Category Archives: mental health

When Thursday is a Monday

We’ve all been there before. Doing something that makes us sigh at our humanity. It keeps us humble and reminds us that sometimes we just don’t have it all together.

The holidays are a hard time for me. It’s dark out almost the whole say, thanks Canada. I am far away from my family that I haven’t seen in going on three years, even more than that for my brother–whom I’d like to say was my childhood best friend and I do not take that for granted. I don’t have the ability to be as generous as I would like to. My brain is exhausted from school and all the work I put in to be my best.

Needless to say when I pour the unground beans into the coffee filter making coffee this morning, I let out a sigh and almost cried. My exasperation was heard by my roommate on the other side of our modest apartment–and I poured the beans from the filter to the grinder and mumbled “I obviously need coffee more than I thought”.

I’ve lost the ambition to clean my house, because I don’t have the finances to host anyone. Showering and putting on pants today was my victory.

During this time of year, it’s easy to forget in all the fun and events those among us who have aching hearts. I miss my son whom was taken from me before his life got to start. I miss the mountains of my childhood, the children that call me auntie, and the familiarness of a place called home.

To cheer myself up, I started to think of all the things I am thankful for. I urge you to give it a try. Here’s my list:

  1. A Warm House– This might seem trivial. Lately, it’s been colder than normal on Canada’s West Coast. I have a warm house, with a warm bed, and a cupboard full of tea. There are many in Nanaimo who are trying to get by this winter on the street. They are literally freezing. I am thankful for enough support to remain housed and I’m thankful.
  2. My Roommate– Our friendship is deeper than that of most roommates. Part of it is that we are both followers of Jesus, but there’s more. We take care of one another. We allow space for brokenness as we both struggle through life with mental illness and trying to function in a world that isn’t kind to those who cannot work full-time and go to school. She blesses me more than anyone I’ve ever lived with, and in less than a year we’ve become family and I’m thankful.
  3. The LGBTQ+ Community– They accept my contradictory nature. I love Jesus; many of my rainbow friends have been deeply hurt in the name of Christ and I am no exception. Yet, they do not fault me for my faith. There is a deep respect in this family of misfits and I do not take it for granted. The group here in Nanaimo holds some of my greatest champions. They help me to get out of bed some days and give me an outlet for my creative side and I’m thankful.
  4. Young Adult’s Group– I attend a very open, accepting and loving Young Adult’s Group that is groundbreaking in their inclusion of myself as a LGBTQ+ person of faith. I’ve never been judged or limited in my ministry by them. The leaders of the group have endeavoured to create a safe place for me, including a no-tolerance of abuse mandate. I will never take for granted the bravery to stand with me when many church leaders do not and I’m thankful.
  5. Outreach– There are pastors and friends in the community whom build me up emotionally, spiritually and even financially. They’ve helped me through a very dark period of my faith journey. It would’ve been easy for me to give up on the church after some of the abusive actions toward me. These folks have reminded me that we are all human, we all fail at loving one another, but grace allows for a better way and I’m thankful.
  6. My Family– Though we are a total mess, though there are not many of us that are even speaking to one another, my mom and brother have helped me in this past year. It speaks to the healing that comes with maturing over time. We are there for one another as best as we can be and I’m thankful.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it sure takes the blow out of the silly humbling things I do each day. It reminds me to look forward and not dwell on the little tedious circumstances that threaten to steal my joy. What about you? What are you thankful for?

~Cheryl

Why I Have Trust Issues

**Note, events in this post are as I remember them, through a child’s lens, and may not reflect actual events!**

 

In class, we had a writing exercise where we were to think of a memory. This memory was to occur before the age of twelve and have a great impact on us. Below is my free written (writing without stopping or editing) response to that prompt.

When I was eleven, I learned that I was on my own in life.

The wind was blowing; it was a normal summer day for Cultus Lake. Hot humid air on my skin that was still damp from the water. It was one of those days where you didn’t need to change out of your swimsuit to dry off. My family and I were at the water park for the day. We had stopped at a gas station/café for lunch and I had to pee. I went inside to use the restroom and when I came out, I could see the car driving away without me in it. I ran as fast as I could after that car. My running shoes hitting the gravel driveway and then the pavement. I ran faster that I had ever run before, yelling and screaming, arms waving over my head. The car slowed. I got in trying not to cry. My mom said to my older brother, without turning around, “Why didn’t you tell us she wasn’t in the car?” and we drove home. I stared out the window and spoke to no one for the rest of the trip.

IMG_5450.JPGNext we were asked to rewrite the experience looking back from our present self. It was through this second phase of the exercise I came face to face with the root of major misbeliefs in my life.

I remember feeling completely unloved and alone, and also in panic for my safety. I was far enough away from home that there was no way for me to get back. I was eleven. I had no money in my pockets and we were hours away from the city we lived in, never-mind local transit. I was so hurt. How could they forget me? Was it on purpose? Was I so insignificant that they didn’t want me or notice my absence? I think this is the turning point in my life where I decided to be noticed, to be obnoxious. Running after the car that day, after being left at a truck stop, I resolved in my heart to look out for me first. My older brother never once spoke up saying I wasn’t in the car. My mom had two kids, how did she not notice. All I can think now, is that the guy she was with didn’t want to wait for me, and they were too afraid to face him. It makes sense looking at other encounters with this man.

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This week, my trust was further triggered when private events were disclosed without my permission. Over the course of my life, I have learned to travel between the extremes of obnoxious attention seeking and hiding my true self. I want people to love me but I am afraid to show them my heart. I’m afraid to get close because experience is a cruel master. 

