Major depressive disorder
Generalized anxiety disorder
There it is, folks.
Those are my diagnoses. They don’t own me and they certainly don’t define who I am, but they matter.
So, this is my message to each of them…
YOU. You have impacted me in more ways than you can imagine. My feelings toward you have changed over the last year and a half but I really hated you at first. I can remember my first thought when I was told that you were a part of my life. “Damnit. Not me.” I was pissed, I was scared, I was unsure of my next move. I didn’t know how people would respond to you. I was even skeptical of your existence in my world. Surely, there must be some mistake and yet, it made so much sense. Can you sense the confusion?
I had no idea how to interact with you AT ALL. I panicked. I kept thinking, “I can’t feel like this forever”, “This can’t be it for me”, “I have to drop out of grad school”. Catastrophizing to the max. You brought out fears in me that I didn’t realize I had. Because of you, I was experiencing 2-3 panic attacks per day. I was isolating. I was missing class. I was cooped up on my couch begging for the panic to subside. You sucked so badly (you still do sometimes).
Until I met you, I had never felt so low, so insecure, and so unsure of myself and my future. You brought out the worst in me. I was irritable. I was annoyed. I was projecting hardcore. I knew a lot about you. I had studied you in school and I had experienced you through some of my loved ones, but I never expected you to be this intrusive. You’re powerful, I’ll give you that.
“How am I supposed to help people if I can’t get my shit together?” “What am I going to do if I have a panic attack in class or on the job?” “How am I supposed to live this miserable?” The most impactful thing you did to me was steal my self-worth, my vision for my future, and my desire to keep moving through life. You made me want to go to sleep and not wake up. You made me think death was an option.
You told me to miss my psychiatry appointments. You whispered in my ear that the best thing I could do for myself was hide. When I found the courage to drive to therapy, you told me to stay in my car a little bit longer until I was too late to go inside. You made me doubt my abilities and truthfully, I’m still learning how to fully trust myself again.
Even though you can be wicked and ruthless, you’ve taught me a lot. Once I started crawling out from under you, I realized that there was no need to fight you anymore. Instead, I found myself wanting to learn how to integrate you into my life. I didn’t want to keep running. I didn’t want you to enjoy the chase any more than you already had. I wanted to rip the power away from you. I wanted my life back. What I came to realize is that I didn’t end up wanting my exact same life back. Instead, I wanted a life that included more self-care, self-love, healthy boundaries, honesty and transparency. I built (and am still building) a life where it’s okay to not be okay; a life where I forgive myself and treat myself with respect.
You did all of that for me. Without you, I’m not sure when any of that would have happened. Maybe it wouldn’t have ever happened. But I genuinely think that something had to give. I was carrying way too much for way too long. You forced me to see something that I chose to be blind to. You inevitably forced me to stare my past experiences dead in the eye. You forced me to confront the darkest parts of my life; the fears that were buried deep down and walled off.
You are the reason I started this blog. Well, one of the reasons. I’ve always been an open book but I would have never had the courage to start something like this if not for the BS you put me through. I learned all about my resiliency and strength because of you.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you (you still bug though, so don’t get too excited). Thank you for forcing me to change my life and change the way I treat myself. Thank you for expanding my knowledge and giving me extra insight into what some of my clients might be thinking and feeling.
You’ve humbled me to my core. You’ve brought me to my knees and shown me what it means to crawl out of a daunting and seemingly never ending hole. Because of what you’ve put me through, I’m no longer afraid to speak my truth and be authentically me.
All that being said, you still manage to stump me from time to time. When I start to notice you creeping up, I freeze and I’m left wondering whether or not I’ll be able to climb out of the hole again. I notice myself wanting to control what I’m experiencing and immediately change how I’m thinking and what I’m feeling. I begin to fight you all over again.
This brings me to my hopes for 2019.
Firstly, I hope for more acceptance. Acceptance is key. Relinquishing control is important for my sanity. I want to continue gently reminding myself that life is fluid and that my experiences with my mental health are not either “good” or “bad”.
Secondly, I hope for connectedness. I want to continue sharing my story and more importantly, I want to continue hearing YOUR stories. You all inspire me more than you know. You’re all so special and so important to me.
Thirdly, I hope to learn more skills that help me manage my day-to-day anxiety so that I don’t always go straight to “oh shit, it’s happening again.”
Lastly, I hope to inspire others to speak their truth and reach out for help. I know this is cliché, but it truly gets better. It can be a lonely and disheartening process- I get that. But there’s a lot of support out there and even when you feel like no one else cares, just know that I do. I care so much.
I see you. I hear you. I accept you. I honor you. I love you. You are so enough.
As always, thank you for reading this post and for checking out our blog. Your support means the world to us. Happy Holidays, friends.
Wishing you all love and light.
