Wake Up, Speak Up. {The Pain of Healing}

Life.

There are billions of metaphors about life.

Life is like a roller-coaster, like a tree, like a balloon, like a ship, like a winter coat, like a pet, like a Madonna song, like a mountain, like a river, like a bird and so on and so forth.

Today, life is like a war. You go in with an ideal, hoping to fight for something, praying you get it on your way out.

Usually, death is an uncertainty. We live in blissful ignorance about our expiration date. I don’t know if I have 5 hours, 5 days or 50 years left.

Some of us do know. It’s just the kind of hand we’ve been dealt. There are still incurable diseases out there. Huntington’s disease, Coronary Artery disease, COPD, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc. These diseases are death sentences.

Then there is something more subtle at play. An area I believe we don’t spend enough attention focusing on: Mental Illnesses. This includes anxiety disorders, eating disorders, bipolar disorder and depression. Diseases like this can cause the victim to take their own life.

According to a report by PBS, More than 54 million (or nearly one in five) Americans have a mental disorder in any given year. The risk of suicide makes untreated manic-depressive illness more fatal than heart disease and some forms of cancer.

I guess you don’t really take notice of certain things until they hit home for you.

On the 12 of March, 2015 one of my best friends tried to commit suicide. After 10 days of being in the ICU with burns covering 90% of her body, she passed away.

lety

My full of life, happy go lucky, dancing, dreaming, valedictorian, kick ass doctor friend chose to end her life.

Why? An acute postpartum depression that went unnoticed, among other things.

She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in October. Add depression on to a preexisting struggle with OCD. You get a recipe for suicide.

For years she’s been struggling with OCD. I don’t think I ever understood the gravity of her problem. She always seemed to have it all together. When she told me she wanted to become a doctor after having studied two years of civil engineering I laughed because I knew that she would be terrific at it. When she told me she was taking flamenco and reiki classes because she didn’t plan to be a doctor forever I nodded and kept telling her “if there’s anyone capable of doing anything, it’s you”. I truly believed that. Lety was one of those people that inspired you. Her lightness and enthusiasm reminded you what being human was all about. She was someone you’d look up to. Today, I rummage through all the memories we built over the 17 years that I knew her. We went to high school together. She was always voted most pretty, most intelligent, most likable, most likely to succeed. There was no one in that school that didn’t love her. She had a soul that would shine right out of her eyes.

But she was secretly at war. At war with her mind. I know what it’s like, I’m always fighting to stay in control of my mind so I know what it’s like to be dragged down the rabbit hole against your will.

These last few months when she told me what was going on, I tried to help her. I shared any and every kind of knowledge I had with her. From Buddhist spiritual practices to Hindu rituals. From self-help to consciousness books. The power of our thoughts create our reality, our perception dictates what we see as true. I believe this. I tried to help her to see that. I tried every day for four months. Last month, for five days, I stopped. I took a break. She wasn’t budging. I needed to recharge. I dropped the ball. And now she’s dead. Now I will never get a chance to speak to her again.

And I have to say, it’s the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced.

I haven’t been taking her death as gracefully as I should, knowing all I know.

There’s this remorse, this guilt that eats at me. I didn’t take her suicide talk seriously. I’ve always seen her as a logical and strong woman. I never thought anything like this would happen to her.

Which is why I’m writing today. After the incident, several people around me came forward to let me know that i’m not alone. I was shocked to find out that there were so many people that had suffered similar situations and they only realized the gravity of the issue after it was too late.

self harm

Today, I want to encourage you, whoever is reading, to speak up.

Mental illness is a disease of the mind. We lose sovereignty over the organ that makes us who we are.

If you suspect or know someone suffering from a mental illness, do something about it. Do something as if they had a cut and they were bleeding out right in front of you.

The absence of physical symptoms makes it hard sometimes to recognize or understand the pain that a victim of mental illness suffers but believe me, they are very much suffering.

If you are someone who is struggling with a mental illness, speak up. Tell someone. Seek help. You’d be surprised at the love, support and understanding you can find from a stranger. It is not too late for you because you are still alive and you can make the choice to stay that way.

And finally, if you have lost someone to an illness and are grieving like me, then, let it out. Take your time to make your peace. Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t tell yourself its okay when its not.

A lot of people have been giving me unsolicited advice. Advice like “it’s a part of life, it will pass, time will heal” I’m not saying its wrong, its just something I’m not ready to hear right now. The death of my friend has shook me down to my core.

Poetry is my current outlet for getting out all my pent up emotions. The advice I got stirred a rage in me I had to get out.

She knows me. I’m not one to reply with a fine, thanks.

She knows I am a hurricane that shakes the honest awake.

When i’m not okay, i’m not fucking okay.

And it’s okay to not be fucking okay.

Its okay to say you’re not fucking okay.

“A little bit.” I say. “Im worn out.”

“Why?” she asks.

It’s hard to say.

“Just how I feel” I reply.

“It’ll pass” she asserts.

It’ll pass.

