Seeing clearly

I gave you my heart.
You left me bruised and in pain.
You knew you no longer wanted me.
But I continued to give you all of me.
You used me one last time and walked away.
I was left wondering what I did wrong.

I know now that your actions spoke loudly
about how you feel about yourself.
You wanted to treat another person with cruelty.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was the wrong person for you.
I know it now.

You ensured that my world was encompassed by you.
Constant phone calls. Unending text messages.
My free time was all about you.
Just the way you wanted it.
Yet, you used your time without me to build something else.
And went to her as quickly as you left my bed.

You left my heart shattered and my body black and blue.
My ego was too ashamed to admit what I had allowed to happen.

The physical bruises have healed.
The emotional ones still linger, but are better every day.

I will never forget, although I’m learning to forgive.
Above all I’m learning to forgive myself for trusting someone who
I knew from the start was unkind and self-centered in his actions.
I had been blinded by affection and attention.
My eyes see clearly now.

And for that I am eternally thankful.

 

Blog for Mental Health

I am proud to be part of the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project.

I had seen the Blog for Mental Health badge around, but I want to thank The War in My Brain  for her post about this project.

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“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

I have written a couple of posts about mental illness and my experiences with it.

Shattered Pieces & Kaleidoscopes – about coming out of darkness and feeling more positive

And the Anxiety Hits – self-explanatory, right?

Mental Disorders & Violence – about mental illness in my family and society as a whole

I desire the things that will destroy me in the end. Ya, I get it. – my tribute to Sylvia Plath and her legacy

I have a cousin with bipolar disorder who is also schizophrenic. My mother and a cousin suffer from depression of varying degrees at various times. Other family members experience seasonal depression and I have experienced both major anxiety (for the last 10 years) which requires medication and went through a deep depression last fall. Additionally, my former in-laws both lived with OCD. My family also has various types of addictions scattered around.

I want to leave this post as an introduction to my participation in this Project. I will write more throughout the year about my experience with anxiety and depression. I feel strongly that discussions about mental health should no longer be a taboo so that the people who need help feel comfortable seeking it or their families will help. We’re all in this world together and need to help each other with our needs.

For more information about this project, please click on these links

A Canvas of the Minds

The Official Blog for Mental Health Project

Shattered pieces and kaleidoscopes

A tattered piece of paper found
in a wallet years ago said –
I fear one more angry word or look will shatter my soul into a million pieces.

Memories of a life gone astray.

Everything I had was focused on a relationship that never became what I had dreamt of
And ultimately it ended.

I held my head high and kept moving forward
Walking gingerly through the gauntlet as the axes connected with my raw emotions.
Some of the blows I could deflect. Many only gave minor bruises.
A few I outmaneuvered.
I kept moving seeing a light at the end of the torment.

Without realizing, I reached a space with no more attacks.
Barely able to breathe, I lifted my face to feel the warmth of the sun
And took steps forward believing the gauntlet had ended.
I closed my eyes and trusted.

A few of the wounds on my soul began to heal.

Hearing a noise, I opened my eyes just as another axe struck.
The pain forced me to my knees, but I held my breath
And kept moving forward
Understanding that if I stopped moving I’d never move again.

Shattered and broken, I found myself in the clearing.
Not able to believe the blows had ended,
I looked over my soul and saw all of the fragments of me
No longer whole, but fractured, damaged, splintered.
Completely changed from what I had been.

As I continued to analyze the shreds that remained,
I saw the light glistening on the pieces of my soul
It was then that I realized — I had survived.
No longer the same, but something still complete.

I heard a comforting voice reminding me that
Shattered pieces make the most beautiful kaleidoscopes.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Submitted to YeahWrite.me’s Weekend Moonshine Grid on February 14, 2014

moonshine

And the anxiety hits…

Many years ago (more than 10), after a series of upsetting events, I’d find myself staying awake through the night feeling the band of pressure across my chest and waiting, just waiting, for the heart attack. I just “knew” that if I fell asleep, I wouldn’t wake up.

Yes, I’m obviously still alive.

That’s the “fun” part of anxiety. It gets you in its grasp and won’t let go, no matter how hard you try to calm yourself, eat the right foods, exercise, meditate, take the “right” supplements.

