A Stigmatic Society and a Little Girl’s Laughter

“I have a problem with stigma.”

I see this statement shared continuously over every feed of every social media platform that I use. It makes me ecstatic. I have spent countless hours in therapy agonizing over the ways in which to move beyond Bipolar and operate as a normal, functional human being. But here’s the thing, guys. I kinda don’t fucking want to. I have felt an immense pressure to appear as this beam of light, and an enormous responsibility to give that light to the darkness of stigma, to hold myself up so that the damage it causes is too well-lit for anybody to continue to put it on the back burner.

My main difficulty with the negative connotation surrounding mental illness used to be for reasons such as a combination of high expectations and little empathy. I had to reassure myself constantly that people just didn’t understand, that they couldn’t see the way that I suffered. Don’t get me wrong, these things still bother me, but there are other things that go undetected. Important things. People don’t see the way that I thrive.

They do not see me as I lay on my back, chin up to kiss the stars while combinations are twisted against thousands of safes, releasing my thoughts to tumble over one another. They do not see me swell in gratitude as words appear and I welcome them as if they were diamonds spilling from thin air into my open mouth until I glimmer from the inside. They do not see the kind of release it brings as I send them back to twirl in infinity. What ails me… it heals me, too.

I am never more creative, never more alive than during or directly following an episode. The closest comparison I can make is this: Sometimes, as I sit back and observe my 3 and 5-year-old nieces at play, I swear that they are one blazing billboard, a sign that my illness is also genius. For one thing, they feel. A lot. Loudly and unabashedly. They let me know over and over with their exaggerated moans of both delight and frustration. They do not approach any situation with modesty, and I’ve never heard either of them say “I’m not very good at that.” In fact, they are pretty damn certain that they know everything.

Most of the time, I’m pretty sure that they do, too. Once, after I gave one of them shit for running ahead, she replied “YOU are not the boss of me. You’re not even ANYBODY’S boss!” There were 2 things that occurred in this situation: 1) The thing that I actually did, which was force her to hold my hand and walk alongside me, because toward traffic is not a cool direction in which to gallop. 2) The thing that I desperately WANTED to do, which was to pull her close to me and tell her that no, nobody was her boss. To ask her to always to own this idea and to never believe in such a thing as a ceiling, glass or otherwise.

They also keep that shit so real. They ask whatever questions pop into their thoughts, and if the answer doesn’t give them satisfaction, they invent their own. They particularly like to do it in situations that make me, as an adult, uncomfortable. Somewhere along the way, we are all taught that a very small portion of our wildest visions apply to real life. We begin to learn that we may not grow up to be an astronaut and a ventriloquist and also a ballerina. We begin to understand that the place in which we imagine unicorns that eat broccoli and people who use their hearts instead of their fists is commonly referred to as “La la land.” This place houses everything that we see that is “never going to happen” because it’s “not real.” Maybe it is learned from our parents, or teachers, or that assbag 6th grader who guards the swings and yells truths that we did not ask to hear.

Being told to mellow out, to calm down, to get a grip is being told to unlearn everything that we are conditioned to do by nature. Whether this is necessary is another matter entirely, but it certainly isn’t easy. When I watch either one be told “no,” my heart breaks and bursts at once. Not because I don’t believe in discipline, but because the way their faces curl up in confusion mirrors a feeling that I am so very familiar with. Before Bipolar, before depression, before psychosis and before mania, I had forgotten what it was like to experience this series of discrepancies between what I felt and what was acceptable. To hear such beautiful symphonies and to feel such despair upon realizing that nobody else could hear them. To try my best to assimilate, wondering why the real world couldn’t be more like me.

Please understand that while I associate the confusion of mental illness with the confusion of growing up, it is not meant to say that it is childish or that it can be snapped or grown out of. There are plenty of reasons that I could list as to why it is much, much more complex than that, but that would take me days, and frankly, it’s not why I’m here. What I AM here to tell you is this:

Stigma says that we are an inconvenience, that our symptoms are a burden, a drain. Stigma says that we should be rewired and rewritten to be read in a way that is more fitting for society to accept. Reality says that we are precious, wholesome and magnificent, that our symptoms are the cracks of creativity. Reality says that we shall reclaim our identity and recover. We won’t grow out of it, but we will grow through it.

