Category: Warrior of the Month

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January Warrior – Kaylie

January Warrior – Kaylie

Hello! We took a break last month but we are back with Warrior of the Month!

This month we have miss Kaylie. Kaylie reached out to me on Instagram a few months ago wanting to be a part of my Warrior of the Month, and of course I said yes! After reading her story, I’m so happy to share it with everyone. Anxiety is becoming more and more common and I’m happy to be sharing a story that revolves all around GAD.

I’ve always been an anxious person. Growing up there were so many things that would cause me to worry; weather was a big trigger for me and I would often hyperventilate and hide in our basement with a few of my favourite belongings when we would get a thunderstorm. I would worry about everything and anything and I attribute this to watching my mom worry about everything and anything. I found comfort in biting my nails to the point where they would bleed and become numb, and I would snuggle my favourite stuffed rabbit. I still do both of these things today even though I’m almost twenty-five, but they are coping mechanisms that I’ve known my whole life. As I got older my worry about weather slowly went away but that was quickly replaced by newer and bigger worries.

 

Before I go any further into my life as someone who lives with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and how that became more than just regular old anxiety, it’s important that I talk about the difference between the feeling of anxiety and an anxiety disorder. The feeling of anxiety is completely normal and something we all experience in our daily lives. Whether that is feeling anxious about a job interview, to getting married, to having your first child, anxiety is normal but there comes a point when it becomes abnormal. “The term ‘anxiety disorder’ refers to specific psychiatric disorders that involve extreme fear or worry, and includes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD),  panic disorder and panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, selective mutism, separation anxiety, and specific phobias” (Understand the Facts, n.d). Okay, so now that we know that there is a difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder, I’m going to focus on what generalized anxiety disorder is and how it affects my daily life.

 

“Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive worry around a number of everyday problems for more than six months. This anxiety is often far greater than expected—for example, intense anxiety over a minor concern. Many people experience physical symptoms too, including muscle tension and sleep problems” (Anxiety Disorders, 2016). I can pinpoint the exact time when my GAD began, even though it wasn’t diagnosed until January of 2019. In 2014 I had many stressors occurring in my day to day life that forced me to recognize that life truly is hard sometimes. I was in the middle of my first year of university when my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, my paternal grandpa had passed away literally days later, and then my boyfriend at the time admitted to being emotionally involved with another woman. All of these stressors happened within days of each other and I had no idea how to deal with all of these things at once. I was also busy with university and work that I didn’t have a chance to truly process all that was happening around me, and naturally I bottled up the feelings I was dealing with. I continued about my life but struggled with feelings of intense worry, chest pains and heart palpitations, mood swings, muscle tension, and panic attacks. I dealt with all of this on my own and hid it from the people in my life who were close to me. To be completely honest, I was embarrassed. How could I go about life unhappy and be worried about everything when things were so good otherwise? Let me tell you why: mental illness does not care about your socioeconomic status, or the colour of your skin, or your gender, or how wonderful your life is or isn’t. Mental illness is just an illness and it attacks our brains in the same way that bronchitis attacks your lungs.

 

Fast forward a couple years to the summer of 2017. At this point (and for three years) I was living with this unbearable anxiety that I kept trying to push further and further away from my surface. I would feel all of these intense physical symptoms but I never went to the doctor for them because again, I was embarrassed. In the summer of 2017 I had to deal with the attempted suicide of my youngest sister along with the death of my maternal-grandma, who was such an important person in my life. The anxiety continued to get worse and I felt as though I was walking on eggshells around my own home in anticipation of my sister committing suicide which is no way to go about your days. Around the same time I experienced my first (of many) ovarian cyst ruptures and with my mom’s background with ovarian cancer, I was naturally quite concerned.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the summer of 2018: the height of my anxiety. Colin was in Quebec for four months of training for his new job and I had to plan a wedding with him being far away, we found out that he had to move to a new town for work, I had to get laparoscopic surgery and then move literally two days later, and then Colin’s paternal grandma passed away. I was living in a new town where I barely knew anyone and I was unable to leave the house because I had just had surgery. I was isolated (big time) and my anxiety began manifesting itself in new ways. I would constantly be feeling around my body looking for lumps and I was afraid to go to bed because I was convinced that I was going to die in my sleep. Every time we got into the car to make the trip back to our hometown I would have visions of dying. I remember breaking down and telling Colin that I was thinking about death constantly, and that I was scared about getting married because the person that I was for the past twenty-four years was no longer who I was today and I was going to have to learn to live with an entirely new identity. (This is something people don’t talk about when you get married, the ugly thoughts. Getting married is a huge deal and if you’re freaking out because you will no longer be who you once were, just know that it’s totally normal and it does go away).

 

I talked to Colin about the panic attacks, the heavy feeling in my chest, the heart palpitations, being unable to sleep, (and that I was sleeping too much), my muscle tension, my never-ending sadness, and my debilitating, intense and constant thoughts of excessive worry that really made no sense. Finally, it all came out. Five years of holding in all of this built-up anxiety that my body couldn’t handle anymore. Colin helped me get the help I needed and I went to see my doctor and blurted out all of the things I was going through. He wanted to see me again a few months later to see how things were going and to try some online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is something that I really enjoy doing. Colin and I decided to move me back to our home town because we thought it would be best while I learned to cope with my anxiety and while it did work for a while it didn’t change my anxiety.

 

Colin and I returned to my doctor’s office in January of this year and I talked to him about my symptoms as I knew something was wrong and that that these feelings of worry shouldn’t be as intense as they are. I told him straight-up that I felt crazy. We chatted and decided that it was best to put me on medication to help alleviate the symptoms of my anxiety as well as continuing the online CBT. I was prescribed Escitalopram Oxalate (Cipralex) 10mg and was told it would take about a month to begin working and to watch for any serious side effects. About a month later, I noticed (out of the blue) that it had been three days since I had heart palpitations and a panic attack even though I was still dealing with my anxiety. I continued to take my medication until I noticed a severe drop in my anxiety and began experiencing all of the symptoms all over again. I made an appointment with my doctor and while I handled the medication well, we decided to up my dose to 20mg, and it was at this time that I was given a formal diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Finally, I had an answer to what was going on in my brain and I could begin healing and learning how to cope with this illness.

