Mental health

Repercussions of my ugly reality

I smoked my first cigarette when I was 15.

I had this friend, her parents smoked and she would sneak a few away and hide what became a habit for her, and as it would turn out, for me as well.

When I was fifteen, I went to this high school football game to see the guy I was starting to date, it was a small town in the deep recesses of Georgia and high school football was where everyone gathered on a Friday night.

The popular kids, who were my friends from church, invited me up to their section in the stands. My smoker friend was excited for this, getting an invitation was the first step, so I went.

In the stands on that football field, the guy I was dating, and the girls I was friends with from church seemed thrilled to have me with them, I had this warmth in my heart that I was being accepted, when only moments before I had been scared that the guy I was seeing wouldn’t want to see me since I had confessed to him that I had been raped, but everything seemed so good in those first few moments.

Knowing what I know today, I should have known that they weren’t thrilled, the smile that Lizzy had on her face wasn’t excitement, it was treacherous and manipulative, but I was young and naive. I wasn’t prepared for her to come at me with a full blast of accusatory statements, there was no time for me to get a word out of my mouth. I was embarrassed, humiliated, horrified that everyone knew now and then they all turned their heads away from me. I reached my hand out to touch the arm of the guy I was seeing and he jerked it away, not even looking at me. I burst into tears and he moved past everyone to get away from me.

In shock, I walked down the stairs to leave. I found my smoker friend, she asked me what was wrong but I had already pulled back deep into myself to keep the wounds I felt inside from bleeding any further.

I was broken, she took me to her house, we sat on her bed and she lit a cigarette. I didn’t say anything, I just took it from her, I coughed, choked, but the pain that it caused made me feel better. It took my mind off of the destructive abuse of rape, the searing pain in my lungs momentarily made me forget the humiliation of being shunned by my peers, the high of it – that sharp pain it causes in my brain – filled the void that had been left behind when I felt like I had been stripped and beaten from the inside out.

Today

More than fifteen years have come and gone as a painful blur. I dissociated to save my thoughts from the pain that my body went through, even though the emotions live inside like a black mold eating my body from the inside out. I blocked and blacked out in order to try and survive just one more day.

The healthier the people I surround myself with and the healthier my life gets because of therapy, the more it hurts and the more I hurt myself.

When I would dissociate, I could have an argument and I wouldn’t be present for it, I would go to an inner place in my head while my mouth spewed words that I would later be sorry for. When I am present and I have an argument, the adrenaline spikes and the trigger that it is, causes my face and body to ache in the locations where I have been hit. These areas on my face, my neck, my back, my stomach, my arms, they ache with the hurt of the past.

The monsters of my past haunt me every day and without realizing it, I’ve been helping them.

I felt like I was the worst kind of garbage after years of rape and abuse. I became so broken that deep down I believed I deserved to be treated this way, even though outwardly I was smiling and telling people that I was strong enough to stand.

The repercussion of the physical and psychological monstrosities is that I treat myself like garbage.

I hide from people I love in order to sneak cigarettes because the pain I feel when I smoke fills an ache of pain from my past and I think I deserve that. I drink too much at night in order to make sure that I won’t lie awake in bed terrorized by memories of my past, the headache the next morning … I think I deserve that.

I have stomach issues, lactose intolerance, GERD, and an ulcer, but I don’t stop eating food that is bad for me, because the pain it causes affirms that emotional feeling that I deserve to feel bad.

As it is every day, my vision isn’t clear because I have headaches that build into migraines. My stomach is burning with pain from eating. My neck tension is so severe that when I turn my head I hear cracking noises and pain reverberates, shuddering through my brain.

I panic that every day will be my last because of the amount of stress and pain I feel. I used to think that I was going to die from this pain, suddenly and swiftly.

I think about stopping all of these vices. These vices which have not helped me, but have only monumentally added to the pain I feel. My inner struggle is worry, that without these vices and bad habits – I am afraid I will feel everything. Is the pain from these vices really worse than the ugly reality of what happened?

Is the pain worse than finding out I’m a terrible at keeping a clean house and it isn’t just laziness?

Is the pain and fear worse than tossing and turning for hours, trying to shut out the monsters that haunt me in the dark of night, when the world is silent, but my mind is screaming?

Is it worth the pain and fear of dying sooner in life due to my vices and habits, because they help me dissociate from the agonizing terror of dying at the hands of someone else?

With these vices of mine, I have perpetuated and continued the feeling that I deserve to be in pain and that I deserve to feel bad. As the black tar of cigarettes coats my lungs with every inhale and the bottle of wine half finished is poured into another glass, I tell myself that I will get better, that I will do better, ironically, that is the same thing I used to say when I was being abused.

It is stunningly clear to me today, that the monsters of my past have evolved into new monsters in my present, in the form of things that I can become addicted to.

My addiction is clear for me, I am addicted to not wanting to feel, not wanting to remember, not wanting to look at myself in a mirror and seeing who I have become.

