Saturday, April 22, 2017

How One Fight Sent My Day into a Tailspin

As someone with mental illness my emotions can sometimes be rocky. This can especially be true when it comes to some of my core beliefs or what I call "damaged thoughts" that stem from my assault.
I was reminded of this earlier this morning when my entire day was sent into a tail spin over a stupid fight with my dad. I feel emotions very deeply and I'm sure it was made worse by the fact that I didn't sleep much last night.
I try to not fight with my parents as much as I can because I am very sensitive about feeling like people are mad at me or I've upset someone. But this morning my dad and I argued. It was over the phone and the first problem was that I was in the middle of Target.
I'm more of a wet anger person than a dry anger person. What I mean by that is that when I get angry my emotions tend to spill over and I will start crying. So when I hung up the phone I burst into tears and tried to make my way out of the store without making a scene. I then sat in my car for an hour and a half because I could not stop crying to calm down well enough to drive myself back to campus.
I stayed around my dorm and the community center for the rest of the day. I have been s emotionally raw that if I think about wrong thing I'll burst out crying.
I get that this probably seems like an over reaction, but this isn't all about the fight. It was about everything that happened this week. The fight was just the spark that set the hay on fire.
I'm not writing this for sympathy. I'm not writing this for pity. No. I'm writing this because it's my way of process today. I'm sharing this because this blog is about honesty. The whole point of my writing is to show the good and the bad of mental illness and how it affects my life.
It's not always glamorous. My eyes are puffy. My cheeks are streaked and I'm wearing pjs. I don't look beautiful tonight, but that's okay. I'm trying to be patient with myself for the times I don't have it all put together. Considering what I have going on in my life I am doing pretty well. I'm choosing to celebrate my little successes each day while still being true to the reality of what I'm going through. I'm taking it a day at a time. That's all I can do.

The Balancing Act of Chronic Illness

It is 2:30am on a Friday night. My body has been screaming at me for hours. My pain level canceled out my sleeping meds. Yet still it is just now that I have gotten up to take a pain pill. 

I have been taking psychiatric medications since I was fifteen. Medications do not bother me. I know they are sometimes necessary. 

I am not worried about what other people will have to say. I have gotten unsolicited advice many times before. It does not phase me. I don't care what other people who are not inside my skin have to say. 

So why won't I take the pain meds that are in my cabinet?

I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I think part of it is because they aren't prescribed for the reason I'm taking them. They are left overs from my surgery and my car accident. When I saw a pain management doctor I was told I was not in enough pain for him to manage me. 

If I was not in enough pain shouldn't I be able to handle it? Shouldn't I be able to do like he says and exercise more and it will all be okay? 
The logical part of me says no. I know my body. I know he didn't understand how bad my pain was. I know the exercise I'm capable of and what I'm doing. 

Maybe it's a denial thing. I'm worried that once I start taking pain meds I'll never be able to stop. Not in an addiction sort of way. I'm not worried about becoming addicted. I am very careful and the medication I have is non-habit forming. More in a "this is my life now" sort of way. 

I guess I'm still learning. I'm still learning how to manage my pain. I'm still learning how to listen to my body and answer its needs. Chronic illness is a whole new rollercoaster I have never ridden before. I'm still learning what are the acceptable changes that I can make without doing something that will take away my independence in the long run. I've had two experiences with this lately. 

I stopped using the crutches I had been using for the past few months in hopes that walking more would help build the muscles in my legs. I'm training my Psychiatric service dog to do some mobility tasks for me and she's doing awesome, but she can't take the pressure off my worse hip the way the crutches did. Due to this my hip joint has slipped out of place a couple times this week. I knew this would happen. I was prepared for this to happen, but it's caused my pain levels to be higher than normal. 

This is the first week this semester that I have walked around campus without the crutches and I'm hoping that with time it will get better. 

The second experience happened last week over Spring Break. I've been having a lot of muscle weakness in my legs lately especially in the mornings. I have to take a shower in the mornings and sometimes my legs just don't want to hold me up. This leads to me missing a shower sometimes (thank you dry shampoo and wipe baths). 

When I was home for break a couple days I sat down in the tub for my shower. This helped when my legs were weak and it helped with the fatigue that comes after taking a shower. 

I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to take a stool back to school to sit on in the shower some days. Trust me, no one wants to sit on a dorm shower floor. She really urged me not to, worried that if I start sitting to do the things I usually stand to do that I would lose the ability to do them standing. 

I understand her concern. I know it's a lot easier to lose muscle than it is to gain muscle. I'm doing physical therapy exercises everyday trying to gain muscle and it doesn't come easy. I'm still trying to find a balance though between what I should and should not do. 

It's the same with the medication. I'm trying to find a balance that will work with my life. I know I will find it. I know it's possible for me to have a good, happy, and productive life. All things in time. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Johanna Basford's Inky World Calms My Own

I plan to do a whole post on coping skills because...come on, they're coping skills. I could talk for days about coping skills. However! That is not the point of today's writing adventures. No, no, today the focus is on one favorite coping skill I have: coloring.

(Side note: For those of you who know me well or know my writing well might notice that my tone is a little off at the moment. I'm very excitable right now. Probably because I forgot to take my 5pm anxiety med until 6:30. Sorry mom. Anyways, back to coloring.)

Now I am not talking about a little kid getting out their princess coloring book and jumbo crayons, no. I am talking about the art craze that hit the world in the past couple years. You guessed it: adult coloring books.

I am a fan. I am a fan of one artist in particular. Her name is Johanna Basford and she lives in Scotland. She is a cute little mom of a toddler and an infant and in the past four years she has released five adult coloring books and it working on a sixth.

Johanna's art is unique because all of her work is done by hand. Everything in the book is done by hand and let me tell you it is amazing. I can't use any other printed coloring book now after using hers for so long. You can go to to check out her books. They even have an art gallery on the website where you can send in your own art.

I go to my coloring all the time to use as a coping skill. I, at times, have really bad anxiety or restlessness, but sitting down to color can always calm me down. I use different books depending on the mood I'm in. If I need to focus hard and lose myself in the details I will use the Lost Ocean book because it is very intricate. If I want to just relax and fade away I will use Secret Garden or Magical Jungle, which happen to be my two favorites.

Coloring allows me to relax, breathe, and launch myself into an inky world of flowers and animals in any color you can imagine. I love being able to use my emotions to create something beautiful. It brings some calm into my otherwise chaotic world.

Coping skills are so important. I cannot say that enough. Coloring works well for me and I will always suggest you try it. Pull up a seat, grab your colors, and lets dive into an inky adventure.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Met With A Sexual Assault Prosecutor

I had the enlightening opportunity yesterday afternoon to meet with a Deputy District Attorney. I have known Tamara since I was in Elementary School and she was the mother of a friend of mine. After I released my post Why I Never Reported My Rapist to the Police she reached out to me and invited me down to her office to learn more about the process of reporting and convicting domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

I found our meeting yesterday to be very informative. I have to be honest, I was a little anxious leading up to it, but when I first saw her and we opened with a hug all of my fears went out the window. It was like meeting up with an old friend.

I enjoyed learning about the process and specifically the many steps and programs in place here in Bakersfield for the victims. All of my knowledge came from my initial experience reporting and statistics I had researched.

She was able to explain to me more in depth how the process worked and why at first glace some of those statistics can be misleading.

Tamara works in the DA's office and specifically handles domestic abuse and sexual assault cases. She told me how the team she works with was brought together and transformed about seven years ago when her new boss came in who has a passion for prosecuting these crimes and helping keep victims safe and comfortable.

One of the first things Tamara taught me about was the Victim's Services Unit. This unit is full of advocates whose sole responsibility is to the victims. A victim is always allowed an advocate. They can be there from the initial report all the way through to sitting with them on the witness stand in court. The Victim's Services Unit is separate from the DA's office and if it is the victims wish they even uphold their rights when it comes to engaging with the prosecutor. To top it all off, they have a dog! Legend is a sweet dog who is able to sit with victims on the stand and help them feel safe when they have to testify. Tamara has worked with Legend on multiple occasions and she reports he is especially helpful with children she has worked with.

We also talked about some statistics that I found from RAINN about how few rapists are ever convicted. The report stated out of every 1000 rapes, 310 are reported, 57 arrests will be made, 11 cases will go to prosecutors, and 6 will lead to incarceration.

I was understandably concerned when reading these statistics, how can so few rapists go to jail? Tamara was able to answer some of my concerns about this. Part of the reason is another thing their office does to help victims of sexual assault have the power and feel safe. A lot of victims don't want to go to court for a variety of reasons. One way they always have the control is that the choice is up to them. Tamara told me they will never prosecute a sexual assault case without the victim consent.

