How Far I’ve Really Come

This starts as a Really Real Mental Health Post.

And ends as a Really Real Widow Post.

I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

Each day that I work, I can’t believe I’m really doing this. I can’t believe I actually earned this money. I can’t believe how much earning this money really means. I can’t explain how good it feels.

Each problem I solve, each new task I conquer, and each fear I overcome, I’m amazed that this is who I am now. That this is what I am accomplishing.

I remember when I realized I couldn’t work anymore.  I remember the shit storm that lead up to that moment. I remember the heartbreak that came along with applying for disability.

I remember.

At the worst of this, I couldn’t leave my house. I couldn’t be left alone.

I remember.

And the truth is, I will probably end up back in the hospital some day. I will probably do another round or three of the partial hospital program. I will have countless more hours of therapy.

But I’ve come so so far.

So far.

I can see myself going further. I can see myself working full time. I can see myself becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I can see myself getting better at ignoring the constant anxiety running through my head.

It’s a big deal that I can see a future with further recovery.

It’s a big deal that I’m seeing a future without disability.

Without being disabled.

And there’s another side to this.

I remember watching Parker push through her own struggles to go to work and support the three of us while she was barely making it emotionally and physically.

I remember.

I love my life and I know everything that has happened has brought me to where I am now.

But still, I wonder.

If I could have worked before. If I could have shared some of the load. If I could have helped more. If I could have taken some of the weight off of her shoulders.

Would she still be alive?

If we had the money to pay the bills. If we had the money to keep the lights on. If we had the money to avoid the eviction notices. If we had the money to keep food in the fridge.

Would she still be alive?

I’ve come so far, and I’m doing so well. And I know her death is a big part of what pushed me towards my recovery. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am if things hadn’t happened exactly as they have.

Every success, every bit of growth, with every push towards recovery, is served with a small side dish of sadness.

But I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

And I can’t wait to see how far I go.

Authentically Me.

This is a Really Real Identity Post.

A few months ago I wrote Defining Myself, an identity crisis post where I was having a hard time figuring out what to write in a dating profile.  I wrote out all of the things I’m not or didn’t do wholeheartedly, but it was hard to describe who I am. A few people on Facebook told me I should put just what I wrote.

I never did.

But lately a few people have told me how amazing it is that I’m not afraid to be my authentic self.

I was taken aback every time I heard that.

I hadn’t described what I do as being my authentic self, and I definitely was, and am afraid.

I just wear the clothes that appeal to me. I dye my hair the colors that I love. I write my story and share my truth because it’s cathartic, and also because it educates and helps me commiserate with other people.

It took me hearing other people say it for me to realize I am authentically and (mostly) unapologetically me.

I still don’t know how to describe who I am, but I’m realizing I do live my truth.

There’s a meme that floats around “Be so authentic that it inspires others to be themselves.” Or something like that. I have a hard time believing that is who I am.

But others tell me that they are learning to speak their truth and live their truth because they see me doing it.

And I have to admit, the more I live my truth, the bigger and brighter my smile gets.

I’m still anxious, almost constantly. Way more anxious than I think a lot of people realize.  Being true to myself is hard in a world that doesn’t quite get people like me.

There’s another meme, “Speak your truth and see who sticks around. Those are the people who get a spot in your blanket fort.” I posted that once and was privately told that they didn’t get the point in sharing that, because, duh. (I’m paraphrasing.) I explained that for most of my life I didn’t realize that was how this worked.

I was worried about fitting in with everyone, being liked by everyone, not standing out and blending into the crowd so I wasn’t really seen.

I’m just now, within the last 3 years, realizing that life is too short to be anything but who I am.

It really sucks that it took her death to make me realize this.

But now I’m surrounded by people who get me and want to be around the real me. I am surrounded by more and more people. I have a supportive group of friends that is unlike anything I’ve ever known.

I’m not like this to inspire others. I’m like this because hiding, blending in, and being anyone other than myself was part of a slow suicide that happened for years.

That said, I do appreciate hearing the stories of people who beginning to live their own truth. It takes bravery to stop blending in.

I’m glad I get to be a part of that.

L-I-G! (Life Is Good!)

This is a Really Real Life Post.

Being able to be myself is nothing short of amazing.

I mean, yeah, being wholeheartedly me means I deal with some really bad depression and suicidal ideation. It means I spend days inpatient and weeks in partial sometimes. It means there are some really shitty times.

But it also means I get to be open and out there and vulnerable. I get to wear my wild skirts and bright hair. I get to tell my story in a way that helps others (and helps me at the same time). I get to laugh and cry and let my dorky hang out.

I get to spend time with people who are just my kinda people, instead of struggling to fit in with the people who aren’t.

I’m learning how important all of this is.

I trip down the sidewalk, I fall face first down the stairs, I spill food down my shirt, all on a regular basis. But that’s just part of my charm, even the bruises, scars, and messed up shirts.

I am anxious and moody and sometimes my memory is all kinds of shit. But I keep moving forward no matter what life throws at me.

I’m falling in love with my authentic self.

