hope, marriage, Mental Illness, panic attacks, Uncategorized

Peace Like a River

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This past month has probably been one of the healthiest of my life. I lost a lot of weight in the hospital but have thankfully gained it back, and have found that I am truly enjoying eating a healthy amount of nutrient dense foods every day. Being on the tiniest thread of medication has been incredible as well. It’s the first time in seven and a half years that my body hasn’t been flooded with chemicals, and I feel so healthy and happy. I am absolutely thankful for the team of medical professionals who work with me to make sure I am stable and well. Moreover I am thankful that God has made it clear to me that I am in His grasp and am safe.

It’s a shock to me that what is usually one of the most difficult times of year has become such a time of peace and restoration. My husband and I marveled this morning over how things were going, and I am reflecting at the way God has allowed our marriage to weather so many storms. Every day I am grateful, waking up happy and going to bed at peace.

I’m trying to be aware of myself mentally and physically, without stressing about “What if I need medication again?” It’s there and I know it’s a safety net I can rely on if I need it. For now though, I’ve been working with my doctor, nurse and therapist to find the healthiest solutions to stress I can use, implementing yoga, breath work and prayer to keep me stable when I feel overwhelmed rather than taking a pill.

Sometimes I don’t want to take the time to do the work, or to experience half an hour of anxiety and allow panic to course through me before it passes, but it always does, and I am so amazed at how these other techniques have benefited my health. My skin has become very clear, where I always struggled with breakouts, and my body feels strong. Doing strength building workouts during the week has increased my confidence and helped me feel calm about gaining weight in a healthy way.

I know this is a time that could erupt with difficulty, but I am not worrying as I usually do. This is because I have felt God’s love and presence wrap around me, holding me secure. His promises are real. I am overwhelmed at how He makes Himself known in both the times of trial and the times of peace.

Although verse 11 in Jeremiah 29 can often be taken out of context, I do see the parallels in my life in correlation to the passage.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ” 

In reading that I am reminded of the hope I have in my own life, knowing the plans are laid out and I can be free to trust whatever comes, aware that it has been orchestrated by a God who does not make mistakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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anxiety, black and white photography, community, creative writing, Depression, eating disorder, hope, Mental Illness, schizoaffective disorder, suicide, Uncategorized

There Will Be Light

light-end-of-tunnel-web

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
I struggled for days on what to write for this post, but felt led to write about why I am thankful I have lived when I could have died.

I was 12 the first time I told someone I wanted to end my life. The idea of death seemed as real to me as it has in my adult years when depression has hit like a black fog, terrifying yet tangible.

Over time I’ve come to learn that these feelings would haunt me and creep into my life like spiders waiting in corners ready to jump out at me when I least wanted them to. Weaving their webs into random months of years and leaving strings of sticky desire behind, I’ve often struggled with suicidal ideation, and have made several attempts. Some of them have been during psychotic episodes, but one of them was not, and was in a desperate desire to rid the world of the burden I thought that I was.

The lies that used to shriek “You are worthless. You don’t matter. The world would be better off without you. Your husband would be happier!” and so on, were cut short by a God whose whisper says “You are mine. You matter.”
His light in the tunnel I sometimes fall into puts to shame the darkness that at times makes it’s presence so well known to me, and He saves me every time.

I would not be writing this without grace. I would not be here without God.

If I had died, I would have missed seeing my little sister get married. I would have missed laughing with her and hearing her incredible heart. I would have missed seeing the explosion of genius that is my other little sister through her artwork. I would have missed hearing her sing. I would have missed out on her deep introspection. Both of them are my joy, and I cannot imagine missing out on the beauty that they bring to this world by living so fully and radiantly.

By living, I have been blessed by seeing God put friends into my life that I would never have expected to have. Beautiful people with beating hearts full of grace that gift me with their individuality all the time.

I have learned that living is not the easy way, because it means surrender. It means giving up everything I want to hold on to and handing it back to God, knowing that He is the one who will lead me into an abundant life. Even when I am stormed by voices and hallucinations, even when I want to run to my eating disorder for comfort, even when I want to give up and die, I have to run to grace and remember that there is more.

Living means working above the roar, and living in the whisper of truth. It means straining to hear it, it means hard work. It means heartache when God does something I don’t understand. Sometimes it means loss, and that can be a great amount at times, so much so that I want to give up all over again. Sometimes it means learning an incredibly difficult lesson.

For me, choosing to believe that there is hope means trusting in a God I cannot see, blindly walking into the unknown on a daily basis. I have had to relearn everything I’ve trained myself to believe, which is that I have a purpose.

To anyone reading this, especially to those who have been affected by suicide in any way, my heart goes out to you. I want you to know how much you matter, how much you deserve to live a wide and open life. You have a purpose. Though the darkness may be thick and dark, so bleak you cannot see right now, there is a promise of hope and light. Hold on, and don’t give up.

