Natalie Rodriguez

@natchrisrod | contributor
Natalie Rodriguez is a writer, filmmaker, and mental health and trauma advocate from Los Angeles, CA. She is also a survivor of anxiety. depression, and abuse after experiencing both throughout her childhood and some adolescent years. Her anxiety and depression had heightened during her junior year in college, which motivated her to start talking about mental health in both her writing and film projects. For previous and upcoming work, be sure to give her a follow on IG @natchristinerod or Twitter @natchrisrod.
Natalie Rodriguez

Losing a Father Figure When Your Biological Father Abused You

I once read a quote where it said that life is painful but extraordinary as well. I have always liked that quote; in fact, it felt ritual to post each year on social media. The last time I ever expected to write the following would be a few years from now. Well, many years to be exact. Over the weekend, my stepfather passed away. He lost his five-plus month battle with stage four stomach cancer. He was 60 years old, a man who still had a life to live. My mother advised me over the phone that early morning–the call to break the news to me–that Al was sound asleep. He was in no pain. It was what most of us, including my mother, wanted. None of us wanted Al to be in pain, especially when we were informed just two months earlier that the doctors were unable to stop ongoing bleeding with the growing tumor in his stomach. Al had two choices. He could proceed with chemo and return to the hospital every few weeks for a blood transfusion due to the stomach tumor bleeding. The other was to stop treatment completely and be placed in hospice. Al made the brave decision to return home and be with his family. He lived with my mother and his two daughters (or my stepsisters). At the time, like many of Al’s loved ones, I was enraged and confused too. For a while, I thought there were other treatments or a way for the doctors to surgically shrink the tumor in order to perform a surgical removal. I mean, they had to. Al was always a fighter. But the irony with cancer is we do not get chose when it comes to recovery. That was the reality when it came to Al’s deteriorating health. Al always echoed his concern of being at the hospital, while away from family, and something bad happened. Including death. He wanted to be home with people he loved. It clicked over time — that was his worse fear, to be away from the love of his life (my mother) and his baby girl (Lindsay). The reality was difficult to accept, especially when I struggled to drive over to see Al, my mother, and my step-sisters. When my mother sent out a group text of Al’s treatment coming to an end and for him to go into hospice, I immediately called out of work and saw them. The drive there was nerve-racking and I felt sick to my stomach, petrified if I had to pull over to throw up or be consumed by anxiety and panic attacks. Fortunately, neither had occurred. To be honest what kept me focused on getting to the house was repeating, “Go there for Al. Go there for Al.” So, I did. As soon as I arrived, a truck was already parked in the driveway of their home. It was hospice delivering equipment. The rest was sort of a haze. All I remember was my mother walking the aide outside and greeting me. Then, we walked into the house together. She told me something around the lines of not being scared when I saw Al. In the living room, Al was sitting in his favorite LaZ-Boy chair. So far, he appeared to be “himself.” He was in the middle of filing his taxes. He was talking and answering phone calls, as well as surfing the web. Why? It was actually he who wanted to get a jumpstart on his taxes from the year before. However, it felt like the elephant in the room for a bit while Lindsay and my mother helped Al with his paperwork. I decided to stay a few extra hours when my mother informed me that hospice would be stopping by in a bit. At the time, Evelyn was at work. That was a bigger punch in the gut and, I am certain, it was the same for my mother, Lindsay, and my other stepsister, Evelyn. I forgot names. I forgot what time hospice stopped by. But it was clear when the coordinator began asking Al and our questions about his final wishes. While I sat on the couch, next to Lindsay and across from Al, we listened as he declined for anyone to perform CPR for him if that time ever came. My mother, Lindsay, and I were silent until, Al broke the ice and flat out asked us, “Right, girls?” We agreed. I stayed as late as I could. On my way home, at some point, I bawled my eyes out. Little did I know, at the time, Al was accepting his new reality or fate–something that my therapist guided me through in the weeks to follow. At the time, I was unaware of my own denial. That was something I learned of my own denial in the weeks to come, regardless of how busy life got. Sure, my work schedule changed and film and book projects kept me busier than usual but, the longer I was away from Al and the house, I was consumed with guilt. I saw Al once more after the day when Hospice dropped off equipment and the coordinator visited. But each week, I dreaded the arrival of another weekend. The truth was simple: I was terrified to see Al and accept the reality of him never getting better. In-between the two to three weeks of not seeing him, my mother, or my stepsisters, I felt like a bigger asshole. Whenever my mother and I spoke on the phone, she was emotional and divulged that Al was not going to live much longer. I retorted that it was possible for him to get better, something that a few of us strongly felt for weeks. But my mother expressed her truth about Al’s state of eating fewer meals and sleeping more, especially in his final week. Ultimately, my therapist called me out on my denial the week of seeing Al for the last time. She