I learned that all the detectives in Bakersfield always want the case to get prosecuted and work tirelessly to make that happen, all the prosecutors she works with want the rapists punished, but they will not force the victims into a trial. That is a big reason those numbers are so low. I do want to be clear. I am in no way blaming victims for this. There are a whole list of reasons why a victim would not want to report or prosecute and I understand all of them, so does the DA's office.

I asked Tamara what she would tell a victim who was afraid of the process. I loved her answer; it came in a couple parts. She would, of course, let the victim know that they had the choice. It was up to them. She would also tell them that even though it's about them, it is also about others. Tamara informed me that many times it has happened where one girl reports and with that the police are either able to connect other reports or through investigating find other victims. Both of those things make the cases stronger. A big thing she told me she would tell them was that she has seen so much empowerment come to the victim through the court process.

A lot of the times for people I have talked to and in my own experience when I think of court  I think fear, but Tamara let me know that while there can be some scary instances in her experience it empowers victims more than anything else.

One of the last things I learned yesterday was that it's never too late. Sure reporting right away and getting a rape kit done and potentially having DNA makes a case strong, it's not the only way to get a case done. Tamara let me know that both her team and detectives who handle sexual assault cases have had extensive training and understand how reporting works. A lot of times reporting is done late, sometimes stories are inconsistent. They know this and are patient when working with victims. The police also have many tricks up their sleeve for investigating these cases and can a lot of the time make a case even if there is no DNA. Bottom line: don't give up.

I am so grateful to have been able to meet with Tamara yesterday and learn about reporting and prosecuting sexual assault cases. I learned this and so much more. This information helped me and I hope that it is able to help some of you out there who are going through this process, know someone going through this process, or are considering starting the process.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I Hope They Call Me On A Mission

I grew up singing the Primary song 

I hope they call me on a mission
When I have grown a foot or two
I hope by then I will be ready
To teach and preach and work as missionaries do 

Tonight at the adult session of Stake Conference all the full time missionaries were asked to stand. This isn't uncommon. What was uncommon is that when they all stood up I began to cry. 

I have had the desire to serve a full time mission for my church since I was a teenager. I thought I would be able to do this. Sadly due to my mental illnesses I am not able to go on a mission as I would like. 
For those of you who aren't Mormon I want to be clear that having a mental illness does not disqualify you from serving a mission. You does, however, need to be managed well enough that your focus can be on your service. The mission field is full of blessings, but it's not always easy. There are challenges and hardships and trials. 
I do not disagree with them. If I were allowed to go on a full time mission I would most likely end up returning early. That wouldn't be good for anyone. 

In my church there is a system set up for those of us who cannot serve full time missions. I will be able to be honorably excused from a full time missionary serve and have the opportunity to live at home and do a part time service mission. 
Something I struggle with is going back and forth with accepting this. Don't get me wrong. I want to serve and I'm willing to serve however I can. There have been many times when I think I have accepted that I cannot serve full time, but then there will be another time following that when I desperately want to serve a full time mission.

Tonight was one of those nights. When all the missionaries were asked to stand I couldn't keep from crying because I wanted to be standing with them. I think part of why I was so senesitive was because last week I had to postpone my service mission. 

You see, for the past four months I have been working with my Bishop setting up my service mission. I was supposed to start in June. My mental health and physical health has gotten to be that that is not possible. I need to focus on staying healthy right now and so last week I put my mission on hold. 

I did try to make it clear to my Bishop though that this was in no way canceling my mission. I don't care if I can't serve until I'm 30 (okay, hello hyperbole), I will do my service mission. 

I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true.  I know that my Savior lives. I know he loves me and he died so I might live again. I know he Atoned for my sins. I know he felt all the pain and hurt and sickness I have ever and will ever feel. I know he had gone through it so that by him I might. I know God is my Heavenly Father. I know he hears my prayers. I know we have a prophet who is alive today who tells us what God would have us know now. I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God and Jesus Christ. I believe the Book of Mormon to be true and that it goes hand in hand with the Bible. These things I have faith in. These things I trust in. These things I want to share. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Seeing My Rapist Again

Everyone's trauma story is unique to them. There are a plethora of different ways people can experience abuse and by a wide variety of people.

One common myth about sexual assault is that it often occurs by a stranger. We have this perception of bad guys lurking in dark alleys with ski masks on. In reality according to the Rape Abuse and Incest Nation Network (RAINN) only 28% of rapes are committed by a stranger.

I sometimes wonder if it would have been easier if I had been raped by a stranger. If I would have been able to move on quicker if I didn't have that broken bond of trust and if I never had to see my perpetrator again. I can't say for sure because I haven't experienced that, but I know that having to see my rapist is incredibly difficult.

I don't have to see him as often as I used to. I have taken measures to remove myself from places he is near. Sadly that even includes my home.

I generally don't have to see him at church anymore. The one thing my church leadership was able to do was move him to a different ward. I have mixed feelings about that. I wanted away from him so bad and was so grateful when my Stake president offered to move him to a different ward because my family and I were about to move to a different ward ourselves to get away from him. I feel a sense of guilt though with him being sent to a new ward. Not about him, but my biggest fear is that he will rape another girl and I felt that now he had access to new unsuspecting girls. My ambivalent feelings aside I am grateful I didn't have to move from my ward and that I don't have to see him every Sunday.

There are only two days a year I know we will for sure be in the same room. That is for Stake Conference. Twice a year when all the wards meet together to hear from our church leadership. I go and so does he.

I have been thinking about it a lot because that biannual event is this Sunday. Easter. I expect it to be difficult because although I don't know the exact date I was raped because of Dissociative Amnesia, I do know it was very close after Easter. Sadly I now relate this wonderful, joyous holiday with the worst day of my life.

I'm always scared to see him. Even still. I think at this point I'm not scared of him doing anything to me. I know he can no longer hurt me. What I'm scared of is how I will react. When I see his face everything he did to me comes flooding back sometimes just in memory and sometimes in the form of a flashback. I never know how I will react. Will I scream? Will I freak out and try and hit something? Will I crawl under the table or run away? Or will I sit calmly in my chair while internally shaking? I don't know.

I know what some of you are probably thinking. Just don't go. It's one Sunday. You can skip church one Sunday so you don't have to see your rapist.

I know. I could easily stay home if I wanted to, but there's a reason I go and it's the same reason I still attend the same church building where I was raped and the reason I still sit in the row in the chapel I have always sat in. Because these things are important and sacred to me. I am not going to let him take them away from me. He doesn't get that.

So I will go to Stake Conference on Sunday. I will sing the songs. I will listen to the speakers. And I will see my rapist.

I won't be alone. My parents will be by my side as well as Jenny. I also have a few select people at church who know who he is. They watch out for me and make me feel safe as well.

I know I'm strong enough to do this.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Teachers Can Be Guardian Angels Too

My life has been full of guardian angels. I've been so very blessed to have so many been placed in my life to aid me on my journey.

When I look back on my years in high school they still amaze me. The fact that I graduated on time is no small miracle.

My sophomore year I started my journey with mental illness. It started with a Major Depressive Episode which transitioned into my first psychotic episode. My second psychotic episode started near the beginning of my junior year.

Due to the nature of my symptoms and the frequent hospitalizations I wasn't in school very much. Sophomore year I missed at least one day a week due to the severity of my depression. The end of my sophomore year I went on medical Home Study.

I wanted to go back to school for junior year, but when my second psychotic episode started I went back on Home Study for all of junior year. That year was so rough I was unable to do any work the whole first semester and completed the whole work between January and May of that school year.

Again, my goal was to go back to school for Senior year, but instead I went to Residential, a choice I will never regret. I did go back to school part day for the last semester of my senior year because I wanted to walk the stage for graduation.

Throughout all these ups and downs with school I received an incredible amount of help. At this time in my life I hadn't accepted my journey yet and was still embarrassed of my mental illnesses. I told hardly anyone. The select few people I did tell though carried me through those years.

My parents were my biggest advocates. My dad did most of my junior year assignments right along side me. He sometimes had to read me the text book before we did the questions because my mind did not allow me enough clarity to read.

I cannot say enough good things about the high school I went to. The administration was incredibly supportive and worked so well with me to get done everything I wanted to accomplish. They never gave up on me. I know that I was incredibly lucky to have such a great school admin.

Through all of this there is one person who stands out. I could not have done it without him. Since I have not asked permission to read about him I will shorten his name to Mr. T.

Mr. T was one of those teachers who cares an incredible amount for his students. He was one of my teachers sophomore year. When I went on Home Study the end of sophomore year he was my Home Study teacher. That means he came to my house each week and went through my work with me. He was also my Home Study teacher for most of my Junior year.

Mr. T was also one of the people on my emergency list for someone I could always go to if I had a problem at school. I could go and sit in his class if my hallucinations or anxiety got too bad. He was one of the people I was always honest with. He was a great listener and always found a way to make me smile no matter the situation.

I remember the time I had my first hallucination at school. I was in another teacher's pod. I was walking in circles unresponsive. None of the teachers, admin, or security guard could get through to me. I think they couldn't get ahold of my mom so they called Mr. T out of his classroom to come down. He just talked to me. I didn't really pay attention and I didn't respond. I couldn't, but he started cracking jokes. That was enough to make me smile. For a small moment he was able to pull a little bit of me away from my hallucination.

When I went back to school Senior year I tutored for Mr. T. I loved still being able to see him and talk to him when I needed to. I've gone back since graduation to see him too.

Mr. T. was definitely one of my high school guardian angels. I don't think I could have graduated without his help. Everyone deserves to have at least one teacher like Mr. T. in their lifetime. One they will never forget.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What Is Down Will Come Up

The past few weeks have been crazy. (Side note: I wonder how many posts I start like that?)

I've started so many blog posts throughout the past little while about this, but haven't been able to finish any of them.

My mental health has been consistently inconsistent since January. I'm safe, I'm managing, but I've been working on residual effects of trauma with my therapist and the possible addition of a new diagnosis.

With this has come on and off depression, though I'm fairly certain that it's stemming from my chronic pain rather than my mental health. It can make things difficult. I often get frustrated and discouraged, but have been striving lately to remind myself of all the good in my life.

With everything that I've been through I know that I will get through this the same way. I often look back and remind myself where I've come from. I've been out of the hospital for a year and a half after two and a half years of being hospitalized every six months. I'm in college. I'm living on my own. I'm still present and coherent. When I look on it like that suddenly things don't seem so bad.

One of the biggest things that help are the people who support me through life. I don't have a lot of friends my own age. I don't make friends easy and I really need to work at keeping up friendships better. That being said I have very supportive parents. I have brothers who would do anything for me. I have friends/acquaintances/women from church who I don't know what to call because I still feel like a child, who are an incredible support to me. I also have a group of other mental health bloggers I interact with multiple times a week. When my head tries to tell me I don't have people I remember all of these people.

With my treatment team, my friends and support system, and my stubborn personality I know I will make it out of this hump. Life is not linear, it's full of peaks and plains and dips. It's okay to not be doing hunky dory 24/7. I'm not. I don't expect to be. All I know for sure is what goes down will come back up (okay, okay I know it's the other way around for science, but mental illness is not an exact science) Months like now are when my extra dash of stubbornness serve me well. I'll continue to use it.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sexual Assault Awareness

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I want to talk about awareness. This is a topic I am very passionate about speaking out about. The conversations that surround the topic of sexual assault is one that is too often taboo.

I am not afraid to say that I was a victim of rape. There was a time I hid this fact from those around me. I was scared. I was scared of how I would be perceived, looked at, and judged.

Since coming out about my experiences I have had such a great outpouring of support. I have also been able to grow and heal immensely through the writing I have done.

I can understand how this can sometimes be awkward or uncomfortable to talk about, but it needs to be said aloud. When we open up and talk freely we give others permission to do the same.

Another area of awareness that comes separate from being willing to talk about sexual assault it. That awareness is being aware of the danger that is around us.

So many of us, me included, go around life with the assumption that we are safe because we're with family, or at school, or with friends from church. This was the case with me. My attacker was in my ward. I trusted him. I trusted everyone at church. I assumed that because we were together every Sunday learning about Christ that we were all good people.

This isn't always the case. Now, I'm not saying everyone is dangerous. More than not those we know are safe, but we still need to be aware of red flags. We need to talk and educate ourselves and our children.

Have that talk with your kids. It might be uncomfortable, you might not want them to know that evil is in the world, but it could help keep them safe. If I knew then what I have learned since I would have been able to see the signs that this guy was not a good person.

This month being sexual assault awareness month is the perfect time to do it. Let's raise awareness. Let's spread hope and knowledge and let people know that their past doesn't define them.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Every now and then my Insomnia will flare up. I've had problems with my sleep since I was 15. I do take medications to sleep, but even though I'm on some heavy medications I grow tolerant to meds very very quickly. Take tonight for example.

I took my meds early tonight. I took them around 9:30pm I think. I woke up at 1am, stayed awake for about an hour and a half, then went back to sleep until 4am. Now I'm awake and know I won't be going back to sleep.

I've learned through trial and error that for me to sleep until say 7am when I normally need to get up for school I have to wait until midnight to take my pills. They'll last about that long now.

Going up on my sleeping meds is not an option. I take two for sleep. One is Trazodone which I am maxed out on. Since I maxed out on that my psychiatrist added Restoril. That one will put me to sleep while Trazodone is supposed to make me stay asleep.

When she first added Restoril I could sleep from 9:30pm-8am. Slowly that has dwindled down.

Even though I don't sleep I normally lie in bed anyway around 10ish and try to relax. My brain generally stops working well at night. If I'm extremely tired I can fall asleep on my own; however the most my body can ever sleep on its own without medication is an hour and a half.

I normally rely on getting to sleep from midnight to 7am, but then I have to factor in other things. Some nights my pain will be too high that it will cancel out my sleeping meds. Other times I'll have a nightmare and wake up in the middle of the night and be awake for a while.

Long story short my sleep is hardly ever good and because when I do sleep it's due to medication it is more of a drugged sleep and I never feel rested. I know a lot of people have opinions on medications and sleeping meds, but I have tried sleeping on my own and I have tried OTC and herbal remedies, they don't work for me.  If I don't take the meds I take I could go days without sleeping. My body simply won't sleep on its own.

I do go through phases though where it is better than others, however this is not one of those times. Right now my sleep, due to a number of factors, is not very good. This creates a problem because our bodies need sleep. If I don't get enough sleep my pain is higher the next day, the fatigue from my EDS is worse, and my mental health is going to be worse the next day. It's kind of a vicious cycle.

I know that it will get better. I'll get out of this phase and sleep well again, or maybe we'll tweak my meds. For now I just need to learn how to deal with it. Today was kind of my fault. I know better than to take my meds that early, but I was tired so I did it anyways. Oh well. It won't kill me. Just like everything else in life it is something I learn to handle and live with.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Body Is Never Going to get Better, Is It?

I'm going to be honest with you. I'm not making this post to have any sort of moral or meaning. I'm not making it to share a success story. I'm making it because this is something I'm having a hard time with and writing here is how I figure things out. This will probably include a lot of complaining and processing. Fair warning.

I've talked a little bit about how I've been told I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). It's a connective tissue disorder. We believe I have Hypermobility type and so my main problem right now is that my joints don't want to stay in place.

I've only been dealing with this for four or five months and I'm not going to lie, it has been hard. I'm 19 years old and being told I have a chronic illness. I'm being told that there's nothing that can be done. I'm being told that I need to learn how to live while being in pain. I'm being told I could end up in a wheelchair.

I've been seeing doctor after doctor hoping that someone can help me. These past two weeks that has made it worse actually. I was told that i needed to see a rheumatologist and a pain management doctor. I finally got in to see a rheumatologist last week only to have her tell me that she won't take me as a patient because there's nothing to be done for the disorder I have. Then I saw a pain management doctor on Monday.

It's funny. When I got the appointment set for this doctor I was so incredibly excited because I honestly believed that he was the person who could help me. I became increasingly discouraged when he told me he wasn't going to go forward with treating me, that any treatment side effects would be worse that what I was dealing with, and that all I needed was to exercise more and learn how to live with the pain.

The rheumetologist is setting me up with a doctor at UCLA, and I'm seeing a geneticist there in August. It just seems like everything is so out of reach. In the last month I have seen three specialists in Bakersfield in three different areas of medicine and they have all told me there's nothing they can do. I don't really know where I go with that.

I had been holding on to hope before this last appointment. I had been holding on to hope that my body could get better. I've realized this week that my body is never going to get better and it will probably get worse.

I know there has to be a way to treat this, to find at least a little relief. I know that I just haven't found the right doctor yet. I've made it through so many hard things in life. I know this will be just another obstacle. I have faith that there is a reason for this. I do not know it yet. I might never know, but I know there's a reason. I just need to remain faithful.

