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Danielle Ione

Romance Writer. Twin Mama. Wife. Sarcasm enthusiast. Mental Health Awareness. LBGT Advocate.

The Harsh Reality of Mental Illness.

Five years ago today, I entered the mental hospital.  I was in a place that I still don’t quite understand.  I had everything I needed to be happy yet there was this emptiness, this restlessness, this darkness that I couldn’t wrap my head around. I had a fiance, a future to look forward to, people supporting me, and yet none of that positivity could begin to touch the cloud in my head filling me with dark thoughts and negative feelings.  I felt broken.  Unable to just live a life smoothly without some sort of emotional turbulence shaking me to my core.  It didn’t make sense to most people.  I had everything but I still felt like every fiber of me was breaking apart. That’s how mental illnesses are, completely nonsensical, damaging, life altering disturbances that take over and refuse to let go.  That is, until you do something about it.  

I didn’t make the decision lightly.  No one really wants to confine themselves between the stark white sterile walls of a mental facility but I had the support I needed to feel comfortable speaking out when I knew I was in a dangerous and unstable place.  I can’t quite put into words what it feels like to be afraid of yourself.  It was fear mixed with desolation while standing in a world that was bright, that should make you feel happy.  And that was the problem, I should have been happy but the chemistry in my brain and the years of bad treatment I had received made it feel like it was impossible.  It was a scary time for me and for my family but a lot has changed in those years.

I was there for a week and left with some good tools but also a reminder of where I didn’t want to end up again.  Although I made friends, and I’ll admit, somehow I had some fun in there, I can’t forget the way the tone of the place changed when the lights went out, when everyone was supposed to be sleeping, when the depression hit the most, sitting in bed wondering how you ended up in a place that wouldn’t even allow shower curtain for fear you might harm yourself with it.  Drugged up on the three, or was it four, pills they had me on, emotionally raw from all day forms of therapy.  And towards the end of my stay I realized that I had something to fight for, whereas some of the people in there had nothing.  When I left there, I had to remind myself of that.  I never regretted the decision to go there, and I don’t think I ever will.  It was eye opening in ways I didn’t know it would be when I filled out the admission forms. It was my first real baby step to getting better.  

I changed a lot since this moment, five years ago, when I said goodbye to my husband and traded in the comfy-ness of my bed, of my home with him for white walls, no privacy, and constant emotional awareness, even more so than I already had.   I’m fairly certain I’m a completely different person than I was the moment I went in there and that is a relief.  Those of you who knew me before know that I was not that great of a person.  It’s not that I was purposely vindictive or evil, but I was wrapped up in being mentally ill and not knowing what the hell I was other than mentally ill, that I had no idea how to function around other people effectively, without hurting anyone, without annoying someone, and I had no idea how to let people get to know me on a deeper level because I didn’t know myself on that level either.  I knew what everyone else knew; I was ill.  Everyone needed to know it because I had been taught exactly that, that everyone I came in contact to needed to know this about me in order to decide if I was worth the risk of being around, but I also felt the need to shout it from the rooftops in the most annoying way because I had no idea what made me, me.  If you were to have asked me then who I was, I would have said that I was Danielle (at the time) Metzger, I was engaged, bipolar mixed with this and that, I was a survivor of this and that, I had a temper that I would often mistake for passion, and I would tell you my sob story.  But none of it made up who I was, I only felt like it did. I was lost in my emotions, day to day to god damn day and I didn’t see anything but that.  I played the victim’s card.  I didn’t know then, but I know it now.  Now that I’ve been seperated by all of this for so long, I can see it.  I had things in life most people want; love, a support system, a roof over my head, but I was depressed.  I was depressed and in my head there had to be a bigger explanation than I was chemically imbalanced.  There had to be more of a reason than genetics.  I could not accept that I was that so bone deep depressed with no logical explanation as to why other than chemicals. I still struggle with that fact.  So I searched for the things in my life that weren’t perfect, and I reveled in them.  I’ll admit that now.  I took the things in my life that I wanted to be perfect, and instead of fixing them or living with it without devastation, I poured all of my depression, my anxiety, my emotional ups and downs on those things.  I played the victim but not to manipulate, not to gain attention, but because I was afraid to admit that there was something wrong with me and I didn’t have a reason to explain why.  Why are you so depressed? Oh, well, my dad is a drug addict and has been out of my life since I was a child.  That’s the truth, but it didn’t impact my day to day life.  I wasn’t an orphan all alone and scared, I lived in a house with my mom, a great step dad, a house, an awesome dog, my future bright.  I won’t say that factors of my childhood didn’t incorporate themselves into the way I behaved in this time, but I know that it shouldn’t’ have, that we all have things that upset us, that don’t make us happy but we can live with it.  