Let me tell you about a few things that will pass.

An airplane passes the Atlantic to arrive in Europe, Troy is always frightened it will fall out of the sky.

Easter passes every year, Maria is scared she won’t get enough chocolates.

Children worry about passing their exams.

My mother prays she lives to pass 80.

There are few things that when they pass you can get over without much distress.

Missing an appointment, being misunderstood, not having a cent to your name.

However, they are other things that we must respect,

And we must understand, even if we don’t.

Things that we cannot take lightly.

My best friend is dead.

She died.

She took her life.

That is not light.

There is nothing light in my life right now.

Only heavy.

So please, dear God, allow me to be worn out and worn down.

Allow me to speak it.

To share it.

And recognize my scars.

Let them be for the time being.

For I also know that time will play a tune

And eventually make it all alright again.

But don’t minimize this pain,

This howling grief inside my bones.

It is the only companion I have.

The only truth I hold.

I pray for a world, for a future where a broken heart is treated just as gently as a broken arm.

Where we don’t need bravery to stand up and say to someone else “I’m not okay”

A future where our health plan includes mental sick days.

None of us are really, truly okay. We’re all just trying our best.

Falling down and getting back up again.

Let’s be more compassionate.

More honest.

More open.

You never know, you could save a life that way. It could be your own.

Video

Black Dog Days Will Pass

In collaboration with WHO to mark World Mental Health Day, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the “black dog of depression”.

How many of you have seen The Black Dog?
How many of you had kept it as a pet in your own home?
How many of you still take a walk with it everyday?

I do.

I’ve struggled with the black dog my entire life.

As a child, I wasn’t the most “ordinary” girl. The other girls wanted to play with Barbie dolls and go shopping, I wanted to climb trees and go exploring. The things that made me happiest or made me feel accomplished (attempting to climb a tree and actually reaching the top) were of no value to my parents. In fact, they would yell and be disappointed at my lack of lady-like mannerisms. That’s when the puppy appeared.

As a pre-teen, I was overweight. Acne and extra belly fat is a bad combination at any age… But at 10 it’s all too horrific. The puppy grew a little more.

As an adolescent, my everyday routine could be condensed into one word: Struggling.

I was at that age where I was able to assimilate all my thoughts and emotions, I was able to give them words and meanings. I was so tortured now that I think of it. I would bathe myself in hurt everyday. Everything would weigh me down. Not living up to expectations, not being pretty, not being smart enough, not being creative, gutsy, not knowing what I wanted to do, not taking risks. I missed out on a lot of my life because of fear. And then I hated myself for it. Plus, I was dealing with some serious self-denial about my sexuality. Plus, I had developed an eating disorder. To say the least, I was pretty suicidal in college.

That is why it humbles me down to my bones everyday to remember where I came from and to know that I’ve gotten to a beautiful place I like to call “This”. My present. My moment. To remember my limiting beliefs, my lack of self confidence, of self esteem, of emotion. You can read my “Confession” in my previous post Pain, My Mentor to know what I’m talking about. I’ve had to overcome a series of painful events in order to break free. But I’ve learned that’s how life works, isn’t it? The harder we fall, the higher we fly. 

Today, however, one of my long standing monsters is “Discipline”. Self-control has never been my forte. That’s why I can never stick to a schedule or a diet or a routine. That’s why I’ve been scrambling to find the time to meditate for weeks, that’s why I’ve been begging myself to sit down and write during the night because… I have no order. I have no discipline. I know what my problem is and what I need to do in order to improve on it… but some days I fall short. Very short. Luckily, I’ve learned the art of forgiving oneself so it keeps me afloat and I know that each day is a day for me to try again.

I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’m a person that gets up and tries everyday to be better and that is good enough for me.

I know a lot of people are out there right now struggling. It hurts me to know that some are battling with no light at the end of the tunnel. I wish I could tell me that dark days don’t last forever, that the sun always shines. I wish I could tell them that they’re innocent and they’ve done no wrong, that it’s ok to just be down at times. I wish I could shine some light into their lives.

Please share this if you or someone you know is suffering from depression. Help shine the light and know for a fact that sadness doesn’t last. Before you know it…

Video

My mentor, Pain.

We are human.

This means that we are fragile. We are susceptible to pain. We hurt, we bleed, we break. Sometimes we have the scars to prove it, sometimes the wounds are invisible.

I will repeat this: We are human.

This means that we are imperfect at times. We make mistakes, we act out, we give in, we give up, we hurt, we kill, we destroy.

We are human.

This means that for every tear we’ve caused, we’re capable of getting a smile. Whatever we destroy, we’re able to build it back. We can give back, we can create life, we can start over…

So what is it? Why do we have to suffer? Is it because of our faults? How many of you believe that suffering is a punishment?

To my astonishment, I am here to share something with you I have learned not too long ago. You ready?

Pain is your teacher.

That’s right. You’re not trippin. You heard me right.

Pain is a mentor, a guide, an eye-opener, a perspective, a life changer.