 

Lastly, I wanted to touch on a topic that may be sensitive but I felt like sharing my opinion would be beneficial. There are a lot of posts out there today that talk about “high-functioning” mental illnesses. Straight-up, I don’t believe in this at all. I am not “high-functioning” because I’m able to live a somewhat normal life and hold down a job despite my mental illness; I’m able to function because I can afford the medication I need to thrive, I have access to various methods of therapy, I have an amazing support system, and I have various ways to cope with my mental illness. Sure, it may appear that I’m “high-functioning” because I’m married, leave the house, and can hold down a job, but when it comes down to it, I’m not “high-functioning” at all. I’m learning to live alongside my anxiety instead of letting it consume my entire life and I think that’s the difference between being able to function and not function. I go through periods of time that can last for weeks where I cry for no reason, have panic attacks for no reason, and I’m not able leave my bed because I’m so sick and tired of battling my own thoughts every single day. Living with a mental illness has vastly changed my life and how I focus on things. It’s a huge reason that I turned to Intuitive Eating and joyful movement in my life because they are not anxiety provoking and I can focus on different aspects of my life. I’m not ashamed of having GAD; in fact, I embrace it because it is a part of who I am. Maybe one day I won’t need medication to thrive and I’ll be able to go about life just dealing with everyday anxiety, but until then I’m going to let my GAD come along for the ride and live my life despite of it.

 

Thank you so much Kaylie for sharing your story with me and my readers. Anxiety is one of the hardest parts of my mental illness and one of the hardest to address. I truly commend you for seeking the help you needed and doing what was best for you. That can be really tough to do so I’m so glad you’ve taken those steps.

Until next month…

 

References

Anxiety Disorders. (2016, February 28). Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://cmha.ca/documents/anxiety-disorders

  1. (2016, March 14). Normal Anxiety Vs Anxiety Disorder [Cartoon]. Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://twitter.com/mpowerminds/status/709612686791864320

Understand the Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety

Resources

https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/guides-and-publications/anxiety-guide-en.pdf?la=en&hash=DEEF0BBD7FC131D116F13D4DFF609D93B726C210

https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-101

https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/generalized-anxiety-disorder

https://maps.anxietycanada.com/courses/my-anxiety-plan-map-for-adults/

http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/

https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/resources

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November Warrior – Carole

November Warrior – Carole

Hello, and welcome to my November Warrior of the Month post! This beauty reached out to me on Instagram wanting to share her story with you guys. She’s been through so much and I’m so glad she is still here with us today after going through some really dark times.

Depression is a fickle bitch. It hit me like a bus full of convicted felons, careening out of control.
The aftermath of that crash was the direct result of those evil..things wreaking havoc on my
life. I don’t really remember much from the Pre-Depression days, except for having two loving
parents. A sister I (shouldn’t have) idolized. A kickass dog or two thrown in the mix. To other
people we probably seemed like the perfect family and for the most part we were. There was
always unconditional love and we never wanted for anything. Then the prison bus crashed.
Murderers, drug dealers and rapists. All those bad things just scattered into the darkness.
Laying in wait to attack me when I least expected it. If only I could have predicted my own future
back then, maybe I would have tried harder to end it. Just set off on that last journey into the
cold abyss… even now I’m bundling up, trying not to let the icy depths pull me back under.
I spent so many years in that frigid, numb state emotionally and physically. I couldn’t remember
how to feel anymore. The first time I remember feeling something again was when I met my
first boyfriend at age 14. I got bored of him soon after but the damage was already done. I was
hooked on that tiny sliver of warmth he provided. Lost my virginity at 15 and proceeded to leave
a long line of broken hearts behind me. I didn’t know how to care about me, so why would I care
about them and their feelings? For the next year I played with the boys in school. Made them
fight for my attention, rewarded the good boys and let the bad ones do things to me I won’t
repeat on the internet. When I finally did drugs for the first time when I was 16, that’s when the
convicts started emerging from the shadows.
Partying, doing drugs, staying out all night in the woods sounds like wonderful time to a
teenager. Until your best friends 21 year old brother and his friends crash the party. Let’s just say
my last clear memory from that night is getting yanked out into the woods by a force I couldn’t
fight. The rest is history. You would have thought I had learned my lesson at that point but nope..
i spiraled. More drugs, more sex. People calling me a slut, bitch and all kinds of names. But
jokes on them, I called myself those names so often they just joined in and became a swirling
vortex inside me, hell bent on destruction. I started cutting myself and burning myself trying to
feel something. I was so desperate for anything other than the absolute agony of nothingness I
constantly experienced. I was out of control.
That’s when I discovered online dating and unknowingly met my second rapist. I’ll spare you the
details, but after that my soul was just obliterated. A couple years and lots of therapy later I was
in an okay place. In a stable, long term relationship and graduating college. I was really happy,
until my family decided to move to another country and I chose to stay behind. Well, the prison
bus came back with such force it completely annihilated my relationship. I ate more, he drank
more. I cried more, he drank more and we finally pulled the plug on our relationship 2 years past
the expiry date. The relationship rot was suffocating. Now my self esteem was broken along
with my scale. I had gained almost 100lbs in 2 years and for the next 4 I battled with my weight,
my mind and my disgust with myself. Swiping on Tinder, cruising POF, craving that warmth and
attention I knew I deserved but still couldn’t care enough to give myself. And that’s when I met
him. No, not the happily ever after kind of him. Life wasn’t done fucking me yet. That my dear friends, is when I met the murderer. I had dated sociopaths and probably a handful of psychopaths by this point in my life, but this man took the cake. Sitting beside me on his couch with a steak knife clutched in his meaty palm. Eyes boring holes into me, telling me how lovely my blood would look decorating his living room. That night I thought to myself ‘well, if I’m going to die here like this, it probably serves me right.’ I deserved to be the sad news story of a young woman found hacked to pieces in a burnt up apartment building. You could probably imagine a thousand scenarios on how that night played out, but you would be wrong every time. I’m believe my actions that night saved my life. My dumb brain froze and I started laughing at him, told him he’d never get away with it and went back to watching our movie and that was that. But boy, did that night ever change me. There are so many steps I took to get as far away from that point in my life as possible. I changed jobs and eventually moved cities and can happily say I am so in love with myself and am planning on marrying the love of my life soon. I just want everyone to remember that even in the darkest, coldest times when you don’t think you can go on, please remember to laugh in Deaths face and tell that bitch to get back on the bus with all the other assholes and shove off.

 

Thank you so much Carole for sharing your story. You know, it’s not easy to come out about mental illness and the choices you’ve made because of being mentally ill. I truly value each and every one of my Warriors and applaud them for being so brave and sharing their past, present, and future with not only myself, but my readers.

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October Warrior – Ashley M.

October Warrior – Ashley M.

Hello all! Welcome to our next Warrior of the Month post.

This month, we have a brave woman named Ashley sharing her story with us. She is fairly newly diagnosed and still working through the emotions that come with that, so please show her tons of support!

Hey, hi, hello.

I’m Ashley. I’m 26 years old. I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Honestly, I’m still coming to grips with my diagnosis. For years, I’ve wondered if I had undiagnosed depression. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt like I had a dark cloud following me everywhere I went and clouding my thoughts. Mental health is becoming less of a taboo than it was when I was a (pre) teen. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go. Mental health was never a topic of conversation at home in my younger years and the very few times I did bring it up, I was told, “you’re not depressed, and you don’t need any drugs – it’s all a crock of shit”. It’s no wonder I didn’t bring it up much after that.

