Saturday, February 14, 2015

New Site!

Really excited for the release of my new blog, TODAY!
This blog [] has been transferred over, as well as all previous posts from that blog. [trulybeautifullife] will remain open for public viewing until summer 2015.
This new {candid} blog is a positive change to a more accessible preface, with lots more features; still keeping the same mission of sharing my personal stories, as well as spreading awareness of Mental Health Disorders in a way that can provide hope.
Check it out, and Share!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Great And Terrible Blender

                I stumbled across this little heart-felt letter during one of many Pinterest Binges. Though I am not the exact person as the Author of this letter, I can relate in so many ways to what she says here. Very few people who watch loved ones trek through the journey of mental illness, know how to cope and love that person in the midst of watching them struggle. I am at a point where I am beginning to find the words to describe how I really feel, because for so long my go-to phrase for the questions of "What's wrong?" "Why are you doing that" etc. is simply: "I don't know". In another phase of life this might have been a defiant and flippant answer to avoid conflict. At that moment in time, I REALLY didn't have a good answer for why I was feeling, or acting a certain way. 
I suppose someone could say that it is stupid or I am just being lazy. While I can see where people get that assumption; when your mind feels like it is in a blender, every moment of everyday, it is close to impossible to find our ground. We feel helpless. We feel as if we are going insane. 

                  A couple of years ago, I was at the Junior High Camp for my church. It was Sunday, the final day of camp. The night before I had stayed up all night with my leaders and friends, playing games and screaming our heads off. The next morning, as you might imagine: my voice was GONE. It felt like torture to give every effort to talk, scream, whisper.. ANYTHING. The end result? A tiny whisper. In my mind I was screaming, and turning beat red trying to force words from my mouth that were actually audible. That is the best description I have of what my mind feels like.. constantly. 
My disorder wears me out, (metaphorically) screaming at me 24/7 to the point where my rational thoughts don't even stand a chance to be heard. It is agony to be at war with your own mind. You loose every sense of yourself, and thats when you revert to the physical. For me, it was cutting my arms and wrists, and starving my body until I resembled a walking skeleton. 

                     That isn't even the darkest part. I would go so far as to threaten my own life, and the safety of my family, sending our family headfirst into chaos and panic. It is excruciatingly painful to look back at those moments and question why I made those terrifying threats to the people that love and care for me the most. 
That's another downfall. Those memories, and unprocessed emotions from those dark times, get mixed up in my "mind smoothie", appearing again in my weakest moments. Something as simple as a car alarm can turn my demeanor on a dime, from calm and bubbly, to paranoid and to panic attacks.. or in some cases, violence. So, next time yourself, or a friend is struggling with trying to figure out how to love a person w/ Mental Illness: Read this letter.

- Maddie

An Open Letter From those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder:

Dear Friends, Family Members, Lovers, Ex-lovers, Coworkers, Children, and others of those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder,
You may be frustrated, feeling helpless, and ready to give up. It's not your fault. You are not the cause of our suffering. You may find that difficult to believe, since we may lash out at you, switch from being loving and kind to non-trusting and cruel on a dime, and we may even straight up blame you. But it's not your fault. You deserve to understand more about this condition and what we wish we could say but may not be ready.
It is possible that something that you said or did "triggered" us. A trigger is something that sets off in our minds a past traumatic event or causes us to have distressing thoughts. While you can attempt to be sensitive with the things you say and do, that's not always possible, and it's not always clear why something sets off a trigger. 

The mind is very complex. A certain song, sound, smell, or words can quickly fire off neurological connections that bring us back to a place where we didn't feel safe, and we might respond in the now with a similar reaction (think of military persons who fight in combat -- a simple backfiring of a car can send them into flashbacks. This is known as PTSD, and it happens to a lot of us, too.)

But please know that at the very same time that we are pushing you away with our words or behavior, we also desperately hope that you will not leave us or abandon us in our time of despair and desperation. 
This extreme, black or white thinking and experience of totally opposite desires is known as a dialectic. Early on in our diagnosis and before really digging in deep with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), we don't have the proper tools to tell you this or ask for your support in healthy ways.

