A genuine life

I have been back at school for 3 days, and the doubts are starting to plague my mind.

” Can I really be a leader? I don’t deserve Gods grace. I’m not worthy to be called a child of God.”

 Sometimes I feel I can live such a fake life. As I sit hear and write these blog posts I continue to be open with my struggles and share how life really is going. I’m not afraid to write about it, but I am afraid to talk about it. When I write it’s like the dam that I built suddenly breaks. I’m able to express what really goes on in my head. 

With the leadership conference starting this week the number one question is ” what did you do this summer?” And that question terrifies me.

“Should I be honest? Should I tell a partial truth? Do they already know about treatment?”

I begin to feel a sense of shame come over me. A sense of shame for admitting I was in treatment for a mental illness all summer. This is a prime example of the mental health stigma. So instead of having to experience that same,  I just laugh, small, and act like treatment “cured me”

The thing is, When you struggle with suicidal thoughts it’s not that simple to be “cured.” Sometimes I tell myself that people expect me to be better since I was in treatment for 3 months; while I am doing better, in the sense that I know how to handle these thoughts and feelings,  that doesn’t mean my urges to injure or my suicidal thoughts have gone away. It simply means I am learning to deal with them. 

Tonight as we began worship in the SLS (student leadership summit) I was super pumped I love worship at olivet. It’s so genuine. That’s what really got me thinking.  “Am I being genuine with others?” Am I continuing to break down that dam or am I slowly  starting to build it back up? 

In some aspects of life it’s super easy to be honest and genuine, but other times it’s extremely hard. My challenge both you and I is to really make an effort this week or at least one day to be genuine. When someone asks how you are, dont just say good. If you ask how someone is, be willing to listen if they say not okay. 

We live in a world where we are always rebuilding our dams, but it’s time we let them stay down and let the realness of oursleves flow freely; after all,  a flowing river is much prettier than a leaky dam 

Insight on Insight

Today I finished up my time at ERC insight. And if I’m honest I’m a little nervous about leaving. It became a part of my routine. Something that was consistent, and now it’s gone. Throughout my summer I learned a lot. I learned my way through the Loop like I’ve lived there forever. I learned how to survive the wonderful CTA. But most importantly I learned a lot of skills and lessons about myself that will help increase my quality of life as I leave insight behind.

Before I jump into what I learned I’ll give a little bit of background about Insight. It is a group therapy program that specializes in mood and anxiety disorders, they use a type of therapy called dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) basically DBT says nothing can be all good or all bad; every thing is on a spectrum. The skills that I learned were skills that would help me get out of the black and white thinking and start to look at things on a spectrum again.

DBT skills are broken into four ( I’m only going in detail about 3) modules: mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and distress tolerance. While I was at insight I was able to spend time learning skills in each of these modules.

Interpersonal effectiveness skills are skills that we use when we are not in much distress and things are pretty calm. These skills are used to help assert our needs, or to set boundaries in a respectful way on of my favorite interpersonal effectiveness skills is called DEARMAN ( Describe, Evaluate, Assert, Reinforce, Mindful, Appear confident, and Negotiate) for those of you who know me, you may know I am not one to assert myself or say what I want. My favorite ways to answer questions are ” I don’t care, or you can pick.” but after learning this skill I have noticed that it is becoming much easier for me to ask for and state what I need from others.

Next we get into the emotional regulation skills, which do exactly what they sound like… regulate our emotions. I have two faves from here because I just couldn’t decide! The first one is called checking the facts. With this skill we are taking emotions out of a situation and strictly looking at what we know to be true. A lot of times our emotions can make us respond in ways that are not the best, but if we take a step back and evaluate the situation it helps us see the entire thing instead of looking at it through our emotions. then there is cope-ahead. This skill is great for anxiety. Basically before going into a situation that may provoke some type of emotion ( for me anxiety) I imagine the worst case scenario and figure out what coping skills I could effectively use if the worst case scenario did happen. This can alleviate some of the anxiety I feel because it allows me to have a plan.

The last module is distress tolerance. It was very difficult for me to pick only two skills from this module. At first distress tolerance skills were the only ones I was using because I wasn’t aware of the fact that skills can be used before we get into crisis mode. But if I do end up in this mode TIPP and pro and cons are two skills I swear by. I normally use TIPP (Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, Progressive muscle relaxation) when my primary emotion is anger. This skill allows me to get out that bottled up energy in a healthy way; specifically the T and the I. With temperature we learned that when we take something cold ( like an ice pack or a cold shower) the shock of going from body temperature to cold tells the brain to reroute the blood flow to the major organs, specifically the heart. It is difficult for me to explain exactly how it makes me feel, but holy cow does it work. The intense exercise is also great. When I cut out of anger it was typically to feel that release. I can get that same feeling though by running sprints or doing climbing, and its healthy! then we have pros and cons, which is pretty self explanatory. It is listing out the pros and cons of engaging in the target behavior                 (cutting) when I am able to see it on paper I am also able to see that there are usually more good things than bad, or if there is more bad the few good things I have weigh out all the bad things I have.