I believe that my depression stems from all the deaths I witnessed as a child. By the time I was about 16 years old, I’d attended 11 funerals; most of which happened before my 10th birthday. I know it’s no one’s fault but I feel like it really scarred me. All my grandparents with whom I had the closest relationships, passed away when I was a little girl and I even watched a couple of them take their last breaths. Since I grew up feeling surrounded by death and watching my mom’s stoic expression every time it happened, I felt hardened. To me, crying was a weakness and I was not weak. I refused to let anyone past the walls I’d built because I knew that one day, they would leave. Whether it be through death or not, I felt that I had witnessed first-hand that every single person in my life would leave me.

Because I’ve always bottled up all my emotions, my depression only worsened the older I became. In middle school, I was like a lot of pre-teens and started acting out. Partly, I think it was because I couldn’t handle bottling everything up anymore. In grade seven, I had a friend who self-harmed just about every day and she seemed to brag about it just as much. Being around that kind of influence, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that I followed in her footsteps. However, unlike her, I kept solely to scissors; she moved on to burning and other forms of self-harm but I couldn’t bring myself to do anything more extreme. Scissors were good for me and I didn’t care; I had found my release.

I continued this addiction (because that’s what it is, an addiction) steadily for seven years before I finally asked myself what I was doing to myself and why. It took a lot of effort, but I finally quit, though it wasn’t easy, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t still struggle with it to this day. But just because I stopped self-harming didn’t mean that the depression had gone away. It just changed. Now, when I fall into a depressive episode, as I call them, I find myself lying in a dark room with melancholy music wishing that I would just cease to exist. I can’t ever pull myself out of it, no matter how hard I or anyone else tries. It was during one of these episodes that my now fiancé, asked me the dreaded question: “Have you ever considered seeing someone?” My answer was yes and no. I’d thought about it a handful of times over the years, but truthfully, I’d never acted on it.

This past May I finally made an appointment with the mental health counselor at my new doctor’s office. During my first appointment with her, I told her that I was feeling fine. The depressive episodes I’d been having had stopped, partly because some issues that had been putting a lot of stress on me had been resolved. However, I knew it wouldn’t last and this is what I told her:

“I’m okay right now but I know it’s going to come back eventually. It feels like I’m swimming in the middle of the ocean. When the depression hits me, I feel like I’m drowning and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t break through the surface. Eventually, when I do manage to break through, I’m relieved to breathe fresh air again and I feel okay but I’m still in the middle of the ocean and it’s only a matter of time before I get sucked back under.”

It was also during this first appointment with her that she told me that I have anxiety. This is what I’ve really been struggling with since that day, but after talking with my fiancé, I really shouldn’t be surprised. I’m constantly worried about everything and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I over-think everything. I’ve been known to put others’ wants and needs before my own and I will go along with whatever everyone else wants to do, even if it’s not something that I want to do. At times, I’ve made myself miserable because of this and I put their happiness above my own. Instead of speaking up for myself, I get anxious and just go along with whatever.

This past Labour Day weekend, I went to a big festival in Toronto and the first stop we hit was the food building. Since one of the things this festival is known for is the food, I wanted to try something different. But what ended up happening was that I got so overwhelmed by the amount of food vendors that I had an anxiety attack and I shut down. I couldn’t handle it, and someone had to order my food for me because I just couldn’t do it myself. Even though I was with family, I was still a little embarrassed and I felt so defeated. I didn’t want to ruin the rest of the night but I felt like I had let myself and all of them down.

It’s obvious now that I don’t do well when I’m given more than a few options. Only now, I finally have a reason why this happens. Now that I’m starting to get a better idea of what’s going on inside my brain, I’m starting to notice when I’m about to lose control. I’m starting to learn when my brain is telling me it’s getting overwhelmed and I’ve already noticed a few times when I’ve started to spiral and was able to catch myself before I lost control completely. I’m also getting better at opening up when things are bothering me or when I can feel an episode coming on, whether it’s because I’m feeling overly anxious or especially down.

I still have a long way to go and I’m looking into getting a proper therapist whom I can talk to, which I feel will help me keep myself in check. If I can have someone to talk to with an outside perspective who’s not completely immersed in my life, such as my fiancé, then I really do think and hope that I will be better able to learn what makes me “tick”, for lack of a better phrase. The mental health counselor suggested I try group therapy but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it wasn’t for me. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for you. Do what feels right to you and keep on keeping on.

 

Thank you Ashley for opening up and giving us a look into your life. While it’s never easy to “come out” about mental illness, especially so recently after a diagnosis, I’m so proud that you decided to reach out and share your story with me and my readers. I wish you all the best in navigating through life with this disease, but am sure you can handle the challenges ahead.

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September Warrior – Anonymous

September Warrior – Anonymous

Here we are again! It’s the 15th of the month so let’s dive into someone’s story of mental health struggles.

This month is a little bit different but I could not be more excited for you to read it. This month we have an anonymous submission about schizophrenia. I’ve been wanting to have someone write for me with with illness for quite a while as I feel it’s very important to discuss. The media has portrayed schizophrenia as a very dangerous and violent illness, when that’s really not the case. It saddens me that we judge so quickly the second we even hear the word. So, here we are, with an explanation as to what it’s really like to suffer from this mental disorder.

** If you have any questions, please comment and I will gladly pass along the question and add the answers to this post

 

Saturday morning. September 2014.

 

I wake up one morning, hungover as fuck because it’s Saturday. But something’s wrong. Something isn’t right.

Then I remember.

Last night, I was raped. But not only that, I killed someone.

Over the next couple weeks, I begin piecing it together. I was raped by at least a dozen people. And the person I killed?

She was an infant.

It was an accident, I dropped her because I had become so paranoid from all the events that happened that night, I had become convinced that no one could be trusted, everyone was trying to fuck with me.

I go see a psychiatrist. I’m only able to tell him a little about what had happened, it was still fresh in my memory. I only get as far as telling him I was raped when he cuts me off.

“None of this was in the news. You’re schizophrenic. It’s very serious.”

Over the next four years, every time I tried to talk about what happened, my psychiatric nurse would try to poke holes in my story, and convince me that it didn’t happen. I turned to drinking, no one would let me acknowledge my emotions and identify them, so I chose to numb them with alcohol. One day I wake up with tremors and decided that drinking wasn’t going to bring her back.

I stopped drinking 70 beers a week cold turkey.

3 months into my sobriety, it hits me.

 

I didn’t just kill a baby girl.

I went on a killing spree.

A year prior to sobering up, I had gone on a second killing spree in the bar I worked at. But why wasn’t I in prison? The story got a lot more complicated. Each time I had tried to reach out to people and get them to tell me what happened, they pretended not to know what I was talking about.

 

I black out for a month. I stupidly was mixing antipsychotics. Part of alcohol withdrawal is psychosis, and that’s how it expressed itself. Towards the end of that month, I raped and murdered a woman I liked.

