Jennifer Wilson

@jennifer-wilson | contributor
Jennifer Wilson lives in Bartlesville, Oklahoma with her husband and seven of her thirteen children. She likes to write poetry, fiction and memoir in between homeschooling and playing the banjo. Occasionally she hides in the closet and ponders the universe. She blogs at
Community Voices

Emotion Superstore

Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Wellness is a choice. Healing is a choice. Wholeness is a choice.

All these things are just sitting on a shelf in the Emotion Superstore, one aisle over from depression, pessimism, anguish, brokenness, sickness, grief and suffering!

The people who are struggling are just too lazy to move a few feet to choose the good stuff instead of the bad. They don’t want to do the work it takes to choose the proper items. Man, I’m glad I’m a diligent go-getter.

Or maybe they’re ignorant. They wander the aisles, up and down, and can’t read the labels on the boxes because they’re illiterate. Why don’t they learn to read? It’s so easy! I’m glad I learned how to read a long time ago.

But most likely, they WANT the bad stuff. They like how it tastes as it’s ingested; they prefer the sugary sweetness of despair that rots their bones instead of the wholesome taste of joy that makes them grow strong. I’m glad I grew up on nutritious emotions and can tell the difference.

It must give them a lot of satisfaction, choosing all those bad items. They must love all the attention it gets them from all the people like them. Otherwise, why would they do it? There’s literally no good reason they would choose to feel terrible rather than excellent, like we do.

Thank god we’re not like them! That would suck. It sure is good that we know better. Now that I think of it, we just are better. And that’s the way we’re going to stay.

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Community Voices

The Black Hole

If you could see
the thin veneer

that’s hiding all the rage and fear

If you could see
the house of cards

that quivers with the weight of scars

If you could see
the reed that stacks

upon the camel’s trembling back

If you could see
the void in space

that no amount of light escapes

You’d know one crack,
one breath, one straw

means all is swallowed by the maw

whose growing edge
creeps over me

event horizon I can’t flee

The wormhole sucks
me far away

to distant regions dead and grey

Where joy is gone
despair is vast

and no amount of faith can last

To get back home
my only hope

is for someone to cast a rope

of fibers strong
and cords of love

that they are gripping from above

so I may climb
hand over hand

return again to sunlit-lands

and seek again
to run this race
release the pain
and find my place.

Borderline Personality Disorder
Mental Health

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Advice for Mothers With Bipolar Disorder Who Are Struggling

I get it. Some days you wake up feeling like you can conquer the world: you’re full of optimism, excited about life, charged with energy and ready to take on anything. The voices in your head are all happy and enthusiastic, encouraging you to greater heights and brighter vistas. You know — you just know — that everything is going to be all right, and that the choices you are making as a mother for your children are right and good and helping them grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults. Then there are days like this one. Your eyes open and you wish they hadn’t. You burrow back under the covers and pray that some miracle of space-time would occur and allow you to sleep forever. When that fails, you drag your body out of bed, feeling like there are weights attached to your ankles. Taking a shower feels like an impossible task, so you skip it, hoping that dry shampoo and a messy bun will suffice for one more day. The voices in your head are dark and dismal. Your choices are bad, they tell you; your decisions are flawed, your children will grow into damaged people who resent you for being such a wretched excuse for a mother. You doubt that anyone loves you. You doubt that you’re doing a good job. You doubt that your children will forgive you for your many flaws. You doubt that you’ll ever get life right. You doubt that you can even put one more foot in front of the other. You doubt your partner, your friends, your therapist, your psychiatrist, even your own children when they tell you it’s OK, that everyone is flawed, and that you are enough. You don’t feel like enough. Living with bipolar disorder is difficult under any circumstances, but as a mother, it colors and affects you in ways you never could have foreseen as a childless woman. Your responsibility to those precious souls feels overwhelming during the depressive episodes, and you worry they will interpret your sad moods as rejection. That they will see you withdraw and blame themselves. That they will grow up believing the unpredictable behavior, dramatic mood swings and suicidal ideation are normal. You want to be healthy and balanced for them. You want to be fun and involved. You want to model stability and moderation. It just feels so impossible at times. But look at you. You are here, now. You are holding the hands and wiping the faces and giving the hugs and trying so hard. Maybe the house is a wreck. Maybe the children get a little more screen time than usual. Maybe they have cereal for dinner. Maybe some things have to give in order for you to have time to find your way back out of the hole and into the light. So you see your doctor. You take your meds. You talk to friends. And slowly, the doubts will cease to scream, and hope will raise its head once more. You are here, and that’s what’s important. You are modeling self-care to your children, and that is crucial. You are honest, and vulnerable, and real with them. There are no facades here. They know that Mom struggles, and that’s OK. Everyone does. If there was one thing I could extend to you today, when the doubts clamor and the darkness surrounds, it is grace. Grace means simply being gentle with yourself. Forgiving yourself. Allowing yourself to be flawed, and realizing that nobody gets it right 100% of the time. Grace gives breathing room when perfectionism squeezes and suffocates. Everybody needs it. Especially you, the mama who is burdened so heavily with a disorder she never asked for. Hold on tight to grace, and hold out for better days. They’re on the way.

Trusting in God During Mental Health Treatment

So I was in the mental hospital. Again. For suicidal ideation. Again. I wanted to be done with this life, wanted it so badly I could taste it. I’m feeling much better now. Something about focused time alone, group therapy, meeting other people with the same struggles and feeling less alone, medication adjustments and one-on-ones with counselors and doctors, makes all the difference. I met many fantastic people. People with so many various sorrows. So many diverse difficulties. People heartbreakingly young and heartbreakingly old. I was truly humbled to be in their presence. They taught me a lot about being human, about being real, about being me. There are no walls in the mental asylum.“What are you in for?” is a normal, even expected, question, and one that is almost always answered with brutal honesty. Compassion overflows. It’s a (hopefully) safe space. Some people talk to themselves, and to invisible entities. Some are volatile and noisy. Some are withdrawn and quiet. Some become friends. All have something to teach. All are worthy of grace. How do I carry what I have learned into my daily life? It is a legitimate question, and perhaps one with numerous answers. For me, it is to focus on each day and its daily issues, and not to dwell on the past and what I cannot change. It means to examine each thought and emotion and ask, “Is this true? Is this beneficial?” and if it is not, to toss it away. It means not living in the future either, where nothing is certain and fears have fertile soil in which to grow. Some of the best people in the world have struggled with mental illness. Mine is bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. Yours may be called something else. The most important thing to remember is: you are not alone. As a Christian, I look to the Bible for some semblance of comfort in my illness. I didn’t think the word had much to say about it until I looked closely at the story of Nebuchadnezzar. Did you know that this pagan king actually wrote an entire chapter in a book of the Old Testament? He ruled Babylon, and went “mad” towards the end of his life. As the Bible puts it, he ate grass like a cow and grew his fingernails out like claws. In the end, however, he was restored to health by miraculous means, and he praised the Lord as a result (Daniel, chapter 4). Can I do the same? Can I see the Lord’s hand in my healing, even if it comes via pharmaceuticals and therapy and modern medicine? Yes. I can. I can bless the Lord’s name in the thick of it, in spite of everything and with the comforting knowledge that I am in the company of kings. Even when I don’t understand what’s going on, even when my sanity is tenuous, I can speak God’s name, for it is the very sound of my breathing. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted That’s me. I freely admit it. Is my God big enough for me to throw myself in his lap and pound on his chest in frustration and fury? Is my God big enough to cover me while I thrash and wallow and gnash my teeth? In the ashes? In my brokenness and anguish? Can I admit that I am broken? And be OK with that? Can I open my lips and thank him for all this life offers? I can. And I will. My very life depends upon it. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via elinedesignservices

How to Help Someone With Bipolar Disorder and BPD

Dear friends, I know you mean well. I know you want the best for me. I appreciate more than you know that you are standing by, wanting to help and to give advice. The fact that you have stuck with me this far speaks volumes to me, and I am not about to discount that. However, there is one thing I’d like to get straight. These illnesses I have — bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) — are often lifelong battles. I’m not trying to be dismal, just honest. There is nothing that I can take that will guarantee the symptoms will forever disappear. I am on medication and it is good, but it isn’t always 100 percent effective at keeping the bad feelings, the downward spirals, the depression and anxiety at bay. Sometimes I will go downhill. Sometimes I will get depressed. Sometimes I will rage against the things that make me scared and sad. When this happens, I know it makes you sad, too. I understand it makes you desperate to help. However, when it seems like you’re frantically casting about for an instant “cure” it only makes me feel worse. If you suggest that I call my psychiatrist so that she can put me on yet another medication, it makes me feel like you just want me “fixed.” Like who I am right now is unacceptable. Instead, maybe just listen. Maybe just sit with me. Maybe just hold my hand. Maybe just love me through it and don’t frantically look for a cure. The spirals and rages do pass, eventually. If you sit beside me and help me to “ride them out,” if you help me to remember that hope lies just on the other side of the storm, then it will be very good medicine indeed. I want to feel safe with you, to let you see the darkness in me, bare all my flaws and foibles, and know that this illness is not going to scare you away. This is what I need, most of all. Thank you for your steadfast love, Me. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Archv

