Why What We Know & How We Talk About Migraine Matters

Migraine Awareness Week

“When will people stop equating migraine with headache?” is a question the millions who live with this debilitating condition ask frequently.

Maybe when we ourselves start consistently referring to it as the disease it is and know the facts ourselves.

Before anyone gets offended by that statement – not so many years ago, I was one of those who, much like Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, knew nothing (or nothing correct, which is as important), at least in relation to my illness.

Until my occasional episodic migraine attacks suddenly started stepping up their game after roughly 30 years and then apparently decided it was just unbearable to part with me by transforming to daily chronic, 24/7 365, everything I thought I knew about migraine was based on misinformed ideas repeated as fact for decades upon decades. And I’ve talked to many, many other migraineurs since whose knowledge is on par with what mine was then.

In my defense (and yours, if you’re like me), there was very little migraine research data to go on all that time. The current interest in migraine research and developing treatments specifically for migraine is relatively new – it has surfaced and grown over the last several years. The research showing migraine is actually a genetic, heritable, neurological illness is truly recent, although it’s been suspected longer.

So what have I learned about migraine over the past 6 years of it being my constant companion, and how does that affect my opinion that we need to change how we talk about migraine?

First and foremost, I’ve learned I don’t have “headaches.” I have a neurological disorder that causes head pain and other serious symptoms that affect my entire body, not just my head.

I’ve learned that the public perception of migraine changes very slowly, partly because many don’t follow or know about developments in migraine research.

I’ve learned that stigma and misinformation are pervasive and affect everything from the care we receive to our quality of life to how we see ourselves and our illness.

I’ve learned that when trying to convey the seriousness of my illness, if I lead with “I have chronic migraine,” listening often stops right there because many people [incorrectly] think they know what it is and don’t take it seriously.

I’ve learned how to frame migraine differently in conversation to up the chance that someone will listen and try to understand better.
I almost never tell new people I’m meeting that I have migraine right off the bat. I tell them I have a neurological disorder, and if they ask further I tell them what that disorder is – NOT because I’m ashamed or afraid of the stigma, BUT BECAUSE I WANT NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER TO BE WHAT THEY ASSOCIATE MIGRAINE WITH.

How WE refer to our illness matters and affects how people see it also.
One of my biggest peeves is seeing/hearing “migraine is not JUST a headache.”
Why? Because it makes migraine the equivalent of “headache + some other stuff.” And that is not only an inadequate and incorrect definition of migraine, but perpetuates the very perception we need to change.

“Migraine isn’t just a headache/Migraine is more than a headache” = headache + some other stuff.

“Migraine is not a headache” = neurological disorder.

Likewise, we don’t have/get “migraines.”
The correct terminology is “migraine attack(s)” or simply “attacks.”
Migraine disease/disorder is the illness itself, which causes the individual attacks.

I’ve learned TRIGGER IS NOT CAUSE.
Don’t fall into this trap. For one, it perpetuates the idea that simply avoiding triggers will make us well and that we somehow bring on our own suffering.
This is a huge misconception that even many with migraine believe, and it needs to stop now.
Triggers set off ATTACKS; they DO NOT cause migraine.

Here’s how it actually works, if you’re looking for a short and sweet explanation:
Migraine disease causes extreme sensitivity to some stimuli (triggers) in those with migraine, which in turn set off individual attacks.

If you do not have migraine, these environmental or internal triggers will not affect you as they do someone with migraine disease, and triggers vary widely. What triggers your attack may not trigger another person’s.

Explaining it with a comparison to asthma has worked well for me. A person who has asthma ALWAYS has asthma, even between attacks. Asthma is what causes the hypersensitive reaction to whatever sets off an asthma attack.

Likewise, a person who has migraine ALWAYS has migraine, not only during an attack.

I’ve learned that there is no cure for migraine disease, and although treatments exist, they do not work for everyone, and one can have an allergy to them or negative reaction just like any other medication.

