Learning to Love Yourself

When you’re living with a mental illness, or even dealing with an addiction, a huge part of the healing process is learning to love yourself.

Between having bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, and dealing with the situation with my stepfather at the time (I talked about this in a previous post), I was angry at myself because I couldn’t help my mom and couldn’t control my mind/emotions. This lead to me taking all of that out on my body. When I was about 16 I brought the idea of this tattoo to my therapist. When she asked me why I wanted it I told her it was because the only reason I hadn’t ended my life yet was because of the people in my family who love me. She responded with a question I never expected to hear, “you know they love you, but can you feel it?” She then explained that I couldn’t really feel that love because I didn’t really love me. I didn’t view myself as being even remotely deserving of love because, in all honesty, I hated myself. So she and I came to the agreement that I wouldn’t get this tattoo until the meaning changed to “I can love myself and because of that I can feel that I am loved.”

It wasn’t an easy journey. I had to first learn to respect myself (including standing up for myself when being wronged, recognizing that my needs and thoughts are important) then came liking myself and then finally loving myself. These were the steps because in order to love yourself you need be able to respect and like yourself first. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always like myself but I can always love myself. I’d be lying if I said I don’t still struggle with all of it, but I just have to keep reminding myself that I can love myself.

When I was 19 (about a year after becoming clean from self-harm) I finally got the tattoo and when the tattoo artist gave me a confused look when I said I wanted it to face me, I explained to him that the tattoo is a message for me and not for everybody else. I don’t mean this negatively towards anyone else I just meant that the tattoo had a special meaning, or message, for me.

It’s a constant reminder that because I can love me I can be loved by others. As I said, it’s a long and very difficult journey, but it is possible. Hopefully those of you who don’t like, or hate, yourselves can make it through that journey because whether you believe it or not, you deserve to be able to love you.

Fear Is a Liar

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough
Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

-Fear Is a Liar by Zach Williams

There are certain that you’ll come across that touch you, that seem to completely understand things that you’ve been going, or have gone, through. This is one of those songs for me. Many of the things that were mentioned had been said to me when I was younger. I came to fear that they were true and at some point believed they were.

I heard this song at church today and wanted to share it with you. The first time I listened to it the song brought tears to my eyes because it really hit home. Whether you’re religious or not this song is important for those who have been the victim of these words. The negative things others have told you about yourself are lies, they are scary and can change the way you view yourself.

No matter what you’ve been told you are not worthless. You are loved. You are strong. You are good enough.

You deserve happiness, so remember, fear is a liar.

Yesterday

Yesterday was rough.

As the assistant manager at the convenient store I work at Saturdays are by far the most stressful day of the week. Every Saturday we have a large milk/tea order and a large grocery/cigarette/other tobacco product order, all of which fall on me to put away before I leave, while . To make yesterday easier I scheduled it so that it was myself and someone else at 6am and then I had a second person come in at 9am. Instead the person who was supposed to come in at 6 didn’t show and wouldn’t even answer their phone. I tried to call everyone I could but no one would respond.

I ended up alone for those 3 hours and it was CRAZY busy. When the employee scheduled for the 9am shift came in and told me that the one scheduled to come in at 6 texted him and told him that he couldn’t work any of his shift I flipped out. My response was: “No shit! I figured that out 3 hours ago when he wouldn’t answer his phone.” I went on about how no one would answer and come in (or come in early) to help me. After I finally calmed down I felt horrible for flipping out on him. But after I was done freaking out I started crying and had a lovely panic attack in front of both him and a customer. It was awesome.

I hate showing that side of me but sometimes I can’t fully control when it will happen. Basically, I’m not always okay and it sucks to admit it, but it’s true. If anyone with a mental illness tries to tell you they’re always okay and don’t still struggle at times they’re probably lying.

Sorry, this was primarily to rant and admit that I still have to deal with some parts of my mental illness.

Rock Bottom

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

-J.K. Rowling

Those with a mental illness, including addictions, probably understand this. Many times you have to hit rock bottom before you’re able to recognize that you need help, that you’re not as okay as you keep telling yourself and others that you are. When you reach this place you have two options: let it consume you and not ask for help before it’s too late or learn to build yourself back up and become the person you want to be, the healthier and happier person you can be. I’m not saying that everyone hits rock bottom before they get to this point but many people do.

I had to hit rock bottom before finally listening to my therapist and psychiatrist, before then I was seeing them to make my mom happy not because I wanted to get better for me. Like J.K. Rowling stated, it became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

Sometimes you have to sink before you can swim.

