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Tread water with me

water

Living with high-functioning mental illness is exhausting and quite isolating.

I have been struggling especially hard with my anxiety and depression over the last couple of years but the majority of my struggle has been behind closed doors.

As a therapist, I can easily imagine my list of diagnoses branded to me by counselors and psychiatrists alike

F43.12 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic

F33.1 Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent episode, Severe

F41.1 Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Z63.5 Disruption of Family by Separation or Divorce

Z91.5 Personal History of Self Harm

Z62.810 Past History of Physical Abuse in Childhood

Z62.810 Past History of Sexual Abuse in Childhood

Yikes.

But people who meet me. People who take me in. Really breathe me in. They don’t see these things. It’s not that I necessarily try to hide them- I’m just in recovery. And healed- for the most part. But scars run deep. And some days they rear their ugly head and I’m crying in a parking lot. Or on the tiles of my bathroom floor. Or on my sons carpeted floor.

The high-functioning part confuses people who are close to me.

I work several positions in the helping field. Achieving credentials and new certifications regularly.

I am a doctoral student.

I am a wife.

A mother.

A volunteer.

A friend.

I am truly the girl who tries to do it all.

However, struggling with the demons of my past while also being a perfectionist and over-achiever can be completely exhausting and isolating.

My highlight reel is *insert 100 emoji here*.

Smiling faces. Matching family outfits. Funny Instagram stories. Perfect skin.

But they are only the highlights.

Don’t be fooled.

There are endless photographs that are never taken. Never posted. Never shared.

Panoramic views of my mascara streaked cheeks on nights when I cry endlessly to my husband that I just can’t do *this* anymore.

Still frames of my toddler hitting me in the face because hitting is really, really entertaining to him right now.

Nonexistent polaroids of me on my knees begging my husband to please forgive my hurtful words after an argument.

These are the pictures I don’t post.

The pictures you don’t see.

Don’t you have these pictures too?

Don’t be fooled by my success.

I. Am. Struggling.

Sometimes.

Just like you.

Because having a childhood filled with trauma, monsters, and haunting streetlights can really impact a girl.

But I don’t give up.

That’s the high-functioning part.

I keep going.

I survive.

But I struggle too.

Do you get that?

Doing both is completely possible.

I’ve learned overtime that being high-functioning doesn’t make my struggles any easier.

Sometimes I’m bobbing along in the ocean. Other times I’m being pulled under, caught up in a riptide and battling the water that is trying to drown me. It may seem as if my struggles are less severe or less intense but its just that I’ve leaned to tread water.

Tread water with me.

 

 

Crocodile in a dress.

Self-concept is everything.

A few nights ago I found myself sharing a meme on Facebook. One that hit a bit harder than others.

What is with these memes about fitting in with other girls that cuts me to the core?

This one was pretty light-hearted. I actually laughed out loud at it at first.

Until I let it sink in that this is my reality:

blend in

I have some pretty amazing people that commented back with encouraging words.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-03 at 9.43.15 PM

But ultimately these words didn’t change my self-concept. It didn’t puncture a hole in the ever-growing belief I have that I don’t fit in.

I’m that crocodile.

I wish I could view myself through the lens of those who commented. You are all so kind.

However, I have never taken compliments well.

How could I when I continue moving the bar of what will be good enough.

This recovering perfectionist has fallen off the wagon.

I live in this belief that I’ll never, ever be a girl in a squad.

And sometimes that is okay.

Sometimes it is gut-wrenching.

Growing up I never had steady friends. A short-lived connection here and there. Fizzled out after a few months. Maybe a year.

I always said I was too busy for friends.

Pageants. 4.0 GPA. Volunteering. Cheerleading. Track. Church. Family. Boyfriends.

But those were walls.

Guarded walls that protected me from the risk.

The risk of feeling like that crocodile.

I still do it today.

I think to myself some Saturday’s that I’m too busy for friends.

Too many jobs. Too much responsibility. Endless school.

But those, again, are my tried and true walls of protection.

Because I believe that I am that crocodile.

And who wants to take ballet with an outcast in tights?

Who wants to invest in someone damaged like me?

Recently I thought I was obsessed with an Ariana Grande lyric that says,

“Been through some bad shit, I should be a sad bitch
Who woulda thought it’d turn me to a savage?”

Until I told my therapist about it (yes- even a therapist can see a therapist) and he looked me square in the eyes and said,

“Do you really want to be a savage?”

No.

I don’t.

It’s all protection. Guarded walls.

These walls stem from how I view myself.

An impersonator in a dress.

A bruised-up, broken, damaged girl in a cardigan.

I’m working on this.

I’m not that girl anymore.

I truly, in this moment, feel as if I am not that girl anymore.

Becoming an adult can be freeing for a girl with a traumatic childhood.

But sometimes that little girl with bruised hips and an empty fridge shows herself to this strong, confident woman I’ve become.

And who would have thought a meme could trigger it?

Although I will now forever imagine myself as that crocodile in a dress I am wondering if somehow, someway, someone out there would like to be friends with an outcast in tights?

Because i’m sick of not believing I’m enough.

I. Am. Enough.

Scattered. Bruised. Strong. Resilient. Hopeful.

If you’re that crocodile in a dress too- try to read the comments. Try to believe the people around you telling you otherwise. Challenge yourself. Take risks.

And ultimately, be vulnerable.

It’s the best.

Thanks for reading- my thoughts were just sort of going tonight.

 

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Un-human.

perfect

I am a recovering perfectionist.

I basically have a gold medal in perfectionism.

Not that I’ve ever came close to being perfect, but I had an internal program that told me I should be.

My quest for perfection didn’t make me perfect, but it did bring me a whole lot of misery.

I recognize that I am not alone in this. Perfectionism is rampant in our image-obsessed, achievement-driven society. I have nothing against self-improvement, but when we don’t deprogram ourselves from perfectionism, it doesn’t matter how many improvements we make. It will never be enough.

Because perfect is not only impossible, it’s un-human.

Not only does perfectionism make us miserable on the inside, it also it makes it hard to live life on the outside.

How satisfying is it to be a student when nothing below an A is acceptable?

How hard is it to enjoy a hobby when nothing less than a perfect outcome will do?

And how hard is it to be in relationships when we are unable to receive feedback without crumbling or getting defensive?

Perfectionism only brings us misery, discomfort, constant feelings of inadequacy or incompetence. However, while our culture, families, teachers, or coaches might instill in us the need to be perfect, it is within our power to let go of that need. We hold the key.

You are good enough.

Let good enough be the new perfect.

Perfectionism is just an endless quest for the worst parts of ourselves.

It’s the part that keeps telling us that nothing we do will ever be good enough and we need to keep trying and trying and trying without ever reaching what we believe will make us good enough.

Perfectionism keeps moving the goal further and further away.

In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown says,

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

Perfection is a moving target. It’s an illusion.

Perfection is weighing us down.

Free yourself from perfectionism.

You are good enough.

Hi, I’m Brandy and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

The shit had to stop: the day I stopped trying to kill myself.

When I was 22 years old I tried to kill myself.

I was crying on my knees in a communal bathroom and remember breaking a razor and slicing my wrists. There was a lot of blood. Sometimes in my dreams I still see the red pools on the floor around me. I remember shaking in shock that this time I had actually done it. After years of toying with the idea and overdosing on tylenol or swerving my car recklessly, I had actually done it. I felt panicked but was glued to the floor. I thought of no one. And things went dark.

I woke up in a hospital room the following day. Alive.

Let me back up a bit.

As a child, things were no walk in the park. My family was dirt poor and broken. There was violence in the home I grew up in. For many years I was ashamed to discuss this because I was dealing with years of family secrets and shame. I didn’t want anyone to think of me as less than. I was hurt as a child. However, I was also loved. It’s not fair for me to gloss over the good in my childhood. I loved singing in pageants and spending Saturday’s at my MaMa’s house. But there were days I feared my Mom would be killed. Or things even worse would happen to me.

Things improved around middle school despite my frizzy hair and constant awkwardness of my life.

Then, my Daddy killed himself my sophomore year of high school.

Feelings of blame, shame, anger, hatred, disgust, abandonment, insecurity, and guilt consumed me.

I became overwhelmingly depressed for years to come.

I battled with depression. Long and hard.

