The Real Monster: Anxiety

I have never really been afraid of monsters. I grew up watching Jurrasic Park on repeat, as a child I would play pretend games with imaginary monsters that I would bring to life, and I was always invested in ghost stories. The things that gave me a true fright were things that could become a reality. For example, thunderstorms that triggered a tornado warning would send me into a fit. I would hibernate in the basement clinging onto my dog Daisy in complete hysterics until I knew that the threat was gone and we were going to be safe. When my parents decided to divorce, I was consumed with making sure that my parents were okay. I remember always thinking about them and wondering if they were ever going to find happiness. I was in second grade at the time, but I was so consumed with what my family was feeling that it felt like it was eating away at my young soul. Little did I know that I was already being introduced to one of the scariest monsters to have ever existed: anxiety.

As I have stated many times, clinical depression is something that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My mom even told me that she knew something was off with me before I was five years old, but back then mental illness wasn’t really something that was talked about. I remember seeing a school counselor for a short time when my parents decided to divorce, and then many years later going to see my first psychologist. Although it was many years where I wasn’t speaking to a professional about what I was feeling, I always knew something was off about me. As cliche as this is, I literally felt as if I lived in a literal world of darkness. I was consumed by sadness, resentment, and anger. I was constantly isolating, (although that has still not changed) and I never actively sought out friendships. I was content with being on my own overthinking every thought that I have ever had and accepting that feeling the way that I felt was normal. I remember being overly concerned for years about my dad. My mom was happy and in love with my now stepfather, and I wanted that for my dad. I would spend hours a day worrying about my dad and what his and our future looked like, to the point where I would go into a panic. I wanted the world for my dad. I wanted every bit of happiness that the world had to offer to him to be his. I wanted him to find a partner and to fall in love, and I wanted him to enjoy every moment of his life. I would think about these things constantly, driving myself absolutely crazy. So when my dad met my stepmom, I was over the moon with excitement because I felt like everything that I have ever wanted for my dad was happening to him. But then the worry of him finding happiness turned into worry about him losing it, and then I was consumed with worry that his relationship with my stepmom wouldn’t last forever. That constant worry wasn’t warranted though because they were and continue to be a healthy and happy couple, but I just wanted my dads’ happiness to be infinite. Looking back, I can now see that my worry about my dads’ happiness was probably one of the first anxiety-inducing situations that I was apart of, and I wish that it was figured out years ago that anxiety was one of the things that I was feeling.

As I progressed in age I, of course, came into more anxiety-inducing scenarios. One of the more traumatic things that I experienced that I still have trouble with was my sexual assault. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that I have learned more about that incident the older I have become. Looking back at what happened and after speaking to a couple of professionals about it, I have learned that I was essentially brainwashed, manipulated, and “trained” by this person since I was eleven to be a certain way with him. When the big incident occurred, I immediately broke down. I remember talking to my therapist at the time about it and her wanting to report it for statutory rape, but I wouldn’t let her for reasons that I don’t want to get into. After that happened I blamed myself for years for allowing it to happen. The big incident happened when I was fifteen, and it was just within the past year that I have been able to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I now look at the situation with complete disgust, and I can see it for everything that it was. I will say this though. After seeking out help for coping with what happened it almost makes me feel worse. I feel so violated. I feel like something was stolen from me. Every time I think about the whole situation I want to break down. This incident has a way to pop into my mind at the most inconvenient times, and what sucks about it is that when I think about it I literally feel like I am taken back in time and forced to relive everything that I went through. I can feel what I felt, both mentally and physically, and I feel frozen. My anxiety just completely takes over me, and I feel like I can’t breathe. My heart starts racing, and I need to remind myself that it isn’t happening now, it happened in the past. I would say my sexual assault is one of the biggest reasons why my anxiety is so horrendous.

Although I have always been pretty content with not involving a lot of people in my life, I do feel like my social anxiety just keeps getting worse and worse. I don’t do well with meeting new people, in fact, I have had to have therapy sessions in preparation for meeting new people and for being in groups. I don’t really know what it is, I just get really bad anxiety around new people and big groups of people. I get anxiety while driving, while going to the doctors’ office, and even shopping. Every time I feel like something might be wrong with my animals my anxiety spikes. I feel like my life is controlled by my anxiety, and it makes me feel so fragile. My anxiety is one of the main focuses of my therapy sessions, and I feel with every session that I have I become one step closer to breaking free of my anxieties grasp. 

My anxiety and my depression have this hold on me. Every day I work hard to better myself, but I have my ups and downs. I don’t think I will ever be free from my anxiety, but I do think that with time and hard work I can handle it better. After everything is said and done, your life shouldn’t be controlled by monsters, but by you.

The Magic of Holidays

This holiday season was the first time in four years that I was able to spend it with all of my family members, and it truly was spectacular. When I was younger I would always correlate joy, happiness, love, and peace to the holiday season, and that was mostly because that meant that I was going to be able to spend quality time with my family. The number of laughs that we all share, the conversations about past stories that kept me completely enthralled, and just spending time with my loved ones always felt so special. The magic of Christmas was never about the gifts for me, it always stemmed from the love that I felt when I had my loved ones around me.

