FINDING THE LIGHT

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I am not a professional in the field of mental health. All my post about mental illness come from what I learned through years of therapy and through research. Always confide in a professional first. My posts are only meant to give you suggestions, educate you and encourage you.

 

MAKING MY MEMOIR DREAM COME TRUE

    I have struggled with my learning disability whole life. I faced bullying because of it, and I had to work around it to succeed in high school and college. To get my degree in college, I had to see a specialist to prove I had a learning disability to receive a wavier for a class I couldn’t pass so I could graduate. It’s been a burden and a challenge. It has also made editing my own memoir difficult.

     In high school I couldn’t spell well. I had a bad spellers dictionary and other tools to help me with it. I continued to write even though I couldn’t spell, and in time I got better at it. Now my difficulties are understanding adjectives, pronouns, and adverbs. I have a hard time figuring out when to use a comma, how to reduce repeated words, and understanding the basics of grammar. In writing a memoir we use “I” which is called first person. I use that word way to often and I can’t figure out how to correct it.

     I could easily give up editing my memoir and allow my learning disability to defeat me, but I’m not a quitter. I have taken my manuscript to my Pennwriters group. They critique it and give me their feedback. First, I just brought it to the second and forth Saturday groups while I was writing it. While I was recovering from surgery, I decided to try the Thursday night groups via Zoom. This group is called Fellowship of the Quill and they meet each Thursday.

     This group has been extremely beneficial in helping me edit my manuscript. They show me where to put those commas, they give me suggestions on how to fix grammar errors, and so much more. Yet I still struggle with how to reduce those repetitive “I’s”. My friend Amy Bovaird told me it’s just a matter of rephrasing the sentences. I sit for hours staring at my screen trying to figure out how to fix them. I get frustrated.

     The old negative self-doubt settles in. The scars of being bullied never go away. Sometimes the old thinking that I learned in school starts playing in my head. The “You’re dumb,” “You’re a failure,” and “You can’t do anything right” thinking resurfaces. Sometimes I feel like I still must prove myself even though I have already done that. With that comes the depression trying to sneak its way in.

     It’s taken me a year or so to edit my memoir. I have worked so hard at it. I’ve struggled with it and have put my all into it. I faced my self-defeating thoughts head on, and I have argued with them. Several times I have wanted to give up, but my friends and husband refuse to let me. They remind me how far I have come.

Before I wrote my memoir, I told everyone I couldn’t write a book length manuscript. I swore I could only write short stories. Everyone encouraged me to give it a try and now I have written 397 pages and 86,850 words. It took me four years to write it, but I did it. How can I give up after all that just because I struggle with self-editing? I’m not a quitter, right? I must push forward. I can’t let negative thinking, a learning disability, and my mental illness stand in my way.

This past Thursday I brought my last chapter to The Fellowship of the Quill. I consider this a great accomplishment. The editing process isn’t finished, but I have completed the first round of editing. I finished the self-editing. I have to go through and do some corrections suggested by the group, but I made a big step. I didn’t give up despite my challenges. I pushed forward.

Once I’m done going though the groups feedback and polishing up my manuscript to the best of my abilities it will go to a professional editor. There is still a lot of work to be done to get my work in progress ready for publication. The journey isn’t over, but I’m in it for the long run.

I have been dreaming since high school to hold my own published book in my hand and I am determined to make that possible. I even have a publisher I plan to send it to that publishes memoirs. If they don’t accept it, I will find another publisher. Just because I have a learning disability and mental illness doesn’t mean I can’t make my dreams come true. They are only obstacles I must work around to accomplish my goals.

Don’t let your disability stand in your way of pursuing a dream. You can make your dreams come true if you are determined. There is always a way around those challenges you struggle with. Disability doesn’t mean you can’t do something. Take off the “Dis” and you have “ability.”

My friend Amy Bovaird always says, “Disabilities is abilities.”

Despite our disabilities we have many abilities. You just need to look deep inside you and find those special things you can do.

Because I refuse to give up, I am making my dream come true. Soon I will be dancing in the light holding my published book.

