My Very Real Truth

I’m a liar. I’ve lied about being well. The truth is that I’ve had decades to perfect this lie. I learned from a very young age how and what people need to see or hear to make them think I was okay. I haven’t been okay. I know I have talked about myself not being normal before. I don’t mean that in a “I have a unique style” or “think outside the box” way. (Although I guess I fall into that “not normal” too though.) What I mean when I say that I am not “normal” like others, is that my brain is different than others. I don’t hear, see, smell, process, etc., like others. I remember as a young child (kindergarten) being very overwhelmed by the world around me. Almost as if I was being suffocated by my overly heightened senses. Not knowing what to do with feelings of panic or being able to communicate what was happening shut me down. I am just a few weeks shy of 34 years old now and just now being able to identify and communicate my minds funny tricks, but only after I recently lost my mind. My mind has had 30 years to settle into what I now know as my manic world.

Mental illness, the silent killer. When you don’t treat an illness, it has the potential to get worse or even kill you. Mental illness is not excluded from this. I can’t believe I lived through the last two weeks and I am here to tell you about it. I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to survive the day to see the next. Would you have had any idea? Here’s the other part. Me not making it would be at the hands of myself. I would’ve been the one to end my life. That’s what my illness will do to me. Kill me. I’ve left my mental illness untreated, and it’s almost costed me my life more than once. Struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life it was easy to chalk up things to that. Add in some trauma and PTSD and well how could I or anyone tell what was that and what was something else? Not to mention when you start doing drugs at a young age (as I had) that can also mess with the development of your brain affecting my mood, decision making, actions, etc. I had enough strikes against me that it was easy to blame things on any number of things.  Basically, I was fucked up.

I started to work on my recovery 7 years ago. Thinking I was suffering, because I didn’t have any coping skills. Thinking I was suffering, because I didn’t know how to communicate. Thinking I was suffering, because I hadn’t faced my trauma. Well that was true. I did have to work on all that,but little did I know that was just the tip of the iceberg. Slowly by slowly, I started to clear things up in my world and learned new skills to cope and live. I’ve continued to push myself in every aspect trying to get myself to a point where I can just feel better. I pushed myself psychically, mentally, emotionally, etc. I managed to build myself a beautiful life in my time of healing. I did feel better. The thing is when you’re manic, everything feels better. I compare it to being on meth. For those of you that can not relate, it feels like a super hero feeling. Euphoric, false sense of confidence, hundreds of ideas flowing, intense talking, little to no sleep, etc. Looking back I can see my mania revolved around my recovery. So I went hard. Only to turn around and feel more depressed than I’ve ever felt in my life. The good thing is that I was doing REAL work on myself. Learning actual coping and life skills, communicating, talking about my trauma, forgiving, meditating, exercising, counseling, learning, etc. I wonder if I had not been working so hard on building myself a healthy life, if  I would’ve been able to survive thus far. The reality of my situation is that I can do all the work on myself as I can and want, but I need help. Real professional medical help. I’m sick and I need help.

I’ve spent the last four years trying to get back to my only moderately crazy self that I was prior to fertility treatments and having a kid. However, I never could get back to that version of crazy. Things had changed for me. Yes, obviously I had a kid and that was huge, but I’m talking inside of me. Once again I started with the reasons why I felt the way I did: I have postpartum depression, I’ve struggled with depression all my life so of course it’s just worse for me, my hormones are off, I have endometriosis, I’m still healing, etc. However, this time things were very different. My episodes of mania and depression were on their way to getting worse and worse for me and I had no idea I even had episodes of mania. I was in for a very rude awakening. I made it through to around a month ago, where I just couldn’t. I felt BAD. I say bad, because I don’t think I can put into words just how bad I felt. There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t wonder if my family would be better off with me killing myself now or later on. I started to not have any control of my brain (losing my mind).  I started to actually see that I was in a manic episode. I was out of control in every aspect. Absolutely terrifying. I was in fear of my life.

