounts, she feels the same for me. However, the problem is, that she, probably unconsciously, sets these standards for me to meet, that I have yet to achieve. Whether it is cleanliness, academics, hobbies, financially, whatever, she has these expectations for me. Truthfully, I don’t blame her, as most if not all parents want their child to not only succeed, but surpass them. This is where I have my issues. My mother is a very driven individual, who has worked incredibly hard to get where she is, as well as what she has. That being said, she expected the same out of me. Unfortunately for the both of us, my depression derailed my progress in life very early on. It wasn’t even until I was 17 that anyone knew I was struggling so much (my first “major” suicide attempt). Granted, for someone like me, it was rather easy to hide my pain, especially from those closest to me. While I certainly do not blame my mother for my depression, she did exacerbate it during my youth. I was always a disappointment to her, from my grades, to sports, to friends, just about every aspect of my life didn’t “live up” to her expectations. While she still will wholeheartedly deny this, I cannot ignore the damage it has done to my psyche. I’m not sure if it is due to being depressed for so long, or if it’s just the way I am, but I am incredibly low maintenance. I am not bothered by unclean conditions, I don’t need the grass cut every week, I don’t even need to eat very often if I so choose. However, my mother is incredulous when it comes to cleaning, I will clean an area top to bottom, yet she will still find something that I missed, or ignored because no one ever sees it. For example, I would spend hours cleaning the bathroom, but she will still find places that aren’t even that dirty, that need to be cleaned, like behind the toilet. Enough about my mother, as you can tell, I am harboring a sizeable amount of resentment.

I do think that I miss social interaction the most, as it is usually the starting point for all relationships. Now that I am not depressed, I can start pushing myself towards more interactions. However, my social anxiety is still a very large burden, that prevents me from socializing quite often. For example, at my new job, despite developing a rapport with some colleagues, I still eat lunch by myself. I still barely speak when avoidable. I am not saying there is anything wrong with being solitary, or what the kids call “a lone wolf”. In fact, I often prefer it this way, because it is less maintenance on my part. Though like I stated prior, I am uncertain if this is due to my mental illnesses, or is just a part of my personality. Often times, especially lately, when I develop a romantic attraction towards another person, I have to take a step back. One because I need to make sure that it is genuine, not just a desire to be in a romantic relationship. Two, because as of late, these women that I am attracted to, are people that I work with. Three, because as I said, I have an uncanny ability to become attracted to women with mental illness(es). Also, there is a part of me that is still afraid of the pain involved with an unsuccessful relationship. Now, this is completely a natural fear, that almost everyone who has been through an “ugly” breakup experiences. Not many people like pain, and therefore we try our best to avoid it. However, I liken the situation with a young chick learning how to fly. As you may have heard, there are many species of bird that forcefully push their offspring out of the nest, where they either learn to fly, or die. Though, when it comes to romance, there often is not a “mother bird” to give us that push out of the nest (our comfort “zone”), so more times than not, we have to just make the leap ourselves, further inducing fear. The reason it is not easy for us (humans) to conquer our fear, is because fear is an evolved behavior of survival. To be afraid raises our blood pressure, increases our heart rate, increases the strain we can put on muscle fibers before they snap, all physically increasing our chance of “survival”. With such illnesses as anxiety, and whatever type of anxiety the person suffers from, we experience a “pre-programmed” aversion towards certain situations or objects. What initially was evolved to keep us alive, now makes our lives unbearable in most cases. I myself suffer from panic attacks, where I experience the physiological symptoms of fear, for what often are situations that are mundane and generally average. Not that I needed to explain a panic attack to a mental health audience, but hey, I’m a Biology Nerd. Anyways, this fear of exiting our “comfort zone” is also primal, as once our ancestors left their caves, they could ultimately die in a large number of fashions. This is usually incredibly multiplied in those of us with anxiety disorders. So even the thought of starting a conversation with a women I have an interest in, can send me into a state of panic (not really a full panic attack, but a “lite version”). So as you can probably imagine, actually doing it, well that seems entirely life or death in my mind. As we are most of the time opposed to death (at least should be) the act of speaking to a “crush” feels like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. Or in my metaphor’s case, jumping from the nest without knowing how to fly.

As a chronic over thinker, I will often isolate for the sole purpose of not over thinking. Conversations can go any number of ways with a specific person, and despite how I write, I prefer proactive rather than reactive. Add that together with my observatory skills, and you have yourself a fine recipe for unlimited anxiety. As during a conversation, I will not only be “preparing” for the different responses, I will be analyzing how the person reacted to my original statement, and further trying to predict the best course the conversation could take. The key word here is could, as despite how much effort I put into steering the conversation, people are near unpredictable. As you can imagine, or even relate, romance has not been easy for me. As many women who have reciprocated my attraction, there are many more whom I have “scared” away. If any of you, who have found a way to overcome your social anxiety, have any tips for me, I would greatly appreciate it. I think I have rambled on enough here, plus, my fingers are getting tired from all the typing.

