Y’all Are Crazy, and That’s Okay

Having a mental illness is a lonely thing.

Like most people, we want at least someone with whom we can talk. We want a friend to cry with, or even laugh with. We need a deep connection with another human, to feel loved and validated.

Unfortunately, we have a few things that get in the way of socializing.

Many of us are scared. We have trust issues. When we feel hurt, we feel very deeply and wish to avoid feeling that way again. Often, we’ve had a bad experience of someone breaking a promise or shying away when we shared how we think. Heck, a lot of us have a bonafide diagnosis from a doctor that we have social anxieties.

Besides the hurt and fear, we avoid people for their own benefit. We tell ourselves that we are flawed and unsafe. We justify our anti-social behavior with statements like, “I know I’m a downer,” “No ones talks to me at parties. They can see, in my face, that I’m no fun,” and “If they really wanted to be around me, they’d talk to me.”

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Those reasons and that voice are hard to work with, but our health and mental stability need to fight against them. I mean, did you know that human connections were rated the most important thing in a happy life?

So stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I’ll tell you why:

  • Most people are some level of crazy. They may not be certified, but they have issues. I can’t tell you how many people I talk with who have experienced some angle of what I have, if not the whole enchilada.
  • Even though you are crazy, what are you gonna do about it? I’ve tried starting over, but the person that is me always shines through. I am what I have to work with and I accept that.
  • Crazy people have options, like crazy-people doctors and crazy-people medications and crazy-people blogs. There are even …crazy people groups that meet and talk crazy together. It’s a blast.
  • You are you, and are a work in progress. Just think: are you still crawling around and stuffing car keys in your mouth? NO! You did that as a baby, silly. Now you are older and know better. You are knowing better every day.
  • The future will be better. The future will be even betterer if you keep moving forward -even if all you can manage is a shuffle.
  • If all else fails, there is chocolate.
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I have a few friends. Of those, a few have mental health challenges. Some struggle with depression and social anxiety like I do. One has panic attacks. Another is schizophrenic. A mutual acquaintance is bipolar.

Sometimes when I try to plan a get-together, a friend flakes and doesn’t show up. Sometimes I have a terrible week and have to cancel on one of them. Since we are all in this not-sea-worthy-at-all boat together, however, we get it. If not, we talk about it. We hug. We pull out the chocolate.

I need people. I need understanding. I need connection. So do you. Plus, your challenges and perspectives mean that you are more understanding and empathetic than other people.

I mean, we may all be crazy, but that’s okay. We’re as human as the next person and our needs are just as valid.

You are worth it. I promise.

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Photo Credits:
Sayo Garcia
Ethan Sykes
Anita Austvika

How Depression Feels

After the successful results of our last how-to article, “Depression for Dummies,” I felt a continuation of similar advice might be helpful. I may have decided this after yet another conversation with my loving, wonderful, clueless husband.

Thing is, non-crazies do not understand how we think. They are not living inside us, feeling the things we feel or thinking what we think or assuming what we assume after someone says something. They are inside them, usually feeling pretty darn good.

Lucky.

So, drag that fortunate spouse, significant other, friend, boss, or coworker over here. I’m going to teach them what it feels like to be depressed.

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First, class, you need to get really uncomfortable. Don’t shower and don’t brush your teeth for five days. At least. On top of that, I’m going to need you to roll around in some mud and let it harden in uncomfortable places. Finally, put on some clothes that do not fit right and make you think you look like a muddy, fat elephant who hasn’t visited the watering hole in five days.

Did you do all that? Good! Now onto Step Two:

During or after your five days dirtying the outside, I want you to work on the inside. Eat foods that are bad for you like candy, soda pop, Taco Bell, and Lima beans. I don’t want to go too far, so I’m not going to encourage anything harder. Simply eating poorly ought to do it.

Are you with me so far? Excellent.

Next, you need to contract some kind of virus. No one wants you actually dying, so aim for a bad cough or for that cold that’s going around.

Feeling bad yet? You only think you are.

Lastly, I want you to sit in front of a mirror and tell yourself that you are ugly. You eat like a pig. You are sick. On top of all that, you are worthless and no one likes you.

Are you feeling something now? Something sad? Congratulations! -because you have touched the surface of the ongoing mindset that is Depression. Whenever you want to say something ‘helpful’ in the future like, “This will pass,” “You have great potential; why don’t you use it?,” or “Why would you feel depressed?,” remember what all of this felt like. Maybe you’ll say a more encouraging, empathetic phrase, instead.