We may do very dramatic things, such as harming ourselves in some way (or threatening to do so), going to the hospital, or something similar. While these cries for help should be taken seriously, we understand that you may experience "burn out" from worrying about us and the repeated behavior.  
Please trust that, with professional help, and despite what you may have heard or come to believe, we CAN and DO get better. 
These episodes can get farther and fewer between, and we can experience long periods of stability and regulation of our emotions. Sometimes the best thing to do, if you can muster up the strength in all of your frustration and hurt, is to grab us, hug us, and tell us that you love us, care, and are not leaving. 
One of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is an intense fear of being abandoned, and we therefore (often unconsciously) sometimes behave in extreme, frantic ways to avoid this from happening. Even our perception that abandonment is imminent can cause us to become frantic.
Another thing that you may find confusing is our apparent inability to maintain relationships. We may jump from one friend to another, going from loving and idolizing them to despising them - deleting them from our cell phones and unfriending them on Facebook. We may avoid you, not answer calls, and decline invitations to be around you -- and other times, all we want to do is be around you.
This is called splitting, and it's part of the disorder. Sometimes we take a preemptive strike by disowning people before they can reject or abandon us. We're not saying it's "right." We can work through this destructive pattern and learn how to be healthier in the context of relationships. It just doesn't come naturally to us. It will take time and a lot of effort.
It's difficult, after all, to relate to others properly when you don't have a solid understanding of yourself and who you are, apart from everyone else around you.  
In Borderline Personality Disorder, many of us experience identity disturbance issues. We may take on the attributes of those around us, never really knowing who WE are.  You remember in high school those kids who went from liking rock music to pop to goth, all to fit in with a group - dressing like them, styling their hair like them, using the same mannerisms? It's as if we haven't outgrown that.  
Sometimes we even take on the mannerisms of other people (we are one way at work, another at home, another at church), which is part of how we've gotten our nickname of "chameleons." Sure, people act differently at home and at work, but you might not recognize us by the way we behave at work versus at home. It's that extreme.
For some of us, we had childhoods during which, unfortunately, we had parents or caregivers who could quickly switch from loving and normal to abusive. We had to behave in ways that would please the caregiver at any given moment in order to stay safe and survive. We haven't outgrown this.
Because of all of this pain, we often experience feelings of emptiness. We can't imagine how helpless you must feel to witness this. Perhaps you have tried so many things to ease the pain, but nothing has worked. Again - this is NOT your fault.  
The best thing we can do during these times is remind ourselves that "this too shall pass" and practice DBT skills - especially self-soothing - things that helps us to feel a little better despite the numbness. Boredom is often dangerous for us, as it can lead to the feelings of emptiness.  It's smart for us to stay busy and distract ourselves when boredom starts to come on.
On the other side of the coin, we may have outburst of anger that can be scary. It's important that we stay safe and not hurt you or ourselves. This is just another manifestation of BPD. 

We are highly emotionally sensitive and have extreme difficulty regulating/modulating our emotions. Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of DBT, likens us to 3rd degree emotional burn victims. 

Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, we can learn how to regulate our emotions so that we do not become out of control.  We can learn how to stop sabotaging our lives and circumstances...and we canlearn to behave in ways that are less hurtful and frightening to you.

Another thing you may have noticed is that spaced out look on our faces. This is called dissociation. Our brains literally disconnect, and our thoughts go somewhere else, as our brains are trying to protect us from additional emotional trauma. We can learn grounding exercises and apply our skills to help during these episodes, and they may become less frequent as we get better.
But, what about you?

If you have decided to tap into your strength and stand by your loved one with BPD, you probably need support too.  Here are some ideas:
  • Remind yourself that the person's behavior isn't your fault
  • Tap into your compassion for the person's suffering while understanding that their behavior is probably an intense reaction to that suffering
  • Do things to take care of YOU. On the resources page of this blog, there is a wealth of information on books, workbooks, CDs, movies, etc. for you to understand this disorder and take care of yourself. Be sure to check it out!
  • In addition to learning more about BPD and how to self-care around it, be sure to do things that you enjoy and that soothe you, such as getting out for a walk, seeing a funny movie, eating a good meal, taking a warm bath -- whatever you like to do to care for yourself and feel comforted.
  • Ask questions. There is a lot of misconception out there about BPD.
  • Remember that your words, love, and support go a long way in helping your loved one to heal, even if the results are not immediately evident

Not all of the situations I described apply to all people with Borderline Personality Disorder. One must only have 5 symptoms out of 9 to qualify for a diagnosis, and the combinations of those 5-9 are seemingly endless.  This post is just to give you an idea of the typical suffering and thoughts those of us with BPD have.

