Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where we unearth the ugly truths of mental illness as it relates to life, love, and happiness.
In my spiritual quest to process and release the trauma that binds us all I began to learn about the lasting impact relationship injury can have on future intimacy, as well as the soul contracts we may not even realize we’re tangled up in. In general, insecurity is not a personality trait of mine, but recently I have been feeling more of it so it prompted me to look inward.
In examining my past relationships I realized they all hurt me in their own way, and I no doubt casted my own pain toward them. Indeed, no one escapes companionship unthwarted. While seeking out my relationship patterns I noticed they would invariably come to an end around the two year mark like some sick clockwork. Likewise, I found myself chasing the unobtainable, often seeking those who lacked a promising foundation, let alone mutual respect and reciprocity.
My current relationship offers a stark contrast to control dynamics and the threat of an invariable end, and yet I found myself soaking in a tearful uncertainty as if past transgressions were any indication of what the future may hold. A large part of therapeutic work involves accepting the good that is being offered to you without question, however, I find value in dismantling previously held beliefs that result from mistreatment. Am I deserving of love? Am I capable of sustaining another blow? Do I have unresolved hurt? The answer to all of these is a resounding yes.
True love is passionately engaging, but more importantly it is practical and mature. It never seeks to harm, create jealousy, or endorse possessiveness. Love remains the most written about subject in music, film, art, and other areas of the creative industry. Even the Bible offers a famous and promising passage: love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Within my reflection I found a most reoccurring theme of fear that surfaced as a product of hate, manipulation, infidelity, trauma, and abuse. In the past I was consistently exposed to lying, cheating, stealing partners. Partners who tore me down. Partners who informed me of my inadequacy, my inability to communicate, and left me with the kind of manipulative circular reasoning that would make even the most sound mind question her sanity. Partners who indicated to me I would be nothing without them. Partners who physically restrained and abused me. Partners who resorted to name calling and weaponized my vulnerability. Partners who robbed me of my peace of mind, my sound sleep, and my financial stability. Partners who slit their wrists in front of me.
In the face of adversarial love I found that when I wasn’t being abandoned, I was being told on a regular basis that I was unreliable, insufficient, and incorrect – and maybe I was. I had a lot of work to do. In learning how relationships serve as a reflection of self, it became apparent that my self worth was greatly suffering. The truth is we accept the love we think we deserve, and we teach others how to treat us, indirectly or otherwise. Clearly, I needed to raise my bar in more ways than one.
Fortunately, my first liberation in mindfulness work was learning that being less controlling in how we love allows the experience itself to take precedence over the fear of it passing. In a world where autonomy has only recently become desirable, the most radical thing we can learn is the fact that true reassurance lies in the space we provide our loved ones to choose us everyday, not in the ugly jealous strides we make to exert our possession over them.
My mind can rationalize the hurt I’ve endured, and the way it contributes to my behavior. I have had to rebuild and relearn my own definitions of healthy relationship dynamics as they relate to trust, intimacy, and devotion. I have had to tap into those areas of my life that exist apart from my partner, and begin to nurture them in order to be a more loving and less wounded human. The heart and body are different creatures, however. They keep score – and if you’re not careful to grieve properly – the wound will spread to other major organs. Healing from relationship trauma begins with setting hard fast boundaries that allow you to insulate yourself long enough to do the work. Take ownership of your well-being with the understanding that no one can do it for you. Remember you are safe and capable of creating lasting change in your life. Remember the ability to discern between the idea of something, the memory of it, and the reality of it.
Sadly, many people would rather be abused than be alone. I think it’s safe to say we have all fallen for the idea or concept someone is offering us, even if the reality of it is littered with red flags. Likewise, human memory is inherently faulty. You must consider the possibility that the way you remember things, especially traumatic things, isn’t the way it went. We tend to remember how we felt during an experience rather than the experience itself. I would be the first to admit I have turned to others to validate my memories for me, and it has been very helpful.
Ultimately, you should never go into any kind of relationship that asks you to compromise fundamental parts of yourself, or your ability to communicate them effectively. While no relationship is perfect, your heart will never seek to change or fix the right partner. While some work is required in every union, there should also be equal parts natural flow – that space that allows you to rest in the love and peace you’ve created for one another – free from doubt, stress, and drama.