The one thing that has been my saving grace this past week is that on Sunday I started learning how to crochet. It has helped me. I have to be careful because it can make my neck/back hurt and I need to be careful with my wrists, but I love creating. It's been very calming.

I guess that's it for now. This isn't a very put together post. I don't mind. I needed to just get all my thoughts down. Congratulations if you made it through all that rambling. Good night.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Why I Choose to Utilize Psychiatric Medications.

I always hate it when I see those articles entitled, "How to get through anxiety or depression without medication." For a couple reasons. One, I always feel like they're looking down on those of us who do take medications. (I know this isn't always the case, so sorry if you've written one of these posts) And two, because those of us who do take medication for our mental health aren't cured be it. We still have to fight and struggle and utilize the same exact coping skills they are talking about in order to get or stay healthy.

I view medication as a helpful tool, but only a tool. I am not naive enough to ever consider it a cure. Choosing to take medications is a deeply personal choice that everyone needs to make for themselves and with their doctors. I am not a professional, just a 19 year old college girl, with a list of diagnosis, who has been on medication since she turned 15.

For my mental health journey medication wasn't a choice. It was a necessity. I do believe that there are some cases where medications are a necessity. Two of which I encountered were suicidal thoughts and hallucinations.

Medication did not cure me, it still hasn't, and it sadly never will. Such is one of my trials in life which I will endure until I meet my Maker. What medication did do is keep me alive and help me to stabilize in times of crisis.

It wasn't all good. I have had side effects from certain medications. When I went on one antidepressent it made me suicidal, as sometimes happens with SSRI's and adolescents. I went on one medication and didn't sleep for 76 hours straight. That was a bad one. These are just some examples. I am fully aware that psychiatric medications are not fool proof.

It takes time to find the right medication treatment. When you're stable for a while one might stop working and you might need to find a new one. I, for some unknown reason, tend to develop a tolerance to medications very very quickly. I'm always upping doses and maxing out so we have to switch to a different one. This is why it is extremely important to find a psychiatrist you like and work well with - not an easy task.

What I choose to focus on is the good that they do me when they're working. I focus on the good days. I take what I learn from each medication and add that knowledge to the ever-growing file folder that is my brain.

I don't want to be on medications forever. I, personally feel like I'm taking too much right now, but that's because I'm switching between a couple. However, I know that I need to be on medication right now. One day, after I've been stable for a while we will talk about weaning me off of my meds, but for now they are one coping skill I choose to use.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why I Never Reported My Rapist to the Police

My trauma story is complicated. I'm sure many are. In all actuality I was raped almost four years ago, shortly after Easter of 2013. However, our minds are incredible things that can do amazing work in the name of protecting itself.

I had something called Dissociative Amnesia which I will probably write more on at a later time. Most simple what it means is that I forgot about my attack. I forgot everything as a coping skill. My brain knew I was not capable of processing the trauma that had occurred so it took it away.

It does not feel like it has been four years since my attack happened. I first told my therapist about it September of 2015. That day I was placed, terrified, into UCLA's psychiatric hospital.

I did speak to a policeman. As mandated reporters they had to call the police and a man came down to take my statement. At that point in my life it had been a day since I had told anyone. I was terrified of everything. I didn't yet have the full memories of my assault like I do now. I didn't trust anyone. I didn't trust myself.

Out of fear and shame I did not speak to the policeman very much. I don't actually remember what all I told him. I remember bits and pieces. I remember I had to take two breaks between talking to him. I remember I couldn't have done it without my amazing Social Worker, Megan, by my side. I also remember that I didn't tell him the whole truth. I down played the attack. I didn't want anyone to know what had happened. I had not processed or accepted it yet.

That was the one and only time I spoke to any law enforcement because after that I went to Residential for 10 weeks. When I came home, together with my support system, we decided I would not go to the police right away.

One of my main concerns throughout the whole process was not being believed. I have heard the horror stories of women who tried to report their sexual abuse and were made into the problem, not seen as the victim. Plus I already had a mental health background which I feared would make me automatically dismissed.

Instead I opted to go the church route. I reported within my church. Due to the time that had passed there was no evidence left. Due to the nature of the assault there were no witnesses. Due to my rapist being a sadistic monster he denied it outright. Through absolutely no fault of my church leadership nothing was able to be done about it.

That absolutely crushed my heart. In my head I knew it was the likely outcome, but had let myself hope for a better one. For the longest time I blamed the wrong people. I was hurt. I thought my leadership didn't believe me when he was unable to tell me what I wanted to hear. I was wrong.

That set me back pretty far and after that I would not go to the police for fear of the same or a worse response. I didn't know if I could take it again.

For a few months now I have wanted to go to the police. I know that nothing will happen with my case. It is too late, but I also know that there will be another girl like me and if the police already know my perpetrators name she will be more easily believed.

Different fears hold me back now. Sure, I still have the same fears of not being believed, but now I'm worried they will take action against me if I try to change my story. If I add to it and take away from it. I was very honest about my lack of a complete memory with them, but I'm sure very few police are familiar with Dissociative Amnesia. Heck, the word "dissociative" shows up with a red squiggly line under it when I type it because my computer isn't even familiar with it, but I digress. I'm afraid of having lied to the police. It wasn't major, but it was there. The hard part is not remembering what I said, mainly I think I just downplayed everything.

If I could go back and do it all over again I would report everything the minute I knew it. The day I could finally say "It was Him" I would go to the station. Not having that report, not having been able to at least try to go through a court process, not facing my attacker is one of my biggest regrets. I know I didn't do everything possible in my power to stop him from hurting another little girl.

Reporting a sexual assault is not something that is an easy decision. If anyone out there is struggling to make that decision know that it is completely your choice. If you want my advice you can take it, if not that's completely your decision, but I would report. I would do it. It won't be easy. You may not be believed, but that would be the fault of others. Looking back you would be able to tell yourself that you had done everything in your power. Whatever you choose, I'll be standing right here beside you.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

To My Rapist: This is What You Made Me

A Letter to My Rapist "This is What You Made Me" written January 30, 2017

I am not yours. You do not own me. You do not claim right or responsibility over any part of me.

You are a sadistic animal who takes pleasure in raping little girls. You will never be anything more than that.

But I will be so much more than that.

You talked to me of all the ways you would change me. And you did change me, but let me tell you how.

Because of you I learned how to defend myself with force and with word. I made my body stronger.

Because of you I started learning about advocacy work. I made myself louder.

Because of you I gave myself a voice. A voice to scream with. A voice to say no with. A voice to fight back with. I made myself braver.

Because of you I built myself up from under the table I learned how to survive. I made myself more powerful.

You had control over me for a day. The power of a child who could not fight back. That does not make you strong. That makes you a coward.

You had power for a day, but my power will last a lifetime. You did not break me. You are not that strong.

I am like a willow, bending with the wind, but standing firm on solid ground.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

No Goal is Too Small

My goals used to look like: write a speech in a day, go running with Jenny, clean my room, get straight A's in all my classes. I look at those goals now and need to remind myself to take a breath, and then two steps to the side--maybe three.

I say take steps to the side because I've moved away from where I used to be, but I refuse to move backwards. There are a lot of things I have had to get used to with my new found chronic illness  and a big one is accepting the things I cannot do. You might be tired of reading my writings about this. It comes up a lot, but I've always heard the phrase "write what you know."
Well, like it, love it, want to chuck it out the window, this is my life and this is what I know.

Today's goal was successful. However, I did have a day last week, maybe two I can't remember, where the same goal was not successful. What was this goal? To take a shower.

Yes, yes, I know. Mundane. Simple. My dad can crank out a shower in like four minute and be clean as a whistle. However, the life of a person with chronic illness is not always easy.

The car accident I was in on Saturday triggered my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to go into another flare. At least I'm pretty sure that's what happened. I'm still figuring all this stuff out too. Moving on, what that means is more pain that normal and more fatigue than normal. What that means is that easy tasks like taking a shower leave me out of breath.

It took me until this afternoon before I got in the shower and I had to rest for about 40 minutes afterwards just to recover from that. I'm not complaining, on the contrary. I was so proud of myself! I did it. I accomplished my goal. So what I had to rest afterwards. That's life.

I don't know what tomorrow's goal will be. That will be decided when I open my eyes. It will probably involve going to my morning class. Whatever it is will be good enough. My goals don't have to climb mountains. That's not my job. My job is to do what I can to take care of me. Today that meant taking a shower. It may seem small, but it was good enough for me.

