Mental Health

Illness Army: “The Never-ending Journey”

PLEASE take the time to read this piece.
I promise you will not regret it. I applaud Joshua for being brave enough to write this. It shows great mental strength considering all he has been through.
I hope that by sharing this piece, it helps others who have experienced similar circumstances. We can still find love through our illness, and mental struggles.

If you enjoyed this piece, or would like to contact the author please visit his blog.

If you would like to submit your story to Illness Army, please check out our Submissions Guidelines Page. You can also contact me through our Instagram and Facebook account. I look forward to hearing from you.

I don’t know how to start this story, nor any idea for an ending, but we’ll get there. Everything takes time and patience.
But in all honesty, “everything” takes a lot more than time and patience. Heartache, pain, suffering, and loss are also a big component of anything you experience in life. After that, it just comes down to how you cope with those various elements.
For myself, it was always losing my fears in music and writing my thoughts down in a journal. I’m quite convinced that it’s saved my life – probably on more than one occasion. The funny thing is that I don’t write much anymore and I believe I know the reason.
Ever since I was five years old, I’ve had crushes on girls, while also wondering what my life would amount to – where I’d be, who I’d be with, if I’d be married – and I’ve gotten it all wrong. Why? Because I thought that I had to be like my parent’s – not in the sense of what they did, but when.
When I get married, when I get a job, when I get a car. I think most people do this considering your parent’s are your first teachers about how the world works, but I took it in a literal sense. Then, as my grade school years enveloped, I realized most people started having jobs and relationships and getting around independently – not me.
But my biggest concern was relationships. I always envisioned being married or – at the very least – having a girlfriend like my friend CJ’s brother did at the age of 16. Again, I took things to a literal tee – even at the age of 5. One of my closest friends gave me the best advice I’ll ever receive a few years back. We’d just gotten back to my house after a day out together when I told her I was sad and scared that she was leaving for school in Chicago. “Although change is scary, it can be a good thing,” she said. I hear those words every time I’m afraid of a changing situation in my life now, and I couldn’t thank her enough.
Caroline will always hold a special place in my heart, and the three years following her departure were tormenting and soul-stifling. But sleepless nights over her and sleepless nights over what ensued after those three years were incomparably more painful.
Enter a woman who we’ll call – um – Megan. Megan was a friend who betrayed the trust of myself and others to the likes of which shall never be healed. Then again, when you seduce the broken spirit of a depressed, anxiety ridden 20-year-old at the age of 35, what left is there to trust?
“A moment of passion and blindness was bestowed upon me only hours ago,” I wrote of the situation. “What of the repercussions? What of the repercussions? Have I sold my soul in this dangerously beautiful act? I have my demons, however, one has left me forever.” At this point in my life, I felt lonely and afraid of love – undesired mentally, physically, sexually – and I guess that’s what happens when you have a physical disability such as Cerebral Palsy.
At the time, my friends didn’t even know how to respond to the benign scenario. Some told me to accept it and move on. Others thought it seemed enjoyable. What followed the months after that night were feelings of guilt and sorrow, pain and suffering, insanity and malice. I’d cry myself to sleep numerous times a week wishing for someone to save me, while having flashbacks of her legs around my waist, her breathing – her hands pulling the hair on the back of my head – that kiss on my neck that overtook my fears at that moment and turned it into blind passion.
I whispered for her to follow me to which we found ourselves at a point of no return. I asked if she was clean, to which she nodded in confirmation. I didn’t have protection, and I didn’t bother to ask. I didn’t know how to say no, or even ask if she had any, so I let her straddle herself atop my lap as she thrusted her hips and removed her shirt.
And to think that this moment started hours earlier with her sitting inches from me closing her knees around my leg and giggling at every word I spoke. Although I know one thing’s for certain: you never forget your first. It all still feels like as if it were a dream – a concoction of a teenage boy’s ultimate fantasy – only to be acted out in reality, without all of the “accomplished feelings” and high-fives from your bros. I think I always knew something was going to happen that night – she was flirting like a high-school girl with an engorged crush on the dark, mysterious guy who always sat alone at lunch. Only, she was no school girl, and I don’t eat lunch. She brought out my fears and hopes all in an equal fashion. She enveloped my desire to feel normal – and normal I had felt – up until the point where my sudden attack of conscious decided to guilt me into fault for what ensued between two morbidly, sad lovers.
So, as any story goes, now what?
I managed to graduate from my community college and ended up at my state university four months later – to which I withdrew medically from my only semester.
I met with a counselor named Lisa for every week during that semester. Megan was the source of my fear, my worries. Walking around campus feeling isolated from society, from friends and family and having no self worth, make life pretty unlivable. I hated Megan. She took something from me I still can’t get back: losing myself to someone who’s in love with me as much as I am with them.
I felt unwanted by everyone and everything. I felt like a freak undeserving of love and affection because of my disability. One day, Lisa asked me if I were a woman and Megan was a man, would that change the meaning.of what happened between us. I said maybe, but I really meant yes. I went through with my actions that night because I was too afraid to say “No.” I thought she’d judge me, too, if I didn’t give in to her advances.
In an odd twist of fate however, that night’s allowed me to reconnect with others and with myself. Fast forward a year after I withdrew, and I met a girl online named Anette. Psychiatry has become my best friend, and I understand my importance to others now. Anette has become my saving grace and without her love, I’d be a body with no shadow.
Anette will be here with me next month for a week and four days. We’ve both said that it’s going to be the best time of our lives, and I can’t wait to hold her hand and feel her lips pressed against mine so that I may finally be free of the torment that Megan caused – including the torment my broken mind and heart caused me my entire life.

Illness Army: “Fear Of Failure”

I just opened my email account for this blog, and have found numerous entries for Illness Army! Thank you for sending them in, and I apologise for my absence and delay in reposting them. I have been incredibly busy, and distracted.

If you would like me to share a post that details your Chronic Illness, or highlights a memory along your journey, or maybe you would just like to share hope for other sufferers – please check out our Submissions Guidelines Page!

Here is a post from my good blogging friend, Matt.
A short excerpt from the author: “Anxiety and Depression can make us all feel so incredibly alone, when in fact we’re not. Millions of people all around the world suffer from the same debilitating illnesses, but we can’t always see that. On my blog I try to address that, I try to be constructive, to make a positive difference in both my life and in yours”.
You can find Matt at insilencewesuffer.wordpress.com

For as long as I can remember I have had a fear of failure. I think it must have been ingrained me as a child whilst I was growing up. I hold it accountable for a lot of my mental health problems that I’ve since developed, namely my struggles with stress and anxiety which can often lead to bouts of depression.

To tell the truth, my relationship with failure is more than a little awkward, I guess some would describe it as –love hate: failure loves me, but I hate him. Or at least that’s the way I used to feel about him. I’d try to avoid him, but he’d always be one step ahead of me, just waiting to jump out at me and take me by surprise.

I used to be petrified of making a mistake (I say used to, I still am, generally speaking, but I’m trying to be a little more forgiving of myself these days). At primary school I learnt a lot. I learnt to read and write, my numeracy was pretty good too – I was a weird child, one of those kids who absolutely loves their times tables! This carried on to my secondary school. I did really well, on the whole, passing my GCSE exams with flying colours, but then disaster struck. I had my first real taste of failure the following year, and I didn’t know how to respond. It’s only now I realise that in spite of learning about trigonometry and iambic pentameter, photosynthesis and latin, I had not learnt about failure.

My secondary school had this technique, where instead of teaching us that failing was not a big deal, that it really was ok, as long as we then took on board the lessons learned, they taught me to fear it. Failure was something to be avoided, at all costs. I think being at such an elitist school meant that with every exam paper I sat there was a real danger to my status. Exams weren’t just a threat to my marks, they were a threat to my ego too; my reputation as a clever student was on the line with come exam day. When the inevitable fall came, I didn’t know how to react. The way my school had taught me to look at failure made me feel incompetent and inept.

I’ve since learned, primarily through the trial and error of everyday life, that mistakes are an inevitable part of our everyday interaction with a complex world. This is precisely why learning from them is so essential.

I came across the following quote recently, and I thought I’d share it with you all, as it has an interesting outlook on our relationship with failure. It teaches us to embrace failure, to study all possible outcomes and to accept that every now and again we can be wrong. “The desire for perfection rests upon two fallacies. The first resides in the miscalculation that you can create the optimal solution sitting in a bedroom or ivory tower and thinking things through rather than getting out into the real world and testing assumptions, thus finding their flaws … The second fallacy is the fear of failure… You spend so much time designing and strategizing that you don’t get a chance to fail at all, at least until it is too late … You are so worried about messing up that you never even get on the field of play.” (Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking)

Failure continues to haunt me. Along with my struggles with anxiety, it has limited my risk taking, and consequently my expectations from life. I hope that these words can help anyone that reads them, even if it is only the knowledge that they aren’t alone in their fear of failure. Whilst I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet (I can’t play the trumpet – music isn’t one of my fortes come to think of it!) often it is those of us who are the most successful who are also the most vulnerable. We have received so much praise for our seemingly flawless performances that we haven’t learned to deal with the setbacks that confront us all at some point in our lives. We should regard failures as an inevitable consequence of the mismatch between the complexity of life and our capacity to understand it. It’s only with a more accepting attitude towards failure that we will learn its lessons. Don’t take it to heart.

In Loving Memory.

*IMPORTANT POST*

It is through tears and sadness that I write this post tonight.

I received some devastating news, and have spent my past two days in a complete state of shock. I have gone to write this so many times, but I just don’t know what to say.

Back in Childcare, I became very close to a mother from Spain, as I taught her firstborn. She was my first friend at that centre, and her family became more like family to me.
When I fell ill in late 2014, she also fell ill to similar symptoms as I. I resigned, and we both spent time searching for answers and keeping in close contact. We forever spoke about how tough it was finding support for something that nobody understood, and how challenging it was to be told to “think positively” repeatedly when we were suffering in silence. We both understood each other on a level that not many others can relate to; a level that you would understand quite well if you too are ill. She gave her full support for this blog, and for that I am so thankful.

It has been close to two years since I last worked with her son, and saw her face-to-face. We spoke every few weeks and shared health, children and life updates, and I was only catching up on her photos with the children a few days ago, when I found out the horrible news.

I can’t even say it, because I don’t want to believe it.

I know that this message must be shared, but I wish every second that it was not with my friend as the example.

I find myself grieving for the loss of a friend, and grieving for a husband and two younger children who are without a wife and mother from this day forth.

I cannot stress the following enough:

Chronic Illness, whether mental, physical or combined, is an incredibly difficult journey. The uncertainty is terrifying, the tests are invasive, the symptoms are debilitating. It is a burden, it is lifechanging, it is exhausting, it is lonely, it is depressing…
But please, please don’t let it become a death sentence.
Do not let the overwhelming darkness of Chronic Illness kill you.

Your parents, your extended family, your children, your friends, your colleagues; I guarantee that one or more of these love you and care about your wellbeing.
I, a complete stranger, care about your wellbeing.
You might have mistaken their silence for being rude or uncaring, but they most likely have NO knowledge of your inner thoughts and pain. You must take the step to reach out. Reach out to anyone.
Please, do not battle in silence.
There are loved ones, Psychologists, Doctors and Counsellors who are here to listen to you, to help you.

In memory of my dear friend, I ask three simple things of you tonight:

1) Reach out to your loved ones tonight and simply, LOVE them.
Put aside all anger, all stress and just tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, please.

2) If you know of someone going through hardship, or haven’t spoken to someone in a while, I encourage you to reach out and ask them the simple question, “How are you?”
This simple sentence packs a powerful punch.
Mental health is real,
Suicide is real,
and with these three words, you might start the conversation that saves someone’s life

3) Please share this post in loving memory of my friend, and to spread awareness for those battling Suicidal Thoughts who might not think that they have a reason to live tonight –
You DO.

Finally, to my dear friend A,

I am having a hard time accepting that this is goodbye.
I still find myself going to message you. I want to speak to you just one last time.
I don’t want to believe that this is how our journey ends.
You were a unique soul and the most incredible mother to those beautiful boys. I mean that. You were an even better wife and a genuine, loving friend.

I am holding close to my heart all of the wonderful memories I shared with you and your family. I remember the day that we met, and knowing that our friendship would last a life time. I loved my job for children and families like yours.
I clearly remember cuddles with little one and nicknaming him a Koala-bear as he glued himself to my chest; I remember the Christmas Decorations you handmade me (which I still have on my tree each year); I remember becoming so sidetracked with chatting at work, that I’d think you were one of my colleagues as you’d be sitting with me and the children at story time; and I remember your complete support when I first fell ill.
You offered numerous times to care for me, and to have relaxing “girl” days at your house. You sent me photos of the children’s birthdays, because you knew how heartbroken I was about having to leave my dream job. When you referred to me as your son’s second Mum, I was overwhelmed at how close we had all become – that we were now family.

Each night, you would tell me about all of the wonderful adventures you had planned for the children at home; that you always kept them busy with cooking, decorating, creative activities. You were adventurous, accepting, and kind beyond words.
I was in awe of you.

I went home wishing that all parents loved like you and your husband did.
I wished that every child I would teach in the future, was like yours.

You were destined to be a nurse and mother. It was your natural instinct to care for others before yourself, and I wish you could have seen how great you would have been.

I feel absolutely sick to my stomach that we will never get to have that girl’s night that we planned for so long.
I hope you know how special you were to so many people.
I know in my heart that you were strong. This does not at all show any sign of weakness, or define you. I know that you were suffering, and for that, I am so sorry.
I can’t stop crying, A.
I hope that you are reading this somewhere, and know how much of an impact you made on my life. I know that you will continue to guide the little one’s on their path through life, and you have my word that I will be there for them too. I will remind them of how incredible you were.

We will meet again one day, and we will have that girl’s night we planned, I promise.

I hope you are painfree now, sweetheart.
You will be missed terribly, and loved always.

Until we meet again, Rest In Peace X

If you are, or you know of someone, dealing with Suicidal Thoughts, Depression or general hardship, please locate a Suicide Hotline or Chatsite in your given country of residence:
http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html