Fifteen years of therapy, eleven hospitalizations, in and out of partial programs, so many different services and different therapies (DBT, CBT, talk, etc.) Hell, I’ve even undergone ECT, (electroconvulsive therapy), and have had MRI, CT scans, EEGs, test after test, been on medication after medication, dose after dose, and I am sitting here on my couch, full of weeping lethargy but sleeplessness; a restless, nauseated anxiety and hunger for cessation and quiet. I feel so sad and so broken. Beyond tired, beyond depressed, beyond reparation. I know myself well. Years of [self-]interrogation, years of being poked and prodded by doctors, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, counselors, and my own reflection have given me near crystalline photographs of my subconscious. I am betting I know myself more than most people know themselves. I am betting I understand myself more than most people understand themselves. And I am sure as hell that at this point, if I can be saved, only I can do it; and that, that is torture.
Many mental illnesses, like many other chronic illnesses, are often cyclical. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this means that at times the illness softens or even goes into a state of “remission,” in which the illness is not as prominent, invasive, difficult, and/or et cetera. This is especially true with mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. I think a full “remission” is rare, but I’ve known people who have reportedly (or rather, self-reportedly) gone for years without symptoms who end up hospitalized after an episode returns. Still, many illnesses are cyclical, like fibromyalgia for example.
The uni-cycle from hell
I’m sorry I haven’t posted in so many months. I need to come back to this blog, because it really helps me to write in it. I’ve been trying to figure out what to write for a few days now and thought this is a good a topic as any. I’ve been seeing some things related to these anyway that brought this to mind, so I thought I’d share. Feel free to leave your thoughts as well.
5 mental health myths frequently popularized by mental wellness culture
1. Nobody will love you until you love yourself.
This is a common phrase we hear in hospitals, self-esteem workshops, therapy, etc. It is both demeaning and inaccurate, perpetuating a cycle of self-hatred and loneliness that stems from feeling unloved and unwanted. While confidence does win relationship successes, romantic, platonic, and otherwise, never let anyone make you feel you are unlovable just because you feel unloveable. At my lowest dips in my self-esteem, I’ve had the best relationships I’ve ever had with people who have helped me pull through those tough times, and I have met them during periods of low confidence as well. While confidence certainly does make a person more attractive, more magnetic, that is not a lone trait that people look for. People also look for many other qualities, and it varies by person to person. I have not had a lot of successful relationships, but the strong bridges I have built are made of iron.
2. You can’t love anybody until you love yourself.
This is another, albeit less common, phrase that circulates around mental wellness culture. While I do think it is unwise and ultimately impossible to try to take care of other people when you cannot take care of yourself, I firmly believe you can love other people and still have poor self-esteem. Our self-worth affects our view of the world, sure, and it does color our relationships and our opinions of others’ motives, etc. But I know people — myself included — who feel great love for others while not feeling great love for themselves.
3. You’ll feel better if you talk about it.
This one I have to be careful with, because yes, it works for a lot of people. It’s why talk therapy is a thing. It’s why many people journal, why support groups exist, etc. But like all coping skills, every one of them works differently for everybody, and not all of them actually work effectively for anybody. There are endless ways to cope with something, both positively or negatively. Taking long showers, painting, exercising, making lists and plans are some of the ways I cope with my stress. I also talk about it. I talk about it a lot. Talking about it, however, does not help me, and that is why I have had therapy for 15 years and it has, thus far, been fairly useless to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot. As you can see from this blog, I use a lot of knowledge gained “in the system” and make references and terms often used “in the system.” But much of what I’ve gained has been gained on my own, in practice, or through hospitalizations. But in therapy, I talk. I “open up.” I open up to my therapist, to my friends, to my family. And I only feel better once we get sidetracked in the conversation. Talking about my problems is not helpful to me. If there are solutions, talking about those can be, but let’s face it, life doesn’t always have solutions for the kinds of problems we face. Everyday life is hard. Stressors come up that aren’t always “fixable” and are ongoing; permanent. You can’t really talk about those things without going half-mad and just falling down the rabbit hole with your own negativity. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on other things. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on better conversations.
4. The Law of Attraction
Some people might really want to fight me on this one, because self-help books like The Secret et cetera have really “changed” people’s lives, I guess. Many people claim the Law of Attraction is nothing short of “miraculous,” and once they began to “adhere” to it, their lives just “fell into place.” I see the value in it; I do. And I think that, largely, it does make a lot of sense. Like #1, in which confidence or a healthy attitude would attract healthy relationships, the Law of Attraction states that positive energy attracts positive things or more positive energy and conversely, negative energy attracts negative things or more negative energy. Yes, it makes sense. Many people who are pessimistic and expect the worst of people will get the worst in people. This is for a few reasons. The first is that they already see the worst in people, and the second reason, one could argue, is something like the Law of Attraction. But the Law of Attraction isn’t a law. It is a guideline. It is a loose philosophy, an idea which improves your life but does not necessarily rule your life.
