Authenticity: Its meaning & benefit

Authenticity may hurt you, but major parts of it are accountability and self-knowledge, both of which are vital to personal, individual healing. And contributing to healing beyond your own universe, too.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Paraphrased from Aristotle, this concept has been key, above all others, to my personal development. For me, it is not just about identifying what you do and why you do it, but also what you can do, as an individual, to strengthen positive behaviors and reduce negative ones. Self-knowledge is not armor; in fact, it is far from it. It is not a shield or a helmet. It is calcium to edify our bones. Its purpose is to grow and strengthen in that growth; to identify and take accountability; to have compassion and respect for ourselves and not enable our vices in pursuit of doing so. True self-knowledge is the first tool in countering stunting and regression. I read an article once claiming that “know thyself” is a dangerous maxim because it indicates some kind of permanence, or “being stuck.” The article implied that this could happen because if a person has identified their values and circumstances change that contend with those values, that person will refuse to adapt because it “feels unlike” their interpretation of themselves. That is not self-knowledge. Our values, circumstances, feelings, and ideas are impermanent. As human beings, we are the most adaptable animal in the world. We are nearly limitless and have evolved for ultimate survival, even in our clawless, fangless bodies. It then makes sense that the human mind, the most significant key to our advancement, is also the most significant to our downfall.

Continue reading “Authenticity: Its meaning & benefit”

“Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

I haven’t been hiding that the disease I am trying to manage right now (endometriosis) is both horrific and all-consuming and that I feel that is in fact quite literally killing me. I have had near-death experiences before and in April I did die for a time, or at least was closest to death than I ever was, being in a coma and consciously having to make the choice to stay alive. I didn’t choose to live because I felt I had to tie up loose ends. I chose to live because amindst all of the darkness, I was able to find hope that I could get effective treatment and live a life I wanted to live. That treatment is still far away even with the help I’ve been receiving and am very grateful for, and I may not get it before my insides are scarred beyond functioning or I develop serious heart problems[1] or cancer.[2] (That being said, I know I am being extremely annoying about this, but I am literally pleading for my life and trying to get the information out there to save others’ as well.) There are a lot of things I want to do and can’t, but I’m focused right now (and trying to stay focused) on what I can do.
Blogging has been helping me deal with this along with other issues, and I intend to start vlogging about endometriosis and my case specifically very soon. I will not let my suffering be meaningless when I have learned and experienced so much that can contribute to others getting help sooner.
Part of living the life I want to live is becoming who I want to be. I have many limitations right now of many varieties, but I can choose to continue working on myself, regardless of how little time I may or may not have left. Truthfully, I think that is the most honest motivation for this blog in particular. Helping others and advocacy are both integral to my soul’s survival, a huge part of who I want to become, and while this blog does not have a big reach and has probably not bettered anyone else’s life, it has helped me greatly, I have learned better to self-advocate, and so my entries here have bettered my own life, all of which have helped equip me with better skills and ability to reach out to others more effectively elsewhere.
Recovery is not a destination but a process.
This is, indeed, truly a recovery blog for me.
That being said, there are things I talk about here that I feel I need myself to embrace more fully. We are all hypocrites in one aspect of our lives or another, whether always or in certain instances, but hypocrisy is something I have been working very hard for years to get out of my system. I know it will never be 100% out. I am human. I am fallible. But I am human, which means I also have a great capacity to change and take charge of my own behavior.

Continue reading ““Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you.” – Jean-Paul Sartre”

On body positivity & awareness

When someone ties their physical form to their integrity or character value, that is when they have an increased likelihood of intentionally harming their body, and devastatingly, society encourages this connection all the time. You can want to lose weight to improve your health – or gain weight to improve your health, build muscle to improve your health, etc. But when you do it in pursuit of becoming a person of “value” or increasing your worth as a human being, that is when you are really hurt inside, and you need to begin healing yourself.