When Stephen and I made the decision that we were going to move down to Dallas we didn’t even think about what the holidays were going to be like. We had a dream to move and we were willing to sacrifice everything to make that happen, but little did we know that the cost of the dream of moving was exorbitant. We knew that leaving home and everyone else behind was going to be sad, but nothing prepared us for how truly soul-crushing and lonely that whole experience was.   

Being away from family was always difficult, but nothing made you realize how alone you truly were until the holidays would come around. I went from having an immense amount of excitement starting at the beginning of October to being filled with sorrow and dread. I am already a severely depressed person, so the thought of being alone during the time of the year that I used to crave just made me even more devastated. I had Stephen and my furchildren, with whom I cherish more than my own life, but sitting alone watching movies while everyone else was enjoying one another always made me sink into another low. Perhaps being alone made me realize as much as I always loved spending the holidays with my family maybe I also took it for granted. I missed the magic, I missed my family, and I missed that wholesome feeling that I felt whenever it was the holiday season. 

When Stephen and I made the decision to move back home to Chicago in March one of the first thoughts I had was “I can’t wait for the holidays!” The thought of being with all of my loved ones and feeling all of that love fueled me with eagerness and excitement. When the beginning of October came around, I started to feel that magic that I always used to feel growing up. When Thanksgiving finally arrived, it felt superb to actually get in the car and drive forty-five minutes to my grandparent’s house. Seeing my dad making mashed potatoes and having my Mema squeeze me the moment she saw me filled my heart with so much happiness. This is what I have been missing. This is what I have been wanting. This is what I have been desperate for. Then it was Christmas time. I have been filled to the brim with that magical feeling for a few months now, and this was the moment I have been waiting for. Christmas Eve and Christmas day was the happiest I have been for a very long time. I was with my parents, my grandparents, my husband, my in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Hell, people who I didn’t really know. But it was incredible being surrounded by all of these people just celebrating one another. When I was with everyone I found myself laughing again, telling stories about the past that kept me completely captivated and spending quality time with the people who I love so incredibly much. This year, the holidays felt exactly like I remember them feeling before we moved away, and for that, I will always be grateful and appreciate this time of year. 

The magic of the holidays doesn’t stem from the gifts you receive. No. It stems from the love that you feel when you are with the people you adore and cherish.

I am Falling

I am falling. 

When it comes to my depression and anxiety, I never know what each day is going to look like. Some days I feel like I can live a functional life, while some days I can barely get out of bed.

I am falling.

Just as I thought everything was starting to look up, I realized that I was starting to come back down.

I am falling.

Internally I am screaming for help as loud as I can, but as desperate as I am to reach out to others I am afraid to burden them.

I am falling.

There is a tiny voice in my head that keeps taunting me. “Here we go again. Brookana is falling into another low.” I want to grab my mind and shake it, I want to scream “SHUT UP” and “LEAVE ME ALONE” but I know whatever I do I won’t be able to quiet the voice. 

I am falling. 

I haven’t cut in a decent amount of time, and the only reason I am writing right now is to distract myself. I see my scars on my thighs, the marks that represent that desperation to feel something, to satisfy my mind. I don’t want any more of these reminders, but the amount of strength that it is taking to not pick up my blade is exhausting. 

I am falling.

I haven’t left my house in three days.

I am falling.

I am isolating.

I am falling.

I am not sleeping.

I am falling.

I wonder what it is like to not have to experience depression and anxiety. Is it as sweet as I imagine it to be? Not having to worry about sinking, not having to worry about bleeding, not having to think about how your own mind is trying to sabotage your life. How freeing it must feel to not have anxiety that dictates what you can and can not do, to have this warden in your own personal prison, to have the power to literally take your breath away and make you feel like you are dying.

I am falling.

I imagine my life is a giant rabbit hole. I keep falling and falling until I can finally grip something and pull myself up, and then out of nowhere I slip and I am falling again. If I hit the ground, that means I am gone, but if I can eventually pull myself up I could finally experience living.

I am falling. 

My cat won’t leave my side. I think he can sense something is wrong.

I am falling.

This time around, I refuse to say that I am fine until I actually feel fine.

I am falling.

I am breathing. With each breath that I inhale and with each movement of my chest reminds me that I have more life to live. 

I am falling.

I need time to work through this.

I am falling.

Just like every other time I sink into a low, I know I will be okay.

I am falling.