informed me that the longer someone avoids something, the pain will only go up. During this session, I wanted to scream and argue against her but sadly, it slowly began to click. The longer I went without seeing Al, the more anxious and stressed out I felt. The giveaway was experiencing shoulder pain and tension just days before seeing my stepdad. I felt disappointed in myself. My therapist was right but at the time, I was scared. I was not ready to accept. Later that week, I made the trip down to the house. For the first time, I met two of Al’s caregivers. He was happy to see him and I was too. Immediately, I went over to Al and gave him a hug. I apologized and told him something like, “Sorry, I didn’t come sooner.” It was all I thought of at that moment. But something I always admired of Al, once someone was there — it’s all that mattered. Fortunately, my final memories of Al were beautiful and positive. For the next few hours that day, I ran some errands with my mom, watched movies, and overheard banter and chit-chat between everyone in the household. Al enjoyed snacking on sweets and sugar. He also picked up a newish habit and was smoking a vape with 5% tobacco. Some were not too pleased with his recent intake of just sweets and, then, tobacco. But Al always smiled, as he did, and said he just simply had a sweet tooth. Before leaving the house, I asked Al what type of candy he wanted the next time I saw him. It was between Boston Baked Beans and Australian Licorice. Even at his frailest, his eyes lit up and he requested Boston Baked Beans. I told him how about both. He smiled. We embraced twice. I was a bit terrified when I felt how brittle and thinner he was. But at that moment, I had to remind myself that cancer altered his physical appearance but never his attitude. In those moments, I was relieved to be there with Al, my mother, my stepsisters, and the caregivers. It was what I needed, and I know Al did too, in order to heal. It was all an eye-opener and proof — Al was living his life to the fullest with no regrets. Al died six days later after my visit. It was terrible. Two nights before his passing, I struggled to sleep. I stayed up passed midnight back-to-back, trying to watch TV and binge-eating sweets. I was super nervous and overall, worried. I thought to myself that Al could not die. He had people to be there for. He needed to be there for Lindsay’s graduation or Evelyn’s wedding. It was very difficult for me to not go down old habits and wonder why the good people appear to go first. It was never a secret, especially when I publicly shared my childhood to young adulthood, as well as the aftermath of Jeff’s passing just years ago, in projects: I wanted people such as my abusers to switch places with Jeff or Al, aka my biological dad and older brother. I cut ties with them more than 10 years ago after confronting them about their abuse and when my biological dad relapsed from alcohol. For years, I suffered at the hands of their abuse, something that I never went into full detail with either Jeff or Al. In therapy, I learned that one’s past never defines their future, let alone are there pre-requisites when it comes to sharing your trauma and overall story. For me, I felt that time would sometime arrive where I felt ready to tell, both, Jeff and Al of the details. Often, I wonder if it was best for neither of my two father figures to know. **Sidenote – I am forever talking about this in therapy; it is something I continue to work on.*** On the morning of Al’s passing, I woke up with 6 am to seven missed calls from my mother. By the time she picked up the phone, I already knew her answer. She choked up. We both discussed how it was best for Al to go in his sleep, without any pain. He was at peace. Al once told us that he felt best when he was either falling asleep; it made him relaxed. Fortunately, I was able to cry for the first time on the phone with my mother. She choked up and agreed with me that the situation sucks. Cancer sucks. I decided to visit the house that day, along with my partner. So far, there have been many ups and downs before a funeral is set. Just taking it one day at a time like many loved ones of Al. The irony with one’s passing is not only learning more about others, and both their fortunate and unfortunate intensions, but of yourself. Al’s passing got me to open up more to my partner and vice versa with him. For the first time, sharing personal details of the past and worries about the future felt calm and not traumatizing. I would like to think a lot had to do with, both, Jeff and Al being present. I would like to think they were telling me that it was OK. I would be lying to myself if I said what was next. A lot continues to make me anxious and scared right now. First and foremost, I am dreading Al’s funeral because I do not want to see people I care about cry. I am also not ready to see Al or say goodbye to him. I am, more so, annoyed by the idea of running into toxic individuals at the services–people like my biological dad and older brother–and giving them peace of my mind. Let’s be honest, who does not have these wishes. But something I continue to tell myself, and probably will forever, is this is about Al. His passing is my time to reflect on the beautiful relationship I developed with him. It is about remembering him as the man who lived many lives and turned his life around. It is about the fortunate situations he experienced, including the five and a half years of being with my mother. Al was never a traveler, but he traveled with my mother to various cities and countries. This is about Al and the third chance of having a wonderful role model and father figure in life. That is something I am forever grateful for. I would like to think that both Jeff and Al are hanging out in Heaven. Hope will continue to move me forward.

