K. J.

@kj | contributor
Blogger. Survivor. Writing of recovery from Childhood Abuse, PTSD, MDD, GAD, and living with Chronic Pain.
K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

How to 'Honor' Abusive Parents When You Are a Christian

Christians everywhere are aware of the words of Ephesians 6:2 — “Honor your father and mother.” For those of us with abusive parents, this is a very hard commandment to keep. It is one that brings much angst and guilt, tears and pain as we wrestle with our desire to please God. It is one that is fraught with confusion as we try to figure out how best to honor them, without harming ourselves. After much tearful prayer, I came to the conclusion that just as there are different types of families (for example, loving ones and abusive ones) there are also different kinds of honoring. When we honor abusive parents in a way that protects us and our own families, we are in fact still fulfilling the commandment. We need not feel guilt that we do not honor them through close contact – although that may be considered traditional in our society, or among members of our Christian congregation. Which brings me to the big question. How do we honor abusive parents? We honor them by not returning the abuse they gave to us. We honor them by praying on their behalf for them to find the courage and knowledge to improve, change and transform their own lives. We honor them by not enabling their bad behavior, or allowing them to continue their abusive ways with us, or others under our own protection. We honor them by giving them clear boundaries and consequences if they are not remorseful, repentant or willing to work towards ending their abusive ways. We honor them by stopping the cycle, not allowing their abusive legacy to continue in how we treat our own children. We honor them by being good people who bring honor to God and establish a good reputation for our own family. Remember the sons of Korah. Although their father, and his friends and their families died for their rebellion, the sons of Korah were saved. Numbers 26:11 reminds us of this: “However, the sons of Korah did not die that day.” Come could have reasoned that they were not obeying their father when they refused to support him in his rebellion against Moses and Aaron, but instead they realized their loyalty to God and their love for others was more important than loyalty to any human when they are behaving in a bad way. So while we do our best to honor our parents, it does not always mean putting them first in our lives to the exclusion of our own mental and even physical health. We do what we can to take care of their physical and emotional needs, and we pray for their spiritual needs, but the time we spend with them may need to be limited for our own protection, and that of those we love.

K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

Why I Struggle With the #MeToo Movement as an Abuse Survivor

The #MeToo movement is gaining momentum and so many smart, talented and strong women have spoken out about their own experience with abuse and people who felt they had a right to their body. But I struggle, and I’m not sure if I am deeply proud of it or really triggered by it. Probably equal parts of both. Because I struggle every single day of my life with my own distress — I have since I was 8 years old. 8 years old. An age of curious innocence, rock collecting, daydreaming about the future, bug catching, stargazing, joy and laughter — or so it should be, in a world where children are able to be young and carefree. That wasn’t my world. Like so many others, my innocence was torn away, along with my dignity. I was robbed of the carefree joyfulness that most little children experience; instead, years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse left me feeling totally broken and worthless, terrified and hiding away inside a vivacious exterior. There is some comfort in knowing you are not alone in your trauma, but there is also pain. The pain of remembering things you would sooner put behind you is bad enough, but there is also the pain of comparison. “ If they had that and they still went on to become who they are, why didn’t I do better? ” or “ Their story is worse than mine, I don’t have the right to be upset. ” I am in two minds about #MeToo. While I am so thankful that women are united as a group and now feeling strong enough to speak up, I also find myself hurting from it too. The constant stories are hard to cope with — as an empath I hurt for them, and as a woman, I hurt for me. 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. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo via Unsplash

K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

Tips for Accepting Help When You Live With Chronic Illness

It is hard when you are sick – it doesn’t matter what the cause of your chronic illness is either, it may be physical, mental or a combination of both! The damage illness causes can be devastating to many people; their lives may change irrevocably. One of the most painful things though to deal with is not the sickness itself, but the loneliness that can come from the isolation of living with your disease. Most people want to help, at least in the early stages. They may say things along the lines of “Let me know if I can do something” or “Can I do something for you?” These offers are mostly genuine and well-meaning, but they can be very hurtful too, because they can make us feel more alone and invisible when not followed up on. However, over the past year or so, something I have learned is that I have a part to play in my own support! If someone offers a kindness I need to do more than say, “Thanks, that would be nice,” and leave them to try and figure out what it is I need. I have learned that when someone offers help, we owe it to them to be appreciative and to then ask them for specific things so they know what to do. Personally, if I offer someone assistance I try to be more specific by asking, “What can I do for you?” instead of “Let me know,” but most people do not think of the difference the phrasing of the question means. Be honest. “Thank you, I’d love your help. Maybe we could just have coffee and chat? I really appreciate it when people visit me and we can simply talk, I get really lonely sometimes! Maybe Monday, but can we confirm Sunday night or early Monday? Just in case either of us aren’t up to it?” “I really love it when people text/call me. I do struggle with loneliness as I just don’t feel well enough to go out very often anymore. Those texts/calls have been such a blessing and make me feel loved which really helps me feel encouraged to keep going.” Be specific. “Yes please, would you be free Wednesday? I’m going in to day surgery, I need to be in town at 8 a.m. and haven’t sorted out a way to get the kids to school yet. If we were to drop them off at your home at 7 a.m., would you be able to run them to school? That would be such a big help to us all.” “Thank you, I would really appreciate a meal for the family. Some nights I just feel too exhausted to cook, and feel so guilty when I’m offering up cereal for the fourth night in a row!” “I need a script from the pharmacy, but am not feeling well enough to drive today. If you are in the area, I’d love it if you could pick it up for me and drop it in?” Be appreciative. “I appreciate it so much when you keep inviting me to events. I’m sorry I can’t often come, but it really means a lot that you continue to ask and make me feel so included. Thank you again for the invitation.” “Thank you so much for inviting the kids to the park. It means so much to us all that you do kind things like that for them. I hope one day I feel up to repaying your thoughtfulness.” Often when we feel lonely we tend to start isolating ourselves more and more. We may feel worthless and start to assume that others see us as worthless too. We might feel unworthy of help, so when others offer to help, we judge that they don’t really mean it. We might compare their lives to ours and assume that because they have their own issues, they don’t have the time, energy or resources to follow through with the help they offered. It is not up to us to judge if their offer was sincere or not – we are not mind-readers and assuming we know is an unhealthy thought process. Let’s take our friends – and strangers too – on face value. Think of how much joy and satisfaction you get from helping another. It feels great, doesn’t it? While it would be nice if people just knew what we needed and offered it specifically, they cannot read our mind either. There is a quote attributed to John Lennon that says, “When you’re drowning, you don’t say, ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.” We must scream! If we wait for people to read our minds as to what we need, we are going to drown, and we also steal from them the joy of helping another person. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

The Truth About Not Having a Biological Family Around the Holidays

It is that time of year again — the end of year, where even if you do not celebrate Christmas (like me and my household), the chaos of the season still brushes off on everyone far and wide. With this bustling and hustling comes an innate sense of loneliness that I struggle with each and every year. Don’t get me wrong, I have a beautiful family that we have created for ourselves, and I love them dearly. Yet, somewhere inside I feel torn apart just the same as I watch those around me going off on family trips and having their relatives to stay. I want what they have. I covet their happy families that have been there since their birth, the ones who have seen them grow up through infancy, supported them through their angst-filled teen years, those who have always been there to celebrate all the good times and console them through the bad. The family we have are as close as blood could make us, and I love them more than words really can say, but there is a huge chunk of my life they don’t know about and never can. Watching groups gathering together, seeing them happy and forgetting all their cares, forgetting that anyone outside their huge circle even exists… it hurts. With that hurt comes guilt because I hate to be this way. I feel guilty that I’m not “grateful enough” for what I do have, the amazing people who choose to be in my life — and I feel guilty because I am jealous of what someone else has instead of just feeling pure happiness for their joy and stable family lives. To be jealous of someone else goes against everything I hold dear to my heart. It makes me feel like a bad, selfish person. But there it is, the ugly, bitter, horrid truth: I hate the holiday season. I hate the way it makes me long for what I don’t have and the way it makes me feel lonely and sad. I abhor the bitterness and resentment that comes from those feelings, and I dislike the selfishness of not seeming grateful enough for the wonderful things I do indeed have instead. This year is probably the best in a long time. I am becoming much more accepting of the fact that not all of us have a good family. Many of us have suffered traumatic abuse at the hands of those who are related to us by blood. The genetic code that ties us together does not mean much in this sometimes hateful world where many families tear each other apart. Family does not need to be biological. Some of us will make our own families with a great partner, children we love and friends who choose us or whom we get to choose. Family can grow in the heart instead, and slowly we will make the memories together. It is happening now, I can feel it, but I am still a bit bitter and sad just the same and probably always will be regretful for the dream that will never be. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image by verbaska_studio