ANYWHO, thanks for reading! ❤
Check me out on my own blog at Out of My Mind

My Delusions

So, as you are all probably painfully aware, depression is an illness that can take all of the life out of living. This was the case for me. For roughly 8 years, out of the 20+ years I’ve been depressed, I had nothing to live for. I tried to kill myself twice before 2011, when I was barely a teenager. Obviously, both tries were rather unsuccessful, I think that I have my poor planning skills to thank for that. My childhood was not great, but not awful either. Granted there was nearly constant bullying from people that I thought were my friends. However, you get into my teenage years, and it all seems to go even further downhill. I lose my will to live, secretly attempt suicide twice, and go through the motions with school, chores, relationships, etc. It wasn’t until 2011, that I really planned out my “next” suicide attempt. I had shoplifted 2 bottles of over the counter sleeping pills, that I originally was using for my insomnia, which I suppose could be related to my depression or even my anxiety. Though, I had gotten to a point, where I just couldn’t stand living another day. Going to school. going through the motions, getting bullied, going to football practice, coming home to a dysfunctional family, I just couldn’t do any of it anymore. So, over the course of about 3 hours, I drafted my first real suicide note. Posted it to Facebook, and then took roughly about 150 sleeping pills. This was my first serious suicide attempt. By serious, I mean, it actually had a chance of succeeding. Luckily for me, someone called the police once they saw my suicide note on Facebook, and I was saved, by the “skin of my teeth”. I woke up probably a day later, on a respirator machine, in the ICU of the local hospital. My parents both there beside me, with a rather obvious mix of anger, sadness, and joy written all over their faces. I then promptly got committed to an in-patient facility, and began my near lifelong journey in the mental health system. If any of you reading this are also residents of the lovely United States, you know that our mental health “system” is severely lacking, and filled with stigma.

So, the next few years weren’t easy, by any standpoint. Though I graduated high school, enrolled in college, had a rather serious girlfriend at the time, and life was going, not great, but well…at least for a little while. It was in college that I finally tried medication for my conditions, and not quickly, discovered that I was medication resistant. So, I believed that with a mix of medication and weekly therapy, I would be able to get back to living my life. For several years, it kinda worked, though I was still plagued by incessant suicidal thoughts, and severely deep depression. I also developed a rather unhealthy dependence on alcohol, but that’s for another time. Fast-forwards a bit, to 2016. I was technically a senior in college, but due to my inability to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I needed a fifth year in college. As a small side note, I couldn’t pay for my 5th year, as the scholarship I was “awarded” only lasted the 4 years. I was barely keeping my head above water at this point. Seeing my therapist every week, was basically the only thing keeping me alive. Though, with the constant suicidal thoughts, I always had a plan in motion to kill myself, I would just never act on it. My therapist knew this, and gave me some leeway in not committing me. The problem is, I was spiraling the drain, and I knew it, but I did nothing to stop it. What definitely didn’t help, was my chemistry teacher was also my academic advisor. He, when I went to him to schedule spring semester classes, told me that I would never amount to anything in life, or be hired by any company, if my GPA wasn’t above a 3.0, which it wasn’t. This single line is what pushed me over the edge. Turned, what I call “passive” suicidal thoughts, into “active” suicidal thoughts. One day, during my chemistry class, with Professor…oh I’m sorry…DR.WHATEVER THE HELL HIS NAME IS, I got fed up with listening to him pretending to be a good teacher. So I stormed out of his class, went to my therapist, and told her that I was probably going to act on my plan…SO, in what not to do to someone standing on the edge, she called the police on me, and had me committed to in-patient…

