‘Armed With Skill And It’s Frustration. And Grace, Too…’ The Hip

It might look a lot like weakness to the outside world

Maybe even to inner circles

But there is nothing weak about the daily struggles that it takes to survive through a mental illness

I repeat

There is nothing weak about it

There is nothing weak about me

Yeah I get it

Maybe you see someone who is fragile

Someone who is broken

Maybe you see someone who is crazy

Fuck

I don’t know who or what you see

I know what I see

Every single time I pass my reflection in a mirror or window

I see a fighter

Someone who has spent their entire life fighting

Fighting to live

Fighting to find happiness

Fighting to find peace

What an oxymoron

I read somewhere once that,

Fighting for peace,

Is like fucking for virginity

I get it

But its the truth

I fight tooth and nail

I dig in my heels

I scratch

I claw

Anything

To make my way back from the war that is constantly waging in my own brain

If you’ve never been there

You’re blessed

Truly lucky

That you’ll never understand how totally terrifying it is to not feel safe with just you and your own thoughts

You’re lucky that you don’t have to wonder when it will all come crashing down around you

Again…

I’ll never be grateful for having mental illness

I won’t lie and pander about how its taught me so much about myself

About the world

Trust me

There are things I’d never wanted to learn

Like what Paxil withdrawal can do to your once functioning brain

Like how food can cease being appealing to a die-hard ‘foodie’l

Like what the inside of a single room at a crisis centre looks like

I could have happily gone through two lifetimes not caring to know any of those things

It hasn’t made me wiser

Or kinder

So I can’t find it in myself to express gratitude towards something that has stolen so much from my life

From my family

From my father

From me

What I can unequivocally state

Without any doubt in my mind

Is that anyone surviving with a mental illness

Must want to be alive a whole hell of a lot

To be persist

To continue

To just keep going

To anyone who doubts it

You have no fucking clue

The strength and determination it takes to do it all over again

Tomorrow

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‘At Times, Our Own Light Goes Out And Is Rekindled By A Spark From Another Person.’ Albert Schweitzer

Dear David (from Gerstein Crisis Centre)

It’s taken me four days to finally be able to compose this letter.

Not because I didn’t care to but because I became too emotional whenever I thought about your kindness towards me during my short stay at Gerstein.

You were the first person during my ordeal who did not see someone who was ‘weak’ and ‘needy’ but instead you saw someone who was tired of fighting so hard.

Someone who just needed a safe place to land.

You gave me that.

From the very minute I stood in front of the office doors as a crying hot mess, until we had talked long enough for me to enter a sleep-like.

state.

You threw me a lifeline.

You listened.

You talked.

You joked.

You laughed.

You related.

You made me feel heard and understood, and there are not simply enough words in the English language to convey my complete gratitude towards you for that.

So from one panic attack sufferer to another…

In words I know you’ll understand best.

I’ll just say:

I’d lay down in the snow with you, until your panic attack passes. 😊

Forever grateful,

Angela

PS if anyone knows him or how to get in touch with him let me know

‘If I Could Start Again. I Would Keep Myself. I Would Find A Way.’ Trent Reznor aka GOD

I watched Birdbox the other night

With difficulty

Anyway

It’s a post apocalyptic film that is more unsettling than scary

The characters apparently ‘see’ something that is so troubling, distressing or terrifying that it makes them kill themselves instantaneously

The only way to prevent this

Is to be blindfolded effectively eliminating the chance to ‘see’ anything and that in and of itself is probably the scariest aspect of the film

Spoiler alert

The characters flee to a safe place which happens to be a home for the blind

Although in the book

This sanctuary is comprised of people who have voluntarily blinded themselves

Which I must say

Is a far creepier ending than the somewhat optimistic one the movie left us with

Regardless

This movie left me with a lot of thoughts

Two of my fears just happen to be the end of the world and going blind

😬

The former because of a weird experience I had with magic mushrooms when I was something like 16 years old

And the latter

Well that’s pretty self explanatory

What the movie gets so right though

Is capturing the fear of the unknown

Seeing the monsters always takes out some of the scare factor

Leaving them hidden

Allows us, as the watcher to assume the worst

Creating our own separate and distinct versions of the scariest creatures possible

And then this got me thinking about Multiple Sclerosis

Because these days, what doesn’t?

That very reason

The unknown is why people with MS tend to have high rates of anxiety and depression

When we are left to conjure up visions of our futures

We think of worst case scenarios

Each of us coming up with what would be the most horrific outcomes possible

Based on our individualized dreams, aspirations, loves, passions and etc

So how do we move forward?

When there is no way to accurately predict the future

Or even an adequate idea of what you want your future to look like

Even with scientific facts and doctors and MRIs

Several years ago, after a particularly bad period in my life filled with panic attacks

I attended a cognitive behavioural therapy group for panic and anxiety sufferers

One of the techniques they taught us to cope with our panic/anxiety

Was the use of exposures

Another was challenging negative self talk

At the time, I was struggling with my panic attacks occurring when I felt trapped

So I did my exposures in locked closets and on long subway rides through tunnels

I challenged all of the ‘I am going crazy’ and ‘I am a failure’ negative self talk

And replaced it with things like ‘I’m experiencing a panic attack, not going crazy’ and ‘having a panic attack does NOT make me a failure.’

The 14 week program was probably the biggest reason why my anxiety for the next several years was manageable

Until Multiple Sclerosis came along with its lesions and inflamed optic nerves and steroids

And literally upended my entire world

But what if I could use similar techniques to cope with MS?

Like my anxiety, it’s not going away and is a part of who I am

What if I imagined the worst case scenarios of MS? Like really felt and experienced what it would be like

And survived?

What if I challenged all of the painful thoughts that float in my head so many more times a day than I care to count?

Would it make this more bearable?

What if I accepted the unknown future and made a promise to myself that I could still bitch and hate and moan about it but ultimately roll with it and move on?

What if I accepted that I can’t finish my Bachelor of Social Work?

What if I accepted that I probably won’t be able to work full time?

What if I accepted that I will likely continue to struggle with my vision and the pain it brings?

What if I accepted that I will never have the life that I thought I would? That I hoped I would?

Would I then be able to finally end the chapter on all of that?

That chapter which has been left on a permanent ‘to be continued’

Which feels more like a permanent hostage situation

So what if I could erase that last line

And start a new fucking book

With all of my ‘defects’

With all of my broken pieces

With all of my changed dreams

Could I burn that old book filled with my past and all of my hopes for a future that isn’t really mine anymore?

Could I do it and just start over?

Not knowing what the ending will look like

Not knowing what will fill the table of contents

Knowing that a piece of me will burn with it

I have a tattoo I got years ago which reads ‘Tabula Rasa’ which translates into ‘Blank Slate’

I got that because I liked the idea of being able to start over

At any given time in our lives

To stop the story

And start something new

I think it’s been somewhat of a motto for me

When I didn’t like school or work

I called it

And started anew

So maybe that’s where I’ll start this new year with

My tabula rasa

My slightly broken

Slightly defected

Slightly damaged

Perfectly

Blank slate

‘Pride Comes Before The Fall’

I like spooky things like Halloween in Salem

And even though I don’t really consider myself a ‘believer’, I like going to psychics and mediums

While in Salem for Halloween and on a boat cruise, I had a free reading done

I sat down and after shaking hands and making introductions

He motioned to a pin on my jacket of a broken heart stitched together

He said it represented me well

I’d been broken hearted

Not by love in the traditional sense

But by the world

I laughed a little nervously and my curiosity was piqued

It was a short reading and I can’t stop thinking about something he said during it

He told me that I always felt like I didn’t fit in

He said that maybe that was okay though

Because some people aren’t meant to fit in

Some people are meant to make a difference

He said that in my work I was trying to make a difference for people

That I’m a healer and a powerful empath

I can’t stop tracing those words in my mind

I continue to think about it and where that leaves me

Which is apparently on long term disability (after finally being accepted a month ago)

In that time period, I feel like I should be doing something

Only I don’t know what

This isn’t new though

I’ve never been someone who had a clear path or knew what they wanted to do from a young age

I went to several different schools and tried on different hats

The only one that fit reasonably well was the last one I wore

Working with youth

I knew even though

That it wasn’t the perfect fit

The school restrictions, the politics, the employer

But it was so close

And then in the blink of an eye

Like things in my life so often do

It didn’t feel right anymore

My direction was blurred

Just like my vision

I only knew I couldn’t go on like that

And it had nothing to do with the youth

It had everything to do with how others made me feel like I wasn’t doing good enough

My pride was so deeply wounded

That I can feel it

Like rubbing salt on fresh wounds

Just thinking about my job, those kids, that work, those people, that job

And I feel it all over again

Every single burn

All the pain

Pride is funny like that

It’s with you during some of your happiest moments and accomplishments

It can carry you through some of the toughest times

And then bury you just as easily

“What if all that keeps you trapped in that invisible boxing ring is the belief that you have to keep fighting in order to win?… What will happen to your opponent if he suddenly has nobody who will fight him?” Courtney Perry

Once upon a time

I started having panic attacks

I hated them so vehemently

That I swore to fight them at all costs

I swore to do whatever I had to to to win this battle

So I trained

And so I won many battles

But eventually I grew tired

I grew tired of always fighting

Being on guard 24/7 was crippling

And life was becoming one giant battlefield

One day

The panic attacks came back

They had grown stronger than before

I shrank my world to fit in my condo

Hoping if I stayed off the battlefield

The panic attacks would see I was no longer in the fight

They’d turn around and walk away

And leave me alone

Instead, they found me there

In my safe place

Banging on my doors and windows

Rattling me to my very core

I was so afraid

I hid in the darkness and shrank into the corner

Days passed this way

I could hear them getting louder and louder

And just when my door sounded like it was going to break apart

And my mind was going to snap into a million pieces

I sprang to my feet

I frantically threw open the front door

And yelled for them to fucking do their worst

I screamed that I wasn’t afraid of them

I didn’t like them

They knew that

I never would

But I had grown so tired of living in a constant state of fear

That I realized I’d rather come face to face with them

And if they destroyed me

Well

Then at least it would be over

The funny thing was

That when I opened the door

No one was there

The hall was eerily silent

I was stunned

I looked around

Sure that they were just hiding

To catch me at my most vulnerable

I looked in corners and under crawl spaces

Still I was alone

I was bewildered and shaken

I sank to my knees in the quiet hallway

And I started to cry

Big fat tears rolled down my face

I wasn’t crying because I was afraid

Not this time

This time was different

I was crying because all of this time

All of these years

I had expended so much energy and strength

I had used up so much of myself

When all I had ever needed to do

Was to open that fucking door

—–

Life-changing article: Read this!