K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

How My 'Old' Friends Help Me Through Depression

It took me a long time to realize I was a square peg in a round hole. No matter how hard I tried, I’ve never felt like I fit in with those my age. At each stage of life, I assured myself I’d fit in at the next. It didn’t happen. In recent times, it has become even more difficult to be social because my failing health — both mental and physical — has resulted in my stopping work. As a family our budget is modest, there is no room for meals out and nights of cocktails. It would be a lie to say the realization I mentioned above came easily — it did not! I spent many hours, weeks, months, maybe even years crying about feeling lonely, isolated and left out. Despite the fact I’ve felt so uncomfortable when trying to slip into the groups I have thought I should be a part of (I have tried repeatedly, for myself and for my kids) it only resulted in loneliness that has been horrifying in its intensity, and terribly bad for my mental health. The enlightenment I’d been seeking all my life came in January this year. Just past turning 34 years of age, I finally was struck with clarity. After a particularly difficult relapse into depression, I realized something that changed my outlook so much — I am good enough how I am, and I do not, and should not need to keep trying to change to make friends with those who are not interested in loving me back, only in receiving — these are not the people I should be chasing for approval. I stopped contorting myself to try and fit where I didn’t belong, and started looking for those who love me how I am — those who want me in their lives, not those who only want what I can do for them. Who were these beautiful people I found when I stopped looking in the wrong places? They were the old lady friends and the old men friends too! When I say “old,” I only mean it in a technical way, they are young and sprightly in their souls — they are fun and loving, and full of kindness and vigor. For those of you who may still be seeking your place in the world, here are a few reasons why older ones may make the best friends, and why you should never give up trying to find where you fit! They don’t care that you stay in on Friday and Saturday nights. There is no need to feel guilty canceling plans for dinner at that swanky restaurant because a last minute bill came in — you never made plans in the first place! Plus when you do make plans, they don’t even mind if you leave after half an hour because you’re tired — they understand that sometimes your body doesn’t care how much you wanted to be there and that it makes the rules. They value their alone time, and respect you for needing yours. They know tea and biscuits are always a good idea. Really, very little needs to be said about this. There is barely anything that can’t be solved or at least helped by a good cup of tea, a biscuit and a chat with a friend — older people live by this philosophy, and it is a darn good one. It is amazing how the stories can flow when your fingers are wrapped around the warmth of a tea cup — if you are having a particularly bad day, add an extra spoon of sugar and settle in. They are warm and accepting of the difficulties people can face in life. Older friends seem to be so accepting of others mental, physical and even social issues, and are only too happy to give you support, and they love to have someone who is willing to listen and empathize with them, too. They have “lived” experience in how life can twist and turn, not once have these beautiful friends told me to “get over” my depression, or asked in a frustrated tone if I am “still not better” in regards to my chronic pain. Instead they offer a hug and empathy, along with a listening ear and open heart. They understand what it means to value their friendships. Time and unforeseen circumstances befall us all. They’ve lived through loss themselves and appreciate that being there for each other is more than a catch phrase on a Hallmark card. I’ve never known anyone to be as loving, or as thankful as older people often are. They value their friendships, old and new, and make sure that you know you are loved. They have no time for fakeness, peer pressure or mind games. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense — their friendship is genuine, and they ask the same from you. Approach everything with a real and honest heart and you will fit in just fine. Plus they value the courage it takes to say, “No” and won’t pressure you to join in anything you can’t or do not want to. They know how to accept your love with gratitude. This is the thing I have found the most beautiful about older ones, they are gracious. They accept your love, be it in the form of a home cooked meal, a cupcake you saved just for them or even just a hug when you see them with gratefulness — they are thankful that you noticed their need, and they warm your heart by genuine acceptance and warmth. It warms my heart to see them smile lovingly at my children as they offer up a homemade card, or to hug my husband because he helped them with their mobile phone. Others of lesser years would often not think of these as anything to be thankful for, instead expecting it is a right to have attention and help from others. Older ones are often left behind and forgotten about, their families have grown and left home, often moving interstate or even overseas — some have lost their mates in death, or suffer from ill health themselves. Just because they are older, they should never be discounted for all they still have to give, and to receive, some of the most cherish friends I will ever have are more than 30 to 50 years older than me. I regret that I spent so many years trying to fit in with the groups that seemed age appropriate — friendship truly does not have an age limit on it. You can be friends with those who are younger than you, you can be friends with those the same age as you, and you can certainly be friends with those who are older than you. Of all the people I have come to know, the “old lady” and “old man” friends are forever going to be my favorite! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via sanjagrujic.

