A Perfect World

I don’t think we’re meant to live like this. Separate. Lonely. Working 9-12 hours a day. Living for the weekend. It just isn’t right. I think we’re meant to live in close knit communities where we enjoy one and other’s company, where we support each other and help out where we can. I guess you could say – I believe in communal living. It was something that meant an awful lot to me when I was hospitalized. I believed that I lived on a commune with all of my friends. I imagined a place where we shared meals together, played music, enjoyed games. I pictured lots of celebrations, happiness and love. It was heaven in my mind. A place where money was of little worry and individuality was celebrated. A place where we could all learn and grow together, spiritually and mentally. We would teach each other what we knew, and together we would expand our knowledge. In the hospital, I kept chanting “I love you. You love me. We love we.” That’s what I wanted more than anything. I was willing to sacrifice my marriage for it, and it didn’t even exist -except in my mind. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it for the last 24 hours. I’m consumed with the idea. A world where we no longer play by the rules of society, where we are free to be ourselves, where we are accepted and loved. That’s all I want.

Here is a page from my hospital journal that outlines what I envisioned.

photo (2)

So, what do you say – are you with me?

 

 

Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening?

I am so glad I stumbled upon this video. It’s kind of long, but definitely worth watching. It talks about how other cultures view mental illness as a gift and the problem with stigmatizing mental illness in our society. I’ve been saying all along that what happened to me was spiritual, it’s nice to see I’m not alone in the viewpoint. The hospital records quote me as saying I wanted to be a shaman. I thought I was journeying to another dimension. I knew that if I lived in another society I would have been viewed as some type of shaman or spiritual leader. Unfortunately the hospital staff and my family thought this was crazy talk and used it against me. “Hyper-religiosity” is a symptom of mania, so any talk of god or spirituality was seen as a sign that the medication wasn’t working yet. I wanted to feel what I was going through, I didn’t want to drown it out with drugs. I liked what I was feeling. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never felt it, but what I felt was divine. I have no doubt it was something more. I think the young guy in the video does a great job describing the bliss. Enjoy.

Forgive

I was raped. It was a long time ago now, but it’s still relevant. I was only 14. A friend of mine begged me to go to a party with her. I didn’t want to go. I felt sick about it. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I was weak. I finally agreed to go. I had to lie to my mom about it. I pretended I was spending the night at another friend’s house. I shouldn’t have gone to that party.

It was the first time I’d be drunk. Well, except the week before when I tried everclear for the first time. I only had a little bit, but enough to make it seem ok that my soon to be rapist kissed me. I didn’t feel drunk, just a buzz maybe.

Back to the party. I don’t remember what I drank, all I know is I was very drunk. I knocked over a table filled with glass and then began picking up the pieces with my bare hands. I was covered in small cuts. This guy decided to take me away from the party and the glass. He took me into a weird crawl space type area where I proceeded to vomit. He took off my clothes and caressed my body. I was paralyzed. I told him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Eventually he began fingering me and it hurt so bad. I told him to stop again, but he refused. He tried to put his dick inside, but I was so tight it wouldn’t go in. I’m not sure if part of it went in, or if he had to stop because of the road block. I told myself it never went in. That I was still a virgin. A good girl. People poked their heads in to make sure I was alright, but they never rescued me. My “friend” later told me that several people were talking about taking turns being with me, luckily that never panned out.

The next day I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I didn’t really know what happened, and I wanted to forget about the whole thing. Within days I became horribly sick, with a high fever and hallucinations. I think part of my soul left my body. I was damaged. I was sick to the core.

I had to continue seeing my rapist at school. I couldn’t avoid him. I couldn’t look at him. I hated him. I hated what he had done to me.

Not long after this, I got into drugs. I become a party girl. I drowned my shame and guilt in weed and all sorts of other drugs I’d experimented with. I dropped out of softball and started hanging out with “freaks” and outcasts. I changed.

