Thursday, February 16, 2017

Guest Post from Fellow Advocate and Survivor - Jenna White

My name is Jenna White and I am 23 years old. I have been a drug addict, a human punching bag for ex boyfriends and family, criminal, homeless, a step mother, a student and a suicidal mess.

My story starts in Timmins Ontario, a small northeastern Ontario town that claims to have "The heart of gold". At age 13 I began feeling systems of bipolar disorder and started to self mutilate and smoke weed. My family life was a very negative atmosphere and did not help with getting me healthy. They often insulted and undermined me and it made my depression depend to extreme levels.

I began to do hard chemicals to stay happy. Speed, Coke, Ecstasy, Ritalin, and Valium. I was also dating a very abusive guy in high school and my need to escape life rose. At age 15 was the first time a boyfriend laid a beating to me. I tried to lay charges but in the small town where a family name is respected the charges were dropped.

This is where my criminal life started. I did almost $5000 worth of damage to my ex's car and was charged with mischief under 5000. Funny enough my parents didn't scold me for breaking the law. Throughout the years until I was 18 I was charged with theft under 5000 and assault.

I moved out of my parents house at 16 and stayed in school, 2 hockey teams and a part time job. I was still smoking weed but I quit the hard stuff. I wanted to show the non believers that I could make it on my own. And I did.

Just before the ending of high school I was back on hard drugs. It would last 5 long years of speed addiction and be the most chaotic time of my life. I was hosting a 24/7 party at my house. Drugs, drinking and many, many roommates. It was a mess and I still to this day can't believe I lived in that for years and survived. The amount of speed I took I am surprised I am not a vegetable.

On my 19th birthday I was walking home from from work after night shift and I was on a long bender. I collapsed in the road and woke up in the hospital. I had collapsed from the drugs and exhaustion. But that night I popped some pills and went to a bar to celebrate with friends.  It was around this point in my life I started to feel the affects of the years of drugs and lack of sleep. I knew I would end up a junkie probably on the streets and I would not live like that so I moved to Toronto with a new boyfriend and his child.

I began college and my new life as a step mother to a 3 year old. I changed from a junkie to mother in a matter of months. It was harder on me than I care to admit but the challenge was welcomed. I tried my very best but my bipolar came on me like a thunder storm and began to self mutilate, drink and smoke my Ativan. I was falling into the same darkness as before and I landed in the mental hospital for the first time. I was in there for 2 weeks and that is the beginning of the string of medications that lasted until today. 

The relationship was falling apart and he began very emotionally abusive, it drove me deeper into depression, self mutilation and self medicating. I landed inside the hospital on a forum 1 (suicide watch). Soon after my release would mark the second time I fell victim to physical abuse from a lovers hands. I had almost lost my left eye sight from the swelling and a fractured left cheekbone.

22 years old, a badly bruised face and homeless in Toronto. I had no family in Toronto so I couch hopped for a good month until my college and family members put me up in Residence. I cannot tell you how it felt to walk around campus with half of my face bruised. It was the most embarrassing, shaming, terrifying and uplifting time of my life. I lost friends after it happened but it showed me who had a good heart. I was scared that he would come after me after I called the cops but people were there to calm me. I had lost myself again but I was on the mend.

After residence I had to move back with my parents and got a full time job. I traveled back and forth to Toronto for school and did placement in Stratford Ontario. I was working hard towards the end of my diploma and I was in a good place. All except one thing, the negative atmosphere of my family home was building. A year after the incident my dad and I almost had a physical altercation and he kicked me out. I was homeless again and in a new town. I went to a homeless shelter and saved up money until I finished placement and could move away.

My story stops here (for now), in Belleville Ontario. I am on my last course to finish college and I am working a full time job. I own a dog and looking forward to make something special of my life. 

Keep up with Jenna at www.brandnewbipolar.com

Don't miss Jenna Saturday, February 18, 2017 on our podcast, Voices for Change 2.0 at 11:00 am EST. 


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Beware of Self Care?

I’ve been going over and over again in my head, trying to figure out why I feel so damn guilty every time I attempt to practice self-care. I advise others to do it, but when it comes to me, I’m almost entirely overwhelmed by the idea. So overwhelmed in fact, that the only thing I can do is lie down and take a rest.

As much as I love and adore my mom and the person that she was, she used to get very pissed off at all of us in the house. If she was going around dusting or vacuuming, she would just pitch a fit about how it must be so nice to lie around all day. Meaning, me, my dad, and my brothers. If we were in our rooms watching TV, we were just a waste of space.

The last few months have been incredibly rough for me, but the winter months usually are. After a leak in our house left us living in a hotel for a month, we then had to come home and put everything back together. Both the bathroom and the dining room had to be remodeled, the bathroom being much worse than the dining room.

We had no dining room for Thanksgiving. We ordered carry out turkey meals and ate them sitting on our bed. I know it sounds weird, but it wasn’t that bad. No family drama, just us hanging out, watching movies and relaxing. The only downside was that neither of us saw our families. We were concerned we would be spending Christmas in the hotel as well, but luckily we got out just in time. It was December 23rd when we returned, and we were barely able to throw some tissue paper into gift bags for Christmas gifts.