Don't worry about your goals. Don't compare your goals. No goal is too small.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Relief Society: The Women of my Church

One of many amazing things about my church is out emphasize on service and striving to live as the Savior lived. I had a first hand experience with that yesterday.

Yesterday I was in a car accident. The driver of the other car made an illegal U-turn without looking. I tried to swerve but couldn't avoid them hitting me. My car spun around a few times before coming to a stop. Due to experiencing sharp pain in my back along with muscle spasms I went to the ER to make sure everything was okay.

Normally my mom or dad would take me, but they were out of town. I didn't want to go alone and didn't feel like driving at that moment was the safest thing for me to do so I started calling people for rides.

It was a Saturday afternoon and people were busy or out of town. Thankfully it turned out that my brother could take me. That isn't the point though. The point is that I had a list of about ten women from my church who I could call to help me. I am not super close with all of them, but they all would have been more than willing to help me if they could.

Through my church I am apart of the largest women's organization in the world, the LDS Relief Society. I am so grateful to be a part of something so wonderful. I felt so loved yesterday when I had so many people I could call for help. They truly strive to live and love as Christ himself taught by example.

I'm happy to report that I am doing well today. I'm safe. I wasn't able to go to church today and will probably just spend the day resting, but I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for keeping me safe and for allowing me not to be seriously injured.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Why I Say "I'm Fine" When Asked How I Am

I've written before about having Ehlers-Dablos Syndrome. It's a connective tissue disorder that affects my collagen and it causes chronic pain. For some reason the last part of that sentence is hard for me to write. Maybe it's because I'm still coming to terms with my illness. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm complaining. Maybe it's because I feel like people will feel sorry for me and I don't want that. Maybe it's all of the above.

Except for with a select few people I tend to minimize my pain. I say "it's okay" i say "it's manageable" even when it isn't. Even in physical therapy. I push myself through the pain because I feel like I have to even though I know it's bad for me.

I understand that when I come out and talk about hard topics on such a public platform I'm going to get questions. I understand when I'm walking with crutches, but there's no cast on my leg people are going to take a second look. I should be used to questions and most of the time I am, but I need people to understand that they need to accept my answers and accept that they fluctuate.

Last semester I made a friend with one of the ladies who works in the cafeteria at school. She took a liking to me. Well, she took a liking to Jenny and by extension me. She is as sweet as she could be and I honestly believe she does everything she does from a place of love, but every day when I see her she asks me when I'm going to be better. I've tried to explain that it's a chronic, life long illness and that I'm not going to get better. That day I made her cry. The next day she asked when I was going to be feeling better. This was taxing to me. I can go through most days not thinking about the fact that I'm not going to get better, until someone reminds me.

I've just started telling her that I am doing good. Everyday when she asks I say "Oh I'm doing good today. How are you?" Even when I'm not doing good. Even when I'm in pain or dizzy or fatigued. I'm always doing good.  This extends beyond her as well.

I've found it easier to just tell people I'm fine rather than explain how I'm not. Even with my friends who know about my diagnosis I do this. No one wants to hear that you're sick or in pain all the time. It would be fine if I had a broken leg  and was going to get better, but spread it out over a life time and I'm just complaining.

I understand not all people are like this. Some really want to know how I'm doing, but it's too difficult to weed out the few from the many. Ultimately it's just easier for my sanity to keep my answers to "I'm fine. How are you?"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My Realities of PTSD

I woke up this morning with a black eye. This isn't the first time this has happened to me. One symptom of PTSD that I struggle with is nightmares, because of them my sleep is never restful and sometimes violent.

I'm not sharing this for pity. I don't need or want it. I'm sharing this to show the realities of living with a mental illness.

For those of us with PTSD we relive the trauma over and over whether in our dreams or in flashbacks. Something that I call a "side effect of being me" is that I tend to fight back during these times. I think it comes from when I did kickboxing. My instinct is to fight. While I'm on that topic that is also why you should never ever sneak up on me. I have almost punched several people who startled me without meaning to. It's just my first instinct.

Thankfully as I have progressed in my therapy and treatment these instances are becoming fewer. I haven't had a black eye in months, but I did almost break my hand a couple weeks ago when I punched a steel door during a flashback.

This is just my reality. It's not beautiful, it's not glamorous, but it's my life. My life which I'm learning to love and learning to live.

I have accepted what happened to me. I have accepted the challenges that come from it. I have accepted that some of those challenges may never go away. I grieved the life I used to have and the life I always dreamed of. Once a was able to do that and accept who I am I started to see all the wonderful things I have made myself into because of this struggle.

I don't know why I woke up with a black eye again today after months of not having one. I don't know when my next flashback will happen. What I do know is that I'll deal with it and I will survive.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Accepting That I Need to Rest

I was never big into napping. On the contrary, I struggle with Insomnia and it used to be if I slept at all during the day I would not sleep at night, even with my sleeping meds. Lately, one of the more difficult things for me to come to terms with is how incredibly fatigued I get.

Over the last three months I have had to lay down and rest at some point in the day every day. Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I just lay there. On a good day I can go all morning without having to rest, but will inevitably need to lay down when I get back to my dorm. On a bad day I need to rest after taking a shower. Due to this I often become upset with myself for having to rest when there is work I really should be getting done.

Going from having PTSD to a chronic illness hasn't been easy. For a long time I was not a fan of my body. I felt like my body was the enemy, the scene of my attack that I couldn't escape from. I had spent years ignoring the needs of my body. Now I am having to learn to listen to it and care for it.

I am learning that my body, though it doesn't always comply with what I might want, is not the enemy. I am learning to remind myself that I am not less than for taking the time to rest and give my body what it needs. I am learning that advocating for my physical health is no different than the advocating for my mental health I have grown accustomed to. I am learning it is okay to ask for help. I am learning it is okay to not be able to do everything everyday.

I am no where near perfect at this yet. I'm not even good at it yet. The days I am angry with myself out number the days I am patient. Some days I need to seek out help to remind me of these things when I simply can't convince myself, but I am trying and I will continue to try because this body's not going anywhere. So for now I will write this mainly so I can reread it.

 I went back and forth debating whether or not I would post this because I have a big problem with feeling like I complain too much, but maybe just maybe it can help someone else.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

To My Ex Best Friend, I Wouldn't Change What We Had For Anything

I've heard it said that true friendship can make it through anything. I always thought that would be us. You were be best friend, the twin sister I never had. We planned our futures with each other in it. 

I had never had a friend like you before. Someone I could talk to about anything at anytime. We always knew what was going on with each other. I think that is what hurts the most. When I miss you and can't text to see what's new in your life. 

They say if you love someone you will let them go. Well, I loved you and I had to let you go. It absolutely breaks my heart to know what I did to you. It hurts worse to know you'll never know the reason why. 

I think about texting you all the time, but I have to move on and I have to let you move on. We had a good run, you and I, but our lives took us in different directions. You may be the hardest thing I had to give up. 

Due to our mutual love of musicals it seems fitting to end this with a quote from Wicked's "For Good," "Who can say if I've been changed for the better? I do believe I have been changed for the better and because I knew you...because I knew you...because I knew you...I have been changed for good." 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

There Is Only Honor in Being a Survivor

With all the negative media attention and the stigma of sexual assault I love it when TV shows get it right. From everything I've heard Law and Order: SVU gets it done right. I don't often watch this show as I am still easily triggered by themes of sexual assault; however, I do sometimes read articles about it. I read an amazing article about their most recent episode "No Surrender," which lead me to actually watching that episode.

It revolves around an Army Captain, Beth, who was brutally attacked and raped. My favorite part of the episode was the last scene where Captain Beth Williams gives a press conference. I absolutely adore what she had to say.

"My name is Captain Beth Williams. On January 8th I was raped. This does not lessen my ability or worth as a soldier. It will not define me. It will not break me. I'm not ashamed of what happened. I stand here with one mission only to encourage other survivors of sexual assault to do the same. There is only honor in being a survivor."

Ah!!! Doesn't she just say that perfectly. That is exactly what I try to live by and emulate. I don't always do it fully. I struggle with feeling shame or embarrassment, but in those moments I remind myself that the actions of another do not dictate my character. My worth comes from God.

It is not always easy to speak out about such topics. My stomach flip flops every time I press publish, but this needs to be talked about. I have had so many people come to me and tell me something similar happened to them. I love that. I love that more people feel safe enough to share and talk. The more we do the less stigmatized sexual assault will be.

Just like Captain Beth said, my rape will not define me and it will not break me. To all other victims and survivors, I stand with you.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Sometimes You Just Need a Break

Sometimes you just need to get away. This weekend was one of those times. I had the opportunity to go with my mom, dad, and grandpa to Montana for an extended weekend. I wasn't planning on going until two days before we flew out, but I am so glad I did.