I am strong but I am fragile

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I have had people tell me that I am weak because of my mental health. I have had people tell me that I need to cope better with life. I have had people tell me that I need to grow up. I have had people tell me to put my big girl panties on.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I feel like I am like a windshield with a crack. With time the crack gets bigger and bigger until you fix it or it just shatters. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

My strength stems from not following through with the things that my plagued mind wants me to do. Pills, knives and the garage give me haunting thoughts that chill me. I don’t want to do anything, but sometimes I do. I am constantly in a fight with myself, with my heart and my mind constantly playing an intense game of tug of war. I want to stay but I want to go. At the end of the day, I choose to stay so my heart always narrowly beats my mind. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I have worked so hard on making the best out of my life. Medication and therapy have been incredibly helpful. The days where I wake up and I don’t feel like I want to die are my favorite days. Being in love feels sweeter, being outside with the air caressing my skin feels freer, friendship feels more special, life just feels like it is finally getting easier. I can breathe, I can appreciate, I can feel bliss. 

I am strong but I am fragile.

As hard as I work on my strength and my well-being, it can also be easy for me to crash right back down. My mind is funny that way. I have a strong inkling that my mind is sitting at the edge of its seat, just waiting for something inconvenient or unfortunate to happen so it can have another chance to bring me down. Sometimes my mind can swoop in so fast to bring me down that I can almost feel my heart break from defeat. Here we go again, time to fight for life once more.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

When my mind wants me to end my life I do whatever I can do fight against it. I listen to music. I snuggle with my animals. I clean. As much as I try to distract myself, my mind can sometimes be stronger than me. It has this need for me to harm myself, and it won’t shut my thoughts down until it is somehow satisfied. So it is almost like we make a deal, or a compromise one might say. So when I dig into my skin with that razor it is almost like I can breathe again. I held up my end of the bargain, and now I can have a few moments of freedom from my tormenting mind. 

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I am sick, but I am trying to get better.

I am strong but I am fragile. 

I want to live.

I am strong but I am fragile.

Stress

The older I become the more that I learn about myself. It is an interesting experience having a revelation about yourself. I have always been confident that no one knew me more than myself, and that although I am aware that I am constantly evolving as a person I always knew what was changing about me as the changes were taking place. With that being said, there is some new information that I have realized about myself that I was not expecting and that I find truly troubling, and that is the fact that I handle stress in a very poor way. 

Don’t get me wrong, with the amount of anxiety that I deal with I have never been excellent at handling stressful events, however, I always thought that I had some tact with dealing with unfortunate issues. Perhaps that was how I used to be, and now as I am getting older and have experienced more things the way that I handle things have changed, but if I were to be perfectly honest I don’t remember how I dealt with intense issues in the past. From what I can remember, I used to internalize things a lot. I would think about what was stressing me out constantly until it was resolved or until I didn’t have a need to think about it further. It wasn’t until I started therapy that I realized that internalizing things that were a bother to me was unhealthy. I know that there are coping mechanisms when dealing with stress, and I loathe the fact that at twenty-six years old I am still having trouble with it.

I think the biggest stressor in my life would have to be my animals. My animals are my literal world. Most of my joy stems from them, and I love them more than anything in the universe. (Don’t worry, I love Stephen as much as them. He is not being neglected.) So when one of them becomes sick, even if it is something small, I fall apart. This is something that I feel an immense amount of shame for, and I know this flaw should be at the top of my priorities to try to fix. When one of my animals isn’t feeling well, I immediately think the worst. My anxiety starts to get worse and worse, to the point where I feel like I can’t breath. My heart beats so fast, and I turn ice cold. I cry uncontrollably, and sometimes I even throw up. 

A few months ago Gimli wasn’t feeling well for about six hours. I noticed something was off because he wasn’t eating his food, and that is so unlike Gimli. The moment he hears me reaching for a can of wet food he starts meowing and running towards his bowl, and then starts immediately chowing down the instant his food plops down. So for Gimli to be uninterested in his food had me worried right away, and then we he started becoming lethargic a full blown panic started to take over me. All of my symptoms that I mentioned before were at the forefront of my internal battle of attempting to handle this properly, and the worry that I felt was so strong. When I am having anxiety like that, I truly feel like I don’t have any control over myself. I know that what I am doing isn’t rational or right, but I can’t help it. I just lose control. That was when I did something that I am even embarrassed to say. Before I switched my medication I was taking one anxiety pill in the morning and then one anxiety pill at night. Those pills helped me stay leveled throughout the day, because the smallest thing, like driving for instance, would give me anxiety. Well anyways, with Gimli not feeling well and with me being as panicked as I was, I took an extra pill. Then a little while later when that didn’t help I took another. Taking those extra pills was something that I had never done before, and when Stephen saw my pill bottle next to me he immediately took them away from me and hid them. Luckily, Gimli felt better not too long after that happened, and I instantly felt better because I knew that he was going to be okay. Please believe me when I say that I know that this is shameful behavior and quite frankly immature, but I think I have a theory as to why I have these reactions to stress when it comes to my animals. 

Back in October 2018, my little lion, Lupin, passed away. Watching Lupin go through everything that he went through for a month was one of the most traumatizing and difficult things that I have ever seen. When you love someone or something as much I loved Lupin and you’re watching them die in front of your eyes and there is literally nothing that you can do can change a person. I know that I have never been the same since Lupin died. Every little thing that is not typical with my animals or even with Stephen gives me instant worry and anxiety. Even when I try to talk to myself through the situation with logic and try to convince myself that everything is okay, I still can’t convince myself of that. I think that when my Lupin died he took a huge part of me, and not just the part that loved him more than life itself. I think my security is gone, and now every time something happens I just instantly think back to Lupin. 