I’ve learned that you cannot rely on your doctor to educate you on this, and here’s why: many doctors are not trained in migraine diagnosis or treatment unless they specialize in headache disorders.

▪The average medical student gets about two hours of education on all headaches and he or she might get another two hours if neurology is pursued (Migraine World Summit).

▪Migraine is misdiagnosed about 50 percent of the time, according to the National Headache Foundation.

▪Less than 25 percent of chronic migraineurs are accurately diagnosed (study).

▪The healthcare system has failed migraineurs. Patients need to educate themselves on migraines and understand the limitations of doctors in a broken medical system.

(Link to article these facts are from: https://www.migrainekey.com/blog/how-much-does-the-average-doctor-know-about-migraines/ )

I’ve learned that neurology is not the Holy Grail of migraine knowledge or treatment many assume it is. Neurologists are basically the General Practitioners of all things neurological.

This #MigraineAwarenessWeek , lets educate ourselves with the facts so we can properly educate others.

It may seem like I’m being overly pedantic about this, but these things do matter and make a difference. I have seen it.
Let’s stop adding to the very stigma and miseducation that punishes us on top of our illness.

In the spirit of learning and educating others, I have a social media challenge starting…now!

MAW social media challenge

Each day during Migraine Awareness Week up to 3 facts from credible sources shared by participants will be posted on Down The Rabbit Hole by 8pm CDT (Central Time Zone is GMT/UTC – 5h) in graphic form as below.

You can download graphics from the Down The Rabbit Hole page if you’d like to keep one of your facts I’ve used.

Be well, or as well as you can…AND GET BUSY!

#GetYourKnowledgeOn

– Selena

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One Day Without Pain

One day
Only one???

We with daily pain always say we’d like just one pain free day…
Thinking about that realistically, do you really think that would be enough for you?

It would not for me.
I’d rather have no reprieve than one given then taken away.
Speaking from experience with having a treatment that made a small but significant-to-me difference, then losing health coverage and having to give it up after 2 years, I am pretty certain that while just a single pain free day might be enjoyable in the moment, it probably would have the effect of leaving me more depressed when it was over.

I also have my doubts about the ability to enjoy it, as someone who’s been in daily pain for six years – I’d be so busy trying to cram as much of what I can’t do now into it as I could that the sheer joy of such a day would be lost.

There would be no way to fit all the things my soul craves into a single day:
Time with family in varying locations. Extra time with grandkids. Catching up with friends. Seeing a current movie (I haven’t been able to see one in theater for 3 years). Cleaning my house (I’ve been itching to do this to my satisfaction for years). Going dancing. Going swimming. Walking in the park. Having a picnic. Riding a bike. Cooking something elaborate AND enjoying eating it. A slumber party with my daughters. Drinking a margarita with no medication interaction. Wearing something cute without having it hurt my skin. Sitting in the sunshine without sunglasses. Cuddling with someone I love. Driving for a few hours, singing to the radio cranked up to the max. Reading a real book without the white pages throwing a migraine-inducing glare. Playing with my kittens until they were tired instead until I’m too tired. Taking a long walk.

Having a conversation that doesn’t include the words “migraine,” “nausea,” “allodynia,” “pain,” “limits,” “triggers,” “chronic,” “aura,” or “can’t.”

No, one day is not enough; would never be enough. I’d always be left wanting more…

Reality.
Coming back to this pain-riddled body after my one day.

Reality.
Missing the things and people I love all over again.

Reality.
It’s my curse, and my life.
Limits, pain, dimly lit rooms, fighting for a moment of fun that I won’t suffer for.

One day?
No. I want MORE. I want LIFE.

Anything less is not enough.

Be well, or as well as you can.

– Selena

The Weight of the Things We Carry

Heavy
Some things are too heavy to carry.