I spoke up. I said I needed help and reached out. Counselors would tell me I needed more care than they could provide, psychiatrists said they could take me.. in november, I could go through the system, but they said it would be months, before they’d get to me,  I considered just admitting myself into the ER and telling them to lock me away, etc. I just wanted help. I needed help. I was in a deep depressive state and wasn’t sure I could survive another episode in either direction. Out of desperation, I saw my primary and explained a little that was going on. She started me on medication and then I was thrown over the edge. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly feel any worse. Boy, was I wrong. I couldn’t walk in a room without seeing all the ways I could off myself.  I needed my mom to come be with me ASAP, because like all other grown ups, when you’re sick you call mom still, right?

I have been fighting my illness alone for long enough. I have been hiding and lying saying I was well. Thinking I had this under control and I could handle this by myself. I spent decades getting really great at convincing others that I was okay, and I couldn’t and can’t anymore. I am not okay. I am sick. I am mentally ill and there is no cure for me. With a lot of desperation, tears, panic, hunt, money, and the help of a couple random people who saw the light going out in me, I am able to finally get some help. And I wonder about all the others that struggle and do not have the resources that I do. That are at their end and can’t chase help. What about the people that can’t afford private care? What about those that reached out and got an appointment months away, because it’s all their insurance would cover? WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR SYSTEM? PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!

I write this now at the beginning of my new journey. I now have a team of clinicians working with me. My life will forever be changed as I move forward. I’ll have a lot to process and work through as my diagnosis becomes more clear and I rebuild my life to better suit my brain. I can’t do it alone though and I can’t do it, if I’m not honest. Honest with myself and honest with others. It’s easy for me to tell you all what you want or need to hear, but I need to give myself a full chance at survival and it’s has to start with honesty. So here I am putting the embarrassment, fear of judgement,  and all that petty shit aside. This is me. You all know me when I’m manic, happy, funny, confident, etc., but this is me too. I hide this other huge side of me and this is ALL of me.

I’m Gabi. I’ve struggled with mental illness all my life. I’ve tried to kill myself two times in the past and I thought I was passed that. However, the last 2 weeks I didn’t think I was going to be alive to see today. Now in my 30’s I am in the process of being diagnosed with a mood disorder. I want to share my journey with you.

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I’m not alone 

The thing that comes with hiding everything is loneliness. No one ever knows the truth. No one knows anything. I’ve always been surrounded by people. I grew up in a big beautiful family. How did I manage to make myself feel so lonely? I did that by hiding everything. I did that by telling anyone what they wanted to hear or not saying anything. Then, I went back to hiding in my horrible dark world. Alone. That was my norm. Sometimes it still is my norm. It became a habit. A hard habit to break. 

It started out as fear. Sometimes it was embarrassment. Most of the time I didn’t want to take anyone down with me. I didn’t want to share the pain. It was bad enough I had to carry it. I remember actually thinking that as a child. Most of the times I would just shut down. I wouldn’t say a word. You could sit there and ask me questions or talk to me and I would be mute. I remember wanting so bad to talk. I remember telling myself in my head, “Open your mouth! Say something!” I just couldn’t get anything to come out. Sometimes it was probably out of stubbornness. Most times  it was deeper than that. To be honest, sometimes I still shut down like this. Not often, but it does happen.  Old habits… 

It seems as I grew older and older my secrets grew to be  bigger and bigger. From not liking oatmeal and having nightmares, to sexual and drug abuse.  I never stopped hiding. I kept it inside of myself where only I could be hurt by it. I alienated myself. I was surrounded by people and completely alone. It started off as unintentional and then became the only way I knew how to be. Alone in my misery.  I know, misery usually loves company, but I guess I must be a decent person. I only feel that way about dieting, exercise, sad movies, etc. Then, I believe everyone should suffer with me. 

