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The Confidence I'm Gaining With My Service Dog by My Side

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My apartment is filled with fur. My proposal document stares me down. My mind wanders to my research, and I begin to panic. He comes up next to me, places his head gently on my feet, applying the pressure I need to calm down.

He is my service dog. I am learning to adjust to a world where I must navigate ADA laws. I’m learning to field the stares and intrusive questions such as “Who are you training the dog for?” Nobody, I want to shout. I want to shout at the top of my lungs, yet a quiet voice inside me says, “Me.”

I have invisible illnesses. I have anxiety, major depressive disorder and PTSD. I have dysautonomia, and I never know when I will pass out again from the inability of my autonomic nervous system to regulate my blood pressure or when my anxiety will cause me to black-out.

Just because I look healthy doesn’t mean I am. Just because I can run 15 miles and am marathon training doesn’t mean I don’t have my challenges. You can’t see what it takes to get out of bed every morning. I don’t need to hit the snooze button to oversleep my three alarms. You see, my body is exhausted. My mind doesn’t have the energy to face yet another day. My physical body doesn’t have the strength to crawl out of bed, brush my teeth, and figure out what I need to do today. I’m exhausted, emotionally and physically. I try every day to put on a face, to get out there in the world, and now I am tackling it with my service dog.

I appreciate it when you ask if you can pet my dog. I appreciate it when you let me start the conversation. Having my service dog by my side, I am gaining confidence navigating the world. I’m starting to learn I have a voice and my invisible illness does not define me. I’m coming out of my shell, learning about myself, and discovering things about myself I didn’t know.

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Things You Do as an Adult When You've Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse

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Contributors from The Mighty’s mental health community share what they do as adults because of their experience of emotional abuse in childhood.

Read the full version of 25 Things You Do as an Adult When You’ve Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse.

Read the full transcript:

Things You Do as an Adult When You’ve Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse

“I can’t stand conflict, loud sudden noises, shouting and screaming or aggression in any form. It triggers my fight-or-flight instantly.”

“I can’t accept compliments. During my childhood, people just noticed my mistakes and not my achievements.”

“I’m an overachiever. I obsess about doing a job/task to perfection. And then I obsess about how I could do it better.”

“I’m basically a hermit. My home is my fortress. I constantly fear everyone around me.”

“I have problems trusting people.”

“Indecisiveness. It feels like every choice I make is wrong even if I choose the option I’m told to take.”

“I avoid saying anything that others might not agree with, which means I’m never being myself.”

“I’m overly shy around people and struggle with having a voice. I believe no one wants to hear anything I have to say.”

“I have a hard time making eye contact with people.”

“Blaming myself for everything. I have to fight the urge to beat myself up constantly.”

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Dear Caregivers: You Are Making a Difference

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I have bipolar disorder. My husband is my caregiver. He didn’t sign up for this gig when we met, except for later vowing the part about “in sickness and in health” when we married. I could not negotiate life without him. I try to thank him daily.

My mother was my father’s caregiver when he was dying of multiple myeloma. She knew she was doing a good job of taking care of him, but she asked me to tell her that. She needed someone to tell her she was doing it right.

So this is for my husband and my mother, and for caregivers everywhere.

Thank you. Good job. We need you, and we know it.

Some of you are unpaid caregivers who help loved ones. All of you deserve our thanks.

Some caregivers receive pay, and you deserve our thanks, too. There are many other professions or jobs you could be doing, but you chose to help those who need it.

You work in homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, schools and group homes. Your work matters more than most people may realize.

Respite care workers deserve recognition, too. You allow caregivers to continue their work refreshed. You give them a space to catch their breath and recharge their spirits. You are caregivers as well.

The care you all give is not easily definable. It can involve meeting physical, spiritual, mental and emotional needs. It provides sustenance, both literal and figurative.

Recently I wrote a blog post called “Caregivers Need Care Too.” It talked about what I believe caregivers need in return for the attention, care, support, assistance and love they give. In it, I said that those who care for others need something from those they care for, and from the rest of society. They need appreciation, validation, time away to refresh and re-energize themselves, understanding, support and recognition.

