A WEEK AWAY

This week I’m in North Carolina celebrating my niece Autumn’s graduation from high school. Since I’m away there is no post. I hope you all are working hard at reaching recovery or working at maintaining your recovery. Remember recovery is possible.

RISING ABOVE MENTAL ILLNESS

    This week’s interview is with a dear friend who has become like a sister to me. When I was at my worst, she was at my side whenever I needed her, no matter what time of the day it was. When I was sick, I was so engulfed in my illness that I never knew until years later that she too suffered with mental illness. Now that I’m in recovery we have become a support system for each other. I can finally be at her side when times are hard for her like she was at mine when I was at the bottom of my hole.

     This week’s interview is with Cheryl Miller. 

What type of mental illness do you have and what are the symptoms?

I have anxiety, depression, and adjustment disorder with mixed emotional features. My symptoms are sadness, irritability, panic, and sometimes uncontrollable rage. 

What type of help or therapy did you get for your illness?

I have taken medication for many years and have been to therapy as well to help. I currently am not seeing a therapist, but I know I can go back to see my therapist when I need to.

Can you describe what it has been like to struggle with your illness?

Sometimes I feel symptoms without even knowing why I am feeling them. Then it frustrates me more and tests my ability to stay above it all.

When did you realize you had an illness and what did you do when you discovered it?

I realized something was wrong with me when I was younger, in my early twenties. I cussed out my father and did not feel afraid to hit him back if he were to hit me. I have always been respectful to both my parents, so doing that was very out of the ordinary for me. I made an appointment with a doctor right away and ended up starting on medications for depression and anxiety. 

What advice do you give to others struggling with mental illness?

 My advice is to seek out help, find a good therapist, and try medications. Make sure you surround yourself with a good support system as well.

 If in recovery, what steps do you take to stay in recovery?

To stay in recovery, I make sure I take my medication as directed, and use my coping skills I have learned in therapy. I will seek therapy if I ever feel I am falling out of recovery. I also lean on my support system and on God. Also, getting back into crafting has helped a lot too. 

What motivates or motivated you to reach recovery?

My motivation to stay in recovery is first and foremost my children. Even though they are now both adults, I still want to be able to be as present as possible in their lives and to be the best mom and friend to them that I can be. 

Who has been your support system through your illness?

My support system includes friends and some family members that I can talk to when I need a listening ear and sometimes even some advice. 

How has you family reacted to your illness?

My family has been very supportive of me doing my best to stay in recovery. They are always there for me when I need them. 

What are some coping techniques do you use?

Some coping techniques I use are holding an ice cube in my hand, the grounding technique (I use this one the most), talking with someone, whether it be friend or family member, or even a therapist. Crafting also really helps calm my nerves and helps me focus on something fun rather than my thoughts. 

Cheryl Millers Bio.

I was born and raised in Erie, PA. I have been living in upstate New York for about 15 years now. I have two beautiful children who are now 22 and 18 years old that I love to get together with as often as possible. I live with my boyfriend of 12 years. I love to make crafts to decorate my home with and I am a Steelers fan. 

AN INSPIRING STORY OF RECOVERY

    In this blog I have concentrated on depression, anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Those are the illnesses that I deal with daily. There are many other different types of mental illnesses. These illnesses are serious, but recovery still is possible. In this week’s interview, Marc Stewart gives us insight into a different type of mental illness. His story is inspiring.

What type of mental illness do you have and what are the symptoms?

My main diagnosis for over the last 30 years has been paranoid schizophrenia, later diagnosed as delusional disorder. It mostly manifests by my overestimating the hostility of other people–even so far as to once believe the FBI and university faculty were conspiring to drive me crazy. This notion was ludicrous, of course, because I am such a good guy. To this day, however, I tend to misanthropy based on my experiences with paranoia.

During a routine blood test, doctors discovered a blood anomaly that they thought might be due to my antipsychotic medication. The blood anomaly turned out to be leukemia. Ironically, my delusions then largely disappeared when the doctors discontinued the medication, but I developed mania associated with bipolar disorder. I became exuberant. My wife would say I was “Marc, only more so.”

What type of help or therapy did you get for your illness?

Fortunately, for most of the course of my illnesses, medication was able to relieve the utmost severity of the symptoms. While delusional, I was still largely able to function in the world. The medication for mania has practically cured my mania. Luckily, I never had the urge to harm anyone other than myself—suicidal ideation being a constant reminder that things aren’t peachy keen. I never seriously tried suicide, but don’t know why not.

Over the years, I have had several therapists who have been helpful for the most part—although I can barely remember what we talked about. My last therapist would listen to me talk for 45 minutes, then would take 15 minutes to tell me that I am fine. Indeed, I was.

When did you realize you had a illness and what did you do when you discovered it?

I first realized that I had paranoid schizophrenia about three weeks after I had been admitted to a big university hospital. I thought I had died and gone to a Sartrean No-Exit hell. I even tried to call the police to report my kidnapping. Accordingly, I quit trying to escape from the psychiatric unit and began to seriously comply with treatment—therapy groups and medication. 

What advice do you give to others struggling with mental illness? 

My advice to others struggling with mental illness is to understand as best they can exactly what their mental illness is. This involves consulting psychiatrists, therapists, other patients with similar and not so similar diagnoses, and relevant books. I have found philosophy and poetry particularly helpful. 

