DIY Happy Jar for My Mighty Month's February Challenge

TOPICS
, Video
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

RELATED VIDEOS

When Childhood Abuse Leaves You Feeling Stunted

57
57
1

On my more lighthearted days, when my depression and anxiety don’t hang quite so heavily on me, I will sometimes joke about being a big kid trapped in an adult’s body, or a not-so-big kid, because I am shorter than most kids over the age of 12. However, on those deeper, darker days, when my mental illness bears down more heavily on my mind and soul, I’m painfully aware that all the abuse I have endured has stunted me in many ways.

I always try to embrace my inner child because there’s such a pure sweetness inside of me, a love for life, thirst for knowledge and a hunger for anything creative and fun. Even at 40, I love swinging on swings and having water balloon fights. I can never resist twirling in sun showers, catching raindrops on my tongue or making snow angels in the first real snowfall of the season.

Yet the other side of that inner little girl is present more often and is far more vocal. I rarely talk about her, though she is present more often than the sweet, little playful youth I so thoroughly adore. Emotionally, I don’t think I ever fully matured beyond the child I was when the abuses and traumas were at their worst. While I might fully embrace my inner child, with her innocent wonderment and playful silliness, beneath that resides this scared little girl who has been battered and abused, who never learned the tools to cope and lives her life terrified of the monsters in the closet, under the bed and in my own head.

Like a child, I am often overemotional and easily wounded. Like a child, I cannot understand the cruelty and indifference of other people. Deep down, a part of me still clings to those innocent fairy tale stories with their happily ever afters and knights in shining armor. A large part of me cannot understand why my life is so hard, my struggles so arduous and my heart so broken. Like a child, nothing quite makes sense to me and I have that overwhelming desire to just ask “why?” a thousand times a day.

I have trouble processing, trouble understanding and trouble coping with everything, whether it is a smaller, every day occurrence or an event with a larger impact on my life. I cling too tightly to those I care about and need because I am terrified of being alone, abandoned and left to fend for myself again. Like that child I was years ago, I find myself starving for approval and love, willing to do anything, be anything, just to have someone stay and love me. I reside in a terrifying place of confusion, loss and desperation. My inner child wants to cling to everyone and cry out, “Please don’t leave me! I’ll be good! I promise! I’m scared! I don’t want to be alone!” over every single thing in life because it all seems too big, too overwhelming to deal with on my own.

While the other facets of my mental illness can be approached with practicality and reason, addressed with therapy and medication, I honestly have no clue how to deal with the fact that I have been stunted in many ways. How do I learn to grow up when I am already a grown adult? How do I stop being that frightened little girl inside, overwhelmed by the entire world, scared to come out, terrified of being hurt again? Children are usually nurtured as they are ushered into adulthood, being taught how to cope and given the tools to adjust along the way. I was thrown into the harsh realities of a cruel and unjust world before I was ever ready to face them, and have spent my entire life scampering around, stuck in the mentality of that terrified little girl who just wants all those monsters to go away and for everything to be OK again.

I honestly don’t know how to address or change that part of myself. I don’t know how to stop being that clingy, confused, lost little girl who is terrified of the world around her. Part of me wishes I could be stronger, braver, more grown-up and able to adjust, cope and problem solve all my issues away. Unfortunately, a much larger part of myself cannot stop crying inside and just wants someone to scoop me up, hold me tightly and reassure me that everything will be OK, that this has all just been a bad dream.

This blog originally appeared on Unlovable.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

57
57
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Ideas for Making a Difference

20
20
0

I recently read an article in the New York Times about an interview with Judd Apatow. It was an interview discussing his response over some Trump tweets. The article itself was not about the special needs community at all, but something he said in this article really resonated with me:

“There’s a danger on the internet that you think you’re accomplishing something,” he says. “So you see an article about a disease and retweet it and think ‘It’s cured now!’ And you’ve fooled yourself into thinking that you’ve done something productive.”

It seems like every other day I see one of my friends or family members share a post on Facebook that says something to the effect of “Every like gets $1 to charity X,” or it is a picture of a child with special needs and a story of them being bullied or shunned, and the post will be begging for likes to show this person they are beautiful. Many of the people in the photos have never given their permission for them to be used, and the posts claiming to raise money rarely, if ever, actually do so. Yet, time after time, the posts are shared, and people may go on to think they just helped make a difference.

There has to be a way as a society that we can fix this. Instead of making negative or false things go viral, let’s all volunteer our time for a cause we believe in. Or if you don’t have time to donate, donate money, or promote an organization that is doing something good. Let’s quit wasting our time and effort on things that yield no response, and instead let’s work together to do real good.