I’ve had to work hard at being honest with myself and with others. I have to work hard to say things out loud and put them into other people’s worlds. I have to work hard at not wanting to be alone. Whether it’s alone in my misery, hopes, goals, fears,etc., I’ve had to learn how to let people know and see that. I still want to be alone most days. However, now I can’t shut up it seems. Perhaps I’m making up for lost time. As I heal and discover, I find myself being able to share more of my life and myself that I worked so hard to keep hidden. There’s also times where I’m still not ready to talk or share things. Some days I wonder if I’ll ever be able to lay it all out on the line. If I let my depression take the wheel, it would and has convinced me before that I’ll always be alone in this. It’s easy for me to run away and convince myself I won’t ever find peace. That I will forever be in pain by myself. That no one will ever know these things I carry inside of me. My head will turn on me with the quickness. I need my reality checks. I need my list of what my life is now. I need my husband asking me questions that annoy me. I need to keep sharing. I need to keep being honest and not just try to shut people up or shut myself down. It’s taking me time and I know more time than most, but that’s how I roll. I’m healing and learning. It’s great being able to tell people I don’t really care for Adele’s music, I can’t ride a bike, I tried to kill myself more than once, I still believe in  and pray to God, I suffer from anxiety attacks, Beyoncé doesn’t empower me, driving still scares me, I’m a woman whose body rejects pregnancy, I’m an addict, I’ve never seen Star Wars, I’ve been losing weight for 1.5 years and I’m still overweight,  I’m Pro-Life, I feel all alone in a room full of people, I met my husband in rehab, I believe America is the best country in the world, I once stole 9 barglasses from applebees, etc. I told you guys. I can’t seem to shut up now. I know, I’m not for everyone. I’m not even for myself most of the time, but I’m as real and honest as I know how to be. It’s really taken me a lot to be able to say anything honest about myself. I don’t think I’ve ever been more genuine or true to myself. I wish I wouldn’t have wasted so much time alienating myself. I wish I could go back and let people into my world. I can’t do that, but I can let them in now. I can come out from hiding and be honest with them now. I’m lucky that I’ve had this long to come clean and try to welcome my loved ones into my secret world. I can only hope I’m blessed with more time. I want my mom and loved ones to get to experience the real deal. I realize I’m trying to make up for lost time, but I feel like if I’m lucky enough to be alive, why wouldn’t I spend that time with those most important to me? Making amends and healing by action. Making the most of my time.  Sharing the “real Gabi” finally.  I’ve been alone for way too long.  What am I doing alone in Houston? I think I’m doing this all wrong…. 

Right beside me 

At 32 years old, I am working on not being scared of everything. We all have our fears. Some more rational than others. Most people are not controlled by these fears. However, as previously stated, my brain is not like other brains. This year I found out that I suffer from panic/anxiety attacks. Come to find out I’ve been suffering from them for years.  I always thought it was something else. I thought I would get motion sickness, fear of heights, my stomach was upset, etc. Then, I was flying alone with my daughter. I started to feel off and uneasy like I had felt so often before. She was sleeping in the seat next to me and I was just getting worse by the second. I looked over at her and remember asking myself what I was going to do. I was alone with my daughter and not well. It went from bad to worse instantly it seemed. No matter how I tried to control my brain, breathing, etc., I continued to spiral. I was dripping sweat like a faucet, my entire body was tingling, I couldn’t breathe, etc. I remember praying telling God to please let someone take care of my baby. I remember thinking about who was going to get her, when she woke up and I was dead next to her. I honestly believed this was it for me. This was how I would die and leave my daughter alone. It started from nothing. I’ve flown countless of times alone with my daughter. That’s how this goes. I’m aware of certain situations and things that will give me anxiety. I’m also aware that it can be nothing that gives me this anxiety. This isn’t anxiety that makes someone bite their nails and be hesistant. This is crippling anxiety that makes you feel physically ill. Have you ever had anxiety so bad that it makes you say a final prayer and black out? 32 years old and I’ve been suffering with anxiety as far back as I can remember. 32 years old and I just find out that I suffer from these anxiety/panic attacks? Wow, that was embarrassing. 

