“Frozen” and Mental Illness

I know that it has become cliche to say that Frozen is your favorite Disney movie, but there are a few reasons why I really connect to the story. I relate to the feelings of trying to conceal who you are because you are afraid of hurting others. I have thought about suicide since I was a kid. I always thought that these thoughts were bad, that there was something wrong with me because I kept thinking about suicide even when things were good. I tried to hide my depression, my suicidal thoughts, my mental illness, because I was afraid that if people knew, if people saw, they would get hurt.

In Frozen, Elsa is told that there is beauty in her gift, but also danger. She gets so afraid of endangering others that she locks herself away from everyone else. She hides her gift because it scares her that she cannot control it. Her parents unknowingly reaffirm these thoughts by telling her to “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show.” Eventually though, she breaks. She is unable to hold it all in and does the very things she was afraid of doing by hurting the ones she loves. But by breaking, she finds freedom in allowing herself to feel and to use her abilities.

Elsa's_loss

This picture of Elsa is a very familiar scene for me. Sitting in my room, isolating from the world, feeling like I am a monster unable to control myself, feeling like no one could ever understand the darkness, feeling so alone because even though people are so close- they just don’t know what lies behind my closed doors.

I finally went and saw my therapist again. It has been about 6 months since I last saw him. When I left the last time, it was on such a positive note. My life was going well, I had been feeling hopeful about life and felt like I could handle my thoughts. Going back felt like somewhat of a failure, as though I was not good enough to keep up those positive thoughts, that I had failed in my recovery. My therapist told me that it is like riding a bike though. You have times when you are going downhill and you do not need to peddle because life is easier. There are other times when you are going uphill and you have to put all you have into peddling because otherwise you will start slipping backwards.

That is how I have been feeling lately. I had been doing so well for a while, but with the accumulation of health issues, disordered eating, added stresses of school and business, life became difficult. I got tired of peddling and started sliding back into the familiar darkness of depression and thoughts of suicide and self harm. When I recovered enough to look around again, I realized how far I had slid backwards and it was disheartening. It is difficult to realize how much your choices have affected you. I understand that eating disorders and depression are not entirely choices, but I had slipped. I had slid into familiar destructive habits and realizing the toll it took on my body was almost devastating.

I remember learning about addictions in my health class and the teacher saying that relapse is part of recovery. This was my relapse. I had fallen back into harmful behaviors that hurt me physically and emotionally. Realizing you have relapsed is one of the hardest parts of recovery. You feel as though you have failed, you have let everyone down, you let yourself down. At this point, it is easy to convince yourself to stop trying because you feel as though you are never going to get better anyway. I remembered that relapse is a step in recovery though. I am realizing that it does not mean I will not get better. I am better than I was and I will become better than I am. It is simply a process and I must have patience with myself.

Anyway, back to Frozen, thinking about the movie I realized something about myself. Elsa’s gift was beautiful and amazing. It brought people joy and made life more fun. It was only dangerous when she forgot how to love and open herself up. It was dangerous because she concealed the beauty in the process of trying to protect others from getting hurt. Suicidal thoughts are not my gift, but maybe feeling so much is a gift. I empathize with others. I understand things on a level that most people do not. I feel with everything in me. When I love, I love so completely that it hurts sometimes. Maybe this gift of mine is beautiful, maybe it makes being my friend better and more fun, maybe it is a good thing.

My therapist counseled me to not label my suicidal thoughts as bad, but simply to recognize them as thoughts and move on. I do not have to be afraid of my thoughts. I do not have to fear thinking about self harm or suicide or other thoughts that have been reinforced in my head as harmful. I can simply recognize them as part of my thought processes that have been shaped through years of reinforcement, but I do not have to hold onto those thoughts. I do not have to judge myself for those thoughts. My thoughts do not define me, but what I choose to do with those thoughts can define me if I allow it to.

So here’s to the beauty of mental differences. Here’s to the emotional breakdowns because that means I have powerful feelings. Here’s to the thoughts that I do not have to harbor because there are other thoughts I would rather dwell on. Here’s to seeing the beauty instead of the danger of my mind. Here’s to this beautiful, wonderful, crazy life and all that comes with it.

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2 Truths and a Lie

Truth- I sat in a class where we talked about substance abuse and drugs and alcohol and tobacco, and for the first time in my life, I thought maybe I should try that.

Truth- I posted on Facebook that I have been struggling with an eating disorder and drowning in depression, posting more and more about suicide because it sounds so good sometimes.

Lie- My friend asked how I was and I said okay, over and over again.

Why is it so hard to say the truth and easy to buy into the lies?

A Good Person

When someone drops something, I naturally want to help them pick it up. When someone is hurting or sad or depressed, I naturally want to comfort them. When someone appears lonely or out of place, I naturally want to be their friend. When someone needs help, I naturally rush to their aid.