BULLYING IS ABUSE

     Bullying happens every day within our school systems and on social media. It happens to kids who are different, who have disabilities and who are a little awkward. Children in school are under a lot of pressure. Everyone is fighting to be accepted. You either fit in or you don’t. If you don’t fit in, you often become a victim of bullying. Children picking on their peers are not kids being kids. It’s a form of abuse. It is the same as spousal abuse or child abuse. It can be verbal or physical. Whatever form it is, it’s abuse, peer abuse.

     When I was in school very few people had computers at home. They were big and information was saved on a floppy disk. We were just learning about the internet and there were no cell phones. We didn’t text or surf the web by a small phone you could put in your pocket, but bullying was just as prevalent. In the modern world, bullying happens on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and through texts. Children are abusing each other using the internet. Words typed are just as painful as words said. They leave wounds no one can see.

     Words hurt. Words break hearts and souls. Mean things said or typed over and over leave wounds on the heart and soul that no one can see, ones that could take years to heal. They destroy a person   from the inside out. It can lead a person into mental illness and even to suicide. Bullying can also be more than just things said or typed. Some children get beaten up each day, shoved in lockers, knocked down and have things thrown at them. I had rocks thrown at me in my own yard.

     The bullying I faced led me into depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, anxiety and self-injury. It took most of my adult life to mend the wounds the words my classmates and teachers caused. It wasn’t just words either. It was cologne poured down my back, it was gum thrown in my hair, and it was pushing and shoving and much more. It took years to rebuild my self-esteem, to learn to love myself, to change my way of thinking and everything else bullying ruined. I even thought about taking my life and at one time made unsuccessful attempts.

     There are children of all ages committing suicide because of what they face each day at school, on the internet and even walking home from school. Some children just can’t handle it and see that there is no other way out. They suffer so badly nothing can bring them comfort. They have been beaten down so awfully that they can’t find enough strength to fight to go on.

     Can you imagine day after day being put down, finding lies about you on social media, being beaten up just because you’re different? It’s just like a wife being belittled continually by her husband or beaten by him. It’s the same thing. It’s abuse. Weather verbal or physical it is very harmful

     Take a stand against bullying. Can you just stand by and allow children to be abused at the very place they are supposed to feel safe and by their own peers? Stopping bullying can start with the parents. Teach your children to accept all children and to stand up when they see someone being put down or hurt by others. Teach them to sit with that kid who sits by him or herself at lunch, to say something nice, to tell someone if they witness others being picked on and to get to know a person inside out. If you’re not a parent you can help by sharing your own experiences through writing, videos, talks, and you can support stop bullying causes.

     Let’s all step up and say stop the abuse. Let’s tell the bullies to stop and be kind.

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF LOVE

     When family works together, good things can happen. With Covid, many of us have been distant from those close to our hearts. Grandparents haven’t been able to see their grandchildren, parents haven’t been able to get together with their children, and so on. As more people get vaccinated, they are starting to get together reuniting the special bond of family. My family got together Saturday, April 10, to do something special for my parents.

     My younger sister, brother, older sister, and I have been planning a surprise fiftieth anniversary party for my parents through text messages and phone calls. My younger sister, Chris, and family live in North Carolina and my brother, Scott, and family live in Tennessee. My older sister, Shelley, and I live about 45 minutes apart. So, planning a surprise party hasn’t been easy.

Me, Scott, Shelley, Mom and Dad and Chris

     My parent’s actual anniversary was January 31. My parents married on my dad’s birthday so he would never forget the day they married. In January everything was still pretty closed down with Covid. Cases were climbing and we were waiting for the vaccine. Plus, my nieces and nephews were busy with school. So, we pushed the party to April with the hopes that things would be better. It was also when my nieces and nephews would be on break.

Shelley and I had a small party on my dad’s birthday for them. We came up with the excuse that because of Covid we were unable to do any more.

Mom smiled. “This is fine. We don’t need any more than this.”

In the meantime, my mom got back in contact with her sister. I met my aunt MaryAnn when I was young, but I don’t remember. I began messaging her and then texting her. I thought what a wonderful time to reunite my mom and her sister than at a party. I told Aunt MaryAnn our plans. She told my mother she would be coming from Texas to visit her and go to Niagara Falls. MaryAnn would bring her husband, daughter, and her daughter’s husband. It became my aunt’s responsibility to get my parents to the restaurant for the party.