When I learned about panic/anxiety attacks, I tried to think back to the first time I could remember feeling this way. It took me a while. As mentioned previously, my memory is shot and takes some work to sort through. I traced it back to my grandparent’s house. I remember it was storming outside and my grandma had sent me upstairs to shower. I was afraid of storms, but I was even more afraid of my grandma. I went upstairs and let the shower run. I can feel it right now. My heart starting to race. My skin getting clammy. I sat still, because the floor squeaked and I didn’t want her to know I wasn’t in the shower. I remember being so scared that she would find out I didn’t shower. I made myself get in the shower. I cried as I told myself to just let the water wet my hair. As I tried to go back in time to find anxiety or fear, I remembered a lot of similar stories. I remembered every time I had a runny nose, I was so scared to sniff around my grandma that I would let it run into my mouth and down my face. I remembered gagging down food that I didn’t like. Literally gagging and convincing myself, “just one more bite.”  I was a little girl. How could I have been feeling like that? How could a little girl be so scared? How could I still be feeling like that now? 

I’ve always considered myself a pretty chill person. Turns out that I’ve been tightly wound this entire time.  I’ve been in knots for years. It was never “nothing” causing my attacks. I had been on edge my whole life. I never let that go. I knew that my grandma had messed me up. Sounds mean, but it’s the truth. I have a lot of scary and hurtful memories with my grandma. Years ago I chose to take all that and forgive her. She has been one of the biggest healing points for me in my life. She made me cry, fear, panic, and hide. She took the little self esteem I had then and threw it out. Little did I know that what she would give me in return would be invaluable and one of the greatest lessons of my life thus far. She taught me to truly accept people just the way they are. She taught me that I am capable of loving all, even if they have hurt or are different than me. She taught me to forgive. She was the first person I truly forgave. 

I like to believe that people do the best they can with what they have… most of the time. My grandma never left my side. To this day, she is right beside me. Through my mistakes and triumphs, she has stood beside me. As a baby and now as a 32 year old wife and mother, she has stood beside me. She has loved me. She has never turned her back on me. She has never stopped sending me cards on every holiday and birthday. She never stopped praying for me.  No matter how bad things got with me, she stood right beside me. I’m sure I’ve hurt her feelings too. I’m sure I’ve let her down too. She stood right beside me. She’s one of the most important people in my life. She plays such a huge role in the person that I am today.  I’m so lucky to still have her by my side. I’m happy to say that I haven’t had a anxiety attack, since the one I had on the airplane. 

Success story 

I planned on continuing last week’s blog about my weight loss journey. Every time I started to write, I felt pulled towards another direction and fell flat. So I’m going to head another direction with this post and I’ll plan on sharing the rest of my weight loss journey next week. 

When I decided to start writing a blog, I knew that it was going to be raw. I knew it was going to be heavy and it was going to be about things not even those closest to me knew. I worried that I would be judged,misinterpreted, and dismissed. Most importantly, I worried that my family would be hurt and embarrassed. 

 Then, I thought about all the reasons I wanted to do this. I’ve treaded lightly in real life and on social media with talking about my drug abuse, infertility, post partum depression, etc. I put it out there in hopes of someone reading it and discovering that they are not alone and to  possibly give hope to someone. I made the decision to start sharing these  in depth pages in my book, because it doesn’t only have the potential to help someone else, but it helps me too. I’m sharing in hopes of inspiring compassion in others. I’m sharing in hopes of someone reading and maybe becoming more understanding of someone they would generally dismiss.  I’m sharing, because I am not alone. These are things and feelings that so many have to face and we are too ashamed to speak up. I’m sharing, because I haven’t shared in 32 years. 

I did think of the fact that the things I write would be hard for my loved ones to read. Especially my mom(hi mother) and brothers (not that they read, but still), but the thing is that I am writing this blog as a survivor. I have hit the filthy bottom and lived in horrible darkness, but I speak now as someone who has come out on the other side alive and strong. My blog is not meant to inspire sympathy or to hurt. I am sharing a page here and there of my story, but there’s a whole book of pages. Pages filled with good memories, smiling faces, hope, bravery, love, etc. 