I spent 10 of the 11 past years on medication to control the panic attacks that would hit, often out of the blue. My heart would race, my blood pressure rise, hands shake and that horrible band of stress would hold me again in its grip. I even had a back-up prescription for those days my nerves had control of me.

A few months after my ex-husband moved out and just weeks after my divorce was finalized, I was able to wean myself off of the medication.

I felt like a champ.

Now, here I am, about 9 months later, once again being held captive by the ridiculous band tightening across my chest. Seemingly every afternoon and other times as well.

I’m more centered now than ever in my life (shocker, I know), but I can’t beat this. Back on medication I go. I’m hopeful that I can get through the next few months (including my daughter’s brain surgery) and get back to a more “normal” me. But, in the meantime, I need help to get through this.

While the logical side of my brain says, “It’s been a rough year, give yourself a break.” A year which included divorce (after a 16 year marriage), financial mountains to climb, facing unemployment, nearly losing my house, and no insurance while living with a chronic condition, my body and emotions have been pushed to the limit and I’ve burnt out.

What people who’ve never suffered from anxiety don’t understand is that despite logic and clear thinking, sometimes it’s an insurmountable issue without proper help. I know myself well enough to understand that now’s the time to go back to the doctor and get the medication to calm myself to the point where I can again move forward and not want to rip my skin off. I know it will take a week or two to feel substantially better, but at least I’ll know relief is on its way.

In the meantime, for anyone who has quietly tried to talk themselves down from a heart racing anxiety attack, just know you are not alone.

 

Mental Disorders and Violence

I’ve given a lot of thought to mental illness over the years, primarily because I have a cousin with severe issues, as well as other family members who suffer from depression. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder nearly ten years ago. Add to that the fact that I’ve edited a couple of pieces for a previous job about depression and mood disorders.

After the horrible school shooting up in Connecticut fairly recently, I began talking with my kids about school violence, mental illness and caring about the world around them. Not fun conversations (aside from the compassion part).

This past weekend I watched my cousin, who is so heavily medicated at this point that he can barely interact with anyone, sleep (loudly snoring) during a family get together and just exist among the rest of the family. When he awoke, he sad, smoking electronic cigarettes and just existing. As we were leaving, he told me about the new books he’s working on regarding his schizophrenia. He still has ambition despite the medication. He is hopeful that his stories will help educate people about what he lives with and maybe help someone.

Yesterday I stopped in a grocery store for lunch and saw the front page of a magazine displaying an article about schizophrenia and violence and how it affected the writer’s family. His cousin had murdered his own father after a particular sudden onset of mental illness. A must read for me, the magazine is now in my home.

I consider my family very fortunate despite the “skeletons” we keep in an open closet. My kids have grown up understanding that my cousin also did a lot of drugs as a teen. Excessive amounts. Alcohol went hand-in-hand, of course. He’s a great resource to say, “Look what can happen.” But with his diagnoses these past few years, the question has arisen – What came first? His drug use or his mental illness? Was his drug use to escape from the voices and uncomfortable feelings in his own mind? Or were the drugs the cause of the illness that now defines him?

It has taken me a long time to understand what little I do about mood disorders (including seasonal depression) and mental illness. My family has substance abuse in various forms also plaguing it (again, which comes first? issues coping, then substance abuse? or substance abuse causing problems?). I have chosen to wean myself off of medication that helped me control the anxiety that held me in its grip for so long. I’m doing pretty well. I’m learning about holistic ways of managing myself rather than take pharmaceuticals. It’s my choice. For now.

But what happens when a person can’t work through through the disjointed and conflicting thoughts and doesn’t have a family to help?

I don’t think it’s a big surprise to see the same lack of… well, anything… in the eyes of the Colorado Movie Theater Shooter, Jodi Arias and a local NE Ohioan – TJ Lane from ChardonHigh School. They have the same empty, haunted look. It would be more terrifying if they were walking the streets instead of already in custody, but their empty eyes still instill a very unsettling feeling through the TV. Today I read of a homeless man in Florence, Italy, who stabbed a tourist in the kidney and lung with no provocation. I’m willing to bet there is nothing in his eyes either. I’m sure none of them are unlike Charles Manson in different degrees. One look at Charles and you know to stay far away.