Life can be challenging. Right now I consider myself to be doing well because I've been a lot worse off than I am now, but I still struggle everyday with either my mental or my physical health. Add in college and everything gets bumped up a few notches.

Don't get me wrong. I am extremely grateful to be in the place I am now. I have an amazing treatment team for my mental health. I'm still getting set up with doctors for my physical health, but I have faith that everything will work out there. I'm doing well.

It's okay to need a break still. It's okay to need to get away. When I left for Montana I wasn't looking at it as a means to get away. It wasn't until I was there and I felt such a sense of peace that I realized that was why I needed to come.

It is so important when you are battling your health that you take some time for yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Whether you hop on a plane and fly a few hours to visit family in a tiny little Montana town, or have a "me day" taking time away is important.

One of my favorite places to go is Walmart. I know, I know, shocking. We have a huge Walmart superstore by my house and I will often go just to walk up and down the aisles. The thing I love about Walmart is that you can be by yourself without ever being alone. So I don't have to handle people, but I'm also not isolating either.

I am fully understanding of the fact that Walmart is not for everyone, but find your Walmart. Find a place close by where you can go to get a little escape. You deserve it.

Monday, March 6, 2017

I Struggle with Anorexia

I'm pretty open about a lot of struggles in my life. This is one I have never talked about before. I felt guilt and shame. I felt alone with this, but that was just my eating disorder talking. For the past few years I have suffered on and off with anorexia.
It all started when an antipsychotic I was put on caused me to gain 35 pounds. It started as trying to watch what I ate in a healthy way, but that spun out of control. I used it as a way to find control when my PTSD was at a head and I had no control. I started restricting. I didn't think it was bad. Definitely not "bad enough" for treatment. That was another lie. Any disordered eating or eating disorder is bad enough for treatment.
I hid what I was doing. I brushed it off. I down played it when I was asked about it. I wasn't diagnosed until I went to residential. Even then my therapist told me I had anorexia as did my family therapist and I knew they were right. I was still in denial. I didn't think it was "that bad" I told my parent I had it under control. When I came home I told my dietician I had it under control. I told myself I had it under control, but an eating disorder is never under control.
When I started my first semester of college I was underweight. Thankfully I have an honest relationship with my therapist and she helped me. I looked for a dietician but the options in Bakersfield are limited. The one I called wasn't taking new clients. I worked on my own and with my therapist.
Over time I stopped restricting so much. Now I am only a few pounds shy of my goal weight and a few more pounds shy of my therapists goal for me. I don't skip meals anymore. I don't hide my struggles. I am not fully recovered, but I'm doing a lot better.
This past week was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I am choosing to speak out now to show anyone else who may be struggling that you can get better. It may be hard but you are worth it. Don't do it alone. You don't have to. Help is out there.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

You Matter, Yes You.

Hey you, yes you. You are special. You are important. You matter.

This is to every man, woman, and child who has ever dealt with mental illness, chronic illness, or any trial in your life that left you feeling worthless and like you didn't matter. I know mental illness so that's what I normally choose to write about, but this can go for all of you.

You matter. Any voice in your head that tells you different is bull. You are not your mental illness. 

I know it seems like your life is made up of symptoms and doctors appointments and daily fights with your own mind. That's not all you are.

You are the people you love and those who love you.
You are the quiet rise and fall of your chest as you sleep.
You are the slight smile of your lips that you can't catch.
You are apart of everything you touch.
You impact the world everyday of your life.

You are so much more than your mental illness.

You matter. Don't ever forget that.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

PTSD and the Freeze Response

For the longest time I berated myself because I didn't feel like I fought back hard enough when I was raped. If I look back, in truth I did fight back. I tried to get away, but he was bigger than me. He was taller than me and he was stronger than me. There was nothing I could do so I stopped fighting. I stopped fighting and just froze.
This wasn't me saying it was okay. This wasn't me "giving up" as I had thought for so long. No, this was me doing what I had to do to survive and protect myself.
We've all heard so many times about the fight or flight response. That's what I thought I had to do. I didn't really fight back if I didn't fight or flight. What most people don't know, what I didn't know, is that the fight or flight response has a third option: freeze.
In situations where you can't fight the attacker off or when you can't run away, the only option you're left with is to freeze. When it showed that fighting back would make my attack worse I froze. This wasn't me giving in. This was me surviving. When you freeze your mind takes you away from the situation you are in. You dissociate as a survival technique to get through whatever is happening.
The world needs to remember that the freeze response is totally motmal amd should be an acceptable response to trauma. When I was questioned by the police one of the first questions he asked me was "Did you fight back?" "Did you scream?" "How hard did you fight back?" "Did you try to run?"
I understand the police need to know these things to get the full picture, but he made me feel like I didn't do enough to prevent my attack.
This was not true for me and is not true for any other victim of sexual assault. It is never the victims fault no matter how much she fought back. Freezing is a normal brain response to trauma and for me was safer than fighting back.
So next time you hear "fight or flight" remember the third 'f', freeze.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Keep Fighting, Warrior

It is all too easy to get drug down to the hole of endless misery and woe when you're dealing with mental illness. They takes apart every fabric of your being and rearranges it to fit their own specific symptoms. There are days you feel like you will never be yourself again, you will never be whole again, you will never be okay again.

I get it. I was there. Over the past three and a half years I have had four different diagnosed mental illnesses at one point or another. Currently I stand at Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Throughout my fifteenth and sixteenth year I went through a major depressive episode. My mother once told me that there was nothing behind my eyes when she looked at me. I contemplated suicide. I felt like I would never be okay again.

My life is not easy. No ones life is easy, but I am no longer in that terrible place I was in. I am working hard to get myself healthy. On the days I feel like I'm being drug back down I look back and realize how far I've come. I'm in college. I'm living on my own. Those are things no one thought I'd be able to do at this age.

It does get better. You will be okay. It might not be today, but it is coming. The pain and the misery, it doesn't last forever. Find a support system. My life did not get better by chance. It is a process. I am currently in five to six hours of individual or group therapy each week. I have to work every day to keep healthy, but it's possible. It was possible for me and it is possible for you too.

When children are little they rely on the faith of their parents. At times during these struggles I have had to rely on the hope and faith of those around me when I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. If all you see is darkness I offer you my hope. Hold on to it until you have some of your own. Keep fighting, warrior. I'm fighting right here beside you.

Not All Walking is Created Equal

A response to the girls who questioned why I used crutches when I could walk.

Since the middle of January I have alternated between using a cane and forearm crutches to walk with. Sometimes depending on the day and the place I will walk with no aid. At school, however, the walking distance each day is so great I use the crutches everyday.

I have recently received the diagnosis of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue disorder. One of the more affected areas of my body are my hips. This causes chronic pain and instability. One of my doctors suggested the crutches and they have been invaluable in helping me get around school.

With having a service dog I am used to constant questions, some of which get very personal. I generally try to give an answer that will help educate. When asked about the crutches depending on the person, the situation, and my mood I give one of two answers: "I have EDS, it is a connective tissue disorder that affects my hips. The crutches help me to walk." or "I have bad hips."

I am perfectly fine giving either answer. Sometimes I don't mind telling people why I use crutches, other times I'm in a hurry or am not in the mood to give the whole talk. I don't owe anyone anything.

So far I've had pretty good reactions from people. My favorite is when they treat me the same as before the crutches and cane arrived. I enjoy being independent. I don't like to be pitied or looked at like I can't do anything for myself. I also don't like to be questioned on the validity of my illness.

This was something I ran into yesterday in the elevator of my building. I had run down to take the trash out to the dumpster. I left Jenny in my dorm and since I was taking the elevator down and then right back up I left my cane in the room also. Going down was fine. Going back up some girls I didn't know started questioning me. At first I tried to answer their questions, but they didn't understand how I could be walking right then, but couldn't walk without crutches around campus.

I didn't present this nearly eloquent enough then. I will try to do better now, but here is my answer.

Yes. Sometimes I can walk just fine without any aid. I might not even limp. Other times I need a cane or crutches. It's just the fact of my life. I have an illness that causes pain in a variety of areas in my body, especially my hips which are rather important in the walking process. Due to the weakness of my connective tissue my joints are also very unstable. Especially my left hip which tends to move around in the socket. Walking aids help take some of the weight off my leg and hips which help to decrease pain. They also increase stability and reduce the likelihood of my hip ball moving where it shouldn't or me falling.

