I remember being in kindergarten, we only had half days in our school, and I had been in preschool before so it wasn't an entirely new experience. At that time our bathrooms were in the classrooms, but they were single bathrooms. I distinctly remember the all encompassing fear that I felt just contemplating having to close the door. The mere idea of it terrified me, I obsessed over it throughout the day, praying that I wouldn't feel that uncomfortable fullness indicating my need to go. Barely able to focus at my desk, my daydreams were consumed with every illogical, and unlikely event that could possibly take place, fearing my life would end. I'd look out of the windows for some reassurance, only to be thrust further into a state of terror, thinking that the oddly shaped clouds in the sky were asteroids on a collision course with earth. Everywhere I turned there was some hidden threat, lingering in the shadows just hoping for me to find them. In my mind there were lines on the grounds where I walked, borders which indicated "safe" or "dangerous zones," where I could or could not walk. Though the consequences of stepping into an unsafe area I wasn't entirely clear on, but I was certain death in some manner would be imminent. I was five years old.
Those are some of my first experiences where I can remember thinking, "Why can't I be like everybody else? Why can't I be normal?" Surely none of my peers minds were scrambling in panic the way mine always was.
I've repeated those phrases in my head, begrudgingly shouted these questions more times than I care to remember. I was afraid of everything, simply being away from my mother for any amount of time was a source of infinite anxiety, enough to send me into a tailspin of sheer terror. I was barely school aged, and having full blown meltdowns, panic attacks, on a regular basis. My mother was called to pick me up from school more times than either of us can count. I'm certain that at this time most of the adults around me probably believed that I was just high maintenance. When I finally had the opportunity to meet my first therapist at age 6,
she told my mother that I was "attention seeking," and to "just ignore her."
It may be silly, or childish, but I still hold a sort of resentment towards this woman for the years of needless suffering I endured, when it was her job to help me. It took nearly 10 years to finally be given a diagnoses, though it has evolved over time, Obsessive Compulsive with psychotic tendencies. Little did I know that my aunt was dealing with Schizophrenia at the same time. Mental illnesses tend to do that, stay in the family. As I got older I realized that I had been doomed from the get-go; every single woman in my family suffered with varying degrees of anxiety disorders. Apparently, I just happened to have landed with the worst case out of everyone. Lucky me.
Me, age 7
I think the one thing that all people dealing with mental illness understand is that there will always be both good and bad days, and our illnesses can tend to follow somewhat of a cyclical pattern. There's a very fine line that you balance on daily, and any small change or disturbance could potentially send you tumbling 50 feet down into a black hole of worry and confusion, scrambling once again to gain your footing so you can attempt to begin the long and arduous journey back up to your balance beam.
This is the strange, and oddly comfortable limbo that I've found myself in over the past few months. Sometimes I only begin to regain my footing on the ground before stumbling again. Other times I feel as if I've finally made my way back up, not quite so sturdily perched upon my balance beam, before being abruptly thrown off once more. My tumble downward isn't always a surprise, nor is it always quick. There are times when I can see the decline as it begins, while it's taking place, I often feel powerless to stop it. Almost as if I'm not actually a part of myself, but some spectator forced to watch the madness.
Other times the downfall is so abrupt that it's as if I've been struck by lightening on a sunny day.
So here I am again, somewhere in the in between stages of trying to crawl my way up. I've been gone from the blog for quite a while now, and the simple truth is that when I originally set out to create a blog I had this immaculate vision in my mind of myself as this put together, adult woman, someone that had fought through their personal struggles but had come out on the other side unscathed. I wanted to be the person who could give advice, who could be looked up to, a person who had it all figured out.
But now I'm okay with admitting that that's just not me, and perhaps never will be.
Though I want to be clear, I am not trying to disparage myself, or be self deprecating in any way. None of what I've said is a bad thing really. I'm finally getting to a point where I'm okay acknowledging all aspects of myself. I'm at a place now where I respect that this is going to be a lifelong journey for me. There won't ever really be an "other side" to come out on. This is my life, an experience in learning, and in that way, starting this blog has actually been a really wonderful thing. It's beginning to feel like a sort of catharsis, which is what I needed most whether I wanted to admit it or not. This is now providing another tool to help me analyze things from a different angle.
So I may not be able to offer up all of the answers, or any. But what I can offer are my experiences, I can offer my journey trying to navigate through all of life's turbulence, and hopefully I can offer someone the comfort of knowing that they're not alone. I know that would've been incredibly helpful to me in the beginning, and probably now more than ever. Because the truth is that I feel alone,
and unable to connect with other humans on any sort of meaningful level. I feel different than others, I do feel strange, in a sort of ostracized environment, perhaps of my own making. But I need to reach out, even if it is in the most passive sort of way, essentially anonymous, but it's a step.
Still to this day, after having dealt with mental illness for twenty-some odd years, I've yet to find anyone that can relate in this way. So perhaps now, through this blog, I'm trying to connect, to something. Maybe you're reading it looking for the same, or maybe you were just in search of some tasty plant based recipes. All I can say is that from here on out
I am not going to attempt to be anything, I'm just going to be.
I need to shed all of my layers, peel off the callouses I've worked so tirelessly to try and hide. Talking about mental illness is a difficult thing to do, which is probably why it's taken me so long to finally get started. It's terrifying, I am terrified. The stigma surrounding these types of illnesses are very real, they run deep, and I experience it from others on a nearly daily basis. My own family, as loving and close as we are, still have no idea how to even begin to handle it, or what to really think about it. Though I'm coming to the conclusion that the best thing I can do for everyone is to just open up, at this point it's a necessity, otherwise I may drown in my stagnation.
So where do we go from here?
Well I am most definitely still going to be focusing on holistic health, since that's such a huge part of who I am, and dealing with mental illness is what brought me to this place in my life. I will absolutely be posting recipes that I'm trying out, because I do love food quite a lot, and you can't be healthy without providing your body the necessary building blocks.
But first and foremost I want this blog to naturally evolve into a place where I can share my daily struggles, or my daily triumphs. A place where I can both laugh and cry, and talk about all of the wistful meanderings of my mind, while also discussing methods that I'm using to try and better myself and my situation. I want this blog to be a place where I can express all of the intricacies of life, so that's where I'll be taking this, starting with this post right now.
Consider ourselves reborn.