To suffer is to live. It’s a part of life. Name me one person you know that has never felt pain… I’ll give you some time, in the meanwhile I’ll be watching an episode of Modern Family…

…Still nothing?

That’s because they don’t exist!

It’s like the “normal” person I’ve been talking about. I’m still waiting on someone to bring me back one of these.

So, recently, in the midst of experiencing some truly tragic events, I found myself at a devastating low.

There I was, unraveling in the hurt, the pain, the agony, the regret, the guilt, the fear, the gut wrenching feeling of having lost something that meant the world to me.

48 hours later, you know what I realized?

It was just not meant to be.

There are no mistakes. If you feel like you’ve outgrown someone, it’s for a reason!

We don’t need to hold on to something just because it’s what we know.

Anyway, I’m deviating. Back on topic, Pain.

I’d like to share some wisdom I’ve acquired from watching an Anime series called Naruto (we can make fun of me for that later)

Naruto Shippuuden Quotes10

You remember the infamous quote:

“Everyone wants happiness,
No one wants pain,
But you can’t have a rainbow,
Without a little rain”

So if you would please indulge me, I’d like to do a litter experiment with you, awesome reader =]

1. I want you to think about one of your happiest moments. The first one that comes to mind! Don’t over think it.
2. What is it? Ok, don’t tell me…
3. I want you to remember everything about it. I want you to visualize it, feel it, smell it, breathe it. Say it out loud.
4. How does it make you feel?
5. Did you smile? Did you heart swell up with joy? Did you exhale a tremendous sigh?

My memory: I closed my eyes and remembered the time I was on a plane. It was a trip I was taking to an unknown city. I was letting go of the world I knew in pursuit of my dreams. I finally made it. I was finally doing it. It was a proud, exciting and perfectly joyous occasion for me 30,000 feet above sea level.

Now… let’s do the same thing with a negative memory.

My memory: I remember when my grandmother died. I was 10. I remembered not being able to assimilate it for days. I was convinced she was still there, alive somehow, because I could feel her with me. And it hurt me more than anything that no one else could see her.

So… what was the experience like for you?

Now… this might sound crazy…
But just bear with me here.

Try and imagine a world where the negative memory never happened. Where you were never hurt. Ever! Nothing bad has ever happened to you. You have no idea what that is…
Now think back on your happy memory. Does it still feel the same to you?

In my case, it really doesn’t. Because the joy I felt came from achieving something. It came from my struggle to get to that place. It was so hard for me. I had many battles to fight to get there. I had proved many people wrong to be sitting there. Against all odds, I made it. That is why it was such a special moment for me. If I didn’t have to deal with any of that, I would’ve probably taken it for granted. Wow. Come to think of it, I’d probably be a bratty adult too and this blog wouldn’t exist 🙂

I have a confession to make: I can say without a doubt that I am the person I am today thanks to all the “stuff” that I’ve been through. My experiences made me. Every wound, every mistake, every regret, every tear, every sweat, every doubt, every breakdown… has brought me closer to myself.

It is that pain, that hardship, those times we fall right down to our knees, those scars and cuts and bruises that make us. They break us down, yes but they also help build us up.

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Do not let the fear of pain conquer your desire for life, for adventure, for spontaneity, for love. In fact, let it guide you.

When confronted with an abyss, just leap forward. Just jump. You’ll have plenty of time to think about it during the fall. Just kidding 🙂
There are no mistakes in life. Just experiences.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

So go forth you beautiful human being and just be! You honestly never know how amazing something could turn out to be. So just leap!

PS: The song doesn’t have much to do with my post, I was just listening to it while writing. It’s one of my fav tracks. Sia has an amazing voice. You can check out more of her stuff here.

Strength in Sadness

And I don’t even know how I’ll survive
I won’t make it to the shore without your light
No I don’t even know if I’m alive
Oh, oh, oh without you now
This is what it feels like

It sucks, doesn’t it? The break up. It hurts, doesn’t it? Like no one could ever get it. When you’re in pain, when you’re sad, what do you do? Do you go on with your life like nothing ever happened? Do you lie down in bed hoping everything and everyone will forget you exist so you could stay there forever? We all have our ways to deal with grief. What do you do?

Whatever you do, it’s okay. 

There’s a reason we feel pain. Don’t run from your emotions. Feel them. Deeply. Intensely. For as long as need be. Everything is in balance. The Universe will help pick you up when you’re ready. But don’t get up without letting go. Don’t get up without taking the time to meditate about what’s going on with you. No matter what you’re feeling or what you’re going through. There is always something to learn. Something you need to take with you. So do what you must. Cry. Scream. Loud. Drive for hours. Watch Soap TV, eat take out, do yoga, practice karate, walk the dog. But feel. Feel. Feel. Feel. To be human is to FEEL.

You-can-close-your-eyes-to-the-things

If you let yourself, you can find strength in sadness. You can even create something beautiful from it. I’m not telling you what to do, but here are 30 things you should stop doing to yourself right now.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross