Guest Post (by Anonymous): Thoughts About Suicide and Selfishness.

depression2

The following is a guest post from another blogger who kindly asked me if I would post this.  She is hesitant to link to her blog here, since her blog tends to focus on much lighter content, but still wanted to share her thoughts about this dark subject that’s a real issue for so many people who feel like all hope has been lost, as well as the people who love and care for them.     This blogger is not suicidal, but has been in the past.  I think most of us have considered it as an option at some point in our lives.   We need to stop judging them for it!   It isn’t helpful.

Thoughts about Suicide and Selfishness.

By Anonymous.

depression

The word itself can be quite triggering to some people… It is taboo and disturbing. What better proof of that, than the fact that I didn’t find the courage to speak out loud in my own blog?

Suicide is something that makes people uncomfortable. One shouldn’t even think about it. It scares, especially if you’ve had depressive episodes in the past. Doesn’t thinking about taking your own life mean you might be thinking about actually doing it?

I don’t think so. I don’t think you have to be a professional, working on serious research to give it a thought or two. I know a lot of people think about it, but just don’t share their thoughts. I am willing to open that door today. But I don’t encourage you to keep reading if you are not comfortable with the subject.

I’d like to point out that I am no professional about the matter. I am not a doctor, or a psychiatrist. I’m just a woman, who went through severe depression at some point in her life, and who had to deal with the idea of ending her days. I’m just the close friend of a good man who did take that step while he was living “The Life.”  But I think my view is worth being shared all the same. The following are just opinions, that you might agree with, or not.

From my experience, most people seem to see suicide as a cowardly act. You’ll often hear the classic “He chose an irreversible solution to a temporary problem”. But when you talk to someone who has just lost a loved one to suicide, the first thought resembles more “How could he do this to me?”

As a society, we tend to blame people who commit suicide of robbing us from someone we cherish. How dare that person be so selfish, that they would choose to leave their family and friends mourning them behind?

When I look back those dark days when I struggled between staying one more day or putting an end to my misery, I see things quite differently. I remember how much I thought about all the people that love me. Going through depression doesn’t mean forgetting your surroundings. If anything, those people were the only reason I hesitated. Had I been truly alone, I would have jumped in a second.

imfine

But I didn’t want my mother, my father and my brother to have to mourn me. Even if I seriously thought living without me would be a good thing in the long run. I knew no letter, no matter how long or how well penned would get them to understand I was right. No matter what I’d leave behind, they would end up suffering. And I could not stomach that.

I lived so they wouldn’t suffer. As simple as that. I ached and fought my demons, day by day, night by night, just so they wouldn’t have to wonder why I chose to rest, at last. Even to this day, I sometimes wish there were words that could explain the pain that rips my very soul when depression hits.

Mental distress is as painful if not worse than physical pain. People who haven’t felt it can’t imagine how real the hurt is. It is not “just” a matter of dark thoughts you can chase away or wait to see go away. And although some people can go through therapy or use medication to make the pain lessen, I believe some others will suffer all their lives.

In some countries, laws give the possibility to people suffering from chronic physical diseases that leave them with no quality of life to choose to end their life with doctors’ help. It is even considered an honorable way to leave this world. I agree that people shouldn’t be forced to live, when the suffering is too much to take. We put down our pets so they won’t have to go through unbearable pain, why should we force people to put up with agony?

I am not encouraging suicide. I think it is a terrible way to die. To hurt so much that you’d rather face mankind’s worst fear is horrible. But I don’t understand why we still tend to blame those who get to that point. No one would blame a cancer patient for losing their fight against that illness. Why do we do so, with mentally ill people?

“They should have asked for help!” you might think…. Which doesn’t make sense to me either. Would you blame your mom for dying from an undiagnosed heart failure?

Some people struggling with mental pain do seek help. But from my experience, a lot of doctors don’t measure the depth of the problem. They can’t see it on a scan, a physical exam, or on an X ray. It is not really their fault, but treatment is often lacking, even if people reach out for help.

I think my point here is just that maybe we should consider suicide a loss like that of any other disease. Families and friends shouldn’t have to deal with shame, and shouldn’t have to play the blaming game. The deceased should be able to rest in peace…

Just rest in peace.

Advertisements

Guest Post: Recovering from NPD: My Journey to Self-Awareness

A very insightful and courageous post written by a woman who once identified only as a narcissistic abuse survivor with a case of “fleas” who later discovered she had NPD herself.  She started a blog and is working hard to change and find real happiness.

I’m looking for guest bloggers! (Round Two)

writers_wanted

My Sunday guest blogs have turned out to be a success! I want to take this opportunity to thank the writers and bloggers who were kind enough to share their personal stories and struggles with mental illness, mental illness stigma, or narcissistic abuse on this blog. These personal stories turned out to be among some of my most popular posts, and hopefully these bloggers also saw a boost in their hits due to posting for this blog.

Unfortunately, it seems that I’ve reached the end of my list, and I’ve had a few drop-outs too. So I’m once again looking for people who are interested in writing a guest post for this blog.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A BLOG TO WRITE A GUEST POST, and this invitation is extended to my lurkers as well as those who regularly comment.

The types of articles I’m looking for:

— Personal accounts of living with a mental illness
— How mental illness stigma has affected you
— Inspirational stories about how you have coped with or even benefited from your experience.
— New therapies you have learned about or are using

This time, I’m especially interested in personal accounts of living with mental disorders caused by early trauma or abuse, especially the following:

— Cluster B personality disorders (as long as self awareness and a willingness to change is present)
— Cluster A or C personality disorders
— Dissociative disorders
— Complex PTSD

I’m also interested in blogs by people with Aspergers or autism spectrum disorders, and anxiety disorders such as OCD, Panic Disorder, or Social Anxiety; and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Since there were no posts about substance abuse/alcoholism from my last batch of guest bloggers, I’d be interested in those as well.

The rules are few. I don’t have a minimum or maximum word count, and you are free to submit your own graphic or photo if you wish. If not, I will find one for your post. I only ask that the writing be clear and the post is honest. Profanity is okay but should be kept to a minimum. The only other rule I have is that if you have a blog and write a guest post, that you reblog your post on your own blog (NOT re-publish it, just reblog it from here).
If you have already written a guest post for this blog, please give others who haven’t a chance.

Again, you do not need to have a blog yourself to write a post for this one. However, if you don’t blog, you will need to provide your email or link to your social media account so I can contact you. If you’re interested please leave a comment (with a link to your blog, if applicable), so I can compile a list from these. When your article is posted, I’ll share it to my social media so it gets as much visibility as possible. I’ll reply to you in the comments, so keep checking back after you have posted. If you want to go ahead and send posts to me now, my email is under “Contact Me” in the header.

***PLEASE SHARE THIS POST***

Guest post #9: You are beautiful and loveable no matter what the narc says.

Mel (Hippo 256) writes a blog called The Enability Blog about living with a number of disabilities, including PTSD. I’ll just let Mel’s About Page speak for itself:

Hi there, thank you for reading my blog. I really appreciate you’re taking the time. I’m a female and 21 years old. I love languages and study (amongst other things) English, Dutch, German and French (want to do Spanish someday too). I’ve got a couple of chronic diseases and disabilities, but you’ll find out more about that when you’re reading my blog. It’s too many to just sum up, but I can give away that I have chronic pain, chronic fatigue, rheumatism (fibromyalgia) and some other physical diseases and disabilities. I also have been diagnosed with PTSD.

