Taboo

Can we talk about something taboo? Can we talk suicide for a bit?

Recently the media has been flooded by two high-profile suicides. It’s absolutely devastating that these lives were lost and it’s also tragic that approximately 3000 people in the world die by suicide every single day. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

This is not okay! Something has to change!

After the media coverage, every social media platform was filled with heartfelt tributes and suicide hotline numbers and things like “just ask for help” “just tell someone” “Anybody can call me anytime” etc…

Here’s the thing, and I say this believing that the people saying these things mean well they just don’t know better, but these words you are typing on your social media are not the answer. Words do not equal actions. Actions are what save lives. Don’t say “I’ll be there when you call” because they aren’t going to call. You just have to be there without them having to call. You should know that for the people who battle years of severe mental illness, their “friends” will slowly disappear. I get it, it’s really really really hard to be friends and stay close to someone who you can’t understand, who isolates, who pushes you away etc.

The thing is, they need you. They desperately need you.

I want you to know that there are a LOT of little things that lead up to a person making such a big choice such as taking their own life and if you aren’t there in the trenches with them during the battle then you certainly won’t be the one they count on in the end.

I say this with the utmost respect for those of you who have stood by and held up the broken and the hurting who have chosen to take their life despite your faithfulness to stand with them. I support you in your grief and I thank you for your steadfastness. Ultimately only the person committing suicide is responsible for his or her choice.

I just feel, as a person who struggles with severe mental illness (who has at times been suicidal), and who has experienced suicide of close friends, it is my job to remind you that it takes action! It takes being there for years and it’s not just you riding in on a white horse to save the day because you sent a text once every few months saying “hey text me if you need anything”. It just isn’t enough.

So if you really want to make a difference then jump in with both feet for the long haul with the people close to you fighting mental illness. Don’t post a Facebook status or a tweet to ease your conscience and make you feel like you did your part. I’m sorry, but that isn’t enough.

Know better, do better!

This is not just a trend that you jump on board with while it’s circulating through the news or trending on twitter.

It is literally life and death.

 

Keep Fighting,

Dawn Harris

 

 

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We Won’t Quit

I’ve been absent for a while. I just haven’t had the motivation to write. Feeling a bit confused and frustrated.

I hate mental illness and what it does to those of us that suffer and to those who love us.

At this moment I am sitting in my bed in complete agony over a trigger for my OCD/PTSD. Just a simple comment that my body reacted to and instantly I was flooded with thoughts from a past bad experience, drenched in false guilt and my body was covered in sweat as my heart raced and the pit in my stomach got even deeper. Now I’m literally a mess just trying to breathe and live.

This happens on a regular basis and it is absolutely the worst feeling I have ever had in my entire life. The severity varies and the length varies, but it is literally something I deal with every.single.day. of my life.

I’m tired and I’m weak. I feel like I’m going to vomit.

This is true OCD.

If only it was just wanting an organized pantry…

Misconceptions about mental illness doesn’t make me angry (maybe because I used to be one of them?), but they do make me more passionate about spreading awareness.

*Deep Breath*

This is so very very very hard. I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this over and over. Why do our brains not believe us? How can I know the truth and yet feel like it is a lie. How can my body betray me. This is so confusing and frustrating. I just want to be well.

If you struggle with intrusive repetitive thoughts and PTSD/OCD triggered anxiety attacks you know what I’m talking about. We tear ourselves up with hate filled words, with guilt filled thoughts, we remember every mistake we ever made and replay it only we make it even worse in our heads than it actually was. We confess as a ritual to try to stop the guilt, it may help for a while, but it always flares up again, and again, and again.

I’m so tired.

*Deep Breath*

We don’t give up. We have to keep fighting. We face the battle that feels even bigger than impossible and we choose to believe we are more than this feeling. We are more than this illness. We are more than the lies screaming in our heads. We are not our past. We will not surrender. We will not lay down and quit. We will get knocked down and then we will breathe deep, look our fears dead in the eyes, and say, “You will not win!”. We get back up. We keep going. Over and over and over again. We will not be imprisoned by the monster inside our heads. We will do the things it tells us we can’t. We will do the things it says we should fear. We will engage in conversations that may trigger the sleeping beast. We will be venerable to those around us when we need help. We will give ourselves grace when we are weak. We will give ourselves kind words when all we feel and hear are hatred. We will speak truth even when our whole bodies tell us it is a lie. And we will drag our broken and bleeding bodies over glass and hot coals to reach the finish line because we have a purpose and we will not quit because people fighting mental illness are quite possibly the strongest people on the planet!

Keep Fighting,

Dawn Harris

 

Knowledge is Power

Y’all, This week has been a challenge. I mean, that sounds weird to say that because I can’t recall a time in the last 15 years that wasn’t a challenging week, but this week my OCD flared up REALLY bad on Wednesday. When you deal with something like OCD everyday you sometimes forget the intensity of it when it’s at its peak.

