Depression is a Thief

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Most days depression steals your energy. It brings you to a complete halt. One day you have spurts of energy and the next day you are dragging your feet. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth become like climbing Mount Everest. I’m not exaggerating either. Depression completely zaps you of your energy. Often times I feel like I’m cemented into the ground, unable to move. It’s a type of paralysation where I forget that I have the ability to move. In reality though depression steals more than your energy. It robs you of anything of value in your life.

Other than your energy, the main thing it steals is your enjoyment. It turns your life upside down and sucks the color out of the world around you. To others the world is full of life and color but to a depression mind everything is dull and grey. You stop enjoying the things that you used to love. Everything becomes a bore. I tend to watch the same sitcom over and over because I have very little attention span to watch a new show. I usually am doing something else while the tv is on as well. I’m unable to just sit there and only watch what is on the screen. You can imagine how difficult it might be to not have anything give you enjoyment. It’s a pretty miserable place. You hop from activity to activity, desperately trying to find something to catch your attention.

If depression zaps the life out of entertainment you can imagine what it does to activities that involve meaning, like my creativity. Anything related to my creativity becomes a chore and I hate doing chores. When I am at my worst I want nothing to do with my gifts. It becomes painful to look inward at the good parts of me. Depression has become the voice of all my naysayers. The ones who told me that I was worthless. Anytime I try to create I hear the voices. I’m usually only able to create for small periods of a time. This has been true with the comic book (about a drag queen superhero) that I’m working on. I have been working on this comic book for over five years. I have times where I can’t even look at my illustrations. I go months without making any progress. Without depression I most likely would have finished the first issue by now. I have waited so long that now others have released their own drag queen superheroes. If I had the energy to finish it in year one mine would have been the first and most original. Now the magic won’t be as fresh.

Which brings me to success. Depression is a dream killer. It sabotages any advancement that you might have, whether it be from a job or a personal project like my comic book. The best job I have ever had ended because of my depression. I was working for GE. I had great benefits and pay. I had the best manager I had ever had. When you are a hard worker oftentimes management will take advantage of you, especially in retail. Finally I was valued for my hard work, determination and loyalty. I was involved in LGBTQ networking group and was moving up on the ladder. I was on track to becoming a trainer but depression robbed me of that opportunity. I was hospitalized and put on short term disability. I never returned to that job. Instead I self destructed and moved back home.

I had aspirations in becoming an actor. I was in the theatre program at my local community college in my early twenties. My favorite type of theatre was musicals. I took voice lessons for years. The first year at school I had a bad depressive episode. I was just cast the lead in the main theatre production at school, which was a dream of mine. I was in bed for weeks and stopped going to class. The role had to be recast and I barely passed that semester. That was also my last semester in that program. I dreamed a dream and depression killed it.

Another aspect of my life depression has robbed me of are relationships. For example, today I was supposed to hang out with a new friend but I woke up feeling horrible and had to cancel. This happens all the time, which makes it difficult to maintain friendships. Nowadays I don’t have many friends nearby me so I really look forward to the opportunity to do something with a friend. The last two days were decent, when I had nothing planned. Now that I have cancelled I have a great sense of regret, which happens more time than not. On days like today I have little energy. My apartment is usually not kept up and if someone is coming over I feel a great amount of shame. If I have to leave my apartment just walking to the bus stop takes too much energy. Hanging out with someone means having to brush my teeth and shower. Then there is the anxiety if it’s a first time meeting, like today was. So you might can understand why this all is too much when you’re not feeling well.

Most people understand if you cancel a few invites to do something. After that they start to question the relationship. With a depression mind you live in slow motion and the rest of the world is on fast forward, though they only see themselves on regular time. There is still a lot of stigma towards mental illness and many people take it personal when you cancel on them. In reality it has nothing to do with them. Depression takes the fun out of everything. Not to mention that I have pushed people away out of fear and moved around from state to state. So now in my forties I have very few friends, outside of Facebook. The only person I see regularly is my therapist. If it weren’t for our appointments I would spend all my time alone.

Even just one aspect of depression is enough to drive a person mad but when you start to add all them up it makes life pretty miserable. Each day is a challenge. I have lived most of my life with depression and I’m tired of having my life stolen from me. I’m determined to stop this thief anyway I can. That means treating depression like the disease it is. Taking my medicine and making sure I keep my weekly therapy appointments. Pushing myself when I can and using mindfulness to get rid of the thieves when they are on my doorstep. It’s not easy but I have to try. Life can’t be this depressing.

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There is a Difference Between Being Depressed and Having a Bad Day

Everyone has the gloomy days where you stay in bed, where you are you feel blue. Whether it be from having a bad day at work or a fight with a loved one, it’s a common occurrence. You can’t go through life without some sort of sadness. Depression is much more than sadness. Most people probably don’t realize there are more than one type of depression. Many group clinical depression with feeling blue and that’s harmful to people who have the illness. There is still a lot of stigma related to mental illness and I think that’s why people try to pass off all depression as having a bad day. I wish my depression were just bad days.

There hasn’t been a time in my adult life that I haven’t been depressed in some form or another. I have heard the phrase, just snap out of it, more times than I wish to share. Many don’t understand how one day I can be upbeat and the next I’m not. They expect me to be on 24/7. If I were to describe my depression, it’s like living in the upside down in the tv series Stranger Things. The world I view is entirely different than most. I live in constant dysthymia. There isn’t a day when I don’t have at least a mild case of depression. I can go through these moments of low grade depression from weeks to months. Deep depression is always close to me and it doesn’t take a lot for me to spiral out of control.

I use to be able to bounce back from the deep depression but since my Mom died in 2012 I haven’t been able to. Most of my days are spent near the bottom of the barrel. In the past, my major depressive episodes usually lead to being hospitalized. Within a year or so, I was always about to move forward. I haven’t been so fortunate during the last seven years.

