Anxiety, Depression, Grief and loss, Mental health

Gathering hope, one more try

I have overcome many obstacles in my life that I thought at the time would break me. Ten years ago, while I was still married, I lost my house in the housing crash of 2008. Even today I still struggle putting that experience into words that accurately portray how that felt. In the three years following that catastrophic event I endured a few more deep losses, the horrible death of my beloved cat, having to give away my dogs followed by my divorce that ultimately broke my relationship with my boys. Shouldering the blame for it all, now I realize just how naive I was to the pain and sadness I was truly feeling. I had to make some tough decisions in order to survive. The financial ruin is still something I haven’t fully recovered from. In true C-PTSD fashion, it has taken me years to heal from grief. At the time I wasn’t hopeful God had opened a window in response to the many doors that had been slammed in my face.

Today however, it is these experiences that have reshaped me. I had to construct an overhaul of my thinking in order to get out of bed everyday. The heavy seriousness of such stark change was absolutely suffocating at times. I attempted to stuff and swallow it all by drinking to excess, over exercising and restricting my food intake. I have a terrible knack for kicking my own butt and punishing myself when things go wrong in my life. My resistance to accept what was going on around me proved completely futile. Something had to change and the only thing I had control over was myself and my responses to the lemons I was receiving. I learned how to make lemonade by redirecting my thoughts and gathering hope where I could find it.

Throughout all the heartache, my faith in humanity was tested. I have some wonderful lifelong friends that put their arms of support around me and guided me back into the light. I’m someone that prides myself on being there for others and I don’t ask for help often. During these years my priorities shifted when I made the decision to wave the white flag of surrender. Swallowing that pride was one of the hardest and most fruitful choices I made.

There are many misconceived notions about what it means to be strong versus weak. We all go through dark times and our ego’s will lie to us by telling us, “I have got this.” I was forced to realize that I most definitely didn’t “have it” and I needed help. My friends uplifted,  guided and at times carried me through a time I was sure would destroy me completely.

People tell me often how strong I am. Most days I am proud of where I have come from and what I have achieved. Understanding what is truly important, what I need instead of what I want. My route to these realizations was a hard lesson to learn.

In the United States, we live in an over consumption culture fueled by the myth of the more you have the happier you are. In reality, I have learned this is false. Bigger, better, faster, more of everything is a sure fire way to disappointment because the emptiness we try to fill with those things provides a false sense of security. The depressing reality of materialism causes one to feel secluded, lowers human interaction and socialization. We must work more and spend less time with family and friends in order to maintain what we think we “need”. I believe this driving cycle is a self fulfilling  prophecy. We gain real happiness from our connection with others which is not something that can be bought.

Today, I don’t have many possessions and I live more of a minimalist lifestyle. The things I have lost can never break me because I choose to invest in relationships with the ones I love. I now understand that if I hadn’t experienced loss, I wouldn’t have gained hope and faith. It is the people around me that continue to support me, proving to me that as long as I keep trying and never give up the sky’s the limit. My dreams can become reality and I definitely have more than one try left in me.

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Anxiety, Mental health, Spirituality, Women's self care

Friend in the mirror

A few months ago in August I did something I never thought I would do. I fearlessly posted a no make-up selfie with words on it that represent me and who I am. My words are sushi lover, dancer, Complex PTSD, movie buff, humanitarian, ❤ car trips, fiesty, writer, book lover and suicide survivor. It’s posted on the i_weigh movement page on Instagram founded by multi-talented actress Jameela Jamil.cropped-20180828_1017001.png Ms. Jamil herself battled anorexia as a teen and struggled with self image. She noticed and began questioning the distubing trend of what determines beauty messaging and how it has brainwashed our society. Why every magazine and commercial are always pushing the idea that only being thin was beautiful and desirable. She is quoted by saying,”I was bombarded with a narrative that had no alternative. There were never any women who were celebrated for their intellect … and all of my magazines were selling me weight loss products or telling me to be thin. Otherwise, I wasn’t worth anything.” In an effort to raise the middle finger to entire industries that are complicit in perpetuating these ideas she started the i_weigh movement. Proving we are all more than a mere number on the scale. I fell in love with it and messaged my picture to be included.

I started ballet when I was 2 and I continued to dance competitively into my teens. My passion for dance led me to want to become a professional someday. I studied ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and modern from some of the best instructors and choreographers  in the dance world.  It became my life and my main focus. It also served as a catalyst for my eating disorder. I’m 5’2 and have been the same height since 7th grade. I was always told I was too small and I would never make it as a dancer. I didn’t have the long legs of a ballerina, I needed to lose weight (I didn’t), my skin is too olive(I’m Italian and Puerto Rican) and a list of other physical appearance critiques. I started restricting my food at the age of 13 or 14. I also abused laxatives, water pills and diet pills. I would spit into cups for hours before dance class in hopes of losing a pound, utterly ridiculous I know! At 16, I finally got fed up and lost my drive and self esteem about dancing. I quit and thought I would never take another class. Thankfully,  I rediscovered my love for dance as adult at 25 when my oldest son was 2. My new love is for tap and contemporary style classes. I have also enjoyed teaching little ones creative movement and beginner ballet but those are topics for another post.

My eating disorder however grew worse now that I wasn’t getting the extreme exercise from dancing daily for hours. I began an intensive workout routine and started running. The combination of restricting my food and my exercise routine bore behaviors that then turned me into an exercise anorexic. It was like a high, my newly discovered drug. I was able to control something because my home life was so chaotic and dysfunctional. My thinking became very obsessive and I was developing strange ideas about food. What I would eat and what I would avoid. It was a full time job mentally and utterly exhausting. Those patterns lasted on and off for years and I really didn’t confront it until five years ago. I have body dysmorphia as a result in addition to my many conditions and I still hold some of those beliefs that tell me I’m ugly in my core. I can absolutely agree with Ms. Jamil that negative body image is ruining people’s lives.

As a result of having my picture posted on i_weigh I met an extraordinary woman. She lives in Australia, we have never met in real life yet we have a kindered spirit bond like few are blessed to know. We have so much in common with our life experiences and we are both empaths. Currently we are trying to schedule a time to video chat with each other so we can “meet” face to face. I credit my new friend for inspiring me to get back to my writing and to share it online. She gives me so much support and artisitc suggestions.  I have even nicknamed her my pseudo creative director on this blog! Her spirit and soul are exquisitely beautiful. I look forward to our message chats because we uplift each other so much. We discuss anything and everything and I feel truly blessed to call her my friend.

Seven years ago during the height of my mental breakdowns and recovery after my suicide attempt, I was introduced to mirrorwork therapy. I stand in front of a mirror and tell myself  positive affirmations and I recite mantras. I know what you’re thinking, sounds weird right, talking to yourself in the mirror? I always say that I’m my own best audience and it’s a scientific fact that positive self talk is a sign of good mental health. At first I started to read off of the sticky notes that I had put up next to the mirror, I couldn’t even look at myself directly in the eye for awhile. Once I got more comfortable and with practice I can now stare right at myself and have an intimate conversation. The main two mantras I use are, I am a beautiful and capable woman. I am a child of God and I am loved. These are two statements I had the hardest time believing about myself especially after attempting suicide. Part of my therapy included examining my core beliefs, the things I tell myself and completely rewriting them. That tape we all have running through our minds constantly. At times we can carry our negatives thoughts and ideas about ourselves in an invisible but very real backpack. During my many years in therapy I have learned to stop the tape and take the backpack off.

Currently I’m on a therapy hiatus. I began taking part in therapy when I was seven years old. Mostly it was family therapy and sometimes it was individual. I have successfully completed a ton of different therapy programs over the last thirty years. That’s a lot of expressing and pain shedding and I’m to a point now that it has become uneccessary to continue on a regular basis. At the height of my time in therapy, I was seeing a DBT certified therapist four times a week. I have been in psychiatric hospitals over ten times and have completed numerous outpatient programs. I have been a member of different support groups with varying topics surrounding my mental health. I have read countless books about mental illness both non-fiction and fiction and listened to as many audio self-help books. I’m therapied out (I think I made that word up) and I need a darn break.

I used everything I have described here as my inspiration for this poem. Take notice of how I started describing my new Australian mate and then my subject morphed into discovering myself as my friend. It is hugely important to be friends with yourself. We are so loving and generous with our friends and at times we can be our own worst enemies and treat ourselves like dirt. The golden rule of treat everyone has you would like to be treated needs to also include, and especially yourself! We can all use that reminder sometimes!

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Anxiety, Dissociative disorder, Domestic violence, Mental health, Spirituality, Women's self care

People say

I’m the kind of person that when I encounter negative energy it makes me nervous. Whenever I feel nervous I tend to talk a lot. For those who know me in life that’s saying something because I’m an outgoing and talkative person in general. I’m also a good listener and I relish my quiet time. For those who know me well, it’s hard to ever believe I used to be painfully shy until I entered high school. I think I was just trying to understand all the energies and feelings I was picking up on.

I can admit that I have emotionally vomitting on people and not in a healthy and positive way. By nature I’m an optimistic person but we all have our moments. I also have a huge tolerance for bullshit and my patience level can tolerate more than most. One of the perks of being a middle child. I’m a true peacekeeper and the glue in my relationships.