Thank god for Stephen. When something happens and I shut down he becomes the voice of reason. He takes control of the situation, and helps with everything. I am so lucky to have a partner who can handle a stressful situation with ease, even when I have gone crazy. 

The way that I handle stress is probably one of my worst flaws. It is definitely something that I am attempting to work on with my therapist, because no matter how hard I try to avoid stressful situations that is just not how life works. I need to develop better coping mechanisms, because how I handle things, or lack of handling things, is so unhealthy. It is going to be a long journey, but I look forward to the day where I have a stressor come to light and I am able to handle it in a mature way. 

Changes

It has been a year and a half since I have been able to sit at my desk and open up my heart and soul to the world. A year and a half of pain, tears, laughs, and big decisions. Many moments of loneliness, worry, pain, love, and excitement have ticked away.  A lot has happened since I was able to write, and now I am ecstatic to finally be doing what I have been longing for so long. Here are some things that have changed within the past year and a half:

 

  1. My beautiful, loving, wonderful furbaby Lupin passed away in October 2018. There were about three times in the past year and a half where I thought that I was going to die, and this was one of them. Without going into too much detail, Lupin suffered from a urinary obstruction that landed him in the hospital for a while. The vet warned us that it could happen again, however, since he was so young he couldn’t tell us when it might happen again. Less than a week after his release another obstruction occurred, and that is when we decided to surgically widen his urethra to prevent this from ever happening again. Although the surgery was successful, Lupin was unable to cope with all of the trauma and sedatives and passed away about two weeks after the surgery. Lupins’ death took a part of me that I will never get back. Anyone who knows me knows that my animals are my world, and I literally felt a piece of my soul get ripped right out of me the moment Lupin drew his last breath. It was when this was all happening that I was almost involuntarily placed in the hospital for being suicidal. I was in such a bad place that I admitted to my endocrinologist (who also monitored my mental health) that I was having suicidal thoughts, and she wanted to send me to the hospital. I convinced her not to do that (which I regret) and she ended up calling my psychiatrist to see if he could see me right away. He also wanted me to go to the hospital, but I eventually talked him out of it by agreeing to different medications as well as seeing him weekly. 
  2. Stephen and I adopted a new cat. After Lupins’ death I needed to place my negative feelings somewhere where they could become positive. That is when Arya came along. Arya was a six month old kitten named Lindy when we first saw her, and I fell in love with her the moment my eyes landed on her. Arya is so petite and tiny, and yet so spunky and insane. She keeps me laughing from the moment I wake up in the morning until the moment I close my eyes at night, and my soul is so happy that she is my daughter. 
  3. Stephen and I made a huge decision back in February to move back home to Chicago. This decision actually came to us while we were visiting our family back at home, and it was definitely unexpected. We had been toying with the idea of moving back home for a while, but then on the last night of our visit I woke up to several missed calls and text messages from my friends that were watching our apartment and our cats that our apartment had caught fire. Also, to add more trauma to the situation, they couldn’t find my cat Gimli. I just remember crying and throwing up from the stress, and frantically trying to figure out how we could get down to Dallas last minute. Luckily my friend was able to get Arya, but the idea of Gimli being missing, as well as my friends being in danger from the fire, sent me over the edge. Stephen and I were set to fly home at eight that night, but unfortunately, it was too expensive to change our flight to an earlier time. That was one of the most agonizing days that I have ever experienced, but something good came out of it. One of my friends remembered that there was a small hut that was being remodeled near our apartment, so I called the apartment complex to see if they could go see if Gimli had sought out shelter there. After about forty-five minutes of waiting, I got a phone call saying that they had found Gimli in the hut and that he was safe and not hurt! Tears uncontrollably just streamed down my face for what seemed like a lifetime. Tears of sweet relief and bliss. Everyone was safe, no one was hurt, and Stephen and I were about to be reunited with our furfamily once more. It was when that fire happened that Stephen and I ultimately decided that where we were living was too tainted from all of the bad memories that had happened there, and that was when we had decided to move back home.
  4. Earlier this year I experienced another severe low. This low started in about April, and to be frank I am still coming out of it. As all of you know, my lows tend to be very scary. With that being said, this one has been quite a doozy. I think that the scariest thing about my depression is that my suicidal thoughts start to become more and more frequent. Usually, the thought of suicide alone scares me, but this time around the scariest part about my suicidal thoughts was the idea of actually doing it wasn’t scary to me anymore. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I have come close to actually doing something to myself within this past year and a half, and especially since April. Because of this, my cutting was starting to become an everyday thing, to the point where I would go out of my way to try to hide it from Stephen. Somehow Stephen would always find out what I had done, and because of my downward spiral, Stephen sat me down and said that if I didn’t try harder to get some help in Chicago then he would have to leave me. He couldn’t handle the stress of constantly wondering if he was going to come home from work and find me dead, and the fact that I was cutting myself so frequently made him even more upset. So I found a new psychiatrist, and I have been speaking to a therapist a couple times a week. I still have my really off days, but I do feel like I am finally getting better. 
  5. One of the reasons why I was diagnosed with PTSD this year was because of a sexual assault that I was a victim of before I met Stephen. I will get more into this at a later time, but looking back it has been something that always did trigger me. I suppose I never knew the extent of the damage that it had done to me until I started to talk about it more. For the past few months I have been really trying to heal from that past incident, and I hope that healing from that trauma will help with my future low episodes. 

