Stigma of Mental Illness

It’s been a rough month. I’ve been hunkering down trying to ride out a wave of trauma related revelations that have been difficult. If I had cancer or a broken leg others would understand the need to rest, see doctors, and take my medications. I could post on social media about it and get sympathy and support. Mental illness isn’t that way.

Mental illness scares people just like physical illness does. I don’t stay quiet because people are scared of what I’m going through. I stay quiet because of shame and fear of rejection. I am usually outspoken, toughing out the critics, and fighting against my past experiences of shame and rejection. Sometimes my brain is too sick to do that. Just as with any physical illness I hide away in my bedroom to recuperate from whatever trauma has surfaced in my brain.

What can be done to change this stigma? Empathy is the antidote of shame. Practice empathy. Remember that the brain is an organ just like the heart or the lungs. It gets sick, damaged, and stressed. We have medication to help. No one insists that someone with low thyroid snap out of it, that the medications are addictive because the body continues to need them, or that all they have to do is decide they aren’t going to have low thyroid levels anymore.

There are things that will help thyroid medications work better like exercise and reducing stress, but no one tells me that I would be fine if I just got some exercise. No one tells me to wean myself off my thyroid medications or makes me feel like I’m less of a person for needing them. Not so with my anti-depressants which also manage my anxiety.

Just like all other conditions, seeking medical help, making lifestyle changes, and being informed produce the best outcomes for all types of mental illness.

You and I have the power to create the antidote needed to eradicate shame. We don’t need special labs, stricter laws, or expensive medications to cure something that kills twice as many people to suicide as from homicide.

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Expectations & Fear

I stopped writing blogs for months, why? Expectations and fear. When I write a blog on my website, it’s from my heart. I shut down the editor side and speak directly to you. As a writer, I was told I needed to make sure every blog reflected my writing. I needed to go through the entire process I use for writing my books in each blog. I stopped writing.

Writing a book is hard. The rough draft is the easy part, the magic happens in layers after layers of revision. I avoided deciding what I was going to write, mapping it out with structure, and going through the revision process for a blog. If the expectations were that every blog was a crafted masterpiece it was too much in my busy life. So I stopped.

My blogs are to connect, not create a masterpiece. Same thing with my videos. I am a normal person with flaws and strengths. When I write here, I’m writing directly to you. If you want the masterpiece, buy the book. If you want a conversation, find me here.

I am shedding the constraints of others expectations to reach out despite my fear. Just as Kaela has stated, This is Me. And I’m back.

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Where Have I Been??

I’ve been silent due to some intense healing. My dark night crept on, feeling as if it would last forever, but I had faith that the sun would return. The morning sun tinted the sky until the blessed moment when the first rays of the sun spilled over, bringing the rest of the sun with it and bathing me in light. There is no other to give credit to but God.

I have experienced a deep healing that words cannot describe. I did my best in the ending of my new book to be published next year, but there is no way to convey what happened to me in a few short paragraphs. All I can say is that it is possible to heal from ritual abuse, child sexual abuse, and rape. Those heavy things have been lifted from me. A year ago I told my mother that though the journey I was on was difficult, it was like I only saw things in black and white before, but now I saw life in color. This month has been like seeing a whole new realm of experience that is far beyond merely seeing in color, but experiencing life in a way I didn’t know existed.

Now I am working hard to get Broken No More completed. Let me tell you, it was worth writing three completely different books to discover the story. It was worth the writing coaching, the revisions that seemed never ending. It was worth all of the pain, virtual sweat, and tears. I can’t wait for everyone to read it. It truly is my path through the darkest evil and into the brightest light.

Though my next task is to complete my fiction and ghostwriting projects, I am committed to helping others find healing in their own lives. There is too much pain in the world, more than I could ever ease. I may only be able to help one person at a time, but it will make a world of difference to that one person. God Bless!