My mom kept telling me, “Why is she coming in April when it’s still chilly out? I wish Chris and Scott could be in town to meet them. I’ll have to talk to Shelley and see if she can come and meet her.”

Mom and Dad, Mom’s sister MaryAnn and her husband Randal

     Little did my parents know all their children were going to be in town. I’m not good at keeping secrets, so I had to bite my tongue. I also had to let Shelley know Mom would be calling her trying to get her to come over.

Plans were worked out. I booked the restaurant for the party, Chris had invitations made, I bought plates and napkins for the cake, Scott sent money for me to get a cake and we all decided on a menu. Aunt MaryAnn would tell them they were all meeting my husband and me at the restaurant the day of the party. Chris and family would stay at her husband’s uncle’s home, and my brother booked a hotel in a nearby town.

The week of the party came, and we were ready. Scott and his family arrived at their hotel Thursday night, and Chris and her family arrived at her husband’s Uncle’s home the same day. Then my aunt texted me that their vehicle broke down in Tennessee. They weren’t sure they would make it to the party, but they would try.

The night before the party all of us siblings and families got together except my older sister. Being farmer’s, Shelley and her hubby couldn’t get away from milking the cows. We talked about the party and then shopped for decorations.

My aunt and family rented a car Friday morning and made it to my parents at 1:00 am. Saturday came, and I was on edge. My anxiety was high, and I felt sick. Would everything work out.

We met at the restaurant at 12:30 to decorate. The guests started arriving at 1:00. Around 1:25 I waited in front of the restaurant for my aunt, her family, and my parents. At 1:30 they arrived. I led them into the dining hall of the restaurant.

All grandkids and great grandkids except 2

Everyone stood and shouted, “Surprise!”

Tears filled my parents’ eyes. We celebrated as a family fifty years of love: a special love that poured out to their children, grandchildren, and everyone they know. A love that has weathered many challenges and yet stood strong and unbending. Covid couldn’t stop us from celebrating such a beautiful occasion. Nothing could stop us from giving our parents the party they deserved.

With Covid families have been split apart and isolated from one another. Depression and anxiety have been high. People who have never had mental illness are getting depressed because they miss their families. Now that the vaccine is being administered and cases are going down, it’s time to start reuniting with our families. It’s time to celebrate the love of those close to our hearts.

My parents’ love has always guided me through the roughest times in my life. I thank them and celebrate their bond. Being with my family holds me up into the light of recovery.

FRIENDS ARE LIFELINES

     If you don’t have family to turn to, or if you feel like you can’t turn to your family, friends are just as good. If you have both, then you are lucky. Not only did my family stand at my side through the rough times and through recovery, but I also had wonderful friends. One friend stood at my side during a very rough spell.

     I met Cheryl while living with an old roommate.  Cheryl transferred from another Giant Eagle to the one where I was and now am working. While living with my roommate and dating a guy, I fell into a depression. When I went to live with my boyfriend, I hit rock bottom. He became controlling and abusive, pushing me deeper into my inner hell. I started injuring and contemplating suicide.

     With each put down, I found myself slipping away. I broke down into emotional episodes. My ex handled them by holding me down, and when I got worse, he called Cheryl. Cheryl talked to me, sometimes for hours, until I calmed down. Her gentle voice and persistence to get me to laugh calmed the fire within me.

     The hole of depression seemed more hopeless at nighttime. I’d sit in the dark with a knife in my hand, planning my death. I dialed Cheryl’s phone number and she answered. It didn’t matter what time of night it was; she answered. She’d tell me how important I was to friends and family. She helped me see how special I was and how much I’d be missed if I were gone. She stayed on the phone with me until I put the knife down and started laughing.

     At work, if Cheryl noticed I was struggling, she’d leave me a note that said “smile” with a smiley face. One night when I drove her home, I stood in the middle of a busy street determined to die. Cheryl pulled me out of the street. She led me into her apartment and talked to me until she was sure I would not try taking my life again.