 

My psychiatrist gave me an ultimatum.

 

“Either you commit yourself voluntarily to the psychiatric ward, or we’ll be forced to Certify you.”

 

I spent a week in the psych ward.

 

A week after I’m discharged, I go to the hospital to pick up a friend. A familiar car parks beside mine, and out steps the woman I had murdered a few weeks prior. I chat with her, briefly, and get into my car and ask my friend if she saw me talking to someone just now.

 

“Yeah, why?”

 

Then it all makes sense.

 

I never killed anyone. What I had experienced were psychotic breaks.

 

Dreams can happen at any point, not just when you’re sleeping. These are called psychotic episodes. My psychiatrist explained that when I black out, I can’t remember a thing from those moments, and my mind frantically tries to piece together what happened based on what’s happening before and after the episode. People who develop schizophrenia often have vivid imaginations as children. That’s essentially what a memory is, your imagination recreating those events. But as with dreams, it’s not during the dream we acknowledge it, it’s when we wake up. What happens in my episodes is basically what’s going on in my subconscious. The word “schizophrenia” means “split mind”, referring to how the mind is split between the conscious and the subconscious. Episodes themselves have a dark cloud over everything, they feel like repressed memories, but they aren’t. They’re just like any other dream, except much, much more vivid. The scariest part about them is total loss of self control. Any thought gets either expressed verbally (side note: what is colloquially referred to as “truth serum” is any drug or combination of drugs that induce a psychotic break) or acted upon. Or so I perceive. In reality, I’m catatonic. Psychotic breaks happen when the brain shuts off.

 

So what actually happened in September 2014?

 

“You were extremely drunk, started yelling at people, then *roommate* took you home and you passed out on the bathroom floor.”

 

There was no killing sprees. I was likely never raped.

 

I don’t know why my episodes are so violent. I’m the least violent person I know. That may be why; all my violent urges get suppressed until I express them in my schizophrenic nightmares. Or it could be because the media loves to report on violent schizophrenics, subconsciously telling myself and everyone else that schizophrenic people are violent. In actuality, schizophrenic people are just as unlikely to be violent as the average person. If anything, they’re more likely to be taken advantage of. The people who do get reported in the news are usually people who have a history of being violent.

 

Depending on the source you read, the prevalence of schizophrenia varies. The DSM-V says anywhere from 0.3-0.7% of the population suffers from schizophrenia spectrum. Some sources say as much as 2% of the population suffers from it.

 

As far as living my life, I can be quite reclusive. I can be a little (read: very) eccentric. My medication has helped immensely, as well as abstaining from alcohol and drugs. I’m all for marijuana being legalized, I used to smoke it heavily. However, if you look at those lists at pot shops at the conditions weed can medicate, you will NOT find schizophrenia or psychosis. Here’s why: weed exacerbates psychotic symptoms. It makes me revisit my episodes and add more to the already horrific story.

 

I’m happy to answer any questions. The two most common questions are “Do you take meds?” and “Are you violent?” In respect to the first question, that’s like asking a diabetic if they take insulin, the second question is just plain ignorant. My grandmother had schizophrenia as well, she was the nicest person in the world. She also believed she had done terrible things, but she hadn’t.

 

Thank you for reading, and I hope I’ve shed some light on the nature of my illness. Feel free to ask Cierra any questions and I’ll be happy to answer them.

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August Warrior – Isabelle

August Warrior – Isabelle

Hey There! And welcome to my next Warrior of the Month. This month comes to you from one of my favorite #bookstagrammers! Isabelle!

I can relate to this girl in so many ways it’s insaaane. She is such a brave soul for sharing her story with you all and I hope for a great reception for her. Not everyone wants to share these details for good for her for doing so.

Hello! My name is Isabelle, I’m 28 years old and I suffer from anxiety disorder and depression. I wasn’t always aware of the name of the labels but I know I always suffered from it. For as far as I can remember, this ball of anxiety has been a part of me.

I remember being very young and telling my mother I was nervous about going to school the next day. Some kids lie about being sick because they don’t feel like going to school, I lied about being sick because I was too scared of going to school. And so that’s how my elementary school years went on, I was this overweight stressed out girl who wondered why it was so hard to be happy like all the other kids. They made happiness seem so easy.

Then high school started and like everyone else I thought I was entering the best time of my life, because that’s what they tell you. They tell you they would do anything to go back to those years and relive it. But the truth is, my truth anyway, is that I still have nightmares about it and I would give anything to just forget. See, I started hanging out with those girls. The kind of girls that don’t quite make you feel good about yourself but are able to make you believe you need to hang out with them to be accepted and happy. Until they get tired of you. And they got tired of me alright. One day, just like that, they turned on me and I became the number one target for every bully. I missed 2 weeks of school because everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, turned on me. I would receive threats at home and my parents ended up calling the police because the threats just kept on becoming more serious. Calling the police helped stop the threats but it didn’t give me my acceptance feeling back. For months I ate my lunch in the bathroom because it was easier than having to face everyone. Once again, I was that overweight, unhappy, anxious girl.

You need to know that I come from a family where everyone suffer from anxiety. Both of my sisters and my mother suffer from it. At that point my sister would have full blown panic attacks and my father didn’t understand it very well which led to a lot of anger in the household. So I thought it better to just keep my feelings to myself because why throw oil on the fire?!

Then high school was over and I thought “This is it, I got through it and I will finally get to be happy”, if only it was that easy. I started smoking a lot of weed because I thought it was helping me relax and that went on for years. I had a hard time working and had to quit a lot of jobs because my anxiety prevented me from getting to work. And then I met this guy. The kind of guy who doesn’t really make you feel love but knows how to manipulate you into thinking you need him to be happy. That’s when my anxiety disorder and depression got out of control. I spent those endless evenings waiting for a call and wondering why he wasn’t calling. Why wasn’t I enough? Why was I never enough? Why do they always end up turning on me? But then he called and the worst thing that could happen, happened. I got pregnant.

I knew right away that I couldn’t have that baby. I was a 20 years old girl with no job, an addicted absent boyfriend and panic attacks all the time. I had nothing to offer that baby. How can I be enough for a baby when I can barely live with myself? And so I got the abortion. And it destroyed me. I remember coming out of the clinic and thinking I have never felt this alone in my life. And so I became numb to the world. All I wanted to do was sleep all day and cry all night. Every time I crossed the street I would think about how comforting it would be to be hit by a car and be done with it. Because not feeling at all is easier than living with this pain, right? So one night I was in my room and something inside of me clicked. Why not be done with it? I picked up those 2 bottles of pills and gulped them down. I still remember the feeling of the pills going down my throat. I don’t remember much about what happened next but I called a friend to say my peace and that friend called my house to tell my parents what was going on. One of the few things I remember about that night was my father asking me if I was happy with myself while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The thing I remember the most is that feeling of not caring at all. For once in my life, I didn’t care about my father’s yelling because it would all be over soon. But it wasn’t.