I have what you call major depressive disorder. My blue days don’t go away. The symptoms from this depression are usually severe. The major symptom is having zero energy. It’s like being cemented to ground. It feels impossible to move and doing so is like walking through quicksand. Depression can manifest physically as well. When I’m really depressed I feel lethargic. It’s like having the flu without the chills, temperature or nasal symptoms. Everything is dark and I live in a sky is falling state. I wouldn’t wish this form of depression on my worst enemy. These symptoms can usually last for weeks. I will withdraw from everything, especially anything to do with the outside world. I stop eating and oversleep. Light is not my friend and my apartment becomes a prison cell. The deeper depression (especially if it’s related to an event) the more I lose all sense of reality. I get tunnel vision and can only see the darkness, and I do whatever I can to stay away from the dangers of the light. I suffer greatly and often.

I also have treatment-resistant depression, meaning my doctor has tried multiple medicines and there’s been very little relief. Imagine living with depressed for years and have little to no relief. It will cause you to go mad. In the last year, I have been hospitalized twice. I have been close to needing hospitalization even more times this last year. I also suffer from PTSD and anxiety, which just adds to the severity of depression. It all can lead to a lot of suffering. I’m so desperate for relief. I take seven (well until today) psychiatric meds with little relief. I’m starting to consider alternative treatments like ECT and ketamine treatments.

To understand depression it’s important to discuss the various forms of depression. One of the most widely forms is Postpartum Depression. It’s when significant hormonal shifts affect a woman’s mood. The depression can be onset during or after pregnancy. The symptoms can range anywhere from a persistent lethargy and sadness that requires medical treatment to postpartum psychosis, which is a condition in which the mood episode is accompanied by confusion, hallucinations or delusions.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is when someone experiences depression during the winter the winter months but not during all the other months of the year. It’s believed that SAD is triggered by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body. Light entering through the eyes influences this rhythm, and any seasonal variation in night/day pattern can cause a disruption leading to depression.

Bipolar depression is an aspect of being bipolar. Many people think bipolar is riding the highs but usually that leads to a crash into a deep depression. When you’re in the low phase, you’ll have the symptoms of major depression. Not as commonly known, people with bipolar II disorder do not experience true manic episodes, where their mood and energy levels are so high that it causes trouble with work and socializing and may cause psychosis. However, this does not make bipolar II disorder less severe than bipolar I disorder. In bipolar II disorder, the depressive episodes are similar to those in bipolar I disorder and cause significant disruption to the person’s daily life for an extended time. You occasionally have high moments like with bipolar but they aren’t usually as extreme or long lasting. Often the number of episodes are not as frequent as well.

If you experience depression that lasts long than a two week period then you might have Major Depressive Disorder. Symptoms include depressed mood, lack of interest, changes in weight and sleep, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, poor concentration and thoughts of death/suicide. Also called clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave. Clinical depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

The next form of depression is Atypical Depression. It’s defined by the ability to feel better temporarily in response to a positive life event, plus any two of the following criteria: excessive sleep, overeating, a feeling of heaviness in the limbs and a sensitivity to rejection. Those with atypical depression are also likely to have a history of social phobiaavoidant personalities, and a history of body dysmorphic disorder.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) produce similar symptoms to premenstrual syndrome but those related to mood are more pronounced. Symptoms may include extreme fatigue, mood swings, bouts of crying, irritability, inability to concentrate and feeling sad/hopeless/self-critical.

Situational depression is when you are having trouble managing a stressful event in your life, such as a traumatic event or change in a person’s life. Doctors call this is a “stress response syndrome.” It often resolves in time, and talking about the problem can ease the recovery process. Situational depression stems from a struggle to come to terms with dramatic life changes. Recovery is possible once an individual comes to terms with a new situation. For instance, following the death of a parent, it may take a while before a person can accept that a family member is no longer alive. Until acceptance, they may feel unable to move on with their life.

The next form of depression is Persistent Depressive Disorder. Dysthymia refers to a type of chronic depression present for more days than not and lasts longer than two years. It can be mild, moderate or severe. Some experience a mild, low-grade depression. They might not even realize that they are depressed. Everyone will experience periodic feelings of depression in response to sad or stressful life events but feeling constantly depressed could mean you have persistent depressive disorder. You’re normal level of mood is never at the typical flatline of most. You usually live in the land of inbetween the normal and deep depression levels. Occasionally you will reach the normal flatline of most, the highs and lows but usually you live in a moderate level of depression.

The last form of depression is Treatment-resistant Depression. Those suffering from this condition have been treated for depression but symptoms haven’t improved with the use use of medication. With treatment-resistant depression, standard treatments aren’t enough. There are also somatic (nondrug) therapies, including transcranial magnetic stimulation—which targets nerve cells in the region of the brain involved in mood control and depression—and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which induces changes in brain chemistry to help reverse symptoms of TRD.

My goal is to educate others in order to elevate the stigma that leads to those with mental illness from getting the help they need. Often times mental illness is treated as a myth. A condition that doesn’t exist. If others can get past the blues so can everyone else. Sadly it doesn’t work that way. There is no switch to turn off. There is also no cure to depression. You just have to treat the symptoms the best you can.

Those with mental illness deserve love, care and support. Unconditional love is something not often give to those with mental illness. People treat you like a pirah. They don’t understand when you have to cancel a date or when you can’t get out of bed. If they are forced to live life like the rest, then you should be able to do so well. Many don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything at all. You don’t need to have the perfect words to be there for support. All you need to provide is an ear to listen and a soft shoulder to cushion their troubles. It’s better to stumble all over your words and fear saying the wrong thing, than saying nothing at all. You reaching out could be the difference between living and dying. Another common misconception is that those who suffer with mental illness can ask for help. So many are lost in the disease and have lost hope in asking for help. The mental health system makes it different to heal and many have tried multiple attempts to manage the symptoms with no luck at all.

We might not be able to verbalize the words help but often times we are sending the SOS but no one is paying attention. This could be withdrawing and isolating from the people they love. We must start to identify the symptoms in others and take action. If you wait for the person to ask for help, it might be too late. If you know someone suffering (especially if they are suicidal) it’s life and death to take them serious.

Here are some warning signs. If someone is showing signs of one or more it might be a good idea to check in there wellbeing. You don’t need to have solutions. Just be there. You don’t even need to confront them on this. Just be there and be consistent. Don’t give up on the person either.