Over the years I dealt with my rape in all sorts of ways, for one I never called it rape. I said I didn’t know what happened, but that I had been taken advantage of. I’d tell my story at parties to strangers, that became my therapy. Eventually I stopped talking about it all together.

Then, last year there was a very high profile rape case. The Steubenville rape case. It reminded me of my own story. It finally gave me the courage to call what happened to me “rape” – that’s what it was, after all.

I began to have dreams about running into my rapist in real life. I dreamed about telling him off, and telling his girlfriend what he’d done to me. I felt like an encounter was imminent. It was. On April 14, just two weeks before I was hospitalized, there he was. In my Facebook newsfeed. He had posted a story about rape on his own wall, and a mutual friend shared it. When I saw this, I felt weak. I wanted to vomit. How could he post this anti-rape article on his own wall, when he was in fact a rapist.

I called him out. In public, for everyone to see. I wrote a comment and said that he was guilty of the same thing and that it was shameful that he would post that. He commented back. And then it started – a string of Facebook messages. What transpired was a beautiful exchange that changed me forever. I’m sharing this conversation in hopes that it will inspire someone else to forgive.

I feel a genuine sense of love for this man. The experience made me realize the duality of life. What I perceived as this horrible experience, this man had reframed to fit his view. He didn’t see himself as a rapist. He convinced himself that something else happened. This is a great defense mechanism, no one wants to think they are a perpetrator, it’s hard to face. He wasn’t ready to face it. He was just a child too. He was insecure, and he probably felt that getting a girl drunk was the only way he could get affection. I felt sorry for that little boy he was. He was a victim too, a victim of his own insecurity and aggression.

I have a theory that this experience was part of what led to my breakdown and subsequent hospitalization. For one, it made me feel very powerful that I had this premonition and then I ended up actually encountering him and getting this chance at closure. Secondly, I felt like it must have left a void in my psyche. Here I had been carrying this around for so long, almost half my life. And now, in an instant it was gone. All of the anger and shame – poof. I was free. The sense of freedom overwhelmed me. The intense love and sense of oneness took over me.

Here is our conversation. I hope it sheds some light on trauma and forgiveness.

  • Him: I wish you had told me, or that anyone had told me about this (your response to my posting). I can’t believe you have been in so much pain and I never even knew about it. we should probably talk.
  • Wow, I guess I’ve wished for this moment for some time but I’m not quite sure how to proceed. I appreciate you responding and I apologize for the public outcry but I spent a long time living in shame about that night and I don’t want to hide from it anymore. Reality is an interesting thing and perceptions change, but I always knew something wrong happened that night and I wasn’t comfortable calling it rape until recently. That is what happened. Rape doesn’t always look like what you think it does, and it is hard to face things that you’ve done, so I imagine this isn’t what you were expecting when you posted that on your Facebook page.

    I was clearly too drunk to do anything to stop you that night and I remember saying no. I felt so betrayed and disgusting for years after that. I had PTSD, nightmares, body issues, intimacy issues. I got horribly sick following that night. It was traumatic and life altering. I should have confronted you then, but the shame and guilt made confrontation impossible for me. I just hid. I didn’t want to remember or deal with it.

    I have dealt with this in so many ways over the years, but the past few weeks I felt a new level of closure. I had decided it was time to forgive you and move on. I felt sorry for you, and I wanted to thank you. Thank you for that experience because without it I never would have gotten into drugs, I never would have met my husband, I never would have gotten to be the strong person I am today. I wouldn’t have learned the importance of speaking up and standing up for myself. I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t be me.

    But when I saw that yesterday I felt my heart pounding out of my chest in a way I have never felt before. That’s why I spoke out. I think I needed a response from you. I needed to stop hiding from it. What you did was wrong. You hurt me more than you can ever comprehend. I was innocent and trusting, and you took that from me.

