Posted in bpd, coping, diagnosis, mental health, stigma

Being Invisibly Ill

I deal with 14 invisible illnesses every day. If you saw me on the street, I wouldn’t look sick. I wouldn’t look disabled. My illnesses are internal. Because of this, I often deal with the fear that I won’t be believed when I call in sick to work or cancel plans. In my past, there was a myriad of situations where I was made out to be exaggerating or lying. I once had a mentor say to me: “It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s just that I don’t believe you anymore.” There were a couple times I was admitted to the psych ward for suicidal thoughts/ attempts, and either my support group or even DOCTORS would doubt my suicide attempts as being real. As a result, I tend to overexplain everything (often to the annoyance of whoever I’m talking to). I sweat the little things and feel like I have to defend everything that comes out of my mouth as truth.

So when it comes to my illnesses, the same fears apply. Mentally I struggle. I’m either manic or depressed because of my bipolar. My emotions are four times as strong because of my borderline. I’m obsessed with the fear of harm coming to myself or others (OCD). I worry about everything (anxiety). I avoid and restrict what I ear (eating disorders). I live in a near chronic state of feeling traumatized (PTSD). My head is always spinning. My stomach is paralyzed, so I’m on a strict diet and am currently malnourished (despite being ~200 lbs, so I don’t look like it). This basically makes me feel like I’ve come down with a bad case of the flu 24/7. I suffer from chronic pain in many places, sensory processing issues, cysts on my ovaries and pre-diabetes. With these things and everything else I have going on, there is never a day that I feel like healthy. It is almost impossible for me to participate in everyday life activities. When I work a 3-hour shift (the maximum amount I can work per day as determined by doctors), it feels like I worked a 9-hour shift (which I used to do before I got sick). I can barely get out of bed for the rest of the day. Laundry is a daunting task that I usually have to span over multiple days by washing on one day, drying on another day, folding and putting away over the next few days. I’m lucky if I can shower once a week. The pain builds when I cook food to the point where I’m in too much pain to eat what I cooked, and have to stick it in the fridge for later. Same goes for grocery shopping. I usually do it late at night so I can sleep off the pain after completing the task. I’m sick, and it rules my life.

I do my best to live life to the fullest despite being sick. I carefully plan out my week so I have at least 2 days a week where I don’t have any commitments, so I can lay in bed all day and recuperate. I’ll watch TV, write stuff on my laptop, play video games or read a book. I light a candle, use baby wipes to keep myself clean and drink lots of water. I know that if I work, I won’t be able to do anything for the rest of the day. I try to plan fun activities, like board games with friends, after a doctor appointment that might be difficult. I call friends and talk to them on my days I’m stuck in bed. I do my best to be happy.

Even with all of this, I still struggle with the fear of not being believed. I loathe calling in sick at work, in part because I love my job and hate missing it, but also because I’m scared my coworkers won’t understand. Recently all three managers were sick with chills, fever, cough, etc. but they all still came into work. I felt especially useless calling into work sick during that time. I felt like a wimp because they were toughing out their sickness for work, while I wasn’t. Images flashed through my head of them complaining about me being weak. It was a challenge for me to remind myself that their sickness was different than my sickness.

Living with any illness, visible or not, temporary or chronic, is a challenge. The flu is a marathon. Chronic illness is like eternal back-to-back marathons. Not having anything visible to identify to strangers that I’m sick is a struggle that I deal with every day. I’m constantly trying to prove to my coworkers that I’m sick (even though they are lovely and don’t actually need proof). Having a medical ID bracelet is helpful for me beyond just the practical use for first responders. It helps me feel validated, and it’s visible proof that I’m sick. I feel validated when I look at it. I deal with invisible illness every day, and I learn something new every day. It’s a challenge, but it’s my challenge.