This Isn’t An Ode To Panic Disorder…

I’ve hated you since I started experiencing panic attacks

No

Even before that

I hated you when I saw what you did to my father

How merciless you were

I hated how vulnerable you made him

I hated how scared you made me feel

When I started having my own panic attacks

I wasn’t unsure or surprised by your arrival

I was just upset

I was angry that I couldn’t fend you off

Especially after having seen first hand the damage you caused

I was frustrated

And you grew stronger

I had my very first panic attack waiting to board a plane

That sense of helplessness and feeling of being trapped

Allowed you to flourish

And you grew stronger

I got more frustrated

I became depressed

At what I perceived as my failure

Failure of what?

Outrun you of course

Break the pattern

And you grew stronger

Throughout the years and the numerous times you showed up

You stole bits and pieces from me

From my identity

From the experiences I stopped myself from having

I can’t count how many things I’ve missed out on because I was just too damn scared of you

And you grew stronger

I didn’t know that it was me who fed you

I didn’t know it was me that built you up

I vacillated between fighting you and being so terrified of you that I hid behind medications and isolation

I’m bone tired of fighting

I’m drained of the energy it takes to be afraid

I’ve been living with you my entire life in one form of another

You haven’t killed me

Yet

I was hurt because of you

The people around me were hurt because of you

But it was I, who allowed that to happen

Not you

You were never strong

It was always me that was strong

Always fighting against you

And

Hiding when self preservation took over

I used so much energy trying to not let you win

That I didn’t realize

I could end this epic battle

By waving a white flag

I spent so much time hating you

When I should have been understanding you

Because you were struggling like me

You were the outcome of the bad day, bad week, bad month that I’d had

You were what my body needed to expel to move on

I was too consumed by the symptoms you gave me

The shortness of breath, the stomach cramps, the heart palpitations, the depersonalization

To see that those symptoms came up because I dreaded your arrival

I’m sorry that I didn’t see you for what you really are

You’re me

And we’re in this together

So

If my body and mind feel like they need to have a panic attack…

Well I guess it’s ok

We will get through this

It’ll be uncomfortable

But it will pass

Just like it always has

And I promise to try not to be so hard on you

If you promise to do the same

Who knows?

Maybe one day

I’ll even write a poem about how grateful I am for your existence

I’d tell you not to hold your breath

But we both know I’d be lying

So I’ll just say this

I get it, Panic Disorder

I really do

I’m only sorry that it’s taken me so long

‘Pain Is Inevitable, Suffering Is Optional.’ Haruki Murakami

I need to stop resisting my panic attacks

I know this

From years of therapy and educating myself on panic disorder

I am fully aware that I am not in danger

I am aware that my feelings although unpleasant

Are temporary

And will pass

Yet

My natural instinct is to fight against the discomfort I feel when I experience a panic attack

Thus I remain stuck in the cycle of panic

I read something this morning that resonated with meArticle

The key take away from this article

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional’

What does that mean?

It means that there is nothing we can do in life

To avoid pain, both physical and mental

What we can do, however, is decide what we are going to do with that pain

Do we accept the pain for what it is (unpleasant feelings)

Or do we fight against it?

Making the situation worse?

Drawing it out?

Allowing it to permeate every part of our lives?

The answer is clear

The real question is how do we accept what feels unnatural and foreign?

We have to go against our instincts

Instead of fleeing

Instead of fighting

Give yourself over to the feeling

Maybe even taunt it

Invite it into your life

This can be done through self talk

Or exposing yourself to anxiety inducing situations

I think both are helpful

I noticed during this last month

How negative my self talk is

When I need it to be the exact opposite

I’ll find myself thinking or saying aloud

‘ I can’t do this’

‘It’s too hard’

‘I’m weak’

How self defeating is that?

So I’m changing the narrative

‘I am able to do this’

‘Just because it feels unpleasant doesn’t mean I am in danger’

‘I accept what is happening right now’

The other part is inviting the uninvited visitor into your life

Come on in

Do your worst

It’s been a hard week, and maybe if a panic attack is hanging around

Let it out

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is

Without punishment

No criticism

Find a place that is comfortable

And let it roll through you like an ocean wave

You know that it will be uncomfortable but it will pass

Makes perfect sense, right?

Now

I just need to practice what I’ve gotten so good at preaching

I will not be a cautionary anecdote that psychotherapists use for future patients

There once was a woman named Angela

Who allowed panic disorder to rule her life

And became isolated and held hostage

Even though she had all the tools she needed

To live