I am Free

There was a time when I was imprisoned by myself. I could feel my hands on the bars and my heart stuck between them; I was not free. My heart was tangled in ropes. I couldn’t stand up I was doubled over in pain. Stuck to my prison cell I did not know if I would ever get out. The length of my criminal sentence was unclear.  I put myself in this prison and I didn’t allow myself an accurate time of how long I would be in this dirty dank cell. Part of me wanted to leave and part of me didn’t know if it was possible to. My body and my mind hurt. I remember how the sun looked and almost how it tasted.

I longed to chase the sun’s rays and feel the warmth on my back. After some time I grew tired of sitting in the cell and I knew it was time to leave. But I didn’t know how or when or why or who would get me out of there.I grew frustrated with sitting there not knowing when I would go. Wanting, yearning, needing to be with another.

And then…

It dawned on me that I was the “other.” I could save my heart and my mind from this pain.

That is what I did. I reached in and untied the ropes from my heart and it was wretched and awful.

Still, I kept going knowing that one day I would be free; free of this disguise that I had put on my face. The mask hurt to touch, and I wanted to rip it off. This was the day that I did. I dug my nails into that mask and I forced it off my face.

It felt good; like a massage that hurt and was wonderful at the same time.

I broke the bonds and found a chainsaw that I didn’t know existed. I sought my way out of that prison cell and I knew it was time; time to leave this place.

I found the stairs and walked up to them tentatively. The sunlight hit me like a baseball bat. I was grateful to be alive and have my freedom.

What was next? I didn’t and still don’t know. But I do know this: I am alive.


I typically include resources for people who need help at the end of some of my posts. If you need an in-person therapist visit Psychology Today. If you are interested in working with an online therapist

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Sarah Fader is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

Talking or Not

I feel the urge bubbling up inside my belly. I want to talk about all the things that are on my mind, but I don’t want those things to overpower me. I don’t want to become the things that are bothering me. They are like tiny little demons who want to consume my mind. If they materialize and make it from my stomach through my esophagus and out of my mouth, what will I say? I don’t want to offend anyone, and I’m so good at that. It should be a special skill on a resume at this point. I know that I need to talk to someone and I’m crashing down out of this hot air balloon waiting for it to explode with words in my face. I’ll have to catch those words or else they might find another candidate to bother and thrust my words upon. It’s difficult to see outside of yourself. It’s challenging to find how this will change me, what do I do if I talk? Who is listening to me besides BetterHelp ? Maybe a lot of people are. But it’s not something I can quantify. I can only attest to the fact that I have these feelings and they are connected to words and if I let them outside of myself there is no telling what people will hear and I can’t control any of it.

I’ve been working on my impulsivity when it comes to communication. There are things that I feel like I just need to say. There are conversations that I feel need to be had. And the other person on the end of that theoretical conversation might now be ready to have it. I cannot talk to myself in this particular incidence. I can verbalize how I feel, I can write in a journal, but if I need another person to care about my words, there is no guarantee that this person will care. Recently, I have had to leave a situation alone that I am uncomfortable with and it hurts. I don’t know how to handle that pain. I want to change it, fix it, make it mine again. And I cannot do any of those things because life doesn’t stop for me or you. It keeps moving at a rapid pace and if you stop and keep obsessing about one thing, you will miss a lot of what’s happening outside. You will not be present for the beauty also the tragedies. It’s your choice as to how you handle these complex moments. Sometimes there’s a time to use your words and other times there are opportunities to listen to others.

When you stop and listen, you may be surprised at what you hear. It’s hard for me to listen sometimes, especially when the words conjure up pain within my body and my heart. I don’t want to hurt anymore, but listening and talking can assist in working through that pain. I know what it is to walk through proverbial fire; I’ve done it before and I know I’ll do it again. It’s just a matter of time and words.

Annie Spratt - Unsplash

Annie Spratt – Unsplash

Save Us

I tried to save us.

Several times

Maybe you didn’t know or your hands were over your ears

Perhaps you didn’t want to hear me as we sat on that couch together listening to the therapist.

I didn’t want to hear you speak because I was so focused on telling you what my opinions were on our relationship. I refused to see through your lens. It wasn’t my problem; it was yours. And I wanted to see you as an evil super villain when in reality, you are just a man. You are a man who I still love deeply, despite the fact that your eyes are closed and your heart is broken or tucked away in a box. It’s like I can see you and you can’t see me, and it’s sad and heartbreaking and real.

I’ve always known that you were kind. I’ve seen you be good with animals and children. That made my heart open and swell. It was like we were connected in this unspeakable way and I wanted to crawl inside that soft place. There were glimpses of that vulnerability that you showed me. Sometimes I could see it and other times I didn’t want to believe it was there. You tried so hard to be kind to me, and there were many times when it went unnoticed. All I can say now is that I’m sorry. All I can do is show you that I DO care about you. It’s not that I stopped caring, it’s that I believed that you didn’t want to see me anymore.