I did not want to acknowledge how I felt about myself, my face, or my body. So I embraced vices and habits that made me numb to everything but the pain that they themselves cause.

I have come to a place in the last few weeks where the vices and habits are making life harder, the purpose they served in the past is missing.

I have nothing to give this world but who I am, if I am numb and my eyes are vacant, I am not living. If I am in pain from a hangover and smoking, giving my body and mind less oxygen than it needs to function, I am only hurting myself.

There is a great quote, unknown to me who said it first, but it goes … I will remember and recover, not forgive and forget.

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I miss the person I once was, I sometimes dream of the person I had hoped to become. This life, with all of the good, the bad, and the ugly, is my reality and I think it is time that I confronted it.

I think it is time I fight for me, for who I want to be, and for what I want out of this life.

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Get after it.

I woke up this morning and thought to myself … “Self, make today a great day.” I put the coffee on, made breakfast, and set out on a run. It feels great, my energy is high, I’m motivated to actually do something today. One part of this might be the colder weather, the approaching Christmas season, or perhaps, the wonderfulness that is Christmas music itself. Every year, Christmas season, I pull out the Christmas music. It makes me want to put on a frilly apron, wear cute shoes, and dance around my kitchen baking cookies.

Private victories precede public victories. You can’t invert that process any more than you can harvest a crop before you plant it. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve said it before and here it comes again, I really do need to read this book. I’m gaining momentum in this process of changing my mind every day to change my life and it’s getting to a point where those around me are starting to see a difference. My inward victory over the pain, depression, and panic will someday be visible outwardly, and I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to not dreading each day, to instead be excited for it. I’m looking forward to one day being able to say that I am living as my Dad lived, joyfully.

More importantly, I just wrote “I’m looking forward” three times in a row – Four weeks ago I was in a place where I could not look forward, so much was my fear of the past that I had to keep an eye on it at every moment. So raise your coffee cups, here’s to private victories!

The effect of one good-hearted person is incalculable. – Oscar Arias

I have good-hearted people in my life, and it’s true, their effect is incalculable. The problem is, the bad-hearted people in our lives, their effect is calculable, we can tally it. I can remember every single detail of the times when I’ve been torn down, ridiculed, humiliated, and beaten. Every. Single. Detail. I can’t remember even vaguely, what beautiful things that loving people have said to me though.

It’s one of those areas that we have to choose who we surround ourselves with. Who are your closest people? Are they positive, full of life, caring, respectful, loving? Or are they negative, bitter, resentful, disrespectful, and rude? I can’t describe the relief that comes from leaving relationships with negative people, but I can say that the sun shines brighter, the world is warmer, the trees are prettier, and your shoulders feel lighter. Obviously, leaving those relationships didn’t magically cure my depression or panic, but it did lessen the weight I was carrying around. I learned after many years that we can’t make others happy, we can only try to give ourselves a chance at a healthy life by removing the darkness that is negativity.

Keep a daily diary of your dreams, goals and accomplishments. Your life is worth living, it’s worth recording. – Marilyn Grey – To Your Success

Done, and done. Kidding. But seriously, in five words “Your life is worth living” – I know that I’ve been alive these last seven years, but I’ve been far from living. My Dad lived, my mom lives, but depression and panic kept me debilitated and holed up in a safe corner. At many points over the last seven years I couldn’t imagine even walking around my neighborhood because I was sure that I was going to faint and then something horrible would happen to me, so I wouldn’t go.

I changed that, I forced myself to get out, to go anywhere I feel like going. I suppose I’m not so much afraid of fainting anymore, I feel more like screaming “bring it on” and “do your worst” because at this point I’m mad that I lost seven years of my life to this panic and depression and I’m going to fight to make sure that I don’t live in fear ever again.

Sidenote: A huge part of deciding to stop being afraid was taking a five week self-defense course and I stopped saying I am a victim, I started saying I am a survivor.

SurvivorOh and because it’s awesome.

Drive

 

“I lost my drive.” That’s what I thought to myself this morning. I’ve known it for a long time and thought about it in passing over the last seven years, but this morning it felt real and it felt sad.

We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world we see, and understand that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

When I read this it struck me how awful the lens is that I see the world through. My lens used to be trusting, excited, and hopeful. When my world shifted, that lens got dinged up, broken, and stomped on. I see the world now through a lens that is scared, distrustful, panic-stricken, and depressed, but I get it. Changing the way I choose to see the world and those around me is something I can work on. Instead of thinking of the glass as half-full or half-empty…. I’ll just start focusing on what content is in the glass, not how much or how little there is.