Guys, it was so bad I called like 5 random therapists/ psychologists I found on google that are in my area trying to find someone to see me that day. Luckily I found a lady who called me back and could see me right away. She was nice and had a pretty decent knowledge of OCD (why is that usually hard to find??).

Anyway, she said something that was SO helpful to me and I have to share it with you all. She said “OCD is misplaced anxiety.” She said she feels like most of my OCD is based on a real fear that I face daily and that I’m subconsciously trying to hurt myself to avoid the real pain that I have to carry. I REALLY think she is on to something! I have been trying to examine my OCD and the times it flares up and I definitely see a pattern. In a OCD world where nothing makes sense and everything is confusing, this little piece of hope in understanding my brain better was such a welcome gift!!

The last few days when I feel the OCD I say to myself “this is just misplaced anxiety” and I relax my tensed muscles and exhale. I recognize and acknowledge the anxiety that I carry (even if I don’t feel like it is a particularly high anxiety time at that moment I’ve learned that it can still effect me.) Then I try to continue whatever I’m doing as normally as I can. So far it has been a wonderful tool to add to my toolbox of things to fight my OCD!

I so hope this helps you too!!

 

Keep Fighting,

Dawn Harris

OCD battles

I struggle with several things and it’s super rare for all of the things to be going well at the same time. I’m always struggling with something and usually multiple things at once.

My fibromyalgia has been angry pretty much everyday as of late and I’m on my period.

My cycles kill.

I mean we have discussed me having a full hysterectomy many times, but due to my fragile mental state, we, and the doctors agree it’s just too risky right now.

That being said, it causes so much pain, to the point of tears at times, and I’m unable to do anything other than lay in bed with a heating pad for at least 2 days (although the bleeding usually lasts 10 days).

Side note – I laugh at the people who are all like “women shouldn’t be ashamed to free bleed.” I’m all like, Girl, I not ashamed, in fact I’m a classic over-sharer, but if I was to “free bleed” as they say we “should” as “proud women” it would look like a freaking blood bath! So. Much. Blood. Not to mention everything I own would be stained in blood. Um. No thanks.

While all that is painful, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times more.

Mental pain is far greater than physical pain.

Today I woke up feeling okay mentally, but as the day has continued my mental state has dramatically declined.

It comes out of nowhere.

Sometimes there is a trigger and the rush of OCD is intense and overwhelming. Other times, it’s more subtle and I find myself fighting thoughts and then they just become stronger and more frequent until I’m full on high alert, survival, fight mode.

I was sitting, listening to some of my favorite music and doing some art work. I took a break and ate a sandwich. I went back to my art and all of the sudden I realized that gradually my mood had shifted and my thoughts were scaring me (they weren’t badĀ  thoughts, but they were traumatizing me with false guilt and fear of feeling the OCD), I realized I was quite shaky inside. My body was hurting and I was shutting down. I knew it was time to accept the flare and let it run its course.

There was no trigger. I did nothing wrong. I wasn’t in danger, yet my body or rather my mind turned on me and attacked. I was helpless to stop it.

I decided to turn to writing this out for you to help get me through this flare up.

I am not able to do anything to forget that I’m having these thoughts and feelings until it passes, but I can speak truth in the midst of it until I can feel them as true for myself again.

While we may not be able to control what’s going on inside our minds as much as we would like, we are NOT helpless. We CAN control how we fight through the battle.

I’m struggling. I’m tired. I’m worn. And truthfully I’m so over it.

I just want these nasty flares to go away and never return.

But that’s not my reality.

I will most likely fight most of these battles to some degree for the remainder of my life and I’m trying to be okay with that.

But today, right now, I just have to fight one minute at a time.

Keep Fighting,

Dawn Harris

A Roller Coaster You Didn’t Ask to Ride.