I live together with my boyfriend/partner (my fellow Hippo), who’s also physically disabled, including a couple chronic diseases and a recurring depression. He supports me a lot, because he can really understand what I’m feeling. Together we tackle life’s challenges and hopefully enjoy life too (I can tell you, I often do enjoy life). We are both studying, but do this in a slightly different way. We can’t follow the regular pace, but that doesn’t matter. I also enjoy sports, photography (sadly, I can’t place my own photos here because of my anonymity), doing nice things with friends, travelling, animals etc.

Please visit Mel’s blog when you get the chance.
https://enabilityblog.wordpress.com

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND LOVEABLE NO MATTER WHAT THE NARC AND HIS ‘PEOPLE’ SAY!

center-of-attention

I’ve been doubting if I should write a post about narcissistic abuse. Not because I don’t want to help other people and I’m also very grateful for this opportunity. I was hesitant because of two reasons:

(1) You ‘just’ don’t talk about a subject like this. There’s a huge stigma on it. A lot of people seem unwilling to think about it and therefore put it away as ‘nonsense’. And people can be misunderstanding or harsh about a topic so sensitive. I learned my lessons and usually evade it. (2). I don’t think I’m good enough. I’m not a writer or a blogger, I just type whatever comes into my head, without really thinking about it.

But here I am, happy that I took this wonderful opportunity. Because:

(1) I find the people in this blogging community to be so understanding and willing to listen. I want to battle the stigma and help others. I wish I had read all these posts about narcissistic abuse and PTSD so much earlier, it would have saved me a lot of self-doubt.
(2) That idea, that feeling of mine that I’m not good enough (I never am) is one of those thoughts ‘implanted’ in me because of narcissistic abuse. I couldn’t think of a better way to ‘challenge’ one of the thoughts the narcissists had about me.

Both my partner and I have been abused by narcissists. But I feel the urge to talk about a very specific one, one I can’t talk about with anyone except with my partner. I’ve been mentally, physically and sexually abused by one “man” for about 6 months. I’ve never written about this before, so this post will be like an “introduction” to my story.

Love Bombing.
At first glance I knew: ‘I have to stay away from him’. We went to the same school together, I was 18 and he was 21. At first he didn’t seem interested in me, to the contrary. I was clearly not good enough to be allowed to communicate with him (he would happily let everyone know). Luckily, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him either. I really don’t like ‘those kind’ of people. At the time, I was still in a very difficult situation. I was already abused many times before and didn’t have anyone at the time. I was looking for support. And narcissists know that. One day, he started preying on me. Immediately I knew, I felt it. But I am strong and had nothing to fear, so I thought. This wasn’t about me, it was about him. He always got what he wanted and he wanted me, I was suddenly ‘pretty’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘interesting’. He would follow me after school, get my contact information through his many channels and he kept cornering me. I told him many times that I wasn’t interested in a relationship, which was not what he wanted to hear. But then one time his reaction and whole attitude changed. He seemed concerned, caring. He would tell me that I deserved to be in a relationship with someone who wanted to help me. I felt anxious and somehow said I was sexual abused before and therefore didn’t want a relationship or intimacy. That made him go all loose on the ‘caring act’. He wasn’t like that, he wanted to help me, truly. I could trust him. Why wouldn’t we just try it out? I could always say no to things and he would listen to that. I was so anxious and confused that eventually I said yes. Now I know that these are all common tricks for narcissists.

wolf_in_sheeps_clothing (1)

The Narc’s True Colors Come Out.
What followed was 2.5 months of ‘relationship’. He played so many (mind) games with me. And I actually knew. So soon I knew that this wasn’t right at all. It felt so wrong and I was so confused. Even though he would keep saying things like ‘it’s to help you’. Or he would be angry because I clearly didn’t love him enough (otherwise I would do that for him, even though that would cross my border). He would threaten me, or hurt me. I couldn’t escape. He had people everywhere (seriously, he did). Eventually I found the strength to break up and thought I was over his horrible abuse. But I wasn’t. He told me that I was nothing and that I should have been happy that he made me something: I was his slave (yes he would call me this, amongst other things). Which made me worth more than I was before. Those kind of sick things he would say. He abused me about 4 months straight after we ‘broke up’. “Friends with benefits” he would call it. I wasn’t a prostitute he said, you know why? I didn’t get paid, so that shows how bad I was. He wouldn’t pay for me, he never paid for anyone. I wasn’t the first “girlfriend” he had. All girls without (good) sexual experiences, so he could mold them, ‘train’ them. But he never kept anyone for long.
Eventually, I met my partner at (the same) school. I had a panic attack and he reached out to me. Because of his support and protection, I could eventually stop my abuser. The abuser has visited my school and the place where I lived a few times. To threaten me. But now, it’s all so much better.

Aftermath.
Going no contact with the abuser was very difficult for me. I found it very surprising, but now I know it is a common reaction amongst survivors. Once in a while I would get ‘urges’ to send him a message again. I kept hoping he would understand that he did awful, horrible, unspeakable and bad things to me. I hoped he would stop telling everyone what a liar I was and that we just loved doing S&M together (massive lie). He never acknowledged it. Now I know he never will. Narcissists don’t feel for others or think about others.

You Are Not Alone!
I want you all to know that you’re not alone. You’re not ‘stupid’ if these kind of things happened to you or ‘easy to get’. And there still is love, even for you. I often call my partner my saviour. He has helped me tremendously in my healing progress. Explained all these thoughts the abuser planted in my head, all the false things I believed. I wish everyone can find this kind of support. We all deserve that. Blogs can help us with that too.

After the abuse ended, this one thought kept appearing: How could I have let this happen? Now I know that’s not fair, I fought incredibly hard. I should never blame myself for this. Maybe I fought too hard, since it only caused me so much more pain and trouble (because of punishments and angering the abuser). This whole situation is incredibly complicated, so a lot of people misunderstand. Especially because I kept a mask on to the outside world (as I was forced to). But it is so important to know that a narcissistic relationship isn’t your fault. It can happen to anyone, really. And not going to the police, doesn’t make your story not true, or if you went to the police but the abuser was never officially found guilty. The justice system isn’t made to catch rapists and abusers. Believe in yourself. Somewhere, deep inside, you know when something doesn’t quite feel right. I know I always did, but would often ignore my core feelings. After doing research on the internet (mainly reading blogs) and talking with my partner, I also understand the things I did a lot more. There were signs everywhere.

I would like to end this blogpost with something important to me. Another thought I refuse to believe any longer. I am NOT a whore. And you aren’t either. We deserve to be loved, including by ourselves. Be kind for yourself please, your body and mind need you.”

– Mel (Hippo256)
Enability Blog, 2016

Guest Post #8 : Abusers break you–and then HATE you for being broken.