Why are you so depressed? Well because I dated this dude and he did bad things and it was awful.  Well, yeah, that’s true too but in all reality, that was on me.  I made those decisions in a manic haze and somehow made it out in one piece.  But instead of moving on, growing from it, learning from it, I reveled in it, making it a part of why I was sad because it was a damn good reason to be sad.  But it didn’t need to go on more than a month, I made it a part of why I was depressed for years because to the outsider, it was a good reason.  But it was an excuse that I allowed to overstay its welcome.  It was nothing more than an excuse. Because it didn’t need to own me, to control me, but I allowed it to.  I held on to these excuses and more because I felt this desperate need to have a reason for my emotional inability to be blissfully happy, carefree, stable all the time like it seemed everyone else in the world was.  I didn’t know who I was.  But, I did know that I was mentally ill, I had some decently bad things happen, and that those things clouded up my ability to see who I really was.

In all honestly, I don’t think I really discovered who I was until I got pregnant, until I realized I needed to know me in order to show my kids a good role model.  I needed to discover who I was because it was time.  I had been stable for a little while at that point, and it was time to figure it out.  And I discovered a lot of little things that make me, me, but I’m still learning.  I discovered my passion for writing, for using my words to make a difference in those around me.  I rediscovered my love for sarcasm and that comedy and laughter is the key to my soul.  I discovered the strength that I had, the wisdom that I had, the ability to look at situations head on and deal.  I discovered that I love differently than most, and it shows in my marriage, but not in a bad way.  No, in fact, I ended up finding the perfect person to love in my own unique way, because he loves in the same awkward, weird, amazing fashion.  Because I now understand that the concept of love is different for everyone and It isn’t cookie cutter.  It isn’t romance novels.  it doesn’t always mean constantly physical displays of affection, or loud romantic declarations of love, that it could just mean movie nights on the couch while calling each other weird names and sharing popcorn while simultaneously attempting not to punch each other for the loud chewing but feeling so incredibly happy and in love.   I discovered my intelligence.  Yeah, the one I had no confidence in to begin with.  I discovered the confidence to follow my dreams, even if it only took me years to do it.  I discovered that I’m capable of learning and understanding things that some have trouble with like the psychological reasons behind actions, specifically in the criminal justice field.  And I rediscovered how to be ambitious and want to go for things that most people are going to think I can’t do, but I’ll do them anyway.  I discovered that, although I used to be a hot head, I compose myself very well in situations where I’d like to throat punch people.  And I discovered pride in my ability to compose myself in a way that brings peace to my family.  I discovered that I’m actually a really nice person with a big side of sarcasm to boot, even though for years I felt like the biggest bitch around.  I discovered that I can do just about anything I need to, and I found that out while having my kids.  Natural twin birth? Yeah, sure, why not. I discovered my mama bear qualities that go for my kids, my husband, and those I love.  And I discovered where my priorities are, and they will always be with my babies, my husband.  I discovered these things and so much more.  And I learned to love myself even on the days I don’t want to and I learned to embrace the fact that I spent more years than I’d like to admit being lost, looking for answers, hurting, and allowing those things to run my life.  

The bottom line is this: I may have been dealt a shit show in regards to my mental health when I was young, but that wasn’t enough of a reason to not try to fix it.  I was given medications way too young for way too long, and the side effects carved a path for my future that I didn’t want, but I never actively tried to get off of them, to risk taking myself off of the poison, I just continued to try new ones knowing the result.  I was given bad treatment by doctors who see you as a paycheck, and not as a person, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t use my own logic to see that.  But it turns out, none of that really mattered as much as I made it matter.  In my search for answers, explanations, I spent most of my time focused on being unwell and how unfair it was that I missed so many opportunities in life.  And I’m making up for that now, and have been the last three years.

I think that’s the problem in the mental health world.  We all are sick.  We are all fucked up in this way or that way, some more than others, but unless we actively try, nothing will change.  I’m not saying that every person with a mental illness doesn’t try, but I am saying that not taking a calculated risk, not investing in your future because of these illnesses, is not trying.  It’s taking the easy route, and where mental health is concerned, there should not be an easy route option.  It’s hard work.