K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

13 Observations I Made After Being Hospitalized for My Mental Health

Editor’s note: Please see a doctor before starting or stopping a medication. One year ago, I was close to being released from an inpatient program in a private psychiatric hospital. When I was admitted two weeks earlier, the lovely nurse asked if I had been here before. I smiled through my tears and said, “Yeah, but it was just to visit a friend — she was ‘crazy!’” He gave me a rye smile and continued on with his questions. It was such an eye-opening experience for me. I was absolutely terrified when I was admitted, but when I left, it was almost sad to say goodbye to the place I had started to feel so safe in. At the time, I still felt ashamed of being admitted to a mental clinic. I was ashamed of my anxiety and depression. But now I look back at the experience with a thankful spirit. Being there did not make me “crazy.” Being there made me, and all the other patients there, brave. These are a few of the observations I made about myself and about getting help while I was there. I hope they might help others who are in similar circumstances. 1. Nothing prepares you for entering a mental health facility. It is truly a shock to realize you have reached such a low point that your last hope is to accept hospitalization. Nothing prepared me for the shock of being away from my family and living with strangers — it was quite frightening. 2. Even professionals sometimes think I am “fine” because of the mask I wear. I noticed that while other patients received extra attention from the nurses, I was left alone except for the hourly knock on my door or glance in my direction to check if I was still breathing. Putting on a mask each morning hid the extent of my illness. I am sure that most of the professionals there questioned my psychiatrists for having such a “healthy” patient admitted to the facility. It made me realize that to get the help, I needed to become more vulnerable and open. 3. I had to realize that I wanted to get better and it’s pointless being there if you don’t do what the professionals ask of you. Most importantly, it really is totally pointless being there if you do not do what is asked of you and work to get better. I was asked to promise that I would try not to self-harm. I was asked to go to daily therapy groups and asked to see my doctor twice weekly. They were all things that were really difficult for me to do, but it seemed that I would be wasting time and money if I was not going to at least try to start to heal by taking advantage of the things offered to me. 4. It is hard to sleep when you’re on hourly suicide watch. It is really alarming when you know that someone opens the door and watches you sleep for a few seconds every hour. I was really quite afraid and felt terribly vulnerable, but I also learned that it was possible for people to be trustworthy too. Not once in those two weeks did anyone overstep boundaries and try to harm me or take advantage of my weakness. 5. Hospital food is extra terrible when you have half a dozen food allergies. I still remember the day the fill in cook tried to tell me that the pizza for dinner was fine for me to have. One look at the cheesy, crispy gluten-filled dish made me shudder. I’m a very sensitive celiac with a dairy allergy, peanut allergy and banana allergy, plus a few intolerances that I try to ignore. There were a few nights where I retreated back to my room and nibbled on the rice crackers that my husband had brought in for me. I lost a lot of weight in those two weeks because I was terrified to eat. 6. Medication is not the enemy. I had so many bad experiences with medication in the past, including suspected serotonin syndrome, which cause me to go cold turkey off my medication. I was unwilling and incredibly frightened to attempt to find an antidepressant that would work because I was quite sure that there was unlikely to be one. But this time was different, my doctor started me slowly and worked up to larger doses. There were barely any side effects and I started to feel more alert and balanced within a few days. Just because one, or even ten medications, have not worked in the past, does not mean that all hope is lost. 7. Art therapy is very