Letting go of the heavy things…

Sometimes, this means forgiving someone who has wronged, hurt, or abused you; NOT because it absolves them or makes what they did okay, not because they asked for forgiveness or another chance, apologized, expressed remorse, not because you’ve been told it’s your Christian, familial, or wifely duty – but because bitterness and/or anger is hurting YOU, holding YOU back, and is still giving them power over your choices, healing, and life.

Sometimes, it means forgiving yourself.

It DOES NOT mean you’re okay with them or will forget what they’ve done to you, it does not mean you didn’t experience trauma from their actions, it does not mean you won’t still have aftereffects from the trauma or that it hasn’t had influence on you or your life choices, it does not mean you won’t still hold them accountable (personally or legally), it does not mean you want to keep them in your life (if they’re still alive), it does not make you weak.

It does not mean it doesn’t matter or that you don’t matter.

What it does mean is that you are taking charge of your life, owning your your choices, your mental and/or physical well-being, and taking accountability for things you’ve done or chosen instead of living in a victim mentality and shifting responsibility for anything you knew or now realize was wrong.
What it does mean is freeing yourself from something/someone weighing you down.

I am speaking from experience as someone who has been victimized and I do know how much easier this is said than done. But it is one of the best things you can do for you.

Sometimes, you’ll find forgiveness comes easy, but mostly, you’ll find it isn’t some one shot thing. It’s a process that you go through as you discover the depth to which something has affected you. Sometimes it happens naturally as part of healing, and others you have to work at it.

The single most important advice I can give you is to always forgive you.

You aren’t to blame for the things done to you.

You didn’t ask for it, whether it was abuse you lived with, a violent act, or the result of a mistake you made.

Be good to you and give yourself the leeway and understanding you’d give another.

Give yourself the time to heal, no matter how long it takes.

Be well, or as well as you can. – Selena .
.

The Exhaustion of Mental Illness

All that
Actually, I’m napping. But you get the point.

So, ever wondered how mental illness can make someone so tired and exhausted?

Wonder no more! Here are some excerpts of a day in the life of someone living with more than one mental illness/mental health struggle, and as a bonus, they’re some pretty conflicting illnesses to boot.

A Day In The Life:

Depression: “Don’t get up. There’s nothing good out there, and if there is, it’s not for you.”

“Don’t worry about answering that text. They won’t notice, anyway. They’re just being nice; don’t tell them your problems – they don’t want to really hear it.”

Anxiety: “But if I don’t get up, people will think I’m lazy. Am I being too lazy? If I don’t answer, will they be annoyed? What if they think I’M ignoring them? I’ll just tell them I can’t talk now. Omg, that might have been rude. I’d better apologize. Wait, what if they didn’t think it was rude and that it’s weird I apologized? Why did I say that? They think I’m weird now. No, that’s ridiculous – they don’t think that. You know they don’t. Oh MY GOD why did I say that? I’m such a hopeless idiot. Everyone knows it. Why did I get out of bed???”

Depression: “Go back to bed. Who cares what they think? Life sucks. Go to sleep – at least you can’t screw up everything while you’re sleeping.”

Panic Attack: “HOLY SHIT DANGER DANGER GET UP GET UP MOVE PACE MOVE DON’T STOP TOO DANGEROUS YOU’LL DIE IF YOU STOP DANGER MOVE MOVE MOVE NOT THAT WAY HYPERVENTILATE CAN’T BREATHE NO NOT THE BED DON’T CALL THAT PERSON RUN RUN MOVE DON’T THINK DON’T STOP HAVE TO MOVE WHY CAN’T YOU THINK NEVER MIND DON’T THINK PANIC PANIC PANIC — shit, I’m done and you can rest now. But be ready in case.”

*body feels like lead*
*chest hurts*
*bone-tired*
*tries to rest*
*screaming migraine goes into overload from the stress reaction*
*can’t rest*

Depression: “Really? You can’t even get something like sleep right? How pathetic ARE you?”