The years after that were spent trying to survive depression and anxiety. I spent most of the time out, smoking weed because it was the only thing that made me feel good. Until about 3 years ago, when smoking weed became a source of anxiety itself. I started having panic attacks every time I would smoke and be around people. So I locked myself inside my room.

But something in me changed at that moment. I decided I wanted to live and I wanted to survive these diseases. So I seeked help and decided that this time, I would accept the help I would be given. I stopped smoking weed, I even stopped drinking alcohol altogether because any kind of high would make me feel anxious. I turned to books to replace that high and oh, did books become my safe haven. I started seeing a psychologist, taking medication for my mental health, went back to school and started dating a nice guy who was there for me and encouraged me to become the best version of myself, one I didn’t even know could exist. My sister gave birth to an amazing little boy and being present for her and for him gave me the opportunity to grief for the abortion I’ve gotten and got me to realise there was good things in this world. My nephew will never know just how much he helped me only by existing.

Most people think anxiety means being over stressed and depression means being sad, but the truth is anxiety means being afraid to get out of your room, it means not being able to be with other people because you feel like you might die, it means over thinking every little details of your day because what if you did something wrong that leads to catastrophic consequences, it means not being able to take the bus or work because you can’t help but think of all the things that could go wrong. Depression means losing all your vitality, it means losing motivation and wanted to stay in bed because it’s the only place where people don’t expect anything from you, it means bursting into tears for irrelevant things like being out of milk for your coffee but mostly, it can mean losing your will to live. 

I fought this battle for as long as I can remember and I still fight it on dark days. I’ve hit rock bottom a few times but I kept on fighting and was able to crawl my way out of this dark hole. There are days when I still want to say screw being strong, screw fighting back and just let the darkness engulf me. But if you’re not fighting for yourself, at least fight for the people who love you. So I will keep on fighting for the people who love me but mostly I will keep on fighting for me because I deserve to be happy and I deserve to have control over my life. 

So today I’m asking you to stand by my side and fight back with me, as long as we stand together we are not as alone as we think we are. And when you have dark days, think about me. Know that I’ll be there standing strong with you. And if the days get too dark, know that I’ll be there fighting for you.

Isabelle.

 

Thank you lovely, for sharing your story with me and my readers. This is still a controversial topic and the fact you were brave enough to share really inspires me.

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July Warrior – Paula

July Warrior – Paula

Hello all! And welcome to my next Warrior of the Month segment. This one is pretty personal for me, as she is my junior high bestie! We used to spend countless hours in her basement drinking Dr. Pepper and eating popcorn twists, singing karaoke like we were professionals. Everyone meet Paula! Paula has had her issues with anxiety, but today she’s going to talk about how that affected her during a very upsetting time in her life. Read her story below.

I didn’t think writing this would be hard but I’ve opened up this document at least five times and left it blank…  My name is Paula, I’m 26 years old, and I guess I’m here to tell a bit of my story.  Growing up I was a social butterfly, outgoing, and always needing to be the center of attention. I’d been around a familiar group of people from the age of five to seventeen, so after high school when I dove into university I learnt a lot about myself… I discovered that even though I could hold a conversation with a classmate I just met, I hated the thought of doing it.  Even though I could stand in a room and public speak, I wanted to DIE at the thought of it for days prior. I would spend unreasonable amounts of time wondering if I would look okay, sound smart enough, or impress my peers and professor. I found myself worrying about the “what ifs” that came about in my daily activities or following an event I’d attended. I became really insecure with my ability to socialize and “look good” in other’s eyes.  I realized that fixating so intensely about the smallest details of a moment was not common behavior. I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was anxiety. Growing up in a generation where “anxiety” is a word thrown around so loosely, I would never want to classify myself as having a disorder, so of course I went to my doctor and spent some time learning about it. We live in a social age that is filled with many new platforms for a widespread of people to develop unhealthy levels of worrying, fear, and obsessions that can ultimately lead to an anxiety disorder. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a direct result of the development of social media where everyone is showcasing their best selves (no judgement, I use these platforms myself). It has contributed to some of my growing insecurities and enhanced my social anxiety as I believe there are expectations that are personally unattainable.  I force myself into social situations because it is good for me but I also feel sad when I decide to sit something out. So, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.  I try to empathize with others more when they don’t want to engage because maybe they are experiencing some of the same inner conflicts that I also have. I know that the only way for me to overcome this is to practice being more social (I wish this was as easy to do as it is to type). These are some general thoughts based on my experiences with anxiety, but I’ll transition into the topic I really want to discuss which is grief coinciding with anxiety.

 

In 2013 my dad was diagnosed with cancer. The big “C” word. I know.  Nobody wants to talk about it, and everyone just says “awe” while throwing you a look of pity knowing how sad it is, and yes, it is sad. Pity is the last thing I would ever want.  The years I spent with my dad while he was sick provided me with some crucial life lessons. I learnt not to take time for granted, that it is important to say how you feel and speak honestly, because time in this life is conditional. I learnt seek out a silver lining on a hard day, and that hope and positivity will carry you further than you anticipate. All that being said, watching my dad struggle was hard and it took a toll on me as a young adult.  He was my best friend, and something that makes me sad to think about is that as a young adult we were just getting to that point in our father/daughter relationship where we could actually be friends.  During his last years of sickness, I invested my time and energy into being present with him because that’s exactly where I wanted to be.  It’s where I felt safe and comfortable (It was also easier for me to justify not going out and engaging in social situations with people my age).  Even when I did feel like being social, I felt scared to go out because I didn’t want the stress and sadness that I was feeling to somehow impede on anyone’s good time (this sounds silly but it’s really just how my anxiety makes me feel sometimes). I separated what I was living through from certain parts of my life because it was not a common experience for people my age and it felt weird to talk about. I felt so insanely un-relatable for the things I was going through, and still do to this day.  Isolation is not healthy, but it does help me cope when my anxiety is escalated. I would spend nights awake going through a list of “what if’s” that included wondering how I would hold up when he passed away, and how our family dynamics might change.  If I was frustrated or angry I would feel insanely guilty and have a full-on breakdown for feeling the way I felt even though I know it’s perfectly okay to be frustrated with someone, sick or not.  Sometimes it was so bad that I would be lying in bed making a list of the things that would be most important to include in his eulogy. It was torture induced by myself and my own anxiety that caused me to spiral into a deep sadness at times. My social anxiety skyrocketed not only because I felt like I was living a life with different priorities then those around me, but also because I constantly feared that someone would bring it up.  I just wanted to feel normal around my peers, something of which I didn’t, and still don’t, feel sometimes.

 

My dad passed away on August 16th, 2017 when I was 24 years old.  I am now 26.  Grief is tough. Grieving with anxiety feels amplified because the symptoms of the two can often intertwine.  I had a plan on the ways that I would go through it. That’s what us anxiety folk do right? Plan out everything even though we have zero control (speaking for myself obviously, I always need a plan and structure to feel less anxious). So, I had a plan. What I didn’t realize, and what changed the plan, was that I had been experiencing anticipatory grief.  This means that I was already processing and grieving my dad’s death before he had even passed away.  For anyone that has grieved before, you’ll understand me when I say sometimes it just smacks you in the face like a ton of bricks. I find my moments of grieving to feel more dramatic because they’re often intertwined with my everyday anxiety. I cry. A lot. I also get pins and needles in my hands, I sweat, I grind my teeth, I have heart palpitations, I isolate, I worry, and I panic. All of these are regular symptoms of anxiety but mixed with the grief feels different. It’s a strange added heaviness that is hard to explain. The thing is, I never know when these days are going to happen, they just happen.  Not having a plan is something my anxious mind can’t handle so when it does happen, I feel distraught; like something is wrong with me for feeling the way I do. Those are the moments that I need to make sure my self-care is given extra attention. I am learning that not everything in my life gets a plan… I get uncomfortable when my dad gets brought up in conversation because I really don’t have an answer to explain what grieving with anxiety feels like and “how I’m doing” which is the common question. It’s hard because I’m always worried that I’m not grieving “the right way” so I don’t think I know how I’m doing. I’m okay? I’m good? I’m sad? I don’t know what I am so I don’t know how to address the question. I want to have an answer because my dad was awesome and I don’t want to feel scared to talk about him; I actually love talking about my dad.  It’s tricky to explain but sometimes I feel frustrated with myself for having intense moments of grief.  I feel guilty when I have a bad day because I don’t want to give off the impression that I am not grateful. I’m learning that I can be grateful and still feel sorrow and pain. I’m learning that I’m allowed to have a breakdown and it doesn’t make me stupid or weak. I strive to be kind and generous to myself; allowing my grief to come and go.  A goal I have is to be more present because the things that make me feel the most anxious, overwhelmed, and worried, come from looking too far into the future.

Thanks Cierra for letting me share some thoughts and a small piece of my story.

 

Thank you so much Paula for sharing your story with me and my readers. You have always been a little light in my life and I’m so glad we’re still in touch. Your strength has always inspired me and I love you girl.

 

Kevin Yule

June 5, 1964 – August 16, 2017

Growing up, Kevin was like a father to me. I had a very turbulent household and a terrible relationship with my dad. Kevin, thank you for always being there when I needed a father. Your love always meant the world to me and I can never thank you enough for all of the times you picked me up at midnight, sobbing uncontrollably, because of my circumstances. For always opening your home to me when I needed somewhere safe to go. And for showing me what true love looks like. You always loved and respected your wife, Debbie, so much and it truly showed me what I needed in a man. Thank you for always loving everyone around you and being a beautiful human being. I miss you often.

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June Warrior – Lauren H.

June Warrior – Lauren H.

This next Warrior is someone I am in awe of. I reached out to Lauren back in April after coming across her page on Instagram. Seeing how open she is about her mental health, I knew I had to ask her to share her story with you guys. Although she suffers from a variety of mental ailments, she is so strong and using her platform just like me, to raise awareness about the issues surrounding mental health. She immediately accepted my offer and here is her story.

During the first week of grade eight, I suddenly felt very down. I lost all my motivation, and cried. I barely slept which made it almost impossible for me to get up and go to school in the morning. After a week of staying in bed, my mother brought me to the clinic, and they assumed I had mono. The following Monday, as my mom attempted to get me to go to school again, I experienced my first panic attack. Later, I was then diagnosed with anxiety and depression. My mother decided it was best to homeschool me until I could cope a little better. My life was a constant rollercoaster. Some days I could go to school and others I could barely function.

I ended up being homeschooled for over half of the year from grade eight until grade ten, when I was put into the dropout program with the school board due to my lack of attendance. Throughout those years, I was put on many different medications and tried multiple forms of counselling. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work. I struggled badly with my mental health. And I used very bad mechanisms to cope with life. The main things I did to cope included self-harm, isolation, pushing away everyone I loved, crying, and eating. My life had gotten to the point where I had to be hospitalized twice because my life was at risk and I was extremely suicidal. I was very alone and afraid. All my friends had either abandoned me, or I was being severely bullied by them. I barely left my room. If I happened to go out in public, I would experience extreme panic attacks and would draw a lot of unwanted attention to myself.

Years later, at the age of 17, I was graduating from a new high school. My life had finally seemed to turn around and became okay. I convinced myself to get my driver’s license and apply for post-secondary school. I was accepted into my program of choice at the local university during early acceptance.  During the summer, I experienced severe anxiety around the idea of going to university as I believed I wasn’t smart enough. So, I decided to go to the well-known college in my hometown.

When post-secondary started, my life went downhill. I was put back on medication. This medication ended up reacting negatively with my body, therefore, making me go crazy and caused me to contemplate suicide. I also developed an eating disorder which lead me to lose an unhealthy 20 pounds off my already small body. I realized I hated the program I was in. I felt like my life was ending. I ended up dropping out of the program and studying general arts for a few years. As schooling continued, my eating disorder got worse. I ended getting down to a weight of 80 lbs and being admitted to hospital. I spent 3 months on the medical unit on an IV and NG tube, and after gaining some weight, I was sent to the states for another 4 months for residential treatment.

Life after treatment was great, I thought I was improving, and I was finally happy. A little too happy. I wouldn’t sleep because I had so much energy, I was doing impulsive things like getting tattoos and piercings, and I wouldn’t stop talking. Little did I know I was experiencing a manic episode. That fall, I was diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder. We all know that when there’s a high, there eventually has to be a down. And mine just happened to be a crash. I ended up relapsing in self harm and doing other impulsive things trying put myself at risk. To this day, I am still trying to figure out which mixture of medications work for me. And I am happy to say that after dropping out of school for a year I am finally going back in the fall for social work. My ultimate dream is to become a public speaker, I hope to bring awareness to mental health issues and help people understand how real they are. I want to bring light into the eyes of those who only see darkness, like I have in many times in my life. I am already starting this process by sharing my story on my recovery account, @laurenhourtovenko, on Instagram. My goal for this platform is just to give one person a reason to continue fighting. Now, go be a wildflower.

 

THANK YOU Lauren, for being one of the bravest souls I have met. Not only were you courageous enough to start your social media profiles about your life and your struggles, but you were willing to share your life with a total stranger when you sent this to me. I can’t express how much that always means to me when my Warriors do that. It is such a privilege to share your stories.

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May Warrior – Rachael

May Warrior – Rachael

The first thing I want to say about my next Warrior is, WOW! This beautiful young woman reached out to me on social media saying she wanted to share her story in the hopes of raising awareness. I knew that she had Bipolar Disorder, like myself, but I did not know the extent of her past and the amount of resilience she has had in her life. I am HONORED to share her story with all of you.