     When Cheryl moved away, we kept in touch online. She continued to support and listen to me while struggling with her own hardships. For a period, we lost contact. While we were apart, I reached recovery. When we finally did get back in contact again, through Facebook, she once again became my supporter and still is. Now she can also turn to me for support.

     I no longer think about taking my life, I haven’t

injured in thirteen years and I have been standing above the hole of depression for a long while. Cheryl praises me on how much stronger I am and on how far I have come, but when I do go through a rough time, she’s there to give me words of wisdom and to help me see the light again. The funny thing is she and my husband give the same advice without talking to each other. Cheryl helps me stay within the light.

RECIPE FOR RECOVERY

2 c. Therapy                             4 c. Acceptance

3 c. Positivity                          1/2 lb. Courage

4 Tbsp. Medication                       1 lb. Perseverance

1 bunch of Support                       5 c. Self-love

1/2 lb. Determination                    1 Ray of light                                                  

     Turn your heart and soul to 100%. You must put all of yourself into the recipe for recovery to bake fully. Allow yourself to heat up while you put together the ingredients. You must open your mind and understand you have an illness. Pour acceptance into a large bowl. Once you have accepted you have an illness, you must seek help by telling someone and finding professionals who can properly diagnosis you and give you what you need. Mix in therapy and medication.

     To fight mental illness, you must dig deep inside yourself for strength and endurance. Mental illness is evil, and you must stand tall to fight it. In a separate bowl, melt courage and determination together. Once it’s melted, mix it into the big bowl.

     For recovery to rise properly, you must push forward no matter what. Life may get in the way, you may slip a few times, and you may feel like giving up, but you must go on. Mix in perseverance.

     In order to find wellness, you need friends, family, and groups to lean on, to listen to you, and to encourage you. You can’t do it alone. Turn to anyone whom you can trust and depend on. Chop up support and put it in the bowl.

     For years you have seen the worst side of everything. You became blind to the good. For recovery to bake properly, you must change your way of thinking. Mix positivity in and stir well.

     You are no good to anyone if you do not treat yourself well or like yourself. You have neglected your needs and you have learned to hate yourself inside out. You must change this and start to look at yourself in a better way. You need to take care of your needs and nurture yourself during the rough times. Pour in self-love.

     Mix all the ingredients with a mixer on low speed until it becomes doughy. Take the dough out of the bowl and gently knead in until all the lumps are out. Put it on a sheet and allow it to bake. As it bakes it will slowly rise over time into a loaf of recovery. Once the loaf has risen, you have taken control of your illness. You have finally made your own recovery, but recovery takes continuous work. To keep recovery from deflating, you must take care of it daily. You must hold on tight when the toothpick of illness threatens to poke a hole in all your hard work. Now that your recovery is baked, dance on top of it within one ray of light.

     Add more ingredients in if you need to help bake your own recovery. Recovery is a beautiful thing, but only stays full for as long as you’re willing to sprinkle it with a new self-esteem and lots of love and maintain it with antidepressants and self-care. Enjoy your recovery. Dance in the light with pride.

THE HEALING POWER OF THE IMAGINATION

     The imagination is a powerful tool. It allows children to dream of worlds, go on adventures, gain special powers, create new things, and much more. A children’s imaginations are endless and helps them grow up to be creative, inventive, and much more. The imagination can also be a coping technique, allowing them to escape or deal with tough situations like bullying, mental illness, tragedy, bad living conditions, and so on.

     During my school years when I was bullied, my imagination was a coping technique. It allowed me to escape the world that beat me down and go into one where I could be lifted up. I dreamed of being a star, of facing my bullies, of imaginary lands, and so on. I created whole new worlds in my mind, and in those worlds I was free from the pain reality caused me. The best part of my imagination was I could control it. I couldn’t stop the teasing, the pain within me, the decline into mental illness, but I could create with my mind and escape.

     I also imagined bad things happening to me. This became an unhealthy coping technique. I thought if something bad happened, then people would suddenly care, or I would have an excuse not to go to school. I imagined getting hit by a car, falling, and breaking my leg, a large kid attacking me and putting me in a coma, and so on. I wanted my imaginary injuries to come true, so I didn’t have to go to school. The problem was this became a habit I couldn’t break. I continued to do this into my adulthood and sometimes I still must remind myself to stop.