What I am here to tell you is that dirt is misunderstood. So often we gaze at the flowers and the foliage, paying no mind to the dark, fertile environment from which they sprouted. It is not only your transformation, your end result that should be loved and appreciated.

The next time stigma runs its slimy fingers over your hopeful face in an attempt to draw your eyes closed, this is what I hope your quivering voice will say:

“You speak so boldly of that which you do not know. You stretch my spine so that I may look more like a wooden soldier than a human being. You seek to blind me of the problem, blur my purpose, dress my voice in shackles and my face in a neutral expression. But when you speak, I do not recoil. I do not close my eyes to your lullaby of ridicule. When I stand up straight, it will NEVER be because you pulled me there. It will be because I have wept away the blur and I see more clearly than ever why my voice is so fucking valuable. I will pick every lock until it is your turn to tire and live in silence.”

I hope that as you haul lumber, shuffle papers at your desk or lay sleepless in bed, you will know that whatever you are at this moment is as brilliant as it is tangled. I hope that whenever stigma looms, pouting in your dusty corners, you will honour your inner 3-year-old as you mutter “YOU are not the boss of me.”

“Searching For a Heart of Gold.”

To be human is a very complex thing.

The closer I become to feeling as if I I know who I am at my very core, the more I am faced with and reminded of just how much I have to learn. I haven’t decided yet if this is the worst or most wonderful thing that continues to happen to me.

I think many of us lay awake at night asking questions without answers. Maybe for some the questions are about college applications, and maybe for others the questions are about succeeding as parents. Maybe the questions are about love or emptiness or direction. Maybe we’re all asking the same question in different words. “Will I be okay?”

I say it all the time, and I truly believe that people are who they are by way of where they’ve been. Though I believe this, it is not always enough.

Here we are, all 7.243 billion of us, all of us so vastly different. Here are our minds and our hearts, our hands and our mouths. This is the way they do not always connect. I think it’s safe to say that we do not yet know how to coexist, and the questions that haunt me at night usually have a lot to do with whether or not this is possible.

I talk a lot about love and about compassion, and choosing to act with both in mind. This is a relatively new process for me, and I am still learning, still stumbling over the idea. Before 2011, anger was a driving force in my life, and it had many faces. It was more like anger disguised as ambition or my own idea of justice. My days were a perpetual state of survival (or what I thought it meant at the time.) Somehow I had come to the conclusion that everyone was a threat. I would react to minor indiscretions in a way that ensured they could never become major issues. I feared major issues, and now I know that it’s because they would cause me to face myself. I am learning to forgive that part of me and build something more solid.

Letting go of anger is difficult because it is bred by a deep-seeded hatred. What I come to find most often is that it is not a hatred for other people. It always comes down to some kind of inner conflict. Though I do not like to sound so self-loathing, I know that it is part of the journey to loving myself. Sometimes I’m not sure why I bother, but I know that it is bettering my life when I look at other people and find myself making an effort to truly understand them, to truly love them despite the temptation to pick them apart.

I can only be responsible for the impression that I leave upon the world. I know how difficult it is to feel beaten down and mistreated, but I also know that it is infinitely more difficult to come to the realization that I have been the source of someone else’s pain, their unanswered questions.  I still come up against the powerful urge to sink my teeth into the soul until I draw the blood of insecurity, but there is something so much more forceful to combat it. That something is the image of the people who met my anger with an unwavering love. The memory of those who made it their mission to love all of the fear out without the guarantee of anything in return.

It is both a frightening and fulfilling challenge, to love people even when they may not necessarily deserve it. How do we forgive and still manage to keep our dignity intact? How do we bury the hatchet without burying our values with it? These are the questions I whisper to the night, hoping always for answers with the sun. The sun never brings the answers, of course, but what it does bring is warmth to melt the ice of defeat, warmth to spark enough curiosity to imagine that, perhaps this is the day that I will figure it out.

Sanity Sold Separately

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This is my mom.

She is 54 years young. She likes gardening and talking to strangers. She’s a mother of four with an iron will and a tender heart. Her kiss has a sound and if you are lucky enough to have one placed upon your temple, her lips will echo in the background of every beautiful melody you hear forever after.