I am 162 lbs now, when I was ~195 in mid-April. While to most people this sounds like a cause for celebration because society sees fat as so “unattractive” (and yes, unhealthy but that’s often secondary to the main message and for awful reasons), losing this much so soon is not healthy either, especially because of how I lost it – being unable to properly take in and digest food. I want to take this time to especially send my love to those with illnesses – of any kind, whether it be endometriosis, cancer, Chron’s, EDNOS, etc – who are overweight, lose weight then because of the illness they’re suffering from, only to then get congratulated on their weight loss when they actually feel like they are (or actually are) dying inside. It is devaluing, dehumanizing, and invalidating, and for those with eating disorders and associated thoughts and behaviors, those experiences significantly encourage the chance of related fatality. That being said, eating disorders have reportedly the highest fatality rate of any mental illness, and there are plenty of people who start out as “heavy” before literally overexercising, starving, or purging (including vomiting and/or excessive laxative use) themselves to death.

 

Note: Because of the tragic self-violence of disordered eating, I refuse to more “gracefully” word that.

 

While many people who have lost a great deal of weight are happy to have lost it, feel good about having lost it, and have lost it under medical supervision and/or through a healthy way, please always consider the possible ramifications of telling someone “Wow, you look so good after all that weight loss!” or tbh, commenting on people’s weights at all.

 

For me, today someone close to me commented in a way that was actually very considerate and was not at all hurtful to me (but validating instead). She had noticed the rapid weight loss and was concerned for me, knowing why it has been happening, and she treated it compassionately.

 

But I can’t tell you how many people have seen me in the past month and told me, “Wow, you look great now! Look at how much weight you’ve lost!” to which I must stifle a frustrated “I’ve lost weight because my body literally won’t allow me to eat and drink due to medical problems and I am so hungry and thirsty and miserable.”

 

The fact that I haven’t been able to leave the house much and so I haven’t seen many people is a true testament to how painfully common this response is.

Continue reading “On body positivity & awareness”

Finding strength in your “weakness”

Reducing the impact of a vice isn’t necessarily trying to eliminate it. We will probably always have at least a fraction of our childhood vices still in us. Instead, try to funnel it into something good, utilizing it differently to accentuate its potentially positive reciprocal.

Couldn’t sleep at all due to the endo pain but was able to fill eight pages in a random notebook with this before typing it up. Help me sleep. Please.

I have long maintained that many beautiful concepts have deep tragedies to them. I see, acknowledge, and appreciate the oft-ignored nooks and crannies of experience and of being, a strong witness to their darknesses, shadows, and the gems enveloped (or even later produced) by them. I’ve come to believe it’s part of the INFJ type, and perhaps among the reasons we are nicknamed “the Mystic” is because we are likelier to be privvy to the otherwise lost or forgotten gifts of deeper universal significance.

My personal outlook on this has taken a long time to develop. Aspect I share with others that I saw as valuable, beautiful, or forgiveable in them were not in myself. I couldn’t see my victories — small or big — as events or processes worth celebrating but congratulated others for things they themselves reportedly saw as minute gestures. Much of this stemmed from self-loathing, feelings of worthlessness and futility. I had higher expectations for myself than I had for those around me, marginally so. But I criticized my efforts, thoughts, feelings, and conduct in ways completely counterintuitive and ultimately counterproductive to growth. I was angry at myself for imagined attributes I didn’t really have or attributes I associated to others in completely inaccurate ways. I think it’s pretty normal for children and younger adolescents to make faulty connections like this. Normal but unhealthy and sadly, I’d say unhealthy habits, thought processes, self talk, etc are all extremely normal, even in adults.

Having C-PTSD and growing up with abuse from pretty much all directions however, I took those faulty connections to some pretty devastating extremes. (Trigger warning: Disordered thoughts – eating disorder + c-ptsd & casual descriptions of SI behaviors)

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The commitment to move forward & guilt vs shame

On accountability and the benefits of remorse, its surprising relationship (or lack thereof) to shame, and thoughts regarding working towards making a better future for ourselves by learning from our past.

Note: I use past tense for some people who are still currently in my life as I am going to eventually separate myself from them by legal means. This is a process so it takes time but want to clarify that emotionally, I am finally done letting my remaining toxic interpersonal relationships affect me. That being said, you can love someone still and know it is an unhealthy relationship and thus separate yourself from them. This will be another post at a later time but some notes on toxic interpersonal relationships here.