6 years ago when I decided to start dealing with my shit, I dealt with the issues we could see. As time has gone by, new issues arise or old memories come up and I’m left to deal with those. I’ve had to go back and reread pages in my book.  I had to hurt, cry, deal, learn, etc., through all my shit that has continued to come up. The things I have and will write about are things I have already faced and learned from. I write my posts in past tense. My life is in a different place now and so am I.  Yes, I continue to struggle with depression and anxiety, but that is something that I  will continue to learn to live with and handle for the rest of my life I’m sure. 

I’ve received quite a few messages and calls about my posts. Family members and friends asking questions and expressing sadness. I love that people are asking questions and wheels are turning. I don’t love the sadness, but I know that comes with it. It is sad. I am sharing sad things. All I can ask if that we don’t get stuck in the sadness and we look at the big picture. All of this brought me to an incredible life. I’ve lived more in the last 6 years than I did the previous 26 years. It’s therapeutic for me to write about my suffering and my success. I truly hope that one person can read any of my blogs and feel that they have a fighting chance. I hope that one person can read and feel a sense of comfort or hope. I hope that one person can read and be kinder to someone. Most importantly I hope that I’m able to get across that this is indeed a successs story I’m sharing. I write to you all as a somewhat level headed adult. I write as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, cousin, niece, or friend. I can’t tell you the honor in being called these things. No matter the darkness I endured, I’m still able to be all these things to everyone. Most importantly I’m able to be myself. 

My Good Thing 

I never imagined I would be alive at 32 years old. I never imagined I would live outside of my early 20’s. It’s a sad way to think and live, but that was my reality. I didn’t have a fear that I was going to die or get killed. I had terrible secrets hidden inside me that had already taken my life. In my mind, I was already dead. 

I lived with those feelings in this dark dark place for years. I painted this picture on the outside of a fun loving funny girl, but secretly I felt incredibly lonely and battered to hell. I had this deep pain that nothing could comfort. That wasn’t the only thing I was hiding. I was also a drug addict. 

I can recall a couple times that I tried to end my pain. I took more and more and begged for it to end. When I would wake up, it wasn’t a sense of relief. It was sadness. I “lived” like this for years. I was dying in front of everyone’s eyes and they had no idea. I’m not sure what happened, but suddenly I was just done. I couldn’t anymore. 

I was clean for a little while and thought, “hey, I’m clean. I’m alright now.” Uh no. That’s not how it works. I still did not know how to cope. I still had horrifying memories and secrets. I also had been doing drugs and living this way for most of my life. I didn’t know any other way to live and cope. I didn’t know how to make peace. I didn’t know how to stop making mistakes. I entered rehab voluntarily and sober in 2011, at the age of 26.  

Is everyone ready for it? Alright ladies and gents, here we go! I remember walking into the room without expectations or a clue about anything. I walked in and saw all these people that were just like me and yet I was terrified. I looked around and there on the couch sat a tall, handsome drink of water. His name was James. I took a seat and that was the end of life as I knew it. Don’t tell James this, but within minutes of meeting him, out of nowhere, my head told me I could marry this man. I want to add that I was the type of girl that never wanted to get married and men were nothing but disposable fun. I was never looking for anyone and I most definitely wasn’t looking to fall in love and get married. Ever. 

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. James and I continued to be friends throughout the process. We would go on walks, talk, deal with anxiety attacks, be silent, cry, etc. We were friends and we fell in love. Love I never knew exsisted. Love I never knew I deserved. Love I never knew I wanted. The kind of love that gives songs meaning. Hard, soul consuming, make you want to throw up kind of love.

I married James, after knowing him for less than a year. We walked down to the courthouse in Oklahoma wearing David Hasselhoff t-shirts and jeans and said, “I do.” There was never reservation or anxiety. I had never been more at peace with anything in my life.

