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?