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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Domestic violence, Mental health, Spirituality

A voice from within

Traditionally October and November have been difficult months for me stemming from the severe traumatic abuse I endured seven years ago. It’s a fact that those with PTSD (I have Complex PTSD) can suffer from the “anniversary effect” from our trauma.  For that reason, when fall rolls around, the smell in the air can trigger memories I would rather forget. For me, I especially get triggered by locations in the state I was living in at that time. Ironically, Autumn has always been my favorite season yet since those dark months in 2011, I have become quite conflicted about this time of year.

This year I can also include September as a challenging month due to the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. I forced myself to listen to Dr. Christine Balsey Ford’s testimony before Congress because I have had the similar experience of having to tell the deepest,darkest most intimate details of abuse one could ever talk about in front of a room (in her case, the entire world) of strangers. After my abuse, I filed a restraining order against my ex boyfriend. Thankfully, I  had support from a dear friend at the time who literally held my hand as he led me into the courthouse. My voice trembling, I mumbled into a microphone my account of details surrounding abuse that was inflicted upon me in my own home by a monster of a man. He not only had the audacity to try and fight against receiving the restraining order, he attempted to call me out as a liar saying I made it all up! For two days in that courtroom I recounted the minutes and hours of my life for the previous two months of October and November of 2011. After the first day, the judge said he needed to review my case including notes from the many police reports that were filed on my behalf from my neighbors calls to try and protect me from what they could apparently hear going on at my house.  It was the most gut wrenching, shameful and embarrassing experience of my life. I don’t wish that situation upon my worst enemy. In the end, the judge granted me the restraining order and had some harsh words for my abuser before banging the gavel down. Ultimately, I ended up moving out of the state I was living in because my flashbacks and memories became increasingly too intense for me to function normally. I can admit now how life altering that time was and how it taught me several difficult life lessons.

I wrote the poem “Within” after watching Dr. Ford’s portion of the hearing and before Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony. I tapped into those same feelings she evoked in me and those that I felt during my own hearing. Then I twisted it into what would of happened had I not had the voice within me that I heard because it saved my life. I attempted to take my own life November 12, 2011 because I thought my abuser would kill me. It was my attempt at controlling the situation. My mindset was he’s not going to kill me, I will kill me. That thought and feeling combined with my action of taking a bottle of Xanax chased with a half bottle of Vodka was my desperate attempt to end all the pain. I believe God was presenting me with a tremdous gift in the moments after I woke up in the hospital. The gift of desperation is what ultimately saved my life. The decisions and steps I took to recover and heal from my abuse has helped me evolve into the strong woman I am today. The pain, the sorrow along with the hope and faith. I gratefully embrace it all.

*****A huge thank you to https://blog.feedspot.com/spiritual_blog/ for including Emotional Musings in their top 100 Spirituality Blogs for 2018. It is a huge honor to be recognized on my journey and in my mission to help heal others!!! A million thanks!

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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, Depression, Mental health, Spirituality

Words

There is so much to say yet I get stuck on what to say
The time goes by so fast and I ‘m left here
Alone
Without the ones that made me feel special. Gave me purpose, knew me the best and saw me at my worst.
Blanketed by guilt I hide.
Shut away, trying to abide.
The pain, the memories.
So much promising talent squandered.
Let down, let down, down.
It’s a long way down.
Drifting and falling
Need to be released and revived
A jolt, a kick start
Back to reality.
What can start the fire burning in me again
Just a spark can start the flame
Reignite the dream
Move me along down the path
I’ve taken off the mask
But I still can’t believe it’s me that’s afraid to see
The shame of the past, the feelings they last
And the memories are cemented
Dragging me back
Over and over again
Till my end.

When I went through my separation and divorce from my ex-husband I remember constantly feeling an immense sense of guilt and shame. I took on everything and only blamed myself, it was all my fault. My fault for having mental illness. My fault for not being able to mother my two boys like I had for the previous twelve years. My fault for our financial ruin. My fault for losing our house to foreclosure.

In hindsight of course and since processing all of that grief, I know now that I was taking on too much of the responsibility. I was thinking and behaving irrationally. I have been conditioned my entire life to take on everybody I care for’s emotions. Therefore, I was always accountable and responsible for everybody. I believe most of that is due to two factors that were influencing me greatly. One was that my mother has Narcissistic BPD. She is incapable of regulating her emotions, unable to have positive interpersonal relationships and my daily life was chaotic. I’m also someone with ESP (extrasensory perception) manifesting in me being an intuitive empath.

I wrote”Words” as a reflection of that time in my life. It also serves as a permanent reminder for me that I don’t have to feel that way anymore. It’s not healthy more me emotionally and I have had to put some emotional boundaries in place. Writing is my form of self care. It’s how I process all the difficult emotions and the traumatic events that have gone on in my life. It’s how I am healing and will continue to.