Tag Archives: Awareness

I’m Coming Out. My Confession.

As a child, I remember thinking differently than my peers. I felt like an outsider. Like I was on the peripheral looking in at life happening around me. Sort of like watching a movie.

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

By the time I reached junior high school, it worsened. I had confided in a school friend who would listen to me for hours while I lamented as tears ran down my face like a faucet.

I somehow had the wherewithal at fourteen to find a therapist which I paid for with my allowance I had earned by ironing my father’s shirts. She had diagnosed me with dysthymia (persistent mild depression). I saw her weekly until she fell asleep in one of our sessions.

In my late teens, I remember things becoming more pronounced. One day I would wake up full of energy and be ready to take on the world, and the next, I would feel utterly hopeless and depressed. There was no explanation for these extreme shifts in mood.

The fluctuating moods were accompanied by my loyal companions; fear, dread, worry and guilt. I didn’t know at the time I was struggling with anxiety until I had experienced my first panic attack in my late twenties.

By that time, I had become impulsive and spontaneous. I would feel a surge of energy pulsate through my body like electricity which made me feel invincible. There was so much I wanted to do and accomplish that I wouldn’t sleep.

I took unnecessary risks and made bad decisions that if it wasn’t for the grace of God, I’m sure things would have ended badly.

I was enthusiastic, adventurous and lived for the thrill of excitement. Everything I did was over the top, exaggerated and extreme. I flirted with danger because I was addicted to the adrenaline rush and loved the exhilarating feeling it gave me.

In this state, everything seemed alive and vibrant. Life was good.

Until it wasn’t…

It was only a matter of time until the dreaded crash came. I went from being high to drowning in a sea of hopelessness and sinking into a quicksand of despair. Everything around me became devoid of color; a still life black and white photo; grey, lifeless and dull.

The rollercoaster high’s and low’s kept happening, combined with an ever present restlessness and gnawing irritation, like stew simmering in a crockpot or a rumbling car motor that never seems to shut off or a dormant volcano brewing beneath the earth’s surface.

I lived like this for years not knowing why.

Fifteen years ago, things came to a head after giving birth to my eldest son. I had suffered from postpartum depression. My son was colic and would cry all night. I wasn’t getting any sleep and worked a stressful job. Between the lack of sleep and stress, I began to spiral. It was then that a therapist suggested I get evaluated by a psychiatrist.

After an hour and a half hour of what felt like an interrogation, I received the verdict. Her words shot out like fists punching my face.

I didn’t believe her, so I went for a second opinion and was given the same diagnosis.

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After years of hiding behind the shame and living in silence, I decided to come out.

I’m a Christian who suffers with chronic pain and physical and mental illness. And I am not alone. There’s plenty of people out there struggling like me, who lurk in the shadows because of shame and fear of being found out.

They vacillate between denying their illness, pretending away their illness or praying away their illness, thus refusing treatment they so desperately need.

Instead, they self-medicate by either drinking, drugging, eating, spending or sexing.

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I’m speaking specifically to Christians right now, if you are struggling with mental illness, don’t allow the church or anyone from church tell you mental illness is a spiritual problem because it isn’t. Please don’t listen to anyone who tells you, you lack faith or you must have unconfessed sin or that you aren’t praying or fasting enough.

Mental illness is not a spiritual condition, but a medical one that needs to be treated like diabetes or cancer.

Please contact your local National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and get support. You don’t need to suffer in silence or struggle alone.

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Silence is the result of stigma and judgment by family members, friends, co-workers, church members, and society in general who aren’t educated and misunderstand, misinterpret, and marginalize those who suffer from mental illness or any invisible illness.

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Truthfully, these past two years have been the most difficult for me. My life has completely changed and it’s been hard for me to reconcile and adjust to. Believe it or not, it’s taken me over 15 years to finally accept my diagnoses.

I didn’t want to come out because most people walking around react to words like bi-polar, OCD or schizophrenia as a joke or they associate it with characters from “Psycho,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” or “A Clockwork Orange.”

This is why I’ve kept it hidden for so long, but now I no longer want to because there’s too many people suffering in silence. For this reason, I chose to come out and join the tribe of other voices advocating and fighting against the stigma.

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Bullies, Suicide and “13 Reasons Why”

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to take a peek at “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix. And yes, I am well aware of all the negative commentary surrounding it.

However, one thing I will say, is that I thought the series was well done. The writing, story, acting, and cinematography is superb.

“13 Reasons Why” is about a smart, pretty teenager named Hannah Baker who begins attending a new school, and becomes a target after a guy she liked took a photo of her coming down a slide. He decides to show the revealing photo to his jock buddies, and one of them thought it was a perfectly good idea to text it to everyone in the school.