Now that I have given you all a crash course on how to deal with your problems ( you’re welcome :P) I want to share some of the things I am walking away with from this summer.

I have learned that it is okay to make others away of my boundaries and tell them what I need. It is not the easiest thing for me, but it is soooo important. If I am not telling others what I need or when the do something to frustrate me how can I expect them to change, I cant. I also learned its okay to ask others to validate you. Sometimes things can be pretty crappy. I get into a shame spiral where all I believe is that I am a bad person, or I am worthless or unlovable, when I am in this place the best way I am ask for help is to ask those close to me to counteract those thoughts, to tell me that I am loved and cared for. Sometimes I feel guilty for doing this, but it goes back to the first point of asserting my needs. I know the people in my support system want to support me, but they cannot know how unless I am explain what I need in a certain situation.

self-compassion. This is a HUGE one for me. It is something I never really had much of, but throughout my time at Insight I am slowly learning to grant myself compassion. A lot of times I wouldn’t give myself compassion because I didn’t feel I was deserving of it, but then someone said to me ” if this situation was happening to a friend would you show them compassion?” That got me thinking. “of course I would!” if someone else deserve compassion is a situation, chances are I do too. For right now I still have to ask myself that question when I feel undeserving, but slowly I am starting to have to ask myself less and less.

Everything isn’t black and white, in fact most of life isn’t black and white, it is in the grey area, the area that I hated spending time in. Before treatment I viewed things as all good or all bad. Emotions, people, situation it didn’t matter what it was, there was no grey area. DBT is all about the grey area, and teaching us how to understand that not everything is black and white, which I have definitely been able to see.

Last but certainly not least, I have learned first hand just how bumpy of a road recovery really is. some times I have really good days, which turn into good weeks, and good months, but I also have bad days, which turn into bad weeks, and sometimes bad months. The important thing is that I just because I have taken a few steps backwards does not mean I am all the way back to where I started. This is where that self-compassion piece can play a role.  I can acknowledge that I have stumbled, but I don’t have to dwell on it and make it the focus of my day. the more I am able to acknowledge and let go the more good days I will start to have. Even when the bad days come I am able to know that they are just days; they don’t have to become weeks or months.

I have learned so much about myself the last 103 days, none of that would have been possible without the amazing staff member that are apart of insight, or the amazing people I met along the way who supported me in ways no one else could. I am beyond grateful for all the support I have received from friends and family as I have shared my journey with you all. As I go back to school I am excited to see what the Lord has planned for me, as well as to see how he will use this summer to impact the lives of other students.

Urges 

They come and go, like leaves on a stream.

They flow into my mind easily, but they seem to get caught by a tree branch. 

One becomes two, two becomes three, soon enough there’s a dam created of leaves

My thoughts are the leaves. one starts to flow, but soon it gets stuck. Then another and another. 

” I’m just a burden” 

” I don’t deserve to be happy” 

” I don’t care about the progress I’ve made, I’ll just throw it all away”

” I’m too annoying for someone to love”

” no one has to know” 

” I’m unloveable” 

” I’m not really needed”

” this will be the last time”

And the list goes on and on… now when I’m in wise mind ( a balance of emotion and logic) I know these are distorted thoughts, but when my emotions take over these all become so true. 

Sometimes I don’t have the energy to pick up the phone or to use skills. These are the times the urges win. Either I give in and cut so I become numb unable to feel or care about anything. The urges win

Other times, I win. I pick up the phone, I try to do things I’m learning in treatment. I realize I want to get better. This choice isn’t easy. It takes a lot of energy and leaves me feeling exhusted. But when I take this road in the end it’s worth it, I made it another day and that’s what’s important. 

My urges tonight got very intense. As the thoughts started to build up at the branch I began to lean towards the side of letting my urges win. ” so what if I’m 50 days clean? No one cares anyway” “one last time” these are some of the thoughts I had when I wanted to let the urges win. My mind was made up about 90% that my fate for tonight would involve a blade. But there was 10% of me that wanted to win. That 10% was able to use not 1, not 2, but 3 coping skills! I reached out to 2 friends, I watchedNetflix, and I doodled with a sharpie marker.