  • Isolating, not leaving your home
  • Pulling away from the ones you loved.
  • Not answering calls/text/emails
  • Cancelling repeatedly various activities
  • Staying in bed for long periods. Sleeping too much or not at all.
  • Having a messy home. Overflowing trash can and sink. Plates and pizza boxes littering your living room.
  • Poor personal grooming. No showering is a big one or changing clothes.
  • Loss of interest. Nothing brings you enjoyment or fun.
  • Not eating or overeating. Sometimes both.
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness, helplessness, guilt

This is just the start of this list, what I usually do. Each person is different. I would say if you notice a big change in your loved ones behavior and actions then something could be going on. Especially if they are hitting multiple warning signs. The key is being there for them. We don’t usually want solutions or advice, we just need to know that we aren’t alone in this world. Alone with our pain and suffering.

Pitch Black, No Light in Sight

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So I’m in the deep pits of depression hell. I haven’t felt like this in a while and it’s unsettling. Words can’t describe how horrible this feels to be this depressed. Everything you see is pitch black, with no light. This isn’t just another depressive episode as it’s connected to something deep and painful.

I had to force myself out of the apartment today. I didn’t want to leave the darkness but I did anyways. I even brushed my teeth. If it wasn’t for Pokemon Go I probably wouldn’t have left. There was a challenge that gave a dragon Pokemon, that’s rare. So I ventured out into the light. I already am noticing changes in my mobility. I’m back to it hurting to walk, though it’s not as bad as before. I get to downtown and my phone starts to act up. I realize that my data plan had lapsed and it meant a wasted trip downtown. I tried to use WIFI but the phone I have is horrible. Even when I have data it doesn’t always work well. I was able to get wifi to work to get the challenge but wasn’t able to do anything else.

I’ve been compulsively eating, which is something I haven’t done in a long while. It’s part of why I feel so low. I have been beating myself up for falling back to my old ways of drinking Pepsi. I’m having mobility issues again and so far it’s not been enough to stop drinking Pepsi. Yesterday I was frustrated with my lack of mobility and I was determined to stop drinking Pepsi. Well that was until I got frustrated by not being able to play Pokemon Go downtown and all I wanted to do was pig out. It’s all I could think about. Screw it if I couldn’t walk and play Pokemon Go then I was going to numb out my bad feelings with junk food. So I went to the Dollar General and got twenty dollars worth of junk food.

As I was walking home I had very obsessively, loud thoughts. I repeated out loud that I was a loser, among other things. Deep inside I feel completely worthless. I still have parts of me who believe that not to be true but it’s fading away. I’m trapped in this trigger and have yet to find my way out. It’s like walking in a maze in the darkest of nights. All you can feel is dead space.

For me, there are various stages of my depression. There is the typical generalized depression. It’s low grade and manageable. Then there’s a more situational depression that’s caused by my environment or situation. It’s more moderate and can dip into severe depending on how stressful the situation is. Finally there is the depression episode that I am currently in that is triggered by something painful (usually the emotional or sexual abuse) in the past. It’s severe and crippling. While the first two stages I can get through in a couple of weeks the latter stage can take months to find the exit. It affects every aspect of my life. It’s like walking through the muck in fog as thick as pea soup. You’re lethargic and have no energy. It sucks the life out of you and everything you enjoy. I’m struggling to find joy in Pokemon even.

This stage of depression I start to pull away from everything. I don’t want to do anything including going to therapy or take my meds. Everything becomes a chore and it’s easy to lose track of time. I sleep a lot. I go to bed really late. My bed becomes a safe zone and stepping off that cloud is like walking through lava. Once I’m triggered I become vulnerable to any and all pain in the past. A sexual abuse trigger can stir up some other trauma in my life. My dreams have also lately been a cause of discomfort as well. I have been dreaming of situations in the past that have caused insecurity and hurt feelings. Like not getting the part I wanted in a play. Single rejections that don’t seem significant but added together become an avalanche of self doubt and insecurity.

This level of depression has you coming and going. You become paranoid and your mind is taken hostage by the pain. You drift off into comforts that you really shouldn’t be considering like suicide. Sometimes it’s the only relief, knowing that you have that option if it gets too intense. You won’t understand this if you’ve not suffered from depression. For me, it has nothing to do with wanting to die. I just want the pain to end. You just get tired of constantly suffering. People start to get panicky when you start to talk about suicide. Their first thought is to call the police. Why doesn’t anyone ever think about being there for the person. The police should be the last resort. It certainly shouldn’t be the only action. Trust me if I was really suicidal I wouldn’t be talking so openly about this subject. It’s just another stigma that keeps people from getting the help they need. In your mind you think I can’t talk about this or someone will call the police, so you keep it hidden and it only snowballs to the point where you can’t verbalize the pain anymore.

The toughest part of this stage of depression is the isolation and the one struggle with living alone. I have very little interaction with people. I have no one I see regularly, other than the neighbors I walk past. I’m not talking about people to reach out to, which would be nice, but just people to talk about regular stuff with. To get outside of your mind and into the normality of life. The deeper you go into isolation the harder it is to come out of it. I’m on my second week of isolation and I’m starting to crack. You would think I would be on cloud nine having my own place but that’s mental illness for you. I feel very detached right now. I can look at my apartment and see it’s nice but I can’t feel it.

I think what adds to this level of depression is dissociating. It goes hand and hand with PTSD. In the past, I have had to cope with trauma by emotionally leaving the situation. The further I would float away the safer I would be but now the complete detachment just makes me worse as I can still see what’s going on. It’s like watching myself on tv. I see everything that I’m enduring like the overeating but it’s so out of control that I can’t stop it.

So some how, some way I gotta get myself out of this level of depression. I hope I get some relief soon because I really want to get my life back on track. I have come so far and want to start enjoying life. Not be bogged down by the pain of my past and the people who hurt me.

 

Nowhere To Go: Managing Your Mental Illness When You are Homeless

 

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My biggest fear prior to being homeless was having to cope with triggers when I was homeless. It’s one thing to have a depressive episode from the comforts of your home but it’s an entirely different thing when you have nowhere to go when you are homeless. There aren’t any safe places. Everywhere you go is a danger zone. This fact kept me in misery for far too long. I have off and on been potentially homeless the last few years. Looking back I wish I had the courage to just take that jump and go into homelessness earlier. Sadly I wasn’t prepared or ready to face the dangers like I am now.

