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

A monster came knocking

Seven years ago I was coming out of an emotional denial. That time now feels like a hazy dream. I was functioning daily in a robotic way. Truly going through all the motions, nobody would of guessed how much pain, confusion, loneliness and anger I was feeling inside because the woman on the outside showed everyone she was beautiful and perfect. Always happy and content. Yet unsettled, not peaceful. I know now I was on the path to a severe nervous breakdown. I was working three jobs while trying to survive a messy divorce. My two boys whom I had been a stay at home mother to for 10 years moved out to live with my ex husband. It was at my request. My act of compassion in attempting to protect them. From me. I believed I was cracking under the pressure of the charade I had been keeping up for twelve years and that it would be safer for them not to be around me. Growing up with the way my mother was I was terrified about becoming like her and making my boys feel like I did. My mental health issues came to a head. I likened it to dropping a million piece puzzle on the ground. That’s how my brain felt. A tearing at the seams turned into shredded material strewn all over my house. I had been the three males in my life’s everything mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and there was nothing left for me. I stuffed my emotions, my dreams and my desires. I wasn’t even on my list of priorities let alone at the bottom of it.

Yet at the time I didn’t know that. I certainly didn’t acknowledge that. I felt fulfilled by my jobs, intensive exercise training for races I was running in while being an exercise anorexic and consuming huge amounts on alcohol and Xanax. I thought I looked great and it wasn’t until a dear friend brought his concerns up to me. He said, “who do you think you are, a rock star?” I was in a constant state of perpetual motion almost 20 hours each day. That had been had been my routine for months. Truly burning my candle at both ends. Literally running away from life.

Then the monster walked into my life. I refuse to call him by his name because remembering it and saying it honors him and he is not deserving. My ego was off the charts and I presented as a charismatic woman without a care in the world. I believe now it was my sheer brokenness that he sniffed out and was attracted to. Whatever started the spark between us grew rapidly into a raging forest fire within just four short months.

The monster moved into my home and I wasn’t lonely anymore. I had found someone who loved me, cooked and cleaned for me. Yet went through these crazy incoherent and incredibly violent controlling episodes where I ended up battered and abused on the floor. I have never seen that kind of rage before. Growing up my own mother who is clinically insane had scared the daylights out of me with her fits. She was a lamb compared with this lion living in my house. He said he loved me and I blindingly believed him.

That last month was the most terrifying time in my entire life. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight. I couldn’t even take a shower alone. He controlled what I ate, when I ate, when I slept, if I slept. Absolutely everything. I actually allowed another human being to fully dominate me 100%. I survived being screamed at in my face, choked and strangled, punched, kicked, thrown right through a wall and raped repeatedly. By that time I was completely isolated from any of my friends and family. My family lived many states away, not at all close. He held my phone anyways and monitored all my calls so either way I wasn’t telling anybody what was going on. The police came many times to my house. My neighbors would call them anonymously trying to save me. Each time I would swear to the officer that I was fine. He would stand behind the door glaring at me, making sure I was keeping his secret. Nobody could save me and there would be not rescue.

Finally, one Saturday morning as I was getting ready to teach my dance class he started in on me. First the screaming than the hitting. The thought came to my mind that he might actually succeed in killing me this time. So my act of taking back control in the situation was to swallow a bottle of pills and chase it with a few shots of vodka. I would be the one to kill me not him. He watched me do it and then continued his beating of me before he threw me in the car and dropped me off at the ER.

Upon waking up in the hospital in that bed with my arms tied to the gurny I learned I would be committed to a psychiatric hospital. Not only was I alive but God was offering me a new life, a chance to change, it was my moment of desperation. Where I realized I had two choices. I could try to stab myself with a medical instrument and get the job done right this time or I could use this opportunity to see hope in my future. Trust me I grappled with the first option for awhile. Lastly I thought if I could hold on to that hope and give myself a chance to heal, I just might make it. The acronym I like for hope is hold on pain ends.

In the years since that time I believe I am living proof of that statement. I had to learn how to put space between my thoughts, feelings and actions. Determine if I was to react or respond in certain situations. Start on the path of trusting myself, knowing my self worth and most importantly believing in myself. God shown his light through my hospital window that day. He reached out his hand to guide me. All I did was take a small leap of faith, held on tightly to hope and received his hand.

#mentalhealth #complexptsd #suicide

#hope #god #love #lifeisbeautiful