First off I’m a 25 year old mother to two special needs children. I’m a student. I am a sister. I am a daughter—of abuse and neglect. I am bipolar type one. I am panic disorder. I am anorexia. And I am ptsd. Secondly, notice how that sounded weird? You aren’t what illness you may say or think you are. Your illness is separate from you. Yes, it is part of you. But it does not define you. Let that sink in. So let me correct myself, as I hope you do too; I have bipolar disorder type one, I have panic disorder, I have anorexia and I have ptsd. And this is my story.

Growing up I was a highly sensitive smart child who showed anxiety very early on but had two abusive neglectful parents. They ignored the signs and physical symptoms of anxiety. They ignored the stomach aches, the heart palpation’s, the sweats, the excessive worry and so forth. Not having a safe place from the physical and emotional abuse lead to the desire to control everything and or some cases, lose control of everything.

So puberty and pre-teenage years roll around but so does restriction of food, mood swings, binge drinking and high risk behaviors with a large amount of self harm. Then a suicide attempt at only the age of 13. A hospitalization followed for 7 days in a children’s psych ward. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type two. My parents wanted a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis and the same diagnosis was given. I was almost transferred to a group home because of the abuse but I was terrified to tell the truth when it came down to making an official statement. The use of therapy and medication for treatment was started with the second opinion but treatment quickly fell through the cracks. And I relapsed into old habits, same toxic environment and the same place I was before hospitalization: depressed, suicidal, manic, substance dependent and self harmed.  

I spun out control for a few years and lost everything. I lost my safety. My security. My entity. Myself. I drank out of control until I was obliterated, sick and blacked out. A boy who I thought I could trust saw an opportunity to sexually assault me. So did another boy on a separate occasion. And so did another boy also on another separate occasion and then I finally woke up; although it was me waking up traumatized and terrified, I said enough was enough. I stopped drinking cold turkey. However, when I realized the extent of what happened to me, I became scared of men. I became scared to leave my house. I became scared of eye contact. I became isolated. I became afraid of sex. I became afraid to sleep because of nightmares. I became afraid of my body. And I became afraid of life.

Fast forward to sobriety and motherhood with traumas still in tow. Drinking seemed to be a thing of the past. But another demon showed up, one called Ana or better known as anorexia. However this slipped under the radar from everyone around me because what new mother doesn’t want to lose the baby weight. What started off as healthy calorie counting turned into obsessive calorie counting. Safe foods and unsafe foods developed. Times to eat and times not to eat appeared. Controlling everything food related hid the anxieties of being a new mother, anxieties of bills and generalized anxieties that developed previously and continuously. 

Then, another pregnancy occurred 3 years later and the topic of gaining enough weight was a huge concern the whole pregnancy. I gained enough for doctors to relax a bit but they wanted me to gain more. After the birth of my second child I began restricting more severely than before. Then drinking happened a few years after. And guess who showed up once again in full force: bipolar episodes. The rapid cycling of mania and depression were happening on top of symptoms of unknown ptsd and panic disorder. In June 2018, I had another suicide attempt that I wasn’t

hospitalized for because I convinced the person closest to me at the time I was fine despite reckless behaviors, heavy drinking and self-harm.

So then in October 2018, I finally started therapy with the realization my mental health was out of control. And a week into therapy twice a week, it triggered memories. Which led to another suicide attempt that I was hospitalized for. I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder type one, ptsd and panic disorder. It’s been a lifetime of mental illness, traumas and challenges as you can see but I now have a lifetime of supports to deal with my illnesses. 

I take medications to get through life which I’m still learning to be okay with. They make me stable and offer solace from chaos most days. They aren’t perfect nor bullet proof. I still have episodes of depression and mania, although they are shortened. I still have sensations of panic and feelings of what feels like I’m going to die that make me want to hide from the world but I’m able to rationalize them most days. I still have days of restriction and binging but I’m at a healthy weight after years of poor health. But lastly and most importantly, I am still here. I’m still fighting. And so are you and you are not alone. Things may never be perfect but they can be better. So I share my story in hopes you can realize things change, you will grow, you will hurt, you will feel an assortment of emotions, and you will live life if you work through the hard times. I hope after reading this you can allow yourself to experience life to the best of your ability with the supports that are there to help. We’re in this together.

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April Warrior – Kaci

April Warrior – Kaci

Hello again! After a small hiatus, Warrior of the Month is back! And this time we have an interesting point of view. After reaching out on social media to anyone who would listen looking for future Warriors, I received a message from Kaci Madison. Her sister has depression and anxiety and she was only just now beginning to understand the magnitude of what that meant for her every day life. Kaci is the first to admit she was naive to mental illness issues, but now she wants to share her story as a loved one of someone who suffers firsthand.
Growing up my sister was always my greatest protector. I never realized that until our adulthood. She is 2 years older than me, and it was just the two of us. We were always really close until she got into high school. That’s when she stopped wanting to hang out with her baby sister as much and she would hide in her room a lot. I remember hearing a lot of “emo” music through the walls, always so loud. I remember fighting a lot with her too, over the stupidest things. There is one day in particular that I remember. I just got home from school, I think I was around 13 or 14 at the time, and I noticed she was home already. We went to different high schools, but she never usually came home right after school. Our mum was also home which was weird because she was usually at work. Well, we got into an argument almost the moment we saw each other. I don’t know what it was over, probably her eating the last apple or breathing the wrong way, something silly. She ran upstairs bawling her eyes out “you don’t even know what I’ve been through” SLAM! She’s in her room again, I’m not surprised. She always overreacts to everything!
She moved far away the moment she turned 18. She went to go live with a boy she barely knew, I didn’t understand why. The first time she came home to visit, I was so excited, I cried, a lot. We spent a lot of time together that time, but we still fought, so much. Every time she came home after that, I was not too excited. I always ended up in tears, and she never wanted to hang out with me. She actually didn’t even go out that much, it was just like it was when we were teenagers. In her room with her music so loud you could hear it outside. People used to ask if I was excited that my sister is home, and I would scrunch up my face and say “I guess so..?”. We just never saw eye to eye, and we lived in two completely different worlds. 
She just recently became very open about her struggles with generalized depression and anxiety.. I never realize how ignorant I was to it all. I keep asking her questions, “why aren’t your medications working?”, “how can you have suicidal thoughts but not be suicidal?” “can’t you just think your way out of it?”. It’s not something that I can easily wrap my head around. Our mother has this mind set, “fake it until you make it”, and it has always worked for me, so why doesn’t it work for her? I still have so much to learn. 
Yesterday, I finally realized that she isn’t just overreacting, she genuinely cannot help it. Yesterday was different than most days. We went to the fair with our kids, her son is 4, mine are 2 and 2 months. We had an amazing time together. We left, went our separate ways and I thought that was it for the day. I was wrong. She called me, not totally unusual, I figured she wanted to talk to me about the day or something funny my nephew did, the usual stuff. She was having a panic attack. I kind of brushed it off at first. Her son had locked himself in his room while she was changing door knobs so she couldn’t figure out how to get him out and it just sent her in a downward spiral. She has never called me while she was having a panic attack before, I didn’t know what to do. I could hear her hyperventilating, so I told her to breath, it didn’t help. I started to panic a bit. I decided all I could do was get in my car and go to her. So I talked to her the whole time I was driving. I felt so bad, I didn’t know what to do. I kept making jokes, or laughing. She told me she didn’t take her medication because she just ran out. All she had was instant relief medication that makes her sleepy so she can’t take it when it’s just her and her son home. I told her to take it as I was almost there. Now, my sister has never been one to hug or cuddle or be close anyone, so when I saw her, I asked if I could hug her, and I just held her, squeezed her hard, I couldn’t help it. I saw real fear and real sadness, I had to hug her. Her son was still locked in his room, but my main focus was letting her know it was going to be okay. 
So here we are.. 2 women who are not very handy and know nothing about door knobs, trying to figure out how to get him out of his room. Finally, after a phone call to my husband, we figured it out! I stupidly thought that would resolve her anxiety, but I was very wrong. Her medication started to kick in and I could tell. So I grabbed her son, put him in the car and we went shopping. I knew my sister needed some time to relax or have time on her own. Her son is very loving and she just did not want to be touched. I took him for a couple hours, then she called and told me she was okay now. I called her husband at work just to double check that it would be okay for me to bring my nephew home. 
I honestly never realized how real it was until then. I learned a lot yesterday. As much as I can say that I’m there for my sister whenever she needs me, the truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing, and I have no idea what she is going through. I have no idea what it feels like to be in a place where it feels like the sadness will never go away. I’ve never obsessed about death. Yesterday really opened my eyes though. I’m sorry that I never realized that this is a real illness. People die from depression everyday, and I still never realized it. My sister is truly brave. I am so proud of her for everything that she has over come, I don’t know that I’d be able to do it.
I’m not going to lie, when I first read this, I almost cried. It’s such a refreshing view that I think everyone should read. Thank you for being honest Kaci, and admitting you don’t fully understand. Just being aware of that and being there for your sister is more than enough! I hope you and your sister are well.
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February Warrior – Veronica