Five years ago, I was admitted into the mental hospital.  I was lost.  I was afraid.  And I felt like there was no hope.  And yet, here I am, five years older, five years wiser, and finally able to say that I know who I am and that I am not that mentally ill, unstable, crass, in-your-face-and-you’re-going-to-like-it girl.  I’m Danielle, minus the mental illness, and all the shitty things I went through.  Five years later and I’m unmedicated and annoyed with how I acted for years prior to this and deeply concerned seeing so many people in the same position I was in, with no clue how to fix it.  Five years later and I’m happy, with occasional bouts of ups and downs because no one in this life is perfect. Re-read that, and re-read that again, then repeat it to yourself until you understand it.  No one in this life is perfect.   Because it’s unnatural to be happy all the goddamn time. It is unnatural to be this idea of perfect.  It’s normal to have lows and highs; days of not wanting to get out of bed, and days where you think your chest and your brain are going to explode from so much extreme happiness. It’s how life is.  If it were perfect, if we were all happy, there would be no point.  Five years ago, I made a big step in the direction to get better.  I didn’t get better right away.  It was about a year later before I really made big strides in my mental health, but it was the stepping stone that made the difference.  

For those of you who are plagued by your mental health, take what I’m saying and run with it.  Yes, you are mentally ill.  You’re sad.  You’re manic.  You’re paranoid.  Anxious. Angry.  You’re all of them at once.  But that’s not who you are.  That’s just a part of you.  Maybe it’s a big part.  Maybe it’s the biggest part of your world.  But it is not you.  Discover you.  Learn to love you.  Fix you.  Because I’ve found, it’s a lot of other elements besides the mental illness that gets you down, that makes you anxious, that makes you worse.  Find you.  Love you.  Discover you.  Because when you do, you get in a place where you can make those mental changes to get better, to move forward, to move on.  I’m not saying it’s going to go away.  It doesn’t.  It won’t.  But it can get better if you so choose.  If you choose to wipe your slate clean and start new, it can.  I’m all about awareness of mental health.  I think it’s important, but I also think it’s important for those of us who are in a better place to give advice to those that aren’t.  To tell you how you can feel better, how you can improve, without losing sight of who you are.  To stop you from making the same decade long mistakes.  Because lately, I’ve seen so much on social media of those that seem like they are trying to help bring awareness to mental health, but the idea behind it only brings out the wrong idea.  To stay stagnant.  To understand that this is who you are.  To make everyone else be okay with it when I know the person suffering isn’t okay with it.  We never are okay with it.  The awareness is great, but there needs to be more awareness of making the active effort.  To teaching people to NOT understand that this is who you are and make you realize that it’s just one single part of you.  That making everyone else around you okay with mental illness doesn’t take yours away.  It doesn’t fix your problems.  It doesn’t fix you.  You do.  Fight for you long enough to see that there is always room for improvements, to change, to experiment with different ways of discovering your path despite your illness.  Don’t make the mistakes I did.  And I only speak of it now in hopes that someone somewhere in this life will read this and take it to heart.  That maybe my story can help someone. Because if I’m honest, these things I write about, they don’t hurt me in the way they used to.  I never thought that would be possible but it is.  I live my life without those things plaguing me and you can too.  

You are not your illness.  You are not your explanations.  You are not your side effects.  You are you.  And that’s all you need to get better.  To love you.

 

You’re Mine?

I was putting my kids to bed when Emma said something to me.  For her, as a small child, not even a full toddler, it meant nothing more than what she said.  But to me, it meant everything and more.

I picked her up and placed her head on my shoulder the way I always do before I put the kids in their crib.  I hugged her tight and rocked her, patting her back and telling her I love her.  I expected her to respond with her normal “I you” (I love you) or “Ni-night?” or even “Minnie?” but instead, she patted my back, the same way I was doing to her and said, “You mine?”

I smiled.  I smiled so incredibly big, because she had no idea how true those words were.  Yes, I told her, I am yours.  She repeated herself.  “You mine?” As she patted my back and nestled into the crook of my neck.  I held her a little tighter than I had before and the camera in my mind went off like the paparazzi, telling myself to remember this moment forever.