If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one. – John Gale – To Your Success

True. One of the problems with my panic attacks was always that I couldn’t imagine a future. I felt that my death was imminent and I was terrified. I could not even consider having children because I had this fear that I was going to faint or die as I randomly walked down the street, how could I care for a child if I’ve passed out?  As I’ve started my climb out of panic and am working on moving out of depression, I find myself wanting things for my future, like this entire process. I want a better life for myself, my husband, and my family and I’m willing to work on getting myself into a good place, no matter how long that takes.

if you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true? – Faye LaPointe – To Your Success

I’m starting to have dreams. Happiness is a dream, peace from panic, nightmares to end. A day without pain. I have a million things running through my head, but I feel content that I am beginning to desire this. I had given up seven  years ago on having a happy life. I think that acceptance of my fate being out of my hands did more damage than I could have imagined.

Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future. – Marilyn Ferguson – To Your Success

Yes, YES, and YES! I want to choose to liberate my future! That is what I NEED. How do I tell the emotional side of my brain this? My past haunts me in my sleep and in my waking hours. How…do…I….choose…. to liberate my future? Why isn’t there a guide?

People who deal with life generously and large-heartedly go on multiplying relationships to the end. – Arthur Christopher Benson

I know those people.. I’m related to them. My folks, my husband, my siblings. All of them have this down-pat while I’m over on a life boat waving for help… yet hiding from brunch, while everyone on the yacht enjoys mimosas.

For the good of growth I’ll admit that I’ve had a hard time making new friends and multiplying relationships because I’m scared of rejection, terrified of making a fool out of myself, and worried sick that they’ll see what happened in my past and think that I’m as worthless as I feel. Phew. Breathe. That run-on sentence just needed to come out.

It’s Day 2. When I had a negative thought today, I paused. In that pause I thought back to yesterday – today I wanted to make the world more special by being good to those that I encountered. For instance, it was the first red cup day of the season at Starbucks. I normally just keep my “order-voice” terse and short so that I’m not inviting conversation, but today, when asked how my day was going I made eye contact, I smiled, and I said it was good. I asked the cheery barista how his day was going and found that I actually wanted to know.

I’m going to get my drive back, it’s going to happen.

Motivation

It’s a Thursday, it’s Halloween, and it’s 2013. I’ve done hardly anything this entire week because I haven’t felt motivated. I can feel my slump turning slowly back into depression and it’s time that all of this changed. It’s been seven years since my panic began and for the first time I feel confident in taking charge of my life. I will fight this.

I need daily motivation, I know this. So I’m going to make it public. I can’t sit back if I tell everyone I’m going to do something. So here it is. I’m going to do this.  Day 1.

If we want to change a situation, we first have to change ourselves. And to change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.  – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My perception of almost everything has been bleak for the last seven years. I thought the worst of every situation, person, and dreaded interacting because they would see all of my past, my shame, my hurt. So how do I view today with a different perception? My short list for the day is that I need to do the dishes, I need to drag some things out of storage, and I need to take my mom on a drive to pick up a vehicle. None of this sounds exciting and ordinarily I would put off all of it except for the necessary, because the couch is calling and my pain level is at an 8. However, new leaf.  I will put music on while I do the dishes. I will get myself dressed and ready for the day instead of dreading leaving my apartment for storage and the drive. I get to spend time with my mom this afternoon, as well as my sister and her beautiful babies. I need to remember that every moment I get to spend with my family and friends is valuable. When we lost my dad a year ago I promised myself that I would never take the people I love for granted again, our time together is too short to be spent dreaded, put off, or unhappily.

If you can dream it, you can do it. – Walt Disney

Every candle lit; every home, bridge, cathedral or city ever built; every act of human kindness, discovery, daring, artistry or advancement started first in someone’s imagination, and then worked its way out. You have that power – use it. – To Your Success

I haven’t thought that I have the ability to do anything good in the last seven years. I’ve only thought negatively of myself and what I’ve accomplished. I’ve been wrong, even if it is simply human kindness today, I can do that. I’m an artist, I should be creating. We all have an ability to make more out of our lives… but depression, panic disorders, and PTSD, suck that belief and strength right out of us. Fight back. Today, I’ll fight back, human kindness I can do and maybe I’ll even crack a try at a little Instagram creativity.

Some people make the world more special just by being in it. – Kelly Ann Rothaus (The good life, celebrating the joy of living fully)

My dad was one of those people. My mom is as well. They have this innate ability to simply be wonderful. My dad took enjoyment from anything and everything, no matter how hard the day was – he was happy at the end of it. I remember how a picnic would light up his eyes, he would be spreading all of the food on the table, laughing at jokes, punning, and watching his wife and children simply be, and you could tell that he had utter contentment. I crave that joy. It hurts how badly I want to be happy again, but I have been so lost for so long that it has felt impossible to me. As I think about my dad and mom and their upbeat attitudes in the face of all things strife and contentious, I can’t help but think that the tug I feel in my heart is a shred of hope. I want to be happy, I want to enjoy my life again, that has to count for something. I gave up on it a long time ago, but today, I will embrace that tug on my heart as hope.