I go through most days feeling like that younger self. I feel alone, unloved and in a panic. Due to the shattered trust of my younger years, the considerable repeat stories, and the fresh traumas of my recent past–I am suspicious of everyone and trust no one. What’s more, I don’t trust myself.

I know that I blame my family for a lot of hurt I received as a child, and probably they blame theirs. The responsibility for a healthy life is on ME now. No amount of he said she said will erase the past. It’s up to me to correct the damage. People are broken. All of us. Learn to love and trust yourself, then you’ll be able to do the same with others

I’m Still Here

I’ve been MIA for over a week from my blog. I would like to provide you with some grand explanation as to why. Perhaps I was on an adventure and did not have access to wi-fi–is that even a thing anymore? Perhaps I was so engrossed in PokemonGo that I failed to engage with reality beyond work, eating and sleeping. Perhaps I was writing my next big masterpiece.

Reality is I am sick. I have always been sick, and unless God sees fit to heal me completely, I will always be some measure of sick. Like so many other great people, I suffer from mental illness. This past week my victories have been getting out of bed, having a bath and eating healthy food. Getting out of bed before 1pm is a triumph. Calling in sick to work, because I am physically sick as a result of my mental health issues, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am sitting at home feeling like my life is a huge struggle.

I know I have it better than others. The sickness in my brain tells me that I’m a failure, it tells me that I am a quitter, that I am letting people down, that I should just be able to be happy–because I can’t there’s something fatally wrong with me. IMG_1098
What set it off this time? You think it would be a tragedy. The world’s events certainly do impact my mood. Day after day there is a headline of needless violence and hatred. People are killing one another, they are supporting hateful politicians and care more about where people pee than the poor and the dying. That’s not what did it.

What did it was good news. You see, I received a letter that I made the Dean’s List this past year at University. I had no one to celebrate with because I either pushed people out literally or they ghosted me when I came out publicly as bisexual. I’ve been feeling and grieving the loss of close  relationships for the past four months, but I’ve been keeping busy. It was easier when I was busy.

I do not really have a point with this post. I want to let people into the struggle. If you feel gloomy and dark and all alone, reach out. There is always someone to listen. Getting the thoughts out there prevents them from consuming us and spiralling out of control.

You are loved. You are needed. You will overcome.

~Cheryl

Be Kind to Yourself–Negative Self-talk and PTSD

“Be kind to yourself” were the words the counsellor said to me after about an hour of talking to her. I had spent the past week or so in bed for the most part. I slept through life because my heart was hurting and so did my body.

I have been treated for anxiety and depression since I was a young teenager. I received my first prescription for anti-depressants at age 14. At that age, I was too young and frightened to be honest about where those feelings were coming from. Knowing that my mother suffered from mental health issues, the doctor at the time diagnosed me with hereditary depression and began treating me as such.

Later on, when I was in my early 20s, I knew there was more to it. I had developed irrational fears, hyper sensitivity to normal situations and severe social anxiety. All of this was compounded by horrible violent negative self-talk. After having a meltdown where I didn’t sleep for 3 days and could not stop crying, I sought help. There I was diagnosed not with depression but with generalized anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The intrusive and repetitive negative thoughts that I was having were attributed to being an high “O” OCD sufferer. My inability to let go of things that I found hurtful or didn’t understand was also attributed to this. My fears were attributed to anxiety about anything and everything. My medications were changed and I went through cycles of health and darkness.

Now I am 29, I am reaching the point of my journey where I just cannot carry on like this. I made an appointment to see a counsellor at my university. Today we walked through past traumas, my diagnoses, what I’ve done and not done and how it plays out in my life. At the end of the talk, there were two major break throughs.

First, I am not kind to myself. I have compassion for others who are suffering and even allow generous space for them to work through and process all they are feeling and going through.

When it comes to my own pain, my own stress, I minimize, criticize and humiliate myself for not being, saying, or doing enough. 

I should myself into despair and become immobilized. Or I lash out at people who are experiencing what I long to have and withdraw completely. So my homework for the next to week is to practice showing myself compassion when I am in pain.

Second, I have had a lot of trauma. My symptoms are pointing to a misdiagnosis. Rather than depression, OCD and anxiety, the counsellor is treating me for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from childhood and life-long trauma. We went over the various things that can cause a child to have PTSD (never mind that my mother struggles with this and is getting a lot better with the right diagnosis). Every single item on the list is something that I have experienced ad nauseum. Something as simple as multiple medical tests and surgeries can cause PTSD in a child, especially if occurring before age 3…which is my first memory of surgery–with many more to follow.

All of this to say that help is out there, you don’t have to go through the mess alone. If something doesn’t feel right with your healthcare professionals–say something. Make sure you give them all the information, even if it feels uncomfortable and shameful, they are there to help you. Don’t spend 15 years or worse muddling through when you can start being free now.

Just one PTSD kid to another.

Palindrome Poem. First Attempt

What makes this a palindrome? It reads the same forwards and backwards line by line. The effect this has on the meaning and reading of each of the lines is quite remarkable. What starts out as negative and insecure becomes a positive and powerful embrace of the dissonance within myself. I love it.

They say that I’m a bit pretentious.
With my exaggerated words and lofty phrases,
I’ve been known to surprise those around me.
Precocious in etiquette
and wise beyond her years in execution.
She is my other self.
Deeply hidden, highly educated
and carefully guarded.
Behind the mask,
waiting to be discovered.
Here, I crave an intellectual romance.
I am alone.
Here, I crave an intellectual romance.
Waiting to be discovered,
behind the mask.
And carefully guarded,
deeply hidden, highly educated.
She is my other self.
And wise beyond her years in execution,
precocious in etiquette.
I’ve been known to surprise those around me.
With my exaggerated words and lofty phrases,

they say that I’m a bit pretentious.