The thing is, for Emma, all it meant is that I was her mama.  But I realized that over the years, that would change.  I wouldn’t just be her mama.  I wouldn’t just be Oliver’s mama.  I would be so much more.  As they grow, I adapt, I change, I become everything they want or need even if they don’t know it at the time.

Right then, in that moment, I was her mama.  The one that was snuggling her brother a minute before I had grabbed and snuggled her.  I was the one that would lay her down and give her the sippy she only likes when she’s laying down.  I was the one that would tuck her in with her blankie, her pillow, and her Minnie (Minnie or Mickey.  They’re both the same to her).  In that moment, I was just her caretaker, the lover, the mama, the boobie lady, but those words, “You mine?” mean so much more for the rest of her life, for the rest of mine.

In the next couple years, I’ll be their mama, the ouchie healer, the hand that feeds them.  I’ll be the one that puts them to bed, tucked in safely and I’ll be the one that grabs them from the crib to greet them in the morning.  But, I’ll also be the one that tells them no.  No to the danger, no to the things that make me worry, no to the things that I wish so badly they already understood was dangerous.  I’ll be the one that makes them their food, and makes them eat it despite their incredibly (and sudden) picky eating habits.  I’ll be their discipline, their guide, the part of the one that helps mold them.  I’ll be theirs.

But, it’s not just me either, it’s my husband too.  Because he’s in this with me.  And he is theirs as well.  Together, we make up the fundamentals that mold their morals, the ones that support them, that cherish them, the ones that make them laugh those incredibly infectious belly laughs that echo through the house.  Because we are theirs.

As they grow, we will be a lot of things.  Their support.  Their parents.  Their conscious.  We will be the ones that protect them, no matter what the cost.  We will be their sounding board, the hand that rubs their back, the mouth that whispers the soothing words when they’re not feeling their personal best.  My husband will be the one that interrogates the brave person who asks our daughter on a date.  And he will be the same one that high fives our son when he asks a person out for the first time.  I’ll be the one that, despite the teenage attitude, will be there listening with my full undivided attention when Emma has gossip to tell me, about her crushes, about friends, about whatever is in her heart.  And I’ll be the one that teaches Oliver the way he should treat women, the way he should treat people.  My husband will be there to show them both what they should want in a marriage, how he should treat people, and he will be there to protect them in the ever macho way that he will.  Because he loves them the way I do; with our entire beings.

At some point, we will be the things we least desire as well.  The parents to the teenagers who roll their eyes when we ask for hugs.  The ATM.  The ones they take out their emotions on.  The ones they take for granted as they grow into their own.  The ones they don’t listen to when we try to pass on our wisdom we learned over the years. We will be the ones that embarrass the hell out of them as teenagers, because what kind of parents would we be if we didn’t? We will be the things we disliked in our own families growing up, because that’s what teenagers do; they love their family, and they know that their families will always be there, no matter what their attitude is like that day.

But no matter what happens.  No matter what roller coaster we ride through life.  The bumps.  The trials.  The tough times.  We will always be theirs.  I will always will Emma and Oliver’s Mama.  And Kirby will always be their Dad.  And they will always be our world.

The word mine and theirs never had a more important definition than now, than today, when I realized that my kids are starting to realize who we are to them.  And today, they may only understand the simple roles we play in their lives, but one day, they’ll understand that we are theirs, because they are ours.  They are our everything.  They are our frustrating, determined, incredibly, intelligent, entertaining, loving, phenomenal children.  They are ours.

They.  Are.  Ours.

“You mine?” She asks, and I want to tell her, “Yes baby girl.  I am yours, but you and Oliver, are mine.  My everything.  My heart.  My life.”

And one day I will.  Until then, I have this moment written down for proof, that one that they will read this, one day they’ll understand, no matter what is happening in life, no matter what choices they make, they are our entire world, our entire heart, our entire reason for breathing.

You are mine, I am yours, and the love you two bring me has given the word happiness a new definition.

 

 

In the most unconventional ways, he has helped me.

My husband started this thing with me when I was at my lowest point in life.  When I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror.  When I saw nothing but negatives and saw every insult I had ever been given.  And it was hard, but years later, I can say how rewarding it is.