effective. It was not exactly high on my to-do list, but since it was expected that I would attend at least two to three therapy sessions each day, and I wasn’t keen on going to the relaxation group or yoga, it was essential that the art group was attended. But what I found was that it was rather enjoyable and soothing! The mindfulness and focus needed to repeatedly draw lines and curves to make an image appear was very therapeutic, and something I have continued to do over the past year at home. 8. Mental illness affects all types of people and professions, and addicts are not what I pictured in my mind. There is no rhyme or reason to who is attacked by mental health issues, and addictions are, in my opinion, simply the result of self-medicating to try and feel better. I saw old and young, male and female, professional and blue collar, and mothers and fathers who were all battling the same things that I was. We were all unique, and yet, the same. Mental illness takes many forms and causes many symptoms. While many of us had the same diagnoses, the forms our symptoms took were so different and varied. I think we all felt lost and alone, I think we all needed help to heal. 9. Doctors can’t help you unless you let them. Newsflash: your doctors can’t help you unless you let them. You have to be open and honest with them. I had not disclosed my past abuse issues with anyone previously, but after my release from the hospital, I knew it was important for me to do so. Doing this was a big step for me to be able to start healing, because it meant my doctor could understand the reasons I feel like I did. It opened the door to be able to get effective treatment. As much as they probably wish they were, doctors are not mind readers — they can not help us unless we let them. 10. Sometimes you find “therapists” in the most unusual of places. The first day I was there, the cleaning lady came and gave me the biggest hug and assured me that everything would be OK. I got a hug almost every single day from that beautiful lady. It was something that I came to really look forward too. Her warm empathy and assurance helped me get through and made me feel seen and understood. Even now, a year later, I still think of her and smile. She was a light in the storm. 11. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Mental illness can sometimes be caused by long term stress. There might even be physical changes to the human brain when it has been exposed to stress, anxiety or depression for a long period of time. These changes make it impossible to “think positive,” or “move on.” It is like you are stuck on a roundabout that you can not get off. There is nothing to be ashamed of because there is often little you can do to control this without help. If you are getting help, you should be proud of yourself for doing so because it is one of the hardest things to do. 12. I felt unprepared and scared to go back to my real life. At the end of 2 weeks, I had become reliant on the routine of being in the clinic. It felt safe and I was actually frightened of go back to my real life; a life where I needed to be more self-reliant. Thankfully, my dear husband was able to take some extra time off work to help me to readjust, and that helped me to acclimate, but it wasn’t easy! 13. Hospitalization is a stepping stone, not the final destination. Being hospitalized was not a cure or some magical final destination — it was just a stepping stone toward the right direction. There has been a year of hard work, both from myself and from others, and a lot of pain, heartache and dedication to get to where I am today. Hospitalization gave me a chance to reset, start medication and rest long enough to be prepared to do that work, and I am so grateful that it was an option for me. If you need help, please reach out and take it from wherever it is offered. Don’t be afraid of hospitalization or medication. Seek out a doctor who you can trust and be vulnerable with. Be prepared for hard work and painful realizations. You are worth the effort it takes to heal! Follow this story here. 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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 o r text “HOME” to 741-741 . Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead image via contributor