Anxiety: “That’s a good question. How pathetic AM I? No, that’s NOT a good question. What the hell is wrong with me? Really F*ing pathetic. I’m really F*ing pathetic…and oh my GOD I really called that person during a panic attack! I can never speak to them again, but I have to speak to them again…should I apologize?”

*and over…and over…and over…round and round it goes…where it stops god only knows.*

It’s extremely exhaustive and a constant push/pull that can make you worry about your state of mind…a lot.

But it doesn’t make you weak – if you can make it through a day like this, you’re pretty damn tough, actually. Tired, but tough.

It also doesn’t mean you’re “crazy.”
It just means you have an illness(es) that need taken care of like any other illness.

(Preferably taking care of you gets you a nap at some point, too. 😉 )

Be well, or as well as you can.

– Selena

Guilt-tripping People Doesn’t Prevent Suicide – But Caring Can

Trigger warning

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“Suicide doesn’t take the pain away; it just passes it to someone else!”

Why using this statement to try guilting people with severe depression and suicidal thoughts into staying above-ground is despicable:

▪It will stop the pain of living for the person. That part that says it doesn’t is false.

▪Whether there’s pain in the hereafter is a matter of question and personal belief.

▪Yes, others will be in pain if one dies at all, and probably angry if it’s by suicide.
BUT
It doesn’t pass on the pain that person felt – if it did, they’d understand why.

▪The statement is categorically false.

▪Asking someone to stay above ground and breathing simply to spare others from pain…by essentially telling the person their pain ranks below anyone else’s in importance or otherwise invalidating it, devaluing it, blaming/shaming them for having suicidal thoughts.

And I’m going to say it outright, and it will probably offend or upset a fair number of you, but I ask that you bear with me, finish reading the post, and to try to set aside that knee-jerk reaction and seriously give some thought to my words:

Asking someone to survive for others is no matter what is the height of shit because it’s selfish. As selfish as you think suicide is.
Because suicide it isn’t about you or how we feel about you or that we don’t care if we cause you pain.

As you point out when you judge someone for thinking of or dying by suicide – it’s about us.

It’s about the incredible weight of going on day after day with pain that we never really get to set down, the beating we take from our own minds every minute that would be horrible to see if it were visible and the scars of emotional wounds that never healed quite right, which reopen and we are often desperately trying to triage behind the smile we put on for those we love.

It’s about all the days, weeks, months, and years we have hung on a ledge by our fingernails, and by God, we survived…and we probably survived not for ourselves, but for those we didn’t want to hurt.

And as much as it hurts you to hear that, how much do you think it hurts when we reach out and the most common reaction is, “How can you even think about doing that to us?”

How many of those wounds start bleeding out with every, “If you don’t want to die…well, don’t kill yourself. Just quit thinking about it.”…”Instead of being so depressed, think about all the people who love you and how much it would hurt them if you choose to leave them.”…”You have a responsibility to your family/kids/spouse/friends to live.”…”Oh, yeah – take the easy way out and leave the ones who love you to suffer instead.”

“How can you be so selfish?”
“Wow, other people have problems, you know, but you are making this all about you, you, you.”

You notice what those real, personally experienced comments all have in common, besides the barbed guilt trips?

Not a single one addressed the pain of the person who expressed needing help, except to downplay it or dismiss it, while using the pain of others as an “encouragement” or reason to live, suffering or not.
All put the pain of themselves or others above that of the person needing help.
No one said, “How can I help?”…”What do you need from me?”…or even an open expression like, “I don’t know what to say/I feel uncomfortable/unqualified/[xyz emotion]…but I’m here for you and I’ll listen/do what I can.”

Not one response asked about the pain or wondered about how all-consuming and terrible it must be to make not existing sound logical or necessary to escape it.

In all fairness, I realize most people mean well when they point out people who love you and positive things, and some consider a guilt trip or low blow acceptable if it keeps someone breathing.
But every single one, well-meant or not, devalued not only the person’s suffering but the person themself by their words.