This is my second year in DBT. A year ago, I could not have written this letter, but it represents much of what was in my heart but could not yet be realized or expressed.  

My hope is that you will gain new insight into your loved one's condition and grow in compassion and understand for both your loved one AND yourself, as this is not an easy road. 

I can tell you, from personal experience, that working on this illness through DBT is worth the fight. Hope can be returned. A normal life can be had. You can see glimpses and more and more of who that person really is over time, if you don't give up.  I wish you peace.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Is change a good thing?

Lot's and lot's of change. It's a good thing.. at least thats what they say. I can say that it is, but will I ever believe it? I've come so far haven't I? It is time to move on. I knew from the beginning that this wouldn't be forever. At the same time this seems like it will never end. I get better, and then my mind intervenes, and I slip up. Slip up's are okay, as long as you don't keep making the same mistake. Someday, maybe not today, things will change. That is going to be okay with me. It may scare the hell out of me to come out of my comfort zone, always having the fall-back net. Ive got to own up to this and know that I can do it. I have come so much father and made so much more progress than I ever thought I would. I know I can do this, I just loose sight of it at times. See, this is how I feel. I am constantly doubting my abilities, simply because I give anxiety the control over my happiness. I have every right to live my life. I have as much right to joy as anybody. Just because Melvin (I gave my anxiety a name: Melvin) claims that this is the easy way out, doesn't mean I believe it is. There is another way. It sounds cliche, but simply believing in yourself is half the battle. If you trust your strengths, and you set your heart on something, you can do anything. So I guess i'm in one of those inspirational modes. Believe me, Im not this positive all the time, heck, this only happens every once in a while. Mental Illness has the ability to suck every ounce of joy and life out of you. I never believed that I could have control over this, I always just let it take me over. I have wanted too many times to give up. Just throw the towel in. Give up myself. Succumb to the illness. You know why I'm still here, fighting? Faith. Faith in God, Faith in my family, faith in my support system, and faith in myself. In the times where I want to give up, all I have to do is lean on my family and my support and I have to know that when I can't be strong for myself, they can be my strength. They only do that because they have faith in me. Thats my secret. People look at my life and are shocked at what Iv'e overcome, but its simple really. Just have faith, and everything will be okay. Maybe it won't seem like it right away, it might be weeks, months, years. See thats the funny thing about it, faith isn't about seeing the results, its about believing that you can be strong. Life can throw you under the bus so many times, but it isn't so bad.. sometimes you will just get thrown under a fiat and not an 18-wheeler.

OK. So my analogies are bad, but whatever :)
Really though, everyday means progress, but just because you feel hopeless, doesn't mean hope doesn't exist. Alright, enough deep, sappy, "inspirational" stuff from Maddie today guys..
I will be 17 in 2 weeks.. YAY! Life is truly beautiful, you just have to train yourself to see the positives in the negative situations.

Have a lovely day!
Xx, mads

Monday, January 26, 2015

the letter.

Please don't freak out as you read this post. I wrote the following letter for myself at one of the darkest points of my depression. It's a VERY candid, non-edited written explanation of my thought process in the midst of shear agony. I wrote this on the day I was going to give up. The most painful day for me to date. I remember very little about that day. I do remember a few things. I remember the screams that came from my mouth saying "just let me go" as I sat in a cold basement. I remember sitting in the waiting room in the ER, clutching my teddy bear with tears streaming. It all felt like a dream, or a nightmare rather, like I was watching this unfold from a distance. I am in a very different place today than I was that day, and relieved to say that at the moment things are going well. I never want to go back to how I felt that day. Never. But if I had to, I would walk through hell with a smile. Well, here goes: Trigger Warning (this means stop reading if the following is upsetting in any way).

Unexplainible pain.  Gives up.  Think, no I can't anymore.  1 step forward… oh yes.  Two steps back.  Becoming two-million.  This is real, but why isn't it?  Green bracelet once again.  Screaming my mind towards you who don't LISTEN.  Plan a trip.  Back to hell.  No sleep for the… weary?  Done?  Agonized?  Give me a second, no the rest of my life.  Ask about my scars.  Feel the drip…drip…drip.  The poke and the bruise.  Couches in pain.  Agony, no more pain.  Just numb.  A year of this.  Maybe more, can't tell anymore.  THE SAME QUESTIONS by the white coats.  Stone walled faces sending me away from comfort.  Me: help.  Them: How are you feeling today?  Am I, you know… me?:  Undescribable, the pain you can only see through tears, and see through the marks of the blade.  The pain only ever somewhat understood when the body is all that is left cold.  Morbid?  Yes.  The true feeling?  Yes.  Even now you will not understand.  You will ask: What does this mean?  Oh if you only knew how much it meant.  See thats just it.  Until you are sucked in too, you will never know the real truth.  Blue signs seen through the windshield, leading you to hours of yet pointless stares and questions by people in white coats that say they only want to help.  How can they?  The only thing that keeps me here in pain, is you.  Let me go.  Let me say goodbye one last time.  Slip into whatever is next.  Pain being cured by a box of rocks.  Speak up for us.  Carry our weary bodies that can't even feel the pain anymore.  Lost souls.  We are not afraid of dying, we are afraid of feeling dead and still being another beating heart.  Why am I ever even trying to show you these mere words.  You still will never get it.  I try to tell you… I am begging with every last ounce for you to understand.  Them:  food is fuel  Me: No food keeps us alive, but why would I want to be alive if this is my life?!  Body is going limp.  I am slipping.  Is it the light I see, or bright darkness?  Slipping…slipping….slip…  I am already gone but still here.  The days of pain and sadness are long over.  This has become more.  Eating alive from the inside and the outside and everywhere all of the time.  Our eyes are long gone.  DONT YOU GET IT YET?!  I couldn't pull through.  People don't know you anymore.  You have become the one that nobody understands, and everyone fears.  I am so sorry…. don't call the police, what will they do?  They will carry me into forever.  World, they say you are beautiful.  How can they see it and not I?  Giving up…dying for real this time into a death from which you can never return… The world will never know… running on low..empty..nothing..everything.. finally reaching the final checkpoint.. she's gone?  Yes, she.. is gone.

depressed an anxious: the piggy mama.

Getting Mayzie has been the biggest blessing. For all the daily depression and anxiety I go through, she makes my day 100000x better. Before she was here, it was about me. What time I felt like getting up. When I felt like feeding myself (If ever), when I felt like working. Now I push myself, because I have a bigger responsibility. Now, Im not saying if you have depression you need to go out and drop 3 grand on a mini pig. I'm saying it helped me. Helped me to realize that even if that day I couldn't live for myself, I had to live to take care of something that depended on me. Some days the evil {BEEEEP} named Marvin is in the drivers seat. It was my dads idea to give a name to the anxiety/depression. I guess it works. Now I can just yell at Marvin, instead of beating myself up for everything. I never chose Mental Illness. I suppose in a twisted way, it chose me. I have an understanding of this struggle that I could have never had. Is it weird to say I am thankful for all of it? Thankful for the hospitals and facilities who helped me? Thankful for the people I met along the way? Well, I am. I wasn't at first, but looking back.. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for those things. Marvin would have kicked my butt. It's because I wasn't alone (seriously, and figuratively ha!). You can't fight a battle all on your own. I had my people. The ones that stayed by my side while I trekked through a hurricane. Most importantly, I have my faith. Now, here I am and I'm a teen pig mom (inside joke). I know part of my purpose here, and haha I guess this little piggy helped me realize that in a way. Marvin still comes knocking on my door everyday, but its what I do to show it that I am in control of this is what matters. Well there you go. Three things to learn from this post: Buy a mini pig; name your depression/anxiety; never fight alone. The struggle is so real. Nobody struggles alone. Mental Illnesses of all kinds are so much more common than they should be. Take advantages of the struggles you go through, because in the end it doesn't matter what the tough stuff was. It matters what you learned and who you've become.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Baby Steps [Baby Bites]

Full Disclosure: The following post is an honest description of how I feel, and is not in any way meant to upset or offend anyone. Some parts are darker than others as a result of just writing candidly. This blog is not meant to sugar coat mental health, but to try to explain how it really is, and how you can grow and find hope even in really hard or depressing places.