I also have worked really hard on Radical Acceptance and the ability to let things go. Let go and let God. That’s one of tbe reasons I pray, is to give up my worries to God. When I was studying DBT my the certified instructor liked to use the phrase, “fake it till you make it”. I must admit, I loathe that saying. It goes against my authenticity and character. I understand it’s meant to be motivating to try and put yourself out there even when you don’t want to. In DBT we call it opposite action. The idea of applying opposite action to painful or overwhelming emotions seems confusing but it’s to help me make a more appropriate choice with my behavior. For example when I feel fear, I use this technique to asses my feelings and whether or not the facts fit the situation.

This poem is inspired by my need to regulate an overwhelming emotion and look within myself for the answers. All my poems come to me as visions. I can just be daydreaming about something and it pops into my head. They come across like words written on a page.

Anxiety, Domestic violence, Grief and loss, Mental health, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Women's self care

Purple

Purple is my hand down favorite color. It has been since I was a small girl. My room was painted a pretty lavender and I incorporated unicorns as a main decorating theme when I was in third grade. It was my oasis and my safe place. Since I can remember just looking at any shade of purple calms me down and soothes me. I have always been a scared and fearful person, like my whole body buzzes internally constantly. My spirit animal is a rabbit. Perhaps it’s the trauma I have endured since childhood or reading and picking up on energy. Most likely a combination of the two. When I got really scared I used to hide under my bed or in my closet. I can admit to doing this even as an adult. That last admission has made me feel ashamed of myself. I understand for me it became a way for me to self soothe.

Three years ago I bought myself the best Christmas present ever! It’s a weighted blanket in a customized purple material. I found it on a sensory/tactile products for healing website and it’s become literally my adult security blanket. Children and adults with autism love it as well as those who suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s likes getting a huge hug and gits all my pressure points at once. My nurse in the psych hospital introduced it to me. We patients had to share it because there wasn’t enough to go around. There was a sign out sheet for it. I always told myself once I could I would get my own.

My weighted blanket is part of my self care routine. My fiance throws it over me when I’m about to or having a panic attack. Similar to smothering a fire, it brings my engines down to neutral. It’s also extremely beneficial during my time of the month. I can’t say enough good things about the benefits of using one, I highly recommend it!

This poem grew from that love and became elevated into my commentary on humanity. I wish we could wrap a purple blanket around the Earth so we can all feel its vibe!

Anxiety, Domestic violence, Mental health, Uncategorized

Touch

I’m a lover and a giver. I love to hug and I’m big on using touch to heal. Displays of affection both privately and publically are my thing. I love to have my back rubbed and my arm gently scratched. It’s a known fact that human touch is essential to life and the ability to be happy and thrive. That’s why neonatal massage is so beneficial for newborns in the ICU.

One of the gifts I have in addition to being an intuitive empath is I am also a physical empath. I help my fiance daily with his aches and pains from playing professional football. Sometimes I get phantom pains before he even tells me what hurts. It’s very rewarding for me to help heal others both physically and emotionally.

There is a growing lack of compassion and empathy in our world today. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing and can seriously change a person’s life. I like to think about the impact the idea of paying it forward with emotional currency would have on us as a society. More understanding and acceptance of others no matter their culture, race, gender, sexual preference, beliefs etc. This poem was born from those thoughts.

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Anxiety, Depression, Mental health, Spirituality

Touched

I have always believed in something greater than myself, a higher more powerful force. I choose to call it God. I was raised in a strict Catholic home. I attended Catholic elementary school for grades first and second. My family was always at our church. I’m the only one of my six siblings that didn’t go through confirmation. My parents allowed me to investigate and study different religions once I became a teenager. I no longer was required to attend Catholic mass. Since that time, I’d estimate twenty-five years or so, I have been reading about religion and spirituality. I have attended different kinds of ceremonies in my search for what feels closest to my own truths for what symbolizes my God. I have determined it is more nature based and universal. I haven’t determined whether this force is male or female. I do however believe that this force is our creator. God indeed for each of his creations to love one another yet there will always be light and darkness within each of us. That’s the natural balance of everything, one can’t exist without the other. We also have free will and with that comes choices. I always tell my boys that they may not like everyone or everything they encounter in life but they must learn to show and practice love. I believe love is our original purpose. We can make different choices along our path to move closer to light and love or darkness and hate. This poem was inspired by those concepts.

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Anxiety, Depression, Domestic violence, Mental health, Uncategorized

Aftershocks

I have been through so many ups and downs on my life’s journey. Maintaining my patience has yielded me progress. I’m nothing if not a survivor. I’ve morphed into an emotional warrior. I have battle scars across my heart. My children have told me, Mom…you are so unlucky. I tell them nah, God just trusts me a heck of a lot. He knows I will be able to figure out whatever comes my way. I’m unbreakable, like Tephlon strong. Processing all that has transpired these last seven years inspired me to write this.