The biggest hurdle to being homeless was the fear and it’s one of the big issues I face with, I always have. Fear has kept me from living since my Mom passed away in 2012. I stayed near my family and didn’t move because I lived in constant fear that they would die to. It was extremely crippling and it made me absolutely miserable. Of course there is a lot more to my mental illness than fear but that’s a biggie. Once I pulled the bandaid off from going to the hospital and then the shelter the situation was no longer as scary. Actually overall it’s not scary at all. Now when things happen like the fight in the day shelter things quickly escalate into frightening but overall it’s not fear or fright that really gets to me. It’s the uncomfortableness and lack of privacy that gets me. You lose all normalcy to life. The first week is scary. The second week is uncomfortable and the third week it starts to get to you.

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What I miss most is the comforts of a home. Today was the first time I have stepped foot into a home in over six weeks and it was only briefly. Today’s temperatures are going to be over 94 with the heat index over 100 degrees. So I had a guy want to hookup with me. Usually I’m like no thank you but today it was hot and he had air conditioning. Plus he picked me up in his nice car that had really cold ac. We get to his house and it was nice. The best part was his huge comfy bed that I lay in for a good thirty minutes. It was like heaven. I felt like I was floating on cotton candy. While things didn’t go as planned with the hookup I at least got to have some comfort for just a little bit. Plus he dropped me off at the library and gave me a cold coke. So I haven’t done a lot of walking.

You start to crave the normal things to life and when you don’t get them it starts to eat away at your psyche. Overall my mental health has been very good since I was out of the hospital last month but this week it’s started to deteriorate as I was starting to get more overwhelmed by being homeless. It didn’t help that Wednesday I had confrontations with two not so nice people. As hard as I tried those two negative interactions left a crack for the depression to seep into. I just haven’t been able to shake this depressed feeling. It’s not one thought either. I just feel depressed and it’s not just because I’m sick. Though I do think that is adding to it. What people don’t understand about depression is that it’s not always an effect of a trigger. Sometimes you just wake up feeling bad. There is something about your brain chemistry that’s off and it sends you into a fog for the rest of the day.

It’s tough to not let things bring you down when you suffer from depression and that’s even more complicated when you have a mental illness. The past three weeks my depression has been okay, it’s not really been at the surface as I had many other things to worry about but now it’s in the mix. It’s overwhelming because I’m having to fight so many other things and now I have to add fighting my negative thoughts and feelings. Add the extreme heat and I just feel like I’m about to go mad. I was dreading today because of the heat. The weekends are the worst because the day shelter isn’t open so you have to walk to get somewhere cooler. On Sundays the buses don’t run until 9am so I had to wait outside for an hour and that is just a miserable feeling. To not have anywhere to go, so you just have to sit in a place you don’t want to. It doesn’t help with how you feel.

Being homeless you are forced to go outside of your comfort zone and that’s even more so the case when you have something like PTSD. Thankfully so far my PTSD has been in check but it’s always a concern. You have times when you are in a PTSD bubble that being around others becomes problematic. Friends and family become strangers and strangers become enemies. You aren’t able to trust anyone. Your world turns into a war zone and there is NOWHERE to hide. So for now that’s in check and I’m thankful for that.

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I think what’s most unsettling is that even though life has been really tough for the past three weeks I have felt the best about myself in a very long time. I have felt so empowered by this experience and it’s lifted me up in some tough times but the last couple of days it’s been a constant struggle. I wake up feeling horrible. Every muscle in my body hurts. It’s tough just walking a few steps. My mind is as thick as pea soup. I feel so defeated and discouraged. I’m worn out with no relief in sight. I hope it’s just the bronchitis because I’m not liking this at all. This will be my third day on antibiotics so I hope I get better soon because this feels unbearable. At times on the verge of losing it, at least it feels that way. It’s these thoughts of not being able to handle life like this.

You just want to scream but no words can escape. They are all stuck in the puzzle of your mind, with jagged little shards of glass poking out. I can handle a lot but it’s the physical pain that’s lately that’s been getting to me. I have to walk. I don’t have a choice. It’s not a fun feeling to have to push through. Feet turn into miles and hills into mountains.

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It’s not helping that it’s taking longer than I expected to get my own place. I was approved for a one bedroom apartment of my own a week ago but the manager of the complex has no urgency. Originally the move in date was going to be the 21st and that’s fast approaching. The main hurdle is getting my Doctor to sign some paperwork to prove that I’m disabled, otherwise I will not being able to move in because it’s only for the elderly and those with a disability. For whatever reason my Doctor hasn’t been getting the faxes and it’s not because he’s not trying. He’s just as frustrated as I am and the lady at the office doesn’t seem to care.

On the 23rd of June will be my thirty days at the shelter, which is the length of stay at this shelter. You can get a two week extension after that but that’s it. So that has me worried because the other two shelters are pretty dangerous especially for someone who is transgender. The homeless shelter is going to pay for the next six months of rent and they need information from the complex manager that she’s not giving. So all of this will just add days to my homelessness and it’s extremely frustrated. In the back of mind I’m thinking, maybe it’s not going to work out. That’s my depression talking. Until I get my doctor to sign that paperwork I won’t be at ease. Without it I won’t get this apartment. It feels like everything is hanging on this paperwork and it’s driving me loco.

I wish they could cut the depression out of me or cure it. If it was always induced by a situation or event then it would make it so much easier. Thinking positive would work like everyone else think it does. The medicine helps but it really just mutes the severity of the symptoms. Being that I have nowhere to run and hide I’m learning to be resourceful. The other night when I started to sob I got the staff person to get me a private place to go. Leaving situations is another thing I have started to do. If I feel uncomfortable I just leave, no matter where I am at. I have days where I don’t feel like walking so I stay in the day shelter but then something happens and I’ve bolted at the door. When I realize that I can control things it improves my mood dramatically to know that I have choices. I’m not stuck anywhere, even in my mind.

I just want to get the heck out of the shelter and into my own place. It’s so close but so far away. After eight years I will have my own place again and it’s a freedom I miss deeply. This time will be different because I won’t lose my place when I spiral into a deep depression and can’t work. In the last fifteen years I have moved over twenty times because of that. That is no way to have stability and I’m desperate for it. It’s the instability that’s played havoc on my body both physically and mentally. I will finally have a safe place that I can call home. One where I won’t fear losing due to the inability to pay my rent. I can have friends over and I can lay in my comfortable bed all day if I choose to do so. I’m ready for some relief. I’m ready for a break.