EVERY SINGLE RESPONSE MADE THE PAIN OF THE PERSON NEEDING HELP ABOUT THEM.

SELFISH.

If you can’t bring yourself to try to help or to just listen and be there because you can’t get past your judgement or misunderstanding about depression and suicide, for God’s sake, at least don’t inflict more damage.

I know it’s hard for someone who hasn’t experienced depression to wrap their minds around how it makes people truly unable to see anything but an endless existence of constant, soul-killing pain…or death as the only logical way to stop the pain.

How it isn’t that you don’t care about the pain and grief your loved ones will feel, but that you literally cannot see past the pain you’re in at that point – it’s like having blinders on. You can’t see the people who are lighthouses for you, because you can’t see through, under, over, or around the pain in front of you…and you can’t take them off, because you aren’t – CAN’T – thinking clearly enough to realize they’re not part of you.

At that point, it’s only if you come through the other side that you realize how much “you” you haven’t been, how much poison depression had been whispering over the voices of those you love and your own, and how much it made you believe its lies over the things you know are true…when you’re more you.

How much control over your thoughts you DIDN’T have, not because you weren’t taking your meds, not because you never thought of those you love, not because you just didn’t think happy thoughts, not because you were selfish, but plainly and simply because your illness got the upper hand despite you trying your best and fighting to hang on to those things.

See, that’s the thing people need to realize about suicide – it’s not a choice.

It’s death by depression; suicide is the MANNER of death – the “how” – but depression is the WHY.

Depression is an illness.
An illness that CAN be terminal at times, and that despite there being treatment it doesn’t always work for everyone, and sometimes one that did help inexplicably stops working, or that sometimes there are times when symptoms break through.

The same things can happen with a disease like cancer.
But when a person dies of cancer, we don’t question if they quit being positive, if they weren’t going to treatment or taking it properly, if they just didn’t care about leaving those who loved them to grieve, or say, “Wow, other people have cancer too, you know. She didn’t have to die from it. She was just making it all about her.”

We don’t tell people who have asthma, “I’ve never had any problems with breathing, and although I can see that you can’t breathe, I don’t REALLY understand it, so I just can’t help you.”

We don’t tell people who have a “physical” illness to just not have it or to not let it affect them.

When will we finally see that mental illnesses are just as physical as any other illness?
It doesn’t get much more physical than life or death.

Many are biologically and genetically based and cause physical symptoms as well, and even ones that are a result of environment or trauma…well, seems to me that it’s pretty simple to grasp that those were just as unasked for.

When will we stop stigmatizing those with mental illnesses and their effects? When will we stop seeing them as unimportant and not serious unless they affect or harm someone other than the person themselves?
Why are we letting those things affect how we see a person and their struggles to the point that they become unreachable?

You don’t have to understand to not judge. You don’t have to understand to help or to just be there.

You don’t have to understand to care…

If more people would see this, maybe less pain in this world would be “passed to someone else.”

Reach out to those you know or suspect are struggling. Because sometimes, they need YOU to reach THEM,

Because sometimes, the weight of all we carry just makes that impossible.

Be well, or as well as you can.

– Selena

 

The Migraine Pose Saga Continues – Trivializing Migraine

True migraine poses
#truemigrainepose pics

So…this migraine pose thing…you’ve maybe seen my posts on Instagram about it…or my tweets…or my last blog post on it.

Well, this happened…you know how much I love migraine.com, right? (Not sure anyone could miss that lol). But one particular writer, Kerrie Smyres, has been my migraine advocate idol since before I started doing the advocacy thing way back when – she wrote about the spectrum of migraine and how we shouldn’t judge by our own what a “real migraine” is, which was not only the first article I read by her but also very much set the tone of my own advocacy and wanting to make sure I include episodic migraineurs.