K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

Why I Question If I Deserve to Recover From My Mental Illness

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. I’m feeling really “flat” today. To be honest though, I have been feeling this way for a few days, but have pushed through because it’s been lovely to reflect on 16 years with my dear husband. However the rather frustrating fact remains that my mental illness doesn’t really care if I’m trying to celebrate a milestone — no, it does not care one little bit. People would likely say, “What are you talking about? You have a great life! Others have real problems to worry about, you should think of them.” And while I feel blessed for the great things I do have in my life, you should never judge what you don’t know. The great things cover, but do not remove, years of trauma, self-doubt and my struggle with depression and anxiety. The great things make it possible to hold on, but they do not magically blot out pain and hurt. I am feeling flat, down, melancholy — depressed even. I feel this sense of frustration and turmoil, and I’ve been recently working on expressing some really deeply buried thoughts and feelings in my personal and private writing. This is the writing that stays hidden and I do not share here or anywhere. While in one sense I feel proud of myself for being able to put these painful feelings into words, there is a part of me that feels really upset that I have not just “moved on.” I am angry at myself for still letting things that happened so many years ago have a place in my thoughts, a place in my life. Then there is the frustration I feel at myself for being upset that I’m upset at myself. Yes — I am “that girl.” I was raised in a family where I was not allowed to be “negative” in any way. I was to put any fears or discomforts aside and not “harp on” about them. So when I experience negative emotions, I feel a deep sense of discomfort and guilt. It makes it very difficult to let out the poison of trauma and anxiety when I am scared of feeling the sadness and anger that often comes with it. I am always remorseful of the negativity of my feelings. I am tired. Some days it doesn’t bother me, it feels like a physical tiredness and I can deal with that. Sometimes though when this tired feeling seeps into my bones, into my soul, it becomes a whole new level of tired. I could maybe describe it as “soul destroying.” It makes me want to weep. I want to weep for who I was, for the pain and confusion of my past. I want to weep for who I am, for the turmoil and frustration of my present. I am scared to weep for who I might be in the future. I am afraid she will still be feeling this way in 10 or 20 years. This weekend I realized it had been a while since I thought out my suicide plan in a clear and concise way, and I felt good about that. But then that good feeling was chased by panic and fear of the unknown. I stood trembling before the unknown of the future, and worrying about what it might look like. There is fear in recovering, because I do not truly feel as though I deserve to be happy. It is hard to know what to feel some days because nightmares assault me each night again lately. They steal my joy and make my sad and afraid. This flatness feels familiar but it is no longer comfortable. I have tasted little bits of happiness as my brain has become healthier, and that has made me desire more. But I am still unsure if it will come to me, and I am confused about if it would be OK for me to want that. My past should not have a place in my present, but it tries it’s best to convince me of the opposite, loudly telling me it belongs wherever I am, whenever I am and will always shape whomever I am. Yet the question remains, do I truly deserve to be happy? Only I can answer that — it has to come from within. Follow this journey on The Art of Broken. 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 lekcej.