Credit: Bully | by Jonathon Narvey | Flickr Creative Commons

It was disheartening to watch how these teenagers relentlessly bully her after that photo was sent. She did her best to cope with the cruelty that bombarded her on a daily basis. But things took a turn for the worst, when the same guy who texted the photo, raped her.

After this occurred, as a last resort, she visits with her school counsellor, which unfortunately, made matters worse. It was after this meeting, she decided to take her life. But before she does, she records 13 cassette tapes, leaving messages for everyone she holds responsible, except for one, her friend Clay Jensen.

The critics say “13 Reasons Why” glorifies rape and suicide. But I disagree. I believe the producers intention was to shock people into awareness and create a conversation to propel change.

I understand why some people wouldn’t want their small children watching it. However, I believe it should be viewed by parents and teenagers alike because of its important message.

I understand all too well about triggers, however, there is more violence in “The Walking Dead” than there is in “13 Reasons Why.” So, is it perfectly okay for kids to watch stuff like “The Walking Dead,” but not okay for them to be educated on a real and prevalent issue, such as bullying, rape and suicide?

Statistics say, suicide is the third leading cause of death in America between the ages of 10 to 24. Did you know every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, and every 8 minutes, it’s a child?

The story of “13 Reasons Why” reminds me of a YouTube video I watched several years ago of a girl who was being bullied. She made this video before she ended her life. Her name was Amanda Todd. She was just one of many who kill themselves because they see no other way out of their situation.

Just recently, I came across a story on Facebook of an eight year old boy from Ohio who committed suicide because of the relentless bullying he endured. Why hadn’t the school stepped in and stopped it? Why is bullying allowed or ignored in our public schools? Why aren’t changes being instituted to insure the safety of our children attending school?

Yet, the critics are up in arms about “13 Reasons Why.” I don’t understand. Don’t they see what is going on? Aren’t they aware of the epidemic? Aren’t they paying attention to what is happening to our children in schools across America?

Yes, the content is graphic, but so is the reality. Parents and victims of bullies need to see and understand the damage it causes. Not turn a blind eye or pretend it isn’t happening. No one can afford to ignore this problem anymore.

Parents, children, principals, teachers…everyone has a part to play. Parents can’t leave parenting up to the schools, because the schools can’t do it. However, I do believe schools need to send a strong message that bullying won’t be tolerated. There needs to be accountability and a better security system in place.

It is a shame our schools have to turn into a juvenile detention center instead of being an institution for learning.

Awareness and knowledge is the first step, and I believe “13 Reasons Why” accomplished that. Now the rest is on us. Instead of protesting, debating and disagreeing about this series, why not use the energy to be proactive in spreading awareness and helping to stop bullying which is claiming the lives of our youth.

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Be A Voice For Change

Little did I know, writing a novel would have such an impact on me.

It all began with an idea. An idea which lead me to research on mass incarceration and correspond with prison inmates.

Courtesy of Creative Commons ~ Torture ~ Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi

Never realizing, it would lead me to want to become an activist and lobby for change in our prison system.

In my research and corresponding with inmates, I have come to learn about the gross injustice that exists in their world.

Some would say, if not most, “You do the crime, you do the time.” This is true, however, God doesn’t punish us to the degree that humans do.

Yes, I am aware there are consequences to our choices. However, I also know throwing people in prison to rot and die isn’t exactly helping them or solving the issue at hand.

Currently, funding has been cut to such a degree that there is a scarcity of rehabilitation programs being offered within our prison system. As a matter of fact, most will say, people coming out of prison are far worse than when they went in. Obviously, something is wrong with this picture.

Not only that, our government is making an exorbitant amount of money off of those who they incarcerate.

There is a large number of mentally ill people in prison, who are also in solitary confinement and not receiving the help or proper medication they require to get better.

As it stands, the prison system is broken and needs to be fixed.

The only way this is going to happen is if we advocate for it. It is not going to magically change on its own.

I don’t believe you have to have a family member who is or was in prison to care or have compassion. Personally, I have not experienced a parent, family member or friend who is or was incarcerated when I was growing up. I have never stepped foot inside a prison my entire life, yet I do care, have compassion and want to make a difference.

I feel compelled to try and do something. I just can’t stand by and watch, knowing all that I know and not do anything about it. I have a responsibility to get the word out, and to be about the change, not just talk or write about it.

Which is why I will be joining hundreds of people on May 5th to lobby against solitary confinement in Albany. I want to be a voice for the voiceless and advocate for change in our laws to help stop the torture of solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement is torture. Trust me, prison is bad enough than to add the isolation and poor conditions of solitary confinement on a human being. We treat our animals better in this country than we do humans. This is a sad testament to the state of affairs and it needs to change.

If you are interested in joining us on May 5th, please click here for the details and sign up.

Has writing brought awareness on a particular cause in your life? If so, please share in the comment section below.

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