So she wrote this piece, and asked if I would mind contributing one of my pics of me in migraine mode. (Would i mind? Lol, if i could have turned cartwheels, I’d have been in the yard doing them lol)…and I’m in here grouped in with migraine.com advocates’ “true migraine poses.”

https://migraine.com/living-migraine/instagram-migraine-pose-fight-back-against-trivialization/

It may be a funny thing to be excited about, having the least flattering pic of myself on here, but I’m in a write by my migraine hero.

Feels like one of those ‘come full circle’ moments.

AND this article has some great info on how to fight back against the stigmatization of migraine.

Stay in the fight, migraineurs. We’ve had articles published about the backlash we’ve raised, but it isn’t over – others like Cosmopolitan and MamaMia have published the migraine pose article as well; it’s spreading.

If offending their key demographic is no deterrent, there really should be a consequence of some kind, so let’s keep taking the fight to them.

A few articles detailing the backlash:

“Migraines are not just headaches, and sufferers don’t tend to sit around looking glam with their hands resting on their heads.”

People who actually suffer from migraines are fighting back against the migraine pose trend

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5905697/Outraged-sufferers-accuse-migraine-pose-trend-disease-shaming-viral-Twitter-backlash.gym

https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/face-body/the-migraine-pose-taking-over-instagram-getting-backlash-on-social-media/news-story/de4af78c8e675c0a1ddcb2723dbc33ba

https://www.today.com/style/instagram-migraine-pose-causing-backlash-t133158

And I’m not a fan of FOX news, but we’ve even gotten their notice:

http://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/2018/07/11/migraine-pose-getting-backlash-on-social-media.html

Be well, or as well as you can,

AND KEEP FIGHTING BACK.

– Selena

When a Magazine Adds to the Stigma of an Illness

IMG_20180626_190022_532.jpg

Alerted by a post from migraine advocate Kerrie Smyres about the so-called “migraine pose” (as called by an Elle magazine makeup artist), I just messaged the following to their Facebook page:

“Re: “migraine pose”

Thanks for adding to the stigma and appearing to almost make fun of a horribly painful and debilitating condition.

“The story behind the “migraine pose”: “We at ELLE.com love a weird Instagram pose, and the latest one populating on our feeds is giving everyone a headache. Well, it’s making everyone deliberately look like they have a headache. And it’s damn flattering.

Migraine Pose, coined by makeup artist Nam Vo, involves posing with one or two hands pulling your face up by your temples as if you had a, well, migraine. There’s a reason it’s trending: The pose tightens the face, makes your cheekbones look more prominent, and lifts the brows. It’s a temporary facelift for the ‘gram.

‘I love it because the beauty of your hands frame the face and give it more structure. I always make my models pose this way,’ Vo told me, ‘It’s also a great time to show off your manicure.’” https://www.elle.com/…/what-is-migraine-pose-instagram/

What follows are photos of true migraine poses, from someone living with chronic daily migraine.”

Link to Kerrie’s post calling on those with migraine to post photos of themselves during a migraine attack with the hashtag #truemigrainepose to call out ELLE magazine: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10156463229200789&id=601600788

Link to ELLE’S Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ellemagazine/

Let’s not let this go. Migraine is a terrible and debilitating disease affecting millions, and is extremely stigmatized as it is.

Migraine pose, my arse. ELLE magazine you have some education and following up to do.

Be well, or as well as you can.

– Selena

When Chronic Illness Kills A Relationship

The end
15 years…gone.

 

One of the most painful things I can think of is the end of a relationship that was once full of love and happiness. It feels even worse that the cause of death here was my chronic illness.

Or rather, his inability to deal with my illness once things got tougher.

What is it like to become single while sick and disabled after 15 years, most of which were happy and healthy and in a happy and healthy relationship?

It’s like the bottom has fallen out of your world.

It’s like everything you knew, trusted, and believed in was yanked from under you and you don’t understand why suddenly you’re not enough any more.