When we first got together, I was suffering from bipolar, and anxiety, and depression, and insomnia, oh and a little bit of a twisted view on my body.  Not only was I screwed up in the head, constantly drifted from one mood to the other, from highs to lows, from OCD behaviors to being relaxed.  But I was also really hard on myself.  I couldn’t look in the mirror and not feel devastated. I felt like I needed to be thinner, do my make up better, have prettier hair, better skin, better…everything.  I was tired of looking at myself and cringing.  I had been told I was pretty, my husband found me t be gorgeous, and really, there was nothing wrong with me.  But still, I had issues.  I desperately asked for reassurance from my husband.  It was something I needed.  I needed to know that he thought I was beautiful, that I was worth the trouble, that I was worth anything at all.  And in the beginning, he was there with a compliment in hand, to ease my anxious and ever self deprecating mind.  But there was a line that needed to be drawn, one that only he saw, and one that I fought.

He told me that he wasn’t going to compliment me anymore.

It sounds strange, you know.  Isn’t that what husbands are supposed to do, compliment their wives, make them feel pretty when they’re feeling less than average.  In a way, yes, if all things were normal, if I hadn’t relied on my self worth on what my husband thought of me.  I needed him to tell me positive things about myself, to feel as if I was doing okay in life.  If he thought I was doing poorly, I went into hyper anxiety mode, because i valued his opinion so much, or too much, I guess it depends on who you ask.

So, he stopped complimenting me.  It wasn’t to be mean, in fact, it was the opposite.  He was doing it to make me better.  Because I was dependent on his words.  I was dependent on him to make me feel valuable when I couldn’t do it on my own.  And that was the problem.  I was unable to make myself feel valuable and by me constantly asking for his validation, I was screwing myself up, taking steps back instead of forward.  I hated it, at first, because I spent a little while struggling with it, but when it started to work for me, it really worked.

I had friends that didn’t understand.  They told me that, in order to feel better about myself, he needed to compliment me.  That I needed to know what he thought about my apperance to know if he was happy with me.  I needed to hear those words to feel pretty.  But that wasn’t the truth.  The didn’t understand where my head was at, they didn’t understand his need to help fix me in the only way he could see how.  They didn’t get it, because they weren’t us.  They were me.  They weren’t struggling.

I ignored them though because I knew what he was doing had my best interest at heart.  Because although my husband has a sarcastic asshole exterior, he’s actually one of the most generous, selfless, kind heart, and loving person I’ve ever met. Don’t tell him I told you that though. 😉

And on the days I asked him, “Do I look okay.”  He would simply nod and say “You look fine.” And on the days I pleaded with him to just tell me I looked beautiful, to compliment me, he said “You know why I won’t.”

And I did.

He wasn’t the type of person who liked to say things for the sake of saying them.  In fact, he’s a firm believer in doing things because he feels them.  He’s proven to me over and over again that the times he does to the romantic things, or compliments me, those are the times I remember with such happiness that i could burst.  Those are the times that stand out to me because they mean something. Because in those times, I knew he meant what  he said.

It was tough though, because what woman doesn’t want to be told she looks amazing even when she’s sitting there in sweatpants, no makeup, with Cheetos on her face.  But he stayed true to it.

I started to think about it the other day.  Mainly because I was looking in the mirror and realizing just how old my body is starting to look.  Okay, not old, but older.  I’m a mom of twins, my body isn’t what it was.  Sure, I’m thinner than I was before I got pregnant, but I have this weird twin skin thing going on, with stretch marks all over my body, and my boobs are no longer those perky and awesome twenty-something boobs.  I had a moment of weakness, because I wanted to know if he still found me as attractive as he did the day he met me.  We’ve been together for five years this December, married for four years, the curiosity was getting to me.  We met when we were young, when we were kid-less, I had to know.  I wasn’t asking out of curiosity, I was asking because I went back to that mind set of needing validation.  I needed his opinion to make me feel okay about myself, instead of being independent enough to feel good about myself, by myself.  So, of course, he refused.  He hadn’t had to refuse in a long time, and it took me back.  It made me see how far I had come, because besides that moment, I had kind of come into my own skin.  I’ve been proud of my body. I birthed two kids, with two failed epidurals, for over 36 damn hours and came out in one piece.  That was something to be proud of.  And I’ve been comfortable enough with myself to wear no makeup, and still feel like I rock it.  I’ve been happy to know that I birthed two tiny humans, and still feel fairly confident with my body, with myself as a person.  I’ve been independent enough to not need anyone else telling me that I am pretty to feel it.  And that was big.

After his refusal, it put things into perspective for me.  Brought me back to the mindset I needed to be in.  And I thought to myself, how lucky am I to have a husband who works so relentlessly to make sure that I am strong, that I am independent, that I am mentally healthy, even if it might mean doing something unconventional to get me there.  And when he feels that I am in the place I need to be, he compliments me, not because I need it, but because he feels it, and he feels the need to say it to me and because he knows that I am strong enough to hear it and feel proud.

It’s odd, I know, but it’s amazing to me.

Most might disagree, but I’m thankful for it, because had it not been for him, I probably would still be the anorexic girl who saw herself as this ugly troll when the truth was, I was far from it.

Sometimes people come into our lives and they change it for the better, and I’m one of those lucky people that has a husband that has changed my life for the best.

The story of us. A post for my husband on our anniversary.

It started with a kiss at the top of Tower of Terror.

It started with a whirlwind.

It started a power, a force, bigger than anyone could understand.

It started from the moment our lips collided.

The rest was history.

There’s something to be said about two people finding each other and instantly knowing that it’s right.  It doesn’t happen often, in fact, it rarely happens at all.  The first time I met Kirby, I was attracted to him, but not just his looks, it was his sarcastic attitude, the way he so easily made everyone around him laugh, the way he looked so at ease; something that I so desperately wanted to feel within myself.  In a way, Kirby was everything I wanted to be myself.  He was happy, laid back, the type of guy that went with the flow, the type of guy who dealt with things head on and didn’t let them hold him back.  That’s what kept him in my mind after the first and only day we had hung out.  It wasn’t until a couple of months later that we had our first date.

To this day, we still debate on who picked who up, but for the sake of the story, I’ll say I did, because I totally did.  I shot him a message on Facebook being the modern dating woman that I was, and he responded almost instantly.  We talked and talked and talked about things I can’t remember, but it was easy conversation. He was witty and I had a permanent smile on my face after each message came to my phone and when he asked me out on a date for the next day, I about died.  I remember being in my mom’s office in her house, squealing and doing a happy dance.  The embarrassing kind of happy dance, the one that I hope no one saw through the window.

I had butterflies and I had that kind of near explosion feeling in my chest.  I was out of my mind excited.  I spent the entire day leading up to our date prepping.  I went into full girl mode, something I don’t often do.  I tried on a ridiculous amount of outfits, and I did my makeup and hair a thousand times to makes sure they were perfect.

I counted down the hours.

I counted down the minutes.

And I’m pretty sure I annoyed the hell out of my cousin that day because I was gushing so much.

I remember I was getting ready when he sent me a picture of himself.  Before you get your minds in the gutter, it wasn’t like that.  He sent me a picture of him making a super goofy face.  It was what I loved about him, even then, that he was willing to just be goofy with no false pretenses of who he was, he wasn’t trying to impress me with fronts, he didn’t pretty himself up for a selfie, he took one and it represented him.  It was a lot different from what I was used to.  I sent him a picture back, one of me smiling so big it hurt, and he responded with how damn beautiful he thought I was.  I swooned.  I actually swooned.

So you can imagine when the time came for the date to start, I was anxious, excited, thrilled.  We met up at a park down the street from my cousin’s house, one that my cousin and I frequented on a daily basis.  My cousin and Kirby knew each other, so we hung out for a few before deciding to go on our date.

I don’t remember a lot of what we talked about that night, I don’t remember every single detail of our date, but I do remember this part.  I remember standing there in the parking lot, tucked underneath his arm, staring up at those vibrantly blue eyes, thinking that this felt different to me.  We clicked.  It wasn’t something that I had experienced before.  Usually, you meet someone, you find yourself attracted to them, and then after time goes by, you discover whether or not you vibe together.  It happened at warped speed for us.  So much so that I reached up on my tip toes, and kissed him.  This is always an argument between us because he remembers kissing me, and I remember kissing him first.  It doesn’t matter how it happened, it only matters that it did happen and it will forever be burned into my memory.

We went to our date, going through all the rides at Disneyland, hand in hand, smiles all around.  He took me to California Adventure, and we got in line for Tower of Terror.  If anyone knows me, they know that I am not a thrill seeker.  I’m a rule follower.  I’m afraid of life.  I’m definitely not a roller coaster person, let alone a free fall ride type of person, but he asked, so I figured, why the hell not.