I have made many egregiously bad choices in my life. Among them are selfish and destructive choices I feel rightfully guilty over, such as the long-term and vile harassment of another person online, spurred by insecurity, both self-loathing and conceit, and self-righteousness. Another is blatantly dismissing the testimonial of an abuser’s little sister who had entrusted me with the secret that her older sister had broken her arm. This should not have remained a secret, and she and I both suffered for my denial of a very real problem. Out of more self-righteous thinking and behavior, I have meddled in situations that are not mine, further worsening some people’s circumstances in the process. While I would like to think they were purely well intentioned, I know my self-righteousness and own feelings of victimization have played a huge role in these particular actions, which is a major reason why my approaches to helping have sometimes caused further damage instead. Little works in crises when one is letting their inner (and still-hurting) child lead the way.

These wrongs that I committed hurt and even worse, potentially traumatized or helped traumatize others. My guilt here is justified and teaches me to not commit these sins again. Guilt is a positive emotion when it is about true heartfelt remorse. It is inspired by awareness, both of self and others, accountability, and is more central to ethical behavior than religion or law. The reason for this is that guilt is an internal measurement, and regardless of whether someone is more extroverted feeling, like me, and pays close attention to external rules and cues, or is more of an introverted feeler and pays close attention to internally formed rules and cues, guilt is what betters all of us socially when, like all discomfort and pain, we choose to grow from it.

For someone whose auxiliary function is extroverted feeling, (Fe), I learn too slowly. I effect change too slowly. And when I am unusually sick or stressed, I sometimes fall back on unhealthy and harmful behaviors, often again spurred by self-righteousness and unresolved feelings of victimization. I do recognize the urgent need to stop it, as those behaviors help no one and cause more hurt than resolution. I raise my voice, and when I say “raise my voice,” I mean I yell when I get angry.  And I become someone I myself can’t stand because I know I am causing hurt, and for reasons that at the end of the day, conflict with the behavior. I want people to listen and understand because when I yell, I feel hurt and ignored or misunderstood. But I know – when I am thinking rationally – all anyone does when they yell like that is hurt others and themselves. That’s why I have asked people to tell me when I am starting to raise my voice, so I can check myself and quiet myself down. It’s no one’s responsibility but mine, but I lose awareness, the sight of the goal (positive inter & intrapersonal development), and rationale in the heat of the moment and still need external reminders to calm the f*ck down. I have only gotten loud like this in the past three years. I’ve come to realize why but reasons for an unhealthy behavior do not and should not ever be confused with excuses. Still, unlearning this has been hard, and I have made only minimal progress since it was brought to my attention almost a year ago. Guilt, or perhaps the more specific term and meaning — remorse — is powerful and can greatly help to rectify bad behavior, but it is not the lone motivating force. I am making progress however and through identification and an implementation of coping skills, I hope to make this a past behavior more quickly.

Guilt vs shame

There is another feeling many people may relate closely to guilt – I used to too – but I caution strongly against making them so close. I can’t really remember where I first learned of the vital difference of meaning of these two words, but I know that actually proactively learning the difference took a long time even after. I do remember staring at the worksheet/handout in my early teens, trying to sift through events and circumstances in my head while utilizing the words’ very different meanings but having great difficulty in doing so. (Note: TRIGGER WARNING for disordered thoughts, including thoughts related to disordered eating and sexual trauma.) Continue reading “The commitment to move forward & guilt vs shame”

All we hurt when we hurt / The universal language

There is an importance to healing I cannot stress enough. Because I was so affected by traumatic abuse so early in childhood, my life, identity, and behavior have all largely been shaped by pain. Truthfully, I challenge the notion that even human beings from seemingly tamer backgrounds are not shaped largely in part by pain. When going over these sentences, I thought a more accurate description might be to add pronouns to these sentences — add perhaps “my” and “their” before “pain,” but that would only distance myself from the ultimate point. There are many layers to this post as there are many layers to every person. Layers vary and appear different. They can manifest differently, speak in different tongues, dress in different threads, dance with different motions, and while sentient beings all hurt in different ways to different severities and we express those agonies in different behaviors, perhaps the greatest irony of all is that the most universal element sentient beings share is what often isolates us most — pain.