So, please accept this from me, one who has known caregivers and benefited from caregivers, and loved caregivers. Your work and your devotion do not go unnoticed, even if the one you care for may not be able to say “thank you.” You are appreciated. You are worthy. You are loved. You are respected. You make a difference. You have value. You are valued. Even if you never hear these words from those you care for, please accept them from me.

I am grateful.

Follow this journey on Bipolar Me.

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25 Things You Do as an Adult When You've Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse

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It has been said that “no one escapes childhood unscathed.” But sayings like these can have an especially significant meaning for a person who has experienced emotional abuse as a child. The effects of emotional abuse can be both debilitating and far-reaching, often extending out of childhood and into adolescence and adulthood. For many, experiencing emotional abuse at a young age can affect their self-worth and relationships. For some, emotional abuse may even have contributed to a current struggle with mental illness.

We wanted to know what kinds of effects childhood emotional abuse can have on adulthood, so we asked our mental health community to share one thing they do now that stemmed from the emotional abuse they experienced in their upbringing.

No matter what your experience of childhood abuse was, it is important to remember hope is never lost and there is help out there.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. “[I] can’t stand conflict, loud sudden noises, shouting and screaming or aggression in any form. [It] triggers my fight or flight, instantly.”

2. “I can’t accept compliments. When someone [compliments] me, my response would just just be ‘umm yeah’ or I’ll just smile awkwardly. I just figured out why… During my childhood, people just [noticed] my mistakes and not my achievements. So now it is hard for me to accept compliments.”

3. “I’m an overachiever. At everything and anything. I still feel the need to prove I’m good enough. I obsess about doing a job/task to perfection. And then I obsess about how I could do it better. [I worry] about others’ opinions way too much.”

4. “I always feel like I am doing everything wrong… It’s very hard to convince me I am good at something.”

5. “I become apologetic over everything. If someone doesn’t text back, I’ll believe they’re upset with me, and I’ll apologize. If I ask for something and annoy them, I’ll apologize. Everything becomes a situation where I feel like I’m to blame.”

6. “I’m basically a hermit. My home is my fortress. I have BPD, PTSD and anxiety. It’s so hard to work or apply myself in school or just life when every time I want to apply myself, I can’t help but run to the nearest exit to catch my breath. I constantly fear everyone around me.”

7. “I have problems trusting people. I keep people at [an] arm’s length. I never really let them into my life. I don’t allow them to know of my health problems and my mental illnesses. If I do let them in, it is rare and they [will] have known me for years. It takes a long time [for me] to build trust.”

8. “Indecisiveness. [It feels like] every choice I make is wrong even if I choose the option I’m told to take…I’m afraid to [be a] parent because I don’t want to ‘mess up’ my kid.” 

9. “I avoid saying anything that others might not agree with, which means I’m never being myself. I wear a mask of complete neutrality in any situation, because I’m so scared of anyone feeling negative towards me.”

10. “I’m very defensive which can come across cold or nasty. I also portray quite a lot of negativity which seems to be my barrier so I don’t get hurt.”

11. “I have trouble accepting any kind of love because growing up, it was always given with strings attached or used a tool for manipulation. I don’t trust that others have the capacity to love me unconditionally, so I hide away parts of myself, never allowing myself to experience the vulnerability that comes with being loved, chosen and accepted by others.”

12. “I feel the need to please everybody I deem ‘of authority’ and thus have a hard time getting my needs met. I strive too hard for [a] perfection that doesn’t exist, and then eventually, melt down when too many things are not up to the standards held in my past.”

13. “I find myself always explaining my every move. I explain why I bought something, why I did what I did, etc. I feel like people think I’m lying to them, so I owe them a detailed explanation. Also feeling as though if I say ‘no’ to someone, they’ll hate me. So even if I’m inconveniencing myself, I’ll say ‘yes.’”

14. “I avoid asking help from anyone because I don’t trust anyone. I believe if someone offers me a hand, there will always be something they [want to] ask in return. I have friends but I don’t have a best friend. I keep my distance from people. Automatically, my wall blocks anyone.”

15. “[I have] attachment issues, trust issues [and am] paranoid that everyone will leave me. A lot of this is part of my BPD. My sudden divorce also contributed to these behaviors.”

16. “I’m overly shy around people and struggle [with] having a voice. [I believe] no one wants to hear anything I have to say.”

17. “[I] won’t let anyone see the ‘bad’ side of myself.”