K. J.
K. J. @kj
contributor

Self-Compassion and Self-Care When You Have a Mental Illness

If you are like me, “self-compassion” sounds so much more feasible than “self-love” or even “self-care.” Neither of those things are bad, and all three basically mean exactly the same, but when you are already struggling with a low sense of self, the thought of loving or caring for yourself can feel very selfish or have other negative connotations. I struggle constantly against the guilt of needing to take the time to care for my own emotional needs, and the thought of loving myself makes me feel rather nauseated. Compassion though — compassion speaks my language. While I can happily list off a long reel of negative things about myself, I would tell you undoubtedly that I am, or at the very least strive to be, a compassionate and empathetic person. Maybe others who feel uncertain about their ability to practice love and care towards themselves could feel the same way; to have compassion for others and oneself is not a selfish or negative thing, but it is a basic human right. To have self-compassion means to be kind to myself — “It is OK to feel how I do; what I am going through right now is challenging and painful. I will be OK soon, but right now it is OK to be gentle on myself.” To have self-compassion means accepting I am human — “Everybody struggles from time to time with negative feelings. I am not the only one, even if I might feel like I am at this moment.” To have self-compassion means being mindful — “I am here in the present with these feelings. I can see my difficulties, but I have gotten through them before, and I can again.” Self-compassion is not selfish or narcissistic. It is not judgmental. Self-compassion is to offer ourselves the same caring and thoughtfulness that we would give to others — “It is OK to listen to my body and do what is healthy for me when I need it. If I need to rest today or change plans, it is acceptable for me to do so.” Self-compassion allows us to step back from the situation without becoming overwhelmed — “I can accept that this situation is making me feel [insert negative emotion here], but the reality is different to how I am feeling. It is OK for me to step back and seek help to get through this.” Self-compassion is not critical; it is most definitely not self-pity or self-indulgence. There is a well-known saying that proclaims “You cannot pour from an empty cup” — self-compassion is a way of filling that cup to the brim so that we can share with those who are in need. To nurture ourselves so that we can give to others is an honorable thing to do. In no way is that selfish or narcissistic. Allowing healing for myself in this way does not feel like an indulgence; it feels more like a necessity. I am coming to understand and accept that to have compassion for myself will allow me to be more compassionate and helpful to others, to be attentive to their needs and to be able to assist them in their challenges. That is something I am excited to do. Follow this journey on The Art of Broken We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Wavebreakmedia Ltd

K. J.
K. J. @kj
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Ways to Help Build Self-Respect When You Have a Mental Illness

Resilience is based very much on the ability we have to respect ourselves and trust our instincts. But here is the thing; for many of us who have struggled through difficult lives, battling trauma, depression, anxiety or many other things that cause us to doubt ourselves, trying to build up self-respect is really difficult. Personally too, I find that the worry and distress that comes with mental health issues can make me feel really guilty and useless. Neither of those things is good for cultivating a feeling of respect for myself! There are several things I am working on. It is hard, but I’m slowly getting there. These are basic principles that help me personally to have a calmer life and to be able to feel better about myself and others. I hope by sharing them, it might help others too. They are simple things really, but like most simple things when you are working on any kind of recovery from a chronic illness, “simple” does not mean “easy.” 1. Try to stop negative self-talk. It is such a bad habit and kills any respect we may otherwise be able to cultivate for ourselves. It is hard to be confident when someone is constantly being mean to you, pointing out all the mistakes you make and all the ways you fall short. Make a list of your good qualities and refer back to it when you feel inclined to berate yourself about not being good enough. 2. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are you. No one else in the world can be you; that also means it is pointless comparing yourself to others because you cannot be them. Comparison steals any joy and confidence we have in ourselves, so try to stop doing it right now. It is also incredibly destructive to compare your recovery and life to another person’s. We have all experienced unique things that have made us who we are; while many of us may have had similar experiences in life, they are not ever going to be exactly the same. In other words, I repeat — do not, do not compare yourself to others. Different people recover at different rates and in different ways. 3. Stick to your goals. I find making plans or goals to be a really frightening thing. My anxiety is always challenging me and saying that if I make a plan I won’t be able to follow through. However, you can make small goals for yourself. Even if it is “brush your hair every morning,” or “brush your teeth,” then give yourself a pat on the back when you have accomplished them. It is OK to start small; sometimes it is the only way! 4. Keep your space clean. A clean space really helps me to have a clear head. It’s difficult to keep a house clean when you are exhausted from battling through chronic illness, pain or the fatigue that depression brings with it, but I do find that when things are neat, I feel a little calmer. It also gives me permission to then rest, which leads me to the last but probably one of the most important points… 5. Take time for yourself. Sometimes the thing you need most is to have some time alone or to do something you really want to do that might feel a little frivolous. Get your hair done, go for a walk, have a luxurious long bath, have a cup of tea and read a good book — the list is up to you and is endless. You cannot heal if your battery is flat and you have nothing left — take a few minutes each day to recharge yourself! We all have to get through the best we can, in the way we find best. But having a fluid list of things that help you to have a little respect for yourself can make a big difference in how strong you can be. Build some self-respect and you build your resilience to the trials that you will face too. Follow this journey on The Art of Broken We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via DariaZu