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Lessons from Pain

Pain is always there to identify something we need to pay attention to in order to heal. A cut hurts so we will bandage it, a memory surfaces so that we can work through it.

There are two things that catch immediate attention about my life, that I’ve been paralyzed and I’ve had amnesia. Attention hones in, because those two things are unusual. When I explain the cause being severe childhood sexual and physical abuse the reactions split between discomfort or morbid fascination.

I have lived an unusual life. I tried to forget my past and it caused health problems that eventually led to the paralysis. When the truth began emerging my life fell apart. Since then I’ve been on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Denial, anger, pain, strength, and forgiveness carry me up and down. I’m blindfolded, so I don’t know when the ride will drop me, when I will be lifted up, or when it will end.

I have learned to live during the past two years. Have you ever noticed that there is no hiding on a roller coaster? Some people scream, some look terrified, some shut their eyes and others laugh in joy. It strips away the fake faces we tend to wear. That’s what has happened to me during this time of discovering the truth about my childhood. There is no hiding from anyone how my day is going. When I am happy, you will see it, when I am anxious, I can’t hide it, and when I am struggling, you won’t even see me.

When someone struggles to believe a woman who speaks up about sexual assault I know they would never believe my story. Mine is so horrible it defies comprehension. Even talking about a tiny portion of my story makes people look away in discomfort, or put me on a pedestal that I survived. Either way, it puts distance between myself and others. It is a lonely place to be.

There are gifts that compensate for the difficulty. I am strong. I am grateful. I am alive. I notice when others feel alone, left on the outside, or suffer in silence. I know what to say when those around me struggle and I have no problem conversing with people in wheelchairs, with disabilities, or caught in abuse or addiction. My empathy has grown. I am a fighter.

I would never choose to suffer the things I did, but I will take the gifts in order to find meaning in my life and strength to continue. Unfortunately, pain is a master teacher. To know the things I know, I had to pass through a great deal of pain. There were only two choices- to learn to live, or let myself die. I chose to live. And now I choose to fight back by talking about difficult things. Pain hurts, but on it’s heels it brings healing and a wholeness that can’t be achieved by ignorance.

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Weakness Molds Strength in the Brave

There are some days when the pull of denial still lures me. I want to reject the truth of the horrors done to me. I don’t want to have been the girl that the severe abuse happened to. Once amnesia has been stripped away, there is no going back. If I did try to go back, the conflict within me would rob me of a healthy life.

I am dealing with the truth of my childhood the only way I know how, using all the tools I have learned over the years. If I step back and look objectively at what I have accomplished and overcome in my healing process I am astonished. Some days I can’t step back. Some days I’m trapped within an emotion, trying to understand something that makes no sense, trying to wrap my head around the idea that someone would drug, rape, and torture a small ten year old girl, robbing her of her childhood, safety, and years of her future life, and do it all in the name of God using Satanic worship. There is no way to understand something that evil and wrong.

As I have overcome, my present reality grows distant from the past I haven’t unchained myself from yet. It feels like I am being stretched between two realities so disparate that they can’t coexist. Yet they do- within my mind. I am happy that the present and future I am creating are so far removed from the helplessness of that child trapped in pain. Until I heal that child, I remain chained to the past, while each bit of healing creates a future I never could have imagined. One day I will heal the broken fragments of my childhood. I will fully integrate the horrors of my childhood with the strong, empowered woman I am today and stand as a voice for change. But not today.

I first broke through my amnesia on July 30, 2016. Just over two years ago. I didn’t uncover the ritual abuse until January 28, 2018. If I think about it, I am amazed at the healing that has taken place since that first hot summer day and even that cold winter revelation. I have accepted that I have been raped more times than I can count, and experienced each type of rape defined by law. I know of fifteen abusers so far. I don’t know all of their names, I don’t even remember every face, but I remember what they did to me. I remember odd details about them that stand out clearly, things that those who know every detail of their faces might not know about them. I even know how they kept my own family from discovering what they were doing to me. It is amazing how much trauma, abuse, and even torture can happen without leaving anything that can be seen by others, and the power abusers hold over their victims.

