Mental Health Awareness Month
I have wanted to sit down and write this all month long, but this subject is a hard one to talk about. There is so much vulnerability needed, and honestly it can be very scary to open up about subjects like this. Most of you know some of my story, and I have been very open and honest about sharing that because it helps people. I didn't fully understand the impact that it was going to have on others, but also on myself. It was just a story about my life and honestly, I didn't even know how much trauma I have lived through until I started healing from it because I was loaded to the brim with defense mechanisms. Although my brain created them to protect me, they were also holding me down and back, and little over a year ago, that brim spilled over wrecking havoc in my life.
Let's go back to the beginning. My earliest memory is not a good one. My earliest dreams are even worse. That's right. Dreams. I think they are anyways. I am still working with my therapist to unpack if they are dreams or if they are memories. Either way they are horrifying, and as a 38 year old they still give me nightmares. I struggled with depression as early as I can remember. In middle school I would watch the real estate channel and try to convince my mom to move and homeschool me because I didn't feel like I felt in anywhere. I would dream of running away and living in Philadelphia or New York City on the streets. I did run away once, but only made it across the street before they turned me back over to my parents. I always felt alone, even within my group of friends, I was always the outcast. I think I still feel that way to this day.
My 13th birthday I hung out with my mom and finally got the dog I begged for because I just wanted a friend. A companion, and Gibson probably saved my life. As I got older I either hung out with the wrong crowd, or made my brother drag me along to hang out with his friends and forcing his girlfriend to be my best friend until I met my first real boyfriend. Then I just kind of hung out with him and his friends, which was mostly just partying and dropping acid every weekend for most of my junior and senior year of high school.
Don't get me wrong, I have some epic memories from those years and I have valuable friendships from that time that I will always be grateful for. Not every moment of my life was miserable, but the truth is, I needed help and I never got it because I just shut down emotionally.
I was in group therapy when I was 10 for maybe a year, and it was great and what I needed. It was helpful to know I wasn't the only sexual abuse victim that I knew, but at the same time some of their trauma was far more violent and awful that mine. It led me to adopt this "it could have been worse" mentality, which was not helpful for my recovery. When I was entering high school I tried to reach out for help again, but something my therapist told me caused another shutdown and it wouldn't be for another 20 year that I would actually finally go back to therapy.
I masked a lot in high school. I think for the most part people probably though I was pretty happy and I did have close friendship and relationships, but I was closed off. I was never good at sharing real emotions with people. I was really struggling with suicidal thoughts, but scared to talk to anyone about it. I remember one time tying a belt around my throat, and pulling as hard as I could. It was only when a friend took his own life at 17 years old did I realize that wasn't an option for me. I would never want my family and friends to suffer like that.
After graduating, meeting Joe and finding the local punk music scene things were good for a bit, but my trauma always had a way of biting me in the ass and it sure did. Keep an eye out for my book in the next 10 years where I take you through the shit storm of my 20's, but let's just say it wasn't any easier than my teens. I made a lot of stupid mistakes, and had some hard ass lessons to learn, but I also accidentally became a mom which was my saving grace. It didn't matter that I didn't care about myself. I had a little guy to care about, and that is what I did. I took all the focus off of my issues and became mom for the next 12 years, until my kids started to become more independent, and that is when the trauma tidal wave let loose.
It was 2016 and we just moved to San Antonio from Germany! I had lost like 60 pounds at that point, and my health was better than ever. I was teaching yoga and my kids were thriving, but I lived with a black cloud in my brain. That is the only way I can describe what it feels like. I just broke down. I didn't know what else to do. I was doing everything right. I was eating healthier, working out, finishing my bachelors degree and smashing goals left and right. I decided to go back to therapy. It was helpful, but we didn't quite click, and to be honest he pissed me off, so I quit going. I tried some other things, like reading self-help books, and even joined a trauma recovery group, but that was a big mistake. When I was younger I was with girls who experienced things I couldn't imagine. Now I was with some women whose experiences were not related to sexual trauma which caused me to shut down again. I didn't feel comfortable sharing around them.
It took some more time, but I finally found a therapist that I clicked with and I have been seeing her weekly or at least three times a month and will continue to go for as long as I need to, even if that means 10 years. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety, and have a lot of work to do to unpack shame and guilt that I still carry around, and I don't want to do that on my own. I "functioned" on my own for 37 years and I'm tired of doing it by myself. Just the fact that I am here, writing this on my back porch with my cats by my side is proof that asking for help is worth it.
We think we know ourselves, but have you every thought to yourself "why do I FUCKING do that"??? Just last week my therapist said to me "oh, so it's your form of protest", and I was like "WHAT??? YEA IT IS, LOL". Mental heath is complicated. Our brains are so complicated.
Now, one reason I am always hesitant to talk about my mental health struggles is because of things I see on the internet. Just two days ago an influencer that I follow on IG was taking about her anxiety and a family member of hers called her and bitched her out and told her to "get over it". This is how I feel about that. My trauma is from adverse childhood experiences. I was sexually abused, bullied, some of my emotional needs were neglected and I felt rejected a lot as a child. There are many other ACEs and you can read more about it here https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/riskprotectivefactors.html, but the people saying to just get over ACEs probably didn't experience them, or they did and were also told to "just get over it", and are probably dealing with their own struggles.
If you are reading this and it resonates with you, and you have been thinking about going back to therapy, maybe this is your push to do it. There is a test you can take for adverse childhood experiences and it will let you know if you are at higher risk for mental health disorders. Just google ACES test.
The truth is, I struggle everyday. I cry a lot. I wake up with the black cloud in my brain more days that not. I am 38 years old and only recently started unpacking 37 years of repressed memories. I joke with my therapist that healing in itself is a traumatic event.
But also...everyday is a little bit brighter. Everyday is a little bit better. I don't have my eyes set on the end destination anymore. I am enjoying the ride for once in my life. I will always have PTSD. I am learning that living in the past keeps me in depression, and living in the future puts me in a state of anxiety. So I am trying to live for right now, and right now my life is more than I could have ever asked for.