My dear friend and active participant on this site, Linda Lee, has written a wonderful and OMG SO TRUE post, which describes a lifetime of abuse, including incarceration in a state mental hospital, and being faced with unethical doctors and caregivers, including one who raped her. She was sent back home to a rejecting family–who had put her there in the first place! Linda Lee has Complex PTSD, a form of PTSD that’s often the result of chronic abuse during childhood, rather than an isolated traumatic incident later on in life. After describing the insane house of mirrors she had been thrusted into that seemed to have no way out, Linda lifts the reader out of the darkness with an uplifting message about Easter and the resurrection.

Linda Lee also has a blog about her Complex PTSD caused by prolonged, severe trauma called Surviving Trauma (formerly Heal My Complex PTSD).   (I got a little confused here because Linda recently changed her blog but the old one is still there too.  Her new blog is called A Blog About Healing From PTSD. )

I know the following story sounds so crazy, it’s hard to believe. But it is all true, so help me God… unless I really AM nuts, and the mental health professionals who have told me otherwise over the years were all wrong!

ABUSERS BREAK YOU — AND THEN HATE YOU FOR BEING BROKEN
By Linda Lee, Surviving Trauma and A Blog about Healing From PTSD

going_crazy_bookcover
The cover for Linda Lee’s future book, which she designed herself!

If you take a young puppy away from his canine family before he is weaned, yell at him, kick him, shake him, beat him, half-starve him, and leave him on a chain outdoors, exposed to every kind of weather without shelter, that poor little puppy is going to grow up to be a deeply disturbed dog – if he lives to grow up.

If you treat human children like that pitiful dog, they are going to have behavioral and emotional problems, too.

I grew up with parents who were normal and nice some of the time, and behaved like insane, demonically possessed monsters part of the time. I never knew from one day to the next whether my mother was going to be like June Cleaver in the TV show “Leave it to Beaver,” or Joan Crawford in the movie “Mommy Dearest.”

As for my dad, a fundamentalist minister whose episodes of violence led to his diagnosis of multiple personality disorder (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder), some people believed that he actually was possessed by demons.

When I was fourteen years old, I began to have some emotional problems. Big surprise, right? I told my mother about the difficulty I was having, hoping she could help me. But, although my problems were mild compared to both of my parents’ history of extreme mental problems, my mother said “You are crazy just like your father!” Then she contacted my dad (my parents were divorced by then), and he agreed with her that I needed to be put in a state mental institution – against the advice of my doctor!

Of course, my dad said that I was “crazy like your mother.” He also told me he was GLAD I had psychiatric problems, because now I would understand what he had gone through.

But I did not understand. Almost fifty years later, I still don’t. Unlike both of my parents, my behavior was not out of control. On the contrary, although I wasn’t perfect, I was obedient, subservient, and eager to please. I had never been the least bit violent. I had never threatened or tried to harm anyone.

My dad, on the other hand, came so close to murdering my mom when I was twelve years old that for several terrifying moments I had thought she was dead. That’s when my father was arrested, then put in the psychiatric ward of a general hospital after the police took him to the emergency room because his insulin-dependent diabetes was out of control.

As for my mother, a few weeks after my dad tried to kill her, she did something even worse – she tried to gas us all to death while my four younger brothers and sisters and I were sleeping in our beds. Yet she never put herself under any kind of psychiatric care. With no other responsible adult living in the house at the time, there was no one to force her to get help. So now, because she has never been to a mental health professional and labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, my mother thinks she is “just fine.”

When my dad’s medical insurance ran out and he was discharged from the psych ward, my mother dropped her charge of attempted murder so he could go back to work and provide financial support. Then my dad married the head nurse of the psychiatric ward whom he had met while he was a patient there (how unethical is that?), and my mother started dating a newly divorced man who had previously worked with my dad. She soon became pregnant (accidentally on purpose?), and quickly married the unborn baby’s father.

So now my parents were living happily ever after with their brand new loves while I, their eldest daughter, became the family scapegoat and “the crazy one.” And together my parents decided that I needed to be locked up in a state insane asylum, because: “she might become violent some day.”

Projection much?

About a year after my parents put me in the institution a new psychiatrist, Dr. Fenster, was hired to replace the rapist shrink who had been caught and fired the third time he drugged me unconscious and raped me. Lucky Otter posted this story for me almost a year ago. Here is the link: https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/04/12/have-you-ever-been-hurt-by-a-psychiatrist-guest-post-by-alaina-holt-adams/. (I wrote that post under the pen name Alaina Adams. I have since changed my pen name to Linda Lee, because it’s more like the real me.)

I had originally met the newly hired doctor when I was first put in the asylum and he was there, finishing his psychiatric residency. He had told me then that there was nothing mentally wrong with me, in his opinion, and he was confident that the psychiatrist in charge of my ward would soon have me released.

When Dr. Fenster took over my case more than a year later, he was shocked and dismayed to see that I was still there. Within the first five minutes of his first day on the job, the good doctor made me a promise: “I am going to get you out of here as soon as possible. You never should have been put here in the first place!”

But his promise turned out to be much easier said than done. Eight months later, Dr. Fenster called me into his office one last time before sending me out into the world. “I am very sorry that it has taken me so long to get you out of here,” he said. “The amount of legal red tape involved to release a patient from a state hospital is unbelievable, especially when it comes to a minor child. Because you are only sixteen, you are legally a ward of the state and you cannot be released on your own recognizance until you are twenty-one, five years from now! Until then, you can only be released into the care of a responsible adult. I have spoken with every adult in your family several times, at length – with your grandparents on both sides, and your mother and father. I hate to tell you this, but every last one of them is far sicker than you ever were! Frankly, it’s no surprise to me that you had emotional problems. Coming from a hateful, self-centered crew like that, I don’t understand how you can be as sane as you are! Even your maternal grandparents are unbelievably hard-hearted and selfish! At first, I thought they would be the best hope for you to have a decent chance at life. With your grandfather’s current position as the associate warden of Leavenworth Federal Prison, they could so easily provide you with a stable home and every advantage.”

He shook his head sadly. “I hate to tell you this, Linda, but no one in your family wants you. Every single one of them came right out and told me they don’t want a ‘mental patient’ living in their home. It didn’t make any difference when I told them that you are not mentally ill and you never should have been put here in the first place. In fact, when I mentioned that, your mother said that just by virtue of the fact that you have been kept here in this place for so long, you have probably been changed by the experience and now you may be dangerous! So… when I kept hitting a brick wall with everyone in your family, I gave up and tried to find a foster home willing to take you in. But they have to be informed about your time in this institution, and I could not find any foster parents willing to take the chance. I even tried to talk my wife into the two of us fostering you, but… it was a no-go.”

Dr. Fenster stared down at his hands, which were lying palms-up on his desk in an attitude of defeat. “Your mother is coming to take you out of here today,” he said. “although she is the last person I want to send you home with. Why she chose to have so many kids when she doesn’t have a maternal bone in her body is beyond my understanding. But she is coming to get you because – frankly – I found out something about her and I have used it to blackmail her. But even then, she would not agree to take you unless I wrote your discharge paper in such a way that it says you are being sent home on an ‘indefinite leave.’ I’m sorry this isn’t a full discharge. What it means is that your mother can bring you back here at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. So my advice to you is to get as far away from everyone in your family as soon as you can – and don’t ever go back!”