Finally, the spiritual perspective teaches us about the potential for soul mates and twin flames. The idea is that they are sent by our higher self for our own soul’s growth and development. There is a lot to unpack here, but that is another Blog for another day. For now, ponder all that you have learned from those who have hurt you the most. It may feel impossible, but seek out the value of your suffering. Our perpetrators have the potential to be our greatest teachers.
True love is a victory march, not a sprint or a competition. Do not let your past overcome your successes, or cause a great dividing disservice to your current life. It is important to honor your grief, even your regret, but don’t allow it to take up residence with what you value now. Don’t allow the actions (or inactions) of others to invent dissatisfaction or breed contempt in your relationship. Whenever I catch myself slipping, all I have to do is look at her – and remember the way she casts the very light I could never manifest for myself on my most ambitious days. Oozing with gratitude never fails me.
Discuss: How has your past impacted your current relationship? What is your communication like with your partner? What lessons have you learned from those who have betrayed you?
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at email@example.com!**
Welcome back to the Deskraven Blog where I tackle the ugly truths of mental health as it relates to parenting and relationships – and what you can do about them. If you’ve been a reader for some time, then you know my writing style consists of pairing comprehensive mental health articles with personal insight and resources. Having held the spotlight for two years to find my own healing, I am now more eager then ever to offer up the Deskraven platform to hear your stories, as well as those of mental health providers. My hope is that we can continue to serve each other and our mental health community by sharing our stories and normalizing mental health language.
In this new series I will be sharing Reader Tales and Provider Tales on behalf of anyone who wants to participate. If you’re interested in sharing your mental health story in confidence, or know someone who is, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how it works! As we move forward together, you will notice an interview template with the intention of readability. These questions may change or evolve over time.
Without further adieu, I give you Randy Withers, LCMHC! Earlier this year my good friend and colleague reached out to tell me the Deskraven Blog wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. He gave me the opportunity to write for his project, Blunt-Therapy, a blog about mental health, addiction, counseling, and relationships – edited by a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. I could think of no greater advisor in the same vein of mental health writing so I jumped at the offer. You can check out our first collaboration, “5 Ways You Can Help the LGBTQ+ Community Fight Stigma”, available on Blunt-Therapy.com.
This time, the tables have turned and Mr. Withers has graced the Deskraven audience with his invaluable wisdom! In addition to being the Managing Editor for Blunt-Therapy.com, Randy boasts a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Education. He is recognized as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). Furthermore, he is a Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist (LCAS) who has done extensive work with LGBTQ+ clients and survivors of various types of abuse.
Provide a little backstory. Who are you? Where are you from? What inspired you to enter the mental health profession?
My name is Randy Withers, LCMHC. I’m a licensed therapist in North Carolina, where I work at a state psychiatric facility and see clients in private practice. I am also the managing editor of Blunt Therapy, a blog about mental health. I am originally from Florida, where I worked as an educator for over a decade. For most of that career, I was an academic advisor and counselor, which is where I learned that mental health counseling was my true passion. I went back to school in 2011 and have been in the field ever since. I went to Florida State and I have a dog named Daisy, who is smarter than I am.
Have you ever experienced mental health struggles in your personal life?
I have battled depression and anxiety for more than 25 years. If I’m honest, probably since I was a small child. I’ve never felt comfortable around other people. I’ve always felt different. The problem grew worse as I got older. It led to a severe case of depression about 12 years ago, which almost killed me. So yes, you could say that I have experienced mental health struggles.
As a provider, what do you consider to be the most important aspect of mental health treatment?
I’m a big advocate of a holistic approach to mental health. I don’t really believe that any one thing is most important. Having said that, for obvious reasons I’m a huge proponent of good therapy. Often, people have no idea where to start the process of managing their mental illness. A good therapist provides direction, accountability, and most importantly – hope.
Mental health treatment usually requires a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, it requires that the client accept responsibility for their situation and for them to be willing to do whatever it takes to tackle it.
As a provider, what challenges have you faced?
Graduate school was intense. It was a three-year program and quite demanding. But I was well-trained, so it was worth it. My biggest challenge personally has been working at various agencies with people in charge who have no business making clinical decisions. In North Carolina, you don’t have to be a doctor or a therapist to own a mental health agency. Most of these places are profit-driven and run by incompetent fools. Thankfully, I work at a hospital now that is well-run and well-managed by talented clinicians. And so is my private practice. It is, quite simply, the difference between night and day.