Or

Maybe we didn’t want to see each other. The resentment grew and grew to the point where we barely spoke to each other. When we did talk it was talking at one another instead of having a conversation.

So

the other day when I sat in the bathroom of your apartment and you poured your heart out to me, I wanted to listen. I opened myself up to you in a way that I never have, because I wanted you to know that I love you. I will NEVER stop loving you. Despite all the terrible things we’ve sad and done to each other, I will ALWAYS love you and NOTHING can stop that love. It’s strong, passionate, and real and if you can’t see that, I’m sorry; it’s probably because I put those glasses on your. It’s my fault and I will always live with the guilt that I shut you out.

I want to let you in

If I could do anything in this minute it would be to heal the past and have you hold me. There is no amount of tears that will fix what we’ve done to each other. I do know this: I can forgive you, and I hope that one day you will learn to forgive me. All I want is to be inside your heart again and I can’t control that. It makes me crazy, and sad, and I feel foolish that I let you go.

And

if there is a chance

to make it work

I will always be

right here.

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/marriage/how-to-talk-to-your-spouse-about-online-marriage-counseling/

hello

How to Talk to Your Child About Mental Illness

My children (who are nine and six) know that I have anxiety and depression. They don’t know those words, but I explain them in a child-friendly way when I am experiencing symptoms of each of those mental health issues. When I am anxious, I tell the kids “Mommy is feeling nervous right now. She needs to breathe for a moment.” I verbalize my feelings so my kids are not afraid of what’s going on. I think one of the best things you can do when talking to your kids about mental health issues is to be transparent. Transparency is key because children are incredibly perceptive and more than we give them credit for. They see and hear a lot of what we’re up to and that includes our mental health issues.

With depression it is tricky, and we need to be mindful that crying can be alarming to our kids. They may not understand why I am crying. I assure my kids that crying is a part of life. It’s perfectly normal to experience sadness and let it out in the form of tears.  I am tender in the way that I explain depression to my kids. I say things like:

“Mommy is feeling sad right now. It’s okay to cry when you’re sad, and that’s why I’m crying. Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

Children often find the need to comfort us when we are sad, which I believe is okay. But make sure to explain to your kids that they didn’t cause your sadness, it’s simply something that you are dealing with.

Another thing to remember is that when you’re depressed, you need to find external support. Your kids are reacting to your symptoms, and that’s perfectly normal, but you need to engage in self-care. One thing you can do is seek out resources and help for depression, such as  depression chat. There is power in expressing yourself to a community of people who truly understand what you’re going through in a way that children are obviously not equipped for.

Your children care about you, and when you live with clinical depression (or any mental health issue for that matter) they inevitably concerned about your well-being. The best thing you can do is be honest about what you are going through in an age-appropriate way. You don’t need to reveal too much information; just tell them in a concise way what you’re dealing with so that they understand.

I asked my six-year-old this question: “what can I say when I’m crying so that you can understand what’s going on?” She said:

“You can say ‘I’m crying because my friend is going to college’.”

I found this answer informative because she was saying – I want an explanation as to why you’re crying. That makes a lot of sense to me, and I want to honor that request. When I’m tearful, I will try my best to explain to my girl why I’m sad in a way that she can understand. Children can internalize more than you think they can. So, be gentle, be honest and let your kids know that even though you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, anger or any other feeling, that it’s okay. You are going to be okay, and they did not cause this feeling to happen. You have your own feelings and you are managing them as best you can.

circles of feelings

Be Better

Be Better

I woke up this morning feeling a little bit better. My heart was still racing but I believe there is something to look forward to. No fuck that, I know there is something to look forward to.

It lies within me. I am the master of my own destiny. I make the choices that contribute to me and my happiness.

It does scare the shit out of me. I’m not going to lie.

Lying.

I’ve always been a terrible liar. And when I try to do it people seem to know. So I don’t bother trying. Sometimes I will be silent, but I will not tell an untruth.

Guilt.

Feeling guilty is a waste of time. It doesn’t mean that we can’t feel those feelings because they happen organically.

I want to be OK. And I know that one day I will feel that; even if it is just for a moment.

And the reason that I know that is because I’m sitting here on my couch feeling OK in this moment.

Everything and I mean everything is going to be all right. Bob Marley was onto something.

Out of the Cave and in to the Light

Cave

I walk into the dark cavernous space holding my flashlight. I try to turn it on but the switch isn’t working. It just keeps clicking and my feet start tapping nervously.

He is lurking in the shadows of this space. I can hear the shore waves creeping up. The sand is wet outside and I close my eyes wishing that I could be immersed in the ocean so I didn’t have to stand up anymore.

He’s there. But he doesn’t say anything.

