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.
Once Upon A Time
Once Upon A Time, there was a girl. When she was born she was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. She had a brother, a mom, and a dad. Very quickly the world began to creep through the stone walls surrounding her. The world was dark, and black, and thick. It oozed through the walls and lay heavily on and around her. It weighed her down and made her sad. Sometimes the world was nice and bright, it shone through the windows of the house and melted some of the black goo away. But the black goo was always there, it would never all melt away. Even still, sometimes when the goo was gone it left thick, dark, painful scars. It hurt her a lot, but made her happy, too. The girls father went away. She was too young to know what it meant to miss someone, so she didn’t. Then another man came to be her dad. He went away too, though. Her mom got sick and sad. Her and her brother built and armor for each other. It was thick and strong, but very dark and heavy. Nobody could get through the armor. That was good sometimes, they thought they were keeping out all the goo of the world. But one day they realized they couldn’t get out, and when they tried to let someone in they had forgotten how to take it off. So their skin grew hard and clung on tightly to the metal around it- soon the armor wasn’t really armor, it was just them. Inside the armor they were very sad, and angry. And underneath that they were scared. And under that, they were small soft babies who needed love and warmth. But the world was mean. It pushed them over and looked away when they reached out and cried. So they learned not to. One day they left the stone walls. They fell into the goo. The girls brother swam out, but she was stuck. Her brother tried to tell her how to swim, but she couldn’t hear him; he tried to throw her a rope, but she couldn’t see him. When she looked around, she couldn’t see how he had swam to safety just to help her. The world grew into a monster and whispered in her ear. It told her he left her, he abandoned her. She was alone. He told her that he wasn’t ugly, but all of them were. All the ugly people, and deep down she was hideous too. So she pushed out the sadness and fear. She nursed her anger and helped it grow big and strong. She climbed on his shoulders and she felt big and strong too. But he sucked the life out of her. He made her smaller and sadder, but from her perch on his shoulder she could not tell. One day she fell. From the hole in the bottom of the goo, she could finally see where she was. And she knew she didn’t want to be there anymore. She started to try to climb out, to reach for people to help pull her out. She kept coming close. But she fell many times. She fell hard, and sometimes it was a very long way until she stopped falling. Sometimes she felt so sad in her hole that she took a very long time to pick herself back up. One day she found out she would have a baby. She was so happy and scared, and very sad because she didn’t want her baby to be born in the goo. She started trying harder and harder to climb out. One day when she was halfway up, the baby was born. She was still in the goo, but she wasn’t stuck. She realized it would take her a very long time to get all the way out, and when she made it, it would still take time to clean the goo off of herself and her baby. But the baby was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And the girl wasn’t a girl anymore, she was a young woman. And the armor didn’t stick to her skin so much, in fact some of it fell of on its own. And one day she realized the goo was lighter some days, and that even from the pit the light could come through. Once Upon A Time There was a warrior. She had a baby who was small and soft and surrounded by love and warmth. And each day together they fought off the goo of the world, and searched for the light. She knew one day they would find their way out together. The End
Me and My mom
Me and my brother, Harry
My mom and me
Harry and me in Montana
Harry, my mom, me
Me and Harry after he graduated Naval Boot Camp (Chicago, IL)
Me, 8 months pregnant- the night of my baby shower
Willow, 1 day old
Me and Willow, first day home
Willow, 1 week old
Discomfort doesn’t last
This time of year is hard for me. Maybe it’s the cold, or the holidays, or the constant reminder of new beginnings which is really just a reminder of failures you have committed. I don’t remember if it’s always been this hard to muddle through the days as it feels right now. Maybe it’s only felt like this for a few days, or weeks or months. Maybe it’s felt like this for years. I don’t know why I can’t remember. I probably could if I stopped all my thoughts and everything else coming and going through my body and mind, but I think that would take an extraordinary amount of effort, and energy, which I feel as though I have almost none of. Sometimes I crave the feeling of motivation. To be energized and excited by life, and feel the deep, strong push from within to do. Other times I want to curl up in my feelings and recede deeply within my sadness and heavy mind until all I can feel around me is the dull vibration of the world around me. I think I’m depressed. I think I need a break, or a vacation, or many, many long naps. I think I need someone to come with big strong arms and grab hold of everything I carry, without asking, and just walk away from me. I just want everything to stop for a while. I need either to suddenly become disgustingly happy or be given the grace to fall apart and become a dark oozing puddle. And then I remember, I can’t. I can’t fall apart, and it’s not likely that I will soon be given a break or a vacation. It’s silly to imagine a giant lumberjack walking up to me and relieving me of everything I carry in my mind and body. Life will continue to relentlessly come towards me, and it won’t stop for a very very long time. Maybe it would help me to be myself. Not mom, or employee, or friend. Just be me. Sit and listen to music and draw and do all the silly things that made my life important before I was too important to do them. I feel so far away from myself sometimes. Or, really, a lot of times. It feels like I’m not Eliza anymore, and I never will be again; I’ll just be Mom forever and ever. The pressure of being mom feels like too much some days. It feels like the pressure of starting a semester really strong. Making friends, doing homework, getting A’s, being liked by your teachers and yourself. And going and going and forgetting about yourself and everything else until suddenly you turn around and there’s a mountain behind you that’s been slowly building for weeks. And you see the mountain shake and falter and you run. But you can’t run fast enough, and you’re not strong enough to stop it from falling. So it does, and it crushes you. And all of a sudden you fail over and over again until that’s who you are; a failure. And you fail at school and life and work and so you decide giving up is much easier then disappointing anyone. It feels like I’m going and going- far past my tipping point, and I’m scared to turn around and see the mountain that’s built up behind me. I’m scared because I know if I look, I’ll see how close it is to tipping over. And I am scared to break; I’m scared to fail and give up. But how on Earth can I find the strength within to keep going? Maybe it’s best not to wonder how on Earth I will get through. Maybe I should just blindly go forward. Like I did when I gave birth. Like I’ve done throughout my life. Maybe that’s how all the successful people do it; suffer silently while blindly trusting their own tremendous strength. When I was a teenager, I did a lot of Yoga. It became a panacea to my issues. It helped me love my body, trust my strength, and feel physically and spiritually empowered. I remember one time I went to a Kundalini class- which I had never done before or even heard of. I had no idea the physical strain holding one pose for long periods would have on me. I remember being in a big class, with people I didn’t know, and a teacher I had never met. I was scared of the discomfort I began to feel. I remember saying to myself- give up- put your arms down and rest. At some point in the practice, I closed my eyes and realized that five seconds ago I felt like I could not physically continue, but I had. And I had done that continuously and unconsciously throughout the practice. It was empowering to realize the hidden strength I had. I remember talking myself through the pose- reminding myself that discomfort cannot and will not kill me. That I would not die from this discomfort- that no disaster would happen- the only possibility I was looking at was the one of falling out of a pose. So I kindly told myself that I was strong, that I could and would stay in this pose for as long as I physically could. I would not convince myself to give up, as I had silently been doing throughout my practice. And if I did fall out of a pose, or give in from unbearable discomfort, that I would not be ashamed or embarrassed. I promised myself I would be proud of making it farther than I had ever imagined. In life, I have gone much further than I have imagined. I have lived. I have stopped cutting, and numbing myself with drugs and alcohol. I have been a mother, and a good one. I have made it another day, every single day, for the last 8,166 days. Through unimaginable pain, sadness, happiness, and anger I have made it. And today, I promise myself I will make it. And if I wake up tomorrow and decide I must give up, then I will allow myself to. But for the next hour, I promise myself I will make it. And tomorrow when I wake up I will promise myself to make it again and again. And if I can’t love myself enough to do it for me, I will do it for my daughter. And I will become stronger and happier and better. And maybe not tomorrow or next week or next year, but someday I will be given a break and a vacation and everything else I want and need.
This too shall pass
Yesterday Willow turned 8 months old. It’s hard to believe I have been a mom for almost a year. Part of me feels as though I have been doing this for nearly a decade. Another half of me feels as though it was only a few weeks ago that I was holding my newborn daughter.
I remember when my daughter was born. Not as vividly as I thought I would recall it; I imagined years later, remembering the color hair tie I wore and the exact emotions I felt as my screaming, naked baby was placed on my chest. But I remember it.
I remember saying, “Fuck, fuck, fuck” in pain- in front of my boyfriends mom, who never heard me swear before. I wanted to apologize, but was too shocked by the pain of labor to actually do it. I remember as I got closer to pushing, the strength of my instincts. I was too focused to doubt myself, so like a dancer preforming a routine I knew by heart, I followed my body’s commands. I went from bed, to ball, to shower, to toilet in a matter of minutes. I groaned, I leaned, I ignored all the noises and people around me. I went inside myself and flowed through the motions of labor.
Then I remember fear. While I sat up in bed, with my knees by my cheeks, I felt terrified. The pain I was feeling was more intense and unavoidable than anything I had ever experienced in my life. I knew, that even though I was feeling a pain more intense than I had ever experienced, I could not stop. I could not back out, nor did I want to. I remember telling my amazing midwife, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this” She was calm, confident, and fearless when she told me, “Yes you can. You’re safe. You’re doing an amazing job”. Being told I was safe was exactly what I need to hear. I was terrified of the pain I was feeling. It was so intense it felt as though it could kill me. With eyes closed and arms out, I had been flung into a foreign place. I could not see where I was, nor did I know where to go; but I had to find my way through. I let go of my fear and hesitancy as I listened to my body and ignored my brain. I continued pushing through a level of pain that I’ve never felt before, and through that experienced a new, greater level of pain. I pushed and pushed , with eyes closed tight running forward, I continued, unsure but faithful. Then a nurse told me that I could reach down and feel my babies head if I wanted to. I put my hand between my legs and and felt my daughters hair. With new determination, I was sure of what I was doing. Suddenly, as quickly as it began, it was over. As my midwife held up my daughter at all I could say was, “Oh my God, oh my God”.
I had done it. I looked my fear, doubts, and hesitation in its eyes, and continued forward with open willingness. Giving birth filled me with an ecstasy and pride I had never experienced. I had known going in to the hospital that millions of women before me had accomplished childbirth. I knew I wanted to have a natural birth. I knew that one way or another, I would have my daughter. Regardless of this knowledge, of my attempted preparation, I was filled with intense doubt and fear.
I learned, from giving birth many things about myself.
I learned the power of intentions; and that I can do anything I set my mind to. I learned that discomfort and pain won’t kill you- despite your fears it may. That if you can harness the strength to sit with it- to go through it, not around- that it will end. I learned about love- real love- and that I had never experienced it before meeting my daughter. And I finally began to understand the importance of loving myself.
I hope that I will continue to love myself more each day. That I will learn that I want to change for myself, because I love myself; not just because I want to be a good mom. And I hope that one day soon- I will be the woman I want my daughter to be. And the woman I want to be.
For now, I will sit with the discomfort of not being in the place I wish I were in. I will sit with the discomfort of living in a shelter, being employed part time and very poor, and of not having a degree. I will sit with the discomfort of being a work in progress.
I will continue to move forward, through the pain and sadness of not having the life I want for my daughter, not yet. I will go through this pain- and during that time learn a great deal more about myself and my life.
And one day soon, Willow and I will be ok.
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.
To the Moon and back
My name is Eliza, I am 22 years old and have a 7-month-old daughter, named Willow. My life is certainly different in almost every way than I had once imagined it might be. Struggling with mental illness throughout high school, my focus was blurred and my vision of myself and the world seemed an abysmal tomb of hopeless sorrow and pain. After a very proud graduation, 6 years in the making, I thought I had begun to creep from the shadows and began to feel ‘normal’. This feeling of normalcy was a great relief, although it was short lived. I soon found myself overwhelmed with a full-time schedule at college and work, coupled with a life that continued to rush past me at speeds I could not keep up with, despite my efforts. I turned inward, and reached for drugs, alcohol, and self harm to give me relief from life, which seemed to berate and beat me until I was left laying in the dirt, begging for mercy. A deep sadness and resentment towards the world and everyone in it filled my being. Finally, I could no longer stand it and sought help. After 45 days of detox and rehab, I emerged, beaten and wary- but grateful for both my life and sobriety. Soon after coming home, I met someone, and quickly rushed into a relationship. We officially started dating in April of 2016. By July 6th, 2016 I was 7 weeks pregnant. Feeling I could not face the thought of abortion, I decided I would have my baby. Looking back, its a decision I made quickly, and without brutal honesty with either myself or my boyfriend. Nonetheless, I committed, and though many urged me to terminate my pregnancy, I continued to move forward- sure I was making the right decision. Nine months later, on February 26th, I gave birth to a beautiful, 8 pound 6 oz, girl, Willow Moon. After less than five minutes of crying, she laid silently on my chest and took in the world for hours. Five months later, my relationship with her dad had been crumbling for what felt like years. How long it actually took, I don’t remember, all I remember are the feelings. Sadness and anger. Suddenly, I was forced to decide to leave or stay in a situation were I feared for our safety at times, and our happiness constantly. Willow Moon and I took what we could, and left quickly. We now live together in less than 100 square feet at a shelter for pregnant women and mothers. And battling life together, we try to be brave and learn what we can from each other. This is our journey to the Moon and back.
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 »