And this is my question: what was on time that kindness had a profound affect on you? It could have been something kind you did or something kind someone else did for you.
A couple weeks ago when I was surveying for the Youth Count I walked out of Dunkin Donuts to see an adult man sitting outside asking for change. Having been in his shoes not so long ago my heart ached for him, I wanted him to understand that he was understood and cared about. I wanted him to feel as though the weight of the world was not on his shoulders. That he was important, valuable. Anyways, I ended up going back and fourth in my head about what to do for a few minutes while I was inside. When I went to left I sat down next to him. I told him that I didn’t have any change and that I was sorry, but that I had been in his shoes before and I wanted him to know that I cared about him, even though I didn’t know him. We talked for a few minutes, and I felt so, so connected to him. I felt as though he did not frequently have experiences of being treated humanely by others. He looked deeply into my eyes and said thank you before I left, and it just struck me so much. It made me both happy and sad. But I know that we both had an affect on each other that day. That’s what kindness is to me! An exchange, a moment when caring for another person makes you feel just as loved. It’s a special thing. So, how about you guys?
Stages of life
This week I have been thinking a lot about the different stages in my life.
Luz posted something on the forum about changing your expectations of yourself, and reaching goals you may have never thought yourself capable of. She talked about what her life used to look like, and how she once did not believe she was capable of achieving “normalcy”. That made me think a lot about my past; where I’ve come from, where I’ve gone, where I’m at now. And most importantly, how I got there, and here. What did it take to go through each age and stage of my life? Where did I go (both good and bad) that I never imagined myself going? How did it change me?
Then today something else happened that hurled me years and years into my past.
I met someone- well didn’t meet, more met again. When I introduced myself she instantly remembered me- we were roommates and friends in the hospital together when I was 12.
That was over ten years ago, and the first time (of over 15) I was put in a psychiatric hospital. At that point in my life, it was one of the most profound experiences I’d ever had. So much happened in those 7 months (it was technically 3 separate stays, but with only a few days of being discharged in between) that shaped and transformed me.
I cannot help but find myself entombed in thoughts and memories. Reminiscing about a time in my life that was both incredibly painful, scary, and difficult; but also comfortable, safe, and sometimes even very happy. These memories are similar to falling in a rose bush. I’m surrounded by beautiful flowers, and covered in wounds. I feel a small light in my stomach, but enclosed within a deep pit full of sadness.
And then I begin to think about what happened after I left the hospital.
From there my life fell apart. From there my journey with mental illness began; and has not ended since. And from there I grew and changed in many ways- both good and bad.
From memories of my first hospitalization, come painful memories of all that ensued afterward; essentially my entire family falling apart both separately and together over a period of 5 years. What each tragedy encompassed. How it felt, and I don’t just remember the feeling, I experience it.
I am once again a 14 year old girl stuffing 200 pills down her throat.
Then, I am 16 years old, saying “no” to a 24 year old man, who was too high to listen. I am 17 years old and waking up from a coma after a suicide attempt I don’t remember making, because all the seizures that resulted from it damaged my memory. Again and again I am experiencing the traumas I left behind years ago.
And it’s like being beaten with a bat. I cannot catch my breath enough to beg for it to stop.
Where am I in time and how do I find my way back here?
How do I accept all that’s happened and the place I’m at now when all I want to do I reject it and bury my mind in a deep pit of sand?
It’s so strange how things continue to change at such a rapid pace. It’s all the time and we have no say as to whether or not it happens. Against our will we are under a constant transformation that will only cease to exist when we do.
How do I swallow the fact that I once wanted to die? That many times I tried to kill myself? That I hurt myself every day for years? How do I move forward knowing at one time in my life I would cry thinking about how much I hated myself? And that at one time I was a teenager and watching my life crumble before me; terrified and powerless.
I ask how do I do this because really, it wasn’t that long ago. And really, I’m still the same person.
Except now I have a daughter and life and set of responsibilities that I was never supposed to have. I was never supposed to be here. I don’t think I ever planned on being 22. Yet against my own will, transformations occurred. And somehow, without my knowledge or consent, I began to get better.
What about the times that that old, familiar dark place seems most comfortable?
It’s funny how small things can begin large, unmanageable spirals. Like hearing a song, or smelling something vaguely familiar. And how simple things, like writing this blog post can begin to bring me back into realignment- even if it’s without my consent or intent.
I come back to a place of normalcy where I remember that sadness is not safety. And that I’m no longer a child, and no longer without control or power.
And most importantly, I am responsible for a little girl. Who needs me and wants me. And it’s my job to be there for her, and be good to her. And I promise to her, and myself, and the entire universe that I will not fail her and I will always try as hard as I can to be what she needs.
