Kind of Like a War Hero

I’m a war hero.

At least I’m kind of like a war hero.

I survived a war,

but was never in the military.

I have battle scars,

but was never in combat.

I have PTSD.

That illness you understand for veterans.

I survived a war,

that I’m still battling.

I’m a survivor,

but I’m still surviving.

I’m a war hero.

At least I’m kind of like a war hero.

My father was my war.

He is still my struggle,

my battle,

my sorrow,

my pain.

I recently saw my father and my brain regressed to a frightened little girl.

Parts of me are still there. Shattered. Frightened. Sad.

Hidden in a corner in my closet, knees scrunched up tight, head buried in.

I will continue to fight, to grow again.

I will love my little girl self and hold her, comfort her and soothe her wounds.

I will be the parent she never had.

I love you Suzie. You are beautiful.

You are strong. You are so many wonderful things.

You can be all the things you couldn’t be before.

Be them now. Find them. Find you.

There is still time.

Find a way.

Become the new you. Anything you want to be.

I am kind of like a veteran.

A different kind of veteran,

but still I need to celebrate me.

I have PTSD, but not the kind you understand.

I was never in the war.

Not that kind of war. A different kind of battle.

I was never sexually abused.

It was not that kind of abuse.

It was the other kinds of abuse.

The physical and the words.

It was the words and how he said them that hurt the most.

The kinds you say I should just get over.

The kinds you think I should just let go.

It was the different kinds of abuse,

but still I have PTSD,

and I am a survivor.

I survived a war.

A different kind of war,

but still I am a survivor.

I survived my father.

I’m still surviving my father.

Each time I see him I return to war.

His words, his tone.

They trigger me back to enter that war zone again.

It is my war. My private battle.

A war I re-enter

each time I see my father

or when an image, a sound, a phrase, or a tone

triggers me back to the battles,

the fear, the pain and the heartache.

I’m a war hero.

At least I’m kind of like a war hero.

I survived a war.

My father

was my war.

I survived my father.

~written by Susan Walz

 

© 2020 Susan Walz | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved

Photo credit: Photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

Living With Mental Illness is Like Swimming With A Great White Shark Lurking Nearby

Recently, I have been waking up every morning and thinking, “Another day. Ho hum. Just another day,” while feelings of melancholy fill my heart and ache my soul. Although writing this reminds me that it is not just another day. It is more than another day and I am blessed to be in this day, blessed to be alive. I need to remind myself that every day is a precious gift and I need to find a way to celebrate it and find a way to celebrate me and love myself.

However, the truth is often times mental illness wins and is stubborn, shuts me out and obviously has a mind of its own. The reality of depression hits hard as I try to fight to keep my sanity before it wins and destroys once again as it has done so savagely in the past, before it overtakes what I have battled to win.

My PTSD triggered some depression and memories of regrets and mistakes I have made after mental illness struck. Besides the painful symptoms of mental illness I often must fight through the painful reminders of the destruction that mental illness caused in my life, the mistakes I made while I fought to survive a disease that was killing me from the inside out. I must fight how the stigma of mental illness reared its ugly head through the years in many subtle and blatant gruesome ways.

Countless times my brain was in so much distress that I was not living but was surviving, doing anything just to make it through another day. I made many mistakes along the way. and behaved in ways that I would “normally” not do. I felt like if I did not do this or that I could not go on. It was the only solution and it was better than the alternative of not making it.

Presently, I am battling through the destruction that living with mental illness for over two decades has caused. I am looking at how my life turned out because I had the misfortune of getting mental illness. I grieve for what life would have been for me and who I could have become.

I grieve for friends I would have had. Instead I do not have any friends. Not one. Again let me repeat, not one.

Part of the problem with that is that I am afraid to make friends and have friends because I really do not know how to after all these years living a mental illness life. I also fear getting hurt. Living a mental illness life caused me to be hurt so often and so deeply I cannot touch that pain again. It frightens me so intensely that I stay away from it.

Today I do not feel like I am likeable. Who could like someone who has lived through what I have and has done the things I did for survival or not. I am not a good person because of the pain I have lived through. No one wants to deal with what the truth is. No one wants to hear it. It is too much. It is too much for me. I have to battle through it and no one else needs to or deserves to listen to what I have endured for too long. The pain that a mental illness life caused is beyond what most people could even remotely comprehend, so they don’t. They don’t want to know that kind of pain.

I can pretend for a while, but after a while the memories resurface and I have to fight through them. I try not to live in the past but that is where I am today. I will stop visiting my past soon and will keep soul searching. I will get beyond my melancholy so I can enjoy the beauty of living again. I will work through it because I have no other choice.

I will work hard to be present today. I will live for today. I will appreciate that I survived and overcame more than I like to remember.

Today melancholy causes me to want to and need to be alone. I will bask in my solitude. As I fight through the darkness melancholy is causing, I will search for the flicker of light. I will let the sun shine in on my gray mind and heart.

Melancholy is an old friend I have known since I was a child. It’s familiarity sometimes brings a peaceful contentment, but the reality of sightings of the great white shark lurk nearby.