A nurse handed me a paper bag full of my threadbare clothes, then escorted me from the doctor’s office down to the lobby. My mother and her mother were waiting there, both with very grim faces. After a tense, silent two-hour car ride to my mother’s house, I discovered that I no longer had a bedroom or a bed – I was told to sleep on the living room sofa. In fact, everything that I had ever owned, my beloved books, the papers I had written, my clothes, my costume jewelry, and the childhood toys I had cherished and saved, were all gone. Taken to the dump, I was told, right after I was put in the mental institution.

My “WELCOME HOME” was nonexistent. Not one person said “I’m glad you’re back, I’ve missed you.” My much younger sisters and brothers had always looked up to me, loved me, and depended on me, especially during our mother’s deep depression after the violent end of our parents’ marriage. Along with my new stepfather, my four little siblings had begged our mother not to send me to the institution two years earlier. Even my grandparents may have questioned why she would send her adolescent daughter to the most notorious insane asylum in the region, when my behavior, to all outward appearances, was completely normal. So then my mother had told horrible projecting lies about me, to justify what she had done. Lies which the majority of my family apparently believe to this day.

Three days after my return “home,” while I was being ultra careful not to be a bother to anyone in any way, my mother waited until my stepfather was at work and my school age siblings were all in school, and then she told me that I needed to leave – to run away – because she could not afford to feed a big grown girl like me.

“I can barely afford to feed the five little ones,” she said. “Your father doesn’t pay nearly enough child support, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect your stepfather to feed you. And after where you have been, I am afraid you might be a bad influence on the younger children. I had you when I was only eighteen, too young to know what I was doing. So I made all my mistakes on you. Unfortunately, it’s too late for you. But I think that throwing one child away, in order to save the other five, is the right thing to do, don’t you? And don’t worry, I promise I won’t call the police and report you as a runaway!” She said this, about not calling the police, with a big smile on her face, as though she had just handed me the keys to a brand new car.

“You know, I married your father when I was sixteen. Sixteen is old enough to be on your own. And, like I’ve been telling you ever since you reached puberty – no house is big enough for two women!”

This happened in the middle of a cold December and there were several inches of snow on the ground. The tiny town where my mother and stepfather had moved to while I was in the institution was miles away from a city, where there might be some kind of shelter or help. Without a penny to my name, with my few clothes bunched up in a pillowcase, because the paper bag I had brought my clothes home from the hospital in, had torn – and I remember feeling guilty for taking one of my mother’s pillow cases, that’s what a “terrible” daughter I was! – I walked out the door into the frozen December morning. I had not eaten any breakfast that day, because no one had offered me anything and I was trying so hard not to be a bother….

Whew. Right now, as I am writing about that terrible time in my life, I feel so ANGRY!

My husband today, a combat veteran from the war in Vietnam, has talked about the pain of coming back from the hell of war and getting rejection, instead of a Welcome Home. I’ve told him I understand how that feels. A few years ago, there was a big push to finally welcome our Vietnam War Veterans home. I’m so glad they got that. They deserve it. But… deep down inside, I feel like I am still waiting for my Welcome Home.

I did not follow Dr. Fenster’s advice to have nothing to do with anyone in my family of origin, until I was in my fifties. Why? Because I loved my family. I wanted to have a family! Although I stopped living in the same state forty years ago, I kept reaching out to them, time and time again, over the years – by driving very long distances to visit them, by phone calls, by letters, and finally, when social media became available, I reached out to them through Facebook.

With the exception of my aunt (my mother’s younger sister) and my oldest niece, every time that I have ever reached out in any way to anyone in my family of origin, I have been hurt and abused all over again. The bullying I took on Facebook was so bad, I ended my account. Even today, every time I see that ubiquitous blue logo, I shudder inside.

WHY does my family of origin despise me so much? Because they apparently believe my mother’s lies about why she “had no choice” but to commit me to an insane asylum almost half a century ago. And anything that I have to say on the subject is suspect because, you know, I must have been really crazy in order to be locked up.

They BREAK you, and then they HATE you for being broken.

Every trauma story is unique. Some people have told me that my trauma story is so extreme, it makes them feel ashamed of having any kind of emotional problems when their trauma is “less” by comparison. But I absolutely do not want anyone who reads this to feel that way! Please!! Pain is pain, trauma is trauma, and – in my experience – THE WORST PAIN OF ALL IS THE PAIN OF BEING REJECTED BY THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO LOVE YOU. Not the terrifying episodes of violence, not the rapes, not even being labeled “crazy” and locked up for almost two years in a lunatic asylum, hurts as bad as this!!

If you, like me, have ever been scapegoated, lied about, shunned, and rejected for being so “bad” as to have any kind of emotional or mental problems, then I believe your wounds go just as deep as mine.

Thank you for reading this. Please feel free to share your own story in the comments. And thank you, Lucky Otter, for giving people like me the opportunity to share our mental health struggles with your readers. God bless.

In truth and love, Linda Lee

PS: Today is Easter, the day we Christians celebrate our risen Lord. I believe HE is the reason why I finally got free of the insane asylum, during an era when 97% of the people committed there were never released. (This is what one of the psychiatrists told me right after I got there, when I asked him how soon I could go home.) I was one of the lucky few who got a second chance at life. I think the reason may be because I had given my heart to Christ when I was a little girl. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Amen!

Guest Post #7: How hypersexuality plays a role in Bipolar disorder

infidelity

I’m honored to introduce my 7th guest blogger, Jess Melancholia from The Bipolar Compass, a blog about her experiences living with the manic-depressive form of Bipolar Disorder. In her post, she will be discussing how hypersexuality can be a symptom of the manic (or in Jess’s case, hypomanic) phase of this disorder. I applaud Jess for her courage in openly sharing this delicate but surprisingly common symptom of the manic phase of Bipolar disorder.

From her About Page:

Jess Melancholia is a bpHope Magazine blogger who resides in San Diego, California with her husband and cat. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 in May 2014 after suffering a 6 month bipolar depression triggered by extreme family medical stresses. Through medication and a strong support system, she works tirelessly to live a “normal” life and keep her hypomanic and depressive episodes under control. Her hobbies include playing horror video games and wine tasting. Her daytime profession is a molecular biologist at a biotechnology company.

HOW HYPERSEXUALITY PLAYS A ROLE IN BIPOLAR DISORDER
By Jess Melancholia, The Bipolar Compass

I know what you’re thinking; if I’m writing about bipolar 2 disorder, then why am I talking specifically about sex? No one in their right mind would talk about sex to promote their mental illness blog. Why risk chasing away followers? Why not make it easy on myself and just talk about the other bipolar symptoms of mania such as anxiety, overspending, and feelings of grandiosity? Because that’s what everyone else talks about. And while those are important to me, the one that impacts my life the most is what I want to focus on. And if that makes you uncomfortable then stop reading. But I think that we are all adults here and that things like this need to be addressed. There are countless people out there that want me to talk about this. That need me to be their voice. And I want to be there for them, because they deserve to have their story told.