Fast-forwards a few more years now, I was single again, and have gone through several jobs with promising companies (contrary to what my advisor said) and began working at a rather large laboratory company. I, once again, began circling the drain, and I saw it coming from a mile away. I hated my job, hated my life, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah you get where I’m headed with this, right? So, this time, wanting my life to be different, and not go back to in-patient, I quit my job. Right there, on the spot, no warning, no advance notice. I then began to look into ECT treatment, which you all have probably heard me talk about before, so I’ll skip explaining it. After about 6 months of ECT treatment, I finally began to feel better. I went from, essentially, the bottom of a ravine, to the peak of a mountain, in the course of a few weeks. Yeah, I’ve read the articles that ECT causes permanent brain damage, and that the “elation” that I felt, was simply a symptom of the concussions ECT was giving me. I don’t believe any of that. I was saved by ECT, because it was more or less, my last resort. After a couple months of feeling like I was on top of the world (or so I thought). I began to “level out” and stopped being so happy all the time (which probably was as unhealthy as depression) and began experiencing what “normal” feels like. It was then that I was scared that a I would fall back into my deep depression, as my mood was starting to dip. What I didn’t realize for a few weeks, was that life is basically a whole lot of “blah” feelings, with a little bit of sadness or happiness sprinkled in at the right moments. So, coming off of this “high” I was on after my depression faded, I was scared of falling back into depression. I was under the impression that this “happiness” I felt, was going to be the way I was from then on. Of course, I was wrong. And contrary to my beliefs, my mood stabilized around a sort of “grey” middle-ground between happiness and sadness. This was not something I had ever experienced before, so I was (needlessly) worried for quite some time.

Y’know, I was under the impression that life would get easier once my depression was gone. While technically I was right, I was also completely wrong at the same time. I have always known that life is not easy, for almost everyone. Of course I also knew that this really depended on where and who you were born to. I have known for a long time, that I got rather lucky, as I was born a white male, to a successful mother, in the United States. Although, I was convinced that once my depression was gone, I would be able to do all the things I needed to do, that I couldn’t while depressed. Such as chores, simple self-hygiene, socializing, finish my degree, get a good job, pay my own bills, move out on my own. Y’know, become a true adult. While life certainly is much easier to manage without constant suicidal thoughts, and all the depression symptoms, it is not as easy as I thought it would be. I was unemployed for 7 months, in order to get my ECT treatments done. Though, because of my bills, I never stopped looking for a job after I quit my last one. Though, I have to say, until I was hired around the end of July, I have never had as much trouble finding a job, as I had during those 7 months. Even depressed, I had a seamless transition between two jobs, for more pay, and less commute. Though, without my depression, with all the energy and motivation that I had regained, I couldn’t find a suitable job for the life of me. I still dealt with all the same issues that I did while I was depressed. I couldn’t take care of myself, I could barely pay my bills, I didn’t do chores, I still had a drinking problem, I still had massive anxiety, it was like nothing even changed. My life was supposed to get better by leaps and bounds without depression, or so I convinced myself. The problem that I didn’t account for, is that life always sucks, whether you’re mentally ill or not. Life is always hard, and nothing will fall into your lap just because you want it. Like I said, life did get easier for me, but marginally (Compared to my “predictions” anyways).

I just had to realize a few things that most people learn in their childhoods (that I didn’t thanks to depression). #1, life is hard, for EVERYONE, regardless of circumstance. #2, life is not all happiness without depression. Like I said, it’s mostly this weird “grey” area, with a little bit of happiness and sadness sprinkled in. #3, if I want ANYTHING in my life, I am going to have to bust my a*s for it, no excuses. #4, my depression is in REMISSION, not cured. Unfortunately there is no cure for depression (yet), and it will worm it’s way back into my life at times. I just have to hope that I have enough experience to deal with it the right way, rather than just kill myself. Once I realized these things, life didn’t seem so bad. I go to work, pay my bills, hang out with my friends, actually live life. So if you are still struggling with mental illness, don’t delude yourself the way I did. Although life will get better if you get your illness under control, it won’t magically become super awesome. So continue with your treatment plan, go to therapy, take your meds, and just bust your butt, until what you want is realized. Having a dream that you are striving towards is usually a double-edged sword, take my word for it. It is great to have a goal in life, but you either have to make it realistic, or be prepared to never reach your goal. Granted, with a wild, outlandish aspiration, there will be a boatload of fun along the way, but it will be incredibly more difficult. So, y’know what, live your life the best you can. When your time comes, as all ours will, just make sure that you had enough good times to look back on as it all fades to black.

Hopefully this wasn’t too depressing for you people. I really wrote a lot didn’t I? Sorry…not sorry…hope you enjoyed reading. As always I would love to hear from all of you on what I should write about next. Especially since the future for the BPW blog is a little fuzzy at the moment.