So the answer is yes, I can walk. Some days are better than others. Some days I need help. That's okay. Not all walking is created equal. I am thankful for the mobility I do have. I know I am blessed to be able to do everything I can. Using a cane or crutches is just a small part of my life and what makes me who I am. It is not the end all be all.

Monday, February 20, 2017

God's Hand in my Life

Going through a significant trial will have an impact on your faith. The direction it goes is up to you. Sometimes trials make our faith stronger; sometimes they damage our faith. Throughout my journey with mental illness I have learned to rely on God more than I ever had before.

I have prayed longer and harder than I ever knew possible and God has answered my prayers.

He placed me in the hands of a competent therapist who stuck by me for two years in the beginning when I resisted treatment. He put in my path an amazing young women's leader whom I grew to love deeply. With his help it always worked out that UCLA had a bed for me when I needed to be admitted to their psych ward. There I met excellent professionals who helped me immensely.

God's hand was extremely evident in my placement at Canon, the residential treatment center I stayed at for two and a half months. I had a bed ready, the girls I was with were the ones I needed to be with. Canon experienced a lot of changes while I was there and immediately after. If I had been there at any other time I might not have had the same experiences and successes that I did. I know that my Heavenly Father had his hand in my life throughout that whole time.

His help and guidance continues when I came home. I found the perfect therapist for me who had the training that she needed to handle my "complicated case" and she knew the right people to put me in contact with to get help at college.

The past four years of my life have not been easy, but I have made it through them. I know I could not have done it without the hand of God in my life. I would not be here today without his love and guidance. I know that whatever I will go through in life is part of his plan and he will be walking right beside me.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Not Being Believed as a Sexual Assault Victim

The sad truth of being a sexual assault victim is that there bound to be people who don’t believe you. There are a multitude of reasons for this, yet somehow none of them ever seem good enough.

The reason I was so silent for so long about what happened to me was the fear of how it would be received. I had a couple really bad experiences early on that quite literally crushed my heart. I can remember one time after getting off the phone with someone I had trusted for years and highly respected I ran to the backyard and broke down. I was shaking and crying, barely able to get out what was upsetting me to my mother.

Not being believed is one of the most painful things about the aftermath of a sexual assault. I was filled with so much despair, confusion, and self-loathing that made opening up next to impossible. When I did I needed someone who wouldn’t question the validity of what I was telling them.

Now that I have gone through therapy and am in recovery I have come to the understanding and acceptance that everyone has their own reasons for doing things. I may not like them or agree with them, but they’re there. It does not do me any good to be angry about what happened.

There are three people who know for a fact what happened. That is me, my rapist, and God. That’s what matters. I am lucky to have the support of my parents and some good friends. I’ve been able to come to a place in my recovery where yes, it still hurts when I’m not believed, but it will no longer send me to the backyard crying.

Support is great, but I’ve come to the place where I don’t have to constantly seek it out anymore. I have a family member who I have always loved who I’m going through this right now with. They made the choice not to make a place for me in their lives. Does it hurt, yes, but I know that the problem is not a reflection of who I am, but rather who he is.

For those of you who have experienced something similar to me, don’t be afraid of being disbelieved. The people who you need in your life will show you that. One thing this experience has taught me is who really cares about me. That, and how to forgive when forgiveness is required.

Not speaking up, not getting help will only hurt you in the long run. You are the one who needs help. Don’t let the fear stop you. There will always be people on your side. If you look around and seem to have no one, I am here. Fighting right beside you. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Breaking Silence

A little while back I wrote a post A Crazy, Fun, Exciting Opportunity talking about a documentary I was able to be a part of.

On our local news channel 23ABC one of the evening anchors, Jacki Ochoa, is working on a documentary series, Breaking Silence. These stories will cover mental illness and suicide. Jacki is a strong advocate for mental health since she has a mental illness herself.

I was lucky enough to be a part of her stories. The main, full documentary will be out later this year, but this week she is sharing short stories every day. They will be aired on 23ABC both on TV and you can watch a live stream from their website. Turn To 23. These stories will be on every day this week at 6pm PST.

I feel it is so important to speak out about mental illness. There doesn't need to be a stigma around it. Keeping silent is no longer an option for me. The more we talk about mental illness the less stigmatized it will be and the more people can get help.

I hope you'll watch these stories and share them with those you love. You'll never know when you might save a life.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Take Back the Control

We are all in need of things that give us control in our lives. Over the years I've had a few things that made me feel powerful. Two main ones were Kickboxing and competing on my speech and debate team. Sadly, neither of these are available to me anymore.

I started Kickboxing when I was in Residential. We had a heavy bag in the gym and some of my treatment goals involved going down with one of the counselors, L, who was teaching me how to box. It was an incredible experience for which I have no words. Learning how to box, and then starting kickboxing at home made me feel powerful in a way nothing before had ever done. I saw my body as powerful.

After I was sexually assaulted I hated my body. I still struggle with feelings like this, but when I was kickboxing I was able to view my body as something with power and grace and fire. I loved it.

Unfortunately due to my physical health problems I haven't been able to kick-box in almost a year. Only very recently have I accepted the fact that I will never be going back to it.

Which left me searching for something new to find feelings of power and control in. I graduated the team at the same time I left high school and haven't given any speeches since. That desire led me to start blogging. It isn't quite the same, but I've always used my words to give me power.

That's probably why I'm writing today when I haven't written anything I've liked in weeks. Today was riddled with bad news. I've been searching for ways to keep my life together all day and am left with more questions than answers. So I write. I lay it all out there. It gives me a feeling of control.

We all need that in our lives. We need something healthy that makes us feel powerful, because we all are. I'm searching for my power. What is yours?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fight for the Next Good Day

Recovery is often unstable. It is not a straight, flat path. There are valleys and hills. You might have to cross a river and climb hand over hand to reach the top of the mountain. Don't worry. All the scenery is building the strength inside of you.

Recovery doesn't mean you are always doing good. It just means you're still fighting. You might get stuck in a depressive wave or have medication trouble. The road ahead might have fog so thick no light can make it through.

Keep fighting. Fight for the next good day. This is the hard part where trust comes in. Personally, I don't trust easy. PTSD killed that for me. Luckily it was only mostly dead and my therapist and I are coating up a miracle pill. (If you don't get that reference you need to take a step back, re-evaluate your life, and watch The Princess Bride)

Trust that the good day will come. Trust that there is happiness ahead and that you have warriors fighting beside you.

It can sometimes be hard to see those fighting with you. If all you can see is those who have left, take a step back. In the event that you have no one, know that I am here. I am fighting right beside you.

Fighting for the next good day.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Chronic Illness. Chronic Pain. Chronic Questions

I saw a new doctor today. Down in LA. He is the best doctor I've ever seen. He knew his stuff, his credentials are crazy, and he was my last shot for my hips. He was going to be the one to help me.
And he did. He did all he could and he gave me great advice. It just wasn't what I wanted to hear.
In a way I feel like I shouldn't be writing about this because I don't know a lot about it all yet, but writing is how I process. So this might be choppy, but it will help me.

I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, hypermobility type. I'm very bendy. It's more than that though. EDS is a connective tissue disorder that affects collagen. Collagen is like the glue that holds everything in your body together. Mine doesn't work properly. Right now that is causing a lot of problems with my hips.

This doctor today told me that I have great hips structurally. There's nothing for him to go in and fix. The problem lies in the instability caused by my EDS. My hip is very unstable and has caused a labrum tear and cartilage damage. All in all, pain.
The problem is that I have one of the few things he can't fix. His advice to me (as a surgeon) was to never ever let a surgeon operate on my hips until I have a hip replacement. Because there is nothing they can fix.

I like that he told it to me straight. I got a lot of information from him. The end result was just that I need to learn to live with this. Pain meds don't work for me. I'm trying physical therapy, but struggling with being hopeful about it.
This was not what I wanted to hear. I'm wondering where to go from it.

I've been using forearm crutches to help get around and especially at school. Really the only place I don't use them is at church. It can be difficult enough managing four 3-year olds with a dog. I don't think I could do it on crutches.
They help. I feel more stable than I have in months. It's kind of an amazing feeling not worrying when I'm going to fall next. It worries me though that I'll have to rely on a walking aid for the rest of my life.
I'm working on physical therapy to build my muscles. That should help, but I don't know how much.

What do you do when there is nothing to do?
You keep pushing. I know I can't give up. I know I have got to keep moving forward with what I have. Right now I have physical therapy.

Have any of you experienced anything similar. I am more than open to any tips or help.

