A Gift With Strings Attached

I have been pretty sick for the last five days, so I haven’t had to to check in here and talk about the wonderful thing that happened to me last week. I was in therapy a few weeks ago and I had told my therapist that I used to play guitar and piano. I was forced to sell all of my instruments when I was homeless last year. I talked about how heart broken I was, that was truly the most difficult part about being homeless was parting with my two guitars that I had owned since I was a teenager. Last week during our session she presented me with a mid 1980’s BC Rich Warlock electric guitar. She told me that it had belonged to her son who had passed away recently. Rather than selling the guitar for a profit, she said that her son would have wanted it to go to someone who would enjoy it. When I told he my story, she decided I was the perfect recipient.

I am stunned by her generosity, and am glad that she entrusted me with something that her son loved so dearly. It feels so good to have an instrument in my hands again, it had been far too long since I have played. I have forgotten a lot of what I used to know how to play, so I just sit for hours at a time, just trying to find the notes, and playing whatever comes out. I am so happy to have another outlet to express my feelings. The guitar feels as if it is a part of me already.

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My Story Continues

The last couple of years has been a tsunami of addiction, mental illness, homelessness, and heartbreak. I have been through things that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. It seems completely implausible, yet I am still here today; fighting the fight. I recently read an article about  Project Semicolon which was formed with the vision of helping people struggling with addiction, depression, self harm, and suicide. The symbol they have chosen to associate with their cause is a tattoo of a semicolon.  The semicolon ( ; )  is a punctuation mark that the author uses when they could have ended a sentence and chose not to. As founder Amy Bluel put it: the author is you, the sentence is your life; the semicolon represents your decision to carry on.

Today I got my own tattoo as a reminder that my life isn’t over; my story continues.

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All Hell Breaks Loose -***TRIGGER WARNING***

The voices have turned.

They are getting nastier and harder to ignore. It’s only a matter of time before I am in the hospital or jail. New ones broke through the muck this morning, telling me to slit the throat of the person in front of me. Of course I would never do something like that, but they were louder and more instant. I got off the bus and screamed at some trees, trying to out shout the voices. they seemed like they were gone so I went into work. They started coming back. I was fighting them off, trying to make them stop, telling myself I could not and would not do what they were telling me. I kept saying it, yet I found myself in the kitchen at work, trying to determine which knife was the sharpest. I sat down at a table, and punched myself in the thigh as hard as I could about twenty times. I stabbed myself with a pen, and scrawled the word “pain” across my forearm.

They have receded, quieter than this morning, but still there. I’m scared, I don’t know if I should be alone, but I don’t know if I should be around people either.

Today 

Today I will not hide my disability. 

Today I will not mask the involuntary arm and leg movements. 

Today I will not try to stifle the random words that pop into my mouth at in opportune moments. 

Today I will not hide the facial tics. 

Today I will not hide my scars. 

Today I will not hide my anxiety. 

Today I will not hide my mental illness. 

Today I will not pretend that everything is okay just to make those around me more comfortable. 

Today I will let the world see the ugliness that is my everyday life. 

Today I will let the world see the ugliness that is me. 

After The Hurricane

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We often describe times of emotional turmoil as storms. If we embrace this analogy, the last 18 months of my life have been a Category 5 Hurricane. The damage is widespread and catastrophic. The air is still, but has a feeling of instability about it. If the conditions are just right another one could come at any time. Lives have been altered forever. It could take months, perhaps years to completely assess the totality of the damage caused by the volatile system that is my mental illness.

Aside from a couple of really bad days, my mental health has been more stable in the last six to eight weeks than it has been in a couple of years. The suicidal thoughts have gone away, the voices have faded into the background. The compulsion to self harm, which has been front and center for the better part of two years has subsided. I have run a razor across my flesh just once in the last eight weeks, a remarkable turn around from it was a nearly daily occurrence. I have hundreds of scars on my left forearm, which to me feels like a warning siren, directing all others to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible, lest they get caught in the hurricane themselves.

As I emerge from the storm cellar and scan the horizon, there is debris everywhere. The wreckage is unfathomable; a once stable and familiar landscape shattered into a billon unrecognizable pieces. As cleanup begins, there is the realization that things have been ineradicably changed. It might be possible to build a reasonable facsimile of what was once was there, but things will never be the same.

I stand and look at what once was the foundation of everything… love; and see a gaping hole. Two partners who got to see parts of me that I had never shared before hate me and want nothing to with me. The most rewarding and fulfilling job I have ever had… being a parent has been stripped away. Three children whom I adored and would have killed or died for, are gone from my life forever; their parents not allowing me to have any contact whatsoever. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to any of them.

My career has been irreversibly damaged. The thunderstorms and lightening that preceded the hurricane burned it to the ground. I am not hirable in my previous field. Forced to seek something different just so I can survive, I now earn less than I did fifteen years ago.

All is not lost though. Like a lighthouse surviving the worst of the storm surge and acting as a beacon for the ships lost in the storm, friendship remains. Friends near and far have helped me survive the hurricane, providing food, shelter, guidance, support, and a shoulder to cry on. Standing beside me when the storm was too violent to see them, they are my rock.

The hurricane it seems, is over for now. The time to clean up and rebuild has come. I climb out of the dark hole, the proverbial storm cellar, close my eyes and take a deep breath, feeling the sun shine upon me. Rebuilding won’t be easy, the wreckage is so widespread I don’t even know where to begin. Hopefully I can build the walls a little bit thicker, a little but stronger, so I have a better chance of surviving the next storm. Like a hurricane, my mental health wreaking havoc over an unsuspecting populous is not a question of if, it is a question of when.

Another Relapse – 07/21/15

Other than my anxiety level being at a constant 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 my mental health has been pretty good for the last 6 weeks of so.  I had gone over a month without self harming, without voices and without constant, unbearable physical pain…

Until last night.

Last night the voices and physical pain came back with a vengeance. I was getting shots of pain all over my body. The voices were screaming in my ear; I could feel them breathing on me. Something  I couldn’t see enveloped my body. I laid on the floor curled up in a ball in the dark for a few hours. The urges started coming back. I could picture the blood running down my arm, I could feel the sting of the blade. I couldn’t resist anymore, I picked up my box cutter and ran it across my forearm seven times. It felt like all that was wrong, the pain, the anxiety leaving my body through the cuts, like steam rising after cutting into a baked potato.  I could feel whatever was holding me let go and I felt my body hitting the floor with a loud thud, even though I was already on the floor.

I laid on the floor, wedged between the sofa and the coffee table, letting the blood flow from my arm onto my stomach. I stayed there maybe 20 or 30 minutes, letting the voices escape one by one. When the last one left my body I felt a chill, I had goose bumps and the hair stood up on my arm. I stood up, cleaned up the blood and bandaged my wounds and went to bed. Today I feel drained, as if all of my energy was taken away from me. I look at the scars and realized that I have to start all over again from day one.