Many therapists struggle with issues related to boundaries. They get too emotionally invested in their clients, or they work too much, or they get burnt out. Thankfully, I’ve never really struggled with that. At least, not for a while. Good boundaries are essential for mental health.
As a provider, what would you consider your greatest accomplishment?
This is a hard question. Often, you don’t really know how effective you are. Therapy is like pouring wet concrete. It takes a long time to dry, and often you’re not there to see the finished product. I suppose if I had to focus on specific accomplishments – I have prevented a handful of suicides and even homicides by talking some clients off the proverbial ledge. One time I even took a handgun from someone. I used to work at agencies that liaised with Child Protective Services, so I can also say that I was able to protect a number of children from abuse and neglect.
Have you ever experienced stigma as a direct result of being a mental health provider? How did you react?
I wouldn’t say stigma. It’s not exactly that. But being a therapist is an inherently isolating field. You are a keeper of secrets and a witness to extreme trauma. It’s hard to shut that off sometimes. Truthfully, the biggest problem I’ve faced is in the dating world. I’d say about half of the women I’ve dated simply could not separate my career from me as a person. In fact, several months ago while on a first date, my date spent the better part of 90 minutes telling me all about her childhood trauma and her awful mother. Not exactly first date material. I have a policy of politeness and compliance, so I listened and tried to be helpful. But you can’t really move forward after something like that.
Fortunately, my current girlfriend is a psychiatric nurse and couldn’t care less about what I do for a living. It’s really nice.
What piece of advice would give to those suffering from a dual diagnosis?
That you can’t treat one without the other. Does an alcoholic drink because they are depressed or are they depressed because they drink? Doesn’t matter. You’ve got to stop drinking and treat the depression. You have to conceptualize the problem as an actual medical illness, because it is. It is chronic, unforgiving, and requires a lifetime of support and management. But I’d also say that you can have hope. I’m dually diagnosed and my quality of life is pretty high.
What piece of advice would you give to friends and family who want to support someone with a mental health condition?
The problem with friends and family is that they want to fix things that they don’t understand. I remember, for example, my mom telling me to look on the bright side of things when I was clinically depressed. That’s just not helpful. My advice? If you want to be helpful, start by learning all you can about whatever disorder it is that your loved one struggles with.
What are your favorite mental health resources?
I’m a huge proponent of two seemingly different things. The first is CBT. The second is 12-Step programs. Both of which share the same goal, which is to help people change the way they think about things. So, for me, the recovery community is a huge resource. For the CBT, I really like worksheets. You can get these on sites like TherapistAid.com or you can order workbooks off Amazon. However, these really should be done under the supervision of a mental health professional.
I also believe in online counseling, but it depends on the issue. Severe mental illness? No. Relationships, self-esteem, goal setting, etc. Absolutely, yes.
I would encourage you all to visit Blunt Therapy, which is my blog. I and about two dozen other writers focus on topics related to mental health, therapy, addictions, and parenting. We’ve got some good stuff.
“I also believe that parents, if they love you, will hold you up safely, above their swirling waters, and sometimes that means you’ll never know what they endured, and you may treat them unkindly, in a way you otherwise wouldn’t.” ― Mitch Albom, For One More Day
I wrote about my parents in a previous post titled, Ugly Truth 45: Life Will Break You. In it, I unveil all of the heartfelt hurt and truth we share, and how I learned to move forward. I used to think parenting was simple. As I grew into my motherhood, however, I learned nothing is more complex than parenting and family dynamics. In general, most of us need to feel we’re loved, we’re accepted as we are, and our parents are proud of us to grow into resilient productive beings. We generalize our own sense of self worth as a result of the treatment we’re given. Furthermore, we are asked simultaneously to discover just who we are apart from that.
In my first year of college I learned about “tabula rasa,” better known as the “Blank Slate Theory” brought forth by an English philosopher named John Locke who expanded on an idea suggested by Aristotle in the fourth century B.C.. Essentially, this theory suggests all children are born as white boards and their parents hold the markers. That is, we are shaped by our environment. While the Blank Slate Theory is half true, I take issue with the fact that it fails to take our autonomy into account. Certainly we are all born with predispositions and temperaments, regardless of our environment. Surly we inherit personality traits, our quickness to anger, and shared interests genetically. Therefore, the answer to the Nature versus Nurture debate is yes. With that being said, it stands to reason why some people cope better as adults while others fall into addiction. Likewise, it explains why some believe abuse and suicide are acceptable while others would never behave in such a manner.