My imperfect, beautiful, self.

I wish I could see things from this perspective all of the time. I wish depression didn’t creep in and pull me under. Make me nervous and afraid. Make me sad and apathetic. I wish life was all roses and bright smiles.

But even my mental illness is part of who I am. It’s part of what makes me, me. It’s part of what makes me beautiful.

Even though sometimes I’m a beautiful mess.

I’m learning to accept all of me.

And that’s pretty fucking amazing.

I can’t wait to see who I’m becoming.

The best is yet to come.

(Someone save this post and send it to me next time I’m falling apart, please.)

 

Share your story, Speak your truth.

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

Lately, I see a lot of people getting Really Real about mental health. Part of it is who I surround myself with, part of it is that people are pulling of the veil and deciding to be truthful about who they are.

Now, I know not everyone can, or wants to do this.

But I’m so happy when I see people who do.

Parker didn’t exactly hide her mental illness, but at the same time she was afraid to speak up when it mattered most. It had, and in some ways still has, this underlying notion that mental illness is a weakness.

I remember the first time I was told to pull myself up by my bootstraps. The first time, not, by far, the only time.

It’s nice to see friends who are talking more openly. Talking about their triumphs and struggles.

Some of my favorite posts are the “I’m having a rough day, please send me memes” posts. I occasionally reach out in the same way and it’s so nice to see everyone kind of come together to shower me with love and laughs. It’s what we need! Community and support make this road a lot easier to travel.

Even better are the posts that show us we aren’t alone in this struggle. We may not have the same diagnoses or life situations, but the underlying emotions are the same.

I’m super lucky that I have an amazing support system (spanning multiple countries) but I got that support system by speaking up. By being real. By speaking my story and sharing my truth.

By being vulnerable.

Vulnerability isn’t a weakness. Vulnerability is strength. It’s how you build community, it’s how you reach out for support.

I’m glad that I see more people being real and raw and open and I wanted to globally say how much I appreciate that.

Share your story. Speak your truth.

Be vulnerable!

 

Partially There

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

A year ago today I finished the Partial Hospitalization Program. I just read the post I wrote upon leaving. The post where I was unsure, not ready, didn’t think I could make it without the daily routine to back me up. I was still fighting through a mixed mood episode, still dealing with sleep problems, still not quite stable but a lot better than when I started.

I was about to start a Psych Rehabilitation Program, which was a dismal failure and not where I was meant to be at all.

I had started looking into DBT, but couldn’t start there until I let go of my feeling that I needed a more frequent program.

I hadn’t come to terms with my intrusive suicidal thoughts. I still felt I had to make them go away completely. I hadn’t realized that I could coexist with them and learn to live safely in spite of them. Learn to label them as thoughts and let them be, not let them control me. I hadn’t accepted that they will likely be a part of my illness and my life forever.

I hadn’t learned that mindfulness is more than just meditation. I hadn’t learned the countless skills that DBT has taught me.

That PHP stay was really good for me, I learned a lot and developed a few friendships that I still have today (I wish we had more time to talk and hang out).

I also ended up with my psychiatrist, who is amazing. (It’s so difficult to find amazing providers when you’re on government insurance.)

And I have come so far since then.

I have had some mixed mood episodes since the one that landed me in PHP, but nothing that has lasted as long. Some suicidal episodes but they have lasted less than a day (from what I can recall).

I’m glad I do this, writing out my thoughts and posting them. I’m glad they show up every year so I can see how far I’ve come.

I don’t think growing is something that ever stops happening, but I feel like I’m a little bit further along. I feel like, since Partial, I’ve gotten closer to where I want to be. Like maybe. . .

I’m partially there.

 

What if I fall?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Today I signed up for 4 fall classes.

The whole time I was questioning the rationality of this judgement.  I was doubting my mental state. I was wondering if it was more than I could handle. I was thinking of my past track record. I was pondering the chances of following through.

I was checking for any signs of a manic episode. Making sure my mental health wasn’t making commitments for me.

I know I have a busy fall coming up.

I should be able to schedule bariatric surgery for sometime in October or November.

I should be able to start working part time after I heal from surgery.

I will still have DBT and therapy and my other appointments and followups.

I will still need time for me. Time for self care. Time for fun. Time to make a life worth living.

So I mentally check and check again. Am I manic, am I rushing things, am I making this decision for the wrong reasons. Should I check with someone else and get them to make the decision for me. Maybe I’m not qualified to make decisions for myself.

Maybe I can’t handle this.

Maybe I can’t.

This is what it’s like. I question and second guess and never trust my own instincts. I never feel like I’m capable. I wait for the next time I’m going to fuck it all up. I wonder if I’m setting myself up for failure.

I don’t trust in myself because I’ve let myself down so many times before. Even though I haven’t had a full, long lasting hypomanic episode in quite some time, I fear that I’m making decisions based on grandiose opinions of my abilities.

But maybe I’m not. Maybe this is reasonable. Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. Maybe I’m far more capable than I believe I am.

Maybe I just need to try.

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson