I hope the weekend has been treating you well. In today’s post, I want to reflect on lessons I’ve learned from my mental health journey. I hope that what I’ve learned may in some way help someone else to avoid falling as far as I did in 2018. I hope that what I’ve learned helps someone else.
I’m not sure what to write today. What I had planned to share, upon discussing it further with the person involved, well – permission to share was rescinded to preserve their mental health. And that’s absolutely okay – it is their story to share if and when they are ready and while I think it offers an important perspective in terms of mental health journeys, I’m not willing to jeopardize their journey in favor of clarifying my own. I’m…well, I’m sad and worried and regretful that my mental health journey is still such a pain point for them when I am doing so much better. So I guess what I want to talk about today is guilt.
As mentioned at the close of yesterday’s post, the remainder of my recovery journey to now had a few other bumps. I’ll be discussing those moments of backtracking before continuing with how positive things have been. As with previous heavy topic posts, please note that this one may be a painful read, at least for the first few paragraphs – if you want to skip it, I understand. The post does include mentions of suicide, so if that is a trigger for you, please go ahead and avoid this post, or proceed with caution. Okay? Okay. ❤
I’ve decided to split the discussion of 2018 into two posts – this first one will deal with what is arguably the worse months of my life to date and the second will deal with going from utter and complete darkness to fully believing the universe has my back. As with yesterday’s post, I know this one is a hard read, so feel free to skip it if you worry it will trigger you in any way, or proceed with caution. Okay? ❤
As I think back on the first half of 2018, I can’t help but think of the Shawn Mendes song “In My Blood” – I don’t think there is another song that better encapsulates my mindset from October 2017-July 2018.
Whew, okay. Today’s post is going to be…yeah. I’m hoping cathartic for me and somehow useful for you. Note that I will be discussing the onset and persistence of suicidal thoughts in this post, so if that is a trigger for you, please skip this one or proceed with caution. As always, if you or someone you love needs help, please reach out for help – https://psychcentral.com/lib/common-hotline-phone-numbers/. Let’s go.
We left off yesterday with Susie and I both shattered.
I mentioned yesterday that Susie and I found ourselves saying over and over again “We can’t handle this. It’s too much. It’s too much. Something’s gotta give. We can’t take any more than this.” As we limped our way through 2013-2015, we often found ourselves discussing how we were making it through only because we were somehow held together with duct tape and a prayer. There was more than one occasion where one or the other of us actually placed a piece of duct tape on our skin as a reminder to keep going. Hah, I actually remember taking a trip to Target specifically to buy fun colored duct tape for that purpose. Silly of us, but cute, no? There were many things that acted as duct tape for us, helping to hold us together as we stumbled our way through trying to heal.
Over the course of the next few posts, I will be discussing my journey from being entirely shattered to loving myself as I was, am, and will be. I freely admit that I’m a bit nervous about writing these posts – I know they cover a lot of darkness in my life and I’m a bit afraid of delving back in to those moments, but I…well, I just know, somehow, that it is important for me to share my journey because I am living proof that it does get better. It is worth holding on. That said, the following few posts deal with grief, suicidal ideation and other depressive thoughts, and anxiety and panic attacks in detail. If you find that is difficult for you to read at this time, please feel free to skip the posts from now through April 21. I do invite you to return for my post tentatively planned for 4/22, when I discuss coming out of the dark and finding myself again. Okay? Okay.
I touched on the Chamber of the Ordeal in yesterday’s post, but I want to talk about it a bit more today, before I jump in to the story of my own experience starting in tomorrow’s post. For me, the journey out of the Chamber of the Ordeal has been quite a bit like the photo above – full of twists and turns, quite a bit of darkness, but also archways and a ceiling letting in the light.
As I mentioned yesterday, I think we all face the Chamber at some point in our lives. Some of us, like Kel, face it over and over again, with various levels of intensity. I don’t know where you are on your own journey – whether you have made it safely out of the Chamber, whether you are still trapped within it while facing your own demons and feeling terrified that you will never find your way out, whether you can see the door opening to let you out – or draw you in – but I know that it is never an easy battle to face.
I don’t know what fears and perceived faults you have, I don’t know what demons you have fought, and may still be fighting, but I do know this: Your pain is valid. Your battle is valid. What you face during your Ordeal may not be a challenge for someone else, but your Ordeal is an Ordeal because of how it impacts you. No one else can truthfully tell you that whatever you have experienced is in any way, shape, or form, less valid than someone else’s experiences, because no one else has lived your life, no one else can truly stand in your shoes.
I keep thinking about the following verse from “Wait for It” on the Hamilton soundtrack:
“Death doesn’t discriminate Between the sinners and the saints It takes and it takes and it takes Yeah, we keep living anyway We rise and we fall and we break And we make our mistakes And if there’s a reason I’m still alive When everyone who loves me has died I’m willing to wait for it I’m willing to wait for it”
That bit about how “we rise and we fall and we break” really resonates with me. On this journey of mine there have been many points where I have risen higher than I thought possible, when I’ve been showered with praise and placed on a bit of a pedestal, but gosh, I have absolutely experienced the fall from that pedestal and I have not just broken, but shattered to the point that I wasn’t sure if I could be put back together and be the same person.
And isn’t that what the Chamber of the Ordeal seeks to do? To make you fall and break, because it is seeking out those points of weakness in you – and yes, the battle to be able to rise again is the hardest you’ll ever face, no matter how many times you face it. But please believe me, my friend! I know you are strong enough to keep fighting, no matter how many times you have to face the Ordeal. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your own battles, however large or small, I know you have the strength and ability to walk out as the amazing and capable white knight you are.
I also know that we are all blessed to be able to call on the help of others during our own battles with the Ordeal – a luxury that the squires in Tamora Pierce’s books are unable to claim – and I want you to know that you should never feel guilty about or unworthy of asking for assistance. Sometimes being our own knight means knowing when we need to call in reinforcements. Whether that means turning to your friends and family, a member of your community who you trust, or even a kind stranger, please know that there are always hands open and ready to take yours.
And in case you need it now, here are some resources for you:
Side note – Do feel free to check Groupon for a deal if you decide to use BetterHelp– that’s what I did when I signed up in January 2018.
Wherever you are on your journey, my friend, please know that I am here for you, standing in the light and shaking a set of brightly colored pom-poms, rooting for you to win all your battles with the Chamber. Keep fighting, my friend. You’ve absolutely got this. ❤
In today’s post, I want to talk a bit about why I decided to start this blog. Honestly, it wasn’t really a thought in my mind as of a little over a month ago, but sometimes it seems like everything in life is telling you to do something – have you ever experienced that? For me, the most recent things I’ve felt called to pursue are Reiki training (Thank you, Jillian! You’re awesome!) and sharing the story of my journey out of the darkness of depression and anxiety back to letting my little light shine bright. The story of that journey will be coming in a few posts due out later this week, but I want to talk about the interplay of light and dark for a bit.
I freely admit that at this time last year, I was certain the little light that makes me, well, me, was guttering out, drowning under the constant stream of the terrible thoughts in my head. My goodness, if past me knew where I would be today…. I do think making it through the journey of the past year would have been that much easier. In the past few months, I’ve really started thinking about how I now feel like I am filled with light and joy that I need to share, as compared to the flickering flame I felt during the worst part of my struggle with depression last year. As you’ll see in upcoming posts, BTS has played a not-insignificant role in my recovery, so when Jimin released “약속 (Promise)” on SoundCloud, it struck a chord in me.
Okay, jumping in here – I’m not very far along in my Korean studies, so upon first hearing the song, the lines “I want you to be your light, baby. You should be your light…I want you to be your night, baby. You could be your night” really caught my attention. Even before I started seeing translations come out, the song very much struck me with a message of the need to love myself. As I’ll discuss in future posts, 2018 was very much a journey to better mental health for me and I do love myself now. As I was listening to the song the first few times, I started wondering if the lyrics were “be your night” or “be your knight” – because I was very much getting the impression that the message is that I have the power to save myself and be my own light.