     In high school I began to write down my daydreams. Writing became a healthier coping technique. For a long time, I didn’t think my writing was any good. My uncle died when I was in seventh grade, and a teacher and her aide encouraged me to write about my uncle. They said it would help me deal with his death. Below is an excerpt from chapter 29 of my memoir.

I closed my eyes and pictured my uncle, and I took a deep breath. I opened my eyes and suddenly words gushed from the tip of my pencil onto the paper. Memories flowed through me and spilled out. It was like my pent-up tears were streaming out of me in words. Before I knew it, I had three pages filled. Once I was done, I read over my writings several times.

My imagination led me into writing and my writing helped me deal with what was happening in my life and inside me. Another excerpt from this chapter talks about this more in depth.

After writing about Uncle Tim, I became inspired to write more. In between studying, I would pull out some notebook paper and just let the words flow out. My words on paper were the voice I couldn’t force to part my lips. The feelings and thoughts no one knew about.

My writing became my passion. I worked hard to hone it. My writing was another thing I had control over. I could decide what happened to my characters, I could give them happy endings, shine light on their rough times, bring my imaginary worlds to life and release my inner anguish. I bared my soul in words on paper. I told people the only way you could get to know me was to read my writing, because it bared the deepest secrets of my soul.

As an adult I was hospitalized for my mental illness. My friend Jane brought me a pen and a journal. I started filling journal after journal with my feelings, thoughts, and anguish. My journal became like a safety blanket. I carried it everywhere and wrote in it every chance I could. It was the only way I could get my feelings out. I couldn’t talk about how I felt, but I could write about it.

My therapist, Linda, had me write journal entries for her. I’d bring them to therapy, and we would discuss them. Then she had me start a journal to put positive things in it. She used my writing ability to help me get better. The positive journal was hard, but I worked at it. It in time became very therapeutic and taught me a new coping technique.

For a time, I dabbled in different genres of writing trying to find a purpose for my talent. While I was at my worst, I stopped writing stories and just focused on journaling. Then I decided to write about my experiences. I think God’s purpose for me is to help others through my writing. That’s why I write this blog and why I wrote my memoir. My story can help others.

As I wrote my memoir, my writing got better and more powerful. My author friends say my writing is a good example of how to put emotion on paper. I just write what I feel. I relived my past and put it down. Writing my memoir was therapeutic and I know once it’s published, it will help others. My imagination helped me become an author.

What will your imagination lead you to? In what ways do you cope with your mental illness? Do you escape in your imagination, do you write, do you draw, or do you make crafts? The imagination is a good coping technique and can lead to other creative outlets to deal with the pain within you.

My writing is my therapy and my purpose. I write my way into the light of recovery.

CHILDHOOD MENTAL ILLNESS

   Mental illness knows no boundaries. It doesn’t pick a certain age group. Even children struggle with this serious sickness. Many children suffer in silence, afraid to tell parents, guardians, and teachers what’s happening within them. They may not even understand what is wrong. It’s a horrible struggle to face alone, but unfortunately many of our children feel they have no other choice.

     I never really realized how young I was when I started struggling with mental illness until I started writing my memoir. To write my book, I had to retrace and relive my childhood. Back then I didn’t know what mental illness was. My mom told me my grandmother, her mom, struggled with mental health problems, but I had little understanding of what that meant. I just knew she was sick and spent some time in hospitals. She came to visit once and a while, but I was young and only have a few memories of her.

     My mom told me I was a happy child until I started going to school. Some of that sadness was caused by bullying, and I believe that was what triggered my illness. Many things can trigger such a sickness like abuse, tragedy, loss, poor living conditions, bullying, and so on. The teasing started in first grade and in my memoir, I could retrace the start of it.

     It was then I began to lose self-esteem. I couldn’t defend myself against the names I was called. I began to question if the things I was called were true or not. I felt a sadness, but it wasn’t overpowering. As the school years went on, my illness progressed. At night I struggled to sleep and when I did, I had nightmares. I started to put myself down internally and I began to hate myself. I broke out in angry fits. I would get into fights with my siblings, I would scream, cry, and throw things. Then I started pulling my hair to ease my pain inside. The hair pulling turned to punching a wall and pinching my skin.