But she doesn’t know who she is right now.
My experience with mental illness began long before mine ever surfaced, though I would not understand what that meant for quite some time. My first clear memory is from when I was about six:
My mom was seated on the front steps smoking a cigarette. I was watching her from around the corner, noticing that she was crying. I thought she looked beautiful when she cried, and I found it strange even then.
I asked her what was wrong, asked her if she had ‘owies.’ She smiled through her tears and tried to explain that sometimes people just get sad for no real reason at all.
I asked for a Fruit by the Foot and she hummed “Band on the Run” while she fumbled with the packaging.

It always went like that.

As I grew up, I knew that she was struggling, even if I couldn’t pinpoint where it came from. Sometimes I asked her, but she just brushed it off and continued to put scrunchies in my hair and coming to school to help me clean out my desk, which was always as messy and colourful as my imagination.

She finally sought help in 2001, where she was met with a diagnoses that indicated her thyroid was not functioning properly. She was also given some antidepressants. She became softer somehow, like falling off of a pair of skis into powder.
She was tired a lot, and because I was so young, I didn’t stop demanding her time and her energy. I didn’t stop shouting “Mom! Mom! Hey, MOM!”
Sometimes I wasn’t sure that she could hear me, even when she was staring right at me.
I heard the term ‘Schizoaffective Disorder’ in the winter of 2009, the first time I watched her stumble across the line between reality and her thoughts; the first time the ambulance came to collect her.
It was difficult not to fear what I had seen, but when I finally got to visit her a couple of days later, she had her hair slicked back in a bandana, she smelled like coconut body butter and waved hello to every person she passed.
That’s the kind of woman she is.

You could be the meanest of mugs, and you still couldn’t intimidate my mother. You could throw boards over every window in the room, but she would learn to make her way in the dark. You could hurl insults left and right, but you would always miss, because she would tune out every word.
My mom is a rare and beautiful creature who meets fire not with aggression, but with the knowledge that fire will eventually burn itself out.
Argue, scream until you are blue in the face, but know that when she says she doesn’t care, she actually MEANS it.

This time when she had to go, we were on vacation, and I was ready.
I saw her off with the understanding that nothing lasts- that life has its own seasons; that we are never any one thing at a time.
When I got to see her the next day, she was as tender as ever, laughing at jokes that didn’t make any real amount of sense, brushing hair from my eyes and simply saying “Well, I don’t like it in here, but it’s okay. Do you think you could bring me a Big Mac tomorrow?”

In the hours that most people would spend in agony, she thought about me, about all of us, because she doesn’t know how not to.

In the days that followed, she took me through the facility and showed me what it had to offer. I was delighted to see that she had the option to bake, play basketball, meditate, and participate in activities like yoga and tai chi.
She showed me all of the art supplies and lit up when she pulled out the pictures she planned to colour for her grand babies.
After a game of twenty one, I cuddled up next to her on her tiny hospital bed; her little spoon. I felt the pressure in my chest release when she said “I feel safe here. I feel like I can heal.”
As she stroked my hair, my mother asked if I was angry with her. She tearfully told me that she was sorry that she gave me this illness; that this was not how she wanted to be remembered.

I turned to face her and told her that I remember her skin being soft like the velvet skirts of the dresses I wore on Christmas eve. I told her I know that if she were stranded on a desert island and had the option to play any album for the last time, it would be The Eagles’ Greatest Hits, but that she would be okay with Cat Stevens and that Van Morrison makes her snap her fingers while she dances.
I reminded her that she could moonwalk across the entire kitchen floor; that I only recall her loving me more than she loved herself.

She gave me far more than an illness. She gave me the ‘oomph’ to work my way through one. She gave me the sense of humour to laugh when my eyes burned too much to continue crying. She gave me the imagination to carry me away from despair and the gratitude to understand that the fact that I’m still here means that I am lucky.
She smiled and asked “Would you write about me?”

Here’s to you, my beautiful-eyed, iridescent soul. Here’s to scrunchies and Barney and Gushers and old English lullabies. We’ll take care of you now.

Sweet Little Lies

It’s been a minute.

I apologize for the very small amount (none) of posts for the month of February, but lately I’ve been feeling a bit like an onion. Layers of my being have been torn off, and I have been dealing with the frosty breeze of truth against my new and tender skin. It sounds like a pretty lame excuse, but it took a lot of out of me. I would sit down to write and instead of the words I desperately needed to bleed, all that my imagination could give me were dancing hams.