It’s like seeing it coming but trying to fix it when there’s nothing you can do.

You can’t get well and stop the stress you’re both under financially and emotionally. You can’t break through your partner’s belief that any health issue can be conquered or fixed if you keep going like always. You can’t convince them your invisible, incurable chronic illness imposes real physical limits or that you’re at or past them when you look like nothing is wrong with you. You can’t explain why your grief over everything changing won’t heal when they won’t accept that you won’t get better.

It feels like being alone before you ever realize that you really are, because you can’t put your finger on the real issue…which is that as much as you may love each other, your partner can’t handle your illness and being your sole support, because they feel they can’t communicate their stress to you.

It feels like being punished for something you can’t control, and communication between you breaking down until it’s too late.

It feels like resentment, both directed at you and that you have for being resented.

It feels like trying to tell your partner that you understand…but you don’t. You may understand why your illness caused stress, but you will never understand why they could allow it to make them give up on you – on you together.

It feels like trying to tell your adult children without making them feel like they have to choose a “side.”

It conversely and perhaps irrationally feels like hurt because some of your children don’t take your side automatically, even though you’re trying to avoid making them feel like they should and you know it’s wrong.

It feels like not wanting to burden your family and friends, but not being able to do it alone either physically or financially.

It feels like being lost in a world you don’t know the rules to, if any exist.

It feels like fear and uncertainty are your new best friends who won’t leave you even for a moment.

It feels like longing for things back, even if they weren’t good for you.

It feels like heartbreak.

It feels like the end.

It feels like crying every night and having more flares because your stress affects your physical symptomatic levels.

It feels like being unable to explain that without others assuming it’s stress making you ill rather than exacerbating your existing illness.

It feels like feeling unlovable because of your illness.

It feels like every guilty thought you’ve had about how your illness is hurting your family is true in the worst possible way.

It feels like being lost.

It feels like strong moments when you think you did the right and necessary thing for you.

It feels like the rest of your moments being spent wondering if you did the right thing for you.

It feels like wishing they’d want you back.

It feels like wanting them to want you back so YOU can be the one to walk away from them.

It feels like wishing you’d never met if this is how it ends.

It feels like you’re a yo-yo ride of emotions.

It feels like having to lose the pets you raised and adore because you can’t take them to your new place…because you don’t have one.

It feels like as much a betrayal and trust-breaker as infidelity.

It feels like telling yourself not to even get interested in anyone because you can’t stand the reaction of mere aquaintances when you drop the Chronic Illness Bomb, much less that of someone you really like.

It feels like losing hope of a remotely normal life.

It feels like finding a new version of you as you discover who you are without them.

It feels more like,moving away than moving on or forward.

If it gets better you can’t see it yet, and in that, it feels like any breakup.

If it gets better, I’ll let you know.

– Selena

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Don’t Tell Me How To Feel About My Trauma

I think I can hate the experiences just fine. Acknowledging that they shaped me for better or worse is something altogether different in my opinion.

Being abused, molested, sexually assaulted, losing my best friend at 9 to an abusive foster mother who beat her to death, losing my niece, having a chronic illness, raising kids with mental health issues – I hate those things and that they ever touched me and those I love.
I hate them with a passion.

Did they shape me?

Yes.

But so did the neighbors who tried to help an abused kid, the Spanish and world geography teacher who gave a shy, picked on teenager a safe space in his classroom during lunch and tried to draw me out on the home abuse he suspected, the 6th grade science teacher who would later protect me from an abusive boyfriend in the mall, the supervisor at work who helped me when my ex threatened to kidnap my kid, the unconditional love and support of my mom and sisters, and the support of my chronic illness family.

Those people are the ones who turned my hurts into strengths, not the events themselves.

They are what made me and helped me make myself.

Don’t tell me how to feel about my trauma.

And don’t let anyone tell you how you feel about yours is wrong.