What in the world is hypersexuality?
That would definitely be my first question if I was reading this post. Well I’m glad you asked. I’m actually very excited to talk about such a delicate subject with you. Please be aware that this is not a joke and that I’m being completely serious about this. If you need more information, please refer to the links in the article and my personal blog for more details. If you are experiencing bipolar hypersexuality, then please contact your doctor immediately to get some help. I’ll start off by giving a little bit of background on this topic.

Hypersexuality is essentially, from my personal experience, an overwhelming desire and obsessive preoccupation with sex and sexual content caused by the presence of a manic episode. In the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition), it’s listed as a primary symptom of bipolar under the category of “sexual indiscretions.” bpHope.com is a fantastic resource when it comes to articles and expert advice on what the symptoms look like as well as professional opinions from leading experts in bipolar disorder. The technical content I relate to in this post is accredited to them.

According to some studies, hypersexuality can occur between the range of 25 to 80 percent of all patients with mania! Recent studies suggest around 57 percent! For something that prevalent, it’s amazing that such a subject is rarely if ever talked about.

There are varying opinions as to the cause of the symptom. One such opinion pioneered by Louis J. Cozolino, PhD, a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University in southern California, and leading bipolar disorder guru, says that it’s akin to sexual addiction. He goes on to say that people who are manic with this symptom display “vulnerability to a ‘disinhibition’ of social restraints during manic periods.” In fact, there are studies to suggest that there is more blood flow to the left part of the amygdala (almond-shaped part of the brain that deals with fear and panic) in bipolar patients than in other people. Furthermore, feelings of pleasure and arousal are related to a sort of calming effect. Sort of like taking painkillers.

For me, it IS essentially a painkiller. Whenever I’m hypersexual, I stress the need for sexual satisfaction as a top priority. With being happily married to a wonderful husband, this kind of symptom tends to get me in serious trouble. Last year, I had a terribly bad manic episode that lasted several months. During that time period, I lost complete control of myself and acted out sexually towards some stupid college kid I met chatting online. He seduced me into cybersex and phone sex with him along with eventually meeting up a few times. As many times as I told myself and him no, that I can’t and won’t do this, he always managed to get inside my head and change my mind. Under normal circumstance, none of his tricks would’ve worked on me. However, when I was manic, all I did was focus nonstop on sexual satisfaction. The worst part was nothing was ever enough. I needed more and more. Nothing would satiate me. It took over my entire brain and wouldn’t let go until the mania finally died. Despite the fact that I fought fervently against my overwhelming urges, I still was constantly unable to stop myself from falling into temptation.

Now that the clouds have parted and the dust has settled, I can think clearly and work around the triggers that caused me to lose control. My husband and I educated ourselves thoroughly on hypersexuality and he has now forgiven me for my actions. Whereas I was and am still responsible for all actions I take, I understand now that my behavior was a symptom of an illness. A common symptom of bipolar mania. Armed with this information, him, my best friends, and my healthcare professionals have all agreed on a strategic prevention plan to help minimize my triggers and prevent any future mistakes.

Although I do feel guilty everyday for what I did, I no longer feel ashamed of myself. What happened was a terrible mistake but I’ve learned considerable information from it. With knowledge comes power and I’m trying every single day to bring that power back into my own hands. Hopefully I’ll regain it fully one day.

Don’t be ashamed of your actions. Learn from them and grow.

Please visit The Bipolar Compass:
http://bipolarcompass.com/

Guest Post #6: Getting By One Day at a Time (Survivor Road)

Survivor Road is a blog written by a man who is a survival of childhood sexual abuse. I am not sure if he wants me to use his first name so I’ll err on the side of caution and not use it.

From his Welcome Page:

Researchers have found that 1 in 6 men have experienced abusive sexual experiences before age 18. And this is probably a low estimate, since it doesn’t include non-contact experiences, which can also have lasting negative effects.

If you’ve had such an experience, or think you might have, you are not alone.

If you wonder whether such an experience may be connected to some difficulties or challenges in your life now, you are not alone.

If you are a male–or female–survivor of sexual (or any other kind of) abuse, please stop by Survivor Road and say hello. You may find exactly what you’ve been looking for there and people who have been through similar trauma.

This brave man was kind enough to respond to my invitation for guest bloggers, but his post isn’t about abuse or mental illness per se. Instead, he wrote this inspirational post about how to survive as an abuse victim, the 12-step way: one day at a time. This sage advice can apply to almost any problem or situation which is tripping us up in life, not just surviving abuse.

GETTING BY ONE DAY AT A TIME
By Survivor Road

one-day-at-a-time

I’ve never liked public speaking.  When Lauren asked me to write a guest post for this blog I thought I might feel different.  I was wrong. This is so much akin to walking into a room filled with people that are all used to hearing from one person and now here am I, this new guy, a stranger, and what can he possibly say that is going to be of any importance? And I will agree what is important to me may not matter to you. (That doesn’t help the self-doubt either)…

If I could bottle up everything I’d like to say into one line, it would probably be:

You can survive each day if you live each day as just one day. No reliving the past or hiding in fear of the future. Today is more than enough for today.

I know, rather trite. But being trite doesn’t keep it from being true. I’ve found it works for myself, but so many I have talked to have expressed the same idea. You can only live in this moment, so don’t expend all your energy on any other time but the present. Don’t judge your past actions based on your present understanding. Accept your actions were acceptable for the time and place they happened.

This used to be much easier for me. For over thirty years I didn’t remember much before turning fifteen. Some good some not-so-great, but mostly my life as a kid was more mystery than memory. In my “gut” I knew there was more – there was something, but I couldn’t tell you what. I went through dozens of therapists by the age of forty, all with different ideas and philosophies. Religious, secular, it didn’t matter. I just wanted an answer to what happened so I could know who I was. The major hitch in all this – I believed who I was depended on what had happened to me.

notabadperson

Then, when the memories started returning, I wove a new ‘understanding’ – I believed I was what had happened to me. I was the abuse. Then I was the cause of the abuse. It was all my fault. And if I was so flawed I could cause those kinds of things to happen to me at nine, or five, or two… just imagine how screwed up I could make life yet to happen. So in one bucket I had my life, guilt over my past, and fear of my future all stewing together. And that sucker got real heavy in a hurry.

I’d love to say I have it all sorted out now. That I’m doing so great that I agreed to be a guest blogger. But that’s not the case. There are times I still wonder if my intense draw to other men is wrapped up in my abuse. And there are the nights I cry myself to sleep or sit up screaming in the middle of the night, reliving the pain, or worse – humiliation, of something from my past. I still deal with triggers which can be as innocuous as a word, sound, or smell.

I used to think that, if other people can manage, I can. I’ve heard/read stories so much worse than what I suffered of people who are survivors and living each day strong. But, for me anyhoo, trying to live my life because someone else manages to — that doesn’t work. I have to be because I want to be.

And, bottom line, there it is. I want to live. I want to accept all of me. That does not mean accepting what happened to me, but it does mean accepting that it did happen. Maybe a fine line, but a major difference in viewpoint. What happened was horrible. But it did happen. And that’s the other point – it did happen; but it is not happening anymore. And even when my dreams are interrupted by the terrible truth of the past, it is still of the past. Does it impact today? Sure. But does it rule today? No.

At least it doesn’t rule this day. Tomorrow is another day, but I will live that day when it gets here. My hands are still way too busy juggling to add anything future.