To those who helped me
Having anxiety feels like I’m swimming. I’m in a giant ocean, and my body is heavy and exhausted. I’m doggy paddling and struggling to keep my head up at all times. I keep swallowing water, and going under, but somehow I don’t drown. Somehow I’m able to keep going. There are moments when big waves swell up and carry me where I need to go, with little effort on my part. Sometimes I get to dry land and lay there, exhausted, and rest until I’m able to swim once again. Having anxiety with a baby is like when you were a kid in the pool, barely swimming yourself, when your friend suddenly grabs hold of your shoulders for stability and pulls you under. Its a terrifying moment, and you can’t yell for help without swallowing water. Being angry, and overwhelmed, and tired, and hungry are normal. They’re parts of everybody’s life. When you have a child, sometimes you feel like a child, too. On the verge of a meltdown, with no way of calmly expressing your feelings or needs, feeling like they don’t matter, anyways. And you have to push away what you’re going through because it’s not your child’s fault, and they need you, and if you were to break, who would be there for them? But sometimes it feels like I need my mom. Sometimes it feels like I want to sit and cry because its almost 6 pm and I barely ate, and I’m tired, and life is too much in this moment. And I want my mom to hold me and tell me she understands and loves me. Being a mom feels lonely sometimes. It feels like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and I’m the only one who can hold it, and if I were to put it down something terrible would happen. Sometimes I feel guilty. So guilty I feel like I cannot sit with my feelings or thoughts without breaking. Sometimes I feel angry and I don’t know why. Sometimes I feel stuck; so stuck. And so angry that I feel stuck, and guilty that I’m angry, and lonely because I must be the only person going through this and everyone else must be handling their lives and their feelings so much better than I am. And then I remember, this is not the first time in my life I felt as though I was drowning.
Right before my family reached a climax of suffering, and we all broke, and then somehow, although not perfectly, rebuilt each of our lives seperately; we moved. We moved from our house in Redding that we had lived in since I was 8, to an apartment in New Canaan. I was 16. The suffering that we as a family experienced both induvidually and seperatley increased rapidly, and would not stop or slow down. I was so scared. And sad and angry and confused. I described this feeling as being in the middle of a big ocean. I was on a rickety raft that was barely afloat. Holes kept popping up and threatening to drown us, somehow I stuffed whatever I had into these holes and kept us alive. I kept calling out for help. Screaming frantically with tears streaming down my face; but it felt like no one could hear me. Like those nightmares when you’re yelling, but nothing comes out. Sometimes a boat or Island would pass and I would scream and wave my arms for help. Most of the times we would pass by unnoticed- sometimes a life jacket would be thrown, just missing us, and we would float away. I remeber one time the police got called. We were all fighting. 211 came. We were referred to see a counselour in Stamford. His name was Larry. Immediately he recognized the suffering and dysfunction we had all learned to cope with. He spoke to my brother and I as though he knew we were drowning, but also knew we were too afraid to ask for help- or maybe too beaten down by life to expect it. My brother clung to him- I pushed him. He told us he understood what we were experiencing- all of it- even the hideous anger I had learned to greet the world with. He didn’t hate me for it, even though I hated myself for it. We were at an odd age, where the state allows you to refuse help, and I did exactly that. He could not force me to take the life jacket he was offering. So I didn’t, even though I had hoped for it, and I don’t really know why I did that. Maybe I thought it was littered with holes, or filled with sand. Often I told myself my suffering wasn’t that bad. I remember not wanting to get my mom in trouble, or tear our family apart. So I became big and strong enough to push him away. I wouldn’t go to school. He came to my house one day. He told me he wanted to help me. I told him I didn’t need or want any help. He said that he knew me, he knew that when I said no, I didn’t mean no, that sometimes I was too afraid to say yes. I told him he didn’t know anything about me, and that that wasn’t true; even though I was shocked by how true it was, and by how much he must have truly understood me. In my head I was begging him to help me, to disregard everything that came out of my lying, terrified mouth.
He knew I had little motivation to do anything, much less go to school, he said he would believe that I didn’t need help if I went to school every day that week. We both knew that was as likely as one of us hitting the lottery. But I said I would. I asked if he would leave me alone if I went to school every day that week, and believe that I was fine. He said he would. For some reason I went to school every day that week. It was the first time in years. I never saw him again. It’s something I’ve felt regret, guilt, shame, and sadness about many days since then. In the past two or so years, I’ve thought about Larry many days. I’ve wanted to call him. To thank him and apologize, and tell him about my life now, and cry to him about how everything fell apart shortly after he left. But tell him that I was ok, that we were all ok, and he was right. But I have never been able to do it. I don’t know why. On Thursday, I found out that Larry died last year. I was immediately filled with guilt. Guilt for pushing him away when all he wanted was to help me and my brother, to understand us, and give us what we needed. And sadness, a lot of sadness. Because I would never be able to thank him, or more importantly, to apologize for my anger and fear. I sat outside a little after finding this out and closed my eyes, I allowed my head to become filled with sadness. I tried to connect my spirit with the universe to send him a message. Tell him what I would have over the phone, not with words, but with my love and energy. If I could speak to you right now, Larry, I would only be able to thank you. You pulled me out of the depths of the ocean, and brought me to dry land. I only jumped back into the waters because it had become my home. Larry, you showed me what was, and what could have been; you accepted my anger, and reminded me I deserved to be taken care of. You took part in a life-long task many amazing people have attempted; which is to heal me. I’m so much better now, and I’m still trying to go further every day. I have a beautiful daughter, and I will be so much better than our moms were to us. Thank you. S.I.P.