If in recovery, what steps do you take to stay in recovery?

I stay in recovery by religiously taking my medication and applying myself to the business of understanding life. Mental illness can be seen, for example, as a rational response to an irrational world, rather than an irrational response to a sensical world.

How has your family reacted to your illness?

Because I did not have flagrant symptoms, my family largely downplayed my mental illness. I was just “depressed”—depression being less stigma-oriented than psychosis.

     My wife of twelve years is a nurse and has been very supportive of me and a big help in my dealing with mania. We have no children. My parents are dead, but my brother and sister have largely written me off as “crazy” Uncle Marc. Nevertheless, we treat each other civilly.

How does your illness affect your ability to work?

I am retired now but managed to work part-time throughout my mental health problems. I did not live well, but adequately. I spent over twenty years doing peer support in mental health.

What is it like to function in society while struggling with your illness?

I find myself largely able to function in society. Continually, though, I must remind myself of the likelihood of my overestimating the hostility of others and that I am still not normal, whatever normal is. 

What encouraging words do you have for those struggling with mental illness?

Encouraging words for others with mental illness: Mental illness is a long-term disease that is in no way your fault. You will need to accept a certain amount of suffering on account of your illness, but there are a few things you can change. Some of your attempts at adjustment will work, but many will fail. Recovery is a lifelong experiment, but in the end you will probably prevail.

Marc Stewart’s Bio:

Marc Stewart was born and raised in western Pennsylvania. He attended Penn State University and the University of Minnesota where he was active in the Scum of the Earth Club, an artsy organization. He and his wife, both retired, live now in western Pennsylvania.

Give Marc your support by commenting and sharing this post. Please let me know if you would like to be interviewed for my blog post. Your story is important and can help and educate others.

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

    To change others’ views of mental illness and to combat stigma, it is important to tell our mental health stories. Our stories can teach, inspire, and help others. This blog has been about my experiences with mental illness. I have now decided to interview others with mental illness so that I can share their views and stories.

     I interviewed Teresa Richardson. Teresa is the wife of a friend of my husbands. I never met her but have talked to her through instant messenger. Like me she has battled mental illness and has a compelling story to tell.

     Here is my interview with Teresa.

What type of mental illness do you have and what are the symptoms?

I have PTSD and am also borderline bipolar depression. I do suffer from anxiety and some depression. I started with symptoms of just not wanting to wake up, loss of appetite, couldn’t sleep right, and also gained weight from trying to replace my happiness with food.

Can you describe what it has been like to struggle with your illness?

I have my good days and bad days. Lately I’ve been back to struggling with it more since dealing with my mom trying to give up. On my bad days I just want to shut down and crawl in a hole.

What type of help or therapy did you get for your illness?

I tried therapy and meds at Stairways (A mental health program with therapist and psychiatrist) for eight years. The therapy just seemed like all they wanted to do was put a band aid and find everyone else to blame for what I did and why I was ill.

What steps did you take or are you taking to reach recovery?

I took many steps and still am taking steps in coping. I have found several support groups on Facebook and I also take time to exercise. I take time to just go into a book or music and vegetate and clear my thoughts.

When did you realize you had an illness and what did you do when you discovered it?

I really didn’t realize it until about ten years ago when I lost a daughter and just couldn’t function in regular life. I reached out to a friend who was working in MADD (as it was a drunk driver that killed my daughter fifteen years ago).

What advice do you give to others struggling with mental illness?

The only advice I can say is, look into all aspects and therapy. There are so many new ways that aren’t using medications if medication isn’t an option you want. Exhaust all other roads. There are many natural remedies and many ways to deal and cope.

What motivates or motivated you to reach recovery?

I was motivated to change as I got tired of feeling worthless.

What types of challenges have you faced because of your illness?

I face different challenges but the main one is getting up and having a positive outlook on the day.

How has your family reacted to your illness? 

My family has not dealt well with it.

How does your illness affect your ability to work?

It used to cause a high level of apprehension and anxiety, making it  difficult to deal well with the public.

What is it like to function in society while struggling with your illness?

I don’t deal well with too many people. Society tends to blame the person suffering or tell them to just get over it. That doesn’t happen to a person dealing with mental illness and I hope to actually find a way to help those in a group I am trying to get approved by Facebook.

What are some coping techniques you use?

I use music and just keep myself busy when my mind wants to fall back into old habits.

Teresa’s Richardson’s Bio:

I’m a mom, grandma, wife, daughter, friend, and sister to many. I work as a cashier at a grocery store but not a whole lot of hours. Eventually I want to get my degree in social services and see where that will lead. I am forty-six years old and am now trying to plan for retirement. I am just going for my driver’s license because it has become a necessity. I take care of my husband who has had several surgeries and we try to stay active with yard saling, and just doing what we can together. My hobbies are few because I do not leave myself a whole lot of time to do things. I do for everyone else and sometimes it burns me out, but I like to listen to country, 80’s, R&B music. I love to walk and stay active. So, in short just looking to better myself and my future. This is me in a nutshell and I am who I am so people can take me or leave me. That’s their choice. If people choose to stick with me, I can be the best friend that will become a root, but also know I can’t do toxic relationships anymore. I’ve had too many in my life and choose to be better than that.  

     Please leave Teresa a comment. Give her your support. If you want to share your story, please contact me. Leave me a message saying you would like to be interviewed.

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.