Of course, I would love to tell the world to support my charity and my cause, but really, pick what matters to you. Everyone has something they care about. Maybe you care about children with special needs, maybe you are passionate about animals, or maybe veterans, or maybe you have a very specific interest, like women battling a certain type of cancer. Whatever matters to you, do something about it! Find an organization that shares your passion and see what types of volunteer roles they need filled. Some organizations have volunteer roles you can do from home. Or send them a donation to put toward the cause. If you don’t have time or money, no problem. You can still help. Tell all of your friends and family about the organization and the work they are doing. Your enthusiasm for a cause may be contagious. You can help that organization by getting them more awareness.

The article continues, and towards the end Apatow goes on to say:

“I’m trying to transition from making comments on social media to choosing one or two organizations to work with and support so that I feel like I’m actually being a positive part of the process. You don’t want to be a crank.”

There are thousands of nonprofits out there. Chances are you can find one you can get passionate about. Caring about something bigger than yourself and working towards improving the situation instead of just “liking” a post or complaining about the problem can be so much more productive. Start today. Google your cause and see what’s out there. You may be surprised how easy it is once you get started. Let’s follow Judd’s lead and all try to be part of positive change. Well said, Apatow!

Image via Thinkstock.

Follow this journey on Casey Barnes.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

20
20
0
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The 'Box' I Kept Hidden After Surviving Sexual Assault

9
9
0

There’s this box I hid on the top of a tall, tall shelf a long time ago. I stuffed a whole bunch of things in it and hid it, high out of reach (OK, that’s not that hard, I’m short). I left that box there for years… and years…. and a thick layer of dust blanketed the top of the box. Over time, I learned to ignore the box – I pretended it wasn’t there.

At least, until the box began to overflow.

Somehow, the things I threw in the box grew – grew and grew and grew until it began to overflow. One day, when I got scared and could hardly take it anymore, I brought the box down with shaky hands and opened it a crack. And everything I had thrown in there began to pour out. Even more terrified, I tried to close the box… but once opened, it couldn’t be closed again.

This box was overflowing with my thoughts and memories of the past that I’d tried to ignore. Being sexually abused at the age of 5 was – is – too young for anyone to ever understand. I learned how to rationalize what was going on, going as far as blaming myself. But all those feelings, all those thoughts, I hid away in this box and ignored… until this past September.

Finally opening that box and talking to someone was a huge step for me. It was all so terrifying and scary and new, and I decided to face my fear of the past – and I thought t things would get better. And they have, sort of. I can feel things again. I’m not numb.

Yet there are still moments where I feel too overwhelmed. I’m trying to let one memory or emotion or thought come out at a time, and so I let one out of the box and immediately padlock the box closed to keep everything else inside. It’s hard work. The memories can still be overwhelming, and I still forget where I am sometimes. The thoughts and feelings come back in a wave, and there are days where I can’t function.

Even so, I’m glad I opened that scary, sulking box. If I had kept it closed, it would have spread more and more, filling me with an even more sense of dread. Opening that box is the first step to healing, and even though I know I have a long path ahead of me with so many problems in the box to take care of, I’ve started walking again. It’s not going to be easy. It’s probably going to be a path full of wrong turns, long shortcuts, mazes, and tears, but I gotta get through it.

Whatever box you have hiding – maybe try to take it off the shelf. Move it under a table. A chair. Put it on a desk. Look at it every once in a while. Open it when you’re ready to take that first step. I promise, there will be a moment when you know you’re ready. And when you’re ready, take that deep breath and open the box. You can do it. I know you can.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Follow this journey on Missing in Action.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by finwal

9
9
0
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What It's Like to Dissociate (and 4 Tips for Making It Through)

648
648
5

I remember the first time it happened.

I was 11 years old, standing in a hallway full of my peers as we walked to our classroom at church. As I’m looking around, my world suddenly changed. Nothing felt real anymore.

Am I dreaming? Why does everything look so fuzzy and dark? Why are the voices of the people around me suddenly muffled?

I remember going home and telling my mom what happened. I felt so confused, scared and wondered what was wrong with me. She comforted me, but she didn’t completely understand what I had experienced. She told me it was probably just my hormones starting to change because of my age. I assumed she was probably right. I didn’t worry about it much anymore until it happened again and again. At some point in my 20s, it became a part of my everyday life.

When I was in college I learned I had dissociative disorder, which is often a result of trauma, and is accompanied by its best friend, anxiety. Dissociation is the most bizarre thing I have ever experienced. Do you know when you’re dreaming and everything looks really vague? The lighting is dim. Someone says something to you, and it sounds like a muffled mess of words you can barely make out? That’s exactly what it feels like to me, except it’s real life.