ANYWAYS, hope you all have wonderful days today, and forever ❤

Fighting The Stigma

Hey all…I know that it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me…at least it feels that way. I probably even said that as the intro to the last post I wrote here. At least I think I did, memory is still pretty awful these days. Anyways, let’s talk about Stigma. Ah yes, everyone here knows of the lovely stigma, at least they should. Not saying that I hope you’ve experienced stigma, just that you know of it. Though, it is pretty difficult to get through life with mental illness without experiencing stigma. For those of you who don’t know what stigma is, consider yourselves lucky for one, but maybe you’ll understand if I use these words instead : Intolerance, Discrimination, Hatred, Prejudice, Bigotry, etc. Stigma is essentially all of these things, and it is not unique to the mental health world either. Stigma has been experienced by everyone on this planet, except for maybe rich white guys. Then again, I just stigmatized the rich white guys, by saying they’ve never experienced stigma…so I mean…Stigma can easily be described as treating someone a certain way because of something that is beyond their control. Examples include racism, sexism, addiction, mental illness, eating disorders, height, hair color, etc. SO, if I were to treat you differently because of something that you could not control, then I would be stigmatizing you. For example, if I said, “Just get outside and bask in the sunlight for once, then you won’t be so depressed!” That would not only be highly insensitive and heavily misinformed, but would also be adding to the stigma currently surrounding depression. Now I’m not discounting the positive effects of being outdoors, and getting some sunlight, but it is in no shape or form, a cure for depression, or for any mental illness for that matter.

I forget who it was, but there was someone who was spreading misinformation about mental health on Twitter, and many of the more social advocates immediately jumped on it. The person in question said something along the lines of, and I’m in no ways quoting exactly here: “Mental illness is a choice, you just have to decide to be mentally healthy and it will happen.” Needless to say, this person was INCREDIBLY wrong about mental illness, and she was almost immediately called out on it. The thing that makes this instance so much worse, is that for the next several days, she was trying to defend her position from all the immensely educated mental health advocates on Twitter. Sure there were some all too obvious “low blow” satire like, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea! Thanks blank, My mental illness is now cured!” However, a rather large part of me completely supports turning this person into the “village idiot” for a little while, and letting them soak in how wrong they truly were. Yet, the other part of me thinks that she should have just been treated as uneducated, and promptly, politely corrected (even though it wouldn’t have made any difference). Speaking of Twitter, how did you like the alternate words for Stigma that I listed in the beginning? Well, it wasn’t yours truly that made the rather obvious connection.  It was a user on Twitter that goes by the handle of MyMedicatedTO, I would use the @ symbol but it creates some weird link that doesn’t lead to Twitter…so I trust you all to find this guy/girl/non-binary person yourselves if you’re interested enough.

The sad thing is, is that this MyMedicatedTO is completely right! Stigma can easily be interchanged with any of these awful terms, and quite honestly should be. MyMedicatedTO also made a remark about how the word stigma feels too soft for the actions it usually perpetrates. I actually agree here, because the word stigma, has somehow gotten attached to Mental Health, for better or worse. Now, this is MY opinion, being attached to Mental Health, often allows some people to easily dismiss something. So as stigma is attached to Mental Health, when these people hear about the Stigma that mental illness sufferers experience, they quickly dismiss it as more “Mental Health hullabaloo” and don’t address it. However, since these other terms like Intolerance, Discrimination, Hatred, Prejudice, and Bigotry are kinda hot topics our current society, I feel that people would be more receptive of what we have to say. Now I am in no way saying that we should stop saying Stigma, because well, it more or less is synonymous with mental health. I am saying however, if we want to add a little extra “weight” to what we are saying as mental health advocates, we could use another term for basically the same thing. Because honestly, stigma is almost always no different than discrimination because of mental illness. Hell, that’s why I write under a pseudonym. Although, I am tossing around the idea of using my real name. I mean, I’m writing this article on my work computer, in front of my coworkers, and have not received a single question about it. Anywho, we all have to do our part on fighting the stigma, not just in the mental health world, but everywhere there is one. If there are people that still judge others based on things that were not a choice (unfortunately there are) we still have our work cut out for us. At least to me, I can’t just be a mental health advocate, I have to be an equality advocate. All people are equal to one another, and should be treated as such…but hey, what do I know, I’m just some faceless blogger.

Hugs + Kisses,
Alan

The Egg Theory

By: Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.

 

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

 

And that’s when you met me.

 

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

 

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

 

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

 

“Yup,” I said.

 

“I… I died?”

 

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

 

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

 

“More or less,” I said.

 

“Are you god?” You asked.

 

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

 

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

 

“What about them?”

 

“Will they be all right?”

 

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

 

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

 

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

 

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

 

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

 

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

 

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

 

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

 

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

 

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

 

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

 

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

 

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

 

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

 

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

 

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

 

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

 

“Where you come from?” You said.

 

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

 

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

 

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

 

“So what’s the point of it all?”

 

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

 

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

 

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

 

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

 

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

 

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

 

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

 

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

 

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

 

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

 

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

 

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

 

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

 

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

 

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

 

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

 

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

 

“I’m Jesus?”

 

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

 

You fell silent.

 

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

 

You thought for a long time.

 

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

 

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

 

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

 

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

 

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

 

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

 

And I sent you on your way.