Yesterday I had a bad day. I had to give myself the room to accept the pain that surfaced, to face the realities of being drugged, to let that child inside stop hiding the hurt and pain. I had the skills to keep myself safe and get through the day. I had the support I needed in my husband who gave me space when I needed it, and an outpouring of love when I was ready. Because I gave myself the time and energy needed to go through that piece of healing, today is a new day.

Today I finished my grieving and put on the armor of truth I have uncovered about myself- that I am strong. I am a survivor and I refuse to give any more years, months, or days to my abusers. They might have robbed me of my past but they will not rob me of my future.

Our world is filled with victims of abuse, and new victims are being hurt as I type these words. Lives are being shattered as you read these words. It is time to break the cycle of abuse. We must start with protecting children- boys and girls. We must change our culture, to create a safe place where victims can be heard so that the abuse is reported immediately instead of years and decades down the road when they are finally strong enough to face the difficulties that come with reporting abuse. We must realize that abuse is happening in our own neighborhoods and take a stand there. Start with educating yourself on how to protect your own children, and then broaden that education to protect all the children around you, using love as the powerful conduit for change.

I am healing and growing stronger each day. I am doing it for myself, but I am also doing it for you. I am doing it to show you the way, whether you are a victim, a predator, or a protector. I am shaping myself into a voice for the voiceless, a beacon of hope, and God’s hands and feet on the earth to help those that aren’t strong enough yet to help themselves. I do this because I know that together, we can eradicate the scourge of abuse. I do this because it will only happen together. I can protect a few, but together we can protect many.

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Balancing Pain with Laughter

I love comedy. Not so happy about the swearing, particularly the F word which triggers me due to my abuse. It was hard to find clean comedy acts until Dry Bar Comedy came around.  Now whenever I need a good laugh, I can find an abundance of funny comedians, using their craft skillfully instead of relying on crude jokes or swear words. I laugh so hard I forget that I was ever abused. I laugh so hard I can’t breathe. I laugh so hard that sometimes my husband has to pause the show so we don’t pass out.

This has helped me discover something about the need for strong emotions in our lives. Children live fully. When they laugh, they never slightly chuckle- they laugh out loud using their whole bodies. When something goes wrong, they cry as if it’s the end of the world. When Mommy puts a bandaid on their scrape and gives them a hug, all is right in the world again. I have decided the reason they can let go so easily, is that they expressed the emotion fully.

As an adult I held everything in all the time. It was miserable. By holding in my pain, I was also holding onto it and I could never let it go. I talked about it, but I never let it go because I refused to allow that emotion to be expressed. I never cried. Eventually I had to learn to cry and feel pain. I explored the darker side and I did feel better, but I then had to learn to express joy as well.

I was unbalanced living in a world of expressing pain until I learned to express joy. Expressing joy can be hard in a world where we are always trying to look grown-up, sophisticated, and fit in. Laughter gives us the perfect opportunity to learn to express ourselves.

When I watch a great comedian on Dry Bar Comedy I forget all my problems. I am caught up in the shared experiences of being nerdy, not fitting in, or having something embarrassing happen to me. I relate, and laugh, and am able to see those experiences no longer as horrible bits of my past to be suppressed, but in context, as something that happened to me that also happens to lots of other people. I laugh about it.

As I laugh, I connect with myself on a deeper level. Afterward, I am more loving and patient with my kids. I feel greater satisfaction with my life. I balance the pain with the joy, and everything looks better. My children know instinctively what I have forgotten, that laughter is vital to balancing a painful life. Even before you learn to cry again, learn to laugh again.

Dry Bar Comedy comes from the conservative Mormon town of Provo, Utah and is provided through VidAngel, a service that offers filtering for Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming. They have hilarious clips you can watch for free on YouTube.

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