As children, we hope to emulate our caregivers. In adolescence, we’re more likely to judge them when faced with the fact that our belief system may be different from theirs. As adults, we seek to understand and are quicker to offer up compassion, primarily when faced with our own independence and the humbling experience of our own parenthood.
How then does that translate when abuse takes place? Is there something to be gained other than mistrust and resentment by hearing them out? What happens when the confrontation fails to yield accountability or even acknowledgement on their part? Apology remains the most promising way to rebuild a damaged relationship, but more often than not that doesn’t happen. While immensely helpful, the truth is we don’t need an apology to heal because sincere forgiveness remains an equally powerful alternative.
*WARNING: This post makes mention of suicide, self injury, drug use, and abuse. If you find this type of content triggering, please do not continue reading. If you or someone you love is at risk, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255*
As we the near the halfway point of my 100 Truths, I want to take a moment to thank those of you who have followed along this far. It has been a project in introspection, and an excellent conversation starter.
As many of you know, trauma-work has been at the forefront of my healing over the last few years. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been one of my more pervasive diagnoses, and so I find myself being continuously humbled by its rearing ugly head. The truth is sometimes I feel impenetrably strong. Other times I feel one more traumatic event away from losing my last marble. It doesn’t scare me as much as it used to because now I have the tools, but even a well equipped person can stumble backward.
While I spend a great deal of time advocating for others on all things mental health, I often feel unprepared and overwhelmed by what it feels like to be me. For all intents and purposes I should be dead and yet, I am still here. The truth is I still face sensations of disheartened dismay. The truth is I tried to take my own life three times. The truth is I have other family members who have tried and failed, still others who have tried and succeeded. The truth is suicide still crosses my mind as a function of mental illness, but these days I wont act on it. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I couldn’t agree more.
Unfortunately, abuse is often generational. When I hear about the awful happenings in the world, I often imagine what the parents of those perpetrators must have been like. While nothing serves as an excuse for abuse, there are certainly explanations found all throughout human psychology. I have written about this before, however as I continue to process, I will go into greater detail in this post.
My mother is a survivor of abuse herself, and her lack of self-understanding was often reflected in her poor choice of partners. For as long as I can remember my parents were rarely in the same room, but my father was the only man who never hit her. My first step-father certainly doled out the worst of it. He was physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive toward my mother and I. The abuse consisted of name-calling, yelling, hair-pulling, hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving, squeezing and biting. Domestic violence was an almost daily occurrence in our home, not to be deterred by the company of others. This man destroyed a handful of my birthdays, relationships, and self-esteem. Adding insult to injury, he went so far as to cheat on my mother with her best friend, and threatened to take my very life.
My mother would later share with me that this was her breaking point. This was the event that finally gave her the courage to leave. She still harbors a great deal of guilt from this time in our life, and while I can not fathom exposing my son to these things, I understand her hesitation. Domestic violence often escalates when the victim attempts to end or flee the relationship.
Fortunately, my mind has managed to block out a lot of what happened. Eventually though, the memories resurfaced and my mother helped me fill in the blanks. These things did happen. I was questioned by police, and from the ages of 3 to 10 I was subject to child abuse on a pretty consistent basis. There were other odd things that took place as a result of our economic status such as exposure to petty home invasions, a general lack of supervision, and abusive babysitters.
Later, my mother met another man who was equally dysfunctional, but slightly less violent. He promised to carry us out of our hell and give us a fresh start. During my teenage years he mostly targeted my mother and younger sister. My previous abuse had grown in me a spine that would not tolerate anymore assault, and I told him so, directly to his red spitting face.
During these years the affairs of my mother would exacerbate the violence, and expose us to more strange men. As far back as my memory allows, my home was filled with undertones of abuse, and the childhood conclusion that the world is an unreliable and unsafe place. In some form of strange validation, my medical records show the early stages of my mental illness during this time with consistent reports of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.
Abandonment and Sexual Abuse
When I was 12 my father experienced something of an existential crisis paired with a job offer that offered him a leg up, and he could no longer call Minnesota home. After spending the last decade of my life seeing my father every other weekend, which was often the only opportunity I had to escape my abuse and build positive memories, he moved to Texas. This experience caused me to cry more than I ever had before in my young life. It also prompted me to put my feelings on paper for the first time.