Natalie Rodriguez

On Trauma, Writing Books and Healing From the Skeletons in My Closet

The story of “Matthew ‘Matty’ Smith” was born more than 18 years ago. I was 11-years-old when I wrote the first draft of my young adult thriller novel series, “Elephant,” at Quail Summit Elementary. It was a mandatory school assignment that my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Burke, assigned my classmates and me. At the time, I hated reading and writing due to an ongoing struggle I had in my earlier elementary school days. Therefore, to ever become a writer, let alone a storyteller, was out of the question. In the first grade, I attended a Reading Speech Vocabulary Program (RSVP) as I was behind my grade level of reading and writing. It was nothing to be ashamed but at the time, it was jarring and scary to attend a one-on-one meeting every day before lunch for additional help. Perhaps that was the irony as well — getting help myself. Something such as attending RSVP was only the start of my journey of both recovery and healing. Two or so weeks ago, my second novel was released to the world called Elephant part 2: “Skeletons.” I am forever proud of the books. The books are my pride and joy. Over the years, I continue to develop this mother hen and overprotective shell of wanting to protect the characters forever and ever. It is as though characters — “Matthew ‘Matty’ Smith” and his family and childhood best friends — are children of my own and I refuse to let anything bad happen to them. Yet that is sort of the irony of overprotecting and cradling something that you love and appreciate dearly to your heart. Something that not too many people know about the books is the irony of writing and rewriting and editing while being in recovery myself. As Matty hurt, so did I. As Matty found his peace, so did I. When Matty relapsed and struggled with his well-being, so did I. I was ashamed of my struggles, especially when I started battling with anxiety and panic attacks, and depression. Growing up, mental health was not discussed in the household, let alone seeking help. I believed a lot had to do with my father’s alcoholism, abuse, and toxic behavior; and my mother’s struggle to either leave or stay wife him. Diving deep into writing and rewrites of the “Elephant” book series every night for 10 or so years, it felt like I was wearing the scarlet letter. For the longest time, and what readers see with Matty, I felt insignificant and like a waste of space in this world. Especially when it came to years and years of learning to find and take hold of my voice. It started with addressing the “elephant in my room” and “skeletons in my closet” when I started self-harming and engaging in excessive workouts as a way to cope with pain and stress. For years, I suspected what it was that set off these triggers but, I was afraid of addressing those secrets and swept under the carpet topics. That was what made the earlier draft of writing and editing the “Elephant” book series both painful but rewarding for many reasons. The positive outcome was seeking and continuing therapy and counseling to address and heal and manage everything that happened. Now, this is the first time where I openly say that I, too, am a survivor of sexual assault, emotional, physical, and verbal abuse at the hands of family members. While I will not disclose any names for my reasons, although a few people do know who they are, I confronted both of my abusers many years ago on their actions to which they neither denied nor fully accepted. Like most perpetrators (abusers), both men commented on how their actions were part of the past or how I ‘”deserved” it. Back then, I used to believe them too – that I deserved to be hurt and shamed. Often, it is the secrets and illness of those closest to us that become the elephant or skeletons in one’s closet, as the two men did in my life. For the past 10 or so years, they have not been a part of my life by choice. I no longer trust or feel safe around them, something that many people in my life look down upon, whether they know about the abuse or not. Like many cases of abuse, mine were never reported — something I am still learning to forgive myself about. Yet, like most dysfunctional households and families that have toxic (and abusive) members, it is NEVER the survivor’s fault. EVER. The thing is the “Elephant” books are all about finding your voice and never feeling ashamed in using it, even if it is towards family and friends. Matty’s journey has always been about speaking your truth and doing everything you can to protect your energy and most of all, yourself. Even if that does upset or anger that inner circle of family and friends or outside circles of strangers. Regardless of what has happened to you, or to someone you love, it is possible to move forward in life and continue to achieve those dreams and aspirations that you set out. That is something in which writing the “Elephant” book series has taught me – use your voice and use it every day. Also, getting help is nothing to be frowned upon; in my case, I find it helpful to have someone outside the inner circle walk me through the process of recovery from trauma. Until this day, I am taking recovery day-by-day as there are both good and bad days. I still have my days of not wishing anything “bad” to happen to my abusers. Then, I have those days of wondering WHY this all happened and self-doubting myself. That is the process of recovery and from what I learned in the past years of therapy is it takes a lot to show up for those appointments. It takes a lot of courage to talk about how you feel and what is going through your mind; and even if you relapse, that is OK too because what my therapist has shown me is that she does care. There are amazing people out there who are not only professionally helping you but want to help you. Timing is key. Everyone’s journey is different. Healing and recovery take time. And like Matty Smith, the cycle of addiction, abuse, and toxicity and dysfunction CAN always be broken. It is possible to break that cycle. You are not your abuser(s) nor do survivors ever deserve what happened to them.