Life is not always sweet and wonderful. But it is life. Regardless of what I believe lies on the other side of death, there are things here and now that I am not willing to let go of. Even with the pain. Even with the memories. Even with the bouts of unfathomable depression.

You have the choice over how you live. I know it doesn’t always feel that way. And sometimes we can’t see anything but the destruction of our souls. But even when all is dark and we’re trapped within the cellar of depression, our actions are still our choice. Make the choice you are best able to make and there is no reason to regret it later.

Whether or not you can be at peace with the world around you, my hope for you is peace with the world within you.

Guest Post #5: Why Does Mental Illness Stigma Exist?

in_the_asylum
In The Asylum, Unknown artist.

Matthew Malin, owner and creator of the blog  Confessions, has written a wonderful guest post describing the history of mental illness stigma, going all the way back to Roman times.    Not only is the subject matter fascinating, but the unique historical perspective shows how the stigma is rooted in two things that seem almost diametrically opposed: mental illness as a medical problem centered in the body; and ancient superstitions, such as demonic possession.   Even today, there are those who regard mental illness as either a primarily medical problem (leading to doctors over-relying on drug therapy) or a spiritual problem. While there may be both medical and spiritual elements involved in mental illness,  both views have led to stigmatization.

If you have a chance, please visit the Confessions blog.   Matthew’s articles are all about living with depression and anxiety, all written from an intimate, Christian perspective:

In the Spring of 2015 an incredible passion for those suffering from Mental Illness was born within the heart of Matty Malin. Through his own struggles with Depression and anxiety, a fire was ignited within his heart. That desire was to create a place of honesty, transparency, and love. We, the broken, have grown far too weary of the masquerade playing out before our eyes in society. We’re tired of hiding behind “I’m fine”. Here you will find unabashed clarity into the soul of man. You will also discover the love of God despite the ugly, sometimes violent, heart of man.

We fully believe that man is sinful and in need of a Savior. Jesus, the perfect son of God, stepped into our world, lived a sinless life, and was murdered voluntarily on the cross for our sins. He took on the wrath of God for us so that we might have access to a relationship with God that will one day result in spending eternity with him. We obtain salvation through faith in His work and by the grace of His loving hand.

We firmly believe that no man can go too far for the love and hope of Christ. Mental Illness can provide some of the darkest days of life. It is here that we need hope and it is here that we can find it in Christ.

WHY DOES MENTAL ILLNESS STIGMA EXIST?
By Matthew Malin

As someone who has dealt with the debilitating effects of Depression and anxiety for a period of 4, almost 5 years, I believe that I’ve stumbled across something much more paralyzing: Mental Health Stigma. The more aware I become of my own struggles and the more honest I am with myself and others, the more I find a growing discomfort with the topic of Mental Health. Why is this? What is it about Mental Health that sends general fear and inquietude through someone who is tasked with aiding the mentally ill?

A timeline of mental illness stigma.

cutting_the_stone
Cutting the Stone by Heironymous Bosch, ca. 1494

I believe that history is ultimately to blame in this arena as well as a shallow thought process towards the issue. The Greek Era (500-100 BC) brought forth our first record of Mental Health treatment. Hippocrates was of the mind that a build up of bodily fluids was to blame. In his words, he said, “It is some kind of black bile that is making you depressed.” Their treatments revolved around the physical removal of whatever fluid was ailing the individual.

The Roman people (100BC-600 AD) did nothing to treat the issue at its core either. Instead, they were of the mind that depression/mental health issues were caused by organic malfunctions. Diet and exercise were prescribed to deal with the issue. Yet another example of a culture misunderstanding the true nature of Mental Health.

During the Middle Ages (600-1100 AD), a holy war was being waged on Satan and any form of mental issue was prescribed to be due to demonic activity. The medication for such issues became obvious: Exorcism or any other kind of holy activity. It is believed that the stigma of such illnesses became obviously prevalent and prejudiced during this time.

This recap ultimately brings us to our day and age. If you take a good hard look at the process of treating/dealing with Mental Illness today, you will see a common thread amongst diagnosis and treatment. The 1950’s brought about the thought that medical treatment was the only way to deal with the issue. This solution can be easily traced back to the Greek Era and their thought processes. Others will still claim that diet and exercise will best help those suffering from mental illnesses. There are those as well who righteously claim that mental illness is of the devil and must be rid of by God.

The meaning of mental illness.

All of these prescriptions are lazy, surface level suggestions that completely forsake the underlying notion of what it means to be mentally ill.

It is within the opinion of the author that, when it is appropriate, medicinal, organic, and religious means be used to treat mental illnesses. It is not, however, appropriate to cast off those with mental illnesses by simply telling one to deal with their issues by such means.

What is meant is this: Non-suffering individuals should not settle for surface level treatments when the real issue must be dealt with by more personal means. There is more to those who are mentally ill than meets the eye.

Medicine, religion, and organic based treatments are incredibly valuable but there is one treatment that is oft ignored: the support of a caring soul.

Our culture is neck deep in instant gratification. Social media, advancements in technology, and a general lack of education have only worsened the stigma that already existed towards those with mental illness. It is within the opinion of the author that our society has lost all care and respect for the people around them. Why? We’re far too caught up in ourselves.

What needs to be done.

It is a sad, unfortunate truth that this stigma will truly never go away. Some people will never care but all hope has not been lost. While arrogance can hardly be cured, ignorance can be educated. This kind of teaching cannot take place within a classroom. This is the kind of schooling that happens through our parenting, our social lives, and our social media ones. What I’m advocating for is change, but not from the outside world.

Change has to come from within if we ever want to make a difference. This requires those with any kind of mental illness to step up and speak out. It requires a willingness to open up about the issues, the difficulties, and the failures that come along with mental health. This change begins with us.

I recognize what I’m asking. I’ve not been very shy about my struggles but I recognize that it may come a little harder for others. Whether social stigma has silenced your voice or your own perceived stigma has, it can be an incredibly difficult thing to open up about. Let me reassure you of this: Your mental illness does not define who you are. Yes, it limits you. Yes, it makes life a little more difficult. I guarantee you though that it does not take away your worth as a human being.

You have been fearfully and wonderfully made by the God of the Universe and He loves you. You were made in His image! No person can ever take that away from you. No amount of vicious vocabulary or audacious action can strip you of your worth as a human being. Don’t allow yourself to tell you that you have no worth and therefore cannot speak out. Don’t allow other people to tell you that either. You have inherent worth, you are loved, and you are capable of standing against this.

Decide today that you will no longer stay quiet in this battle. You have a voice, let it be heard.

Be the change you wish to see in this world.

God bless you,

Matthew Malin
Author and Founder of Confessions:

https://confessions92.wordpress.com/

Guest post #4: You Are Empowered (Just Plain Ol’ Vic)

I’m happy to introduce my 4th guest blogger, Just Plain Ol’ Vic.  Vic’s blog is one of my favorites.  I’ve been following it almost from the very beginning of my blogging journey and have found it always inspiring and thoughtful.    Vic has helped me through many of my own rough moments and is a regular commenter on this blog too. Be sure to stop by his blog!