When I was 15, I was given the opportunity to drive cross-country with a family friend who would later add to my betrayal. He sexually abused me three times over the course of a month before I finally spoke up. While the abuse stopped, the repercussions of this event has had one of the worst ripple effects that still plagues my family today. You can read the details of what happened in a previous post titled, Trauma Confession Series: Overcoming Avoidance, where I speak about this publicly for the very first time.
Mental Illness and my First Suicide Attempt
The sexual abuse was my tipping point. Not surprisingly, I entered into similarly dysfunctional and abusive relationships and suffered those consequences as well. I began tolerating treatment I shouldn’t because it was what I had been exposed to. On some level, I felt I deserved it – which I would later learn could not be further from the truth. I endured false accusations, control dynamics, manipulation, and abuse for another five years. During this time my trauma aligned with my teenage turmoil and grew into a new kind of monster. Soon, my self preservation completely left me, and I began hurting myself. I started with kitchen knives and safety pins before graduating to razors. The scars were getting harder to hide and wearing hoodies in July was just impractical. So, I began piling on anything I could use to harm myself or alter my mood state including drugs, alcohol, and eating disorders. During this time my grades began to slip as my transcript clearly shows, the violence in my home continued, my mental illness worsened with increased episodes of hallucination and dissociation, and I grew increasingly detached from my surroundings.
One evening, I went across the street to spend the night with a friend. She could see that something was off with me. Looking back now, I can see how gentle and deliberate she was in her intervention and I am grateful, but at the time I was extremely pissed off. She left the room and I began dissociating from my environment once more as I searched for a sharp object. When she re-entered the room she could see me rummaging through her room and I mumbled something about walking into oncoming traffic. “I’ll be right back,” she said. When she returned she fed me some story about her mother driving to the bank and insisted I tag along. I shrugged my shoulders and got in the car. I stared out the window saying very little when I realized we were not at the bank at all. We were in the parking lot of our local emergency room. I snapped into a red hot anger I can still feel 15 years later. How dare she save me?
I sat in that emergency room for a long while refusing to give up my information as my friend pleaded with the nurse to admit me. Eventually I caved and gave my identifying information. During my stay I experienced sucide watch isolation, spiritual phenomena, the probing questions of a much younger child, and I was asked to take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) which was ultimately used to improperly diagnose and improperly medicate me. Unfortunately this is fairly common in dealing with teenagers and complex mental illness. You can read more about self injury, what therapy taught me, and how I freed myself from this in a previous post titled, Trauma Confession Series: Self-Injury & Letting Go.
Suicide in the Family
In the years that followed I continued to fall into bad patterns of behavior. Finally at my wits end, I left home at the age of 17 and never looked back. I bounced around the Midwest for a couple of years before I totally lost my footing. Following an unhealthy relationship with a traumatic ending, I relocated to Texas eager to rebuild. Not long after a failed attempt to purchase a vehicle and enroll in college for the first time, I found myself the recipient of more bad news. Within 24 hours I lost a dear family friend and my maternal grandfather to suicide. You can read the full story in a previous post titled, A Suicide Survivor Story – Part Iand Part II.
Self Injury and Self Medicating
Not surprisingly, experiencing loss to suicide shook me to my core and sent me spiraling into an untreated dangerous mind set. At the age of 19 I had slim to no coping skills, and fell deeper into substance abuse and disordered eating to cope with the nightmares alone. Through it all I fought like hell to be better. I was writing feverishly, grasping at mindfulness exercises, and finally confessing to myself that I was attracted to women. The fight within was violent. Eventually the scales tipped against me and the surge of pain I experienced proved to be too great. At the height of it, I found myself waking up hungover in pools of blood and tepid bath water, still fully clothed from the night before. I knew if I didn’t change my circumstances I would die.
My closeness with my father, God help me I love him, was not enough to sustain me much longer. Perhaps he recognized this, and in his fine intuition urged me to make a suicide pact with him. In our shared desperation we promised each other that come hell or high water, and we had had plenty of both at that point, suicide was just simply not an option. So, I set out to make big changes in my life, once more chasing the breath the world seemed determined to squeeze out of me.
The Turning Point
I took a job away from home, traveled excessively, and learned to fall in love again. With the help of my incredible friends and mentors, I began to reconnect with others, with life, and with myself. At the age of 21 I learned I was pregnant, and my life was no longer about me. My body was no longer mine, and my mind no longer failed to blossom. I became an overnight sensation, instantly sober, and determined to practice motherhood with clarity and poise. I returned to Minnesota and the first couple of years were mostly delightful, albeit bouts of post-partum depression, and the sneaking suspicion that something just wasn’t right with me.
