Vulnerability is Perfectly Imperfect ~ It's okay to say...

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Does saying the following phrases make you feel nervous or maybe even anxious?

  • "I don't know" 
  • "I made a mistake"
  • "I'm sorry"
  • "I need help"

It used to be such an anxiety inducing experience for me to say these phrases, but since starting therapy my thoughts and feelings with these phrases is changing, in a positive way. Now I find myself wondering: Why the struggle to say these words?

After doing some research, it appears that I'm not alone and two things keep coming up in my thoughts and in my research:

  1. Our need for perfection and the fear of imperfection ~ The above phrases can be seen as flaws, thus proving that we're not perfect, and this is a scary thought for many  
  2. Our fear of vulnerability and our need to hide how vulnerable we really are ~ Saying these phrases displays vulnerability, and this can also be scary 

Perfectly Imperfect

We're human, we're imperfect, and that's real and totally okay! Perfection is a man made illusion created to control and turn us into efficient worker bees. Aiming for perfection keeps us so busy trying to achieve it, that we never have time to question the profoundly sick system that brainwashes us in the first place. If we don't accept imperfection, we can't shift our awareness and begin to heal.

Accepting and even embracing imperfection is liberating, it allows us to be real rather than spend our time creating a facade of perfection. I'm not saying don't do your best; doing our best and trying to be perfect are two very different things. Do your best but accept that you're an imperfect being, and the real self is more valuable than an illusion of yourself.


“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.”
(Brené Brown)


Vulnerability

The same way we're conditioned to strive for perfection and to see imperfection as an undesirable feature, we are also conditioned to see vulnerability as a weakness.

But here's the thing, we are all vulnerable. We're our most vulnerable as children, but no matter how much we try to deny it, we stay vulnerable. Some of us are more vulnerable than others, and our degrees of vulnerability can vary throughout our lives, but the fact is we can't avoid vulnerability.

As children, we become acquainted with vulnerability, but it seems that as we age we become scared to display vulnerability. As life goes on, we create a bigger and bigger gap between our real vulnerable selves and the version of our selves that we portray to the world.

"Vulnerability is an act of courage because you merge with your authentic self, instead of hiding behind a facade to appease others."
(Tony Fahkry)

We don't want to be vulnerable, so we build an armor around our hearts, but our survival actually depends on us recognising and accepting that we are vulnerable. In order to have a healthy relationship with ourselves, and with others, we must acknowledge, embrace and work with (rather than against!) our vulnerability.

“What happens when people open their hearts?
...
They get better”
(Haruki Murakami)

In the words of  Brené Brown, there is power in vulnerability; “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”


"I don't know"

We're not born with a fear of saying "I don't know"; children are actually extremely happy to ask questions. But we're conditioned to be afraid of not knowing; of not being perfect, and eventually we begin to assume that we will look stupid or incompetent if we don't know something(s). That assumption can then prevent us from asking questions and from saying "I don't know", meaning we can actually stop ourselves from learning, thus keeping us less informed.

We learn as we live and experience life, so how can we expect to be born knowing it all? Even as we age and experience things, we can't experience every single thing so there is no way we will ever know everything. And trying to pretend that you know everything can be extremely stressful and exhausting. We all know plenty, but we don't know it all, and that's really okay.

Admitting that we don't know something or that we aren't sure, actually makes us more relatable and creates a space where others can be open and honest too. Before you know it, you could be exchanging information, and that exchange strengthens relationships. We can't know everything but we can be open to learning from others and from our life experiences.

However, if you never say "I don't know", then you stop others from sharing their knowledge with you. Plus, nobody likes a know it all. I'm actually wary of people who claim to know it all. I found freedom and peace in admitting that I don't know everything, and from understanding that I will forever be learning and changing. We're fluid after all, and knowledge only helps us grow.

I now try to approach "I don't know" situations as an opportunity to learn and to get curious about a new thing! I've noticed that I am much more comfortable with saying "I don't know", and it can be fun once you experience how rewarding being that honest can be.


"I made a mistake"

I think this is the one that I struggle with the most. Like many, I grew up in an environment where mistakes were frowned upon, and as a result, I always worked really hard to cover up my mistakes or to not make any in the first place; I really tried to be perfect! Perfection is impossible to achieve, and it became unbearable to live with that stress and this played a big part in my breakdown. We are imperfect and mistakes are inevitable. 

Years of therapy and self development have helped me understand that mistakes are ways to learn new things.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
(Albert Einstein)

We actually need to make mistakes! It's part of life. We can take power back by making mistakes and properly admitting it. This is healthy, as doing so can:

  • Help us release the truth and possibly even find a kind soul to help us process, accept and deal with that mistake
  • Help others by creating a space where they can also say "I made a mistake". When we're open and honest, we create a space where others can be open and honest too. Side note: This can sometimes lead to healthy communication! GASP!
  • Help those affected by that mistake, by taking responsibility and apologising for making the mistake, you are also validating the feelings of the recipients of said mistake. 

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.”
(Ralph Nader)


"I'm sorry" 

A sincere "I'm sorry" is meaningful; it can mean the world to another living being and it has the power to change lives in positive ways. Genuinely admitting that you've made a misatke, or that you've hurt or let someone down is healthy communication and shows emotional vulnerability, which is an extremely positive quality.

This is only applicable to genuine apologies though - I repeat,"genuine" - as there are many narcissists out there who love to apologise for the sake of apologising, turning their "I'm sorry" into fake and meaningless words. When we can't admit that we have made a mistake or that we have let someone else down, then we can apologise but that apology is not genuine and loses its power to do good.

Apologies don't undo the harm and make everything okay, but genuine apologies can play a big part in the healing process; it can ease the pain and validate those that need it to heal. Genuine apologies can also create space for forgiveness and for rebuilding relationships; it also shows the recipient that you value them.

Taking responsibility for making a mistake or for hurting another requires maturity, strength and humility. Plus, nobody likes a dumbass who refuses to apologise for their mistakes or harmful actions because they see themselves as too important to do so.

"Can we look at ourselves in the mirror and say that it was at least partly our fault? Can we take that responsibility?"
Genuinely saying "I'm sorry" has the power to not only help another, but it also allows you to begin releasing valid guilt and stress. I say "valid" because if you're anything like I used to be, then you end up apologising for things you shouldn't be sorry for, like taking up space which is unreasonable as well as unhealthy. And if you do that too, then it's something I recommend you work on with a good therapist.

“Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
(Brené Brown)



"I need help"

Actually, on second thought, this is the one I struggle with the most.

Many of us believe that needing help is a weakness and that if we ask for help we are imposing on others; we're a burden. As a result, we end up going out of our way to avoid looking "needy". However, we; humans, are extremely needy animals, and hiding behind a "I'm fine" and a "I can do this alone" mask can really wear you down and no good comes from it, because truth is - we can't do this thing called life alone; we need each other. 

Society has conditioned us to strive to be independent individuals, that way we don't "burden" others with our needs and we prove that we are not "weak". First of all, asking for help shows maturity and strength. Secondly, independence is a myth (I'm posting about indepdence being a myth soon) and another man made illusion to keep us running around on our own without honestly speaking to each other and without questioning the system which keeps us alone and lonely. Asking for and accepting help is essential to our survival. As is giving help to others. If we don't help each other, we are truly and utterly fucked as a species. 

We often underestimate the power of asking for help. Saying "I need help" and asking another for their input can actually strengthen our relationships. I believe that Gregg Levoy put it brilliantly:

"The refusal to ask for help is a kind of arrogance, a blind insistence on doing it all by yourself no matter what, because along with it comes the message that no one’s help is worth the price in vulnerability it will cost you, that ultimately no one can console you or ease your pain, and no one is that strong if you yourself aren’t. Such cussedness betrays a tremendous lack of faith in others, in the tensile strength of love and friendship, and in your own ability to survive embarrassment. Resourceful people, however, gather their resources and join forces."

All the toxic nonsense surrounding the need of help; whether it be asking for it or giving it, means that good help is actually hard to find. So, I say we do our best to ask for help, accept help, and help each other. Please note, this should not be confused with abusing others or letting ourselves be abused by others! Taking advantage of others or being taken advantage of is not the same as help. I think the best help comes from people who are their authentic selves and struggle, or have struggled, and overcome their own problems; they're aware of the power of asking for, accepting, and giving help, and of the power of building genuine connections. Such people have "been there, done that"; they have lived experience, which has enabled them to empathise and understand the challenges involved. 

Asking for help is not giving the responsibility to someone else, it's actually taking responsibility for your life and saying "I'm ready for change, can you help me get there?", and you may have to deal with some difficult truths once those words are said. Asking for help means you're willing to accept your vulnerability, and in some cases it means admitting that you're ready for action. If someone gives you the help you need, you then need to be ready to accept that help and to work with others to ensure that help actually makes a difference. My relationship with this phrase is healthier now, partly because I had a mental and physical breakdown and had to ask for help. Asking for help is the best decision I have ever made; I'm alive today because I asked for, looked for, and accept help. And on that note, I'll end this post with the very important words of Michele L. Sullivan:

"I would not be where I am today if it was not for my family, my friends, my colleagues, and the many strangers that help me every single day of my life. It's important we all have a support system; asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

We all need help throughout our lifetime, but it is just as important that we are part of other people's support system. We must adapt our way of giving back; we all obviously have a role to play in our own successes, but think about the role we have to play in other peoples' successes, just like peope do for me every single day.

It's vitally important that we help each other, because society is increasingly placing people in silos based on biases and ideologies. And we must look past the surface and be confronted with the truth that none of us are what you can see, there's more to us than that and we are all dealing with things that you cannot see. So, living a life free of judgement allows all of us to share those experiences together and have a totally different perspective.

So remember, the only shoes you truly can walk in are your own, I cannot walk in yours. I know you can't walk in mine. But we can do something better than that, with compassion, courage, and understanding, we can walk side by side and support one another. And think about how society can change if we all do that instead of judging on only what you can see."



In other words,

It's okay to say "I don't know"
It's okay to say "I made a mistake"
It's okay to say "I'm sorry"
It's okay to say "I need help"


Thank you for coming to this TED Talk.

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ 'Maybe this is the story I should be writing' by Ruth @ruthtoynton

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I was trying to write my story.

But the more I write the more I want to pour out. I get preoccupied with small situations and side tracked into little stories about supporting cast.

Which to be fair is the story of my life. Everyone first and my own situations and thoughts pushed aside. I've literally made myself the bottom of the list. This was always just how it was.

The by products of this was fear of making decisions and not trusting myself. Uni changed that, the ambition and the grief that comes from having so much time taken away, changed that too.

Maybe this is the story I should be writing, it's the one I'm living at the moment. 
What do we think?


Written by Ruth 
Follow Ruth on Instagram @ruthtoynton





#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth is an ongoing project/campaign/series which invites you to speak and share your truth, unapologetically. For more info click here

Do you you want to get involved? You can write a long post, a short post, an essay, a word, or even just an emoji alongside a photo, or record a video and share it using the hashtag '#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth'
OR
you can send it to me on unapologeticallyelly@gmail.com and I'll share it here.


The words expressed in #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth belong to each individual participant.

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ 'Sometimes life gets hard' by Heather @time_paused_art

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Date: 14th October 2018 


Date: Also 14th October 2018

These two photos were both taken today.

I wasn't sure about posting both - was thinking I was just going to post the happy smiling face, and not the post - tears photo...because that is nicer right? That is what people want to see, want to know...the cheerful, upbeat, fun loving, put together parts of who we are...or at least that is the impression I have been given throughout my life. And really you just have to have a quick scroll through social media sites and you will figure that one out pretty quick!

And that's totally ok...I get it...and it is great to share the good times, the happy times- I love to do that myself..but I think it is important to be cognizant of the fact that people are not always smiling, happy, laughing, & care free. Sometimes life gets hard, sometimes we struggle, sometimes we are scared, overwhelmed, sad, lonely, confused...you name it! It is real life!

We need to be real, be aware, and love on others! Don't assume or judge. None of us really knows what another soul may be going through as they smile their way through another day. I have shared this message before, and I will share it again, no doubt! Be kind always 💙 . . .  



Written by Heather 
Follow Heather on Instagram @time_paused_art



#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth is an ongoing project/campaign/series which invites you to speak and share your truth, unapologetically. For more info click here

Do you you want to get involved? You can write a long post, a short post, an essay, a word, or even just an emoji alongside a photo, or record a video and share it using the hashtag '#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth'
OR
you can send it to me on unapologeticallyelly@gmail.com and I'll share it here.


The words expressed in #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth belong to each individual participant.


#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ 'Self Care' by Amy @amysselflove

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Self Care

So with it being Mental Health Awareness day this week, it made me think about how I manage my own mental health issues

I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder back in 2014 I think it was and diagnosed with Depression back in 2010. Since 2010 I've had some pretty epic downs; I've been suicidal, I've called Samaritans about 15 times since then, I've self harmed, I've used certain 'methods' to self destruct that weren't drugs or alcohol, I've cried a LOT, I've lost who I was, had major identity crisi's and just generally been mentally unwell

I've lost friends, I've isolated, I've introverted, I've hidden away, I've closed myself off, I've detached from a lot of things including certain emotions but I've learnt about myself

Since 2014, I stepped back from my life and needed to figure out who I am, what I'm about, what I believe in, what my passions are, what I'm interested in, what I thrive on, what makes me mental illness worse

I'm still doing this in a lot of ways but I'm also a lot stronger and I know my triggers more so I DO want to get my social life back, become the girl who was the light in a room again, learn to let myself go a bit more. It's all learning

For me, self care is about learning and all the above. It's not all face masks and bubble baths. It's learning what helps you short & long term. It's understanding what to let go of in your life, it's learning WHO you are

Therapy was my favourite form of self care and I would recommend it to anyone! Seriously. I learnt so much

The main thing I have learnt is that life isn't always happy and full of positive vibes. It's messy, hard, upsetting, tough, beautiful, tragic, inspiring, hectic, harsh, kind... It's full of contradictions but we're here, guys. Living it. Be proud of that.


Written by Amy Connor
Follow Amy on Instagram  @amysselflove





#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth is an ongoing project/campaign/series which invites you to speak and share your truth, unapologetically. For more info click here

Do you you want to get involved? You can write a long post, a short post, an essay, a word, or even just an emoji alongside a photo, or record a video and share it using the hashtag '#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth'
OR
you can send it to me on unapologeticallyelly@gmail.com and I'll share it here.


The words expressed in #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth belong to each individual participant.

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ 'There are days where it’s easy, and there are days where it’s really freaking hard' by Alexandra @tealtoesxo

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There are days where it’s easy, and there are days where it’s really freaking hard; the easy days I have to take and live them to the fullest, which really just ends up wearing me down and I end up getting sick with a virus or the next endo flare starts sooner then expected, cause I bit off more then I could chew.

My endo was always at the forefront of my life to be honest, when I was growing up I would miss school, sleepovers, mall dates with friends, school dances ect ect. The fact my Adeno was so out of control I would walk from my bed to the bathroom while wearing a tampon & pad and still have blood running down my leg.

Fast forward a handful of years and 2 magical babies later; I FINALLY got a hysterectomy! I was 29 years old, we kept my left ovary though to prevent HRT; However I am still peri menopausal. It was never the pain that phased me. It wasn’t the main concern or issue I had. It was the amount I would bleed, friends telling me about their 3-5 day cycle and I was over here like “WHAT?!” 16-24 days was my “normal” so thankfully for my hysterectomy I haven’t had a bleeding cycle in almost 2 years; and the first time in my life I am not anemic. To be completely honest, my endo effected me but it never EFFECTED me. If that makes sense, I guess because I was so used to it, it was just normal.

That was up until about a year ago; a year ago I started having some really odd symptoms happen. Like everything else I started to track it and the symptoms were 28 days apart....so it was something hormonal. What I wasn’t prepared for was the approval of my suspicion of endo coming back, yet this time it’s on my lungs and diaphragm. As we all know, endo effects 1 in 10 women. TE endo effects 0.6-1.2% of the 10%. When I figured it out and had my specalist agree with my suspicion, refer me to a nook dr who wasn’t even taking patients, and I got an apt within 3.5 months; that’s when I started to take this disease seriously. It’s now come back to effecting my everyday life.

It was a great 2 years of no periods and little pain...but here we go again on this next journey 💛



Written by Alexandra Mackenzie
Follow Alexandra on Instagram @tealtoesxo.



#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth is an ongoing project/campaign/series which invites you to speak and share your truth, unapologetically. For more info click here

Do you you want to get involved? You can write a long post, a short post, an essay, a word, or even just an emoji alongside a photo, or record a video and share it using the hashtag '#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth'
OR
you can send it to me on unapologeticallyelly@gmail.com and I'll share it here.


The words expressed in #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth belong to each individual participant.

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ 'Schizophrenia Deconstructed' by Sara @sara_yk_

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Schizophrenia Deconstructed

On June 26th, 2013, after being cured of 35 years of suffering from schizophrenia, I left my apartment wearing my new custom-made t-shirt that boldly declared “I Beat Schizophrenia” on the front. I then went to the local print shop to print out a business card sized photo I had made stating that I was no longer insane. I walked proudly up to the clerk and asked her to laminate it for me.

“That is true, you know” I told her, smiling. Her face figured itself into a look of uncomfortable fear. She remained silent as she performed the task. I was oblivious to her discomfort as I paid for the service.

I went about my day, joyfully enjoying my freedom, reveling in my newfound sense ability. The whole world was a new place for me now that I could see, hear, and think without the constant interference of hallucinations and delusions. I walked around Milwaukee’s east side casually enjoying the small shops, stopping for a coffee, and walking by the lakefront. After a few hours, however, I did become aware of people staring at me. I noticed the aura of space that I was given, the odd looks, and the strange confusion in anyone I interacted with. It began to roll through me that there was no context in the culture of psychiatry in the United States for someone being cured from a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia.


After a few weeks it became clear to me the very real confusion, misunderstanding, and complete lack of comprehension that I faced as a person claiming to have been cured of psychosis. Being a schizophrenic claiming to no longer suffer from schizophrenia only made me seem more schizophrenic due to the current culture of  psychiatry. I was drowning in the fact that the stigma of being psychiatrically disabled would not cease so easily with a t-shirt and a self-made sanity card. I suffered heavily from survivor guilt after seeing a schizophrenic man talking to himself on the bus. I couldn’t escape the injustice. I became despondent, isolated, frightened and sad.


Desperately Seeking Sanity

In late 2012, I was suffering horribly from hallucinations, auditory and visual, as well as dangerous delusions that usually involved taking my own life in order to appease the voices. I had resisted taking daily antipsychotics and multiple offers from psychiatrists for electroconvulsive therapy. During this time, I was on a desperate search to find a different way to manage schizophrenia. I read many books, and researched everything I could about the history of mental illness, the birth of diagnosis, mental illness in other parts of the world, and the rise of pharmaceuticals until I came across the work of Dr. Abram Hoffer. He was a psychiatrist in the 1950’s who began treating schizophrenia, severe alcoholism, and other psychotic conditions with large doses of niacin. His work was pushed out as Haldol and other antipsychotics became available. At this time I had nothing to lose, so I set out trying to find a doctor who would facilitate Dr. Hoffer’s treatment.

After much searching I found a small, local clinic with a doctor who was willing to treat me with niacin. Dr. Fox was kind and willing. It was incredibly fortunate that I found a physician who was familiar with Dr. Hoffer and orthomolecular therapy. We began treatment. I was told to prepare for a 6-month period of serious detoxification in which I would become very ill. Within the first month my symptoms began to fall away, one after another, like a building collapsing in on itself. First the auditory hallucinations vanished. I was astounded at how incredibly loud the world was without the constant interference of the voices and white noise. Then the visual hallucinations went. I experienced severe vertigo as my eyes adjusted to never having seen accurate depth perception before. The physical illness also began to set in hard. Nausea, sweats, pain, weakness… the fact that I was experiencing such progress kept me going.

The delusions were the last to go. When thinking of how the senses and the brain process information, it all made too much sense. The delusions were built around faulty sensory input via the auditory and visual hallucinations. The brain naturally creates a narrative reality to explain what is being experienced through the senses. Once there was no erroneous input for my brain to interpret, there was no need for the delusions. My progress was undeniable and beyond anything I expected from any kind of treatment for schizophrenia. As we neared the 6-month marker for the detoxification to be complete, Dr Fox asked me if I was willing to talk about my experience with niacin treatment and be a case study that he could present to colleagues in the field.

At that time, I declined. I was free from the suffering that had haunted me my whole life. I was finally free. I was not eager to be held up in front of the same psychiatrists that had prescribed me dangerous medications and wanted to subject me to electroconvulsive therapy. I was not a science project for them to gawk at. I am a human. I wanted my life, symptom-free, I wanted a fresh start, and I wanted to experience everything I could with my newfound freedom.

The way I was viewed and treated when I got my freedom and stepped back out into society is what made me rethink my decision to share this amazing gift of real health. Not for doctors, not for psychiatrists, not for a research paper, but for others like me. Telling my story as a patient is an act of empowerment. I would not give that power back to the system of psychiatry so easily. I decided that if I were to tell my story, I would tell it my way, from my perspective, and it would exude passion, authenticity, emotion, and humanity. If there is anything that the current industry of psychiatry is in dire need of, it is a large injection of humanity. This is how I came to create my presentation Schizophrenia Deconstructed (see video below).


The History

I began hallucinating at a very young age. I can remember hearing voices and seeing my toys move by the age of five. I suffered severe early childhood trauma, including my mother attempting suicide when she was seven months pregnant with me. Her version of the story is that I kicked her from inside her belly just as she was about to slit her wrists. She always says that I saved her life. My version of the story is that at that moment I became a fighter, destined to survive. Once I was about 3 years old, my mother and I were in a stable home, but the abuse continued until I was 8 years old. I will not retraumatize myself by going into details. I do believe schizophrenia became my way of coping with my reality.

My parents have told me stories of my absolute hysteria when they would try to tell me that there were no voices, and that my stuffed animals were inanimate. I remember my father trying to calm me down by telling me there were no monsters in the closet. I replied to him that I wasn’t afraid of monsters, I was afraid of the people living in the sink, the walls, and climbing on the roof. I was born in 1977, so ADD and autism hadn’t been invented yet. I was considered a very odd child. I tested off the charts on most standardized tests so my teachers in school left me alone to do my advanced work. I didn’t have many friends and lived in my own world of terror and confusion. I had my first suicidal ideation at age 9. I was taken to emergency rooms with fits of temporary blindness. At age 11, I ended up in a psychiatrist’s office. I very quickly sensed the societal dangers of being so different and I very quickly learned to lie to doctors.

Adolescence was a painful and lonely time. My hallucinations and delusions became more terrifying. I began to self harm (not to be confused with cutting behavior) in order to invoke endorphins to obtain some relief from the chaos of my senses. At the age of 16 I attempted suicide for the first time. I took a lethal dose of painkillers and tricyclic antidepressants. I still was not admitting to anyone that I heard voices or had strange or frightening thoughts.

Adulthood proved to be more challenging in maintaining my ruse and I was caught in a full-blown psychotic episode. I was diagnosed with just about everything — bi-polar 1, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, schizo affective disorder — and I was told I was severely mentally ill. By age 19 I was on social security disability and fully took on the identity of an insane person with no hope for a future. I was also prescribed many, many medications. I ended up in the system at Milwaukee County Mental Health. I was drugged against my will, I was put in restraints multiple times, I was treated like an animal, and I was threatened with electroconvulsive therapy.

At age 21, I was put on stipulations, which means I was court-ordered to take my meds and serve three months inpatient at County. Two days before I was to show up for my sentence, I fled the state of Wisconsin. I was terrified I would be forced to partake in ECT. I waited out my time and returned home. I escaped the system, I took myself off most of my medications, and at this time, I decided to try to make a life for myself away from the walls of County, as well as the walls of my diagnosis. I practiced diligent self care, stayed in therapy, and went to college. I was a successful student, I began working in social work at youth shelters and began my master’s degree in counseling psychology.

I have been called a “high functioning” schizophrenic. I completely reject that notion. I lied extensively to protect myself and my career. I am also a white woman with benign features and the ability to speak. Language is a gift that not all people afflicted with schizophrenia have. We live in a racist, ableist society, and I used my privilege as a shield. Schizophrenia is a horrendous illness that does not discriminate in severity. With factors such as race, discrimination and ability at play there is no way to measure true potential except by a grand void of loss. I used my intelligence to hide my illness and become an adequate con artist so as to not end up back at County. There is no place in my story for “high functioning,” there is only fear of getting caught. I worked with children. I was training to be a therapist. I was excelling in every area of my program and precociously fighting for a “normal” life. Living in such fear was a destructive, shameful, self-harming lifestyle. I’m not “high functioning.” I was surviving with the tools I had.

In 2011, I was outed to my grad program by another student. The student worked as a receptionist in a mental hospital I stayed in over winter break. I did successfully file a HIPPA complaint, but the damage was done. The repercussions of that incident were swift and within six months I was barred from completing my degree.


Transformation

The aftermath of being discriminated against by a university is what led to a severe decline in my mental health and my voracious search for answers. I found what I was looking for. I found Dr. Fox, and I also found I had to face myself. After being free of all hallucinations and delusions I then embarked on a therapeutic journey to treat the underlying trauma that schizophrenia so capably protected me from.

Most of my most severe delusions involved saving children. There were babies in garbage cans, children stuck under cars, in walls, crying to me from vents and sewers. Then the code breaking would begin. I had power in my hallucinations to save those children. I had signs, colors, letters, patterns, and voices to guide me. Once I was cured of my sensory malfunctions, that power was gone. There were no magic codes to break and that child was me. I was fortunate to work with a therapist from the local VA. My PTSD assessment clocked in at what the VA team sees with returning combat vets. I suffered from nightmares, sleep disturbances that included harming myself in my sleep, feelings of not being real, detachment, rage, and endless mood swings. Niacin treatment is not a quick fix and it is pertinent to address the underlying trauma. The only time I wished for my hallucinations back was while unpacking the nightmare of my life without the maladaptive protection of delusions that I was used to. All my motivations for behavior suddenly changed, and I had to reconstruct myself, my identity, and learn to finally heal from lifelong trauma. It was a delicate yet beautiful time. I will always strive to maintain my mental health, as every human being must do. As I look back on my story and how I got to BE, I am eternally grateful to be alive.

Then, with the support of Dr Fox, I created Schizophrenia Deconstructed. I am proof that the paradigm of the industry of psychiatry must be shifted. I stand tall as that proof for others who suffer from schizophrenia. We have presented the show several times for practitioners in the mental health fields, and have received validating reviews. As I say in my performance: I don’t have all the answers. I am here to challenge what you think you know about mental illness. The ignorance we have been fed is our only enemy. It is time to expand our views of how we treat emotional distress and psychiatric disability. We only have to step through the doorway. My story is not a miracle story, it is a story of blindness, ignorance, and dangerous science within the industry of psychiatry. I am fighting with every ounce of my soul to be a part of the paradigm shift that is so desperately needed. Variation equals evolution, and to deny that is to deny the advancement of the human race.



Article written by Sara Yelich-Koth Originally posted on Mad in America - Science, Psychiatry and Social Justice
"Sara Yelich-Koth is a writer, speaker, social worker and mental illness advocate. She created Schizophrenia Deconstructed as a presentation in 2014. She also wrote an autobiography about schizophrenia. Sara has a degree in philosophy and studied master’s level counseling psychology."

Follow Sara on Facebook @saraykemotionalsustainability and on Instagram @sara_yk_



#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth is an ongoing project/campaign/series which invites you to speak and share your truth, unapologetically. For more info click here

Do you you want to get involved? You can write a long post, a short post, an essay, a word, or even just an emoji alongside a photo, or record a video and share it using the hashtag '#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth'
OR
you can send it to me on unapologeticallyelly@gmail.com and I'll share it here.


The words expressed in #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth belong to each individual participant.

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ 'I’m young and I’m chronically unwell but I am living my life' by Lauren @endobunny

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Living with multiple chronic illnesses is hard. It is SO damn hard. As if the physical symptoms weren’t enough, your emotions are effects too.

There are days when I feel so down and sad about my health, the future or even going through treatments. There are days when I feel anxious about what’s going to happen next, going out to social events or having invasive procedures.

But then there are the days where I feel happy and overjoyed because I have accepted that if this is meant to be my life and my path to go down, then I’m going to make the most of it. I don’t care what other people think of me or how they judge me. I am no longer forcing myself to explain, reason and justify anything to them.

I’m Lauren, I’m young and I’m chronically unwell but I am living my life. I am raising awareness to show people what it’s really like.


Written by Lauren Tugwell 
Follow Lauren on Instagram: @endobunny where she shares what it’s like living with multiple, invisible chronic illnesses. You can also read more by Lauren on www.endobunny.wordpress.com

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth is an ongoing project/campaign/series which invites you to speak and share your truth, unapologetically. For more info click here

Do you you want to get involved? You can write a long post, a short post, an essay, a word, or even just an emoji alongside a photo, or record a video and share it using the hashtag '#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth'
OR
you can send it to me on unapologeticallyelly@gmail.com and I'll share it here.


The words expressed in #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth belong to each individual participant.

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth - 'Speaking our truth is part of self-care' by Elly @unapologeticallyelly

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It's #WorldMentalHealthDay peeps. And I'm gonna start by saying that you can speak truthfully about your mental health today, and every damn day.

For most of my life, I went out of my way to hide, suppress, ignore and dismiss my truth in order to "fit in" with a profoundly sick society, and this was so harmful.

#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ What's Your Story?

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I'm starting a thing! An ongoing project! A campaign! A series! Or all of the above? Call it what you like.

I've been a big fan of the hashtag 'Speak Your Truth' on Instagram for a while now, and since I came across '#SpeakYourTruth' I have used it in everything I share. Those three words have really inspired me and pushed me to keep speaking and sharing my truth. It's made me more open and honest, and more aware of what's real to me. The hashtag currently has 135k posts! So, my conclusion is: I am not the only one who is a fan.

Unfortunately, often we don't even think to speak our truth or of how important it is to do so. We usually just go about life, rushing and floating busily, without really thinking. Some of us even go out of our way to hide, suppress, ignore and dismiss our truth in order to "fit in" with a profoundly sick society, and this is so harmful. I am guilty of doing this; I silenced myself and dismissed my truth for most of my life, and it wasn't until I broke down and was forced to face it that I realised how powerful speaking my truth is, and that it's important to do it unapologetically too. What I mean by this is that we should share our truth without apologising for doing so. For a while, I found myself saying "I'm really struggling with my mental health at the moment" followed by "Oh god, I'm sorry" I was actually apologising for being honest about my reality. We shouldn't feel that who we are and what we are going through is so wrong that we have to apologise for it ~ it's kinda like saying sorry for just being me and taking up space. This is why I like the word "unapologetic" ~ it's a powerful word, and I believe we should embrace it. Be unapologetic in existing and taking up space. Be unapologetic in speaking your truth.

"In a time of universal deceit...telling the truth is a revolutionary act"
(George Orwell) 

Speaking our truth is so so important; it is empowering and can lead to wonderful beginnings. It's the foundation of a healthy life, and it can often lead to a "me too!" Our truth then becomes a shared experience; a reminder that we're not alone and that actually, we are part of a community of "me too's".

The above has inspired me to start this little project/ campaign / series / whatevs you wan to call it, babes.


The project/campaign/series: #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth 

Every time I share a truth of mine on my social media channels, I'm going to add the hashtag #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth and also share it on my blog www.unapologeticallyelly.com

I'd love it if you could get involved. I would like to invite you to speak your truth too; you can join me and take part by speaking your truth with the hashtag #UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth. You can get involved by writing a long post, a short post, an essay, a sentence, a word, or even just an emoji alongside a photo, or you can record a video, and either:

1) Share it wherever you want ~ on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube. Whatever you are comfortable with.

OR

2) Send it to me via private message or email.

However you get it to me, I'll then share your post on www.unapologeticallyelly.com and on my social media channels.

If you post, please use the hashtag '#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth' and tag me so I can see it. Tag me, send me a private message or email me with your truth via the following:


Please note, I will only share your words if you have given me permission to do so ~ once I've seen your post, I'll message you directly to ask if you consent ~ if you want to be the only one to share your truth, that's okay too. You don't have to agree to me sharing it also. On the other hand, if you don't want to post yourself but you'd like for it to be shared, you can also message or email me and I'll share it. Just let the truth out!

Tag others too so everyone can get involved!

Thank you for being here.

Eek! x


#UnapologeticallySpeakingMyTruth ~ What's your story?



Monthly Reflections 2018: Goodbye September, Hello October

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Looking back over September, and forwards to October:


I AM...PROUD OF

I'm super proud of how I've been managing my health. I'm doing well with following the endometriosis diet, with therapy, with emotional regulation, with processing emotions and feelings and thoughts, and events. I'm loving doing regular exercise, and I'm slowly (rather than rushing!) figuring out what I want. I'm prioritising self-care and my health, and damn, I've never been so proud of myself. I'm prouder of this than I am of graduating with an honours degree. True story. 

I'm also proud of myself for finally returning to my beautiful blog, and for getting started on writing my memoir. A book. About my life. The good, the bad, the ugly and the healing. And I'm so proud of myself to have started this process, I've been wanting to do this for years and now, I've finally started. This is where I begin.


I AM...LETTING GO OF

The need to fit in with society and do what society expects of me. I'm doing me from now on, and working on not letting societal pressures take over my life. This is something that has been coming up a lot for me lately; the need to be like everyone else. I must add that, I will always be working on letting go of this wish to fit in; we're programmed, from birth, to fit in, so I know it'll take some time, but I'm aware and I'm working on it.






* CARE * Whilst waiting for my weekly therapy session yesterday, this quote popped up on my Pinterest ~ "After years of trouble making - drug taking & experimenting with every part of my life. It seems the most radical thing you can do today is care for yourself & other people!"  (Judy Blame) Ain't that the truth!? Tell people you're doing therapy and they look at you like you're crazy. Tell people you're not drinking alcohol and it's like "Waaahhhh!?" Tell people you're on a special diet and no longer eat gluten, dairy, soya etc because it makes your endometriosis worse, and you're seen as difficult. Tell people you're usually passed out by 10pm every day, and you're seen as boring. When you no longer do what society regards as "normal", you're radical. Stop to chat with the man living on the street and you get looks from the general public. Tell people you're on antidepressants & antipsychotics, and they look scared. Tell people you're focusing on your health and not focusing on career, making more money, buying a house, getting married, or having kids, and you're seen as a tad weird. When I worked, studied and partied hard day & night, failed to eat properly, drank every day, lived with my abusive partner - Nobody looked at me differently. I was doing what society regarded as "normal". Then I broke down and was forced to live differently; to pause and take care of myself, and society made me feel like a failure. When did looking after ourselves & others become a rebellious act? It's a basic necessity. How did we get here? 🖤 #me #selfie #thoughts #selfcare #health #emotional #selfdiscovery #society #love #like #live #life #different #words #normal #sober #mentalhealth #therapy #beautiful #photooftheday #picoftheday #girl #crazy #mad #woman #invisibleillness #pressure #rebellious #fucksociety #speakyourtruth
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Also letting go of the need to say yes to please others! Fuck that noise. If it's not good for my heart, body, mind and soul, then it's a no from me. Even if I just feel like saying no, it's a no from me. There is power in saying no. There is power in being selective about what you let into your life and what you spend your energy on. Your time is valuable. If it's a no from you too, say it!


I AM...GRATEFUL FOR

The women in my life. I wouldn't be here without them. From my support worker, to my therapist, to my mum, to my best friends, to the inspirational women I follow on social media, to the female authors that inspire me to keep writing my story, to Dr Christine Blasey Ford for sharing her sexual abuse story with the world this week.

"You're not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage."

(Alex Elle) 

In the last 30 days, I've also felt grateful for:

  • The sun shining through my window in the morning
  • Finding beauty in every moment
  • For being a passionate individual
  • Walking around beautiful London 
  • Feeling more stable 
  • Being able to witness my brother's emotional growth
  • Surviving
  • Being such a sensitive person 


I AM...INSPIRED BY

Frida Kahlo. Like most people I have always been interested in Frida's work and words, but it wasn't until now ~ and learning a lot more about her ~  that I felt so inspired by her. This post I shared on instagram last month properly summarises how I feel about this incredible woman.





* WHAT A WOMAN * We got to experience the Frida Kahlo exhibition "Making Her Self Up" at the V&A this weekend, and it was beautiful. And emotional. What inspires me most about Frida, is that she was very vocal about her beliefs, her morals, her feelings, through her art, her words, her relationships and her style. Her whole life was a statement. I used to be so silent about the important things, I silenced myself to make others comfortable. And that's something that took a lot of work and time for me to change. Reading about Frida and being in the presence of her art, photos and beloved belongings, reminds me to always be vocal. To never be silenced again. Frida inspires me to speak up and take up space, and to always stand by my values & beliefs, no matter what others think of me. All she wanted to be was herself and she didn't care what others thought of her. I think that's such a beautiful fuck you to a sick society. 💃 #frida #fridakahlo #woman #power #identity #makingherselfup #v&a #art #inspiration #love #life #live #strong #beautiful #queer #femme #communist #unique #beauty #magic #real #human #humpday #words #wise #emotional #sensitive #speakyourtruth #feel #london
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Rachael Bland has inspired me to own and keep sharing my story. Rachael was a journalist and presenter for BBC Radio 5 Live. That's not how I found out about Rachael though, I found Rachael through the 'You, Me and the Big C' podcast. She was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2016, and following on from her diagnosis, she created this awesome podcast with two other fabulous ladies, who also have or have had cancer.

Rachael @bigclittleme, alongside her co-hosts Deborah James @bowelbabe and Lauren Mahon @girlvscancer, talk about life with cancer. I don't have cancer but I can reallly relate to a lot of what these ladies talk about; they're women in their 30's and 40's talking openly & honestly about going through a really tough time, but still trying to laugh along the way. And well, same here! They not only share their stories, but they also talk about loved ones, money, body, love, sex, pain, death, and the positives of living with a serious illness. YES; there are positives! It's really a wonderful listen and I highly recommend it ~ check it out by clicking here.

Rachael sadly died by cancer in September, but her legacy is going strong. She's done so much to raise awareness and give hope to others. And I want to do the same with mental health and endometriosis. And I'm so grateful to her for starting this podcast and reminding me that I'm not alone in my struggles; there are many women out there going through some tough shit and well, we're badass. Thank you Rachael.




I AM...ENJOYING

Music: I'm currently obsessed with 'Dakota' by Stereophonics, and 'Never Mind' by Dennis Lloyd.

Podcast(s): I've been listening to the 'You, Me and the Big C' podcast for a while now, I'm particularly loving the 'About Death' episode. This podcast makes me think of a beautiful book called 'The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying'. It's a good 'un. One thing that's guaranteed in life is that we are going to die one day, why do we avoid talking about it so much? Personally, I think it's time we start making friends with death, so that we can live a better life.

Another podcast I'm loving at the moment is 'Kalki presents: My Indian Life'. In this podcast, Kalki Koechlin and guests share their personal stories of what life is like for young Indian adults in the 21st century.

I only recently discovered this podcast, but I've already devoured all the available episodes.  It covers extremely important topics, such as gender inequality, body positivity, transsexuality, child abuse, sexual and physical abuse, identity, class, sex, and more. I've found it inspiring and uplifting, but it can get quite raw, heavy and emotional, so please please do tread carefully. I listened to it over a few days and did take breaks when the conversation got too upsetting. Consider this a recommendation with a trigger warning, and please be kind to you.

This month I also enjoyed Episode #53 of the Goodness Chick's podcast ~ "When We Learn The Value Of Silence And The Awesomeness Of Our Potential." In this episode, Erin Lawler Patterson talks to someone I love and who inspires me daily, my dear friend and co-warrior, Dominique de Marné. They talk mental health, the power of silence, labels, finding comfort within ourselves, changes, life! Need I say more?!


Book(s): 'Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder' by Rachel ReilandThis book is the author's story about life with Borderline Personality Disorder, and as a fellow woman with Borderline Personality Disorder, well, this is a special book for me. And as I am now working on my memoir, I thought it would be a great idea to return to Rachel's words.


Words: Laura Jane on saying 'no' ~ I needed this article this month. A much needed reminder on the power of saying no. I've always been a "I must say yes and please everyone" kinda person. I have been working on using the word 'no' for a couple of years now, but it's still a struggle and a reminder like this article by Laura Jane Williams is always a yes from me!

"Lately I’m less Fear of Missing Out – FOMO – and more JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out. It’s not that I want to engage with the adventure of my life any less than I did before. It’s more that I say no so that my “yes” actually means something. My yes has to be earned. My yes has value."
(Laura Jane Williams)


WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?

I've learned (and continue to learn) that there is so much power in listening to my intuition. I'm trying to connect more with my intuition and my inner power; it's there and I'm aware of it, but I need to work on turning up its' volume. My intuition needs to be louder than my programmed need to fit in to society.

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to profoundly sick society"
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)


MANTRA(S) FOR OCTOBER


"It's ok to live a life others don't understand"
(Jenna Woginrich)


"Trust that your inner-knowing is leading you in the right direction. The best is yet to come"


"Detach from needing things to work out a certain way. The universe is perfect and there are no failures. Give yourself the gift of detaching from your worries and trust that everything is happening perfectly"




See you next month! x
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