    Him: I appreciate your candor in removing that from the posting, that was very kind of you.That being said, I don’t want you to hide from anything that has caused you so much pain. As a sufferer of PTSD, and an abuse victim myself I am very familiar with the horror and confusion that comes with trauma. I also appreciate your comment about the gray areas of sexual abuse. I remember the night in question and I have a very different viewpoint of what occurred (I was very drunk, but still cognizant). I would be happy to discuss my viewpoint, if you think it would help. I am more concerned with you feeling safe and empowered while you process this, so let me know. I want you to know Shayna that I am very sorry that you have had to carry this for so long, and I am very dedicated to making sure that you receive closure on this. I am a very strong advocate for ending sexual abuse against women (more so now than ever) and I am not scared of confronting this. Differing viewpoint or not, I want you to come out of this feeling resolved, cared for, and empowered. I can’t change the past or the hurt you have experienced, but I can step up now and create a discourse around it without running away. Please keep this dialogue open, I want to understand your experience and help you process this. God I wish someone had fucking said something to me back then. I had no idea this was going on for you.
  • Shayna 

    You can imagine this is a lot to process for me right now. I had just assumed I needed to find closure on my own so this is hard for me. I fully appreciate your attitude and openness. I’ve played the night over and over in my head many times and at the same time I have tried to block it out. Hearing your side of things would be…painful. I’m not sure what I want. I appreciate the gray area of things and that’s why I never said anything – like most victims! feeling guilty and ashamed of myself. I should have stood up more at the time, and after. I don’t know how I want to proceed now but I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity for closure, I’ve needed this more than I wanted to admit. I’ve asked myself so many times what true closure would be and now I’m closer than ever. Thank you. I need to process this more. Feel free to respond and I will try to think about what it is I want or need from you at this point.

  • Him: Take your time I am absolutely here to support you, even if that means you never talking to me again. I will do whatever it takes, just let me know. I know this a very non-typical approach and may be off-putting, so just know I am absolutely serious in my intent.
  • Shayna 

    Thank you. I can go for non-typical and that’s why I need to think about this. I asked for this moment, I brought it here and it’s not what I was expecting, but more than I was expecting. I think what I need now is an apology. I need you to admit I was too drunk – vomiting, in and out of consciousness. I should have screamed, or pushed, but I was weak – literally and figuratively. I used to wish I was stronger that night, but now I’m thankful I wasn’t. We need those traumas and experiences to become who we are meant to be. But, I still need an apology – just a simple apology for now

  • Him: I am very sorry Shayna. I am sorry for all of the pain you have endured over the years. I am sorry that I never knew/was never told anything about this or it would have been voiced long ago. My experience of that night was so drastically different and I am very shamed and sorrowful that I did not possess the insight back then that I have now to know that you were hurting. As a fellow abuse survivor I am very intimate with what is involved in the process of healing and I applaud you for your bravery and your willingness to dialogue with me in a concise, meaningful way. Your openness and compassion in this conversation speaks volumes towards your powerful conviction, character, and wisdom. This revelation has been, and will continue to be, something I will never forget for as long as I live, believe me. As a dedication to you and your suffering I absolutely promise that I will never run away from this horrible sorrow I now feel in my heart. I will work with it, face it, and allow it to transform me, just as it has transformed you. Thank you and I am so so sorry for my involvement in such a painful part of your life. Please let me know if there is anything more I can do to help facilitate your healing process.
  • Thank you again. I hope you’ve had an amazing week. It has been such a transformational period for me, and this has been such a beautiful and poetic experience. As part of my ongoing transformation I’ve decided to rid myself of things that don’t bring me pleasure, so I’m ditching Facebook. Ironic – considering this moment with you has probably been one of the best things it has given me. I wanted to let you know I’m quitting Facebook so you would have a chance to archive any of this communication if you’d like to reference it later.

    I also wanted to give you my contact information – slashway@msn.com you can always reach me there. I also wanted to let you know that you have my blessing to share this story and experience with others, in the spirit of love and growth. I wanted to also make sure that I had your blessing to share this beautiful apology and story with others – I’m not sure what form that will take in the future, but your words and this experience have touched me so deeply and I think other people would benefit from hearing such a beautiful story. I don’t intend to use your name or anything like that – but just as a story of forgiveness and love. I will cherish this for all my life. Please let me know your thoughts, I want to honor you and this experience

  • Him: Please by all means share this. I have been truly transformed by this experience as well! It is not often that you have to face yourself at the level that I did last week and I am proud of who I have become, and that I could be a part of your healing. I appreciate you not using my name for now, but do want to say that I have felt very moved to do something with this as well. I just want to do something to show people that forgiveness and understanding can be fostered anywhere, that we should not be afraid to confront our mistakes, and that we need to face ourselves and accept responsibility towards those we have hurt in order to be more full human beings. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help…I just want some good to come out of so much pain.
    Is there someone you’ve been waiting for an apology from? Go. Seek it. Ask for the words you need to hear. They can change you forever.

Enter My Mind

Like a crush

I feel a rush

It makes me blush

I feel giddy with anticipation

Followed by elation

I know I should be more mature

But fuck it, this is fun for sure

The thought of something new

It takes me away, makes me feel less blue

My mind is floating, thoughts are soaring

Ever higher, much less boring

I’ve let you creep into my mind

No turning back, no rewind

Now you see me, I’m exposed

There is nowhere to hide, these doors don’t close

My words are my heart, the two are never apart

If you like what you read, this is only a start

There are more stories to be told, some have yet to unfold

I’ll keep sharing my thoughts til I’m old

Words are more valuable than gold

Let yourself in, don’t believe what you’re told

What I’m saying can’t be bought or sold

Enter my mind, leave the rest behind

 

Feel Your Emotions

Why do we try so hard not to feel? Feelings are real. They are meant to be felt. It frustrates me that people are told that their feelings are not legitimate. That they should hide their feelings. That they feel too much. There is no such thing as feeling too much. Feelings are yours to be felt. If your feelings are intense, they are just that – intense. They are probably intense because you are going through something heavy and serious. We’ve all had traumas in our lives, things that move us to tears. Or maybe things that should move us to tears, but instead we have buried those feelings because we think we don’t have the right to be upset. Maybe there is even a bit of shame associated with your feelings. By blocking them, you only make them come out in other destructive ways.You beat yourself up. You feel the need to hide from your feelings.

All you need to do is feel. Let yourself be swept up in your feelings – no matter how intense. Don’t judge your feelings. Let them exist. If that means you spend two days crying over a friend you lost ten years ago – cry. If that means crying for no apparent reason, and feeling intense feelings of shame and guilt – cry. Don’t get caught up in how you “should” feel – or what other’s have told you is an appropriate response. Just let it all out. Be honest with yourself about how you feel. You may be surprised to find some old wounds or things you thought you were over, are in fact still raw with emotion. That’s fine.

When as a society we try to dictate how people should respond, what’s “appropriate” – what is the “typical” response or grieving period – we do ourselves a disservice. We shame people and make them feel wrong for their feelings, which makes life harder and more confusing. It’s hard to regulate feelings, they exist on their own. They can be strong and powerful. Their job is to guide us. How you feel is a reflection of your soul, of how your thoughts and feelings align with you heart. If you are moved to tears, that can drive you to take action, or it can simply act as a reminder of how important something or someone is. It can force you to reassess your place in the world or how you interact with it. Maybe you’re upset that you blew off a girl and now she’s gone forever – that can help you change the way you interact with people in the future. It can drive you to be better, to act more in alignment with your heart.

If you’re still upset about something that happened ten years ago – that’s fine. You have the right to be upset about things, and don’t let anyone tell you to “get over it” or “move on.” Do things on your own terms – when you’re ready.