18. “I constantly think I’m not good enough and I’m not smart enough. [I] was told [this] all my childhood… I’ve gone back to university to prove to myself that I am smart enough, but it’s always there in the back of my mind, like a poison, reminding me I’m not good enough, not smart enough.”

19. “My whole childhood was emotional abuse. It is extremely hard for me to accept I have people in my life who actually care about me. That’s the worst one. I am nothing to myself so why would I matter to others?”

20. “I have a hard time making eye contact with people. I look away a lot when I’m speaking. I get startled very easily and it takes me awhile to get my heart rate back to normal.”

21. “I have major issues with anxiety and depression because of my childhood. The biggest factor is I cannot communicate well and I don’t know how to express my feelings with others because I am so used to just holding them inside because I wasn’t allowed to share how I felt. When tense situations arise, I get nauseous and uncomfortable, [and] my anxiety levels sky rocket. Definitely have a lot of emotional scars from my past, it’s been the hardest thing to conquer.”

22. “I never, ever fight back. I may cut toxic people out of my life with the help of amazing friends and professionals, but whenever a conflict is actively going on that involves someone attacking my character… I completely shut down. I let whatever they want to say wash over me until they tire themselves out. That’s what I had to do when I was younger. It was so much worse to fight back. I learned to let them yell themselves out.”

23. “Blaming myself for everything. I have to fight the urge to beat myself up constantly. I’ve also struggled with feeling like I’m not good enough, which makes things like school, dating and applying to jobs really hard.”

24. “I don’t really know who I am or what I truly think. Virtually everything I say seems to me to be a lie I’ve just fabricated for that particular situation. I have real problems trying to identify what I’m feeling.”

25. “Several things, but the main one was lashing out on social media for years. Controversial and angry statuses, just due to the anger inside of me. I have texts I sent my friend where I described just how much I felt this unsettling anger in my chest. Emotional abuse from peers at school to family [can] really [mess] you up. I then finally found a therapist who could help me and I’ve come a long way.

Thinkstock photo via openeyed11.


25 Things You Do as an Adult When You've Experienced Childhood Emotional Abuse
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18 Songs That Have Helped Survivors Find Hope After Sexual Assault

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

The aftermath of sexual assault trauma is complex and different for each individual experiencing it. While music cannot “cure” the pain left in the wake of a traumatic incident, for many individuals, music can be a comfort in recovery. Sometimes, songs can meet us right where we are in our struggle and give us hope for the future.

We wanted to know what songs gave sexual assault survivors hope, so we asked our mental health community to share what songs helped them in their recovery.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Til It Happens To You” by Lady Gaga

“It just sums up all the raw emotions I’ve felt over the years… It reminds me to ignore the people who victim blame because they never experienced what I’ve experienced, and unless they have, they’d never understand the battles I face. Music is one of the biggest things that helped me through those rough times.” — CK D.

2. “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” by Cher

“[This song] helps me throughout this process of reporting and talking to authorities about it.” — Tiana B.

3. “No More Drama” by Mary J. Blige

“Cause that’s all it seemed to bring me in some aspects of trusting people… So eliminating the drama (trauma) [helped me]. ‘No one’s ever gonna hurt me again!'” — Knowledge L.

4. “Recovery” by Frank Turner

“It pushed me to get into therapy and open up more.” — Carrie R.

5. “Warrior” by Demi Lovato

“The vocals are strong and the song is so powerful. It’s a song I could put on and feel like I had overcome so much just by being in the music. Healing doesn’t happen in a day or overnight, but the feeling of strength and power and survival can happen with one moment that sets off the right spark inside. This song set that spark off for me.” — Sarah C.

6. “Sleep Spent” by Death Cab for Cutie

“‘Sleep Spent’ by Death Cab for Cutie, which is odd because the song is more about alcoholism than assault, but the first half of the lyrics really helped me.” — Conor L.

7. “Elastic Heart” by Sia

“My ex was emotional and sexually abusive… ‘Elastic Heart’ by Sia helped me through the process of realizing everything he had done. It still hits me now, but the lyrics really resonated with me [at the time].” — Izzy D.

8. “Hall of Fame” by The Script feat. will.i.am

“Especially the line, ‘You can walk straight through hell with a smile.’” — Abbey T.