There are many people who come into our lives for both short and long periods. I’m reminded constantly, that its not the quantity of time these people are with us, but the quality. Death and regret remind us to be calm and be slow. To say thank you and I love you and I’m glad that you’re here.
Forgiving myself for Willow
Hi everybody- I hope you’re all having a good week! Willow and I have been really busy- I’ve started leaving her in daycare a few days a week to work a few hours at turning point, and life is continuing to race past me at an extraordinary rate! Thankfully, Willow seems to be enjoying daycare a lot more than she did a few months ago. She’s also starting to move a lot! She’s pulling herself up really well, taking small steps while I hold her hands, and looking like she might crawl after all! I also attended a meeting on ending youth homelessness yesterday, and told my story. So, it’s safe to say I’ve been really busy, but doing well! So why do I feel so anxious? Before I became a mother, I felt anxious constantly. It was like a dull hum in the back of my mind that followed me everywhere. Some days I was better at ignoring it than others. I couldn’t always pinpoint what my anxiety was about, and when people would ask, “what’s wrong?” a wave a nausea would come over me- because I often had no clue what I was anxious about. This would set off an avalanche of thoughts. “Why am I anxious? I must be anxious for a reason… if I forget what I’m anxious about I’m forgetting something important! Am I anxious about nothing? Why would I be anxious about nothing? What’s wrong with me? Will this go away- will I feel like this forever? *Cue panic about feeling uncomfortable for the rest of my life and never being able to escape my thoughts…” I used to tell people I could feel anxious over a doorknob or lightbulb. Now, my anxiety feels different. It feels more important, heavier. At times I think maybe it’s not really anxiety, because I’m worrying about something that matters; I’m worrying about my daughter. Many times I can reach out and grab my thoughts and identify what it is I’m worrying about. Although sometimes it feels stupid when I think about it, or I’ll try to put it into words and get confused. But is it really anxiety if I know what I’m worried about and it really matters? These are rhetorical questions. I know it’s really anxiety. I know it’s really not very different than the anxiety I felt as a teenager. The difference is, now I worry for two (kind of like when I was pregnant I ate for two). I constantly question if I’m being a good mother, am I screwing Willow up? Wasting her potential or brain by using my cell phone in front of her or not having enough toys for her? Am I allowing her to be free? What am I modeling for her? What is she watching that she will pick up on- are these good things? I have a constant barrage of thoughts overwhelming me throughout the day- the dull hum is more like a headache that never goes away. But then I see my daughter fake laugh to get a reaction, or pull herself up on a toy, I hear her get into a screaming match with someone, or lay with her on my chest and close my eyes. I see her funny, beautiful personality, or look into her kind eyes. I watch her play with another baby at the shelter. She does something independent, but looks back at me for approval. A swell of hot, red love fills my heart and overflows into my chest. I feel like I’m floating, I’m so happy that I’m sad (if that makes sense). I love this beautiful girl so much it hurts. And she loves me. I feel happy and at peace in these moments. I see the beautiful life I created- this beautiful little girl that is becoming an amazing little person. I created her, carried her, I gave birth to her, and now I feed her- my body is so powerful and strong- I am powerful and strong. And I give myself the credit I deserve. I feel happy. It’s becoming more and more apparent that people weren’t kidding when they warned me how fast time goes by; how quickly babies grow into toddlers and continue from there. Although I can allow myself to panic, trying to beat a clock I will always be running behind, I instead try to be still and watch. I know several years from now, I will look back and hoped I had soaked this time in more, enjoyed it more and worried less. So when I catch myself ruminating about my baby’s growth spurts, development, or well being, I try to encourage myself to give my brain a warm hug. Remind myself that this time is so special, and give myself permission to enjoy it. So today, as I lay in bed with my 7 month old sleeping on my chest, writing this post on my iPhone and thinking about how busy I will be in an hour, I instead chose to close my eyes for a moment, hug my daughter, and set my intention for the day. Today I will catch myself in worry, I will take time to watch my daughter play, and join in with her. I will enjoy these small moments, and free my mind of the expectations I place upon it. Today I will be still. I will be a mom, and if that’s all I’m able to do, it will be a good day and I will have succeeded. If at the end of the day I still have bags of laundry to fold in my closet, a to-do list to complete, and phone calls to make- I will forgive myself. Because one day, my daughter will need to forgive herself, and I hope to be the person who teaches her how.
TurningPointCT.org was developed by young people in Connecticut who are in recovery from mental health and substance use issues. We know what it’s like to feel alone, stressed, worried, sad, and angry. We’ve lived through the ups and downs of self-harm, drugs and alcohol, and the struggle to find help. Learn More »