I also had good days. Days I smiled. Days I thought I could do this. Days I moved forward.

But the bad days. They hung heavy. They became me.

I was unfocused.

I was barely existing.

I was more insecure than I feel that words could ever justify.

My existence depended on other people.

If they loved me enough. If they cared about me enough. If they texted me. Then I would live. If they didn’t I would swallow as many pills as I could get my hands on and try to sleep. Hoping for a long, dark sleep.

And then I hit rock bottom.

I joined the military to escape everything. I was shipped off to basic training and 9 days later I slit my wrists in a bathroom with blue walls. This is the day that changed everything for me.

I spent 23 days in the hospital. TWENTY THREE.

I got on medication.

Resisted treatment. Then began to open up.

I let myself feel all the emotions I had pushed aside all those years.

I began to heal.

And I decided I needed a change. I wanted to live. I deserved to live.

Much like an addict, I decided this shit has got to stop.

The self-destruction.

The victim act.

The poor me spectacle.

The shit had to stop.

And it did. I became determined.

Even though I hid my suicide attempt from most of the people in my life (who so graciously believed my lies surrounding my medical discharge from the military), I was empowered. I knew I needed to work in mental health. I knew I had a purpose in life.

And..

Seven short years later and my life is far from perfect but it is absolutely perfect to me. Perfectly imperfect.

I am married to the love of my life. The only person who knows every, single secret that I spent years hiding and loves me anyways.

I have the most wonderful son. With the brightest blue eyes in the world. He is so worthy of life.

I have my work. Where I’m able to empathize to great lengths. I’m able to use my experience to truly understand how shitty life can be but also know how beautiful it can be.

So, if you’re like 22 year old me. Know you’re not alone. LIFE IS HARD,

but it can also be beautiful.

So, so, so, so beautiful.

I thank God daily for my second chance. Not everyone gets that.

I wonder if we had found my Daddy earlier what would things be like. What if we had barreled down his bedroom door and released all the poisonous gas that would fill his body and take him from us. Would he feel the same way? Would he say THANK GOD I FAILED AT THAT. THANK GOD I GET A SECOND CHANCE.

I like to think he would.

Because we could have proven him wrong. He would have held a grandchild in the future. One with big, bright blue eyes who giggles with all the joy of the world.

Don’t do it.

A second chance isn’t guaranteed.

Call 1-800-273-8255 if you need someone to talk to.

No one else can play your part.

no one else

Featured

I was drowning in my grief rather than sitting in it.

More and more each day I am realizing that our society is the cheer up society.

cheer up

The idea of sadness terrifies us.

Sadness is a hallmark symptom of grief. It is the ultimate consequence of losing something or someone we care about. I consider sadness and love ultimately linked.

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” -Jamie Anderson

Grief is love.

But yet, we spend a significant amount of time trying to cheer people up.

Because we consider that being sad is bad.

smile

However, I want to challenge you today to consider the idea that being sad isn’t bad.

It’s love.

I spent the first seven years of my grief drowning.

I was in the middle of an ocean of grief- desperately trying to keep my head above water.

My legs were concrete. My arms were large rocks.

I was tired.

Exhausted.

Consumed with my struggle.

I was drowning in my grief rather than sitting in it.

Everyone around me tried to comfort me. Tried to save me. Tried to cheer me up.

“He’s in a better place,”

“God will never give you more than you can handle,”

“He wouldn’t want you to be sad.”

These attempts to comfort me failed miserably. I didn’t need to be comforted. I needed to sit in my grief. I needed the permission to feel sad. I needed permission to feel.

In this clip from Inside Out you see Bing Bong lose something he loved.

Joy attempts to cheer him up. And fails.

Sadness sits with him. Sits with his grief. She empathizes with him.

This is what I needed. When I was drowning. I needed to sit in my grief.

If you know someone who has lost someone or something they love. Maybe something in their life has changed, sit with them. Sit with them even through the uncomfortableness of sadness. Encourage them to feel. Give them the permission they may need.

And remember- you are loved. And sad is not bad.

Grief is love with no place to go.

Grief lasts as long as love lasts- forever.

Somehow, I hope that love becomes light in all of our darknesses of grief.