One Day

One day you’ll look at your life and recognize that you’ve reached a point in recovery that you have been working toward all these years.


Last year was a year of change. I considered moving, left grad school, got engaged, built jobs I feel capable of handling, and began to write about my experience with mental illness.


A year ago, I would not have imagined this growth. I can fight through my bad days and still have good come from it. I can process and talk about my thoughts and emotions without believing them. I have healed, something I did not see possible.


I hope you recognize your strength and growth. I hope you understand that you can fight. One day you will look at your life and realize you have reached the point you have been waiting for – health and happiness.

Guilt and Shame

Those living with BPD commonly experience guilt and shame.


Many of my negative thoughts are centered around guilt. Did I wrong someone or hurt their feelings? Have I disappointed, someone? Did I say something I shouldn’t have?


Outbursts triggered by intense emotions can result in me doing or saying things I immediately regret. I feel ashamed, and if I allow it, this emotion will consume me. Thoughts of my wrongdoing replaying in my head, over and over.


From an early age, guilt and shame distorted my perception of myself. Eventually, I learned to work through this.


One factor in my healing process has been learning how to combat and ultimately change these negative thoughts.


I can’t ignore the fact that I do and say things I regret, that would limit my progress. I also can’t blame myself for the symptoms of my mental illness. So focusing on these thoughts is essential to my recovery.


I have more control when I feel healthy, and my stress level is low. I feel my best when I get enough sleep, rise early, and eat well. I am patient and kind with myself. Instead of focusing on guilt and shame, I am moving forward.


My mind still tells me horrible things about myself, but I feel in control. If I say something I regret in response to my emotions, I feel extreme guilt. If I hold onto that guilt, it turns to shame. To fight back, I need to process these emotions and not hold onto them.


I no longer need to hold onto this guilt and shame; I am allowing myself to let it go.


Vulnerability

At first, I thought to be vulnerable meant sharing the awful and miserable parts of life. The ones that we often refrained from sharing. I believed that by sharing these stories, I was the most vulnerable I could be.


But that’s not how vulnerability works.


We are vulnerable when we share our emotions. Stigma has conditioned us to believe we should keep our feelings hidden, and those who choose to talk about their emotions are looking for sympathy or attention.


We are vulnerable when we talk about our hopes and dreams. When we share goals and desires we have not yet accomplished, we are putting ourselves out there and being real.


We are vulnerable when we share our work.


I feel most vulnerable when I share the thoughts I hold and the content I have created. I am aware that others may not understand or disagree with what I create, but regardless, I am putting myself out there.


While vulnerability can be opening up about a dark time or situation, it is not limited to.


Vulnerability is sharing your authentic self with the world, knowing that not everyone will be accepting of what you have to say.

Invisible Illness

My illness is all in my head. Well, it is invisible to you.


I won’t lie; sometimes, I feel guilty because of how I am unable to engage and present myself fully.


I wish I could be carefree and easygoing, but that’s unrealistic for me.


Often, I want others to understand why I’m not those things.


My illness is invisible; others cannot read the thoughts that I have. Others cannot feel the pain and tension I experience. Others cannot grasp the emotions that take over my reality.


Sometimes my presence is all I can manage. I am juggling my mind and existence, and on stressful days that keeps my hands full.


There are days where I feel in control. My thoughts are more positive, and I have more energy. On these days I can be present. I feel like myself, and I can engage. These days remind me why the hard ones are worth it.


If you can relate to my words, I want you to know it is enough for you just to be you as little or much as you can manage. If you can’t relate, I hope you can better understand.


I’m fighting an invisible illness.

Intention

If you follow my Instagram, you know that I’m not one for big New Years’ resolutions. I find that most are instructed and unrealistic. While I could make one attainable goal, I don’t want to be held down by one big thing. I also find that the added stress results in little to no positive change.


This year I thought I would try something different. Instead of a goal, I am creating a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase to set your choices and life.


My mantra for the year is Intention.


Since beginning to work from home, I find myself wasting a lot of time as a reaction or response from an emotion. I feel overwhelmed, and I distract. Helpful, but I want to do something more meaningful. I rationalize this downtime by reminding myself that I need to rest and keep stress down, but resting should only go so far.


Instead of telling myself to buckle down and get tasks done, which would only add anxiety and shame, I am using my mantra to make my choices more intentional.


By intention, I mean mindfulness and purpose. When I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I know from DBT skills that I need to stat mindful and self soothe. While watching TV is very relaxing, it does not keep me aware. Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I want to be intentional about how I cope. Music helps me relax and soothes me. To stay intentional, I may use my record player and focus on the lyrics. Taking it all in, being present in life. Or perhaps ill play some music and write. Allowing the thoughts and emotions flow through me. Afterward, I will feel less stressed and more relaxed, but the difference is my actions were intentional and productive.


What is your goal or mantra this year? Why did you choose it? What changes do you want 2020 to hold?

Define Yourself

Remember these icebreaker activities you were required to do in grade school? The teacher would ask for a fun fact or three ways to define yourself. What makes you, you. Those ice breakers always brought extreme anxiety. Now just the fear of all eyes on me or speaking out loud. It was the fact that I had no idea how to define myself.


What I didn’t realize then was that I have the power to choose who I am.


I would answer that question with adjectives others labeled me as. I was shy, kind, quiet, and caring. While at times, I am these things, these characteristics don’t define me.