I left the hotel room once the entire time we were there. I was too afraid the staff would come in and let one of our cats out, nevermind the agoraphobia and social anxiety. I went to the laundry room. My heart was racing the entire time, and I dissolved into tears when I got back to the room.

Now that I’m home, I’m virtually chained to my bed. January is always rough with the anniversary of my mother’s death. I expect to struggle then, but all of the other days? There are some days where I don’t even go to the lower level of my house. That’s embarrassing for me to admit, but it’s true. If I can’t even make it down the stairs, how the hell am I going to make it out in public?

For the last few months, the ups and downs have been never-ending. One day, I may get good news about something, then the next day I’ll get bad news about ten other things.

And trusting people? Let’s just say, that concept has been thrown out the window. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust anyone again. Two people in our lives that we needed to be able to rely on turned their backs on us. Then, instead of accepting their part in the argument, just blamed it all on me being a heartless bitch that “sucks people dry until I can’t get anything else from them, and then I throw them away.” That is the farthest thing from what I am. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the epic betrayal I feel.

I wake up every single day with a headache. If I have night terrors or a very active dream, the headache will wake me up it hurts so bad. Instead of screaming in terror over my dream, I’m screaming because it feels as if someone just hit me in the head with a sledgehammer. My mom had high blood pressure, and so does my dad. My mom also had a stroke around my age and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. My sister was just diagnosed with congestive heart failure. I’m starting to see a pattern. My dad was kind enough to buy me a blood pressure monitor, and I’ve been using it every day. It’s nearly always high, but we’re working on it.

I’m taking nine different medications now for depression and anxiety and seven different supplements to make me feel better. You would think I would feel well enough to leave my bed. All I can think about it getting that one thing done that I need to complete, then taking a nap.

How do you stop feeling guilty about taking care of yourself?
At what point does self-care become an excuse? I read the articles and the posts about taking care of yourself, but at this point, it feels like a crutch. I don’t know how to stop, and I start sobbing at the thought of it. Am I just lazy?

I know I’m depressed and in 2 weeks when I see my doctor, I’m going to see about switching medications, but until then what do I do? Is this just a lack of motivation or a major depressive episode? Do I even care? I don’t know what to do next or how to feel. I’m just lost in an abyss of darkness.

At this point, I don’t know which way is up. I’ve lost all faith in myself and in my instincts.  I don’t feel like I can trust anyone and the panic attacks are killing me. I always try to end on a positive note, but I don’t know how to do that today because I don’t have any of the answers.

 Everything I’ve tried to make myself feel like a productive member of society has failed. All of my hopes and dreams have been decimated, and I feel so lost. I know there are others out there that feel this way. I guess that’s what is keeping me going despite myself. I’ve spent so much time telling people that I’m a survivor and that they can’t give up. It’s looking like I’m going to have to start telling myself that. I can’t just give up and make it look like it’s OK.


I’m just going to keep trying little by little to make it through. Keeping my fingers crossed the whole time that nothing else in our lives falls apart because I can’t handle that right now. I’m just going to keep one foot in front of the other and try to shrug off the feelings of guilt on the days when all I am capable of is just simply breathing. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Guest post from Amanda the lead singer of the band Saphyre Rain and a Fabulous Writer!

I think they want us to be silent.

It's amazing how silence is deadly. The longer you wait to speak up about something that is hurting you, the harder it becomes. At least, a lot of things have turned into regrets that way, for me. 

It's hard to be honest in a pretend world. It seems like people everywhere want you to be happy, even if that means faking it. How many memes have I seen go by, touting "a smile is better than a frown" or "just smile even if it doesn't mean anything". The "grin and bear it" mentality is dangerous. Why are we encouraged to deny what we feel? Why is it a societal abnormality to be sad or heartbroken? 

I remember a particular time when I was struggling with depression and anxiety. I remember thinking "this is how all those people feel - this is what it's like to have your heart broken." And in that moment so many things suddenly made sense to me. A flood of songs, lyrics, and stories suddenly rang true. This pain is what the whole of our race is feeling. If you are a human, you have experienced pain. It comes in various shapes and forms, yes, but we all have felt the sting. 

Why then, are we silent about it? As humans, we are all in this together. We are all living this beautiful life and each page of our story, one day at a time. So why should we force ourselves to look happy when we are dying inside? Why should we pretend for those that don't really care about us?

I feel that this fact keeps us alone, when we are hurting....when we need other humans the most desperately. We don't want to be "abnormal" or "weird" or labeled with one of those labels that society comes up with, like "crazy" or "screwed up". 

I have a message for you:

You are not crazy. You are not messed up. You are not ruined. You are not finished. This pain is not going to last forever and you will overcome. You are not alone in your fight. And we will sing together until this silence is broken. 

Because you deserve healing. And the beginning of healing is breaking the silence around the pain you are going through. 

You deserve to sing your song, even if it is a sad one. It doesn't matter if the chord at the end can't resolve into a blissful major note. It is still your song. This is still your story.

You deserve to say how you feel and still be loved and accepted. You deserve life and love and the realization that hope will never leave your side. 

Don't give up. I believe in you. Sing it out. Xo

"Sing it out, sing it out. 
Take what is left of me,
And make it a melody.
Sing it out, sing out loud.
I can't find the words to say, 
You'll be my remedy.
My soul, my soul.
I sing with what's left of me."

--Switchfoot's Jon Foreman