I can look down at my hands and not even realize they’re mine. I can be walking down the aisle at the grocery store and all of a sudden, it becomes stretched. It looks like it’s a mile long. Things become so distorted I may not even know where I am anymore. It usually leaves me feeling like like I’m about to pass out. I have a couple of times because the feeling becomes so overwhelming that my body needs to peace out for a bit.

What I hate the most is when I dissociate while I’m in a conversation with someone. I’m no longer able to hear and process what they are saying. I usually just try to smile, nod my head and pretend I’m following along.

I’ve found that even though I can experience dissociation at any time, being in situations with lots of noise and movement is the biggest trigger for me. I’m super sensitive to excessive audio and visual stimuli. Therefore, I try to avoid situations where I know I’ll be exposed to those things. When you dissociate, it’s basically your brain trying to protect you from “danger.” It’s a good thing when you’re in an actual dangerous situation, but it’s just plain annoying when your brain identifies simple everyday things as danger.

Before I got used to the fact that this is part of my daily life, I would feel like I was losing it, and my anxiety would skyrocket. Sometimes, I still have to pinch myself or pat myself on top of the head to remind myself I am still here. It’s like watching a movie starring everyone around you, but you’re sitting in the audience. Thankfully, these moments usually only last for a few minutes at a time, but I usually get them multiple times a day. Some people who dissociate experience it for hours and sometimes days on end.

Although I wish I didn’t have to experience dissociation, I’ve learned to deal with it the best I can. If you struggle with dissociation, then here are a few tips that personally help me make it through:

1. Practice positive self-talk.

When I’m experiencing a moment of dissociation, I try to calm down by talking to myself in my head in a positive way. I say things like:

“This is OK. I’ve gotten through this before, and I can do it again.”

“This feeling will pass. It always does. It’s only temporary.”

“I’m real, and this moment is real.”

“I’m basically a bad-ass, and this is probably just what it feels like to travel through time.”

2. Give yourself permission to take a break.

Never force yourself to stay somewhere you know is making you dissociate. I mean, definitely try to power through if you can, but you’ll know when you’ve reached the point where you need to step out. So go get some fresh air, and give your brain some time to return to normal functioning.

3. Tell someone who cares.

This one is tough sometimes because not everyone understands what it’s like, but find someone you trust. Let them know what’s going on. Tell the person who you are with the most so they can look out for the signs and know when you’re in a dissociative state. Come up with a plan, and let them know what is helpful and what isn’t.

4. Learn to love and accept yourself.

This one took me 26 years, but at some point, I realized my struggles just make me more interesting. Yes, I feel like an alien sometimes, but what could be more interesting than that? I do still struggle to even like myself sometimes, but everything I have gone through is all part of my story.

If you struggle with dissociation, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can and will get through this!

This post was originally published on Gutsy Girl Holistic.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

648
648
5
TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

My Organ Transplant Makes Me No Different From Anybody Else

15
15
1

Ever since I was a young child, I’ve always known that I was different in some way or another from other “normal” children around me. I had to go back and forth to hospital — a lot — for regular checkups, countless blood tests and ultrasound scans, not because I had anything dangerous inside me, but because when I was 6 months old, I was the youngest person in the UK to be the recipient of a liver.

I’m a liver transplant patient two times over now, not because my parents drank or smoked too much. In fact, we never really ever found out why I was born cryptogenic, and I’m still considered to be a medical marvel to this very day.

You may think that being an organ donor recipient has affected me in some way. You’re partly wrong but also partly right. Regular hospital checkups and about a “bazillion” blood tests are the norm for me. And it has been since I was 6 weeks old and will continue to be that way until I leave this earth one day — very long into the future.

From the ages of 5 to 16, I had to miss quite a few school days and field trips due to countless infections, colds and viruses because I was immune suppressed. And yes, this made me upset sometimes, but being immune suppressed didn’t affect the way I made friends in any way. I managed to have my first relationship in my teens, and I also managed to get into college to study child care, health and social care.

Living with a transplanted organ makes me no different than anybody else. Although this makes my life a little bit different from my own friends and family, I still try as hard as I can every single day. I’ve been told I’ll be able to have my own children (just with some extra help) with my partner one day. And other than keeping up with regular hospital visits, flu jabs and the odd liver biopsy, it’s all worthwhile. If it weren’t for my two organ donors, I simply wouldn’t be here and to receive the gift of life — not once but twice. They’re the two best gifts I could possibly have right now.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

15
15
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.