Maybe you’ll just listen, and give the depressed person some chocolate.

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Now, I’m not heartless enough to leave anyone down as far as we went, so you can’t leave until we reverse everything we did today. In fact, all of you people hiding in your closets and corners feeling depressed: come over here and do it, too.

First, I want you to get up, take off the uncomfortable clothes that make you feel fat and ugly, and go take the most awesome and refreshing shower you’ve ever experienced. Feel the warm water stimulate your happy nerves as you watch muddy elephant runoff slide down the drain.

Feeling somewhat better? Keep going.

Next, I want you to make the healthiest food that you enjoy and eat it. I’d go for an excellent, nutritious sandwich or shake. Whatever you choose ought to have whole foods, a few food groups, and definitely vegetables.
Brush your teeth afterwards and revel in the minty fresh taste of your smiling mouth.

You’re still with me, right? It gets better:

Go visit a doctor or take some over-the-counter medications to help with your cold symptoms. I really am sorry I recommended that you contract one; they’re the worst. Rest and breathing exercises help as well.

Did you do all of the steps so far? We’re nearly finished!

Get back over to your mirror and sit down. With a nice amount of natural light around, I want you to apologize for saying nasty things. I want you to say the following, instead: “I am good enough; I am smart enough; and doggone it, people like me for me.” Pull up some good Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs on your phone and run through a few.

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I’d say you should feel right as rain about now, but I’m more honest than that. If you followed all of the recommended steps then I am certain you feel a lot better, but I am also certain that you remember how you felt when you were depressed.

That’s because, during Depression, we tell ourselves some pretty damaging things; things that don’t wash down a drain or disappear when we turn on the light.

But they do diminish. Some days, they almost disappear. With the support of our (now) less-clueless friends and significant others, you will get better. And that’s worth fighting for.

 

Photo Credits:
Miguel Henriques
Jordane Mathieu

When I Finally Knew My Worth

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This has been the hardest road I ever travelled on. This Journey of finding myself and who I was destined to be after trauma has not been easy. I hope that this gives people hope that one can come out victorious even when they had gone through circumstances that were unbearable. I really travelled through this madness to find myself. I became comfortable with myself in this space (on this planet) because I no longer have nothing to prove to anyone. I just have to be authentically me. I had to changed how I saw (my perspective) of my circumstances and the world. I chose me first. I chose to follow my intuition, my inner-compass.

I will never be anything less than me and if that bothers you, step out of my light. – Anonymous

After so many years of soul searching and seeking external validation, I have outgrown so many things. I outgrew people who gladly offered criticism instead of support. I stopped trying to meet unrealistic expectations that were set by my family. I have outgrown my own unrealistic expectations of myself and my need to people please. accomplishment-achievement-adorable-1119981I no longer associate myself with human beings, who wear masks and secretly rejoice at my misfortunes and my mistakes. I ceased shrinking myself for people who were intimidated by my presence and by my intelligence. People who wouldn’t allow me to express myself because they were intimidated by my outspoken nature. Even when I was shrinking myself, I had the courage to break the silence and hear myself sing again.

I have outgrown friendships, love-ships and family-ships that did not celebrate accomplishments. I stopped supporting people who disappeared whenever life got a little tough. I learnt to respect myself. battle-black-blur-260024I no longer associated with people who took pleasure in gossiping and spreading negativity. Dull, shallow and meaningless conversations are a thing of the past. I value my time and energy more than ever before. I have outgrown society telling me that I am not beautiful and not worthy. I ceased filling my mind with negative thoughts, self doubt and insecurities. I stopped finding reasons not to love myself but more reasons to love others before myself because of my emptiness. I have outgrown people and things that don’t enrich my soul, inner-tuition and my life purpose. After so many years of soul searching and seeking external validation, I have outgrown so many things. My soul is finally free. I finally know my worth more than ever now.

I stopped waiting for the world to give me what I wanted; I started giving it to myself. – Anonymous

Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here again. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love

Francesca

Falling In Love After Trauma

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As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know. Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding views which others find inadmissible. – Carl Gustav Jung

Most people suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often have issues forming interpersonal relationships with other people, more especially romantic relationships. Most of us have suffered abuse at the hands of people who have chosen to use us as a container for their rage and their emptiness. The rage that they chose to exert on us was a result of their own life experiences. Please note that all trauma survivors are not responsible for this rage or their emptiness. We were made to believe through our suffering that we were responsible for the rage that was being showered our way. We were made to believe that we would not amount to anything in life and that we had to bear this rage for eternity. We were made to believe that we should discredit our own emotions and overlook our intuition. When a person neglects their intuition, it can be difficult for the person to assess whether the people around him or her are toxic or whether they have good intentions. This is the main cause of why people who have suffered trauma have issues forming relationships (emphasis on romantic relationships).