 

So those are some changes that have been a part of my life for the past year and a half. If I have learned anything at all it would be that I need to allow myself time to heal from the past and not look down on myself if I have a setback. Words can not describe how free I feel right now, and I can feel my passion through the tips of my fingers.

Lows- Part Two

When you’re about to go into a low, you know. A couple of days ago I woke up and I felt different. For the past few weeks, I had been feeling so great. I felt happiness, a sense of calm, and I found joy. I attributed my feelings from my marriage being in a really happy, wonderful place as well as getting back into writing. I was sleeping again, and I found a balance to keep my life and all my emotions in line. Then, I woke up one morning, and my sense of security was no longer there.

Anyone who knows me knows that Harry Potter is my all time favorite story. I love everything about it, from the silly moments to the lessons that you can apply to your own life. J.K. Rowling, to me, is the beautiful soul who has helped me get through a lot of undesirable life moments. I have watched and read many of her interviews, and I truly can relate to her. One of the things that has always stuck with me is the symbolism with dementors. Dementors in Harry Potter are the guards that watch over Azkaban, and they basically suck out all of the happiness from within a person. Now it is possible for a witch or wizard to ward against a dementor, but the witch or wizard must be very powerful to succeed. In order to be protected against a dementor one must use a patronus, which is essentially powerful magic that takes the form of an animal to act as a guardian between you and the dementor. Now J.K. Rowling has stated on numerous occasions that she has suffered with depression, and the dementors represent depression. The past couple of days I could feel a dementor lurking by me, and I have been trying to be powerful enough to produce my patronus but I can feel it failing. The light that I had been feeling inside of me is starting to dim, and I can feel my soul starting to detach.

I am starting to not feel anything positive. This is the one thing that I hate about depression because you feel hopeless. Anytime something positive happens I lack the ability to really care, because I feel like something bad is going to happen to balance out the good. Every time I do a simple task, like brushing my hair, I feel myself exerting an immense amount of energy to complete that task. I haven’t even brushed my hair today because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The reality is, I’m slipping back into a low, and as a result I’m slowly turning in to my empty shell of a person. I’m metamorphosing into a zombie a little more every day, and I can feel it happening but it is almost as if I can’t reverse the process. I am losing my strength, so now I am losing me.

Depression comes along with a lot of really fun sidekicks. Insomnia, fatigue, crying, and overeating are all crowded around me constantly pushing me down. My depression is the main bully, but every bully has their goons. Not sleeping regularly is really starting to fuck with my head. It has only been a couple of days and I am already feeling the repercussions mentally and physically. Depression is a trickle of symptoms. Once you start to feel one of the symptoms, you know the other ones are not too far behind. Every time this happens I try to gear up with all of my armor. I try to channel every ounce of energy to defeat my depression before it fully invades me, but it’s usually successful in taking down my blockades.

I don’t know if everyone who has depression experiences it the same way that I do. With me, it’s not intense right away. It slowly creeps up, with every day more and more of me slipping away into the darkness. At this moment I am feeling my depression, but I am still somewhat functional. I am not having suicidal thoughts, so I am not concerned about that right now. But this is the phase that is kind of scary for me because I know what is about to happen. I know that in a couple of days or in a week I will be on my bedroom floor crying hysterically holding on to my dog. I know that I am going to be in excruciating pain, and I am going to question if I want to be here or not. I know my soul will be completely detached, and knowing that is what my future looks like is terrifying. I know myself and I know my patterns, and I know that I can try to deflect the depression as much as possible but once it starts creeping in there is no going backwards. You’re basically forced to take it in, like you’re the host and your depression is the parasite. The more you wither away the stronger it becomes, and you can feel your armor breaking away.

I am not sharing this with you for pity. I am sharing this because this is my reality. This is something that I deal with on a regular basis, and unfortunately I am being forced to deal with it again. There are so many people out there that have depression, and I feel like they are afraid to talk about it like I was. Because depression is not really talked about, I am afraid that there is a lack of knowledge on what one goes through when they are in the midst of it. I would consider myself successful if I can help everyone understand depression a little bit better, so I am officially inviting everyone into my mind for a better understanding.

I hate mental illness. I hate how it feels like it is entitled enough to invite itself into someones life and take away everything that they are. I hate that it uses torture and pain to get what it wants, to take over you. I especially hate that no matter how many times you overcome it it still comes back for another try to take you away. The best thing you can do is fight it with everything that you have, and constantly tell yourself to stay strong no matter how much strength you lack. Depression is a bully, and bullies never should be given the opportunity to win.