© 2020 Susan Walz | myloudwhispersofhope.com | All Rights Reserved

Photo Credit: Photo by Alex Steyn on Unsplash

Victoria’s Interview Feature

At times our journey to discover what is wrong with us can be a hard one, and it can go unnoticed for a time. Then we experience something that changes everything in our lives. That’s what it is was like for Victoria, a young woman from the Midwest— Indiana. Victoria’s journey begins with her official diagnosis— Vaginismus.

You can find more about the signs and symptoms of vaginismus in Victoria’s blog Girl With the Paw Print Tattoo.

A Struggle With Vaginismus, Anxiety, & Depression

The ride to discovery can me be a hard one, and it is never easy. It usually is a difficult one— and it was no different for Victoria’s journey. Victoria‘s official diagnosis is vaginismus. It occurred the first time her freshman year of College.

“After having sex for the first time. I discovered excruciating pain that went along with it,” she explains. “I did a Google search, and “vaginismus” came up.”

It was difficult for Victoria to understand, and for the months that followed, she hid it from the world. It wasn’t until a session with her therapist that she brought up the pain. It was Victoria‘s therapist that convinced her to seek real medical help.

”My first gynecologist knew I struggled with pain during examinations. Yet, they never addressed it. Now, when I say ‘struggled’ I mean I was held down on the table by two nurses as I cried. I shook uncontrollably whenever she examined me.”

It was a horrible experience for Victoria. At times her gynecologist couldn’t examine her because her PC muscles blocked her. It was still never addressed, and it continued to be a problem in her life. It finally took Victoria approaching her doctor and telling her that she had the condition.

Her response was, “Oh that makes sense! I always thought you never liked exams.”

When you receive a diagnosis such as vaginismus, it can be a daunting and an exhausting process. Over the years, Victoria has gone through so many doctors, gynecologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physical therapists.

“I was given a set of dilators and told yo use them daily. I was never given instructions on how to use them. This is typical.”

As with any diagnosis, it usually morphs into other issues in your life. Factors like problems in Victoria’s personal life helped fuel a new struggle with depression. In her freshman year in college, depression became a part of her diagnosis. Victoria was randomly selected to take a test in the Psychology Department in her college. It was the results of this test that the Professor, a therapist and the Head of Psychology Department, called Victoria into his office.

“It was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life,“ she explains. “I knew I was a mess, but I had to pretend I was fine. I walked into the room full of sunshine, and played it cool.”

It worked as Victoria confused the room. The results of her test made it seem that it would be impossible to get out of bed most days. They were shocked that the individual that took that test was before them. Victoria, like so many of us who first experience depression, laughed her depression off.

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It was a futile thing to do, and on a break from school when Victoria went home, she went to a family doctor. Victoria got her official diagnosis of Depression. Victoria resisted her doctor’s recommendation to take medication and chose a route without anti-depressants.

“It wasn’t until recently that I began to see a psychiatrist. I now have been prescribed a variety of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. It’s crazy to think that it’s officially been one full year on meds.”

Anxiety is another side effect of her diagnosis. Victoria contends that she has always lived with generalized anxiety disorder. She learned to adapt throughout her life. It was her therapist in her freshman that gave her the official diagnosis of anxiety.

“To be honest, I don‘t remember what it was like before these diagnoses,” Victoria recalls. “I remember one memory of being completely blissful, and that when I was very young. I was outside in the backyard; the grass was extremely green, and the sun was shining brighter than it ever had. I would twirl around, and swing on the swing set smiling as I breathed in the crisp air. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the grass and the air and the sunshine on my face. I was fearless. I was free. I was innocent. I was happy.”

What is the Hardest Part for Victoria?

In Victoria’s life living with vaginismus is the hardest thing she has to deal with each day. The depression is a side effect of vaginismus, and she has found ways to make the anxiety not a big part of her life.

“With vaginismus, and therefore depression, It is feeling worthless and abnormal,” she explains. I feel like everything is my fault, and I’m a huge failure when it comes to relationships.”

Victoria worries that she has set her fiancé back when it comes to relationships. It is often the feeling for Victoria that vaginismus holds her back from enjoying her life. For Victoria, it feels as if life is passing her by.

“It’s not living. This, of course, is my biggest fear.”

Triggers are what Victoria struggles the most each day. One of the hardest triggers for her is to be alone in her apartment. Trying to relax alone can be a hard thing for Victoria. The negative thoughts and emotional turmoil can be consuming. Victoria at times has good days, and she is able to move on with her day. It’s the nights that can be the most difficult.

“Every night is difficult for me because I so desperately want to be intimate with my fiancé but can’t,” she explains. “This only intensifies my depression.”

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It doesn’t help Victoria’s cause that depression and anxiety often set her back. She can remember a time before her anxiety medication where she was afraid to hang out with people. The fear of driving and being in large crowds frightened Victoria. It was fearful to even drive for her.

Luckily for Victoria, those days of fearing her anxiety have passed. Depression still haunts her every day. Those days where she wanted to stay in bed all day, she gets up and tries to go about her day.

”I find that tears sometimes swell in my eyes for no reason. I must wipe them away. I realize that I suck at communication with others because I’m not even thinking about anything other than my own thoughts. It makes me feel terrible and guilty. I worry that I am a terrible friend and partner.”

Victoria Wants to Share This With the Mental Illness Community

The one thing Victoria wants to share with the readers of this article is this. Not to judge individuals so quickly.