 The Toxic Cycle of Seeking External Validation:

I have had several friendships and a few relationships with people that were mainly there to fill up the void that I had inside of me. The void that I had as a result of my own trauma. I tried to validate my own existence by being around people who often made me “feel good about myself” or people “I thought were good enough to help me grow“or “those I declared as non-toxic“. My own perception of myself was so distorted because I had no self-esteem and I did not believe in myself. I could not trust my own intuition, and I think somehow toxic people could sense that I had no sense of direction in my life.beautiful-blur-fashion-210628 They could intuit that I was searching for myself in all the wrong places. This resulted in me having dysfunctional friendships and romantic relationships. I wasn’t co-dependent but I tolerated abuse even when I had no reason to. My empathy and altruism are both a blessing and a curse because some people deem these traits as a weakness; using them against me to further hurt me and to make me feel less of a human being. This lead me to further stray from myself because I was constantly seeking external validation; validation from places I knew weren’t meant for me. This is a tough pill to swallow, but I learnt the hard way. By making mistakes and by trusting people I knew my gut told me not to trust. I think some trauma survivors do sometimes struggle with this, especially those who are still at the early stages of recovering. I hope the advise that I give out could help someone in need of it. Even if you don’t need it, I hope you use it when you feel blue or feel like giving up on yourself.

There is no virtue in tolerating toxic behavior. The hardest thing I had to learn; My seeing people’s internal struggles and pain had been my undoing. It was here, I learnt that people steal more than material possessions. – Francesca Seopa

You are all that you need: Set Boundaries To Set yourself Free:

To those reading this, you need to change your inner voice. Sometimes the negative inner voice you might have might be an externalized voice you once heard (during trauma) and your brain chose to internalize it. It is very crucial that one realizes that the brain is a powerful tool, it sometimes protects us even when we don’t need protection. Sometimes things and words get stored in our brains because there are emotional and violent connotations associated with them. The brain is all-powerful and authoritative and we need to acknowledge it’s power in protecting us.agriculture-environment-flower-33044 However, the brain cannot breakdown and analyse where these hurtful things and words come from. We tend to be impulsive and have a lot of anxiety when we hear negative words or when memories are being played out in our brains. It’s not easy and you have to put in the work to make yourself feel better. Secondly, acknowledge your own identity: it will help you praise how far you have come since your trauma. You are a warrior and a survivor, nobody deserves to make you feel less than who you truly are. What’s really important is, all the people in your life, the position and their meaning in your life is dictated by you. We often forget our own power and influence because we have been made to believe that we aren’t so great and that our opinions (our voices) don’t matter. Set boundaries, they are really important. They will help you distinguish between the toxic people and the people with good intent.

No matter what your boundary is, the people that respect you for who you are will stay and not cross your boundaries. I believe that boundaries help us get a sense of what people’s intentions are, they should be established at the very beginning of any relationship. So that you can know when to walk out. bloom-blossom-close-up-235941You are worthy, We are all Kings and Queens and if anybody makes you feel any less, use your intuition to navigate the situation. If you don’t trust yourself yet, talk to someone whom you trust so dearly. If you don’t have a great support system use online support groups and mental health professionals to navigate your situation. Your gut always has something to say, even if you doubt it, talk to someone about it. Most of us have learnt to suppress our emotions. It is essential that we re-learn how to express them because our emotions can help get a sense of how our bodies react to certain situations. Lastly, Love yourself, love how your body unfolds and love how you present yourself in this world; people will sometimes make you second guess yourself. Be firm and learn to stand your ground about who you are. You have life and your life will serve a greater purpose on this world. Even when you doubt yourself, just start by appreciating the fact that you’re still breathing. The little things always count. You will heal, take your time and don’t rush yourself to do anything!

Walls keep everybody out. Boundaries teach people where the door is. – Highly Sensitive Refuge

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Very few people will get past my detectors and earn a place at my table. And if you knew how long it’s taken me to find peace in this life. You’d understand why I’m so careful who I let close to me. – Brooke Hampton

Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here again. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love

Francesca

100 Things

It has been some time since I have written.  With summer in full swing and my children all home for vacation, I found I was spending too much time writing and checking the blog and it was becoming a distraction from what is most important in my life: my family.  So I chose to take a break.  But, with everyone back in school, I am feeling the need to create and to express myself.  I am glad to be back.

