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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This is Not A Break Down - This is a #MentalBreakthrough #ThisIsNotToday

THIS is not today.
THIS wasn’t yesterday or last week or even last month.
What you are seeing is not me having a break-down – but a full on breakthrough.

It may not look like a big deal to you, but for me, this is a moment where I allowed myself to be vulnerable, when I could have chosen a path that would have led me down a darker path as it has many times before.

I took a picture of myself while I was crying, which kind of seems ridiculous I’m sure. I needed it as a reminder of this specific sliver of time so that I could sear it into my memory as a sign of new beginnings, a start to making healthy, rational choices. I was closing the chapter of who I thought I was and letting the real me finally come through.

Why is that important?

I’ve spent a lifetime it seems, always letting anger get the best of me. I would dwell on something someone had said or done that hurt me profoundly, pretending I didn’t care, standing stoic and putting on a brave face. I was not going to show any one that I was weak in any way, especially by crying. I didn’t talk about my innermost feelings; instead, I chose to bottle them inside and wait…..

I’d wait for a day that had been long and tiresome, a day where every little thing had eaten away at my last nerve, a day when I just let all the little things become way bigger than they should have been. To the outside world, I looked normal; I was going through the motions of my daily routine with a smile. Inside - I was struggling just to take in a breathe, my body felt heavy, my spirit crushed, noises were amplified, the little voice in my head kept repeating everything negative anyone had ever spoken to me on a loop, I couldn’t focus. And then, inevitably, I would just snap.

It could be anything that finally pushed me over the edge. To those around me, it came out of nowhere. One minute I was fine, the next minute, “Mom’s throwing Christmas presents all over the living room!” (That’s just an example for your reference, albeit a true one). In my head, I rationalized that those dishes in the sink, the laundry piled up and me walking the dog - for what seemed like the hundredth time that day was just more than I could handle and had the tasks been completed by another, it would have surely prevented this particular melt-down. The truth is, it was never about those things.

To my loved ones who always seemed to be on the receiving end of my worst behavior, there was nothing they could say or do while I was mid-rage to calm me – there is no way to interject logic when a person is incapable of understanding reason. The best course of action for them was to wait it out, in silence, not feeding the beast that was rambling through my home.

I could tell you stories upon stories of things I’ve said or done while in rage-mode but I assure you they are long, childish, shameful, almost always in 3rd person and embarrassing. Once the emotion of what I always thought of as anger had run its course, along with the adrenaline, I was left feeling empty & physically drained and had traumatized those around me needlessly. In the end, my erratic behavior had solved nothing. This seemingly endless pattern lasted for 27 years, even after being diagnosed at 30 with Bipolar I disorder, years of medication trials and error, transcranial magnetic stimulation, reading self-help books and attending talk therapy.

Last year I decided I didn’t want to live like that anymore and by that, I mean I didn’t want to feel angry all the time and have random, uncontrollable outbursts like a mad woman. If I wanted real change to happen in my life, to better myself - for myself, I had to be the one to invoke it. I had to let go of trying to control everything in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I will always have to take medication, but I had to step up my game and really focus on understanding the how’s and why’s of me.

I discovered over the past year or so, that a majority of the time when I think I’m really good and mad, I’m not really angry, I’m extremely hurt and I had never learned how to express to another person "that" emotion. To express that I was hurt meant that I had to be vulnerable and let’s face it, being vulnerable is a scary thing if you’ve lived your whole life building walls to keep yourself safe and hidden. Being angry is uncomplicated, simple – anyone can do it and I was really good at it. Trusting someone, opening yourself to others, and believing wholeheartedly in them, that takes self-love, patience and work to master.

I started small and this is where the picture way at the top comes into play, it wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time I actually captured the moment. That particular day I was sad. I had no energy, I felt I had no social life, hadn’t made good choices for my family or myself, I felt I couldn’t live up to anyone’s expectations, I was lonely and above all I was still carrying a hurt that I was trying really hard to forgive. Before this picture, I was at a crossroad. I could tell an argument was brewing and that it was based on my current mood swing. I could stand there in my living room and unleash my fury. Scream, curse, throw things and continue to wear my bipolar label like it was some warrior badge of honor to display with pride or I could try something different.

I made a choice to take a brick from my decades old emotional fortress and lay it at my husband’s feet with a raw openness I had avoided for so long. I told my husband I was not in control of my emotions, that I needed him to walk away from me. That what I needed from him most was to let me calm myself and for me to do that, I needed him to leave the room and not come back in, not to say another word. With a puzzled look on his face, he did just that and I immediately exploded into tears.

Now I know what you’re thinking “How can a husband just walk away, why didn’t he come back and comfort you?” You have to understand that up to this point, I have made it my life’s mission to never let another see me cry - EVER, especially my husband and in this moment what he gave me was a gift. I could not rationally verbalize what I was feeling. I needed to push myself past all the negative things floating around in my head that wanted to escape out of my mouth with rage and just sit with them in thought, letting them process BY MYSELF. What I was feeling was temporary, deep down I knew it was going to pass, so while it was here, I was just going to embrace it, acknowledge it and when it was gone, I’d be at a point where I’d be willing to talk openly with a fresh perspective. So I took the “ugly cry” picture, it’s an honest & authentic moment. I’m totally not having a break down but a mental breakthrough. I could not control the world, or the people in it, but I could take responsibility for my thoughts and actions, right here, right now, so I did.

Ever since that picture was taken, when I started to feel upset, expressing what I am experiencing has become easier. I’ve reached a point where I just openly and immediately say out loud what I may be feeling and if I cry in the process, usually I discover it was just simple frustration. At first I would apologize for crying, because it was new to me, but now it’s just what I do because it’s so freeing to express myself openly..

I didn’t realize that for as long as I could remember I lived in fear. Fear of judgement, criticism, lack of control, looking foolish, afraid no one would love me just as I am, being vulnerable, trusting another. I cared too much if people liked me, I always wanted to say and do the right thing, be who others wanted me to be. What about now? I still care, but I let it bother me way less and I don’t make it my identity. Maybe it’s my age or the things I’ve seen or my experience in life. I don’t sit on anger anymore; I look deeper into myself when I become frustrated and I try to view it from another standpoint. I ask myself "Why are you getting mad and how can you express this in an appropriate manner and solve the actual problem forever?"

Start today by doing something you thought you never imagined you could do, even if it's something small. Today was a good day, because I decided to trust all of you with something so personal. Thanks for listening.


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