Posted in Anxiety, mental health, Uncategorized

My Biggest Fear

As each day passes that I’m battling all my mental and chronic illnesses, the more I feel convinced that I’m never going to find a partner. Each night I sit with a cold wash cloth on my head while on the bathroom floor puking my guts out, the only question in my mind is “why would someone sign up for this?” As I sit in the hospital for hours hooked up to an IV pole every week I wonder “who would willingly get to know me as a potential date with IV scars all over her hands?” Or “Someone who wakes up sweaty and screaming from nightmares?” … “Someone who takes lots of medication and has multiple doctors appointments every week?” I’m not looking for someone to “save me”and I’m sure as hell not looking for a caretaker… I’m just looking for someone who will be there on my good days, but also on my bad days. I want a best friend who will make me laugh when I’m sad and be there when I need to scream and cry. Someone who will go on adventures with me on the good days. And even the not-so-good days. I’m just scared that being my partner is asking too much. And I’ll be all alone. I know there are people who stick by their partner when they become sick… but what happens when someone’s sick before the partner is in the picture? I’m so scared I’ll be dismissed before I even get a chance to say “hi!” I’m so much more than my illnesses. My whole life I’ve been paranoid that the people who love me secretly see me as a “project” or as something to make them feel better about themselves. I mean, who doesn’t love the saint who supports the sick girl? I’m scared that if I recover, they’ll leave cuz they succeeded, but if I don’t recover, they will see that their “project” is a failure and take off anyways. So even IF I somehow happen to find someone, who’s to say my paranoia won’t get in the way? Or my borderline? Or my chronic pain? Doctor’s appointments? The list is endless! I feel like a liability. Like I’ll end up alone. I’m good at saving myself. I just wish I had a cheerleader of a partner.

Posted in mental health, PTSD, stigma


This is my experience dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault. Although I do not go into any detail over what happened and solely talk about what happened afterward, I’m placing a TW:
TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about SEXUAL ASSAULT which may be triggering to those who have been sexually assaulted or are sensitive to the topic.

Kindergarten. 5 years old. An adult acquaintance. Too young to even know what was going on.

Third Grade. 8 years old. Perpetrators were classmates, no one believed me because how could an 8 year old do something like that?

Last summer. 21 years old. Durning a massage. Was told by an acquaintance afterward: “Why didn’t you enjoy it? I’d love to have a massage therapist make a move on me during a massage!”

The 24 hours after I was sexually assaulted last summer was probably one of the worsts day of my life… and speaking as a mentally ill kid who’s suffered abuse from friends and strangers alike, I feel as though that’s saying something. I was sexually assaulted during a massage (not at the spa I worked at the time). It was a Monday. I spent the rest of my day in denial. I kept telling myself it was an accident, or that it was all in my head. I actually had a good rest of my day hanging with some close friends. But when I slowed down my brain enough to get ready for bed, reality came crashing back down. I cried harder than I’ve cried in my life. For the first time in over a year, none of my coping skills were working. I couldn’t lay down to go to sleep without an intense fear that it was about to happen again. I wanted to believe it wasn’t assault. I called the sexual assault hotline and talked to them. They assured me it wasn’t all in my head, and that what happened to me was definitely assault. They explored my options with me before hanging up. I had a plan. I was going to go to my therapy appointment the next morning and have my therapist help me report the assault. But my appointment was still a whole 12 hours away. None of that helped me now though. I called my best friend to tell her what happened. It was 1 am by this point, and we couldn’t talk long. It helped to have someone know what happened and have their empathy. After a couple more hours of failed attempts to distract myself with self-care and coping skills, I called my other friend out of sheer panic and fear. I was in hysterics at this point in the night. I could not come to terms with what happened… even in the weeks following I found myself unable to cope with the idea that this man had done such a terrible thing to me.
When it finally came time to go to my therapist’s office, I was beside myself with anxiety. When the police arrived at her office, I found myself face to face with a male officer. I hadn’t thought about it until that moment, but I didn’t want to spend the day with a male stranger… last time I was alone with a stranger he sexually assaulted me. I don’t know how, but I was able to make the report. The officer proceeded to take me to the hospital to meet with forensics where they were going to extract the massage therapist’s DNA from my body. It was a very traumatic experience. Having PTSD from prior trauma, I knew I was familiar with the fight, flight or freeze experience. But until that day in the forensics room, I had no idea just how frozen one can get. On the exam table during the procedure, I completely froze. I couldn’t move even if I tried. I laid there for at least 5 minutes, crying and unable to move. I couldn’t even move to scratch an itch.

The worst part of this process what the advice I seemed to get from everybody: “Don’t tell the police about your mental health issues.” Friends, my therapist, the rape crisis counselors who met me at the hospital to support me. Their reasoning? Because they might dismiss my case because I was mentally ill. The argument could be made that I’m overly paranoid or made it up in my head. I was furious! The mental health stigma was… IS bad enough that I had to go out of my way to hide one of the main factors in my life so that I would hopefully be believed?!? I felt like I was manipulating the situation, or lying by omission and that I would get into trouble for it. In fact, the only reason I’m now choosing to tell my story is because I recently got the call from the detective saying that they were dismissing my case (not enough evidence). I was told that I couldn’t post on my blog, Instagram or Facebook just to be safe. I was nervous that I’d get found out, mess it up, and not get justice. Well, now that justice will not be served. I’m speaking out:

I am a survivor of sexual assault. #metoo

Posted in coping, mental health

The Soundtrack of My Health

“There’s only us, there only this. Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. No other course. No other way. No day but today.”

Rent the Musical was playing at the theater downtown this past weekend, and I ended up being able to go see it twice. Rent has been one of my favorite musicals for about five years and was a part of the first coping skill I consciously participated in. Seeing it brought up a lot of memories, some good, some not so good. It also spurred a night of reflection on my life with chronic and mental illness.

“I can’t control my destiny. I trust my soul. My only goal is just to be.”

A majority of the characters in Rent are suffering from AIDS. The plot revolves around the fact that the characters are sick, and will be for the rest of their shortened lives. When I started acknowledging my mental illnesses and realizing that I would suffer from chronic pain for the rest of my life, suddenly the lyrics of nearly every song had lines I could relate back to my situation. I found myself doodling the lyrics in the margins of my school notebook. I listened to the songs on repeat while sitting in the bottom of the shower, mourning the healthy future I would never have. I started feeling an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, because I identified with the characters, and if they were doomed to die young… what was my fate?

“Goodbye love. Hello Disease.”

Rent takes you through a series of emotions during its performance, and I found it easy to get swept up in the brilliance of the music. I’d be crying happy tears in Act 1 from the beautiful harmonies and sobbing into my pillow by Act 2 because of the plot. Back when I first started watching it, I realized it was a way for me to forget what I was going through in my own life. The rollercoaster of emotions it took me on was extreme enough that no matter what I was dealing with at the moment, I could forget for an hour or two.

“Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care? Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?”

Fast forward to this weekend. I’ve come a long way in 5 years. I’ve started, and stopped, self-harming. I’ve attempted suicide. I’ve received 8 mental health diagnoses and 3 chronic illness diagnoses. I’ve gone from being on my way to college to living in my grandparents’ basement while on disability. I’ve gone from thinking I’m going to work a traditional 40 hour work week for the rest of my life to multiple doctors appointments every week. I’ve lived in a mental hospital. I am sick. This weekend I watched these characters who have been with me my entire recovery play out their lives on stage. I watched them care for their sick significant others and hold them in their arms while they die. Tonight while I was laying in bed trying to fall asleep, I kept imagining a future partner sitting by my bedside as I struggled with my illnesses. I could almost feel them stroking my hair as my body shook uncontrollably. I could hear their voice pleading with me to try to eat something, or handing me a glass of water so I could start taking my handful of medication. I became so upset. I would never wish that on anyone! Why would someone choose to be with me, where there will be nights like that?

“You don’t want baggage without lifetime guarantee. You don’t want to watch me die.”

The message of hope the plot sings is not lost on me. The characters say that they would always choose love and sickness over no relationship at all. When someone loves me romantically, there will be happy moments. There will be tickle fights and movie nights. There will be adventures and laughter. They will make the commitment to me, in sickness and in health, and love me despite my baggage. Now if only I can emotionally understand those facts.

“There’s only now. There’s only here. Give in to love, or live in fear. No other path, no other way. No day but today.”

Posted in coping, mental health, stigma

Logan Paul’s Aokigahara Vlog – My Thoughts

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about SUICIDE and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS/ ATTEMPTS which may be triggering to those who struggle with suicidal ideation.

You’ve probably heard of Logan Paul’s latest vlog that he posted that has generated high amounts of media coverage for his vlog where he went into Japan’s Aokigahara, or “suicide forest” and discovered a dead body. The general consensus is outrage at his insensitivity and decision to post the video. Others jump to his defense, saying that his laughter and jokes were his way of coping with an overwhelming situation. Before I posted this blog post, I wanted to make sure I gathered as much information as I could so I could form a real conclusion for myself. I watched the video and his apology, as well as read opinion articles and opinions that come from both sides of the “argument”.

Logan Paul had ~15 million subscribers on YouTube when he posted his video that was filmed on December 31, 2017. His “New Year’s Eve” goal was to post something that met a two-year-old goal of his to “slow it down and go somewhere isolated.” If that was the goal, there are a THOUSAND other places that could meet those criteria. Many of his followers are kids in their tweens, and many parents cried out in frustration when they were forced to tell their kids about suicide before they felt their kids were in a place to be able to handle that kind of conversation.

Something that immediately bothered me, before he even goes into the forest, is when he announces the name of the forest as “the suicide forces” he grabs one of his friends by the back of the neck and pulls him into the shot. As a survivor of a near-fatal suicide attempt by hanging, this made me uncomfortable. Whenever someone touches my neck since my attempt, I immediately get a sick feeling in my stomach. With suicide already on my brain due to the nature of the video, seeing someone pull on another’s neck made me want to hurl in discomfort over the flood of unwelcome memories.

Paul and his crew reveal their plan to camp in Aokigahara overnight, and when showing what they’ve packed, the item that stuck out to me was a football. I don’t know what on earth they were thinking. “We’re going camping in a forest where a hundred people kill themselves every year… let’s toss a football around the campsite!” The insensitivity was already glaringly apparent. They also mock the fact that the football says “signs” on it, and at the end of the video Paul loudly exclaims that they should have listened to the football. Paul proceeds to don a lime green alien-like hat and a “f***ing Gucci jacket” covered in colorful print and patches because he “wants to look good”. Paul then mocks his friend for saying “dead serious” by a suicide forest and then laughs with a big ole smile. You can hear him chuckling when he talks about the folklore that claims the spirits of the deceased “lure the sad and lost off the path.”

Next, they venture into the forest… “just a dumb Americans going camping…” Dumb is right. Paul makes an announcement to the ghosts in the forest, asking them to leave his group alone before the crew sets off, leaving the path. It’s not long before they discover a body hanging from a tree, and from their assessments, apparently “looks fresh.” A crew member immediately calls the police. You can immediately tell that Paul and his friends are deeply shaken by this finding, and you can see the emotion on their faces. At the very least, this is where the cameras should have turned off out of respect for the deceased and their loved ones. But no, they film the body. Yes, they blurred out the face, but it’s still disrespectful to continue filming. Turn the cameras off so you can deal with your preliminary emotions without having to “play to the camera.” Paul even admits that this was supposed to be a “fun vlog,” which is particularly upsetting because nothing respectful can come from filming a “fun vlog” in Aokigahara. Even if the video ended up being the crew camping and laughing over the “spookiness” and telling ghost stories, it would have been disrespectful because of the location. Thousands of people have lost their mother, brother, or best friend in that story. It’s not a place to mock their pain with a fun camping trip.

Paul does address the fact that mental illness is real and that you are not alone. He does slow down and gets serious. But if I was one of his followers watching the video, the laughter and the jokes would overpower the statement he makes. “Actions speak louder than words,” and when you are galavanting through a place known for attracting people with feelings similar to mine, a generic statement saying “you’re not alone” is the last thing I want to hear from you. Your actions have already screamed way too loud, Logan.

Upon leaving the forest, Paul is seen drinking and excitedly conversing with fans they ran into. Why he chose to include that in the video, I’ll never know.

He later issued an apology video, which I’m not even going to get into, but I will say this: you are not required to accept his apology. Just because he issued an apology does not mean you need to excuse what he did or especially how he made you feel. It doesn’t invalidate you or what you are going through.

Overall I’m left with a really sad, unsettled feeling. This video sickens me. Even Paul himself says that his jokes are a coping mechanism, but the jokes started way before the body was found.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please know that there are many resources available to you in your time of need. You can call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or, if talking to a stranger feels like too much, text HELLO to 741741 to talk to a certified crisis counselor for free. Neither of these resources will immediately jump to calling the police. They are there to listen to you and provide support. And if the police where to even be involved, it’s not as bad as you think. They are also there solely to get you the help you need.

Posted in coping, diagnosis, mental health

Reflecting on 2017

So it’s the last day of 2017, and what a year it’s been. Both in our world and in my personal life.

I started out 2017 in the hospital for an overdose on one of my medications that was the result of psychosis and a loss of control over my body. So naturally, the only direction for me to go was up! I’ve come so far in my recovery this year, and looking back I don’t think I could be more proud of myself. I was able to sustain a healthy dating relationship for most of the year, and it ended peacefully without broken hearts or bitter feelings. I returned to work at the spa after a year of sick leave, and I got a new job just a few weeks ago! I was able to stay cut-free, and out of an acute psychiatric ward all year. It was a year of recovery milestones.

But this year was so much more than tangible milestones. It’s the internal change that I’m most proud of. Something I’ve noticed about myself is that I’m happier. I genuinely find myself happier throughout the day and laughing harder and more often. Manic or depressed, alone or surrounded by strangers, I enjoy life more and unabashedly laugh when something tickles my funny bone. When life got tough, I was able to effectively cope without turning to my old, unhealthy habits. In fact, urges to maladaptively cope showed up less and less as the year went on, and now I find myself preferring to cope healthily.

This year hasn’t been all positives though. Despite calling nearly every eating disorder specialist my insurance covers in town, I was unable to find someone to treat my eating disorder. I’ve watched myself fall deeper and deeper into unhealthy activities like body checking, purging and restricting. I finally admitted to myself, my therapist and the world that I’ve been struggling with bulimia for years. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome and gained a lot of weight, which led doctors to believe my eating disorder wasn’t worth treating. So the spiral became out of control, and I’m left hoping that with my insurance change in 2018 I’ll finally be able to get treatment.

For once I actually kept my new year’s resolution! In January, I resolved to write 10,000 words a month in preparation for National Novel Writing Month, and then write my book in November. I started this blog to help me find my voice and do my part to end the mental health stigma. Two of my articles were published on The Mighty, and one of my blog posts went viral! I’ve met so many amazing people because of my blog, and am thankful for the friends I’ve made as a result.

I also became a Certified Crisis Counselor at Crisis Text Line and have helped save dozens of lives. I’ve had the honor of being able to make a small but meaningful difference in the lives of our texters. I’ve also been able to support my friends more effectively in their times of need. It’s been an amazing and humbling experience.

For the first time in a long time, I’m pleased with how my year went overall. I have no big, overarching complaints. It’s weird to feel so positive, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I dunno what my new year’s resolution will be in 2018, but I know I’m hoping to keep growing, recovering and enjoying the life I’ve been given. Chronic and mental illnesses can’t hold me back!

Posted in Anxiety, coping, mental health

Self-Harm Breakthrough

I’m back! I apologize for being so inactive on this site lately, but now that my book is in the editing process, I have time to dedicate to the blog again!

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about SELF-HARM and SUICIDAL THOUGHTS/ ATTEMPTS which may be triggering to those who struggle with suicidal ideation, cutting and other forms of self-harm.

Yesterday in therapy I had a huge breakthrough in my recovery from self-harm behaviors. It started when I was with my psychiatrist in the morning. I see her once a month, so she likes to check in and see how I’m doing safety-wise, like if I’m having any thoughts of suicide or struggling to stay clean. I discussed with her how in the past week or so I’ve been increasingly obsessed with my scars. I’ll catch myself counting them, or trying to remember when I made certain scars that are crooked or especially long. I am hyper aware of when I’m around people who are close enough to see the scars on my arms. Nothing happened that would really explain the increase in the behavior. My psychiatrist recommended I talk about it with my therapist. Luckily I was seeing my therapist later in the day, so I didn’t have to wait long to really dig deep into the new behaviors.

I had tried to figure out what was triggering this new behavior in me but was unable to come up with anything. I felt a certain emotion when looking at my scars, but I couldn’t name the emotion. I knew my physical symptoms of the emotion I was feeling when I would obsess over my scars, but I couldn’t link the symptoms to any emotion. My therapist suggested we do some brainspotting to try and determine what was going on. Although the process ended up being different than traditional brainspotting at the end of the day, I almost instantly had some profound thoughts about where I’m at in my recovery from self-harm.

My thoughts immediately jumped to my future. I thought about my kids and what they would think of their mom having self-harm scars on her arm. I thought about my husband, and how he and his family will feel about the scars. I’ve never been someone who is ashamed of my scars or makes an effort to hide them. I wear t-shirts without a second thought. Back when I cut, one of my reasons for doing so was so I could prove to myself and others that I was sick, and my scars kept that proof as a point of validation. They’re tangible proof of the intangible, unseen struggles I wrestle with.

So what does this have to do with my new obsession? I realized that I’m at a point in my recovery where I don’t need proof. I know I’m sick, and I know how to advocate for myself and explain that I’m sick to others without needing cutting and scars. If people still don’t believe me, I can use my radical acceptance skill to make sure I don’t feel invalidated by their disbelief.

When I first started my journey to clean arms, I was upset that I didn’t give myself more scars before deciding to drop the behavior. I would obsessively look at pictures of people’s scars online with envy. Now I am accepting of the number of scars I have, and if my scars faded, I believe I’d be okay.

It’s taken me 632 days of being cut-free to get to this point, but I still have a long way to go. I’m still not comfortable having knives in my kitchen, and the thought of buying razors to shave with makes me feel nauseous. Recovery is a slow process, but it’s definitely worth it in the end.