I’ve written frequently about self love and wanting to improve in this area.  I have been grateful to make significant progress in this area over the past couple of months.  To share a brief update, I had some adjustments to my thyroid medication which significantly improved my depression.  This has helped me in many ways.  I no longer have a constant negative dialogue going in my mind.  I feel optimistic and generally better about life and myself.  I am so grateful for these improvements.

Some months ago, when I was really struggling with negative self talk, I stumbled on a podcast by Jody Moore, a life coach.  In this podcast, she challenges her listeners to make a list of 100 things to love about themselves.  Naturally, really wanting to improve in the area of self love, I tried the exercise for myself.

I got out my neglected journal and pen and wrote out numbers 1 through 100.  With great difficulty I began writing everything that I could think of that I loved about myself.  I mentioned my talents.  I mentioned character traits that I’m happy I have.  I listed things I do that make me and others happy.  I mentioned skills I’ve learned that bless my life and even mentioned physical traits that I’m happy about.  I think I repeated a few items accidentally, but I managed to get all the way to 77 things I love about myself.  I am going to complete the list today.

Why would this be helpful?  I’ve found that when my depression is present, everything externally and internally perceived is twisted in a negative light by my mind.  It makes feeling good about life and myself very difficult.  Taking time to write out the truth, rather than the skewed version of reality I am living in, helps me.  It helps me to challenge the negative dialogue and see what really is.

I am going to get a little cheesy here for a minute, so bear with me.  I know that I am unique and valuable and precious.  I know the same is true for each person that ever lived.  It can be very difficult, but when your mind is telling you the opposite, know that it is lies.  Combat these lies with the truth.

I challenge you  to discover the truth about yourself by taking time to write 100 things to love about you.  Remember, like I’ve said before, treat yourself like someone you love.  Look at yourself from the outside and see what makes you unique and valuable and precious.  It is there.

I hope you can discover it for yourself.  And when you do, I hope you feel a sense of gratitude that you are you.

Love, Chelsea

Who Hates Me Most?

You are your own worst enemy.

How many times have you heard that phrase? If you’re like me and surrounded by smug do-gooders who consistently like to point out the obvious (as if this somehow grants them brownie points in life), then you’ve heard no doubt heard it countless times and felt the need to dryly reply, ‘yes, I am aware, nobody can hate me more than I hate me!’ with all the light-heartedness of somebody about to enjoy a root canal.

If there’s something us people who’ve struggled with our mental health are well acquainted with, it’s that joyful thing; self-loathing. After all, it’s so ridiculously easy. Who hasn’t hated themselves after an anxiety attack has ruined a well-deserved night out? Or after a depressive period has wrecked a relationship beyond repair? Who hasn’t wanted to pull their own brain out and scrub it clean off its deformities because why the f**k can’t it be normal?!

I have. When the OCD held me in its grip (ha, who am I kidding, I still walk hand-in-hand with that bitch everyday), I despised my mind for falling victim to its tricks on a daily basis. I wanted nothing  more than to chuck my brain in the bin, where it belonged, for being a thoroughly useless organ. Like, hello? Your job is to keep us going and instead we’re on the point of dehydration because we can’t drink out of the cups in the house because you’re convinced they’re contaminated? Also we can’t wash them because you say the dishcloth and the tea towel are dirty, too? What is this self-sabotage and how about you give it up?! Needless to say, Brain and I were not on good terms and I still don’t feel sympathetic towards its shenanigans. On my great journey of life, I haven’t reached that milestone yet.

What I have done, however, is found a peace with my younger self.

Like many people reading this, my mental health issues started young. I was fourteen when I was officially diagnosed with depression, but that bitch reared her ugly head the year before and the OCD, well, I’m beginning to think she’s a parasitic twin.
The depression, however, hit me around the face. I’d been a happy child. Relatively normal parents, normal upbringing, no bullying; my backstory is poor. And then, when I was thirteen, I was attacked twice in the space of a month by two different gangs of teenagers. It had never happened before, it has never happened since and I understand if you found it unbelievable. So did many people at the time. But, with God as my witness, I assure you it is the truth. Those incidents robbed me of my confidence and sense of security and, as the months turned, I developed PTSD, experiencing flashbacks and a sheer terror of leaving the house.

(This was also the time when the grooming started – I had a really shit year, that year! – but let’s not get distracted. Here’s an insight to that here; The Adult Looking Back)

This depression lasted for three years; the entirety of my final years within the education system. The most important exams I’ve taken were held during those years. The main bulk of puberty hit me during those years. We can all remember those teenage years and mine took place under the umbrella of depression, during a time when mental health wasn’t discussed as openly as it is today. A lot was lost during that period; I was pulled out of a fairly prestigious school, in case it was contributing to my stress. My grades suffered and so my final exam results reflect this. This had an adverse effect on my further education: I have never been to university. I was rejected, folks, and I was bitter about that shit for years. (Ha ha, joke’s on me, still am)

Now, personally, I feel there’s too much pressure on teenagers. The idea that one can know, for sure, what one wants to do at the age of sixteen (as it was in my day) is, frankly, terrifying. I did not figure out that writing was my jam until I was…twenty-two. A full six years later. And that’s relatively early. Some people don’t figure it out for decades. So it seems insane that teenagers are expected to be confident enough of their future plans to stack over £12,000 on them without having had any chance to live. Combine this with a mental health problem, which is becoming more and more common among teenagers, and it is of little wonder we have a society fueled by their own self-loathing.

However. Recently I have decided to look at things a little differently; firstly by alleviating the blame on myself. I didn’t give myself depression. As they say, shit happened and my brain did not know how to cope. It had never experienced anything like it before. The depression was a response to my circumstances with a mind that did not know how to process them. A shrink once said to me that the mind is like one of those baby shape toys. You know, the circle fits in the circle, the square in the square. But when shit happens, that shape can’t fit. The brain doesn’t know what to do with it. I like to think of it as a plague within the mind, pressing its smoke up against functioning areas and contaminating them with its negativity.

The more I look at it, the more I don’t think I gave my mind enough credit. Ultimately it saved me. I had dabbled with the idea of suicide and given it serious thought, particularly during the third year and in the run-up to my exams, yet my mind refused to crack. It still believed, deep down, that there was hope. The little girl I’d been before shit happened was still alive and deserved the opportunity to realise herself as an adult. I didn’t recognise this almost split-personality for another eight-odd years but I believe that’s where it began; where I began to differentiate the depressed me and the me I believed I could be.

It was this depressed me that I hated for all those years. This pitiful, worthless version of myself who allowed herself to lose her school place, who didn’t bother to try harder at her exams, who forfeited her future education and the opportunities it may have provided. Nobody hated me more than I hated me. As time went on and I watched friends graduate from the school I’d left, glowing results in hand, off to universities to begin their lives, my bitter resentment towards myself flourished. I was the walking, talking definition of you’ve let yourself down. As far as I was concerned, my brain has SPECTACULARLY let me down. It had all but SABOTAGED me. What an absolute f**king bitch. Aided, of course, by those well-meaning do-gooders who’d tell me I was “too good for a low-paid job” and “wasted not attending university.” Yeah, thanks for that, give the old hate crowd another flag, why don’t you?

And then, in 2015, a year after I’ve come to the realisation that writing was my path in life, a song lyric caught my ear. Originally sung by the Beatles, a cover version of Ticket to Ride by The Carpenters had fast become my favourite song, along with this line in particularly;

“Before he gets to saying goodbye, he oughta do right by me.”

This lyric, slightly altered by my fair hand, I wrote about a picture of myself, a school photo taken when I was eleven, before any shit happened. Before you get to say your goodbyes, you’ve got to do right by me. It was the first time I’d acknowledged that 1) wrong had been done to me and it hadn’t been my fault and 2) I pitied the depressed teenage me rather than hated her. It became a goal for me then, a life-long one if you will, to balance the scales. I explained it to my husband as: “it has to have been worth it”. Those years lost, spent suffering under the rain cloud of depression, losing so much (and that’s another thing. People are like, ‘not going to university isn’t everything’ but that’s not the point. To me, it is a loss and FEELINGS ARE VALID. Another shrink phrase), they all have to have been worth it. That depressed teenager has to come up on top on eventually. I’m not saying I want to be as successful as JK Rowling or as rich as Bill Gates. I aspire to neither of those. It is merely a message to the girl with the black eyeliner from ten years before, the girl who carried on even when she didn’t want to; you gave it your all for those years, I’ll give it mine for the rest of them.

Lola Deelay of Of the Light and the Dark