     I knew there was a deep sadness in me and that I had emotions I couldn’t control, but I had no way of explaining it. My parents were and are very loving people. Dad worked long hours at the family garage and Mom worked hard taking care of four children and our home. They didn’t have much money, but they showered us with love. So, if I had such wonderful parents, why didn’t I turn to them? How could I tell them I was falling apart inside when I couldn’t comprehend it?

     I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. How could they when I didn’t even know what was happening? It seemed like a burden I was cursed to carry on my own. My parents thought I had a bad temper. I thought they were right, but when I broke out into those angry bursts it was like I lost all control of myself. There was no explanation for that other than I had pent up anger to let out from the kids teasing me at school. I argued with my parents and little things set me off into a fury. My parents and siblings suffered the wrath of my unexplainable temper-tantrums. My parents were at their wits’ end trying to figure out how to help me control my anger. It wasn’t until I was hospitalized as an adult that I learned the angry fits were emotional episodes caused by Borderline Personality Disorder.

     In eighth grade I felt the saddest I had ever felt. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. I buried my depression in studying. The racing thoughts were nonstop. I tried to quiet them, but they were too powerful. They tore me apart inside. A misunderstanding from my Special Education teachers sent me to the school counselor. Talking to him each week got me through that rough time. I was able to cope a little better.

     It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom in college that I finally confided in my parents. I had started cutting myself, I planned my death, and began to try to take my life. When my mom found out what was happening, she went out of her way to find me help. As an adult I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, self-injury, and Borderline Personality disorder.

     I struggle with worries of how my parents will handle my memoir. Will they feel guilty for not knowing? Will they be crushed when they realize how I suffered in silence? Will they be hurt because I didn’t turn to them? I think the important message I want them to get from my book is that their love and the love of other family members was what kept me going.

     Childhood mental illness is serious. It’s important to educate parents and children about the symptoms and signs. It’s important we tell our children that it’s okay to talk about things that’s happening to them which they don’t understand.

If you’re a child suffering, don’t be afraid to tell someone. Don’t suffer in silence. This sickness is a heavy burden you can’t carry on your own. Tell a parent, a relative, a guardian, or a teacher. That way they can get you help. I wish I would have confided in my parents. Maybe if I did, I wouldn’t have fought this sickness for so long. Maybe I could have reached recovery sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have hit rock bottom and became suicidal. Speak out. If you must put it in a note or draw a picture, then do that.

I can’t live in regret for keeping my illness a secret when I was a kid. There are a lot of “what if’s,” but instead of wondering, I decided to help others with my memoir. Writing my memoir helped me and I’m sure will help others. Helping others through my writing will guide many children to the light and also keep me standing strong in the light of recovery,

FLY FREE

Tears I shed for a special soul

Who battled cancer with a smile

A smile that glowed

With rays of unbounding kindness

Cancer ravaged her body

Yet she smiled

Chemo weakened her

Yet she never complained

She coped with crafts

Sore fingers made wreaths, bracelets, and keychains

She could no longer work

Money was tight

Yet she gave gifts

Simple texts and hugs

Socks and mementos

Her radiant soul touched mine

I shed a tear of sadness yet one of joy

Dear Tiffani fly free

Free of sickness and pain

You were an angel on earth

Now an angel in heaven

You touched many

Your essence will remain

Within my soul

My life forever touched by yours

Tiffani Staley March 12 2021

NO EXCUSES

     Mental illness is a serious illness and when it’s at its worst, it makes a person struggling with it unable to function. There are many kinds of mental illnesses; some are so severe the person dealing with it may never be able to live a normal life. There are other illnesses that people can reach recovery from and live their lives. Sometimes people use their sickness as an excuse not to get better or to avoid reaching dreams, working a job, living independently, finding love, and so on. The truth is there is no excuse.