I admire my aunt greatly for taking on the role of caregiver to her son (who is now well into middle age). With her dedication he has gotten the help he’s needed and has not hurt anyone – despite the voices that tell him to. I’m only a slighty embarrassed to admit that I avoided family gatherings for years because I was afraid of him. The cousin I remember growing up was ambitious, handsome, warm, encouraging and gave great hugs. Now he is a shell of himself and his potential. I don’t know if the voices have stopped because I’m afraid to ask. But I do know they had told him to kill. There was a “person” who he saw who would follow him around and talk to him. Encouraging him to do harm. My aunt took her son to doctors, committed him to hospitals on occasion to help him, and made sure he was okay. For a while he was unable to be around family because of social phobias. He’d come out of his room, eat and retreat. Very unsettling. Now, he’ll attend family gatherings, sit, sleep, smoke tobacco-less cigarettes and eat. At Christmas he was willing to dress as Santa for the younger kids in our family. Sometimes we can have conversations with him, mostly we just acknowledge that he’s there.

What would have happened to any of us/all of us if he hadn’t gotten the care he has? I hate to consider that possibility, but I have. For years.

Mental illness is far more prevalent than anyone wants to believe. Myself included.

An 11-year old boy is recently in the news for plotting with a 10-year old to kill their classmates. One by one. These boys are my son’s age. My “baby” who has incredible compassion when people or animals are hurt. The older boy in this particular case, according to police, showed no emotion when he confessed. As much as I detested video games and how they desensitize (in my opinion), no amount of hours starting at a screen could cause a child of 10 or 11 to be so soul-less. A fifteen year old stabbed to death his adopted siblings. A brother stabbed his sister to death. These are just recent stories.

It’s not just the murders. It’s the stories of abductions and abuse that show us how common these mental illnesses are. The kidnappers who keep their victims, abusing them in various ways, for years. The most disturbing to me are the children who kill and the mothers who kill their own. It is beyond my comprehension. But each “category” of violence is just as horrible.

Is it our society today that ignores the signs of troubled children and adults?Are we moving too fast to pay attention? What are the warning signs?

When I was growing up, one of the mandatory books we read in elementary school was a book called, “Lisa, Bright and Dark.” It was the story of a popular girl who fell deep into mental illness and despite her friend’s pleas for help, her parents ignored the issues. Heavy reading for 11 year olds. But it made a huge impact. I recently reread it and I still felt it to the core. How tragic that her parents didn’t listen to the cries for help. But, how many of these recent murders could have been prevented if parents and society were more involved?

Our society is fascinated with stories of the mentally ill – Silence of the Lambs, American Horror Story, American Psycho, The Bone Collector, Dexter, The Following – and the harm people with issues do to those with whom they come into contact. But what are we doing to find potential issues and save the person and, possibly, others? We glorify the violence, the creativity behind the crimes. Instant fame for the person. The families of the victims are forever changed. Yet, more movies and television shows are made detailing the depravity that exists. Is it just the overwhelming amount of media coverage of these goings on, as well as the “Hollywood Touch,” that make it seem so overwhelming or is it truly a change in our society?

I listen closely to the stories my kids tell me – so-and-so beat up this other kid and he’s already been arrested, whatshisname tried to punch me – some stories are “kids being kids,” but some chill me to the core. One child we knew would look in people’s windows, steal from the neighbors, throw basketballs at birds admittedly trying to kill them and would compulsively lie. I do believe that there are signs. But how do we differentiate “childhood antics” from the truly disturbing. Is it a gut feeling? Do we, as society, turn a blind eye like we so often do, and just wait?

I have no answers for any of this other than – I truly believe that as a society we are all responsible. We have become too fast moving to take care of one another. Medical help is sometimes too expensive. We’re afraid of being “the bad guy” and forcing someone into treatment. It will take a village mentality across our country to make a difference. We should not be afraid of reporting issues – rather than reporting a crime later. We need to stand firm in caring for our children, our neighbor’s children. We need to be less offended if someone asks if we are okay and need help if we feel “off” or if a family member is acting unusually.