“You have no idea what they are going through in their life,” Victoria explains. “You have no idea what their daily struggles might be. Also, for those of you dealing with the same struggles, just know that you are never alone. Some days are harder than others, but you will get through this.”

Learning From the Blogging Experience

Within the confines of her blog, it has helped Victoria sort through her emotions. In a very constructive way. What helps is being able to sit down and talk about her mental illness and conditions. He blog is like writing a journal that you share with others. The people that follow her blog can empathize and relate to what Victoria is going through.

“I also love how blogging shares awareness. It makes me feel good inside to talk about vaginismus and shed light on this condition to the community. Hopefully, it will one day go further than just blogging about it.”

Ending on a Positive Note

There are things in our lives that make life worth living. For Victoria, it is her fiancé and the possibilities of beautiful adventures. Like traveling the world.

It has been a unique experience to share Victoria’s continuing journey with vaginismus, depression, and anxiety. I came across Victoria’s blog, and it was amazing to see how someone who has been through so much can be so open. She can still shed light on her illness and help others with her blog. It was my pleasure to write this feature article about Victoria.

I hope every person reading this article knows that each of us struggles in our own way. Victoria and The Bipolar Writer are of one mind when she says not to judge people for their struggles. When this happens, some battles stay hidden, and that is all bad. I wish nothing but positivity as Victoria continues her journey.

You can find Victoria’s blog Here.

Interviewee: Victoria

Author James Edgar Skye

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Photo Credit: Featured Image and other images of her are from Victoria’s collection.

Other Photos:unsplash-logoAlec Douglas

I’m the Other James

You may not have realized we had more than one James posting on this blog. James Edgar Skye started this blog and I am not him. I am James Pack. The other James. I changed my author tag to J. Pack to help eliminate confusion. Had you all noticed? It felt fitting to write this post on April Fool’s Day. For some, April Fool’s was never a happy holiday. I often received pranks instead of giving them. If you grew up in an abusive household as I did, these pranks only reminded you of life at home.

What are the origins of April Fool’s Day? The closest known date of the first April Fool’s started in 1582 in France.  Before that year, April 1stwas New Year’s Day according to the Julian Calendar.  In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered the creation of a new calendar.  The new Gregorian Calendar placed New Year’s Day on January 1st. During the introduction of the new calendar, many people continued celebrating New Year’s Day on April 1st. Many others rejected the new calendar and decided to use April 1stas a day for pranks.

The term “poisson d’avril” referred to those victimized by pranks. The French term means “April Fish.” After centuries, the day eventually evolved into the modern tradition and spread across several countries. Scotland, for example, has a popular prank where they send people on a cuckoo hunt.  Unfortunately for the victim, cuckoos are not real.  Scotland may have originated the “Kick Me” sign as well. Mexico’s counterpart for April Fool’s falls on December 28th.  Originally a sad day for remembering the slaughter of innocent children by King Herod, but it later evolved into a day of pranks and trickery.

If you must participate in the jokes and pranks, please be aware of other’s boundaries. Avoid pranks that involve invading someone’s personal space or involve scaring. Something small to you may trigger someone else. Keep the jokes light hearted and fun. Don’t press to far unless you know your friends can handle the joke. Even then, tread lightly. Have fun with friends and don’t get fooled by this other James when reading posts on this blog, or you’ll become the next poisson d’avril.

How Depression Ruined My Child’s Birthday

It was my son’s 15th birthday on Saturday. He originally had plans to go to the arcades with his brand new (first) girlfriend, but her parents forbade her going at the last moment, so he was understandably salty about the whole thing. He hadn’t planned on a party or event with any other friends, so it was pretty much him and us. And my depression.

Before we even get started on what happened on Saturday specifically, I should point out that I hadn’t exactly set myself up for success in the first place. Due to an unplanned bout of being unmedicated (I just … didn’t take them, I guess), I was still recovering from a deep and strange depression in the weeks leading up to his birthday, and had more or less neglected to even consider getting him any gifts.

Thankfully my wife made up for this by getting him a few t-shirts and knick-knacks, but I told him I would take him to the movies and a comic book store instead, to try and take his mind off things.

Saturday morning actually went smoothly. My wife and I went shopping before our son got up, picked up some nice breakfast things, and woke him up around 11:00 AM with presents. Then, while he was watching Game of Thrones, my wife and I worked together in the kitchen to make meatballs – the first part of a planned lasagna dinner to celebrate.

So far, so good.

In the afternoon I took him to see Captain Marvel, which was (in my opinion) really quite good. I enjoyed the movie and the time spent with him, and we talked about Marvel and comics and movies endlessly on the way home.

Once home, I was getting ready to finish off prep for the lasagna when our cat jumped up on my wife’s chair while she was sitting in it. In itself no big deal, but my wife is allergic to the cat and asked for a paper towel wet with soap just to wipe her hands afterwards.

Somewhere along the line, I failed to hear her say that she already had a paper towel, and just needed it wet. When she asked why I got her a new one, she called me on not listening.

I said she didn’t say it. (I mean, I genuinely had no recollection of her saying anything about it.)

I guess this must have triggered her, because she said, “Fuck you.”