I truly believe that every ounce of pain, sadness, guilt, etc., had led me straight to this very moment. I believe that I was right where I was supposed to be. I believe that I had to go through all this, in order to get to him. I believe that James is my good thing, my unicorn, the climax (interesting choice of word) in my book, my gift, my sign from God, my one big moment. I believe that if the only thing I ever do in this life is show our daughter this great love, it will be enough for me.

I’m not magically fixed. I still suffer from depression and anxiety. I still seek help in more ways than one. I still have my crap, but I am different. I’m clean. I’m hopeful. I cope. I love. I learn. I share my old secrets. I live. I’m ALIVE and I get to figure this whole life thing out with James holding my hand. I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you God for letting me live.2011

Finding myself at 32

I was around 10 years old and at my brother’s basketball game. I remember being at the very top bleacher. I also remember thinking to myself, “blend in and act like everyone else,” before we all arrived at the gym. So there everyone was cheering, watching the game, acting normal, when the moment that accurately describes me happened. I fell off the top bleacher. Yes, in the middle of an ongoing basketball game. Do you know what the sound of chubby 10 year old hitting the gym floor sounds like? The ENTIRE (yes, including the players and referees) gym stopped and looked at me. For those wondering, I was fine. Perhaps it was because I was chubby that I was left undamaged… physically. I still get some anxiety on bleachers. Haha

I’ve always thought of myself to be shy. When I was a young girl, I remember being scared of people and things. I also had three brothers, a busy mom, and a grandma that was pretty rough around the edges that helped take care of us. My first memory is of my father getting mad at me and then never seeing him again.  So most of the times I found myself doing things I didn’t want to do, saying things I didn’t want to say, eating things I didn’t want to eat, etc., because I was too scared to say or do otherwise. I’ve always told myself to blend in, act like everyone else, act normal, don’t attract attention, etc. I’ve continued to tell myself that into my 30’s, until recently that changed for me. 

Recently we attended a birthday party for my friend’s 3 year old daughter. They had great live music, incredible food, family and friends had filled the home, and a piñata. We watched and sang as the kids took turns swinging at the piñata. After all the kids took their swings, a full piñata hung. So adults turns right? “Just blend in, Gabi.  Act like everyone else. Look what the other moms are doing. Play it cool, Gabi,” says my head. It was too late. I was already sprinting to get the stick to hit the piñata. It had  been raining and  it was a little misty that night. Well it’s Houston and still warm outside (yes, in January outside in the rain.) So I thought it was a good idea to wear sandals. You all know where I’m going with this. I’ve attached pictures so you get a full effect. Before I started swinging, “blend in me” was acting like Babe Ruth. Circling my bat with my fierce batting stance. Then, it was game time. I swung like I was at the World Series. I felt  everything that moment. Both of my feet lifted off of the ground. I felt my feet moving forward and up. I mean, I caught good solid air. I remember feeling my shirt fly up and my belly jiggle. Bam, I hit the ground. What part of blend in didn’t I understand? 

My whole life I’ve thought I was this shy girl. However, moments like falling off the bleachers and the piñata fall have followed me my entire life. I’m definitely scared of things and people, but I’m most definitely not shy. I’ve told myself to blend in my whole life. I’ve always felt like an outsider looking in. I knew that I was different, but I was scared. Scared to be myself, scared to talk, scared to be left, scared to be unliked, scared of everything. 

That night after a lot of laughter with my husband (who took the pictures and stayed married to me), everything hit me.  I’ve been telling myself to blend in and act like everyone else for decades. Not anymore. I needed to stop lying to myself. 

I’m not scared of being myself anymore. I no longer care if I blend in. I’m not scared  to tell the truth about myself anymore. I’m not scared that people will know I’m not like them. No offense, but I don’t care what anyone thinks about me anymore. I can have an unpopular opinions, fall off bleachers, make bad decisions, get stuck in trees,  babe Ruth the piñata, etc., and it’s me. This is me y’all. I’m a mess. I feel like I’m forever working on my shit. I attract unwanted attention. I’m no longer trying to blend in and I can’t tell you how liberating that is for me.