I can feel my body shutting down. This isn't good. I could say I never meant to take it this far, but did I? 4 years of denying myself a healthy amount of caloric intake. This is not what I wanted. My brain is so foggy that I can't even remember why I started this. It doesn't even really matter why I got to this place does it? It's how I'm going to get out of it. Learning to tell myself that food is good. It's so much harder than you could ever imagine. People who have not experienced an eating disorder firsthand, through a loved one, or even yourself don't always get it. Its not as simple as just eating again. Eating a slice of pizza isn't simple, in fact in my brain its catastrophic. That is really how it feels. I see food as a number. Well, in reality I see two numbers. I see the number of calories, and I also see how much I weigh. It all started with the desire for perfection. It started with just one thought. Then it became my controller. It consumed me. Simple things like going out to eat, family dinners, grocery stores.. they are all agonizing. This isn't how it is supposed to be. I hate to admit it, but it all started with me knowing this was the reality, and not stopping myself even when I knew about the damage that was caused. Well here I am. I sleep for 14+ hours a day, because my body can't function for more than 10 hours before I crash. Ensure Plus is a staple (even though the mass of calories freaks the heck out of me). I can't handle solid food, so I'm on a baby diet of soft foods. If I happen to eat solid food, it doesn't always stay down. All food intake comes in a package of guilt, nausea, and anxiety.  Eating Disorders are serious. If I can't get myself to start eating again, it won't be long before a feeding tube goes in. Yep. It has gone that far. Only a few pounds away from the hospital. I hate this disorder. It controls my life when all I want is for it to go away. It will get easier probably, but it will always be in the back of my mind. It takes a whole lot of Jesus to get through the day, and a whole lot of faith that he is with me to get through this life.  The good thing is that he IS with me, and with all of us. I just need to embrace the idea of "Resting in Him", because I can do (an conquer) all things through Christ who strengthens me. Xx, maddie

Saturday, January 3, 2015

therapy pig

Happy to announce the adoption of Mayzie, the therapy pig!  Right. as if the Regan's hadn't lost their minds enough.  Yep, we are getting a pig.  She is a micro-mini pig, and in her adult size, she will only be about the size of an adult cat.  A couple of months ago, it was recommended that we invest in a therapy animal, to help mitigate anxiety and panic attacks for me.  Originally we were looking at a Golden Retriever Dog, but as much as I love dogs, I am not a dog person.  I did some research on regulations for Psychiatric Service Animals, and I came across Pot-Belly pigs as an option.  I did a little more reading, and found that you have to go through a very long process of permits to be able to own a large livestock animal as a pet.  So I looked up miniature pigs.  I had heard of them but had never really considered the idea of having one as a pet.  It is an uncommon choice as both a pet and a therapy animal, but it is an option nonetheless.  So, in 2 weeks we get to pick up little (and I mean little, she is only 6 weeks, and weighs only 1 pound) Mayzie from the Portland Airport.  She is coming from a breeder in California.

We are so excited for a new addition to our family!  Once we jump through all of the hoops of trying to get her registered for a therapy animal, she will be able to go with me (almost) anywhere.  Pigs do not have fur, they have hair, and are 95% hypo-allergenic.  They do not have sweat glands, so they do not smell.  They are also litter box trained before they come to us from the breeder.  Pigs are easily trained, and are the 4th most intelligent animal behind Dolphins/Whales.  Pigs are not always the stereotypical "fat and rolling in the mud" type.  They make great pets!  I am so beyond excited for her to get here!

Here is a picture of her:

Will post updates when she arrives!