February Warrior – Veronica

Hey there folks! Welcome to my next Warrior of the Month post.

This girl is seriously amazing! Veronica is a sweetheart that I met on Instagram. She lives in Belgium and is 19 years old. I found her story so inspiring that I just knew I had to ask her to share it with you guys. Here’s her story:

Since I was a child, I’ve had the feeling that I needed to be in control. When I was about six years old, I developed an obsessive compulsive disorder. It felt like I had something to hold onto. The control that I did not have in real life, I found in my OCD. I started to create my own, in my view, safe world. But the older I got, the more control I needed.

When I was fourteen years old, I found a new way of control. This time it was food.

From a young age I’ve struggled with my weight. I wasn’t really overweight but I was still a little bit chubby. I’d tried to lose weight a couple times but when I was fourteen years old was the first time it “succeeded”. I began to lose weight in a healthy way, but slowly it started to became a real obsession. The only thing I could think about was food and losing weight. Even when I reached my goal weight, I was scared to eat normal because I was afraid of gaining weight. That summer, I spent for four weeks with my family in Russia. Looking back, I shouldn’t have done it. In Russia the food is very different from Dutch food. This caused lots of panic because it felt like a complete loss of control. I also couldn’t weigh myself which made it even more difficult for me. So, I started to eat as little as I could. When I was back home, everybody was shocked because I’d lost a lot of weight. I got a lot of negative comments and friends and family started to look after me. With their help, I managed to stay on that weight. I still weighed too little, I didn’t have any energy and I was always cold. But at least I didn’t lose more weight.

For the next few years I lived this way. Until the summer of 2017. At the time, I moved with my family to Belgium. This was a huge change for me. I had a new house, a new school and new people around me. This felt like something I couldn’t control. I started to use my OCD again as a way to have a kind of control in my life. But this became a huge problem. I started to float away from the real life and lived more and more in my own world. My head was full of thoughts and I felt very bad and lonely. My mother and I searched for help but the waiting lists were way too long so I began to seek for something else to be happy about and that I could focus on and this thing became (again) losing weight.

My weight was already too low and I knew I couldn’t keep losing weight forever. But I thought I’d be able to stop in time. It seemed unrealistic to me that I would go too far. So, I kept losing weight even though it brought me more bad than good things. I didn’t have any energy, I was always cold and I kept struggling with my OCD. It felt safe to me, like I was in control. But this was anything but true. It wasn’t safe at all. But I kept going. Until I came to a point I couldn’t handle it anymore. My weight was way too low and my OCD was driving me crazy. Suddenly, my own created world, didn’t seem so safe anymore. I felt worse than ever and I didn’t know a way out. This was the point where there wasn’t any other solution than getting hospitalised. At the hospital I started to get medication even though I didn’t want it at first. I also started to get a treatment for my eating disorder. There, I began to eat normal again and l learned how to handle with my eating disorder. I learned that I am the only one who can save myself. People can help you, but in the end, you are the one who makes the choices. This was a very hard but also a very helpful time. When I was at home again, I kept going to a psychologist and I set my recovery forward. Sometimes it was hard but there was one thing I knew for sure: I didn’t want to go back and lose weight again. Now, I’m very happy I pushed forward because I’m experiencing a life without an eating disorder and this life is so much better. I still have times my eating disorder is a little more present but I never want to listen to it again.

My biggest motivation to help me through recovery were absolutely my loved ones. My parents, friends and especially my best friends Lindi and Dieuwke. I met Dieuwke in the clinic and together we’ve done lots of challenges. It’s good to have someone who understands you. It doesn’t have to be a friend. Think about your parents, brother/sister or a psychologist. There’s always someone who’d be happy to support you.

It also helped me to share the moments I ate with my mother or my friends. It made me happy to see how proud they became.

Further, it helped me to make plans for the future. This gave me more motivation to recover and helped me to focus less on my eating disorder.

Because I have got a lot more reasons to recover and I’d be happy to help others to beat this awful illness, I made a recovery account on Instagram, called @I_scream_for_icecreamm It makes me happy to help other people and it also gives me a lot of motivation. I’m also planning to start a blog together with Dieuwke. I hope to be able to give help to people who are struggling or at least one person. My ultimate goal is to start a clinic for OCD and anorexia treatment together with Dieuwke but unfortunately, I still haven’t got a good treatment for OCD. I’ll get an intensive treatment in the Netherlands as soon as possible and I hope it will help me so I can help people who are struggling with the same problems as me and so that they can live a normal life.

 

 

Veronica, thank you for sharing your story with me and my readers, as well as your own Instagram followers. Your strength is amazing and I know you can live a very healthy life.

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