Note: This is the first guest blog I’ve posted here, and though my name is up there under the title, that’s only because I pressed the Publish button. This was authored by a lovely, intelligent, and well-spoken young woman, a friend named Christy France who deals with many of the same ghosts that I do. I asked her to do this because she inspires me. – PR
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think” – Christopher Robin
I’ve always hated this quote.
I’m not brave.
And considering I can’t seem to figure out a way to navigate the world from outside these four walls I call home, I certainly wouldn’t call me smart.
I suffer from a mental illness. Actually, a whole slew of them. Agoraphobia. Complex PTSD. Depression. And while I have made it my mission to prove to the world that I am not my illness, that I am the same person I have always been, lately I’ve been questioning if that’s a bunch of horse shit. As much as I would love to believe I haven’t changed one bit, It’s actually impossible to have your whole world turned upside-down and on its head and not become someone new.
Normally this would be the part where I would bore you with some statistics, from some website, from some guy who is much more intelligent than I will ever be, but I’m feeling generous today so I’ll spare you that (no need to thank me). Instead, I think I’ll just tell you my story – of how mental illness didn’t create someone new, it uncovered the person I was always meant to be.
I have childhood issues. (Don’t we all?) I grew up in a family I never quite seemed to fit into, but despite that, I excelled in everything I touched. Academics. Gymnastics. Public speaking. I was an Honor Student. Went to college. Earned a University Degree. Bought a house. Got married. Etc. etc. etc. I never gave much thought to the rest of the world because I was always in my own little world.
When I was fourteen years old I experienced a trauma that changed the entire course of my life, and yet, I still carried on (mind you with some very unhealthy coping strategies) On the inside, I was falling apart. On the outside, I was the same old successful me I had always been.
You can only keep up this charade for so long before it all comes crashing down.
In 2013 it came crashing down.
A panic attack in a grocery store lineup left me completely and totally housebound.
I used to wish there was such a thing as an invisibility cloak. Something someone could wrap around me, so I could hide out from the world, just for a little while. The funny thing is, I think my agoraphobia has done that. Only it’s not comforting like I imagined it would be. It’s not soft and protective.
And it’s strangling the life out of me.
My entire life I valued the wrong things. Others put expectations on you that sometimes you can’t fulfill. Isn’t everyone supposed to get their Happily Ever After like some hero in some fairytale that uses some hardship and rises above it?
The problem is, I’m not some hero. I’m not someone who’s done something that has changed the world, or made a difference, or even left this place a little bit better than it was before me. But I can tell you this: I may be still be that girl who is sheltered in her own little world, but I don’t take one second of that little world for granted anymore.
People like to say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but I don’t buy that. Life gives you far more than you can handle, but more than you can handle alone. You see, people cross paths for a reason. An innocent donation piece for the Unity Run turned into a valuable friendship with two of our communities finest First Responders. My story being published in our local paper created a safe space for others to reach out and know they are not alone. A random like on a talented man’s blog (you know who you are) introduced me to a man that has become a mentor to me, and probably many others like me.
Life tries to break you. And often it succeeds. But it’s the relationships we make, that allow us to pick up those shattered pieces and put them back together again. A kind word from a neighbor. A friend dropping off girl guide cookies for no other reason than kindness (because who doesn’t love a good cookie, am I right?) Your husband who brings you a hot cup of chamomile after a particularly tough day, or a doctor who lets you hold a comforting trinket to help ease the hell of your symptoms.
No, you will never be the same as you were before, but the Japanese believe that there is value in brokenness, and that THAT is where strength is born.
Because you’re not the same as you were before.