What Depression Sounds Like in My Head

Sometimes, this weird thing happens in my heart, and it feels like the machine, which heretofore was chugging along the rails clickity-clack, just flies completely off the track. Joy flees. Hope evaporates. The truth dies down to a whisper; the doubts and fears shriek and gibber. Inside my head it’s a tornado of thoughts. They fly back and forth faster than I can even process them. I find it hard to move, like my limbs have weights attached. Just getting into the shower requires monumental effort. Everybody thinks you’re stupid, the thoughts shout. I am stupid. People are sick and tired of your bullshit, my brain asserts. I’m sick and tired of my bullshit. Nobody cares, nobody understands. Nobody wants to get close. Nobody should get close. It’s dark in here. Really, really dark. People prefer the light. I have none to offer. These, and many, many other thoughts consume me. I grasp for medication. I punch walls, punch myself, retreat, pull away, dream about the sleep that never ends in miserable awakening. Despair. I want to run away. Far, far away, so I stop hurting the people I love. They would be better off without me; this is what I feel is the truth. Unfortunately, I can’t run away from my own brain. This is life in my head. And now I’m supposed to say something uplifting and hopeful, like it will pass and you am loved but I can’t. Not right now. The truth is, sometimes you just hold on. Sometimes you write a depressing essay just to get the thoughts out of your head. Maybe the best thing to remember, at times like these, is you are not alone . Maybe the best thing to do is go out to The Mighty and read all the articles about your illness and find comfort there in the embrace of those who really do get it. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Mental Illness: Relative Doubts Mother's Love for Her Children

I was just a week out of the mental hospital for suicidal ideation when you said it. “No mother who truly loves her children would ever think of killing herself.” I’m sure you meant well. Maybe you were thinking you were the first one to ever voice such a thought, that perhaps such a radical idea might shake me out of my destructive pathways. You were wrong. Instead, your words destroyed my newly-burgeoning sense of well-being. My optimism, already fragile, quavered and began to crumble. You see, I respect you. I love you. I have nothing but good will towards you. I only wish I could convey to you the depth of how wrong you are. I love my children with all the power of my fractured heart. I would gladly throw myself in front of a bullet or fight a bear with my bare hands for any one of them. They usually keep my feet firmly grounded to the earth; they are my reason for being and my all in all. But sometimes, you see, the thoughts in my head begin to spiral. They’d all be better off without you, they whisper. You are only screwing up their lives. Soon, they no longer whisper. They scream and shout, day and night. I begin to believe them. They’ll be stronger without you! They’ll move on and be happier! The most recent time this began to happen, and when I began to contemplate the best way to make it happen, I recognized it as a very dangerous sign. I knew the voices were false; I just didn’t know how to make them stop. So I committed myself to the hospital in the hope I could be safe and feel better. Fortunately, it worked. I do feel better. I was moving forward. Until your comment. It took a supreme amount of willpower to prevent myself from going to a very dark place after your words, but I managed to do it. For this, I thank a stellar support group and proper medication. Mental illness is not a choice. No one makes the decision to have it, or any disease. I recognize that I have a mental illness, bipolar disorder. This can make me susceptible to drastic mood swings and irrational thinking. Maybe you’re one of those who has the luxury of believing such a diagnosis is bunk, that psychology is a farcical science. If you are, then we haven’t much more to say to each other. For both of our sakes and the sakes of our precious families, let’s strive to understand one another instead. I only want to educate and inform. I hope you can find it in your heart to listen. Image via Thinkstock. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . Follow this journey on Crazy. Real. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Borderline Personality Disorder: The Worst Thing Friends Can Say to Me

What do I think is the worst thing you can say to someone who struggles with borderline personality disorder (BPD)? Nothing at all. Let me clarify: Say we’ve been having an argument. You may think it would be best to just go to sleep and leave things to cool off until morning. So you roll over in bed, turn your back to me, and say nothing. Or we’re texting, and things have become heated. You leave the last text from me just hanging there because you’re tired of the discussion and you don’t think there’s anything left to say. Bad move. Nothing is the worst thing you can “say” to me as someone who struggles with BPD. You see, having BPD, I can have difficulty just “letting things go” in a disagreement. I don’t just “get over it” when things go wrong. Seemingly insignificant things can start a spiral of self-loathing and despair that is often impossible to overcome without excruciating amounts of effort. While you may think just saying nothing is better than saying something “wrong,” to me it is actually the worst thing you can do. Without closure, my mind goes into overdrive. First, there’s the anger. I have all kinds of things I need to say, to get them out of my head so they stop circling endlessly in there. But you’ve made it clear that you’re done, so I can’t. I’m stuck obsessing over them for the next 24 hours or more. Then there’s the self-recrimination. You hate me. Obviously, you simply can’t stand me anymore. I’m worthless. Not worth the time of day. Let’s face it, I’m sh*t. After that comes the bitterness and fatigue. I become so exhausted from the inner monologue that I shut down and spiral into depression. Nobody cares. What’s the use in trying anyway? I understand that sometimes you may walk away because you just can’t handle the drama anymore. Sometimes you may have to walk away so you don’t lose what little patience you have left. But maybe reading this will help you understand the effect it has on me. Walking away, turning away, not returning a text, giving me no closure is saying, to my mind: I don’t care about you. I don’t care what you have to say. You’re not worth my time anymore. This relationship/friendship is over. So the next time you’re finding yourself tempted to just let the sun go down on your anger, please reconsider. Let me have closure. Please. It means the world to me. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Mental Illness: Do Diagnoses Define You?