Regrets

I hate when people say that they live a life without any regrets, but only because I can’t possibly fathom how that could be true. There are times, especially when I am in my “lows,” where all I think about are my regrets, and I wish I could change things in my past. I try to look at everything that I do as a life lesson, but damn, some things that have happened really haven’t taught me anything other than I can be an imbecile sometimes.

Most of the regrets that I think about are from when I was in high school. Back then, I didn’t have a filter, I thought that my opinion was the right opinion, and I acted before I considered the repercussions of my actions. I have hurt people with my words, and I have been punishing myself for those instances ever since the moment the words left my mouth. I graduated high school seven years ago, and I still can’t seem to forgive myself and let go of the mistakes that I made back then. Perhaps this will be an issue that I will have to deal with forever, and to a certain extent, I definitely deserve it. I used to act on my anger and frustration, and when I would do that, I wouldn’t care about what harm my words and actions would cause. When someone hurt or upset me, all I would see was blood, and I wanted to hurt people like they hurt me. It was not wise, I was not being logical, and I was just being mean. Grown-up Brookana definitely wishes that I could go have a major talk with teenager Brookana, because teenager Brookana used to be really superb at turning on the “bitch switch.”

I briefly spoke about this before, but one my biggest regrets was how I treated my mom and step-dad. I punished them for years, and as I got older, I knew how to push their buttons better. I was incredibly vindictive, and I wanted to hurt my mom by withholding a relationship from her. I knew my mom loved me, and I loved her, but I was mad at her and I wanted her to know that I was angry. I would ignore her, I would blow her off, and I would leave her out of things that was happening in my life. For example, junior year of high school the journalism team threw the talent show, and I was going to be one of the emcees. It was a big event for me because I was never into sports and I wasn’t apart of any clubs, so my parents never got to see me involved with any school functions. Well anyways, I didn’t tell my mom about it, and she only found out about it after someone else had mentioned it to her after it had happened. That was deeply hurtful for her, but at the time, I didn’t care. I was so cruel to my mom and my step-dad, and I regret that because I hate that I caused them so much pain for so many years. As I have gotten older and as I have matured, I have been able to see them for the people that they are, and my parents are incredible. My mom will have hour long conversations with me when she is exhausted or has a migraine. Last year, I had to have two major surgeries on my hand and my mom flew down to Dallas both times to take care of me. If my brothers and I were on a railroad track with a train heading our way my mom wouldn’t hesitate to push us out of the way. My mom has a beautiful soul, and I can’t believe that I hurt her so badly in the past. My mom is literally an angel in my life, and I love her so much.

With my regrets, I know that I am basically mind-fucking myself every time I think about them. When I think about them I become borderline obsessive, and it eats me alive. I think about all of the scenarios that those situations could have turned into and how I could have saved myself from hurting others. I think about why I lashed out, and why in some cases I completely overreacted. I wonder if my words haunt the other person as much as they haunt me. I wonder if I should reach out to the other person, or if I should pretend like nothing ever happened. I have confided in Stephen about my regrets, and I truly envy his mindset. Stephen has never really done anything to be sorry for, so he doesn’t quite understand why I have all of these ghosts. His advice is to “stop thinking about it” or “get over it” or “that was so long ago, it doesn’t even matter anymore.” Is it bad that I find those statements to be maddening? Like yeah, that’s great and all, and I really fucking wish that I could get over it that easily, but obviously I’m struggling here. Thanks Stephen for your awesome advice, but my obsessive mind won’t let me forget what I have done.

Please don’t judge me, but there have been times where I was driving myself so completely crazy with my regrets that I once looked into hypnotherapy to see if it could help me forget. It is so odd, I can cope with my bi-polar disorder and depression and I can cope with my diabetes, but these regrets are something that I just can’t shake. I don’t think hypnotherapy would do anything to help me, but in a way I am glad that I wouldn’t be able to do it because that would be the easy way out. I made my mistakes, now I need to learn how to forgive myself and to cope with the past.

The truth is, I don’t think that I have ever said or done something that was truly horrible and devastating. The worst thing that I have ever done was to my mom by blocking her out of my life, but we are in such an amazing place right now and we will only continue to grow our relationship. At the end of the day, I actually have learned somethings from what I have done. I have learned how to control my emotions so that if I do need to say something to someone, I can have a clear head space to avoid hurting them. I have learned that not everything that upsets me needs to turn into a battle, because usually when that happens it goes from bad to worse. I have learned that I don’t need to be friends with everyone, because sometimes toxicity will leak into your life that could cause a lot of harm. I have also learned how to reflect on a situation that turned out poorly, and learn what I could do differently the next time.

Honestly, I doubt that people who say that they don’t have any regrets actually feel that way. I mean, if that were true, that is amazing and I would be jealous, but if I were to guess I bet those people just know how to cope with their regrets better than me. I am hopeful that one day I can breath in and then exhale out my regrets, and finally be able to forgive myself, but for now, it is a work in progress.