This is from his About page:

Just Plain Ol’ Vic

plainolvic

Bio: Thanks for taking a look at my blog. I am Just Plain Ol’ Vic, however Vic will do just fine. I originally started this blog as a form of writing therapy. I am happily married, with kids but my wife suffers from bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, has an eating disorder and is a recovering alcoholic. Needless to say it is quite a bit for one individual to handle, thus my blog. I started this blog to connect with others that suffer from mental health issues and/or have loved ones that have mental health challenges. This is a way for me to connect, discuss and educate myself about my wife’s condition and perhaps in turn, allow me to be a better spouse. Perhaps too, in hearing my story, others will know that they are not alone and there is help, empathy and resources out there. My blog has since developed beyond just talking about mental health (although that is still a priority). I pretty much discuss what is on my mind or happening in my life. I am not afraid to spout verbal diarrhea, give unsubstantiated opinions and generally exercise my 1st Amendment rights. Along the way I hope to provoke some thoughts, get you interactive with my blog…perhaps even make you crack a smile and belly-laugh every now and then. So if by now you are still interested and willingly join me on my journey, thanks for coming along and don’t forget to buckle up! http://justplainolvic.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/tempting-fate-taking-a-leap-of-faith/

Here is his guest post, not really about himself, but about all the wonderful things he’s learned from living with his wife, who suffers from Bipolar disorder.   Through their relationship, joys and struggles, Vic says he has developed a level of empathy and understanding for the mentally ill he might not have otherwise had.  I thought his story was very touching and inspirational and I even got a little misty-eyed reading it.

YOU ARE EMPOWERED

By Plain Ol’ Vic (http://justplainolvic.com/ )

bandaid_heart

Introduction:

Hello there, my name is Vic and first of all I would like to thank Lauren for giving me this wonderful opportunity as a guest blogger.  I don’t think my story makes me any more special than the next person, thus my moniker of “just plain ‘ol” seems very appropriate.  I am just a guy, husband and father that is trying to make sense of his world and do right by my family. There are days that this is harder than it sounds; as my wife has bi-polar disorder, has attempted suicide, has had multiple hospitalizations, is a recovering alcoholic and recovering from an eating disorder.  Guess what?  She is and will always be a wonderful woman and I am lucky to be married to her.

 Instead of telling my story and the trials and tribulations we have faced as a couple and family, instead I would like to talk about some of the positive things I have learned as I have become more educated and empathetic to the challenges my wife faces on a daily basis. As tough as the challenges have been, as daunting and insurmountable as the obstacles seem to be – we are still here, engaged in the moment and are as strong (perhaps stronger) than we ever were.

***

It is so easy, when someone suffers from a mental illness, to have it consume their lives and allow it to define who they are, how their perceive themselves and become the cornerstone of their existence.  I am here to tell you that does not have to be the case!  You ARE empowered to be who you CHOOSE to be, should EXPECT people to treat you the way you DESERVE to be treated and you should NEVER SETTLE for anything less.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

I know it is hard to look in the mirror and not “see” your mental illness.  I challenge you to look beyond the physical and see your spirit within.  See the inner beauty, the inner resilience and the inner fighter that you have become.  “Normal” and “perfect” do not exist, they are made up abstractions.  Who you are, your uniqueness is what makes you beautiful.  If you can embrace that inner beauty, it is the first crucial step to learning to love yourself.

YOU ARE WORTHY OF LOVE AND AFFECTION

Having a mental illness does not make you “less deserving” than the next person. Despite the challenges you may face every day, you are deserving of a partner that will love you for who you are – not what they want you to be.  While a relationship can and will be challenging at times, you can find someone that will accept and love you the way you are.  The key to this is communication:  being open and honest from the first moment.  Making sure you have a partner that you can talk to, confide in and lean on is critical.  No relationship is ever perfect but it can work for you as long as you are willing to work for it.

YOU ARE POWERFUL, STRONG & CAPABLE

Having a mental illness does not make you less of a person, less capable than someone that is “healthy.”  Indeed you may actually be much stronger than a “healthy” individual because you have to endure so much more.  Never doubt your ability to lead a full and productive life.  You are capable of achieving whatever you set your mind to.  Now I am not going to deny that it may be tough, that there may be setbacks – however you are powerful, strong and capable – you can take back your life.  Your life and your contribution is just as important and relevant as anyone else, so shout your message from the rooftops and embrace all that makes you unique.

I would like to show you this video where I drew inspiration from for this post.  Now I have made it clear that while I am not religious I am a spiritual individual, however despite that I cannot deny the power of this message.  Please also understand that I think is message (and my message) is geared for both men and women.  Take the time to listen to some of the words that are said and understand that this IS you or CAN be you If you so choose.  There are so many things misunderstood when it comes to mental illness, so many stigmas out there.  However if you empower yourself, share and communicate your story then you too can help other see what makes you so wonderful, so unique and so human.

I wish everyone the best.  Be well.  Take care of yourself and each other.

Just Plain ‘Ol Vic.

 

Guest post #3: Facing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

I’m happy to introduce my third guest blogger, Alisha, who has a blog about living with Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) and chronic pain. She was kind enough to write this powerfully written guest post for this blog. I loved reading it because it ends with a message of hope, no matter how bad things might seem. Please visit Alisha’s blog, The Invisible F.  She has another blog featuring her fantasy writing, including her novel, The Return of the Key.

From her About page:

alisha

Hi, my name is Alisha. I’m a proud alumnus of the University of Westminster where I did my MA in International Journalism. I love parrots, singing, drawing, sharing stories, fantasy movies, games and books, and people who like fantasy movies, games and books.

I live with a number of chronic health conditions including fibromyalgia, clinical depression, anxiety, & Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and for much of my life have suffered from debilitating symptoms. I want to raise awareness to help people understand but moreso to share and engage with all those whose lives are touched by fibromyalgia and mental health problems in one way or another, so they know they’re not alone.

Facing Complex-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder
By Alisha, The Invisible F.

pain

I was sitting in a small room at hospital when the psychiatrist’s voice called me away from the brilliant white walls that were pulling me in.

“You’ve had a very difficult life Alisha” she said, looking at my notes. After asking me to recount some of my ordeals, she said “From your symptoms, I would say you have Complex-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (C-PTSD).”

I had to ask her how C-PTSD differed from PTSD, which many of us associate with soldiers who have served in warzones or conflicts. She explained that C-PTSD tends to occur in people who have suffered repeated traumas for a prolonged period, with no chance of recovering from each incidence.

The more she told me about it, the more I felt like she was telling me about myself.

I had a long history of abuse starting in childhood, when I honestly believed I wouldn’t live to see the age of 18. I survived, thankfully, but I continued to endure traumas past my teenage years and into my twenties. I can’t say which incident was worse, because I felt the enormity of each one added to the already heavy weights that I carried. At 16 I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, suffering terribly painful anxiety attacks that made my chest hurt so much I thought I would die.

I tried to ignore the feelings my past stirred up, because I lived in a society that stigmatises mental health conditions. I thought I was fine. It was only years after my stepfather and friend were brutally murdered, that I started getting glimpses of the brokenness I had masterfully hidden from the world and myself. I packed my bags and left everything and everyone I loved behind, moving to the other side of the world. Surely pain wouldn’t follow me there. But we can’t unknow things, and there was a lot of pain etched on my heart and mind. These parts of me would not let me forget.