Trying to Describe My Cycles

Those of you out there with bipolar disorder probably understand what I mean.

My therapist recently asked me how i know that I’m about to cycle. I honestly didn’t know how to answer. There can be little clues, subtle changes, warning signs that you’re going into a manic phase or a depressive phase. For some reason they’re so hard to explain to someone. Like for mania, it could be you’re getting more and more restless or starting to talk faster or mind is more scattered than usual or your brain-to-mouth filter is slipping, etc. Then there’s depression, you start to notice your becoming more lethargic or starting to lose interest in things you find enjoyable or, similar to subtle manic changes, your thinking patterns start to change, etc.

But how do you explain it when you get thrown into a manager position, working 7 days a week and 73 hours a week as well? This is bound to cause similar changes even in someone without bipolar disorder. So how do you explain in this type of situation that you still know you’re starting to cycle again without it sounding like “normal” things people would feel in this situation.

Living with bipolar disorder and trying to explain the subtle warning signs as well as determining whether something is a “normal mood change” or a “bipolar mood change” can be the most frustrating thing in the world.

The Lasting Effect of Childhood Trauma

Most people think of childhood trauma as the individual experience some form of physical abuse, but there are other things that can be considered traumatic for a child. Some might not view the story I’m about to share as traumatic, but trust me it was and is to many other people.

Shortly before I turned 3 my parents got a divorce. I still saw my father every other weekend but both he and my mother quickly started dating other people. His, now wife, had a large family including grandkids (my dad is 20 years older than my mom) so I ended up having to spend those weekend trying to share his attention with the other kids. On the other hand, my mom started dating a man, we’ll call him Tom, who had a daughter, we’ll call her Alice,who became like a sister to me. For approximately a year we even lived with Tom, but even when we didn’t I still saw him all the time. Tom was like a second father to me.

Fast forward to when I was about 7 years old and they broke up. In my eyes he was there one day and then he was gone. After this I ended up with horrible nightmares that would, at the very least, unsettle even an adult. These nightmares always ended the same, my mother, father, Tom, and Alice were all dead. When I would wake up I’d run to my mom’s room and have to poke and pinch her until she finally woke up so that I knew she was alive, I’d then have to either sleep in her bed or on the floor next to it so that she couldn’t disappear.

This went on for several months, slowly getting worse. I couldn’t sleep at night because she might not be there when I woke up, then she couldn’t be more than a room away and had to be within eyesight. This continued on until she would have to drag me into school, literally, kicking and screaming because I didn’t want her to leave me. Then one time it happened outside of the guidance counselor’s office and she ended up recommending play therapy. The play therapist told my mom and dad that I was experiencing “childhood depression due to feelings of abandonment.” I started going to girl scouts with Alice and would occasionally go over to Tom’s house to spend time with her, which I’m sure helped. Eventually I got a little bit better, or at least to the point where it didn’t control our lives.

Fast forward again to when I was 9 or 10. My mom ended up in an on and off relationship with a man who we’ll call John. It got to the point where she even asked me for advice. At this point I started to become her rock. After the second or third time of getting engaged they finally tied the knot in Vegas so he couldn’t get cold feet again. When we moved into his house John started to really show his true colors.

He became verbally/emotionally abusive. I would listen to him screaming at my mom day and night while I cried in my room covering my ears. At some point I started to try and stand up for her since she wouldn’t do it herself. This turned his attention towards me. He would start screaming that I was just her little brat and when she wasn’t around he would call me things a lot worse than that.

This was around the time my bipolar disorder started manifesting. I turned to self harm to deal with both the emotions that I couldn’t control as well as the anger at myself for being unable to help her and internalizing the things he said to me. It wasn’t until I was about 14 that they finally got a divorce. They weren’t married for a super long period of time but it was long enough to cause lasting damage.

I continued to believe everything he used to say. I continued to believe that everyone left because of my mom’s previous relationship with Tom. While therapy has helped and I’m actually engaged (a huge deal considering my abandonment/trust issues) I still have John’s voice in my head sometimes and still struggle to believe that my fiance won’t leave me, that I’m not good enough. I’ve learned to respect and love myself, but that doesn’t mean I always like myself.

I will battle with not just my bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders, but also with the the trauma caused by my childhood. Many people around the world will struggle with this too and believe, just like me, that it wasn’t true trauma and abuse because it was never physical. This is still abuse and trauma though considering it will effect you throughout your life.

What happens in childhood doesn’t always stay in childhood