Like I explained with #1, I’ve been in bad situations and have been met with overwhelming positive energy and people before. The world doesn’t work on rules and statutes. It really doesn’t. It’s a bit of a free-for-all; kind of chaotic. A lot of it is about luck. It’s unfortunate, but it’s true. A lot of it, too, is what you have in you, but a lot of it is about luck. I’ve encountered some very beautiful people and some very ugly people at different stages of my life. It hasn’t really mattered. You want to be positive; you should be positive, of course. But just because you aren’t doesn’t mean you earn negative things. Just because you feel overwhelmingly depressed doesn’t mean you deserve to be mistreated or that you will be. You are likelier to be in an unstable relationship than someone who is healthy and confident, because someone who is healthy and confident is less likely to take someone else’s crap, but that’s because they’re healthy and confident, not because their energy is repelling the wrong person. Please remember that.
At 17, I was told in a partial hospitalization program, after watching The Secret for something like fourteen days in a row that every trauma beyond my prepubescence was my fault because I was so depressed. I believed it for a long time, because I had been indoctrinated with this inane idea that because I had bad thoughts and bad feelings, I was bad, and I deserved bad things. Don’t do that to yourself, and don’t let anybody do that to you.
5. The only love you should need is your own.
Again, this is one I want to be careful on, because there’s a good reason this one is circulated. Ideally, this is true. It’s important to love yourself, regardless of whether or not you are loved by anyone else. You want to get there someday. But I believe some people are just not this independent, or that they are more people-oriented than others. Some people need extra support, whether they love themselves or not. Another person’s love cannot fix you. But I’ve learned over the years that sometimes external love is necessary to help heal someone, because sometimes you just don’t have enough on your own. I’m not talking about romantic love necessarily. Support from a friend or a family member can be counted, too. I’ve been helped a lot from friends and family in the past. But I know I would have never made it this far on my own. I need love from other people. Ultimately, I know I need love from myself. That is what will make me happy. But love from other people is what has kept me alive. I don’t think everybody needs it. I think many people are strong enough on their own. But some people aren’t. I’m not. And that is okay. I think it’s okay to forgive oneself for that. It’s important to forgive oneself for that. And I think it’s important to forgive someone else for that, and that is something the mental wellness culture does not really do. It is so concerned with self-reliance that it makes needing support and needing love seem too much like dependence when there is definitely a line between them.
So what are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? What are some things you’ve faced that you feel are myths? Please share in the comments below.
I’ve written many posts lately expressing my love towards, solidarity with, and ambitious perspective of humanity. I’ve written them on group pages, my dA, my tumblr, my personal facebook. I write with hope and promise and love that I am not always able to sustain. As said in my journal on dA: 2016 was a difficult year.
I’ve been hospitalized and re-medicated, had e. coli for a while, not to mention Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States (a fact I regard with utmost horror and repulsion, even far more than the e. coli). It’s always going to be a difficult year though. Life’s tough. The point is how you treat the pain. Our [re]actions are what make us, and I feel I’ve grown a lot this year through the pain I have endured.
I’m full of love, passion, and fever right now. I’ve stopped self-harming again. It is very likely that I’ll start up again after a while, because it comes and goes in cycles. It all comes and goes in cycles, waves, echoes. The ebb and flow. The wind and rain. Pain even generally speaking is a boomerang. Life hits us. It hits us hard, and we only hurt ourselves when we violently hit back. I know this. I know self-harming is not part of any recovery model. But forgiving oneself is, and that is where I need to start. Maybe you do too.
The journey is different for everyone. We are all unique, our own tailored work and the forms we’ve adapted into. There have always been challenges to individualism in psychology and philosophy, but truly, you are the only “print” of you. You need to take care of yourself, as I need to take care of myself. You need to thrive as I need to thrive, but we thrive differently and in different places and with different things. Don’t let the implications of isolation drag you down. We are powerful. We live in our own universe. A whole universe fits inside our skull! If that is not beautiful, I don’t know what is.
It’s 01:37 and I’m just rambling now. I am excited for 2017. I will write more about how I approach the new year and set and organize my resolutions. Difficult year or not, hospitalization after hospitalization or not, I have grown a lot this year and so I consider 2016 a personal success. There were a lot of pitfalls, lots of crashes. It was painful and shattering but also beautiful and enriching, and I’m learning to fill the cracks in with gold. I am finding my place. I am setting my purpose and following it. I am learning. I am teaching. I am being.
This was more of a personal post, but I want to say: You are strong. You are complicated like a labyrinth. You may have monsters. I certainly do. So pay close attention to the thoughts that reach you. Make the puzzle eye-opening, enriching. Take the thoughts that nourish you. Breathe them in. Live them. You are a unique web of potential. You can do good for others and yourself. Own that. And the let the negative thoughts fall by the wayside. Acknowledge them and move on. Pour over love, not loneliness. Pour over good.
I will write one more post before the new year. Happy holidays to anyone celebrating. Happy December to anyone who’s not.
With love always
Let me begin with this:
I am pretty good at reading people. Unless I’m unusually invested at the time in building a bridge, I can usually and clearly see who is on the other end. The cruel irony of that is not lost to me. I see red flags, and I see them early, but I’ve been known to ignore them, especially during my lowest and most lonely points in which building bridges seems direly important. Once I consciously chose to ignore red flags, there were none that would keep me away. It didn’t matter if the flags were red with fresh blood, because I would make up reasons to build that bridge. Connection is important to me. Humans are important to me. Bridges are how I explore and travel the world. It’s a dangerous system, and I know it, but this is what brings me the most wisdom.