C-PTSD manifesting

The C-PTSD diagnosis made sense but I was still surprised. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting another label. I already lived with fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety and several months before had been slapped with borderline personality disorder, which I was still struggling to come to terms with. I could say very clearly what some of my symptoms were, but I couldn’t always say which diagnosis was responsible for what I suffered on any given day.

As time passed and I connected the dots, I understood more about how deeply C-PTSD had been affecting my everyday life, unknown to me.

Days before I met the psychiatrist at hospital, I was sitting in Accident & Emergency having a meltdown, unable to cope with the avalanche of emotions tumbling through me. I wanted to give up again and almost did. I didn’t understand why the smallest upsets felt like utter catastrophes, or why I seemed to attract bullies or why getting close to people terrified me so. The doctor was most empathetic about it.

“Well you’ve had a lot of bad experiences with people so that is going to shape your outlook. It doesn’t mean your outlook is wrong. It only means your experiences have shaped your perspective” she said.

If only other people were that understanding. Not too long before I had encountered very unsympathetic people in a shared flat where I resided. Just when I thought I was recovering from the dark feelings that led to two close calls on my life, I discovered that approaching the close of my twenties, I was having night terrors. I had never even known there was such a thing until it was googled by a flatmate who constantly complained about my screaming at night. I couldn’t believe that I was screaming while asleep with no recollection of it the next morning. I didn’t believe it until my own screams woke me in the dead of the night. Frightened and panicked, I searched around my room until reason returned, and I questioned what it was that I was looking for, and so terrified of.

Nightmares

I have a long history of nightmares, which started in childhood. The kind that leave you so terrified you’d do anything to keep yourself from drifting off, anxious of what’s waiting for you in the realm of dreams. Consequently, I developed insomnia from a young age. Generally, my anxiety tends to get worse at night. It’s not uncommon to find me wide awake in the wee hours of the morning when most people are getting their best sleep. I’ve always slept better in the day, when the sun is out and it somehow feels safer. When I (reluctantly) have to go to sleep at night, I clear my room to make sure there’s no clutter that might form awkward shadows, that may frighten me when I wake in between my cat naps.

My flatmates couldn’t understand the nature of night terrors, and I was accused in person, by email and text like a perpetrator. I felt bad about it, truly. The accusations though, only distressed me more, and increased the frequency and severity of the night terrors.

Recently, I started sleeping walking, and I often wake up running towards my bedroom door terrified, with no recollection of my dreams.

Living with C-PTSD has been like sitting in a prison inert, long after the doors have been opened. I have wanted so badly to walk through, tending to avoid things and places that remind me of past traumas. I think of all the positive things I’ve managed to achieve through my beleaguered time here. I spend my waking hours keeping extremely busy so I rarely have time for stray thoughts, and it works; but everytime I go to rest, my subconscience reminds me of the many demons I’ve buried and hidden away.

In my dreams I am always running, looking for an ally, and an escape that is rarely found. I often run in different directions, only to end up right back in the place where my captors are waiting by the prison doors. When I am not shut away, I am violently murdered, again and again, like a broken cassette sticking in the same sickening place.

The things I said I’d never do

I suppose I never realised how my past traumas were affecting me until my late twenties. People would say, ‘it’s the past, just leave it behind and move on.’ Or worse ‘everyone has problems.’ If only it were that simple. I’d give these people a chance to walk in my shoes if I could, and silence any doubts. I want to forget, and I do everything possible to move forward, but the mind is such a powerful thing. All my efforts have been no match for my mind which digs up torments when I am asleep.

Owing to C-PTSD, I’ve done a lot of those things I said I would never do. You know when we watch others suffer and silently judge, telling ourselves, ‘that will never be me’? At 17 I remember watching my 30-something year old friend elaborately explain how she avoided the doctor’s questions when he asked how she accidentally cut her arm again, needing stitches. When I asked her directly, she brushed it off, and I sat there thinking I will never understand this.

I didn’t think of my friend when I first hurt myself. All I remember thinking was how good the external pain felt, taking the focus away from my internal turmoil. Months later I diverted from my healthy diet and found myself facing bulimia. The first time I felt confused, wondering why I kept eating though I was satisfied. But I craved the food badly, I ate and I ate, until I felt so physically upset I had to empty my stomach. I cried & cried every time because I wanted to badly to stop but I had no control, and that was the part that got me. I didn’t even have control over me.

It’s sad that after everything I’ve suffered I’ve also had to deal with bullies who have targeted me because they know they could. I try to build myself up, to be stronger and braver in the face of this. I do psychotherapy and I’m not sure it helps. Maybe? Doctors say I will likely need therapy for the rest of my life. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Every day is a challenge. But I wake up and set out to do my very best. I try to practise mindfulness and celebrate my successes. Whether they are publishing a new book, managing to stay out of hospital or simply getting out of bed when I feel like shit, I celebrate them all equally, because I know what it is like to be crippled by depression and C-PTSD. I know very well what it’s like to lie in bed unable to will myself up; to want to shower or make a cup of tea and not be able to do so. I know what it’s like to feel that it’s safer to stay alone than get close to people…to stay indoors for days, unable to set a foot outside the front door. So every day I achieve something, no matter how small, I pat myself and say ‘well done, you’ve done it today so when you think you can’t do it tomorrow, just remember you did it today.’

The one dream

I’ve told you what many of my nightmares consist of. But it would be remiss of me not to mention the one dream that overshadows every nightmare that comes.

In this dream, I carry a heavy babe in my arms as I climb a tall, rickety winding staircase leading to a wall. With every step I take, the child becomes heavier. When I’m almost to the top, the staircase crumbles like dust in the wind. This part of the dream ends abruptly, like a director’s cut in a poorly edited movie, and when I open my eyes I am on the sea front, surrounded by people who cannot see me. The rippling turquoise waters beckon me and I do not resist. I walk into them and as I float farther in, the waters envelope me, washing away every heavy burden my soul bears. I embrace the waters filling me up as I begin knowing a kind of peace. It almost feels…like home, where my soul will find rest, so I let it consume me. But as my consciousness ebbs, a hand reaches through the veil of the waters, and pulls me out. And again, the scene ends abruptly. I awake as a child, amongst the laughter and play of my fair cousins.

My aunt, an interpreter of dreams says the heavy child I carry represents the burdens I bear; the seaside scene is the deception of suicide and my subconscience believing that it is there I will find rest from the pain that plagues me. She says the hand pulling me out of the waters, is the truth that I am not lost, that redemption can, and will be found…that even when I am drowning, no matter how close I come to death’s doors a power higher than any torment and death will lift me up.

I press on, finding strength in my faith and true friends who embrace me, imperfections and all. I am encouraged by sharing with others in the same boat, by bringing a good word to those who need it. Maybe doctors are right…maybe I will need therapy for the rest of my life. Maybe. All I know is I’ve managed to make it this far, when I didn’t think I could. You could have told me a thousand times that I’d make it, but I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t walk this road myself.

A million hugs & prayers for your courage & peace of mind.

Love Alisha