 

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Stop Derek from Being Homeless

https://www.gofundme.com/dereksnewhome

A few weeks ago I received an eviction from the people I rent a room from to be out of here by the end of the month. It was unexpected and unfounded. I’ve been a great tenant, paying my rent on time. I’ve come to find out that they want someone else to move in. Now they’re trying to push up my move out date by a week, which has left me scrambling for a new place to live. As it stands now the only option I have is to go live in a homeless shelter. I’m trying to raise enough money to help pay my rent (for my own place) until my SSI court date in Feb next year.
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I’m disabled and unable to work. I’m waiting for a court date for SSI disability, which will be Feb 2017. I’m hoping to raise enough money to get me through until that date. I’ve suffered from major depression disorder and PTSD most of my life. There hasn’t been a time in my adult life that I haven’t suffered from depression and PTSD. When I have a PTSD episode friends/family become strangers and strangers become enemies. It’s like being in a war zone. My current living situation has pushed me to my limit, as the last few months have been extremely stressful living here.

Stability is something I’ve never had and something I’m so desperate for. Being able to get my own place would bring that into my life. Lately I’ve made an effort to better my life. I’ve consistently been in therapy and on medicine since 2013, as well as seeing a psychiatrist. I’ve recently moved all my services to this county and having to move out of this town would put my health at risk.

I have a new therapist who I love. She’s working on a new treatment for those with PTSD called EMDR. It’s helps the patient to reprogram traumatic events into more healthy ways. I’ve finally taken my life back after four years of complete hell. In 2012, my Mom died from cancer causing me to spiral into a deep, dark depression. It’s taken me four years but I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. I’ve come to terms with my disablity and now realize that I need to treat it like diabetes.

I’ve tried to do this on my own and that doesn’t work. So I’m asking for help. I’m so very scared to be homeless. I’ve made a lot of progress the last few months and I want to keep moving forward. I’ve also started to embrace my art again by working on a new comic book. My passion for art has helped me through some very difficult times in my life. Having my own place would give me a safe space to create new works of art.

I’ve suffered for too long and finally realize that I deserve better. I’m taking my life back and I’m determined to get my own place. No matter what is thrown at me I don’t let it keep me down. Every time a hurdle is placed in front of me I clear it. I will keep climbing this mountain until I get a home of my own. While the last two months have been some of the worst times in my life it has helped me find an inner strength that I didn’t know was there. All this time I thought I was broken but I always rebound. Then it dawned on me through all the bad things in my life I’m still here. I’m strong as steel.

Thanks for taking the time to hear my story. Please consider sharing this campaign with everyone you know.

Here are some of my recent sketches of my comic book. Also follow my facebook page for DragZilla! DragZilla is the story of a gay man brutally attacked because he’s gay. He cries out for help and in his hour of need a glimmer of light appears. A goddess like entity, who goes by the name Glimmer, transforms him into a drag queen superhero. He starts off his journey to find justice for his attack but in the process becomes a beacon of light for the LGBTQ community. I’m really excited to have started work on this new project of mine. Having my own place would help me bring to life DragZilla!

The Stigma of Having a Disability

Today I read an article about this woman with down’s syndrome and how she had got a job at her sister’s salon. When Jenna was asked what her favorite thing about working at the salon she stated that she didn’t have a favorite thing because she loved everything. Here was a beautiful woman just full of sunshine and she didn’t let her disability stand in the way of her being happy. Her sister is advocating for more businesses to hire those with disabilities especially those who have down’s syndrome.

The article made me think about my own disability and those with a mental illness. There is still a lot of stigma attached to having a disablity especially if it’s a mental illness. Whenever I tell someone new about my disability there is always this fear that I will be judged or they won’t like me. I’m learning to stop being a people pleaser but that takes practice.

Lately I’ve been spending my evenings sitting with my neighbors at the apartment complex I live in. When I first moved in I would notice a group of the residents sitting together and talking. At first I was a little put off by it, as I was very reserved and didn’t talk to many people, let alone people I didn’t know. They were always so friendly whenever I came to go swimming. It took me about a month and I started to join in on their conversations. Before long I became apart of the group and most evenings I’m outside with them talking about life. I love living here. These meetings give me something to look forward to, it’s really the highlight of my day. I’ve been very lonely lately and it’s really helped to fill that void. In the past I’ve always been very social so this has helped me blossom back into the social butterfly I use to be.

After you spend a good amount of time with people they start to ask questions and that always puts me in a very awkward situation wondering if I should tell them about my situation. I’m forty years old on disability. I have had this cover that I tell everyone that I’m a graphic designer which is true but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. What if I tell them and they don’t want to hang out with me anymore. Those are the things that go through my mind. Most of the residents are older and are on a fixed income as well but I know that some will wonder why I’m on disability so early in age. If I tell them I’m on disablity will they ask more questions as to what kind of disability.

My history with having a mental illness is not everyone understands it. Some don’t validate it as a disability because they can’t see the symptoms. If only mental health was treated just like general health then matters would be so much better. So if you have a disability that’s a mental illness you really have this stigma attached to you. People with depression and other mental illnesses are good at hiding it. On the outside it might seem that the person is happy but underneath is a lot of pain and suffering. I can see why some would see the disconnect but many of us have learned how to survive in a world full of stigma. Sometimes it’s easy to just pretend you’re okay.

If having a mental health disability wasn’t enough I also have the added stigma attached to being gay. I’ve always been really hesitant sharing that information with new straight people in my life. It took me about a month and it finally came up tonight. I’m in this new mode of not caring what people think, well I’m learning, so when one of the residents was talking about another resident who was in his 50s and not married implying he might be gay. She did the hand gesture to imply that he was gay. I started to cringe. I know she didn’t mean any harm by it but I couldn’t not leave the conversation without taking a stand. I didn’t confront her on it. I just made a couple of comments about that it’s not always the case about single men. Then another resident started talking about if you’re boyfriend is wearing nicer jewelry then you might having something to worry about. I replied well that wasn’t always the case, that not all gay people were fabulous like that. I then said that I was one of them but I said though I’m still fabulous. The one lady goes are you gay and I said yes. They laughed at that and we went on talking about something else.