K. J.
K. J. @kj
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Why I Struggle to Believe My Mental Illness Makes Me Brave

“When we are weak, we are strong.” That quote is a line from a song I love. I guess it is what you could call an oxymoron, two things that don’t go together, but do. How can you be strong when you are weak? This week my psychiatrist told me I was brave. I did not feel brave — I felt weak and trembling, filled with fear and doubt. I’d spent all morning trying to decide if I would keep my appointment, or if I would call and cancel. I’d already had one big panic attack and was fielding off another as I sat in his office. Indeed, strength was not something I was feeling, bravery was most certainly the last thing I would think anyone would have seen in me. These past weeks I’ve written down some things I never thought I’d be able to put into words, and even less likely to ever be able to share with another person. I’d written in detail about a lesser trauma in the great scheme of things, but one that was important to me as it broke the last of my self-confidence, and filled me with doubt that has clung to me ever since. That single event confirmed I was not worthy, that I was the least of people and my own needs were to be ignored. It crushed me in a way that uncountable events before had not done. For me, writing and sharing those words brought with it a great fear of being judged, that sharing this would make another person look at me the same way I look at myself — loathsome, broken, dirty, worthless. There was distress involved in just even knowing I had exposed some of my most intimate thoughts and memories, being raw and vulnerable about the feelings that have festered from that day and make me question every single action I make. I felt weak, scared, naked, powerless — not strong, not brave. It is silly for me to feel those things, I have a deep trust in my doctor — I have spent more than a year building up to this and I knew he would treat me with kindness, respect, understanding, discernment and support, but the fact remained that morning, when I pressed the button in the elevator, I felt a wave of nausea building and struggled against the urge that told me to turn around and run before the doors even slid closed behind me. The thing is with fear — it is an emotion that demands to be felt. It is part of our instinct to listen to it, to flee at the perception of danger, or to fight or freeze. Formerly I would have listened to that warning buzzing in my ears, freeze or flight would have won out, but today I knew I was going somewhere safe and I needed to fight instead. It would have been pointless to go through all the turmoil of writing and sharing my story with this person who has shown himself worthy of my trust and confidence, and then leave without receiving the professional help I desperately need. It seems so easy to believe it and to tell someone else they are brave. I often think it, and say it, when I read others’ stories. If someone has shown strength of character by confronting their painful thoughts and feelings and sought help, I see them as brave; I am so very proud of them. But I see myself as weak for needing help or support. I see myself as damaged by my stories — I am ashamed of the feelings and thoughts they bring. I am disappointed in myself for holding onto the past. Despite my nerves, horror and terrified anxiety about opening up about such a personal part of my past, I was told it was a “breakthrough” — I was assured it was a “really good thing” and that it was the first time I’ve ever “openly expressed that others’ actions have caused me deep pain and hurt” — the first time I’ve truly accepted that “others do not have the right to manipulate me for their own satisfaction.” I was told I was “brave.” Is it possible to be brave if you are only feeling frightened? I do not feel very brave, but I think possibly that I showed fortitude — I can accept that, and that’s close enough. Follow this journey on theartofbroken.com We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Stockbyte