Physical pain or severe physical discomfort, at their most banal, tell us something is “wrong.” A bone is broken, and it needs to heal, or a part of our body is exposed that should not be exposed — in the case of extreme cold or extreme heat or a wound — or that not enough blood is getting to our heart or that not enough oxygen is getting to our brain. Prolonged inactivity can also cause physical pain or severe physical discomfort because that in itself tells the body something is wrong and can make things go wrong further within the body. People struggling with their mental health often get caught in this cycle, because already we’re usually struggling with debilitating stressors (and chemistry).

It is important to note that there are medical conditions in which people have a total insensitivity to pain, however rare, but even in cases of extreme dissociation or Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy and psychopathy) where emotional range can become limited, there is a current that makes us universally one, even if separating us in terms of our behavior or reactions to it: pain felt by the soul even if not always the body.

Continue reading “All we hurt when we hurt / The universal language”

I am neither the CEO on Prozac nor the ward of the state in the quiet room (updated 09 May, 2018)

I have always lived life feeling outcasted. In fact, it was such a problem that my mother specifically bought a book for me entitled Leo the Lop, in which a lop rabbit whose siblings have upright ears, sets out on a quest to define what “normal” really is. Throughout the course of the book, the charming illustrations depict Leo’s journey of self-discovery which ultimately ends with the absolutely dissatisfying conclusion that “normal is whatever you are.”

I liked rabbits, I understood Leo’s wishes, and I was five, so I enjoyed the book, but upon closing it and going into kindergarten the next day, I was viciously reminded that regardless of what Leo thought normal was, my classmates did not share the same conclusion.

I have never been normal, no matter what I have been.

I recognized at that time as I still do that the whole argument for “normalcy” is supposedly subjective, and that was the point of the book. There is no straight, wholly accurate definition for what “normal” really is, and as Morticia Addams so eloquently puts it, “What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

Abnormal Psychology

So, there being no true definition for “normal” in terms of human behavior and character what must “abnormal” mean in psychology, which is, by very definition, the study of human behavior and character? because it does exist. It does exist, and I do find it funny, considering that according to NAMI, 1 in 5 American adults experiences mental illness during a given year[1]. And let’s not play dumb. We know that’s what psychology means by “abnormal.” Forget that by mere observation, anyone aware enough can tell you healthy lifestyles — both physically and emotionally — are difficult to achieve and maintain even with the right circumstances, let alone being in positions in which you greatly lack resources or a support system. Forget that by mere observation, it is pretty obvious human beings are prone to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and deteriorating health if not regularly maintained, regardless of whether or not they meet the criteria for a diagnosable illness. However, ask many professionals in the psychiatric industry, and they surreptitiously will tell you two conflicting things. First, out of their mouths will come, 1.) “There is no such thing as ‘normal,'” and then, throughout the course of treatment, you will start hearing the real message, which is, 2.) “But you are part of an abnormal statistic.”

“Diagnosing” the DSM

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll probably know already that I am highly critical of psychiatry. I support psychiatry to an extent and am a strong believer that many people cannot get by without it. However, I am an extremely strong advocate for patient advocacy, therapies, and self-assessment and awareness. It is not a secret or at least should not be a secret that doctors are able to accept “legal” bribes from pharmaceutical companies[2]. This is a way of developing and testing drugs, but let’s also be clear that it is another way doctors make more money, and it is extremely controversial for what I feel are extremely obvious reasons.