Dear mental illness,
I didn’t really know what I wanted to say to you for the longest time. You’ve been with me since the beginning, and you’ll be with me at the end. I know that you’ve taught me so much and have most certainly also been a challenge. I think we can both agree that I have undoubtedly detailed most of my reflections about you and the experiences that we’ve had together. But what I really want to say is how I want our future to look starting next year in 2019.
Last year showed us where we came from and taught us who to trust. And who we can’t always trust; definitely who not to trust. It ultimately taught us to trust ourselves. You and I.
I have more peace with you and less shame. In the future, I don’t want this to turn into minimizing or ignoring you. Especially when I have a job wherein so many of the people I work for have mental illnesses far more debilitating and far more exacerbated than mine.
I want to use you. I want to forge you into something useful, that will create my long-awaited goals, hopes, and dreams. I want to move us into the next level, where I immerse myself in the parts of you that have been too scary or too unknown, so that I can befriend you. Because who has ever regretted befriending a powerful force that is actually on their side?
I think the way to do that is going to be me acknowledging to both of us that I am the person. Not you. I am the sentient being with autonomy and free will. And as difficult as it will be, I want to unlearn parts of you that, like a parasite, have been trying very hard to hijack me.
In 2019, I intend to find ways to replace those parts of you with self-generated chemicals of my own choice and doing. I intend to no longer waste vast amounts of time being paralyzed by you because of the lies you tell me that you know better and the lies I tell me that you do too.
I intend to not waste another year complaining and whining about how abusive and confusing you can be. I don’t need to contribute to that path toward a guaranteed black hole.
I am going to get moving. I am going to run. I am going to meditate. I am going to create a scintillating, passionate, connected relationship with my body, in spite of the shame you have so long engraved in me.
Your words are not true; I AM worth it. I AM going to allow myself to tap into my inner warrior, creator, and leader. I do not intend to play small.
I intend to play very, very big.
I will stop trying to label you into so many categories and subcategories that act as a semblance of control over my identity and self-imposed glass ceiling: OCD, GAD, BPD, Bipolar Disorder, Dysmorphia, PTSD, Excoriation Disorder, Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder, blah, blah, BLAH.
I intend to no longer intellectualize and self-harm as baseline defense mechanisms. I vow to only use these terms to educate and advocate for mental health awareness and de-stigmatization of mental health care. Much like picking up my Queer Vegan Feminist flag, I will wave these flags of my mental health conditions until they are no longer needed, until the societal norm is inclusion, acceptance, and understanding.
I vow to get up out of my chair, that I land in every night and fall asleep in, and take action; and not give in to feelings of exhaustion, defeat, surrender, and mental death.
I will re-define what recovery means. I will re-claim what being in the moment means. I will set myself free from pain and nothingness. I will open up my heart again, and soothe the tearful, weary, tender spots that are fearful it will all be a mistake. But I will open it up in ways that feel safe and comfortable to me.
Dear mental illness, I look at you like Magneto in X-Men. I have compassion for you, and I understand where you’re coming from. And there’s no “but”. I just do. We are one in the same. I’m not saying I’m any Professor X or Storm. I look at myself as a Wolverine. As a Jean Grey in her Phoenix form. Containing both extremes, and having one foot in both sides. Fusing the two. Forging that middle. Not fighting them. Accepting them. And using that forged line down the middle as my path.
I have to believe that Spirit created my soul for a purpose, and I believe wholeheartedly that this is one of them. I was meant to be created with these “conditions”. They were instilled in me for a purpose. And like Edward Scissorhands, whom I mentioned in my last post, I will use these often-feared blades to create beauty and uniqueness.
I don’t know what has been harder. Having “mental illness” or living among humans. It may sound strange to some, but I know there are those who get it. I prefer to think of myself as having quirks and a sensitivity/connection to deeper frequencies that are often invisible to the naked eye. I have to revere that.
Much like Two Spirits are revered in Native American culture, yet have historically been brutalized in the non-indigenous Western culture, I think there is a deeper, spiritual meaning in the experiences that those of us with mental “illness” have had. And that helps. Having a sense of connection and meaning helps. Whatever that looks like, whatever that means.
So dear mental health, I intend to use you for good. You can bring it. Let’s play that game. You want to cause fire? Out for a run I’ll go or out comes the ink and paper to flow. Transmutation baby.
So that’s my decree to you. Welcome, instead of denial. Embrace, but not drown. And transmutation over a white flag. We are one in the same, and we are all part of this circle, of this home of a body and web of a mind. We have de-constructed this home; now it’s time to re-build it stronger that ever.
And one last thing. I accept you as you are, all of the moving parts, even the ones I absolutely hate. I accept the losses of battles to come, but I do not accept any kind of defeat for the overall war. Let’s coincide, you and I.
I’ll walk the line.
My name is Kristen, and I will not be afraid.
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