I’ve talked a ton about self-esteem and the importance of identity, but life has a funny way of making you live up to the words that you say, and that’s what this month has been about. I sat down one day and tried to come up with a list of my attributes, and for reasons I still don’t understand, I couldn’t come up with any. When I finally stirred up one or two I could be sure of, my mind would always stop me before I wrote them in ink. It seemed so permanent, so final as if it were being carved into my skin where I would never be able to cover it. My mind would override my hands with doubt and I would be less convinced that I had any attributes to speak of. That page is still very much blank.

I’ve had the time to mull it over, and I have come to the conclusion that my identity, my core being is not at all what I thought it was. For an extensive period of time now, my soul has been neatly wrapped in a tight and unforgiving plastic. I used to assume that this was the fault of other people, but I can’t go on believing that, because it wouldn’t be the truth, would it? No, this plastic is so tightly wound that it would have taken total cooperation from my soul for it to be possible. This is how I know that the culprit is and has always been me.

When Eleanor Roosevelt said “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent,” she was bang-fucking-on. People will lie to you all day long. They will tell you that you don’t have the guts, the balls or the ovaries to do what it takes. They will tell you that you don’t deserve it, so you shouldn’t want it, shouldn’t chase it. They will tell you that your best will never be enough. Sounds daunting, right? I thought so, too. If I’m truthful, I didn’t ever think I’d get ahead of those people and their chatter, and so I stayed amongst them for fear of the walk of shame, the fear of failure, the fear of coming up empty.

Here’s the catch:

People will lie to you all day long. They’ll tell you that George Michael was in NKOTB. They’ll tell you that you won’t hurt yourself jumping off of a balcony. They’ll tell you that kale chips taste just like the real thing. If you went about your life blindly believing these things, where would you be? Well, you could be in a full body cast, eating a single kale chip before you violently spit it out, watching a television special on WHAM. And you will realize that they were wrong, they were wrong about everything. After that you will be slapped with the harsh reality that trusting this information lies with you and you alone. You realize that it was your mistake, and that’s worse.

The lies start as soon as we are able to communicate, when we absorb the actions, the words, the personalities of other people in order to develop our own. We don’t even see the bars of the prison we’re in until we realize that there is more on the other side, until we understand that success, beauty and skill is all relative. The prison is all of the misguided notions we carry about ourselves, the doubt that crushes our ambition and the mirror that makes us repulsed by our own reflection. The upside is that this prison is unlocked, should we make the choice to walk towards freedom.

I’ve realized that I have been walking around under the weight of lost hope and the barriers that keep me from progress, and it’s not anybody’s fault. The blame is on me for letting the words of other people under my skin instead of the burn of desire and the hunger to grab hold of it. What’s troubling is that I still feel fear for letting the lost hope, the barriers float away like a leaf in the midst of an autumn gust. I feel fear because I have no idea who I am without those familiar footholds to stand in. If I let go of all that is weighing me down, I might be lifted, I might be happy. It’s strange and funny that I fear greatness and success over mediocrity, but I think this is true for most people.

So here I am, peeled down to my core, stripped naked. It feels tragically hopeless and liberating all at once. However, I am thinking of myself like the onion. I am bare, but this is the nourishment that I have to offer. This is the flavour I bring to the lives of other people. This is my shot to contribute something unique to the world. Though there will always be people who wrinkle their nose at me, there are plenty who are willing to spread me around their lives and become entangled in mine.

Bitter and beautiful; that’s how I like it.

PS. I played “Careless Whisper” throughout the entire duration of this post.

Here’s To It

It’s New Years Eve.
I don’t usually buy into the hype that is December 31. I mean, yes, I put on a cocktail dress and proceed to get belligerently drunk, but that’s about as far as it goes. I’ve never been the type to make any solid resolutions, and if I have, they were usually carried off in a cloud of smoke before the ball dropped. However, I feel a bit of magic tonight, my friends.
I’m spending the evening bundled up in front of my screen, and I feel great about it. Tonight there won’t be any tights or heels or curls or company, and I think I need it to be this way. Something is tugging at me, calling to me to reflect. The more that I sit here reflecting, I feel the urgency behind my fingertips, so here I am. When I sit with the weight of 2013 in my lap, I recall just how heavy it was. I say heavy because it feels right, but a lot of the weight is made up of triumphant moments, the kind that never leave you. As I run my fingers along the months passed, I feel both fearful and delighted to leave it behind.
2012 was the year I refer to as “the Aftermath.” 2013 has been the year that I now call “Adaptation.” I feel as though I’ve grown into myself a little more as every day was taken down with the sun. I have been confronted with the truth, which has been bitter and hateful, and yet, full of clarity and immense beauty. I have come to understand that life can never be any one thing at a time, and in a way I feel grateful for its erratic patterns, I don’t know if I would find the world interesting enough to live in without the burden and blessing of feeling everything at once. I won’t let this year unfold. This year I want to unwrap it, finding whatever I find. And so it is that I will name 2014 “The Change.” I want to dive in headfirst, step off of the edge. I want to take accountability, make goals, and rise to meet them.
Like a great many portions of the posts that will be written tonight, I’m going to share with you my resolutions. There is a certain freedom (and fear) in putting them out for the world to observe. I don’t want to let life happen to me this year, I want to make life happen for me. So though they are few, here they are:
1- Expect nothing:
This sounds ridiculous when I see it on my screen. What I mean is that I do not want to walk through the door of the new year with expectations of what it may bring upon me. I think that these kind of expectations create limits, and limits are one of the things I’m saying “Auf Wiedersehen” to, for I no longer need them if I know the truth. The truth is that there are no guarantees for golden years, and I no longer wish for them, either. If I expect nothing, I am prepared for anything. Just because life paints guidelines doesn’t mean I can’t paint over and beyond them. I will move through the inevitable storms with desire for something more. Along with that hunger I will need to…
2-  Have Courage:
It makes me sad to think of the many opportunities that have slipped through my hands because I was too afraid to hold them. It’s kind of sick, isn’t it? The way some of us would rather fail by default than to fail as a result of trying; really, truly trying. I want to be brave. And if I can’t be brave, I want to take the leap anyway. I want to thrust myself into chaos, dance with chance, and, when I thrust myself into a number I can’t move through gracefully, I want to trust myself enough to follow the tune to the end. And with that being said, I’m going to need to learn to…
3- Accept Failure:
It’s just not feasible to imagine a future where failure doesn’t exist. It does. It licks bungholes, but it is a very real and necessary part of whatever this life is. I am going to try to imagine failure as less of a feeling of defeat and more like a minor hiccup. If I am failing, I am learning, growing. I want to be tall, like a sunflower under the sun of experience. I’ve been told that it’s okay to fail quietly, and while I’m sure that works for some, it won’t do for me. I will fail colorfully. I will fail with a face twisted into an “ugly cry” and a mouth full of foul words.
4- Embrace the Quirk:
I want it out in full force for everyone to see. I guess, mostly, this year (along with the help of the internet) taught me that my quirks aren’t all that quirky. They’re pretty normal, actually. I won’t hide beneath the blanket of normalcy. I don’t think it was concealing much, anyway.
5- Choose Life:
The final and most difficult resolution. While it’s fun to have grand, sweeping thoughts of finish lines and warm embraces, it’s quite another thing to apply this passion to everyday life. To wake with purpose, to choose to create these moments and these milestones under the weight of the pressure and the expectations of other people. To do the work that is required to feel a beating, grateful heart. This is what I desire and fear most of all. To choose life, to say yes, would be a feat to be celebrated.

Oh, yeah. I have to mention that I’m so glad to have you along for the ride. Thank you to everybody who clicked “follow.” Thank you to everybody who has had the great courage to share with me their wounds and given me perspective. Thank you to everybody who shown up to hear me speak when I was sure that I had nothing to say. I’ve always had the voice, but you gave me an audience. This blog has been the best journey I’ve ever started, and I can’t wait to share with you the trials and the triumph that awaits me in 2014. I can’t wait to see where 2014 leads you.

“Somehow, we’ll  find it. The balance between what we wish to be and what we need to be. But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are.”

The Post Without a Title

Today I want to talk about death: Wanting, waiting for, dreaming of death.

It’s morbid, I know. As much as I love to keep things light, I know I didn’t create this blog to roll in fluff and eat fun dip. I created it as an outlet for honesty, and sometimes that means getting down to the grittiest parts of what put my life in motion. So I’m going to talk about it.

I think, to some degree, we all question what death feels like. I can remember being about 6 and wondering if it would be painful, and if people would miss me. I remember wondering what would be waiting for me when I ceased to exist. I suppose the real difference between that time and now is that I no longer think about those things. I don’t wonder what lies ahead. Maybe it’s because I don’t know if I believe in any kind of afterlife. Maybe it’s because I just don’t care. I’ve never wanted revenge, or the satisfaction of knowing that the people who caused me pain would have to live with my memory. In the times that I’ve wished for death, I’ve only imagined it as slipping into a state of nothingness. Quiet.

Quiet: It’s what I long for more than anything. I think about it so often that I swear I can taste it. It doesn’t really make sense for a 22 year old girl to want that. I should crave the vibration of bass and squeals of delight and the dizzy chaos of being young. It’s not that I don’t wish to want those things. I do. I want to dream of freedom, recklessness, the feeling that time is on my side and that I can do with it what I please. But instead, always I wish for a sweet, endless silence. Every story has a theme, right? Well, this is it. And I figure that today is as good a day to share my story with you as any, so here goes nothing.

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This is me.

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Annnnd this is a far more accurate portrayal of what I look like in everyday life, without makeup and spectacular lighting.

It’s a bit difficult knowing where to begin in sharing all of this, but I am going to try to be as detailed as possible. For 20 years of my life, I was a curious, confident soul. This is not to say that I was without insecurity, because anyone who has followed my blog thus far knows that this is not the case. What I mean is that I was an open heart with a certain bullheadedness that was enough to power me through any darkness I would encounter. I liked myself, I relied on myself, and that was enough. In December of 2011, I started to feel differently.

I had just moved out of the city limits and settled into rural life with Sean, my fiance at the time. His work led him out of town, and I found myself alone a lot. I slept fitfully, until one night in particular when I could not fall asleep at all. A strange feeling came over me, a sudden desperation that I had never known. Anybody who knows me understands my unwavering hatred for housework of any kind, and yet, I found myself scrubbing walls, sweeping floors, rearranging clutter for hours until morning. I screamed and shook the entire time. This cycle continued for a week until I allowed myself to feel the weight of it, and I became frightened. Still, I kept quiet because I had no way of really understanding what it was that was happening, and I wouldn’t allow anybody to think that I was nutso.

The insomnia continued, and though I felt like a zombie, my mind was moving so swiftly that I couldn’t sit still. I’ve always had an active imagination, but I started to notice things that overwhelmed me. I would come home to a tap left running, the lights on, a television blaring, and things that had been moved from the places in which I had previously arranged them. I started to believe that I was being haunted by an evil entity. This made my nights alone more frightening and sleep became something I refused to consider. As the sun rose and set, the patterns of my behaviour became more erratic and took such a toll that people started to notice. Sean was concerned and suggested I see a doctor.

My experience with doctors and medical intervention in general had left me a bit sour, so at my first appointment I said something along the lines of “I feel weird.” She asked “Weird like how?” to which I responded “I’m not sure.” Part of me didn’t want anybody to know the extent of my symptoms, and I think I was more afraid of knowing what was happening than the fact that it was occurring at all. She pried out of me what she could, and I came away with some antidepressants and a small dash of hope. It couldn’t be that easy, could it?

Nope.

Soon afterward, I started to hear things. It started small at first. Have you ever walked in to a dinner party and heard the sounds of forks hitting plates and the hum of garbled conversation? It was a lot like that. I would hear it and it would be gone as fast as it started. It concerned me, but not enough to tell anybody. ( I mean, how in the name of Sandra’s virginity was I supposed to explain that?) However, it wasn’t long before I would be left without a choice in the matter. They came like whispers. 1, 2, 5 at a time. When a voice starts speaking to you, you don’t really question the blurred line between imagination and reality. You just answer. And I did. They were as real as any conversation I’d experienced, besides being quite nonsensical. Now, you can’t very well talk to yourself all day without other people noticing that you’re doing it, so the jig was up for me. Along with the voices came hallucinations. One episode was particularly vivid and ultimately ended my working life. I was a receptionist for an oilfield rental company, and my main job was answering the phone. As I hung up, I scratched the back of my head. When I pulled my hand back, I noticed that it was covered in a large clump of hair. The more I touched it, the more hair would appear. I started to scream and wail. By the time everybody had come from their offices to see what the fuss was about, the hair had vanished. My hands were clean. It was all still very much attached.