I don’t know how genuinely angry she was, but something in it flashed a cloud over my mind, and I retorted with the same and stormed upstairs to the bed in the loft.

I figured I would settle down, cool off, and come down a few minutes later to apologize and finish dinner. Instead, something took over and, once in that bed, I found I simply could not get out of it. First I made excuses – I’m still angry, I need to calm down. Then I gave myself deadlines – I’ll get up by 5:30 PM … I’ll get up by 6:00 PM. And then … I just gave up.

Instead of helping my son celebrate a birthday that already hadn’t gone well, I spent the remainder of the night comatose in bed, drifting in and out of sleep and wondering what my son did to deserve such a pathetic wreck of a father. I vaguely heard the noises, caught the drifting smells, as my son and wife cooked, ate, and cleaned up after a very lonely and miserable dinner.

They didn’t even have the cake.

Depression is a strange beast. It can strike when you least expect it, and its power over you is somehow stronger than you ever anticipate, even when you know its bite intimately. Once I was in that bed, I wasn’t getting back out of it. It was as simple as that. No amount of guilt, persuasion or logic was going to make a difference.

I don’t even really know why it happened. I’ve been medicated for almost a month now, and the depression and mood swings should have been stabilized. It was unexpected, and unreasonable; totally out of the blue.

I tried to make it up to him on Sunday – took him out, made breakfast, etc. – but it didn’t change the acrid taste in my mouth. I let him down, on the one day he needed support the most. Nothing else matters.

There are times when I feel like a true failure as a person. Once upon a time, in another life, someone once referred to me as their ‘rock’. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am inherently unreliable. Unpredictable. Unintentional, and emotionally unfaithful. I am no one’s rock. I am a passing fancy on the wind, here today and gone tomorrow. I am as ephemeral as a wave, crashing against a rock at sea.

And as a passing breeze, I’ll always be around; what is absent one day will return eventually. But how, and when … that’s anyone’s guess.

I may not be a good person, but I’m all I’ve got – depression and all.

Empty Your Pockets

This is a free verse poem I wrote because I have been struggling with my PTSD lately.

This poem is for anyone that has ever been hurt before. I hope you enjoy it.

Don’t forget to empty your pockets and always remember…


Empty Your Pockets

They knock on my door, but I don’t let them in.

They send me texts, but I don’t respond.

They call, but I don’t answer.

They leave voicemails. I listen, but never return the call.

They knock on my door, but I can’t let them in.

They try, but I refuse.

The fear freezes me.

Traps me.

Holds me in a bondage I can’t escape.

I can’t visit it now.

I can’t return.

Those are the memories you created.

You hurt me then, and you hurt me now.

I forgot then, but I can’t forget now.

Not right now.

It has resurfaced.

I am not sure when I will let you back in.

For now I stay away. Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of ear shot. Out.

I am frozen in the bondage that you created years ago.

You didn’t care then and I can’t care now. Not right now.

Maybe tomorrow. Maybe. I don’t know.

When it feels right, I will resurface. I will come back.

I will let you back into my life a little at a time.

Handle with caution. Handle with care.

I am fragile when wounded and I feel wounded right now.

Just because. Maybe because I am healing more. Always healing.

When wounded and injured, always healing and recovering.

I will be okay and I will come back one day.

I am not sure when, but one day.

When it is safe. When my heart tells me so.

I can’t be there for you right now.

You weren’t there for me when I needed you most.

You couldn’t be there for me the way I needed you to be.

You didn’t know how.

So, you put me it in your back pocket.

The place where you put everything you can’t deal with.

Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. It will go away.

But, it never really goes away.

It remains in your back pocket and becomes buried with the lint.

That was where you put me.

You must have a lot of stuff in your back pockets.

Doesn’t it make it difficult to walk around and live life when your pockets are full?

You need to clean out your pockets and take care of the junk that is in your pockets.

The place where you put things you don’t want to deal with or feel or know even exist.

The place you put things to deal with later.

Unfortunately, later sometimes never came.

Later became too late.

Like me.

You forgot you put me in your back pocket.

The stuff you can’t deal with.

The stuff you will deal with later, maybe.

I am the later maybe you forgot or didn’t have time for.

You forgot me too many times.

It is my time now.

I think I finally found a back pocket.

I will put you in my back pocket until later.

Just for now.

I will come back though.

I will never leave you in my back pocket.

Please clean out your pockets. You might be surprised what’s in your back pocket.

Maybe it is what you have been looking for, but forgot where you put it.

Maybe it is what you have always been missing.

Maybe it is what you always needed.

Maybe it is me.

~written by Susan Walz

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Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved

PTSD is Like the Overdraft Fee in My Memory Bank

Memories—some I cherish and want to remember forever and some I want to forget.

A memory is the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information. I wish we could pick and choose our memories. Some memories are there forever and easily retrieved. Some memories are gone forever—vanished into thin air. Poof.

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My memory bank is much like my bank account – I don’t have a lot in it. Sometimes it feels empty, so I can’t retrieve or recall what I want or need. I lost a lot of memories due to the many electroconvulsive therapy treatments (ECTs) I had and also from being on a high doses of Klonopin (Benzodiazepine) for over twenty years.

I wish when I had my ECTs that I could have picked and chose what memories to erase and which memories to keep. Wouldn’t that be nice? That of course is not possible, but if it were there would be many more people having ECTs. That is for sure.