For now I'll continue one assisted step at a time. I know I'm not alone. I have great support around me. Right now I'm sitting on temple grounds. I know my Father in Heaven is watching over me, sending help my way.

I might bend, but I won't break.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

College and Mental Illness

I started my second semester of college yesterday. I'm incredibly excited for it. I got to move back into my dorm and I actually genuinely love to learn (unless we're talking about Chemistry, because who really needs Chemistry--not me).

As much fun as college is, it is also undoubtedly tough, stressful, and busy. College can be difficult for anybody, but struggling with a mental illness makes it that much more difficult.

It is only the second day of my second semester so I have not perfected these steps by any means, but I have found some ways that work for me to make going to college with a mental illness just a little bit easier.

1) Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD)
The very first thing you should do is talk to your schools disabilities department. They have measures put in place to help you succeed. This will probably need to involve getting a note signed from your doctor. Then you can meet with their accommodations representative who can help you get the extra help you need. I go to Cal State Bakersfield and they personally have an amazing SSD department. Everyone has been so great at getting me the extra help that I need. I personally have time and a half testing, I get to take my tests in their quiet testing center, I can have a notetaker take my notes for me if I need, and I am allowed to tape record lectures. I highly suggest going to see your disabilities office as early as you possibly can.

2) Know Your Teachers
Last semester it was vital for me to know my professors. It even came down to whether or not I passed a class. This is something that should be done at the beginning of the semester. Go introduce yourself, give them a copy of your SSD report, and let them know what's going on if you feel comfortable. They will be much more inclined to help you if you talk to them earlier rather that when you're struggling or already behind.

3) Counseling Center
Every school has a counseling center that should be free to all students. It is one of those costs that are covered under your tuition. I highly suggest that you make an appointment with a therapist and work with them, especially if you are struggling. Even though I see my outside therapist I meet with one in the counseling center about every other week or so. My outside therapist is wonderful, we just often don't have time to go over all of my personal issues and then add school on top of it. The therapist I see at the counseling center covers my school needs and problems. They know the school extremely well and can be a huge benefit.

4) Get Enough zzzzzzz's 
This is so important as I know that for me and many others I know with mental illnesses if I don't get enough sleep it exacerbates my symptoms greatly. It may be very tempting to stay up and do homework, hang out with friends, or go to that party everyone's talking about, but your mental health has to be placed above all. For me, I know that the absolute latest I can stay up if 11pm and that can sometimes be pushing it. You know what's right for your body. Take a minute and listen to what it's telling you.

5) Get Plenty to Eat and Drink
My therapist has pointed out to me on more than one occasion that when I am experiencing a rise in symptoms I need to evaluate three things: how much I'm sleeping, eating, and drinking, because it is likely one of those three areas are suffering. If you are not taking care of the vital needs of your body it will affect your mind. I've tried to make excuses before like I can't go to sleep yet I need to study, or my hips hurt I don't want to walk all the way to the dining hall, but in the long run if you take care of your body then your body will take care of you.

6) No Alcohol
College is a time where a lot of people start drinking for the first time. For those of us with mental illnesses this is a bad idea. I personally don't drink anyways, but I have seen how it has affected people around me. Especially if you take medications they should not be mixed with alcohol. It is still possible to have fun without it. You're friends will understand.

7) Find What Works for You
These are just some of the things that work for me; however everyone is different. Experiment with different techniques and different coping skills and you will find some that work for you. Above all else listen to your body, and prioritize your mental health above everything.

Friday, January 20, 2017

You Will Never Be Who You Once Were

I have never been one to sugar coat things very much. I'm not a bakery. With that preface one thing you need to understand is that you will never be the person you were before your illness, attack, or whatever life changing event happened in your life. With that out of the way the more important thing to understand is that this is not a bad thing. 

For the longest time I kept thinking that I would get a hold on all of my struggles and be able to go back to my old self. It was one of my therapists in Residential who made me see the importance of grieving my old self to prepare for who I would become. It took me some time to do this, but eventually I realized that I don't want to be the girl I was. 

This doesn't mean I don't still miss her sometimes. I go through periods where I long to be the young, innocent girl who felt so safe, but who I am now is so much stronger. I have faith in a merciful God who has walked me through my trials. I know I can survive whatever he sends my way. I have grown and learned too much to ever go back. 

It is impossible to go through trials and come out the same person who walked in. They are tests; they are lessons. Whatever you may have to face will change you forever, but this doesn't have to be a bad thing. Let it change you for the better. Let it make you stronger. 

It's not always easy, but I promise you it is possible. We do not have the privilege of choosing all our trials, but more important than what we go through is how we choose to deal with it. Take your trials and let them make you strong. I'll be right here cheering you on. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

When Chronic Illness Meets Mental Illness.

For the past six months to a year I have been struggling with my body in a way more physical than normal. I have gone through tests and scans and many many doctors. Finally today I got some answers that came with even more questions.

My joints are my main problems. Currently my hips are the worse so I've been seeing an orthopedic doctor at SCOI. Today I was able to go back to get the results of my MRI. This came with both good news and bad news.

The good news is that I don't need surgery right now! Yay. That was a major concern for me. The bad news is that I have FAI in my left hip along with my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder. I walked away from that appointment with a referral for two different specialist, a handicap parking prescription, and a prescription for a set of forearm crutches.

Man. I just keep telling myself "I can do this. I can do this. I can do this." It can be hard when my mental illnesses are met with chronic illnesses. I'm going to be honest with you. I broke down in the shower earlier this morning before my doctor's appointment.

I was overwhelmed and frustrated. Both FAI and EDS cause a lot of pain and I get cranky.

This was okay. I am allowed to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. In my opinion there are no bad emotions. It is vital that they be felt. The turning point is how we choose to deal with these emotions.

I wish I had dealt with mine better. I did take some steps to calm my anxiety. I used some essential oils and I wrote down everything I felt the doctor needed to know. Writing helps me. I can understand things more clearly when I see them written out. However, I was in a bad mood all morning. I am working to overcome this.

These illnesses are a new chapter in my life. I will deal with them as they come. I will need to take extra precautions to guard my mental health in the upcoming months as I tackle this new trial. I know my Heavenly Father will be with my though and through him I will make it to the other side.

Lastly, I appologize in advance for anyone's toes I step on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why I'm a Rape Victim not a Survivor

Almost immediately following a sexual assault blame is placed, generally on the victim. Blame is placed on the victim by her attacker, by the media, possibly by friends and family, and by herself.

For the longest time after I was raped I blamed myself. It lured me into this false sense of security. If I had fought harder and screamed louder then I could have stopped him. If I could have stopped him then I can stop it from happening again. Shifting blame to the attacker forces the victim to acknowledge that they were completely and utterly powerless. That is a very scary place to be.

The issue of blame is a big reason I choose to identify as a rape victim rather than a rape survivor. Don't get me wrong, I am a survivor. I survived and I continue to. However, I think when we try to tell victims that they shouldn't call themselves victims it takes some blame away from the attacker. He is able to be forgotten.

I understand that "victim" is not as cheerful as "survivor," but rape is not cheerful. We need to face reality as it is. I became a rape victim the day a man bigger and older than me decided to use me as a toy for his amusement. I am not turning myself into a victim by not "reclaiming" my trauma. He did that.

Identifying as a victim not a survivor does not mean that I will not go on to live a wonderful life and accomplish many things. It simply means that I am choosing to start and end the blame with my attacker.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fight Song: My PTSD Anthem

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

I love music especially songs with meaning. I have adopted "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten as an anthem for my life through struggling with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. The upbeat rhythm and powerful words demand that I sing along. I have a feisty side that this song feeds into well. The lyrics seem to follow a path that I also went down. 

And all those things I didn't say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?

I go through these moods where I want to make a change. I want to do something that matters. That's one reason I started writing. It's always been a great way for me to use my voice. "Can you hear my voice this time?" 

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I'm alright song
My power's turned on
Starting right now I'll be strong
I'll play my fight song
And I don't really care if nobody else believes
'Cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me

This chorus is what really gets to me. I am ready and willing to fight. I've been doing it for years. I have fought for my health and my life in ways you couldn't even imagine. I fight for myself in order to advocate for my needs. I am taking back my needs and proving I'm alright. I have power. "And I don't really care if nobody else believes, 'cause I've still got a lot of fight left in me." 

I've gotten to this point in my life where I am starting to be okay with all of who I am. Excluding a few friends and family I'm closest to I don't care what other people think of me. This is my life. This is who I am. If you can't accept that, if you can't make time for me, if you can't support me, then I don't need you in my life. "Like how a single word can make a heart open. I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion."

Do you have an anthem?