Natalie Rodriguez

My Trauma Truth as a Survivor and Student of James Franco

Back in February, I was one of the many people who saw the news of James Franco reaching a settlement with two former classmates in court. For those of you who didn’t know, Franco and his colleagues were sued back in 2018 for sexual misconduct, including inappropriate behavior in a class I was part of called “Sex Scenes” in 2015. This is the cold, hard truth when it comes to someone who is viewed as “powerful” and has fame and fortune: even when they are deemed and called out for being abusers, they will still have supporters even when the trial and court cases are all set and done. Why? Because a lot of people see the survivors as so-called liars and frauds themselves; let alone if survivors take money to end the court trial as the end result. But the truth is when it comes to trauma , often the brain will block out that event or events. In other cases, the survivor themselves will put up a front as a denial, whether that is protecting the abuser(s) by saying how they are friends, lovers or so forth. That is why many survivors of abuse struggle to come forward — because of multiple reasons. One of the reasons is not being believed, getting “slut-shamed” or, to be honest, losing people who thought were their supporters and friends. Regardless, if a survivor happened to sleep with the predator, just remember that abuse comes in other forms such as mental, emotional and verbal. The truth is when it comes to trauma , our bodies do everything they can to block it out, or at least that was what my own therapist has told me over the past eight or so years in treatment. Trauma is real and it happens, even by the hand of so-called celebrities and people in the entertainment industry. Like many eager students in 2015, I was in awe from learning by Franco on the first day of his master class, “Sex Scenes.” I was already a student at Studio 4 and my teacher prior to Franco referred me over to the master class. But over the course of the next two months, that all went to hell. I lost respect for Franco and the school. The first red flag was being invited to the production headquarters to interview with two of Franco’s business partners. When I first showed up, I noticed the address led me to a house. “No biggie,” I thought as I approached the front door. One of the men answered it and immediately the company’s (I guess) assistant sat me down. I spoke with the other man, who was seated at a desk in the corner, for a bit. I felt safe and sound, until the business partner reappeared from a hallway at the end of the room and said we would be having the interview in one of the rooms. At the time, I didn’t think much about it, considering their assistant/colleague was a woman in her 30 or 40s and was friendly with me. In my mind, I thought, what woman would put another woman in danger? Well, that was the irony because as I followed him through the hallway and turned the corner, I immediately saw a bed in the room where he was taking me. I sat by the door the entire time; the door remained open. The interview was a disaster. I remembered him sort of looking at my resumé, bored out of his mind. The worse part, something I told the lawyers when I was reached out to about a year or so ago, was leaving the room to find the female colleague no longer in the office. She was gone; it was just me and the two men in their 30 to 40s. At the time, I was 23 years old and felt I was in trusted hands. Later, I learned the female assistant/colleague was one of the many women who was protecting Franco and his team. From what I was told by the lawyers, Franco had women in his circle who would purposely bring him other women to hook up with or ones he was interested in. I actually experienced so much physical and emotional stress from the “sex scenes” master class that I ended up losing my appetite and missing my menstrual cycle for a few months. At the time, I was also in therapy and my therapist was even shocked at how the class was being run. This included James falling asleep in class multiple times to making a comment to the class on how we should not be compared because we had “two months” to make a short while he was so-called busting his ass to make a feature in one month. Down the line, I learned these physical and mental matters were from stress from the class due to multiple reasons. A lot of the students in the class (again, not everyone) were leeching off Franco and did whatever it took to be closer to him, or flat-out hook up with him. Although Franco and his peers never sexually violated me, that does not mean they were not inappropriate in other ways both to myself and the other students. First off, and now with the case at an end, I can finally say that James Franco and most of his inner circle are frauds, rude, narcissists and predators. Without disclosing names or hints of who it is, I encountered many survivors of Franco and his peers’ abuse . Most of them were initially trying to sleep with Franco but the fact is, they were harmed in a lot of ways. Whether that was Franco and his team lowballing students to work with him on his production, to only asking specific women to join them (basically, if you went naked in class). Of course, there was the obvious of James and his peers pressuring women to go nude on their films or they would send them home. Google it — the facts are there. The problem with “cancel culture” is too many people affiliate it with survivors. A sad reality is whenever we see someone in a position of power get called out for inappropriate behavior or acts of sexual assault, too many people immediately see the survivors or people who support the survivors as “jumping on the cancel culture bandwagon.” But the truth is rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault, emotional abuse , physical abuse and verbal abuse are never part of “cancel culture” nor should be affiliated with it. Believe survivors the next time they come forward. Do your research on how trauma does affect one’s mental and physical state. And if you have nothing supportive to say about the survivor(s), I encourage you to reread the court documents and look at how individuals such as Franco and his peers have acted. To me, something I learned about my own abuse in therapy, is that a predator knows how to charm and work to fool their audience that they are the so-called “victims” in the situation(s). So, of course, the predator will deny and deny and do everything they can to cover up their tracks. But often, predators slip and start revealing their true colors. My own abusers did that to themselves by always badmouthing me to family and friends. Well, the same case goes with Franco when he said back in 2018 of making things right if he harmed anyone. Only he slipped when he commented in 2020 how the women who were suing him were just “jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon.” It’s difficult for many survivors to come forward with their own abuse. Remember, there are different forms of abuse. Before second-guessing a survivor, instead, listen to them. Let them know you are here for them.