9. “Hero” by Mariah Carey

“The entire song, but especially, ‘So when you feel like hope is gone, look inside you and be strong and you’ll finally see the truth that a hero lies in you.’” — Mindi F.

10. “Not Ready to Make Nice” by Dixie Chicks

“It was my power after everything. I couldn’t change what happened, but I did have a right to my feelings around it.” — Jennifer V.

11. “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” by Simon and Garfunkel

“[This song] seems to be about transcendence and transformation, and resolve, while adequately describing loneliness and desperation.” — Stefanie H.

12. “Why” by Rascal Flatts

“It gave me strength and hope through remembering I am loved.” — Douglas T.

13. “Titanium” by David Guetta feat. Sia

“Sia was discussed during my counseling, so that’s always reminded me of that time in my life and how I’m still here and pulling through the dark days.”

14. “Blackbird” by The Beatles

“It helped me when I was in high school and discovering my sexuality and… [when I] had flashbacks.” — Sam B.

15. “The Warrior’s Code” by Dropkick Murphys

“I didn’t discover it til much later, but it reminds me I’m a warrior.” — Jennifer P.

16. “F*ckin’ Perfect” by P!nk

“[I’ve] been sexually assaulted multiple times throughout my life. Nothing but time and strength make it easier to cope, but music instills a solidarity like no other.” — Jennifer C.

17. “Human” by Christina Perri

“I was constantly guilty and second guessing my actions to be perfect and make him happy. This song reminded me I am only human and that means being imperfect. Even when I would do everything for him, it would never seem enough. This song helped me feel less alone and that what I was feeling was valid.” — Izzy D.

18. “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

“Won’t go into much [detail], but my song was and still is ‘I Will Survive.’ Enough said.” — Jan W.

What would you add?

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.

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What I Find More Supportive Than the Statement ‘Just Stay Positive’

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I will never forget the time I was reading a post on Facebook. Someone posted that their child went into cardiac arrest. I saw several comments to “just stay positive, everything will be fine.” Several hours later, the parent came back and updated that their child had passed away.

During my daughter’s battle with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect, I heard the same statement often. Just stay positive, everything will be OK. But what if everything is not OK? What if someone still dies, like my child did? This statement seems to scream at me “You must not have stayed positive enough, if only you would have stayed positive, maybe you would not have lost your child.”

There are many variations of this phrase. “Just stay positive,” “You need to just pray hard,” “Keep your chin up” or “Only think good thoughts.” In my opinion, these statements reflect our culture. We live in a society that often does not want to face or acknowledge pain. However, running from the crisis does not change anything. All the positive thinking in the world does not change the fact that the situation may be bad; someone could still die or suffer greatly. Telling someone they or their child “will be just fine” might not be helpful.

Another thing I believe it can do is to make a person feel weak in their beliefs or faith. If you tell someone everything will be OK if they pray hard, what is that saying about their beliefs or religion if everything is not OK?

Finally, and what I believe is probably the most important reason to avoid telling someone to stay positive, is that it can be minimizing. If someone has an illness, telling them to stay positive can be like telling them to toughen up. It can stop the person from opening up to you as they may begin to feel that they have to appear optimistic, maybe even happy, despite their pain.  This statement doesn’t allow someone to be authentic in their pain whether physical, emotional or both.

Here are some ideas I personally find more supportive then telling someone to “stay positive.” If you want to offer encouragement or support to someone who has an illness, try to do something practical for the family. Bring a meal, do some chores, deliver groceries, babysit, mow the lawn, pick up mail. When someone is going through a hard time, it can be difficult to have the energy to ask for help. So instead of saying “let me know if you need anything,” ask, “What is something practical I could do to lessen your load?” If the person is not able to ask for help, gently suggest something you could do. Another helpful thing is to open yourself up for conversation. Make yourself truly available to hear the pain they are going through, even if it is hard to hear. Take time for the person, ask questions, let yourself feel empathy, acknowledge the difficulty of what they are going through. Nothing has meant more to me as we battled my daughter’s heart condition and dealt with the grief of losing her then when a person cries with me and lets me be true to my emotions.

It is more than OK to send positive thoughts or pray, but my suggestion is not to make any promises. All the positive thinking in the world still may not yield a positive outcome.

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