My blood is hot and almost boiling and I can’t move my feet because the light won’t work and he doesn’t love me anymore so what’s the point of turning the light on anyway?

If he sees me, he’ll stare right through me.

Even in the dark I know…

He is looking through my face I don’t matter anymore and I can’t handle that.

I feel the rage bubbling in my stomach and it runs through my veins. I feel electric, powerful and full of hope. My hand is on fire and the flashlight turns on. I drop it to the ground and shake trying to extinguish the fire.

Then I feel it

His arms wrap around me and he says:

“I remember now- every moment- I remember.”

I believe him and the tears start to run down my face. They are hot and fierce. I am so strong within his grasp and I turn around and say:

“Thank you.”

He holds me and I know that everything (yes everything) in this moment will be fine.

I hear him in my head from years ago:

“It’s going to be fine. You think too much.”

It used to make me angry and now I understand what he meant. I need to shut the fuck up. I need to tell my brain to be quiet. Sit down. Be still. And listen.

He touches my face and nods.

“Go. I will still be here when you return.”

I smile at him in the dim light and run out onto the beach. It’s sunrise and I’m laughing and crying at the same time. I’m running and sweating, and I reach the shore line. I don’t think – I just throw my body into the ocean. He would be proud.

I’ll see him when I return, when I pick my self up and dry myself off.

I’m not worried.

I will be fine.

You’ve Never Sat on My Couch

You came to New York on my birthday – 10/17 in 2004. It had to mean something.

It had to be a sign.

People come into your life for a reason and I miss you.

I’ll never stop loving you and my whole body feels like broken glass.

I don’t think you can ever forgive me for how I treated you.

But we were fire and fire together, and it exploded, which was sometimes great and other times overwhelming.

And I blamed everything on you, which became an imbalance in our connection. I can’t take it all back. I can’t make it better. I can’t fix things. I can’t fix us.

But I want to. I love you and those words- they mean something to me. The more you tell me you can’t hear me and Implicitly say I don’t matter, the more I can’t feel my face from crying.

I want to jump in a time machine and go back to 2014. I want to change that day that everything went to shit. I want to tell you I’m sorry, I’ll be more patient. I won’t try to make you talk when you don’t want to. I won’t be afraid of you because you’re not a monster, you’re a human being.

And if I could change it all for the better I would. But I fucked it up, I made it about me when it was about us.

I made it about your shortcomings when I am not perfect, I have things that I am not proud of.

I’m imperfect and scared and I miss you sitting next to me on the couch watching trashy reality TV.

Now we have a new couch that you’ve never sat on and it makes me so fucking sad.

I miss you so much and I want it all back but I can’t reach it. Can you?

Broken in Cycles

15 – laying on my couch, wishing I was dead. Thinking that he killed me with his words. I don’t know if I love you anymore

It wasn’t him. It was me. I killed me because I didn’t love myself. I was clinically depressed, not eating, sleeping too much, hormonal, waking up with panic attacks, every day, vomiting bile, thinking that there was no reason to exist. If he didn’t love me I didn’t matter. I didn’t know what love was – I thought it meant two parts of something. I believed that you didn’t need to love yourself to be loved by another person. None of that mattered to me because I didn’t want to be alive. I wanted to close my eyes and never wake up. I kept living and eventually, his rejection didn’t matter anymore, or at least I learned to stop picking the scab. It would be years later before I learned what it meant to love myself, to accept who I was, and to believe that I was anyone worth knowing.

34- My marriage disintegrated, and I couldn’t figure out who did what. I blamed him, but every bone in my body that “hated” him, actually just loved him harder. It looked like venom, but I was weaving that web to protect myself from getting hurt. I wanted to fix him, I wanted to repair “us” but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make myself better or him, or the two of us. I had no glue, no words, no cement to mold us into a statue of perfection. I was brought back to being 15 again, and I felt like I didn’t matter.

37- I am alone, I don’t know what happened to me, I miss him, and I miss not being broken. I miss being a part of something, and now it’s gone and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to love myself. I’m learning, and I’m afraid that I’m doing it all wrong. I’m terrified that I fucked up my whole consciousness too much by over-analyzing, being hyper-critical, using too many big words. I blamed him for years when in actuality, it was no one’s “fault.” People are different and we each bring something to the table that is unique and sometimes those two things don’t mix well. I took chemistry in high school and I had to drop the course because I didn’t understand how it worked.

I still don’t understand how things work.

I don’t think I ever fully will because…

There are somethings that we are not meant to “understand” and I can’t logic my way out of these feelings…

And I want to throw them out the window and…

reject them like a broken mannequin part in a factory line but…

I need to feel them so I can move forward, and there’s no shortcut, no detour, nothing can stop this. I am going to drive this race car at varying paces until I get to my destination(s). There are multiple stops along the way. I hope I see you there, and maybe we can have coffee sometime if you remember me.

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