Medical Trauma and Chronic Pain
When my son was approaching his first birthday we decided to move to Colorado. It had been our teenage dream to inherit God’s good mountains and a nature mindset for our son. In true fashion, however, just two weeks in our light was once again snuffed out by something I still find myself unwilling and unable to write about. I fear the task is so great I will never be fully able to grasp or express the magnitude of our experience. (Perhaps the best thing to do would be to one day sit down with my journals from that time and tackle the re-telling from the heart.) In short, our 23 year old brother suffered end stage kidney failure and it traumatized us all.
Two years later I moved back to Texas as it always seemed to offer me a soft landing. Shortly after, I was involved in a car accident that left my body never quite the same. I now live with a spinal injury, S.I. joint dysfunction, nerve damage, and migraines on a daily basis.
It wasn’t until I left my decade of trauma behind that I realized just how severely PTSD had impacted my quality of life. I found myself in a strategic but unhappy marriage with the promise of familiarity and family ties. I was young, but I understood my son’s memory was beginning to form, and I had no choice but to take my mental health seriously. It was time to grow up and get honest because white-knuckling it wasn’t working anymore. So, I went back to school for Child Development and Psychology, entered the field of Behavioral Health, and sought mental health treatment. You can read more in depth about what drove me to find a psychiatrist in a previous post titled,Ugly Truth 34: Psychosis Sucks.
After a proper diagnosis, anti-psychotic medication, and a 7 day in-patient hospitalization that offered me crash course therapy as a professional courtesy, I found myself more stable. I knew there was only one thing left to do.
Identity Crisisand Recovery
Two more years passed until finally I was strong enough to come off my medication, end my marriage, and come out as a lesbian. After one more misstep and two more traumatic relationships, I finally embraced trauma work and self development once and for all. I started to confront the abuse, the abandonment, the trauma, and face my personal truth. I began to manage my symptoms differently and write more, which led to the publication of this blog. I got real with myself and my family about my sexuality. I found it flatly irresponsible to date in my current condition, so I began developing concrete coping skills, growing into my skin, and advocating for others to keep myself in perspective. It sounds strange, but in many ways I had to get to know myself again. Once you strip away all the damage and co-dependency, you’re left with nothing short of a raw sense of self. The truth is you have to process and mourn the loss of whatever pain you carry, let it go (really let it go), and replace it with gratitude for the present moment – which you, and only you, are solely responsible for. It sounds simple enough, however, most people are too busy practicing avoidance or denial to notice. I was one of them. Letting go of my pride and my pain taught me just how useful the vulnerable truth can be. It is a natural gateway to becoming a more loving and compassionate human being, which in turn lends itself well to building meaningful relationships.
Today I am blessed to have more peace in my life than ever before. I try to never lose sight of the fact that the life I live now is something I once could only dream of. There were times so unmatched with darkness I was convinced I would never get out alive. At some point though, you have to set boundaries and take responsibility for your own well being. If you consistently victimize yourself, you will remain in a state of helplessness which, interestingly enough, is a learned behavior. Lucky for us, behavior and thought processes alike are malleable in that they can be changed and modified. As I like to say, adapt or die. Put more gently, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. No amount of traumatic endurance ensures us that bad things won’t happen. Perhaps the most important thing then, is being prepared for when they do.
Today I have the love of an incredibly beautiful woman who spreads warmth and light everywhere she goes. I feel so lucky to have her, but I also know I deserve her. You can read more about her and how hard I fell in a previous post titled, Ugly Truth 37: Loving a Woman Changed my Worldview.
I have a decent outlook on life (with a healthy dose of cynicism), and most of my sanity intact because that is what I set out to build for myself. The truth is I still struggle from time to time with the chemical imbalances of Bipolar Disorder, the triggers of PTSD, and the irrational uncertainty of Panic Disorder. Some of this just never goes away, but you can certainly achieve some semblance of functioning, happiness even. If nothing else, may this post serve as a reminder that surviving and thriving are not mutually exclusive. Living through trauma is almost never linear. You are not alone, and I’m still here to tell about it.
**If you’re a mental health survivor or mental health provider and want to tell your story – please email me at email@example.com!**