Natalie Rodriguez

It's OK to Relapse in Mental Health Recovery During COVID-19

2020 was the year I learned a lot about myself and others. I stood my ground, set boundaries with certain peers in my life, addressed the “elephant in the room” and, most importantly, asked for help. As I pen down this article, my anxiety is through the roof; perhaps, it is because I have been up since 4 a.m. I was one of the early birds to fall asleep before midnight, only to wake up for a second to wish my cat, Matty, a Happy New Year. After waking up on this quiet morning, I was already reflecting on upcoming ventures such as projects that are to be released this year and hopefully taking vacation trips that my eyes are set on. And then, it all sort of collapsed when my mental health and recovery journey hit me. Struggles and relapses in 2020 — during a worldwide crisis. I used to think that making it as a writer, director and overall artist was to have your shit together. Only that proved me wrong even more when the pandemic hit. For all my life, I struggled with severe anxiety and panic and swings of depression (caused by my anxiety and panic disorder ), something that used to come in other forms such as upset stomachs, getting a cold or a fever and struggling to go to the bathroom. For quite a few years, it was brutal; with lockdown and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic occurring, my wellness and recovery process was no doubt put to the test like many others. At the beginning of 2020, I went through two painful breakups — one was more of a fallout — before the pandemic hit. For about a month or so, my mind would race all night and it was difficult to fall asleep. That was when my psychologist and physician felt it was best I go on a low dose of an SSRI antidepressant to treat my anxiety and panic disorder . Then, the dosage was upped when it came to the release of my first novel getting released and preparation for my directorial feature film. Most of my anxiety heightened from the context of the projects that discuss wellness and recovery — something that opened my eyes to my health. While these highlights occurred throughout the earlier part of the pandemic, including an end-of-the-year wrap with another feature film of mine making its way through the festival circuit, I was also coping with loss from a breakup and fallouts with a few people. Working on projects appeared to be a “healthy” coping mechanism for a bit. I had a schedule set of waking up and doing work while applying to new jobs due to my layoff due to COVID-19. Yet, that all changed when I was alone and drunk one night and texted a sort-of ex-boyfriend who struggled with depression. I relapsed that night with self-harm; something I have struggled with since my earlier teenage years. A few days later, I had a therapy session scheduled and it was one of the hardest things to tell my psychologist. My relapse with self-harming was a low point and a moment where I also realized there was a reason why I wanted to see my psychologist every week as soon as the pandemic started. Deep down, it felt like a slow burn to falling back on an older coping mechanism when things got too overwhelming or felt out of my control. But I was so ashamed, especially while doing press work and talking about wellness and recovery because of my released or soon-to-be-released projects. For months, I felt like a fraud — as though the scarlet letter was pointing directly at me, especially when it came to press release questions of “Is this [book/movie] about your life?” Around the same time, my psychologist called me out for my history of workout bulimia (overexcessive workouts) and body dysmorphia after divulging my fear of gaining weight and not losing it during the quarantine. That felt like another slap in the face — an endless train of another problem and issue to overcome. Deep down, I wanted to get better but was unsure how exactly. While fortunate to be seeing a psychologist for quite some time, I also struggled for the past eight years of asking questions regarding my trauma , mental health and physical health. It was during my second-to-last therapy session of 2020 when I asked my therapist about the “right time” of revealing traumatic experiences to other people. That was the first time she told me how trauma does not identify one as a person but it was a part of them — their past. For a moment, I felt that did not apply to me because of my recovery from my wellness and body dysmorphia. That is also the irony with mental and physical health — there are no prerequisites or a deadline on when to recover. Something I hope to remind myself whenever I feel low or triggered is that recovery is a lifelong journey. And it is OK to be in recovery while celebrating those highlights in life such as filming or a book release date. To this day, my psychologist reminds me that part of recovery for many artists is often talking about it in the work, whether that is primary, secondary or in the third person. For my resolution, it is to avoid the annual New Year’s resolutions and target my focus on what is best for me with the help from my psychologist. To this day, I see my psychologist weekly to check-in and talk about life. There are days where I do not want to talk about anything and that is OK too. Fortunately, my psychologist does not push or peer-pressure me to dive into something that is too unsettling for me. There are always future sessions to revisit. This February 2021, my psychologist and I will be celebrating our nine years of working together. Later this month, I will also be seven months clean of self-injury since my relapse. So far, it has been six years free of workout bulimia, though those thoughts come and go. This is one of my current struggles of practicing self-love; it is a day-by-day process. Even if I fall, it is OK because healing takes time, and I am doing my best to be patient with myself.