My memory bank and bank account are similar in other ways, as well. Sometimes they both punish me. For example, if I spend more money in my bank account than I actually have, I get charged overdraft fees. I don’t want them. They are a waste of money and that makes me angry. These unwanted and unplanned fees interfere with my budget and my ability to pay other bills and expenses.

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Flashbacks are similar to overdraft fees. Flashbacks are not planned and are definitely not wanted. Flashbacks come back to haunt me and seemingly punish me. Flashbacks can sometimes interfere with my daily activities and even the quality of my life.

A flashback is a sudden and disturbing vivid memory of an event in the past, typically as the result of psychological trauma or taking LSD.  Strong feelings are attached to my memories as if I am eight years old again. I return to being that scared, hurt and shamed little girl, as if it were today.

A flashback can feel as though you are actually being drawn back into the traumatic experience, like it is still happening or happening all over again. They can occur uninvited, stirring up images, sensations and emotions of the original event. A flashback can be so overwhelming to one’s sense of reality, that many who suffer from them believe they are reliving or re-experiencing their trauma. A flashback is able to mimic the real thing because it provokes a similar level of stress in the body. The same hormones course through your veins as did at the time of the actual trauma, setting your heart pounding and preparing your muscles and other body systems to react as they did at the time (Rothschild, 2010).

As I have mentioned in some recent posts, my PTSD symptoms have been worse lately since I stopped taking psychotropic medications. Without psychotropic  medications, my memory is slowly improving and becoming clearer. I can focus better. However, my brain is now more exposed to some painful memories and wounds from past childhood abuse. With a clearer mind and better memory, old memories have resurfaced in an unwanted stronger and bolder way. Psychotropic medications can act like a band-aid and inhibit brain activity in both good and bad ways. I no longer have a band-aid for my brain to cover and hide my painful memory wounds.

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As the years of my life progressed, memories from my childhood abuse increased and feelings associated from those painful memories increased in time. The older I became it seemed the more intense the feelings associated with my past memories became. It took many years before I understood what was going on with my feelings and dissociative symptoms. After I understood it better, I had a better grasp on it and could learn to counterattack it. I am still working on it and will most likely need to for the rest of my life.

After something or someone triggers my memory, I return to a memory from the past and/or flashbacks occur. I feel like I did when I was a child. I return to that time. I believe as a child my brain protected me so I could survive. Now I am living them again and feeling all the emotions that went them.

Two nights ago, I was awakened from my sleep and had flashbacks. I couldn’t get them to stop and I couldn’t fall back to sleep.  Lately more memories of my basement from my childhood keep entering my mind. It is strange and kind of scary at the same time. I can’t explain it.

I never lived this life before. This is my first time and I am doing the best I can. It seems when you live with mental illness, each day continues to be a new learning experience. There is never a dull moment inside my mind and brain. I guess that is a good thing. Who wants to be bored? It never happens for me as I continue to learn and grow more every day. I must

Now that symptoms from my bipolar have dissipated and improved lately and PTSD is rearing its ugly head more often, it is time for me to research and learn more about PTSD. I researched bipolar disorder and learned everything I could after I was first diagnosed with it and for many years after. Now I am going to focus more on PTSD. I find it all fascinating. The brain can be an organ that causes a lot of pain and destruction for a person living with mental illness, but you have to admit it is absolutely amazing and fascinating at the same time.

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So much to learn. The college of life is never over. Happy first day of school again and again and again…

By the way I am going to continue to work on improving my memory bank and bank account. I wish they were both bigger and had endless happy funds I could retrieve.


Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved

Victoria’s Interview Feature

At times our journey to discover what is wrong with us can be a hard one, and it can go unnoticed for a time. Then we experience something that changes everything in our lives. That’s what it is was like for Victoria, a young woman from the Midwest— Indiana. Victoria’s journey begins with her official diagnosis— Vaginismus.

You can find more about the signs and symptoms of vaginismus in Victoria’s blog Girl With the Paw Print Tattoo.

A Struggle With Vaginismus, Anxiety, & Depression

The ride to discovery can me be a hard one, and it is never easy. It usually is a difficult one— and it was no different for Victoria’s journey. Victoria‘s official diagnosis is vaginismus. It occurred the first time her freshman year of College.

“After having sex for the first time. I discovered excruciating pain that went along with it,” she explains. “I did a Google search, and “vaginismus” came up.”

It was difficult for Victoria to understand, and for the months that followed, she hid it from the world. It wasn’t until a session with her therapist that she brought up the pain. It was Victoria‘s therapist that convinced her to seek real medical help.

”My first gynecologist knew I struggled with pain during examinations. Yet, they never addressed it. Now, when I say ‘struggled’ I mean I was held down on the table by two nurses as I cried. I shook uncontrollably whenever she examined me.”

It was a horrible experience for Victoria. At times her gynecologist couldn’t examine her because her PC muscles blocked her. It was still never addressed, and it continued to be a problem in her life. It finally took Victoria approaching her doctor and telling her that she had the condition.

Her response was, “Oh that makes sense! I always thought you never liked exams.”