     I’ve known people who used their mental illness as an excuse to avoid doing things. I met a woman at church who invited me over for dinner. While we were talking, she told me about her mental illness. She went on to tell me because of her illness she couldn’t work. When I asked her how her mental health kept her from working her only answer was. “It’s because I have mental illness.” When I tried to tell her that was no excuse, she didn’t want to hear it. She changed the subject.

     I went to a support group that was hosted by a couple. They told me I should quit my job. They tried to tell me because I have an illness of the mind I shouldn’t be working. I told them I wasn’t going to give up my job just because I have an illness. I quit that group. I even had a therapist try to get me on Social Security Disability so I wouldn’t have to work. I’ll admit it’s not easy to work with this sickness, but I find a way. I refuse to let my mental illness keep me from working. I will not hide behind excuses. I refuse to give up just because chemicals are out of balance in my mind, and I refuse to hide behind it.

     A lady I know refuses to take the steps towards recovery. She tells everyone she can’t get better. She tells her psychiatrist what medication to put her on and she takes herself off it. She gets people to feel sorry for her. Her illness is her excuse for not getting better and  a way to get attention from others. She is preventing herself from getting better. If she listened to her psychiatrist, did the work, and fought to get well she could reach recovery. Her life doesn’t have to be ruled by her sickness. She could take control of it if she allowed the psychiatrist to do his or her job and didn’t search for sympathy. There are other ways to get attention, healthy ways. She is depriving people of getting to know her for the person she is.

     I read on an online group about a guy who said because of his illness he could never make his dreams come true. I messaged him there is always a way to make your dreams come true. It may not come easily, and you may have to make detours, but nothing should stand in your way of making your dreams come true.

      I’m not the type of person to hide behind excuses. Mental illness makes life harder, but I refuse to let it stand in my way. I have no excuses. There is always a way around my limitations to achieve my goals. Anxiety, stress, and depression have made working as a cashier hard. I’ve had to force myself out of bed while depressed to go to work. I’ve had to go to the lady’s room during a stressful day just to take deep breaths and gather myself to prevent an anxiety attack. There are times where I have had anxiety attacks that made me rush to the bathroom to get sick. I know my limitations and I use coping techniques to keep working.

     I don’t hide behind anything. I have a learning disability, I have mental illness, I’ve had multiple surgeries, I have had breast cancer and not once have I let anything stop me from thriving. To me they are not something to hide behind, but a challenge to work around. If there is a way around my challenge, I’ll find it. Yes, my mental illness, my learning disability and other challenges have placed limitations in my way, but that doesn’t stop me. I just find other avenues to work around those limitations to achieve my goals.

     Excuses get you nowhere. They leave you lingering in limbo. You are just existing and never achieving. If you want to reach recovery, don’t let your illness be your excuse; let it be the challenge you work around. You can work, you can be loved, you can make your dreams come true, and you can reach recovery, but you must find a way to make it happen. You may have obstacles in your way, but you can find ways around them. Don’t hide; push forward and achieve. No more excuses. Go out there and find the path you need to take to reach recovery and to do much more.

     I have worked the same job for twenty-five years, I’ve had short stories published, I have written a book length manuscript, and I am in recovery. I have faced my challenges head on to accomplish all of these. Because I don’t use excuses I stand in the light of success and recovery.

PROGRESS ON MY MEMOIR

   In seventh grade, I realized I had a talent to write. At first, I just wrote down my daydreams. Then my daydreams became stories. It’s been my dream since high school to have a book published. I’ve tried to write several books but gave up. They just weren’t right. I swore that I couldn’t write a book and I could only write short stories. After several failed attempts and a couple years of writing short stories, I have finally written a book length manuscript.

     My manuscript is a memoir called Escape to the Family Garage. It has taken me four years to write it. My memoir is about how I was bullied in school and found love and acceptance at the family garage. I was put down daily because I have a learning disability. To write about how I was teased and degraded in school I had to relive it. It’s been a very emotional journey putting this manuscript together. I’ve cried, I’ve gotten angry and I became overwhelmed. I also felt joy when I wrote about the family garage and the adventures I had there.

     Here is an excerpt from chapter twenty-four of my memoir. In this piece we are making a club house (we called it a fort) out of crates. The last crate we needed was in the part of a barn where the floor was caving in.