Suicidal Thoughts

***As a warning, this article is about suicidal thoughts and my experience with them.

PROJECT SEMICOLON: https://projectsemicolon.com/

SUICIDE HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

Let’s talk about something that most people try to avoid talking about. Let’s talk about something that is affecting a good number of people, but still people don’t want to talk about it. Let’s talk about about something that is a great fear in peoples lives, so it’s not talked about. Let’s talk about suicide.

I can’t speak for other people who have suicidal thoughts, so I think the best thing that I can offer is to give you insight from what I go through. As I have stated in my previous post, “Lows,” I have bipolar disorder and severe depression. I was officially diagnosed back in high school, but it has been something that I have had to deal with for as long as I could remember.

The first psychologist that I was saw was as sweet as could be. I remember feeling like I could instantly open up to her about everything, and I truly felt safe. She had a way of talking to you that felt so maternal, as weird as that may sound, but it was always just so warm in her office. We would talk about my parents divorce, my misophonia, my goals, my fears, everything. I would look forward to seeing her, because I knew I finally could unload everything that I had been holding in. My first suicidal “event” happened one night after seeing her. I had not been feeling well mentally for a couple of weeks, and it was one of the things where you could feel your soul separate itself from your body. When I get like that, I am aware of what is happening around me, I know who I am, and I know the people that I love, but I feel like a zombie. Everything becomes hazy. I feel like I am an empty shell, and there is nothing to me anymore. I thought about death off and on before that night, but I never thought I would ever come close to doing anything. My mom and I were in the kitchen, and I literally felt as though I were already dead. My physical body was here, participating in life, but my soul, the thing that makes me me, was nowhere to be found. The medicine cabinet was in the kitchen, and I just felt drawn to those pills. I stared at that cabinet for what felt like hours, thinking about what it would  be like to take everything. Would it be painful? How much would I have to take? How long would it take? Is this what I want? Those were just a few thoughts that were going through my head. After sitting there, I got up, went to the computer, and wrote an email to my psychologist. I told her what I was feeling, what I wanted to do, and that I was scared but I felt like I couldn’t go through this anymore. After I sent it, I didn’t feel sad, angry, or relieved. I didn’t feel anything. I think I went up to my room after that, and I laid down on my bed. The pills were still on my mind. Death was still on my mind. I don’t know how much time passed from the moment I sent the email to when my mom came in my room. She looked worried. She had just gotten off the phone with my psychologist, and wanted to check on me. It was decided that I would not be attending school the next day, and that I needed to go see a doctor. I felt like I didn’t sleep at all that night. It felt like every ten minutes my mom would come in my room and put her finger underneath my nose to check if I was still breathing. I pretended as though I was asleep, but I knew she was there every time she came in. The following morning my mom had informed me that she had spoken to my endocrinologist and he wanted me to be taken to a hospital immediately. So my mom, step-dad, and I went to a hospital and went into a little room and waited for a doctor to come speak to us. When someone eventually did come in, they started asking questions about what I was going through, and then they started talking about how while I was there I would still be able to work on my schoolwork. That was when my mom freaked out a little bit. She was under the impression that we were just going to talk to someone to see if I could get more help, she did not want me to be admitted. So we got up and left.

The next few years was a giant cycle. For a couple of months I would be okay, just skating on through life like anyone else, but then, just like clockwork, my soul would detach. Junior year of high school was when I officially had to be admitted to the hospital. This time it was my psychiatrist that wanted me to be admitted, so for six days I was a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Rockford Illinois. It was hands down one of the worst experiences of my life. I was terrified every second that I was there, to the point where every time my family came to visit me I would be crying hysterically for them to take me home. I wasn’t getting help, I wasn’t feeling any better, I just felt like I was in prison. I couldn’t bear to be in that place for much longer, so I learned how to be manipulative so I could convince them that I was fine. In hindsight, I should have been there a lot longer than six days. But it was an environment that I did not feel safe or comfortable in, so it was doing more harm than good.

I never have been powerful enough to just will the suicidal thoughts and depression away, and I know that I will never be. Mental illness is a part of me, just like my diabetes. I do what I can to cope with it, to control it to the best of my abilities, and to get through it, but every time I’m in low, it’s just a waiting game to see  how long it will last this time. My most recent low happened a couple of months ago, and it took a lot out of me. If I were to be honest, I think that was the closest that I came to doing something since the first time with the pills. I think the thing that made me reconsider was when I was crying on the floor and my dog came up next to me. I could feel her weight on me while she was licking my tears away, and it felt so comforting. I try to distract myself as much as I can when I’m having my thoughts. That particular night I cleaned and scrubbed every square inch of my apartment. Then, when there was nothing else left to clean, I sat on my bedroom floor, put on my headphones, turned on Falling in Reverse, and just held on to my dog. My dog, Luna, is incredibly intuitive, and she always knows when something is wrong with me. We have such an amazing bond, and I really think that she gives me strength when I am in a low.