That was the day I realized that I was facing more than I was capable of dealing with on my own. My employer suggested taking a leave of absence until I was refreshed enough to return. Though I was grateful for their understanding, I was more humiliated in that moment than I had ever been in my entire life. There is something very soul-crushing about losing sight of what is real and what is an illusion. I didn’t understand how my state of being had plummeted so very far in such a short amount of time. A deep depression sunk in, and while I’d been sad before, this was a different ball of wax. How would I tell people of my experience when simply thinking about it made my insides burn? How would I keep a positive attitude while I was constantly tortured by the very tool necessary to maintain it?

I want to tell you that it got better, and that it wasn’t long before I returned to my bubbly, personable self. But wouldn’t be the truth. That day led me on a journey, alright. A journey of psychiatrists and diagnoses and medication that I couldn’t pronounce. A journey of darkness and the nasty backlash that comes about when fighting with oneself.

That brings me back to the theme that began this post. Wanting, wishing for, dreaming of death. Of nothingness. Of quiet. See, I just don’t have the luxury of peaceful moments anymore. There they are, in my head, talking, talking, always talking. I had always thought that at 22, I’d have a healthy fear of death. I thought I would be drinking in every experience within reach before the sand ran out. At the very least, I didn’t imagine that I would think much about death at all. Not like this. But I promised myself honesty and total disclosure, and here it is. I felt that this post was important to write for 2 reasons: 1) I know that there are A LOT of people walking around thinking about this. The circumstance might be different, the feelings may vary, but the idea of death consumes many lives. I want anybody who stumbles across this post to know that they are not alone. That they are not selfish, ungrateful aliens. 2) If I’ve learned one thing fighting the grip of mental illness, it’s that what I think and feel is not always accurate. I cannot always trust those thoughts and feelings to be fact. And because of that, I know that it is unwise to make a decision, especially one so permanent, under the influence of deep pain.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in God. Some people ask “If you don’t believe in God, what is the incentive to get through this?” Here’s my answer: I DO think it is important to believe in something. I think faith is a key component in overcoming any obstacle. For me, it’s about where I choose to place that faith, and right now, it belongs in myself. I believe in tomorrow. And on days when I can’t believe in tomorrow, I believe in yesterday. Yesterday held a lot of great moments, and even more importantly, it held a lot of mind-numbing, shitty ones. And despite those shitty days, the sun rose again, with new possibility. So maybe today is hard. Maybe today I don’t know if I can hold out. But I just can’t cheat myself out of the possibility of a better tomorrow.

And that journey I mentioned? It’s also been a journey of self-acceptance, of understanding, of patience. I may not be whole, but my character has so much more depth because of it.

I want everyone out there to know that it’s okay to feel beaten down and defeated. It’s okay to have moments in which you feel small and insignificant. Life is going to hand them out like tootsie rolls on Halloween. It’s OKAY not to know what to do next. But whatever you do, however you feel, don’t CHOOSE this feeling. If today you are given the option to feel even a small dose of happiness, always choose to feel it. Don’t let yourself forget what it’s like because you are so used to feeling sadness, or because you don’t feel that you deserve it. I want you to know that you do. Please remember that most battles last for years. Remember that there will be blood and tears. But most of all, remember a time before the battle began. Let it guide you through the haze and the smoke and allow you to believe that there will be a time when the battle will cease.

Now that you know my struggle, maybe you could tell me about yours. For as unimportant as you may feel, I want to offer you friendship and hope. I want to support you. I believe in YOUR tomorrow. I can’t promise that my words will heal. I can’t promise you prosperity. But I CAN promise you compassion and support. So what do you say? You can find me here, on Twitter, or on Facebook. I’ll be posting at least once a week to talk. To talk about what made that week difficult, and what made it bearable. I’m going to talk about progress, or lack-thereof. I’m going to talk about the other useless things that filled the cracks. If you would like to join me, just click the follow button.

I love all of you. Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Though it was painful to write, I’m so glad for the opportunity. And if you should choose to share yours with me, I hope that it’s as cathartic for you.