In the back of my head I wondered were they thinking negatively of me now. Those are just fears and I can’t entertain them. Even if they did it has nothing to do with me. All I can do is be me and live the life the best of my ability. Some people will judge me and I really don’t need or want them in my life. It’s hard to let go of caring what people think of you. I’ve done it most of my life so it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I’m working on it. The same goes with having a disablity. Those who judge people with disabilities are the ones with the true disablity.

I think that’s the misconception that we’re half a person, were not able. I use to think my disability was just that. It made me feel like less of a person. I now see the value in myself and realize that my disability is what makes me special. Having to endure years of depression and PTSD has gave me the tools to help others who are walking down the same path as I have. I’m stronger and more empathetic for having to walk that path. I also judge life on one’s impact. You don’t have to have a college degree or even a job to impact other people. I know that I bring joy into people’s life. Just today I was talking with the complex manager and she talked about how she loved having me live here. She also talked about my joyful personality. It made me feel wonderful that she saw me for who I am. I don’t always feel that.

I think it’s important to not get caught up in those who don’t see you. Some people just don’t have the ability to see past something. That’s their flaw not yours. Sometimes you just have to let it go, which is tough as nails at times. Awareness is also important and something I’m working on creating with my blog. People can change and if other’s don’t take a stand and advocate for what they believe in, nothing will ever change. Some people don’t understand why I’m so public with my struggles. I know people judge me for that, even people in my own family. That’s just apart of the stigma, that you’re suppose to keep mental illnesses covered up. Being open about a mental illness will put shame and guilt upon the family name. This does more harm than good. They’re not living my life so they have no right to speak for me. They don’t have to fight the same battles nor have they had to experience what I did.

So I’m going to keep being me and live the life the way I want to. Being authentic will only help me to grow it will also give others the courage to do so as well. I will finish with one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson. We are all meant to shine…

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I’m Unbreakable!

I had a light bulb moment today, rather bright one too. As I was walking home from my appointment this evening I had thought about some of my tough times. Walking for me isn’t easy. I’m 408 pounds (down from at least 425, probably closer to 450) and my knees aren’t in the greatest shape. So anytime I walk it’s rather painful. Often times I have this feeling of that I can’t make it. Feet turn into miles and I get these hallway moments like you see in the movies.

Tonight I pushed through that uncomfortable feeling as I knew I had to walk almost double what I normally do one way. I purposely planned on doing my assessment for therapy and psychiatry services at the end of my appointment to get blood drawn, as I knew I could walk home afterwards. So rather than have the medical transport driver take me home, I had him drop me off at my appointment. Initially I thought about doing on another day, which meant walking there and back. I figured I was less likely to go as the assessment was just a walk in. So having something scheduled would make me complete it. For someone with a mental illness, not having a therapist is problematic. I had struggled to find a place that took my insurance and thankfully my primary care doctor recommended this place.

It wasn’t until after 4pm that I finished the assessment. I hadn’t ate since 10pm last night, so I was starving. So I decided to walk to the Panda Express which I thought was closer than it really was, which made my walk home even longer than I originally anticipated. I will be honest, my first thought was to take the bus home. As I was eating in the nice air conditioned restaurant I saw the bus stop. It was hot out and I really didn’t want to walk home. Well the bus gods were not on my side today, as the last stop had come and gone. So I reluctantly made the truck home. Thankfully I had a soda to keep me refreshed and I just told myself that I would take a lot of breaks. I don’t do very well in the full sun, it drains my energy very quickly. Fat people aren’t meant to be out in the sun, we’re much like vampires.

I normally walk to the local grocery store, well at least the two times I went walking. One way it’s about a half mile if I don’t take any shortcuts and I usually do. Each way I have to take at least two breaks. By the time I’m home I’m usually pretty beat. So going home tonight I had to go twice as far one way. My first thought was take take a bunch of breaks. It helps to make the trip not so daunting but then I saw the time and it was getting close to the time I meet with all my neighbors. We sit around talking about everything. I call it the meeting of the minds. It’s really my highlight of my day. I wake up looking forward to it. I wasn’t going to miss tonight or be late. So I decided that I was going to cut my breaks in half. It was kind of a challenge to see how quickly I could get home. Each stop I barely sat for two minutes and off I went. By the last stop, which was almost 1/4 of the way home, I was exhausted and wanting to quit. That just wasn’t an option for many a reasons. I started to feel defeated again and then I thought about the hard times that I had endured throughout my life.

That’s when the light bulb exploded. Through all the suffering, pain and hard times I was still here. All those moments that I thought I had broken in two were just an illusion. Feeling broken isn’t something new for me but this last time felt definitive. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to come back from losing my Mom. It was the ultimate defeat. I thought I was broken for good and I mean completely severed in two broken. Even in the toughest time in my life I was still alive and well, then it dawned on me…

I’m UNBREAKABLE!!!

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It was the greatest energy boost I could get. The rest of the way I just booked it home. It felt like I was running a marathon and was on the last leg to the finish line. I was determined to get home in time for the meeting of the minds and I did. As I made it to the lawn on the comlex I collapsed on the ground and just stared up into the blue sky and felt great. I took a deep breath and got up to go inside. The person I was two months ago would have never went downstairs to do some more walking in order to socialize with others both due to physical and mental reasons but today was different. I took another quick break in front of the chair. I got freshened up, grabbed my lawn chair and my water and I was out the door within ten minutes of getting home.

I made it on time too. We usually meet around 6:30 pm and  that’s when I got there. I was the first one. 7 pm rolled by and I was still alone. Then a few minutes later one of the residents came by and sat with me. I was so relieved. I thought I was going to be alone and that made me sad. When I don’t get to have my visits it’s a major bummer. So we sat and for an hour and talked. It was really nice. It feels great to be apart of the community. This complex I live at is unlike any other apartment complex that I’ve lived in before. Once a week on Tuesdays the complex has a coffee and donuts gathering in the community room at 8:30 AM. I’m not a morning person at all so today was the first day I was able to get up in time to make it, which was torture seeing all those donuts and not be able to eat them due to my lab appointment at 2 PM. So I took two of them home. It took all the willpower I had to not eat them. I put them aside and took a quick nap before my appointment.