Community Voices

The Monster I Once Loved

To the ex who chose the easier way out,

Every day, I still think of you.

In fact, it is quite embarrassing.

But I am also ashamed for trusting you – your cries over your health, and cries over losing it all.

I will never know if you were telling the truth or not, considering that I was apparently the one who “got away.” According to you.

But if I were the one who “got away,” you would have acted. The first step would have been staying sober and continuing your work in therapy and AA.

Only you told me that your life was over by the time you are forty years old.

I told you not to call or text me if you did not go to your AA meeting that morning. You said you would text me a photo of you there. I told you – you should, to which you responded with the infamous, “I should’ve never said anything.”

Instead, you ran back to your ex – whom you told me you never loved. After all, you “knew” she loved you, but you never loved her.

I told you that was disgusting.

You only told me that she was nothing like me, only you broke up with me to spend two years of – I guess – nothing with her.

But again, I know a lot of your reckless and hurtful behavior comes from the monster I like to call alcoholism. You know my history – watching my own father and relatives deteriorate and abuse their bodies with the monster.

And that was, in your defense, the reason why you broke up and kept your distance from me – because I only reminded you of that.

After all, you told me that “it was harder to get drunk around you because you would’ve called me out on my sh**.”

I guess the woman you ran back to, let alone cheated on me with, is truly easier to get drunk around. That is what you told me – that you drank the minute she left.

I hope one day that I will think of you and not feel this pain, shame, and guilt. One day, I will look back and realize that it was never my problem – but yours.

I did everything I could to be there, only you wanted nothing to do with me. I wish you well and hope the best for you. Really, I do – the last thing I want is to see someone I once build a life with self-destruct and affect every aspect of their life.

But again, that is what the monster does before you hit rock bottom – you live in denial until you lose everything.

I was one of them.

Grief

Abuse

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Juliette V.

People Are Mad Dakota Johnson Called Her Depression 'Beautiful'