The importance of heeding your gut
Update 18/12/16 20:03: My friend is alive and okay. 🙂
It is 02:14. I cannot sleep. There is noise in my head and at my fingertips. Voices in different tongues, languages that cannot speak of happiness, where “happiness” has no dictionary wedge, no page, no meaning. I may have lost a friend tonight. So this will be about things I should have told him.
For those of you who have been reading my blog, you know that I used to suffer from chronic suicidality. I used to tell my therapists I have four “moods:” 1. mildly suicidal, 2. moderately suicidal, 3. severely suicidal, and 4. urgently suicidal. #4 is hospitalization. #2 was the most typical on an average day until April 2016.
Even so, every day, I have to make the choice to survive. If you’re familiar with mental illness (whether from chronic pain, trauma, both, or otherwise), this may ring too true. I say “too” because this is a reality many of us must brace ourselves for each night we fall asleep. We have to say, “If I wake up tomorrow, I must continue the fight.” How hard it is to sleep when that echoes in you! It is even harder to get out of bed and face the day when you’re disarmed for the battle.
That’s why the word “why” and its answer are so important.
What is purpose?
Another apology for a lack of posts. October was so hard on me, and truth be told, positivity is hard to maintain. I’ve been more social than perhaps ever before, which is good, but I’ve also been mega stressed. I have many complaints, but this entry is not going to be a place for those complaints. Instead, I’m going to write about what I’m most grateful for. I feel everything has at least a duality to it. The human experience, when truly lived, is neither singularly joyful or melancholy. It is complex. It is both. It is all. It is neither.
Chronic suicidality makes gratitude hard for me, because every good thing, event, place and/or person is often enough proof to me that I should stay and bear the pain. I don’t resent these, but it makes gratitude itself more complicated. I love, and I am grateful, and I have always loved and always been grateful, but allowing that gratitude to be a positive motivator is something new to me.
- “A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” – Walter Winchell ; This is one of my favorite quotes, particularly because of the subtle implications. I don’t believe friendships always last forever, real and true or not. I used to have friendships with people who abused this sentiment but never wholly grasping what it meant–at least to me. To me, “walks in” means “supports;” alternatively, “walks out” means “disowns,” “neglects,” or “betrays.”Real friends are hard to come by, but for me any friend in general is particularly hard to come by. Despite this blog, or tied into this blog I guess, I am in reality a very sad person who is easily triggered. This is something I am working on, both via the blog and life. Books. Classes. Therapy. You know, many methods and mediums. I am difficult for people to handle, because I am intense. That is something that will not change no matter how hard I try. Intensity is tied with me, and so it is tied with my sadness. I have had one friend I have experienced this sentiment with. I am luckier than most in this. Maybe luckier than anyone. Although our friendship is more or less over, my first best friend is one of the most important people in my life. I say “is” because I still and will always love her. She showed me what friendship really is; what platonic love really is. She ran to my house through a blizzard in her pajamas to ensure my safety for the night. She ran to my rescue every time I needed her at such a crucial age. We still talk occasionally, but we were absolute best friends for years. It feels like a lifetime. She defended and protected me. She listened. She reasoned with me. She was my rock, my guardian angel, and my best friend.
My heart bursts with gratitude for her.
- I can eat well and often enough. I have a roof over my head, a pretty safe environment, a loving mother, nice clothes, supplies for creative expression, healthcare, and to sum it up: Enough to live well at this moment.
I have great battles every day, but I’m grateful I do not sleep on a dirty floor or in the streets. Despite financial troubles, I am richer than many and have a lot of support.
- “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” – Vincent van Gogh ; I suppose there’s a dark and serious irony here, since the Impressionist painter committed suicide. But he had a beautiful soul from what I know of him and beautiful ideas. And truthfully, in these moments, there are few things more important than these. I am grateful for human expression and creativity.
- My “gray matter” in many matters. I have strong education however informal, I have great creativity, some awesome skill sets, a knack for art, an immense love for the world, and am able to see beauty in small things.
I suffer from mental illnesses that are heavy and complicated and painful. I suffer from chronic suicidality and other severe symptoms that impact my day-to-day living. But yesterday I bought a bag of apples and found one still with a leaf on it. The sun is shining beautifully, and I am not overheated, despite my hyperthyroidism. I am happy. If just in this moment, I am happy. I am hopeful. I have a break from my suicidality. I can breathe. I know what I need to do. I know how to plan to achieve those goals. I am grateful for my flawed, beautiful, and capable mind.
- “When you know in your bones that your body is a sacred gift, you move in the world with an effortless grace. Gratitude and humility rise up spontaneously.” – Debbie Ford
The body I’m in is not limber or ever comfortable. I have days during which I am bedridden and crying out in pain. But it is a vessel to carry me, and I can still–on most days–paint with it, dance with it, and hug with it. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to create, dance, and express affection.
I choose gratitude today.