 

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anxiety, black and white photography, creative writing, Depression, hope, mental health, mental illness, panic attacks, self help, Uncategorized, writing

You Are a Person

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As Jenny Lawson put it in her book Furiously Happy, “You are not a math problem, you are a person.”

I love that quote because it reminds me that I don’t have an exact formula for being “fixed” or “cured” and that it’s ok for my brain chemicals to shift and for some days to be wonky and some days to be great.

Yesterday I was released from the hospital for the 6th or 7th time, (the 2nd time this year) and I was vastly encouraged by some of the group therapy that took place during some sessions. I was able to get off of some medication I’ve been addicted to for three years, cold turkey, and I feel great. I’m back to the bare bones of what I need now and I am so thankful for having such a good doctor.

I ended up in the hospital because I was hallucinating during a severe psychotic episode, and voices told me to do something dangerous. I wound up in the ICU, spent a while in there and was finally transferred over to O’Riley Hospital. (Fun fact, it used to be an abbey.) It’s a two story brick building with a winding staircase and giant fireplaces that remain unlit, so it’s rather cold but has a homey feel. I was treated with more care than I’ve ever received at any hospital and with more respect than I could have ever asked for.

My therapist told me the day I before ended up there that it’s possible I can age out of my symptoms, and that I’m not destined to a life of being in an out of mental hospitals. (Ironic I know that I ended up in one the following day, you can laugh it’s ok.) I’m taking great hope in that because I don’t think that is where my life is headed either.

A medical student asked me to share my story as we sat outside the other day, and I spoke about how I was passionate about shattering the stigma that surrounds mental health. I told him “If you’re really wanting to get into this field, it’s not just about the books. It’s about learning the hearts of the people shuttered in silence and advocating for them and with them, being their voice when they can’t speak. It’s about learning about the stigma and fighting it, not just being an observer.”

I was blessed by my time there even though being hospitalized isn’t fun. I was given some good insight my last day about some things that were troubling me from fellow patients, and I feel solid right now. I feel good.

If you’re in a dark place right now it might last a short while or it may go on, but it won’t last forever. Even if there are glimpses of light they are worth waiting for and savoring, because they are the glimpses of hope for what is to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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anxiety, black and white photography, community, creative writing, mental health, Mental Illness, motivation, panic attacks, schizoaffective disorder, self help, Uncategorized, writing

Breathing Underwater

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It’s a bright afternoon, and honestly not too hot considering it’s Arizona. However on this day, the light is burning my eyes, and everything feels too loud – too much. My heart is racing in my chest for some reason I wish I could explain, and I feel as though I’m underwater, longing to inhale and cannot. I dread the liquid entering my lungs. I feel strings of weeds and tentacles pulling me down further away from the surface.

My heart races faster.

In reality I’m pressed against my closet door, legs folded, typing these words. I am trying not to hyperventilate. I am trying to remain calm while my hands shake.

Wanting to write in the moment, my wish was to express to others what it’s like to be in this place. There is a desire to show what it’s like swimming with no where to swim to, lost in a cavernous swell of water that folds me into it deeper and deeper as I panic and wrestle and exhaust myself only wanting air, just air, just air.

Sometimes when these panic attacks hit me there is a definitive reason. Crowds, too much noise, too many people, an auditory sensory overload that sends me spiraling and sometimes triggers psychosis. When these attacks hit out of the blue though, it irks me. There is no rationale, no logic behind it, I’m simply drowning and all I can do is wait for it to pass and try to wrestle through it. Curl into a ball, take long breaths, scream into a pillow. If I’m in public I’m not so lucky, and the world spins upside down and turns into jello.

Right now I feel as though my fingers are flying and trying to rip themselves off of my hands, and I have to remind myself that it’s only been ten minutes, and in another five I might feel better. My heart rate might slow down.
It will.
Positive affirmation.
It will slow down and things will be ok. I will be ok.

I am learning how to breathe underwater.

 

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anorexia, black and white photography, community, eating disorder, hope, mental health, mental illness, motivation, self help, Uncategorized, writing

How to Help

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“Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July…

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream? ”
-Lewis Carroll 

At first I thought it was just a temporary hiccup, a minor setback, that I’d get back to shore in no time and off the boat I had climbed into. That was back in January, and though I have had a few good weeks here and there, it’s all been downhill.

I just haven’t fully noticed until now.

I’ve quit seeing my therapist. It wasn’t a good fit, so now I need to find a new one. Again. I’ve relapsed once more into anorexia, and I cannot express how it feels to have it’s fingers around my throat making it impossible to enjoy a sliver of life. Every thought is consumed by how many calories I’m burning, getting to the gym, whether I’m going to have to be around food soon or not, how to avoid it, panicking.

For a long time I thought I had been doing so well, but even in my relapse I was fooling myself, all the way down the slippery slope. I wanted to write out some helpful things to say and not say to someone with an eating disorder in this post, because it is crucial that people in recovery or who are battling a relapse or going through an ED the first time without support get the right kind of love and care. Without that, everything shuts down and nothing is accomplished.