There are a lot of words people with depression use to describe their mental illness. Some classic ones might include “dark,” “exhausting,” “debilitating” and even “excruciating” — just to name a few. But in a recent Marie Claire feature, “50 Shades of Gray” actress Dakota Johnson used an unexpected adjective to describe her depression: “beautiful.” “I’ve struggled with depression since I was young—since I was 15 or 14. That was when, with the help of professionals, I was like, Oh, this is a thing I can fall into. But I’ve learned to find it beautiful because I feel the world,” she told Marie Claire. Backlash on social media was swift, and social media users who live with depression were not happy about her characterization. Dakota Johnson needs to stfu.How irresponsible. There's nothing romantic or beautiful about depression. It fucking kills people. There was nothing beautiful about me attempting to kill myself. Or hurting myself. Or screaming because I can't stand the numbness. Fuck you. https://t.co/e0oU9crzyD— bef (@beffybadbelly) May 13, 2020 Real Depression is NOT beautiful. This article and Dakota Johnson saying so is doing a disservice to those with real mental health issues who STRUGGLE with this awful condition and to all those who are fighting for changes to address it. @afspnational— Wendy (@Wendy33298653) May 13, 2020 Dakota Johnson calling depression “beautiful” makes me cringe ‘cause my youth, my potentials and my could-have-been-happy days are all burnt to ashes and dust by depression and other mental illnesses. Maybe people like her struggle w/ a different type of depression.— ???????????????????? ???? (@dead6irl66) May 13, 2020 Dakota Johnson says her depression is beautiful – She clearly doesn't have depression. Depression is not beautiful. It's not something to glamorize. It's not something to praise. Do not glamorize it. That's such a disgusting and horrible thing to do. It's terrifying- (1/2)— Caelyn-Brooke (@politicalmurmur) May 14, 2020 I didn’t go through 10+ years of therapy, 5+ years of medication, 4 years of self harm, binging/purging, and starving myself, just for a Dakota Johnson, a celebrity, to call #depression beautiful. Gtfo. https://t.co/nZEvFB4q61— Hannah Bochel ???? (@mini_mama2) May 13, 2020 While Johnson meant no harm by her comments and was likely trying to say her struggles with depression have given her a “beautiful” capacity to feel (as opposed to saying depression itself is beautiful), it’s not surprising her comment stirred up frustration in folks who live with depression. The reality is, depression is serious. Major depressive disorder affects approximately 17.3 million American adults, and depression is the cause of over two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides in the U.S. each year, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA). Johnson has the right to describe her personal experience with depression however she chooses, but it’s worth being aware of the fact that folks in the mental health community are tired of people romanticizing mental illness and not taking their struggles seriously. This is something Mighty contributor Erica Chau touched on her article, “Please Stop Romanticizing Depression“: There is nothing romantic about my depression. It’s not the kissing of scars. It’s not holding me while I cry. It’s not any of the posts that you on Tumblr or in movies. It’s not beautiful. It’s not delicate or dainty. It’s not the hero saving the damsel.To me, depression is not romantic. Depression is pain. And it’s numbness. And it’s at the same time. Depression is an illness and it can be chronic and long-lasting and it’s not something a kiss on the forehead can fix. What are your thoughts on Dakota Johnson’s comments about depression? Let us know in the comments below.

Community Voices

The Monster I Once Loved

To the ex who chose the easier way out,

Every day, I still think of you.

In fact, it is quite embarrassing.

But I am also ashamed for trusting you – your cries over your health, and cries over losing it all.

I will never know if you were telling the truth or not, considering that I was apparently the one who “got away.” According to you.

But if I were the one who “got away,” you would have acted. The first step would have been staying sober and continuing your work in therapy and AA.

Only you told me that your life was over by the time you are forty years old.

I told you not to call or text me if you did not go to your AA meeting that morning. You said you would text me a photo of you there. I told you – you should, to which you responded with the infamous, “I should’ve never said anything.”

Instead, you ran back to your ex – whom you told me you never loved. After all, you “knew” she loved you, but you never loved her.

I told you that was disgusting.

You only told me that she was nothing like me, only you broke up with me to spend two years of – I guess – nothing with her.

But again, I know a lot of your reckless and hurtful behavior comes from the monster I like to call alcoholism. You know my history – watching my own father and relatives deteriorate and abuse their bodies with the monster.

And that was, in your defense, the reason why you broke up and kept your distance from me – because I only reminded you of that.

After all, you told me that “it was harder to get drunk around you because you would’ve called me out on my sh**.”

I guess the woman you ran back to, let alone cheated on me with, is truly easier to get drunk around. That is what you told me – that you drank the minute she left.

I hope one day that I will think of you and not feel this pain, shame, and guilt. One day, I will look back and realize that it was never my problem – but yours.

I did everything I could to be there, only you wanted nothing to do with me. I wish you well and hope the best for you. Really, I do – the last thing I want is to see someone I once build a life with self-destruct and affect every aspect of their life.

But again, that is what the monster does before you hit rock bottom – you live in denial until you lose everything.

I was one of them.