I naturally want to help people feel good about themselves. I naturally love people. I am naturally thankful. I desire to do kind things and let people know how much they are loved. I desire to always do good, to make others happy, to make the world a better place.

With all of these things that come naturally, with all of these good thoughts I have, you probably think I would consider myself to be a good person.  The reality is that I hate myself. I consider myself unworthy, not good enough, a mistake, and ultimately a bad person.

I feel like when I’m reaching out to help others, I am messing up. I feel like when I sit with someone who appears lonely, I am being annoying. I feel like when I drop off flowers or candy or a note on someone’s doorstep, I did it wrong. I feel like nothing I do will ever be good enough. I will never be good enough. I will never be enough.

I tried to explain this to a friend of mine. I tried to explain that when I have the urge to do something good, I feel wrong about it. Over the last couple years, I have dropped off many anonymous gifts at people’s homes. Every time I did, I came home and cried. I stepped into my room and fell to my knees, sobbing and wanting to die.

People see the good and think, “she’s such a good person.” I see the good and think to myself, “what makes you qualified to think you know how to help someone? What makes you worthy to do kind things? What makes you think that they will appreciate this?” In looking at the good that I do, I am not proud of it; I am ashamed. I hate myself for the good that I do just as much as I hate myself for the mistakes that I make.

I used to stop myself from doing good. I would force myself to shut up and sit down. I would insult myself until I felt so small and insignificant that I would not think I was capable of doing the thing I desired. I still feel like that, but I do good anyway. I follow my kind thoughts, no matter how much it hurts, or how hard it is, or how much I hate myself for it, I do not postpone a generous thought.

Why do I hate myself this much? Why do I believe I am a horrible person, worthy of pain and punishment? Why is doing good things so hard when it comes naturally? I’m not sure. Maybe partly because of experiences I had.

I remember being yelled at for trying to help. I remember feeling like a bad person because I tried doing something good, but I did it wrong and was told it was better to not do it at all if I couldn’t do it right. I remember being yelled at for trying to coordinate efforts for good. I remember over and over being told that I did things wrong, that I communicated wrong, that I was wrong.

Eventually, I believed it. I believed I was wrong. I am a bad person. I do not do good things, I just do things that are good in bad ways. I will never be enough.

Am I good? Will I ever be good? Will I ever love myself? I don’t know, but I am trying. I am trying to be a good person and to believe I am a good person. It is difficult. I still worry, but I do my best. Maybe one day I’ll believe that I am good, that I am worthy of love, that the good I do is enough, that I am enough. Until then, I will just do my best to keep doing good despite how I feel about it.

My Story – Love

Trigger warning: This post contains methods of self harm, thoughts of suicide, and references to abuse.

I grew up believing that I was never good enough, that no matter how hard I tried or how much I did, I could never be loved. It took a long time to get over that. It took a long time for me to believe that anyone could ever love me simply for being a person, or simply for being myself. I didn’t think I was worthy of love, and I didn’t know why. Only recently have I started to come to terms with the abuse I faced and started believing that love isn’t earned, it’s a gift.

My parents loved me. I didn’t doubt that, but I was unclear on why they loved me. I always thought it was because of what I did. If I was good enough, if I was perfect enough, if I didn’t make mistakes, I felt like I could earn their love. That was all I ever hoped for. I didn’t know unconditional love could exist and even if it did, I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to have.

This is why I tortured myself. This is why I beat myself, and choked myself, and starved myself. This is why I whipped myself and carved derogatory words into my chest. This is why I wrapped cords around my stomach and chest until they left marks and bruises. This is why I banged my head against walls and tried to puncture my skin. This is why I abused myself sexually, and allowed myself to be abused. If I was not perfect, I didn’t deserve love. If I made a mistake or if someone was upset with me, I deserved to be punished.

I saw myself as a bad person, as unworthy to be alive, as a prisoner owing a debt to society for my very existence. But as much as I felt like I deserved to be punished, I wanted to be loved. So I curled up on the floor or bed and told myself I had suffered enough, and maybe now I could be loved. I thought that now that I was punished, that now that I got what I deserved, I might be worthy to be held, to be loved, to be healed.

It didn’t come though. I just kept thinking, “Maybe if I hurt myself enough, I’ll be worthy to love.” The problem was that though I tried to increase the frequency or intensity or length of time I was tortured, it could never be enough. I was unworthy. I was a bad person and that’s all there was to it.

That’s why I attempted suicide. I did not admit that to myself before now. I told myself it was because I was lonely or felt like a burden. Those were feelings I had, but the reason for those feelings was much deeper. I felt like I was alone because I was unlovable. I felt like a burden because I couldn’t do anything right. No matter how much good I did, I was still, and always would be, a bad person. Killing myself was the only punishment that seemed to be enough for someone as horrible as I felt I must be. No other torture seemed to be enough to atone for my faults.

It took a long time and a whole lot of love to start changing those thoughts. I still struggle to do good things out of fear that I will do it wrong and remember that I am a bad person. It has taken a lot of people telling me that I am kind or generous or thoughtful for me to believe that I have a good heart. It has taken love that I didn’t deserve and kindness I did not earn to help me feel that maybe I do have worth.

It’s still a process. I still struggle. But I am learning to give love more freely and accept it more easily. I have hope that one day I can completely forgive myself, that one day I won’t expect people to hurt me, that one day I’ll feel like I don’t have to earn love. Until then, I am grateful for the people that continue to love me despite my thoughts that I don’t deserve it.

Reasoning Behind Self Injury

Last night found me curled up and rocking in a corner, trying to decipher between reality and my mind. I needed a grip on life, something to ground me to reality, to show me that I was not lost to my thoughts. The problem was finding that something.

Up until this point in my life, I would turn to self injury to ground myself. Pain draws you back to reality, not necessarily the pain itself, but the singularity of that pain. Knowing that something specific caused that pain allows you to have a connection to the real world. It’s like pinching yourself to see if you’re dreaming. The cause of the pain allows you to realize what is real and what is not.

However, I have made a promise to never self injure. I have sworn to not hurt myself as long as there is one person who still cares about me. I still miss it though. I miss that grounding in reality, the singular feeling that there is life outside of my head.

People look at self injury like it’s attention seeking behavior, like it’s a cry for help. Maybe it is sometimes, but I think more often, it’s just a way to check reality. It’s a way to realize that our mind doesn’t control everything, that the darkness is limited to inside us. It may seem strange that hurting ourselves on the outside would help us realize that the darkness doesn’t control us, but it takes us out of our minds and allows us to see outside of ourselves.

For me, self injury was never about attention. You will never see scars or marks or any indication that I self harmed. Yet, I went for days at a time causing myself pain. I still wonder if what I did caused permanent damage because I still get pain where I hurt myself.

What I want you to understand is not the mindset behind self injury, but rather the why’s that could possibly be addressed in other ways. Not having the option of self injury last night, I instead looked for someone to talk to, to give me something real outside of myself. I allowed myself to cry completely because tears were outside of myself. I felt the textures of things around me to get me out of my mind. And I focused on something I had to do externally.

It’s hard dealing with this stuff. It’s hard being locked in a reality of the mind that feels more real than real life. It’s hard to find ways out of your head without turning to pain and what you know. But, we can do it. We can overcome. We don’t have to give in to the pain. There is hope for us without being hurt. We just have to find our way.

Forgive Yourself

Do you ever insult yourself for doing something good? Criticize yourself for helping someone out? Degrade yourself for trying to be happy or make someone else happy?

This is my daily reality. A constant barrage of self hate and degradation with the occasional word of encouragement that maybe this once I really did do something good.

I’m desperately trying to learn how to be kind to myself. It is difficult to change the way you see and talk to yourself after so many years of pain and hate, inflicting what I thought was justice on myself because I was unworthy of mercy.

Every time I think of it, I just want to hug myself and say, “It’s okay. You’re a good person. It’s not your fault they didn’t understand. It’s not your fault they yelled at you for trying to help. It’s not your fault. You did your best.

“Chewie… Please forgive yourself… They didn’t know how much it would hurt you or how guilty it would make you feel. They didn’t know that you would torture yourself for your mistakes. They didn’t know that by telling you not to do something, you understood that you were a bad person.

“Please forgive yourself. You do a lot of good. Forgive yourself for the times when you were trying to do good and were yelled at or told you were wrong or made to feel like you were a bad person. Forgive yourself for being good and then maybe you can forgive yourself for the times you are not so good.”

I wasn’t planning on posting especially about this kind of thing so close to the holidays, but tonight I just needed to feel like I’m not so alone. I don’t know if anyone else understands, but maybe this will at least give you a glimpse of why it is so hard for me to see the good in myself.

Grateful for Depression

While depression is super hard, it is one of the things I am most grateful for in life.

About 6 years ago, I took a semester off of school and laid in bed with an unknown illness. I spent a lot of time online and joined every support group I could find. It started with autism groups and then I joined some depression support groups. My best friend came out of one of those groups. A lot of other friends and good experiences and positive outcomes have come through those support groups.

What I am grateful for most about depression though, is the opportunity to understand. I am not a very understanding person. I don’t see things the same way other people see them, and I don’t understand what people see or how they think. But I do understand how they feel because I feel so deeply with depression. I am so grateful for that understanding, for the empathy it helps me feel, and the patience and perseverance it teaches me.

I am grateful to be a better person and a better friend because of depression. I am grateful to be more kind and understanding and compassionate because of depression. I am grateful to be a seeker of happiness, goodness, and hope because of depression. And I am grateful that I can connect with people on a totally different level through my depression. I am grateful that depression makes me and my life better.