Every person has their own way with handling things. My way is the right way for me, but it’s not going to be the right way for everyone. For me, when I am in a low, I know how to mask the pain that I am feeling. I guarantee that if I didn’t tell people what I go through then no one would ever know. But after all of these years, I’m sick of hiding this illness like it’s a shameful secret. I shouldn’t need to feel ashamed or suppressed because of the fear of how others would react. I have had people tell me that I am crazy, that I need to just get over it, and that I am dragging other people down with me. But the thing is, I am not crazy. I work hard every day to cope with my mental health. And the absolute LAST thing that I want to do is drag people down with me. I know that this is my battle, hell I have been battling this for most of my life, but every time I come out of a low and I am still alive and breathing, I feel as though I just added another piece of armor to myself. A little less than a year ago I added something to my body to help me when I am in a low. I got a semicolon tattoo, and every time that I am in a low I hold on to it to help me realize that my life doesn’t need to end yet. The semicolon tattoo is actually from a project called “Project Semicolon.” It is to bring awareness to mental health and suicide. I will set up a link to their website, and you should really take a look at it.

One of the last things that I want to say in this article is actually a favor that I am going to ask of all of you. When someone is in a low and they come to you for help, please don’t turn your back on them. If they are expressing to you that they are feeling suicidal and you try to change the subject or avoid it because you are uncomfortable, you are not only doing an injustice to them but also being incredibly selfish. You might feel uncomfortable with the topic, but imagine the pain that they are feeling. It takes a lot of courage to realize how bad of a place you are in and to ask for help, so please, just do your best and help them. Hold them. Tell them that you love them. Give them strength. Make them see their worth. Please don’t ignore their pain.

I hope I gave some sort of insight to what it feels like to be in a low. Just remember this: just because you may not be able to see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

PROJECT SEMICOLON: https://projectsemicolon.com/

SUICIDE HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

22046735_10155842921800774_7520813157004630617_n

Lows

I was diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar disorder many years ago, and it has been something that I have had to cope with ever since. I have been on countless medications, I have seen many psychiatrists and psychologists, and I have been hospitalized. No matter what was done I always felt miserable. There is an unsettling feeling when you are about to go into a “low.” I feel as though my symptoms are pretty textbook. I could get ten hours of sleep one night and wake up feeling like I didn’t get one hour of sleep, or I just wont sleep at all. My suicidal thoughts take over me, and I often think about if I am capable of actually following through with my plan. I eat more than anyone should possibly eat in a day, and those are just a couple of things that happen when I’m in my low stage.

I hate when people tell me that I need to just get over whatever is bothering me, or that I am not being strong, or that people have it worse than I do. A lot of times, when I am in a low, there really isn’t anything that is bothering me, it is just an overwhelming feeling of sadness that takes over me. Every feeling of happiness is gone and there isn’t a light in plain sight. Hope is nonexistent, and I think that is because I lack the energy in every aspect to hope for the best when I feel like everything that happens happens to chip away even more at my soul. When it comes to being strong, I don’t think I lack strength when I am in my lows. I actually feel like in those weeks or months I am at my strongest. When I am feeling suicidal, there are moments where I think about how glorious it would be to not feel this crippling pain any more. All I would have to do is follow through with my plan and it would all be over. In those moments where I am having those thoughts, where I am basically talking myself into doing something so drastic, that’s where I have to turn to myself and say “Brookana, that is not going to happen today. Give yourself time. This feeling is only temporary.” The strength it takes to get yourself through that, to stop yourself, to realize that maybe that is not the path that you want to take takes a lot out of you. And even though it takes a lot out of you, you are also building yourself up because you are saving yourself. Who needs someone else to be your hero when you can be your own hero? I know that people have harder lives than I do, but with that being said, that doesn’t mean that my pain becomes invalid. Unfortunately, this is chemical. This is involuntary. I highly doubt that anyone would want to experience this dismay, and if they did, well, I would feel awfully sorry that they would want to do that to themselves.

The thing that I have had to learn throughout the years is that my depression and my bipolar disorder does not make me selfish. It does not make me any less of a human being. It does not make me weak. It makes me realize that I just have to work a little bit harder to try to achieve a life that I am satisfied with. I don’t know if it is possible for anyone to ever feel constant bliss, but I would like to be as close to that as possible. There are going to be trying times in life, times where you feel like you are repeatedly getting kicked in the stomach, and every time you feel like you can breath again you get thrown down and kicked again, but that is when you have a choice to make. You can let whatever the issue is become dominant in your life, and you can just settle for what is instead of thinking about what could be. OR you can learn from it and prevail, and try to do whatever it takes to turn that situation around and better yourself. Everything that you are today is from a choice that you made in the past, so instead of always focusing on what is happening in the moment, think about the future and how it will be affected by whatever you decide now.

I am alive today because I choose to be. I am alive today because I have more to live for. I am alive today because of the effort that I put into my well-being. I am so proud of myself when I overcome my lows, and if you have gone through any, you should be proud of yourself too.