Be well, or as well as you can,

Selena

An Open Letter About Suicidality

Suicidality
My sisters and I a few years ago.

****THIS POST MAY BE TRIGGERING IF YOU HAVE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE, ARE A SUICIDE SURVIVOR, OR HAVE DEPRESSION/ SUICIDAL THOUGHTS****

When I was 19, I took 60 sleeping pills. I made a quick stop at a friend’s bridal shower, then went home to die.

I didn’t. Not because I got scared…but because my then bf was horrified at the thought he might be blamed and called 911, because I was pretty far out by then.

The EMTs that night were the true heroes who gave their all to keep me here. I remember them the most through the fog of lights and noise, especially the woman who talked to me the whole time I faded in and out. “Stay with me! Come on, sweetie, just stay!”

I wanted to tell her no. I wanted to tell her that even when I was breathing, I wasn’t alive; that this life and each breath I took was loaded with too much pain to stay.

But I couldn’t. Her face was the last thing I remember.

I woke up in ICU. It was a day and a half later. I was confused. There were tubes everywhere. I wanted to talk, but one was in my throat.

The first thing that registered was my little sisters, sitting across the room with tear tracks down their faces. They were the first to realize I was awake, and Daphne jumped up, dumping Diana on the floor.

Then my mom, bawling so hard it hurt to look at her…at any of them.
My father was there. I tried very hard to ignore him. He was one reason I didn’t want to be alive. He was trying to act happy…but I could see the anger underneath. He wasn’t angry so much that I’d scared them, but that I’d embarrassed him by this and by what secrets I might tell.
He was relieved that I didn’t. I didn’t mention him at all, I think, and that made his act easier for him.

My attention wasn’t for him anyway.

I don’t remember what was said. I remember my sore, scratchy throat. I remember the nurse who removed the tube telling me it was there because I’d fought them getting the charcoal down, and that if I wouldn’t fight more, she’d leave it out. I had no intent of agreeing, but I did anyway.

I remember the fear and hurt on my sisters’ faces, and the relief that I was alive. I remember the way it hurt more than anything I’d ever felt to see that.

I remember us all crying. I remember wishing I hadn’t woken up or survived. That wasn’t in my plans.
I remember telling them I was sorry, and I was. Sorry I’d hurt them. Sorry I’d lived.

See, the biggest, most awful, scary, ugly truth about a suicide attempt is that sometimes (often) we aren’t glad we survived.
Sometimes not at first, and maybe for some, I suspect not ever.
And I was not at first.

More than anything, though, I was scared to try again. To not succeed again and to see that look in my sisters’ faces that still haunted them for a while when they didn’t realize it….that would be unbearable. To see that pain in my mom’s eyes again…
Those things haunted me and followed me like ghosts as I slowly learned to live.

I promised myself I would never, ever be the cause of those things again.

For 29 years, I’ve kept that promise.

It hasn’t always been easy, though. You’d think it was, right?

And that’s the other big scary truth about suicide attempts.
People who attempt may be (or become) glad we survived. Sometimes it creeps up on us slowly, like it did me, and we realize one day that we are actually okay…maybe happy…maybe grateful…with being alive.
Probably some are immediately grateful.

But we will almost certainly struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts again. We are at greater risk of dying by suicide, sometimes years later.
We will very likely need help, be it counseling, medication for depression, or both.

I won’t lie.
I won’t tell you it’s easy.
I won’t tell you I’ve never struggled or don’t sometimes still struggle.
I won’t tell you it will get better – sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we don’t get a happily ever after. Sometimes it isn’t a ‘temporary problem’ that will resolve itself.

I will tell you that you’ll never know if you don’t hang on.
I will tell you that it can be infinitely worth it.
I will tell you that each day you win, you are braver than you know, struggle or not.

I will ask you this: Please stay with me.

I wish I could tell that EMT thank you and that I’d pass on her plea.

– Selena