Sometimes it’s hard to explain just what having mental illness means. Sometimes it’s hard to know just where the illness ends and the real person begins. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. These terms do not define me, but they do help explain me. I am not my illness, but I am responsible for keeping tabs on it, for self-monitoring and for being aware of its place in my life. I think of it as a dog. A feral, mastiff-type animal with a strong body and an even stronger will. If I don’t keep it in line each day, it can easily overpower me. I medicate it. And I learn how to dominate it, to keep it submissive. But it doesn’t like it. It longs to take advantage. Sometimes I get weary of controlling it and it leaps at the opportunity to run rampant. I lose focus. I crave excitement. I act foolishly. The dog grabs me by the scruff of my neck and shakes me until my teeth rattle. On some level, I enjoy it. I get a thrill from being between the monster’s jaws, not knowing where it will take me or where I will wind up. All too soon, however, the highs end. Reality hits. And I’ve done it again. I’ve hurt those around me, those I care about, those I love dearly. They are dealing with the fallout, wondering if they can ever trust me again, wondering if I even care at all. I do care. I want to be trusted. Medication will be adjusted, therapies tried. The dog will be fitted for a new collar, though it will whine and scratch and struggle to get loose. I will never be free of the dog. It is a part of me, and I a part of it, just as my heart and lungs are a part of me. Hopefully, those who love me can see that and can extend grace for the times that are overwhelming. If not, perhaps they are not the people who need to be in my life at all. Image via Thinkstock.

The Voice That Tells Me to Hurt Myself

There is a girl I know, a girl who is closer to me than anyone else in the whole world. She talks to me all day long, in a familiar and cajoling voice. She never fails to respond when I feel rejected or alone; she encourages me and puts her arm around my shoulder. “You really shouldn’t be friends with that person anymore,” she whispers. “They will only hurt you again and again. Better off without them.” “Rejection is too painful to risk,” she says. “And you’re sure to be rejected if you put yourself out there. I mean, really, look at you. You’re far too crazy to be accepted. Let’s retreat and stay safe.” She especially likes it when I’m feeling manic. “Let’s have a great time!” she urges. “Forget everybody else, let loose a little and be free!” “You only live once!” she cries. The thing about the Other Girl, however, is that she is always, inevitably, dead wrong. She got me into trouble, this Other Girl. She caused me to question people’s motives, to mistrust even the closest of friends, to push my husband far away. She tempted me to commit reckless acts that would leave a wake of devastation in my path. In order to contain her, I found within my psyche a secret place, a sort of sewer deep within the recesses of my being, where I could shove her, along with all my disappointments and fears and worries and anguish. She didn’t like it in there. It was dark, and she raged to get free. I could always feel her there, pushing and straining at the manhole cover. I stood on it with all my strength to keep her contained. One day, she overpowered me. She exploded out of the sewer, scattering the accumulated sh*t of a lifetime as she went. She screamed at me that I was worthless, that I would never be whole, that the world would be a better place without me. I believed her. She was so strong, and so convinced, and so angry. I could not withstand her onslaught. I tried to take my life. The Other Girl told me it was my only option, and I listened. In the hospital later, The Other Girl told me to wait, and when we got out, we’d do it again, but properly this time, so no one could intervene. She was so emphatic, and I was too weary to stuff her back into the sewer. I looked around and the mess we had made together, and felt utterly defeated. Fortunately, there were people in the hospital who knew how to help me. They knew about the Other Girl, and they weren’t afraid of her. They knew how to quiet her voice, how to render her impotent. They helped me clean up the mess; they let me know that now that it was out in the open, it could be dealt with. They taught me not to stuff my emotions into the sewer, they taught me how to deal with them in healthy ways. The Other Girl still exists. She is a part of me and always will be. But I know the feeling of her hand on my shoulder, and I know how to release its grip. Perhaps you know the Other Girl, too. Perhaps she is even now telling you that the world would be better off without you. I am here to tell you that she is a liar. Don’t let her get the best of you. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.