 The 2 friends were able to talk me down bring me out of emotion mind bsck to wise mind. Netflix was able to distract me. And the sharpie was able to ground me. Slowly the 10% became 20% then 40% then 80% soon enough I hit 100% I had won. 

My urges were strong. But I was stronger 

A time to celebrate

* WARNING* this post contains pictures that could be potentially triggering 

Last week in my IT (individual therapy) session my therapist asked me if I still had blades, I was honest and told her yes. Her next question was would you be willing to bring them into our next session and get rid of them? Now this thought terrified me. About 3 weeks ago I got rid of what I thought was all of my blades but one. A few days later I was cleaning my room when I came across 4 more blades, then about a week later a friend had asked me for a band-aid, I went to get her one and to my surprise found 3 more blades in my box of band-aids. This brought the total to 8. I thought I only had one left, that I would only use if it was an “emergency” but no. I had 8. 

Today, after going 42 days without cutting, (which is the longest I have gone since last summer 🎈🎉 ) I brought my Therapist 7 of them. Now I know most of you are thinking ” you said you had 8, what did you do with the last one?” I did with it what I intended to do all along. 

Self harm has been apart of my life for the past 7 years, it’s gone through the ups and down of high school and college, it became a part of me, a part of me that I didn’t want to just give away in the blink of an eye. 

Why I didn’t give my therapist all of them, the one I have is no longer useable. For those of you who don’t know, over this journey I have learned how much I adore art, so I decided to create an altered book, which is exactly what it sounds like. You pick a book ( I chose girl, interrupted) and basically turn it into an art journal. So far it consists of collages, black out poetry, inspirational quotes and now, this

I couldn’t justify just handing a piece of me over to be thrown away, so instead I took something most people see as destructive and turned it into something that I see as both an inspirational reminder and a beautiful piece of art to remind me of the hardships I have gone through. 

It has been a LONG time since I have completely gotten rid of all my blades. Usually I would keep one and tell myself         ” I’ll only use it if I really need it.” But that’s the thing. Now I can see a future where I don’t need to keep a balde for “emergencies only” I have learned how to handle my extreme emotions in healthy ways. I have learned how to use skills to cope long term instead of a blade to cope short term.  I have learned how to feel things instead of avoiding. Most imprtantly, I have learned to reach out to others instead of reaching for a blade.

So here’s to saying goodbye to my blades, 

and hello to my future😊

Codependency and abandonment 

Today I said goodbye to one of my best friends, it ripped me apart. I instantly began to feel lost, to feel like I was out of control. I felt like apart of me was ripped out. Then I realized that was the codependency. Yes this person was important to me, but that person wasn’t me. 

People don’t understand how difficult codependcy can be. When someone goes away, I can’t just say “bye see you later.”I’ve learned to live off of that person, I learned to shape my life around them. 

Research refers to the person I shape my life to as ” the favorite” and “the favorite” can and usually will change overtime. Because once a favorite becomes too far I feel the need to find another. This is a pattern that I  finally beginning to recognize. As I knew the day for my friend to leave was getting close, not only did I begin to distance myself from them, but I began to cling to and “latch” onto someone else who I felt would understand me like them. 

That’s the thing though. People are not replaceable. Each person is unique and impacts me in their OWN WAY I cannot expect oneperson to fill my ” codependent need” the same way someone else does. 
But with this strong desire of attachment comes and equally if not stronger fear of abandonment. When we go our separate ways, it’s not enough for me to be told ” I’ll see you soon” or “it’s not good bye, it’s see you later” my brain simply won’t allow me to believe that.

It’s the worst when the person was in my support network. Yes support happens in very different ways and is sometimes more effective with distance, but my mind tells me “this person is leaving because they can’t handle you.” It doesn’t matter if it’s the end of the school year and we are ALL leaving, my brain still tells me that I scared these people away. There is a quote in the show one tree hill and it is a reoccurring theme for one of the characters, the quote is “people always leave” this is the thought that is always in the back of my head. 

Being codependent but having a fear of abandonment  is exhausting and tares me apart. The codependent part of me says “latch on to them and tell them everything” But on the opposite end of the spectrum, the abandonment part of me reminds me that ” the last person you latched to left, what’s to keep them from leaving too?”

My brain is a battlefield of many extremes, but this one is by far the worst. It has by far caused the most casualties on the battlefield. It tells me that I am too much for people to handle. That I am  a lost cause not worth sticking around to see the ending. I am tonight to tell those thoughts that THEY. ARE. WRONG. 

I am not too much, or annoying. I am codependent and need a lot of affirmation.  I may not like that part of me but,  it’s who I am, and slowly but surely I am coming to accept it.