The crate became a treasure at the far end of a booby-trapped cavern. Denny took his coat off, bent his knees, and counted. The barn disappeared and we stood at the edge of the cavern, cheering.

     A light flickered within my soul. “Come on, Denny. You can do it. You can get the treasure.”

     Denny took a deep breath. “One. Two. Three. Here I go.”

     I held my breath while Denny ran around the first trap and then the next. We all seemed to gasp at once when a creaking noise filled our ears.

     “Watch out,” Scott shouted.

     A piece of the cavern floor caved in revealing hot lava boiling up toward Denny. He swerved around it nearly tripping over falling boulders.

     “Come on, you can do it,” Russell yelled.

     Denny swerved around each obstacle. I let my breath out when he grabbed the treasure. He turned and jumped over holes of boiling lava and falling boulders on his way back. When he reached the opening and stepped onto solid floor, we gathered around him.

     “You did it, you did it,” we cheered.

     I use my creativity to bring our pretend worlds alive on paper. I wanted my readers to go into our imaginations with us and enjoy the fun my siblings, cousins, and I had. Memories like these were easier to write about. I enjoyed them. It’s the memories of the bullying that brought back anguish, pain, sadness, and much more.

The bullies were not just my classmates; they were also my teachers. This is an excerpt from chapter eight. I’m in second grade in this piece. My mom helped me learn how to read and I was excited to show everyone my new ability. I did my classwork on my own and took it up to the teacher for grading.

“You cheated,” her voice screeched. “There is no way someone like you could have gotten an ‘A’.” She drew a big “F” across my paper. “I don’t tolerate cheaters.”

     But I worked really hard all summer to read. I didn’t cheat, honestly. I worked hard. Tears threatened to spill. My head hung low.

     Words formed at my lips, but I couldn’t force them out. I could feel my classmates’ eyes on me. It was like they were tearing through my skin. Snickers filled the room. I slowly made my way back to my desk.

     Donna leaned towards me. “You shouldn’t use my answers. Don’t worry, I’ll tell her you need my help.”

     But I didn’t. I did it myself. My mom helped me read. I got the “A” myself. What’s the use? No one will ever believe me.

     The book is thirty=two chapters long, filled with heart- wrenching scenes and happy ones. I’m currently editing chapter twenty-seven. I toyed around with several subtitles and when a fellow author suggested, How Family Love Can Overcome Bullying I liked it, but it needed some tweaking. My Pennwriters group via Zoom helped me with that. I finally decide on, Family Love Overcomes Bullying.

     The subtitle fits perfectly. My parents, my grandparents, my cousins, and the guys in the garage lifted me up when my heart plummeted into sadness. They kept me going. My mom was always there to comfort me after a horrible day of school. My cousins were the friends I didn’t have, and my grandparents always showered me with love.

     Here is an excerpt from chapter twenty-five. After playing with my cousins Matt and Cindy during a break at the garage we called “Coffee Break”, we go to my grandparents’ home to say goodbye.

     Grandma bent down and kissed my forehead. All my pain seemed to float away with the warm touch of her lips and her arms around me. Lacey, Donna, and everyone else no longer mattered. I was safe in Grandma’s arms. She was like Superman. She was my hero. Her superpowers were endless love, encouragement, and an enduring faith in God. Grandma couldn’t lift a car, but she could always lift my soul out of sadness.

     We hugged Sari, and Aunt Helen and followed Mom to the car. I watched Grandma standing outside of the glass door waving while we drove away.

     I whispered, “I’ll see you soon, my hero.”

     There are more heart-touching parts to my memoir, but you’ll have to wait until it’s published to read them all. My goal is to have my book published this year. I have been working hard to make this happen. Traditional publishers don’t like to publish memoirs unless they are about famous people. I’m planning on self-publishing through Amazon. I need money to hire a professional editor, have someone put it together, and design the cover. I have been setting a little money a side and selling woodburnings to put in my “book fund.”

     I’m a very determined person. When I put my mind to something, I do what ever it takes to achieve it. This is what will help me get my book published.

     My determination is what helps me stand proudly in the light of recovery and accomplishment.