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WHAT TO SAY TO A LOVED ONE STRUGGLING WITH AN EATING DISORDER:

– Set aside time in a safe, supportive environment to talk so that your loved one feels more comfortable listening and perhaps opening up.
Communicate concerns in a loving way.  Let your friend know about specific instances when you have been worried, seen behaviors, but let them know that it doesn’t change the fact that you still love them the same.
– If your friend of loved one is not currently getting help, suggest that professional help might be something positive to look into, that you’re there to help them explore that option, and would be there to attend a first appointment if need be if the idea feels too overwhelming to your friend.
Express continued support, that even if your ideas and thoughts get shot down, you are there for your friend to talk to. When or if they change their mind or decide to get help, let them know you are there for them and will support them in recovery.

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WITH AN EATING DISORDER: 

–  Making simple solution comments. “You’re so skinny! Just eat more, it’s not that hard.”
– “ I wish I had your sense of self control.” (Please never say this to someone.)
Using accusatory “you’re” statements. When asking your friend to get help, instead try sticking to “I feel this way” type of phrasing.
Avoid placing blame, shame, or guilt. People with eating disorders live with nothing but shame and guilt already.
Avoid conflict or a battle of wills with your friend. Someone has to choose to seek help and want to get better, so sometimes saying something won’t make that happen. You can definitely speak the truth in love, but the outcome is always hard to tell. Your friend may be very defensive or very receptive.

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I’ve been very fortunate to have the support network I have in my city that I do, and I plan to start going to support groups each week as a start while I look for a new therapist.

I’m not going to let this take over my life, even though it’s been affecting it so much and at times ruling it completely since I was fifteen. Nothing should ever be able to take that much joy away from me. I refuse to let it, and I’m writing this to tell people that I won’t spend my life in a leaky rowboat.

At some point I am going to run on the shoreline and feel the waves lapping at my feet.

*For more information on how to help a loved one struggling with an eating disorder, visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/family-and-friends

 

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creative writing, free verse, mental health, poetry, Uncategorized, writing

Blades of Glass

Photography-of-Summer-18

Smash this window with me
To let the cool air in
Ignore the shattered glass
Just breath the fragrance of the earth with me
The damp, the dew.

Escape to the outside world with me
And become brilliant beneath the haze of all
That spans above.

We could be like blades of grass in a field
Waving sharp and strong
Tall and long
Hidden in a wide world of us and us.

Time passes like a swing
Back and forth and we are caught
Between an orchestra of birds
Above, around
Windswept and ocean calm.

The cyclones once upon us have dispersed
Like our broken glass
They cannot move us, whip us away.
The eye of the storm in the sky
Peers down, but for today
It lets us wave.

We are green flags in the ground
We dance to the cadence of the stirring air
In the hush before the whip of the wind.

k.m.r.

 

 

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anorexia, black and white photography, community, Depression, eating disorder, hope, Mental Illness, motivation, poetry, Uncategorized, writing

Cracks and Crazes

Bent Birch

Sometimes the road to recovery is stormed with things you cannot anticipate, and you take more steps back than you do forward. I’ve been experiencing this lately in my travels with eating, trying to walk that fine line between recovery and relapse. It is hard. I saw the photograph above and found it ironic, as I had been reading one of my favorite poems earlier this morning by Robert Frost entitled “Birches”.

I feel, right now, like the birch tree pictured, bent but not broken, just close to its snapping point should any more pressure be put upon it. A wind, an ice storm. I’m enjoying this time in my life so much, because it’s been a time of community and adventure, of new things, a time of hope. There is fear deep inside of me though that it’s too good to be true. I’m also trying to battle some deep underlying stress and anxiety that is very new to me, and so I shiver with fear, always trying to hide it.

Food is what I can control when everything else seems too overwhelming emotionally.  
It would be a lie for me to say that I am doing 100%. However, does anyone ever operate at 100%? I’m struggling with food, with perfectionism, with staying in control as I go to Doctors visits, nurse appointments, as  I take medication, see my therapist. It all seems too much sometimes, these people telling me what to do, what to do what to do.
I feel just like the line in the poem where I get to a point of being cracked and crazed, where I feel as though my bark is peeling back and I am trying to keep it on, brace against the cold, keep myself together so that no one will know I am having a difficult time. I want to appear strong, which is vain and arrogant.
Words cannot express how grateful I am for my community, something I have not had in a very long time. I am thankful  for the support they offer and the lack of judgement I have faced and the acceptance and love so many have shown me. It keeps my head above the water when some days I might be tempted to stop treading water. They encourage me not only to tread but to swim, and it is a beautiful thing. They are the ones who tell me “It is ok to bend sometimes, but it is ok to swing on the bended trees as well – to embrace life.”
 One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
*For anyone interested I included a link to the poem if you’d like to read it: 
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