It is not entirely the doctors, though. I feel many times, especially in psychiatry, prospective or even well-established patients will come in and expect not only a prescription but also expect a prescription to solve their problems. That being said, they will also expect a diagnosis. Antidepressants are often called “happy pills,” which is not only grossly misleading but also toxic. While depression is sometimes organically chemical and is definitely affected by chemicals, I feel depression is more often situational or circumstantial, due to things that are entirely fixable with the right resources and support that do not involve drugs. Those fixable things include diet, activity, interpersonal skills, intrapersonal skills, stress management, etc. I feel drug intervention can be necessary to break the cycle of depression which I’ve said before is often a Catch-22 even in circumstantial depression, but I feel psychiatrists overmedicate needlessly without offering much authentic help.

Overmedicate. And overdiagnose. Which leads back to the question, what have I been?

Childhood on Drugs: A [Super]Brief Psychiatric History Snapshot

When asked by any new psychiatrist, “What meds have you been on in the past?” I always have to laugh. Not just snicker but throw my head back and give a hearty, long-lasting, “you’ve gotta be kidding me, I hate this question” type of laugh. I usually follow with, “Do you want me start from my infancy or skip to when I was prescribed Ritalin for ADHD?”

“ADHD?”

Yes, ADHD.

It was the 1990s in the United States, and ADHD was the illness du jour. I was often restless and excitable and had difficulty focusing. Also, I was an insomniac. These symptoms were mistaken for the whole criteria of ADHD after I was taken to a psychiatrist who met me for 15 minutes and decided “what” I was. I have learned since that this was how I responded to change, disorder, and attachment as a child. My restlessness was part of a much bigger problem, involving compounded trauma.

I was about seven at this time and was often in the nurse’s office complaining of real headaches, stomachaches, and other aches and pains, as such with many children who have undergone or undergo trauma. I would stay in the office for quite a while, not wanting to go to class because of pain and discomfort that I realize now were manifestations of serious emotional distress and medically real, too, in the sense that I was already suffering symptoms of endometriosis.

I had other symptoms and contributing factors, as well, that the psychiatrist did not bother to explore. I was hypersensitive and felt chronically lonely, unheard, and felt the responsibility of everyone else’s happiness on my shoulders. I had terrible nightmares and feared men — not monsters — being under my bed.

I felt filthy and disconnected from my body and often felt I was being watched and often stayed up nights at a time, thinking that if I awoke I would be in a UFO and being dissected on a table. I let people throw rocks at me until I bruised because I thought that’s what it took to have friends. I suffered from chronic pain, particularly joint paint, and of course, I felt absolutely like a freak: in the classroom, in my town, in my country, in my home, everywhere. In fact, I started believing I wasn’t even human. But I was put on Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, Adderal, because according to the psychiatrist, I was a seven year old psychiatric patient who had ADHD. My last diagnosis apart from PTSD was Schizoaffective Disorder which is in all fairness, similar, I suppose, to Bipolar disorder, which is difficult to differentiate from ADHD in children[4]. Funny thing is, Adderal, among many other stimulants, is known to exacerbate and even create psychosis[3].

**It turns out I am not alone with hallucinations or paranoid thinking in terms of PTSD only, and I do not match the necessary criteria for Schizoaffective Disorder. I suppose another “du jour diagnosis” by doctors who do not listen carefully. I have been off antipsychotics since October and have had minimal auditory hallucinations that ended completely by February.**

I have had to deal with other what I consider are “diagnoses du jour” that have only been combated through advocating for myself. I have had maybe the help of one or two professionals throughout my journey who have taken the time to try to understand me. For a lifelong history in treatment, that is grievously sad.

In the psychiatric profession, there may be no normal, but I suppose there is a way to be normally abnormal, and I am not it, either, even though they want me to be.

They’re not all wrong though, because I do think some people are.

It’s all about that Taste Bud Principle, even though it’s also not

While there are many people in mental illness advocacy, I constantly see two messages that are both extremely pervasive and probably extremely confusing to people who do not understand other people, regardless of whether those people are diagnosed with or have a mental illness, the same mental illness, or do not have any mental illness at all. Those two statements are: 1.) Do not pity us. We are the same as everybody else. 2.) Treat us more sensitively, because we struggle differently than you do.

Continue reading “I am neither the CEO on Prozac nor the ward of the state in the quiet room (updated 09 May, 2018)”