How does one go from walking 2 1/2 miles one day to a few days later not being able to dress herself or communicate and needing a wheelchair?
A horrible accident? a surgery? A terrible injury?
nope.
Depression.
Can I just say going from such a high to such a low is really hard. But I have been dealing with some pretty big things in my personal life that can help explain the low I found myself in, and I have learned through many many many years of experience, this too will pass.
I just need to get through the day, and as my mom always said, “just take it an hour at a time and if that’s too much, take it a minute at a time, and if that’s still too much take it one second at a time.”
On those dreadful days I take it one second at a time.
I told my husband earlier today, when we were discussing my crash that happened yesterday, I literally felt like a tiny miniature version of myself was trapped inside a sound proof prison cell deep inside my body screaming “HELP ME!” and no one could hear me because my body lay there limp and unable to speak. As we discussed our different perspectives on the situation we had walked through many times before, we talked again about the do’s and don’ts for what I need in that moment.
Tough love is a no.
Trust me, in those moments the last thing that is beneficial is someone trying to “shame” or “scold” me into just doing it. Just talking, just getting dressed, just getting some fresh air.
Close contact and eye contact is a yes.
I need to feel life from you, because I’m feeling really numb (at least on the outside. Inside I’m screaming and shouting at myself to pull it together and snap out of it). I need to hear words of affirmation because I feel like a dead weight. I need to see care and calm in your eyes. I need you to reassure me that what I’m feeling will pass, that you understand that I’m doing my best, that you are staying with me and that you love me.
And if all that fails throw a (clean!) pair of undies on your head and run around the room like a crazy man! Anything to make me feel something and to make the pain less intense.
I think communicating to your spouse/friends/family what works best for you while you are in a crash, after you have recently had one, is really beneficial for the next time it happens. They aren’t mind readers and we can’t talk, so both sides need to give grace for shortcomings, but communicating about it is certainly a step in the right direction!
Another thing I’ve learned over the years is to be patient with myself on bad days. When we feel that darkness overtaking our minds and bodies our initial and natural response is to tense up, fight it, panic, fear it… But what we need to do is take a slow deep breath and speak some truths to our brain before it takes over completely to the point where truth and lies start to get mixed up. I also like to tell my husband something like ” hey, just so you know I’m feeling really bad and my depression (or anxiety or whatever I’m dealing with at the time) is really flaring up. I’m going to probably need you to be extra sensitive” or “I might be extra tense” or “I need some alone time”.
Another thing that helps sometimes, depending on the severity and what I’m dealing with, is using multiple senses. For example, playing a card game while eating a snack. One without the other isn’t enough. Now, can I be real? The last thing I usually want to do when I am feeling mental torment is to play a game or eat, but my husband usually talks me into it and it does help some of the time. It’s not like I’m enjoying the game or the snack, but I’m just using it to pass the time and to turn off some of the over reactive senses.
The point is, sometimes we have to go against what feels like a natural response and learn new, healthier habits to enforce when our bodies and brains betray us. And sometimes there is absolutely nothing in the world that you can do to stop it, even if you do everything right. So give yourself a break from the condescending, self-doubt and dish yourself up a nice heaping bowl of grace with whipped cream on top. You and I are doing the best we can and you are not alone in this fight! If it’s one of your hard days just take it one second at a time. You can fight for one more second. You’ve got this!
Keep Fighting,
Dawn Harris

Music

Music is such a gift to my soul.

Whether it’s worship music or love songs, opera (on rare occasion), or happy up beat pop.
Music finds a way deep into my being.
It’s like if you mute a movie during a scary part, it’s suddenly less scary. If you mute it during a romantic seen, the romance goes away.
If you’re having a slow day, put on an upbeat song and you’ll get a little pep in your step. If your feeling sad, turn on a slow, deep, song and cry your eyes out until you feel better.
Music is powerful.
I use it as a type of therapy.
I love to listen to it and sing along with it. I love the chills and the emotion it evokes in me.
I also write songs.
I hope that one day they will be able to be shared with other chronic illness fighters and I hope they bring them the same comfort and move them as deeply as some of my favorite artists and songs have me!
This week has been a little hard, I had to go in for my TMS and my OCD has made its self very known, in fact it was so bad I was using music to help which led to this post.
My fibromyalgia has also been an unwelcome guest and with the rain moving in my body is in rebellion.

So carry on fellow fighters and maybe find some time to listen to your favorite music and let it sink deep into your soul!

Keep Fighting,

Dawn Harris

Pain

Ouch!

My fibromyalgia has been so bad the last few days, keeping me awake and just throbbing.

It’s really discouraging because usually it flares up most when the weather is changing, but here lately even with the stable weather it has been really painful.

Stress is also a cause of a flare ups, and my stress levelĀ has been quite high! We have only a few weeks to find a place to live and we just started going to a small group type thing on Thursday nights and I’m dreading it.

I mean, I want to want to go, but I don’t. My anxiety and depression really want me to stay in. Plus the threat of getting the flu with this awful epidemic scares me to death! I do not have a healthy immune system and the last thing I want is to give any germs to my daughter!

It’s hard to live life when you are physically and mentally disabled.

The truth is, we all face difficulties. We can’t choose our battles, we just have to live with them.

Accepting and not fighting it helps.

Just the other day we were having a family day that ended abruptly due to an intense OCD attack. I was so upset and felt terrible about it, but my husband sweetly reminded me that this is our life and that it’s okay, it’s just something we have to live with.

One day at a time friends, hang in there and give yourself grace when you can’t do everything you hope!

Keep Fighting,

Dawn Harris