It really upsets me that the notion of “mood disorder” even exists. What makes it a disorder? Having emotions and displaying them is normal and healthy. Crying is perfectly normal. Laughing is healthy. You can even do both within minutes of each other, and that’s fine too. I’ve been told I’m moody – and now I have the label “bipolar” – yay for me. I just think of it as being in tune with myself. If I’m upset, you’ll know. I don’t bother trying to mask my emotions. I don’t always cry, in fact, lately I really can’t cry at all. It’s probably the lithium. I think that sucks. I should be able to cry, to feel my emotions. That would be healthy. Masking emotions with medication, I don’t think that’s healthy at all. It buries them and denies them, when in fact there are legitimate emotions that need to be expressed. I should be upset. I should be angry. There is a lot to be upset and angry about it. It’s ok to feel those emotions. It’s ok to feel any emotion. It’s ok to be depressed when nothing seems to be working out. Just feel. That’s what’s real.

Label Fail

I see some pretty ridiculous things on the internet. Two things struck me today:

1) someone claimed it was trendy to be bipolar. Yay! I’m super hip 🙂

2) someone with bipolar tweeted something along the lines of – live the life of your dreams, but take into account that you’re bipolar. Wow. That is some lame shit.

I guess these two things stuck out to me because they both point out how silly labels are and just how much these labels can affect someone and how they perceive themselves. Being labeled bipolar kind of sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s just a label. Doctors and society at large use these labels because it’s easier to stick people into buckets in order to understand them better. In the long run, this makes it more difficult to understand people on an individual level, but if you’re just trying to make a generalization, it’s good for that. There are several types of bipolar, and you can try to find where you fit in on the spectrum. Bipolar 1. Bipolar 2. hypomanic. manic. depressed. rapid cycler. You can choose to define yourself by anyone of those if you find it helpful. Or, you can choose not to be defined by a label. You can ignore what other people label you as. For the time being, I’ve chosen to go along with the label bipolar (bipolar 1 if you want to get specific) but in all actuality – I think it’s bullshit. I think I had a manic episode, and that’s it. I’ve never been depressed or suicidal. How can I be bipolar if I’m only manic? See – labels aren’t really that useful. I just go along with it because it makes it easier for people to understand what happened to me last year when I lost my mind. But, ultimately I don’t think it lets people really understand me, because I’m not like a lot of the other bipolar people I’ve met. We’re not all the same. We don’t all have the same issues or challenges. I’m me. I’m unique. We all are.

Then you have the woman who tweeted that you should always takes into account that you’re bipolar. I can’t imagine how miserable of an existence that is. How pathetic. Why would you let a label define you like that? Live the life of your dreams. Period. Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of that. If you have to make some adjustments because of the way your brain works, or how you function in the world, that’s fine. Make those adjustments. But, don’t adjust things because you think you’re somehow flawed.

When I was in the hospital they classified me as “gravely disabled.” That’s pretty harsh. If I went along with that label I would think I’m unable to function in society. I can’t have a job. I can’t live the life I want. I can’t do anything worthwhile. In reality, none of that is true. I work full time. I do a good job. I have a life. I can function just fine.

Don’t let yourself be defined by someone else’s terms. Decide for yourself what you’re capable of and where you fit in. Don’t be a victim. Don’t be a label. Be brave enough to be yourself. That’s all you need to do.

 

 

New Light

Like a ghost in the night

I put up a fight

I’m not sure what’s right

I see things in a new light

I’m ready to take flight

I spend my waking hours fantasizing

My dreams never realizing

Thinking of strangers I’ll never meet

My thoughts swirl in my head, trying to be discreet

All I can do is sleep

Waiting for tomorrow, hoping for something more

My life has become such a bore

I’m just not sure

I want something more

What tactics shall I implore?

Waiting for someone to take me away

Show more a different way to be, a different way to play

I’m not sure what to say

I need to begin a new story

Something more daring, with lots of glory

I’m in a hurry

Not sure what for, but something else is in store