All I could think about today was getting to have a donut. I wasn’t thinking about not being able to eat until evening when I scheduled my ride for so late in the afternoon. So I was starving. Finally after a long, productive day I was able to eat my donut at 8 PM and it was delicious! This football shaped long john donut felt like the reward from my marathon win and I enjoyed it.

Back to being unbreakable. Yes, I’m long winded, this I know. It was a huge revelation to have. This week hasn’t been very easy, well since Friday. Honestly it’s probably been the toughest few weeks in regards to my mental health since 2005. For a survivor of sexual abuse and one that has PTSD having flashbacks is a very common thing. As common they are each one is just as unsettling and jarring as the last one. Last Friday was the four year anniversary of my Mom’s death. Not thinking about what day it was I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that day but I didn’t think about it until I was in room waiting for the doctor. Each minute that passed that room began to turn into my Mother’s hospital room. Even the nurses desk reminded me of the nurses station in the ICU unit my Mom was in.

September 9, 2012 was the day a hole was punched through my heart. I spent the last 21 days in her ICU room, rarely did I leave the room. I slept on the small couch in her ICU room, well slept isn’t really what it should be called. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with a loved one in a hospital room knows what it’s like. Still to this day hearing the beeps from the machines send me panicking. The day she died was the worst day in my life. It was also the scariest and most alone day too. She had a rare form of Cancer and we had to travel to Nashville for anyone to help her, which was over nine hours from home in Michigan.

My Mom had stabilized and things weren’t looking good but we still had hope. My sister had just left to go home for a few days as the kids were starting school. Her stats has improved slightly.  There was no indication that things would go the way they did. She was stable and we held onto hope that she would recover. The next day I was awoken to my Mom being surrounded by Doctors, nurses and medical staff. Her one good lung (and that wasn’t the greatest) had collapsed and they had to put in an emergency tube into her chest to inflate the lung again. I was rushed out of the room not really knowing what was going on. They finally were able to stabilize her and I was relieved.

The next morning at 5AM I was awoken again to her being surrounded. This time things were much worse. Her kidneys were failing. They told me that they were going to put her on dialysis and that if things didn’t improve in four hours that she wasn’t going to make it. Again I was in shock but I held onto hope. Four hours passed and she didn’t improved. There was nothing more that they could do and wasn’t sure how much longer she’d live. Here I was in a foreign city, alone and eight hours away from home and everyone I loved. I never felt so hopeless and alone. I had no one to turn to. No one to help me. Normally my Mother was the person I ran to when I needed help and this time the woman who was always there for me was dying in front of me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it. I sat behind the nurses station in shock. I felt like I was five years old again. My Mom’s last 21 days of her life she was on a breath machine so she was never awake after she went in for surgery. Never did we think that the words she spoke when she was taken in for her second surgery would be her last but they were. I wish I remember what she said…

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The last moments of her life was probably the most peaceful moment in my life. When she was taken off life support there was no movement or even a gasp. She laid there still as I watched her flatline. It wasn’t like you see in the movies. It felt like I could feel every last heartbeat. It was slow, almost eurythmic. She was gone. I felt so horrible for my sister who didn’t make it back in time before she died. Call it plausible deniability but up until the last hour of her life I still had so much hope. It never dawned on me that she could die from the surgery. I’m the biggest fear of death and I thought it would have come up prior but it didn’t. We anticipated a long road of recovery for my Mom but that wasn’t the case.

The next day we left Nashville but my heart/soul stayed in that hospital room. For over a year I spent every day in that room. I could close my eyes and I would end up back in that room. Even sleeping I would still be in that room. I almost thought I was never going to find a way out but eventually one of the doors was a way out. I was constantly in a flashback. Things got so bad that I had to be hospitalized and that helped me out of that room through therapy and medicine. I’ve worked very hard to stay out of that room and it’s been one of the toughest things for me. PTSD wasn’t something new as I have it with the abuse but this time it almost did me in… but it didn’t. I have spent a good portion of my adult life in and out of the hospital with depression and the PTSD but this time seemed final.

I thought I was broken for good and no amount of tape would put his humpty dumpty back together. I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be fully there for the rest of my life. I had gave up and didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to die anymore but I didn’t want to live either. So for almost three years I was a zombie. I lived in the land of the inbetweens. This year has been quite different (some by force) as I have this resolve and determination that I haven’t had before. A kind of fuck this shit attitude and I don’t mean the kind that you just don’t care about anything. The kind that you do care so much that you’re not willing to put up with the shit you use to. I’ve done my fair share of settling. I guess that’s what I was, I was settled into the fact that I was going to be half a person for the rest of my life.

Well not anymore. I have this willpower that’s intoxicating. I feel like I have on these boxing gloves that won’t come off. I’m kicking butt and taking names. I’m determined to build a better life for myself. A world with stability built on a solid foundation. So tonight I was reminded of all this. Through so many hard moments I was still alive and well, and still kicking. All this time I thought it had KO’ed me but it didn’t… not even close. I didn’t realize this until tonight as I was hot and tired, feeling like I was going to give up. I thought about my current pain and the pain I’ve endured the past thirty years and it didn’t even measure up to what I’ve went through.

I’ve been kicked down so many times, treated poorly and told I was worthless. For thirty years I’ve listened and took it to heart. I’ve believed everyone who has hurt me especially the ones who were suppose to love and protect me. I thought they didn’t love me because I was lacking something but all this time it was them and not me. These moments, those teardrops were all a reflection of them and who they were as a person. They were the ones who were without.

So Friday was a really tough day. I was stuck in this hospital room in a PTSD bubble. I was in full trigger mode. I could feel myself floating out of the room. I wanted to run as fast I could but I had the strength of mind to know that I needed to stay there in order to get the help I needed. So I pushed through. I was put through even more obstacles with the new doctor as he didn’t have the greatest bedside manner. I was already out of the room by that moment and I could feel myself go further away. I started to do some grounding exercises. I started to tap my leg repeatedly so fast it felt like I was in the middle of Kentucky Derby. Thankfully the student doctor was a woman and was very kind. She helped me gain exposure. I was in the middle of a major panic attack, probably the worst one in ten years. Panic attacks weren’t something new to me, as I have had them throughout different times in my life. Though up until a few months ago I hadn’t had one in a very long time. That was part of the reason I was there to see the doctor was for my anxiety. I had started to flashback about everything and I mean everything. Every bad moment in my life was being played back like I was in a movie theatre full of people.

Not only did I push through, I stood up for myself… which hasn’t always been my strong suit. I will take care and advocate fiercely for other people but my own. The Doctor was dangerously uninformed with the LGBTQ community and HIV/AIDS. He had referred to being negative as being clean… which is a huge NO NO as it’s deeply degrading. You get clean in a shower, not when you’re negative. I let him have it and I even wrote a complaint on the organization’s website. He was also very uninformed with the drug PrEP. It’s sad when the patient knows more about something than the doctor. I had also been fasting as I was hoping to get a glucose test completed because I’m prediabetic. My appointment was at 2:30pm and the doctor didn’t even get in my room until 4pm. So I had waited almost an hour in that room, in a panic attack and deep in a PTSD cycle. It was tough but I did. They kept me waiting so long that I missed the lab hours by thirty minutes as I didn’t get out until after 5pm. So I had fasted for nothing. I was triggered, angry and starving but I didn’t let it defeat me. I just pushed on and did what I had to do. That’s what I’ve always done. I might not be good at many things but I’m an expert at surviving.

Usually when I have a PTSD episode it can take me a week to come out of it but that night I was outside sitting with the residents like nothing had happen. That was new for me and it felt great. I still wasn’t close to 100% but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying my nightly visits with the round table, that’s what I call it. While I was aware of a lot that day it didn’t dawn on me that I was still full in the PTSD cycle. When I’m triggered friends and family become strangers, and strangers become enemies. Nothing and no one is safe. It’s like living in a war zone. It’s a horrible place to be. I have had episodes where I have hid underneath my desk at work, or barricaded my door.

Writing for me has always been a great release. It’s like journaling for me. Often times I don’t have anyone to talk to, so blogging helps with that. Therapy is the one time I have to talk and I don’t have that right now. Hopefully that will change soon as I did the assessment today and have the intake on Thursday. As I had said previously lately I’ve been having flashbacks about everything including the sexual abuse. The last ten years the sexual abuse hasn’t been on the forefront of my problems. I knew the pain was still there but it didn’t cause me a lot of problems, well at least not indirectly or at least I thought. Recently I’ve realized that monster has always been there, it was the puppet master directing me all this time. For the past ten years I didn’t want to talk about the abuse in detail. I could tell people it happened but I couldn’t go into detail it was just too hard. My latest therapist I saw her for one and half years and I never went into detail with her. Trust is huge when dealing with sexual abuse and that takes a long while.

Here’s the thing about trauma and pain, no matter how hard you try to hide it eventually the pain will seep through the cracks. My latest living situation reminded me of some bad times in my life, the early years. So it has triggered the sexual abuse, the mental abuse from my father and the loss of my Mom, and everything hurt in between. As I was writing my last post I began to open the gate and I was flooded by emotion. It felt like I was drowning.

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Very quickly my room turned into the room where I was molested. I was transported back to that time, very much like the other world in Stranger Things except the monster was my cousin. There was no escaping him and when I returned home just like Will I was never the same. So at 5am Monday morning I was back at that cabin on Long Lake in Michigan in the year 1986. I relived every scary, dirty moment. I mean everything. It was like it was happening for the first time. I reached out and could touch the walls. The other times I’ve been so triggered it ended with me being hospitalized. I was almost there but again I pushed through. The next day I felt horrible I didn’t end up getting to bed until noon but I made sure to wake up for my nightly visits with my neighbors. Again I pushed through the pain. It was tough to push through and remind myself that these people weren’t strangers, out to hurt me but I did it!

In the past, after a major PTSD episode I withdraw from everything and everyone. There have been times that I haven’t left the house for weeks. Everything goes downhill. I stop caring about anything including my personal grooming habits. I become more depressed until it gets so severe it snaps me out of it. That’s the worse thing about PTSD often times you don’t realize you’ve been triggered until weeks later. The last bad episode in May of 2013 I was in the middle of a month long trigger and I almost killed myself but yesterday was different. The past two months no matter what’s been thrown at me I’ve dodged every attack and jumped every hurdle. The more that’s thrown at me the stronger and more willful I become.

Tonight I was able to look back at the past four days and see all the strength in between all the bad moments. It’s never been not being strong enough. It’s always been not realizing how strong I really am. Looking back I just saw how strong I always was. I wasn’t the shadow, I was the tree… strong rooted in the earth and fuck anyone who tries to tell me otherwise. I don’t believe them anymore. Thirty years of deep suffering and pain, and I’m stronger than ever! It’s taken thirty years to discover that I’m UNBREAKABLE!!! So watch out world, I’m coming for you.

I will do what I’ve always done, get shit done. So if you try to stand in my way I’m just going to jump right over you. Obstacles don’t have a hold of me anymore. It’s not to say that tomorrow isn’t going to be easy because I know that healing takes a lot of hard work. Setbacks are normal and expected but the key is to get back up. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, just as long as you keep doing it you will be golden. It would be nice if I could say tomorrow won’t be as hard as the last but I know that’s not how life works. I have to open back the wounds and heal some more. To get to where you need to go sometimes you have to travel back through the place that scares you the most. I think it’s important to remember that no matter what you endure in the future you’ll never be back to that moment in time. It might feel like you’re stuck in the past but really that’s just a lie. Nothing can hurt me any more deeply than losing my Mom and the abuse did. The flashbacks are bound to happen again and it might be just as severe if not more but I now realize that I have the tools to fight them. I have my sword and shield to battle all the demons. Plus I have my Mom who is now my guardian angel.

So the moral of the story is we’re much stronger than we realize. We wouldn’t have gotten this far if we weren’t. Surviving is the hardest thing in this world to do and once you’ve done enough of it you become a warrior. We are warriors. I’m ready for wherever the universe wants to take me and I will do whatever I have to in order to be happy. Everyone deserves that.

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