Changes take time. Getting individuals the proper help take time. It’s never too late to make a change in someone’s life. In society. Let’s take the blinders off and starting making changes. Reach out to someone who is hurting. Comfort someone who fears. Petition for change in mental health care policies. We all are responsible for changing what we see is wrong. If we continue to turn our backs on those that need us most, society will suffer. The next generation will pay the price.

“I desire the things that will destroy me in the end.” Ya. I get it.

Sylvia Plath.

Tortured soul, amazing writer.

Given a gift that she allowed herself to use, she provided us with insight into her torment.

I will not claim to be any kind of Sylvia Plath scholar. I’ve only dabbled in reading her works. But I am fascinated. I read “The Bell Jar” (yes, I know, standard fare) during a rather tough time. Great read. And, I’ll admit, I understood. I understood her confusion, her lack of clarity, the way she viewed things.

Recently, I saw the quote, “I desire the things that will destroy me in the end,” on social media. Sylvia hit home with me once again.

Not to say I’m ready to head to the hospital now, but I think our culture views depression, anxiety and any other mental illness as so taboo. Few people will admit to ever having issues, unless they are among close friends. I dealt with horrible anxiety for years. I still have issues with it, but I am working through it.

Funny thing — I have anxiety, yet I’m very impulsive. Explain that. (I certainly have explanations as I psychoanalyze myself frequently.) I don’t do drugs. I will have an occasional alcoholic beverage. Overall, I live a clean life. So, I can not blame any of my actions on “external forces.” It’s all me. Wonderful, controlling, anxious, impulsive me.

I firmly believe that we all have our addictions/issues in one form or the other. The way we deal with them runs the entire spectrum. Some allow their addictions (drugs, alcohol, adrenaline, sex, attention, control) to overrun their lives and destroy them. Others can function in society seeming “normal” to the outsider, but fight their demons daily. Still others bury their demons deep. The last group is the people for whom my soul hurts. They are tortured, but not able to admit why. Are these the people who tend to “crack” at some point in their lives? Rocking in the corner as the air depletes under the bell jar?

Our hedonistic society here in the great U.S.A. acknowledges mental illness and addiction, but allows everyone such freedom to express themselves they way they choose. Daily alcohol use is an accepted norm in certain societal subsets (you can check the definition of alcoholism on your own). Drug use is as “popular” as it always has been. The drug of choice constantly changes, but the appeal is always there. Substance abuse is seen as a means to escape. Is that an “excuse” to allow yourself to let go of your inhibitions and not worry about the moment?

But, mental health seems to be spoken of in hushed tones. It’s not as “fun.” I have a cousin who is now diagnosed as schizophrenic. He also used hardcore drugs as a teen. Which came first? His mental issues or his drug use? Impossible to tell really. It seems to be easier to talk of substance abuse and addiction rather than mental health issues in open society. What discussions are being held behind closed doors?

The stories of shootings, murders, assault that are plastered all over the media. Are these rage, revenge or undiagnosed mental health issues? I tend to believe that mental health is the core of most of these violent events. Had these people had strong families and received the mental health care they needed, would their victims still be alive? Are the events a result of someone “cracking” because they couldn’t have their core desire? Did they allow their desire to destroy them?

I believe that our society’s way of talking in whispers about mental health, but laughing about getting drunk at the bar perpetuates the stigma regarding mental health issues. Why can’t we openly talk about the band of pressure across our chests when the anxiety builds up? What about the fear that can be so paralyzing when we have to face people we don’t know? The sadness for no reason that is sometimes simply suffocating?

I admire Sylvia for directing her internal battles onto paper. Her writings have opened up dialogue. Necessary dialogue.

Don’t we all, at our core, desire things that are bad for us? It’s what we do as a reaction to our desires that differentiates us. Do we give in? Do we stay strong? Do we talk it out? Do we let the desire become our core focus?

What do you do when that which you desire is in front of you? If you are alone, are your decisions different that when you are in a group?

I certainly have no answers. Only more questions. Again I admit an addiction/issue of mine – a constant quest for knowledge and understanding. I thank Sylvia for sharing her gift with us, even for a short time. She could not have known how her torment would, in essence, help others for generations to come.