Though the lyric turned out to be “night” instead of “knight”, I feel like the homonym plays well here. I keep coming back to the idea of being my own knight, and it makes me think of one of my favorite characters – Keladry of Mindelan, from Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series. In the series, Kel is the first girl to try for knighthood since Alanna the Lioness (from the Song of the Lioness quartet). Now it may be important to note that Alanna disguised herself as a boy to be able to train for knighthood, so Kel is the first girl to be legally allowed to train for knighthood in over 100 years. In the books, as Kel goes through each year of her training, she forces herself to spend a night outside the Chamber of the Ordeal, where squires are tested for knighthood. The Chamber is a mystical place that is known to force squires to face their deepest fears and innermost flaws – and not every squire survives. Each time Kel spends the night outside the Chamber ahead of her official test, she is presented with a dream that forces her to face one of her fears. By the time she goes for her official test, she knows she is going to be forced to face her inner demons, known and unknown, before she will be allowed to leave the Chamber. I think…gosh, how do I want to phrase this…I think 2018 was very much like facing my own Chamber of the Ordeal, but I also think most people have their own moments where they enter their own Chambers. Does that make sense? I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think we all have our own inner battles to face, and as with the Chamber, we are changed when we come out on the other side. Isn’t it interesting how this story I read as a teenager still resonates with me now? Isn’t it interesting how these messages seem to align – to be my own knight, I must face and accept my own light and darkness?
And yet, in looking at the play of “light” and “night”, I am also reminded of Cardcaptor Sakura and what she had to go through to capture The Light and The Dark Clow Cards. It has been a good while since I’ve read the manga or seen the anime, but I remember the anime episode pretty clearly. I’ve always liked that Sakura was able to capture The Dark only once she came up with her personal affirmation – “I will definitely be all right” – which also caused The Light card to show itself. I also really like that the two had to be sealed together – because we can’t have one without the other, right? I’m also reminded of this quote: “Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We have to accept our shadow selves as much as we accept the selves we choose to present to the world. It is okay to have those dark moments, dark thoughts, of course that’s okay. In my case, it is okay that I’ve struggled with depression, it is okay that I experience anxiety, it is okay that I am still on a grief journey (it never really stops, does it?) – I don’t have to be happy all the time. But I also don’t have to accept the lies my brain tells me, I don’t have to believe that just because things are dark at certain points that they won’t get better – I KNOW they absolutely will get better. Because I survived what I’ve survived, I know that I can do, and handle, anything. I love my past self – battle scars and all – and I love my current self, the one who knows everything is all right and will always be all right, because “I will definitely be all right”.
…I feel like I may have gotten off track here a bit? What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that – “약속 (Promise)” really resonated with me. I know I have “never walked alone” because I have an awesome support system, but there were certainly times where I felt lost in my own head, where I felt like a burden, where I thought everyone I loved would be better off without me, but even in those moments, I couldn’t allow myself to give up because I had made a promise to myself and to my wonderful sister, Susie, that I wouldn’t “throw myself away”. I made a promise to keep holding on. I knew that pain can’t last forever, that things would get better someday, somehow. And here I am! Happier than I can remember being in over a decade (yes literally), comfortable in my own skin, optimistic and grateful and certain that good things are coming my way. There have been many lights in my life and on my path, helping me on my journey out of my own personal Chamber of the Ordeal. Most of you know who you are, and I sincerely thank you for being there for me. As I embark on this new blogging adventure, it is my hope and intention to be a light for someone, anyone, else. If by sharing my journey, I can remind just one person lost in their own darkness that we deserve to love ourselves, that we can be our own knights, and that, even when we feel so lost in our own darkness, we are never alone – well then, I’ll be forever grateful that I have been a light to someone else. ❤ So here I am – letting this little light of mine shine. ❤