When you receive a diagnosis such as vaginismus, it can be a daunting and an exhausting process. Over the years, Victoria has gone through so many doctors, gynecologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and physical therapists.

“I was given a set of dilators and told yo use them daily. I was never given instructions on how to use them. This is typical.”

As with any diagnosis, it usually morphs into other issues in your life. Factors like problems in Victoria’s personal life helped fuel a new struggle with depression. In her freshman year in college, depression became a part of her diagnosis. Victoria was randomly selected to take a test in the Psychology Department in her college. It was the results of this test that the Professor, a therapist and the Head of Psychology Department, called Victoria into his office.

“It was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life,“ she explains. “I knew I was a mess, but I had to pretend I was fine. I walked into the room full of sunshine, and played it cool.”

It worked as Victoria confused the room. The results of her test made it seem that it would be impossible to get out of bed most days. They were shocked that the individual that took that test was before them. Victoria, like so many of us who first experience depression, laughed her depression off.

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It was a futile thing to do, and on a break from school when Victoria went home, she went to a family doctor. Victoria got her official diagnosis of Depression. Victoria resisted her doctor’s recommendation to take medication and chose a route without anti-depressants.

“It wasn’t until recently that I began to see a psychiatrist. I now have been prescribed a variety of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. It’s crazy to think that it’s officially been one full year on meds.”

Anxiety is another side effect of her diagnosis. Victoria contends that she has always lived with generalized anxiety disorder. She learned to adapt throughout her life. It was her therapist in her freshman that gave her the official diagnosis of anxiety.

“To be honest, I don‘t remember what it was like before these diagnoses,” Victoria recalls. “I remember one memory of being completely blissful, and that when I was very young. I was outside in the backyard; the grass was extremely green, and the sun was shining brighter than it ever had. I would twirl around, and swing on the swing set smiling as I breathed in the crisp air. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the grass and the air and the sunshine on my face. I was fearless. I was free. I was innocent. I was happy.”

What is the Hardest Part for Victoria?

In Victoria’s life living with vaginismus is the hardest thing she has to deal with each day. The depression is a side effect of vaginismus, and she has found ways to make the anxiety not a big part of her life.

“With vaginismus, and therefore depression, It is feeling worthless and abnormal,” she explains. I feel like everything is my fault, and I’m a huge failure when it comes to relationships.”

Victoria worries that she has set her fiancé back when it comes to relationships. It is often the feeling for Victoria that vaginismus holds her back from enjoying her life. For Victoria, it feels as if life is passing her by.

“It’s not living. This, of course, is my biggest fear.”

Triggers are what Victoria struggles the most each day. One of the hardest triggers for her is to be alone in her apartment. Trying to relax alone can be a hard thing for Victoria. The negative thoughts and emotional turmoil can be consuming. Victoria at times has good days, and she is able to move on with her day. It’s the nights that can be the most difficult.

“Every night is difficult for me because I so desperately want to be intimate with my fiancé but can’t,” she explains. “This only intensifies my depression.”

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It doesn’t help Victoria’s cause that depression and anxiety often set her back. She can remember a time before her anxiety medication where she was afraid to hang out with people. The fear of driving and being in large crowds frightened Victoria. It was fearful to even drive for her.

Luckily for Victoria, those days of fearing her anxiety have passed. Depression still haunts her every day. Those days where she wanted to stay in bed all day, she gets up and tries to go about her day.

”I find that tears sometimes swell in my eyes for no reason. I must wipe them away. I realize that I suck at communication with others because I’m not even thinking about anything other than my own thoughts. It makes me feel terrible and guilty. I worry that I am a terrible friend and partner.”

Victoria Wants to Share This With the Mental Illness Community

The one thing Victoria wants to share with the readers of this article is this. Not to judge individuals so quickly.

“You have no idea what they are going through in their life,” Victoria explains. “You have no idea what their daily struggles might be. Also, for those of you dealing with the same struggles, just know that you are never alone. Some days are harder than others, but you will get through this.”

Learning From the Blogging Experience

Within the confines of her blog, it has helped Victoria sort through her emotions. In a very constructive way. What helps is being able to sit down and talk about her mental illness and conditions. He blog is like writing a journal that you share with others. The people that follow her blog can empathize and relate to what Victoria is going through.

“I also love how blogging shares awareness. It makes me feel good inside to talk about vaginismus and shed light on this condition to the community. Hopefully, it will one day go further than just blogging about it.”

Ending on a Positive Note

There are things in our lives that make life worth living. For Victoria, it is her fiancé and the possibilities of beautiful adventures. Like traveling the world.

It has been a unique experience to share Victoria’s continuing journey with vaginismus, depression, and anxiety. I came across Victoria’s blog, and it was amazing to see how someone who has been through so much can be so open. She can still shed light on her illness and help others with her blog. It was my pleasure to write this feature article about Victoria.

I hope every person reading this article knows that each of us struggles in our own way. Victoria and The Bipolar Writer are of one mind when she says not to judge people for their struggles. When this happens, some battles stay hidden, and that is all bad. I wish nothing but positivity as Victoria continues her journey.

You can find Victoria’s blog Here.

Interviewee: Victoria

Author James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit: Featured Image and other images of her are from Victoria’s collection.

Other Photos:unsplash-logoAlec Douglas

Father’s Day Triggers My PTSD

I started writing this post on Father’s Day. I couldn’t finish it and went back to it a few times. I thought of deleting it many times because it is painful and shameful. I know it is wrong to feel this way and yet I cannot “unfeel” it. Believe me I have tried.

I have reached a much better understanding of the reasons why and how this happens to me after being triggered by my father and that helps but it doesn’t take away the realities behind the pain, shame and battle.

I have not written many posts about PTSD even though I have it. I am not sure exactly why I haven’t but maybe it is because it is a difficult place to visit. Since I have been off psychotropic medications I have found my feelings, emotions and memories are clearer. They are mine. Mine alone without the interference, mask and band-aide of psychotropic medications. Nothing is covering up or masking the painful memories when they are triggered. Those memories are closer to the surface and I am now forced to learn to deal with them alone without the aid of psychotropic medications. I am ready to conquer this new obstacle because the good of being psychotropic medication free far outweigh the  bad, so far at this stage of my life and living with bipolar disorder, anxiety and PTSD.

Even though this post is difficult for me to share, I decided to tackle it, conquer it and share it with the hope that I can help someone else. Hopefully, others will be able to relate and can share their insights as well. Maybe my post will educate and inform others a little of what PTSD is like—at least for me.

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I began writing this post on Father’s Day 2018…

Father’s Day has always been a difficult day for me—not because my father has passed but because of the past with my father and sometimes even his presence today.

I often read and hear so many beautiful and wonderful things most people say about their fathers. They say words that express their deep love and appreciation for their fathers. Words that explain how much their fathers did and do for them and how their fathers taught them many valuable life lessons.

I am happy there are great fathers in the world. Children need their fathers. I am happy others have great relationships with their fathers, but that is something I never had.

I know my father did the best he could as a father. I also know my father loved me in his own way. He just didn’t know how to show love appropriately and how I needed it.  I can’t say I feel the love he has for me, but my brain tells me he loves me.

I believe my father thought somehow he was doing the right thing when he physically and verbally abused me when I was young. I was and still am afraid of my father. My father was and is unpredictable with his behavior and mood. You never knew what you were going to get and we still don’t.

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I was never sure of anything with him. I never knew when or how he was going to yell at me. I never knew when he was going to be angry or maybe happy.  I never knew when he would say something stupid, cruel or mean. I was afraid of what would come out of his mouth when we were alone and around other people. My father embarrassed me and made me feel embarrassed and ashamed of myself.

I always thought it would have been easier if he was an alcoholic because than I would have an excuse for his behavior. His unpredictable and embarrassing behaviors could have been easily explained with alcohol use or drug use being the reason. I would have felt better to be able to say he is a wonderful person when he is not drinking but that was not our reality.

“If the wounds on her heart and the bruises on her soul were translated on her skin, you wouldn’t recognize her at all.” ~Verona Q

I know he has some sort of mental illness but refuses to get help or accept he has something wrong with him. In fact, the opposite is true. My father believes he is always right and there is never anything wrong with him but with everyone else. Everyone else in the world is wrong but him.

I truly believe he is trying now and does the best he can. I think inside, somehow, he has a good heart, but mental illness and his own past trauma interfered with his ability to be happy and be the person he could have been. When my father was about ten years old, he was forced to stay with his suicidal grandfather and was there when his grandfather (my great-grandfather) jumped out his window and died by suicide. That was just part of his trauma which had to have a negative impact on him.

Many times, I felt sorry for my father because I don’t know if he ever felt real happiness and joy. I prayed he would one day find true happiness and feel the love from the Lord and learn to live in a way like Jesus would. I prayed he would have clarity of what was right and good. No matter how hard I tried and how much I do love my father I cannot control my brain. I cannot control PTSD.

I developed PTSD at a young age from my almost daily abuse from my father and mother. My father is my greatest trigger, however. As hard as I tried to put up a brick wall to barricade my triggers, they still sneak in. I cannot stop them. Of course, I can help it with good coping strategies and positive self-talk sometimes, but I can’t make it go away, until it seems it is ready to. PTSD has a mind of its own—seemingly not my own.

Because the memories are so painful and real they cause me to dissociate. Depersonalization and derealization are forms of dissociation. Depersonalization involves a persistent or recurrent feeling of being detached from one’s body, mental processes, oneself and identity. Derealization is a feeling of being detached from one’s surroundings. They both make you feel disengaged. You feel like things are “less real” than they should be. You lose touch with yourself and/or surroundings kind of like you are living in a dream you cannot wake up from.

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My dissociation caused me to leave myself so to speak. I wasn’t fully present in myself. It is as if I am watching from behind a thick fog or out in the distance from myself. I become discombobulated and can’t make myself come to the surface of my own reality enough to accomplish my activities and goals for the day. I become stuck and undone. That is what happened to me this Father’s Day for the entire day. I could not snap out of it as “they say.” I could not positive self-talk myself out of it. My writing didn’t distract myself enough to make it go away. I wasn’t sad or angry. I was unsure what my emotions were or felt void of emotions. I was numb.

When I was young, my brain learned how to keep me safe and protect me from my environment and myself. Now I cannot undo that, and I must be patient and wait for it to stop. I have learned to forgive my father, but my brain will not let me forget, even though I want to. This is PTSD at its finest.

I realized recently that not being on any psychotropic medications has sometimes caused me to be more aware and have more clarity. I also believe it has made me become more aware of my PTSD. I do not have any medications to ease or mask my pain. I must use my own inner strength and coping skills more often now.

When I called my Dad to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, I could tell immediately he was in one of his moods. The last time I talked to him on the phone he was in good spirits and tried very hard to stay up-beat and positive. Today he obviously woke up on the wrong side of the bed. My natural instinctive thought was to hang-up right away, but I didn’t. It was Father’s Day. I would be strong and talk to him. After all, I love to make people happy, including my father.

I managed to speak to him for quite a while and told him I loved him before ending our phone conversation. About twenty minutes after I stopped talking to my father, it hit me and I became undone. I left. Triggers hit, and PTSD struck back hard. Dissociation had begun its game of protection. Dissociation never asked me if I wanted to participate in this game. It just took over my day. My brain protected me and kept me safe from dangers from my past and for that I am thankful. For some reason, my brain cannot distinguish the past from today. This is PTSD.

I could not do anything for the entire day. I was stuck, discombobulated and frozen—frozen inside myself. I sat in front of the television set all day fighting my brain. I battled constant thoughts and desires of wanting to do something and the refusal and blockage inside my brain to move or do anything other than sit in front of the television set immobilized. I was frozen within myself. I survived my long day and went to bed. Happily, when I woke up the next morning I had been put back together. Dissociation left, and I came back.

I wrote this poem titled, “I Left My Anxiety in the Dust” shortly after Father’s Day. I referred to my symptoms as anxiety. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish which mental illness is the culprit when you have more than one diagnosis. Plus, anxiety can cause dissociative like symptoms and anxiety can be caused from triggers, PTSD and trauma.

~written by Susan Walz

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Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | myloudbipolarwhispers.com | All Rights Reserved

What it’s Like to Have a Panic Attack While Driving – A Poem

I wrote this in February of this year after one of the worst panic attacks while driving in my life. As I continue to work on my social anxiety, panic attacks, and my driving anxiety I wanted to reshare this piece.

A Driving Anxiety Poem

So I figured I should preface this with what happened. Last night I got in my car at around 5:30pm to run some errands and pick someone up. About five minutes into my driving (which I am now calling car anxiety or driving anxiety officially) my anxiety reached crazy levels. I barely was able to pull over and I had to have someone drive my car home.

It sucked. I haven’t had a panic attack in my car in few months and never this bad. To cope I wrote this raw piece. Its kind of poem but more my thoughts. I never wrote something during one of my “in car” panic attacks but I was able to capture on my phone what I was feeling. And this was the results.

Driving Anxiety

I don’t know why this happens to me—again.
It’s not an every time thing.
My anxiety rises the moment sit in the driver’s seat of my car.
I know my past experiences and these thoughts flood my mind.
“I know I can do this,” I tell myself. “I’ve done it a million times without issue.”
I put my car in gear with the hope it will be different this time.
My car moves with me down my street, and for fleeting moments I am okay.
I feel a little at peace, but it’s the anxiety building up.
I have this place down the road.
I call it my point of no return.
I know if I pass this point, it will take a panic attack to get me to turn back.
I pass it without issue, but it’s not long before the panic fully sets in.
I am losing myself on the highway.
My biggest fear.
My breath beings to leave me and I can’t seem to catch it.
I drink water, that has helped in the past.
I almost choke on the water.
I can feel it starting, at tips of my fingers.
It spreads down my hands quickly.
I can barely grip the steering wheel to drive.
I am hyperventilating and losing oxygen.
My panic continues to rise.
Desperately trying to find a place to pull my car over.
To pull over so that I can find myself again.
I use my wrists to drive as the numbness consumes my hands.
Can the people around me know what is happening?
I am in full-blown panic mode and it takes everything to pull over where bank.
It was my destination and the best place to stop.
I lose all feeling in my hands and it is impossible to make a fist.
I bail from my car barely letting it come to a stop.
The last time this happened floods my mind, it worse this time.
The fireman said, “your hyperventilating and you need to breathe.”
I do this and it barely helps.
I do my best, but I am alone and scared.
How could this happen?
My car anxiety found me and took me over.
The panic becomes more than I can bear.
I reach in my bag for those little white pills.
My salvation?
I can’t do this, there is no way I can drive back home.
I call my dad and he sends someone to pick up my car, and me.
He tries to calm me to no avail.
I am a bundle of mess,
And I have still had to make it through the drive home.
My safe place.
I try my best to keep it together so that my driver won’t panic too.
It is ten minutes of hell, it’s an eternity of torment.
I barely make it.
More Ativan and now I am writing in the dark.
I hope this goes away soon.
There is only so much I can take.
I remember, this happens when I drive at night.
I remember that this time of day is always the hardest for my anxiety.
I should have known it would happen this way.
I feel so lost right now. I have no control.
Panic attacks take so much out of me.
It takes all my energy before it leaves my body.
I just want to sleep.
One more Ativan ought to get me back.
I hate social anxiety, and my car anxiety, more than my depression.
I just need to relax they tell me.
breathe.
I finally come down after two hours.
I just want to sleep.

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoPatrick Tomasso