While I don’t find myself getting forced into an ice breaker activities, I do meet new people. I think about how I introduce myself, and the characteristics people see are ones that I CHOOSE to show.


I don’t want to be defined by aspects that are not me, and I used to see that as something external or out of my control. But now I know that I hold power.


Others may see aspects in you and label you, but at the end of the day- you define yourself.


Christmas Spirit

I feel this external pressure to be happy and cheerful during the holiday season.


I get caught up with the holiday bustle, and I forget to slow down.


I want to be present when I’m with my family, but I also need to take time for myself and remember that it’s okay if I don’t always feel positive.


Even though it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean that my mental illness goes on holiday. Because of this, I need to set boundaries with myself. Taking breaks, going on walks, and most importantly, trying to keep a schedule.


Last year I was hard on myself. I wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful, and that made me feel selfish and ungrateful. This year, I am removing the pressure and expectation. How I feel is how I feel, and I can be grateful and full of joy even if I’m having a stressful day.

Difficult Conversations

I remember the conversation. I hadn’t planned on having it and I did not fully understand my thoughts and goals, but I knew it needed to come out. “I don’t think I want to go back to school.”


When I began, the words spilled out. I explained how on-edge, irritable, and depressed I constantly felt. I worried about my safety and future. How could I enjoy life and take care of myself if my future career is taking 110% of my energy?


Tyler was immediately supportive. He suggested alternative careers and options for me.


That wasn’t what I wanted either. I realized it wasn’t about a specific career, I was taking on too much. I just needed a job.


I don’t think I processed my thoughts before having this conversation, but I don’t think it mattered. When I said what I needed to say, a weight was lifted off of me.


Life is all about having these difficult conversations. Putting yourself and your thoughts out there, being vulnerable, it’s awfully uncomfortable. Although, these moments and those conversations are periods of growth and development.


When we push our feelings down and don’t have the difficult conversations, we become stuck. In situations, jobs, relationships, and life.


We owe it to ourselves and our happiness to have difficult conversations. I know from experience how uncomfortable being stuck feels.

Allow Joy

There was a point where I didn’t want to accept moments of happiness because I feared my illness wouldn’t be accepted by others. I feared that if I expressed these moments, my depression would be overlooked and forgotten. That I would be forgotten. I feared that these brief moments would be mistaken for my entire reality. I didn’t understand that I could feel happiness without necessarily being happy.


It wasn’t until someone suggested that I could call it something other than ‘happy.’


This small suggestion shifted my perception. I can be unhappy and experience joy. I can be happy and experience joy. I can be however I am and still experience joy, but only if I allow it.


Currently, I am at a place in my life where I can say that I am happy. Yet, this does not mean I am always happy. This means that I am now able to allow joy in my life without effort.


Happiness is not an end goal, but if often mistaken for one. By acknowledging moments of joy, instead of happiness, this end goal perception is diverted.


So I will leave you with this. Be happy, be unhappy, be angry, excited, and sad, but remember to allow and acknowledge joy. Because without joy, life has no meaning.

You Should Be Happy

I remember going to a psychiatrist appointment, maybe two years ago, when she asked me if a student could sit-in on the session with us. As a student myself, I understood how valuable hands-on learning is, so I agreed. The student, an older woman likely in her 50s, greeted me as I walked in. We exchanged hellos and commented on the weather. I could feel and see her examining me- well dressed, clean, and tense maybe what she saw. I looked put together, I knew that. I hid behind my name brands and job in mental healthcare. I wanted to appear like I had my life together, and I wasn’t crazy.


The student asked me about my education, job, and personal relationships. Then she looked me dead in the eyes and said: “Wow, with your Kate Spade bag and getting accepted into graduate school, you should be so happy.”


I looked at her, stunned by both her ignorance and bluntness, and replied: “Yeah, I should be.”


My psychiatrist quickly tried to descale the tense situation: “Well, that is why she is here today.”


The problem with the student’s comment has to do with one word: should. I believe she meant to say something along the lines of you have wonderful things in your life, and I can see how depression must be impacting your mental health. Instead, the comment sent a different message. By saying I ‘should’ be happy, it implies that the reason I am unhappy has to do with me and not something out of my control. The comment suggested that I am ungrateful for the wonderful things in my life because I ‘should’ be happy, but I wasn’t.


I was not hurt by the comment, but I was surprised. I was surprised because even in the mental healthcare field, there is still a skewed perception of mental disorders. Even someone studying to prescribe medication FOR mental disorders is lacking basic knowledge about mental health. This is a bright red fluorescent sign that mental health education is severely lacking. How we are taught to talk about mental health as a society is flawed, and change needs to occur.


This was a very minor experience for me. I was not hurt or set-off, and I quickly forget about the comment after I left. Yet, I still remember that comment like it was yesterday. it stuck in my mind so clearly that I am able to write about it today.


I want to reflect on this moment not only because it is a sign of how mental healthcare needs to change, but also because I know I will be told something along the lines of this again. Next time, I want to be prepared. If I were in that situation again, this is what I would say: “Just because I am in extreme pain and suffering does not mean that I am simply unhappy with my life. I want to be able to love and appreciate what I have, but I can’t. This does not mean that I am ungrateful or an unhappy person in general. This means that I have a severe mental illness and I am struggling right now. Which is exactly why I am in this office today. So no, I shouldn’t be happy. I SHOULD be exactly as I am right now, regardless of how it makes you feel.”