Grief

Abuse

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Natalie Rodriguez

How a Writing Assignment in School Helped Me Face My Anxiety Head-On

When was the last time that you felt misunderstood for showing vulnerability? The elephant in the room was always a subject I revisited each year. At least from the moment I experienced my first panic attack at 13 years old. Or, how about in my earlier young adult years, where I cut a lot of class due to having a panic attack? Usually, the symptoms were dizziness, clamming of the palms and balms of my feet and feeling sick to my stomach. The butterflies were intense that I often found myself gagging or on the verge of throwing up. Yeah … having generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is not pretty, nor ever was. Addressing the “Captain Obvious,” or the elephant in the room, was something I struggled to come to terms with, considering my mindset was more focused on, “But I am tooyoung to panic/people my age don’t have anxiety,” and so forth. Perhaps I made excuses to myself, terrified to acknowledge even a child themselves could experience both pain, grief and fear. Something I learned on and off these past few years in recovery is moments of distress and relapses are forever expected. That was something I yearned to remind myself of with a few recent events that occurred in my life over the past few months. Especially when I learned a few weeks ago in therapy that for many children of addicts and abuse, it is common to write of pain, and even of the perpetrators, in a third-person perspective. When my therapist first told me that, I rejected the idea because of disbelief it was possible to do that. That was when my therapist said to me that today — the now — was time to start dealing with events in the first-person perspective, AKA: head-on. One of the first projects I started discussing in my earlier days of therapy was my upcoming young adult novel, “Elephant.” It was a project that started as a fifth-grade assignment, where students had to write and create a short story and then read it to the other students. The entire school was assigned the project as it was the end-of-the-year final. Otherwise, a student did not pass their current grade level if they decided to not participate in the assignment. To be honest, the assignment was the project that would forever change my life. But at the time, the assignment nearly traumatized me as I struggled with reading and writing, two subjects I thought were unnecessary. A lot of my resentment came from the fact that just two to three years earlier, I was sent to a reading, speech and vocabulary program every school day, just 20 minutes before lunch period. When I was in the first grade, I had a low reading and writing score. Plus, instead of writing every morning as my teacher wanted the class to do, I either scribbled or drew pictures in my journal. So, in the fifth grade, I thought the book assignment sucked. Would it be cliché to say I was one of those creators who struggled with finding and writing out the words? Yet, that was the irony, because in the following weeks, leading up to the completion of the earlier drafts of my fifth-grade school assignment, I had a blast working on it. Every day after school, I ran home to work on the project. But before typing out the project on the desktop my mother had at the house, I came up with the title first, sitting at my desk on that day when it was first assigned. Before there was an elephant, the original title was “The Strange Wind of Skull Hollow.” My fifth-grade teacher passed out a sheet that had random words on it, an exercise to help the students figure out a title for their book, as well as the storyline. My eyes were attracted to the words, “skull, wind and hollow” because they sounded “cool” and I also was obsessed with drawing Halloween characters in the after-school daycare called “Fun Club.” Writing the first draft of “Elephant” (then, “The Strange Wind of Skull Hollow”) was a surreal experience because it was the first big thing I looked forward to working on every day after school. From day one, the project was always focused on four childhood best friends named Matthew ‘Matty’ Smith, Jamie, Derek and Lisa and the family secret they discovered the summer before starting their freshman year of high school. Something I never expected was the blood, sweat and tears that would come in working on the later drafts of “Elephant.” But perhaps that was always the beauty with the project, from rejecting the fifth-grade school assignment to developing the story into a 300-page young adult novel. In the years to come, writing was the one thing that felt necessary to have as part of my life. It was an obsession of going to bed and waking up every day, thinking of the characters’ stories I had to tell. No one should truly ever feel alone or that all hope is lost, especially when hell appears to freeze over, because like Matty Smith and his three childhood best friends from “Elephant,” we all have a story to tell. Everyone has experienced grief, loss, anger, rage, pain and so much more. When life seems unfair, it is expected to have a strong reaction to it. I suppose this is where acceptance comes into the picture, especially when it comes to surrendering and seeking help. For me, that was going to counseling. “Elephant” is about those reminders in letting yourself know it is OK to not be OK, and perhaps not tearing yourself down for not being on a specific path. Creating the hashtag #TheElephantInYourRoom showed “Elephant” was not just my battles and fears, but hopefully a representation of having faith in there being hope. Like the famous quote from “The Shawshank Redemption:” “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Recovery is a lifelong journey and sometimes addressing the elephant in the room is not a toxic or so-called “bad” thing. Often, addressing the elephant in “your room” could start with self-reflection and acceptance before sharing your story with others. It is based on your time and not of anyone else’s. And perhaps, it could save your or someone else’s life.

Community Voices

new routines

<p>new routines</p>
8 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Tell me anything- I’m here to listen...

<p>Tell me anything- I’m here to listen...</p>
21 people are talking about this