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

Breathing Underwater

Underwater-Photography-Elena-Kalis02-4860

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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black and white photography, community, Depression, hope, mental health, Mental Illness, mental illness, motivation, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, Uncategorized, writing

When Lightning Strikes

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Rapidly firing down on me a lightning bolt hits, and I am thunder struck. Everything becomes alive, becomes music, becomes beautiful, vivid, haunting.

My mouth is silent but my head is screaming, every inch of my being crawling and begging for help, from somebody, anybody. “God where are you?”
Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, I am whispering “Make it stop.” 

If I knew the answer as to why these clouds rolled in I could run from them perhaps, but they are faster than me. I see them approaching and I take every measure to keep them at bay. The right medications, extra yoga, breath work, extra sleep, walks in the sun, time with my dog, funny movies, reading. Anything. The clouds however are monsters, they are relentless and bent on ripping all I love and have from my grasp.
My will to exist. My ability to talk. To breathe, see, connect.

Soon I won’t be able to answer simple questions, connect with others or make eye contact. I will hear stranger and stranger commands from voices outside my head, like the ones I heard last night when my books began chanting to me, about how our matchbox had a code on it that was my identity. They said I needed to take it into my closet and discover what it was. I disobeyed however and sat in the bathroom with it because it was brighter in there, feeling wracked with fear and guilt over being so disobedient, while eagerly seeking the number on the box for my code.

In those moments of psychosis it makes perfect sense. I understand completely what is going on in those times, what I must do and what will happen if I don’t.
I don’t remember much else, just the box, just the weariness, just an open door.
Then sleep came, I saw the moon, and then came dawn.

Now everything is fine. “Fine.”  The answer I have to tell my nurse in twenty minutes.
The truth is I feel dark. I feel dismal and grey and washed out, like a pile of ash. I want to be soil in which life springs forth from me, roots growing wildly in a tangle of my mossy leaves and softened dirt, but I’m burnt out.

However, there is one more truth.

This is one day. Only one day of my beautiful, crazy, wild, tangled life, and some days there will be grey slate rain. Some days there will be fire that leaves my soil in ash heaps but the ash will fertilize the soil so that beauty can grow later on. That is what is magnificent about this moment. This one day, this minute. This one difficult time is for beauty that is to come.

Though fire strikes and thunder rolls, there is a God of the storm, and he makes beauty out of ashes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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black and white photography, community, hope, marriage, mental health, Mental Illness, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, Uncategorized, writing

This Far

Alice..went on. “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
” I don’t much care where-” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Three years ago and I am still chasing a white rabbit through the Mental Health Care system, through tunnels past backward clocks through the ticking of time with the madness of everything that should be right and isn’t. What I have learned through these past three years however is that happiness despite heartache is possible.
Let me repeat that:

Happiness despite heartache is possible.

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Here I am, standing mountaintop high, and there are voices surrounding me as always. I am ignoring them because the beauty of the world is too much. The voices tell me I’m worthless and should die and I’m nothing, and instead my husband captures this photo of me laughing into the wind, because I know they are lies.

I have found photos with myself reflecting my smile back at me in them, a genuine smile, because I know I have worth.
Voices that sound like radio static in walls and mood swings I cannot control do not dictate my worth, even on the days that it feels like they do.

In these past three years, through blogging, I have found what I do, and who I am. They are separate things, yet they intertwine, and I am proud of them.
I am a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a sister, a wife, a painter, a writer, a public speaker, a musician, and a friend. I love to dance, I love tea, I love colors; my heart is full at watching children learn and explore. I love spending time with elderly people because they know so much I that do not, and I want to learn, to hear.

Throughout this time of learning to let go of codependency in relationships and step away from ones I felt were toxic, God has given me a garden of beautiful friendships in my life that is turning my life into something beautiful and healthy.

I still have incredibly hard days, I still stumble, I make mistakes, I am human. I will never be perfect. My only point in this post is to share the joy I have found in the last three years and that there are good things to find in difficulties, that when we surrender ourselves into the free fall of grace and land in the unknown there will be something beautiful awaiting us. There’s no telling what that will be, or when. There’s simply the promise that it will be there.

For now, I am going to stand on my mountaintop and admire the world, letting the wind carry away what needs to be carried away and bask under the open sky, in gratitude to God for allowing me to make it this far.

 

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black and white photography, community, mental health, mental illness, schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, Uncategorized, writing

Voice of a Victrola

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Watching people these days walking around so quickly in between traffic, riding bikes, driving cars, all using their phones while many of them have ear buds plugged in listening to music at the same time…it often makes me wonder what their worlds must be like. I can barely keep up with the chaos of the world trying to handle my GPS much less have music playing and drive all at once, but for my own reasons. Looking at these people, these fast paced go go go people wherever they are going, makes me wonder what it would be like to be able to do that. To be uninhibited, free.

Today I had to check out. I couldn’t get any work done, I still haven’t taken my morning medications. I haven’t showered yet or put on regular clothes, and aside from taking care of my dog the auditory hallucinations permeating my personal space make it difficult to complete any task whatsoever.

Sometimes I hear people jokes or make light of things about hallucinations or schizophrenic disorders, saying hurtful things that aren’t meant to be hurtful – but they are. I want people to know what it’s like to live in a world of noise you can’t escape, to have a conversation without hearing whispers, or seeing spiders crawling up your friends leg and trying to maintain a calm expression while wanting to scream.

These are the things I want to talk to people about more, to people close to me, things that I feel get swept under the rug. Mind you, this is how I feel perceived, I do not actually know how I am viewed, but even in my family we don’t talk about it much. I want to, but for starters I am writing this because I don’t know where else to begin. This isn’t meant in any way to be a slander against my family. I know they love me deeply, I just want to speak up and share what matters to me because I don’t know how to communicate well aside from writing things out.

If you have 5 minutes, or even 30 seconds, please just watch even a small portion of the video below. This is what it’s like living my life. This is why I haven’t finished school, why answering questions or finishing a sentence can be so difficult. This is why I seem “timid” when I am anything but; why I stammer, stay silent when I want to speak.

If you gave me the chance, my words would carry beyond the crackling of the loudest victrola, clear and honest and not snuffed out like a match as soon as it’s lit.
I have a voice, and I want people who struggle with this disease to be understood and listened to. We all have voices, stories, experiences, and it’s important that they are heard.

Video: Schizophrenia Simulation

 

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