I was nervous as hell throughout the entire line and nearly backed out as we shuffled into the ride.  But, Kirby being Kirby, he held my hand, told me to relax and said something funny.  He distracted me as we rode up and up and up on this damn ride.  I was shaking and got the nervous giggles.  He held me close, and as we neared the top, he looked me in the eye, smiled, and leaned in for a kiss.  And as we kissed, we fell down, down, down, towards the ground, the ride bouncing up and down before letting us free fall some more.  He timed it perfectly.  He kissed me with the intention of distracting me from being afraid, he kissed me with passion, and he kissed me with a smile on his face while I dug my nails into his hand because i was terrified.  I don’t think he knows how much that meant to me to this day, but one day, I hope he will.

I think it was that moment that I actually fell for him.  We were physically falling down the stories of his ride, my stomach was in my throat, but my heart was beating fast, hard, and it wasn’t just from the ride.  It was from him.

Our romance was anything but conventional.  December 2nd 2010 marked the day of our first date and the day he asked me to be his girlfriend.  A week from then, I told him that I loved him for the first time.  I wrote it with my finger, across his forearm, half of me hoping he didn’t know what I was doing, and the other part hoping he caught on.  He definitely caught on, because it was no longer than a minute or two later that he responded, saying that he loved me too.  And from that moment, things sky rocketed.

The following week, we were driving around in his 1998 suburban, listening to Marry You by Bruno Mars.  He was singing out loud, something he didn’t do often, or nearly loud enough, but I loved when he did because he had a great voice.  We had planned on going to Vegas for my birthday, and while listening to this song, we made a joke about how funny it would be if  we got married in Vegas.  I laughed, he laughed, and then we got quiet as it started to sink in that the joke didn’t sound all that bad.

It started as a joke and it turned into something bigger.  The joke turned into a discussion about our futures, and what we saw for them.  And that discussion turned into what we saw in our futures with each other.  And that discussion turned into a talk of what if’s.  What if we got married? We loved each other, so although it was crazy, it could work, right? What would people think?

Well, Kirby was never one to care about what people thought, and I wanted to be that kind of person for once.  I wanted to put other people’s needs and opinions aside, and do things for myself.  So a week from the day we told each other “I love you”, we were engaged.  Most people don’t know that we got engaged twice.  Once, in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, where Kirby slipped on my first engagement ring, and told me “I’m going to do this right one day, and it’ll be a surprise when it happens again but I don’t want to wait to ask you to marry me.” To most people, that probably seemed dumb and impulsive, but to me, my heart still thunders away in my chest over it.  I remember how he looked, and how his hands shook, and I remember what it felt like to have that ring slide onto my finger.  I remember it all, and I cherished it.

No one really approved of us and I don’t really blame them.  How could anyone know what we felt for each other, that it was real, without being us.  We held strong through it though, while we lost friends, and lost respect from family.  We held strong because we knew that the love we had for each other was the forever kind.  We didn’t need to wait, we knew.  That’s all that mattered.  And in the end, everyone was glad that we were right in the long run.

When things settled down about our relationship, Kirby took us to Disneyland again, and we spent the day riding the rides and smiling just the way we had on our first date.  As we stood in front of the princess castle, watching the fireworks go off above us, I felt Kirby wrap his hands around me from behind and bring his lips to my ear.  He told me a lot of things that night, the things he loved about me, and what he wanted from us and our future, but the thing I’ll remember the most was the words “Will you marry me?”  I remember feeling like things were finally going right for me and that I was complete.  We kissed, under those fireworks, around a thousand other people huddled around, and I felt alive.

It was less than a year later that we actually married.  We wanted to get married in Vegas, but after some negotiating and compromising with our families, we settled on doing a traditional wedding.  It was gorgeous.  It was everything we wanted.  And if I’m being totally honest, I only remember the highlights because the day was over in a blink of an eye.  We danced.  We laughed.  We spoke our vows in front of the important people in our lives.  We were finally married, and it was everything I could have imagined.  I loved it all.

We went to Disneyland for our honeymoon.  It was our place, the place I fell for him, the place he asked me to spend my life with him, the place we celebrated the start of our lives together.  And one day, it’ll be the place we take our kids, too.

Our marriage started off differently than most people.  We were young, barely twenty-one.  And Kirby had enlisted in the Army a couple of months before our wedding.  He was set to go to basic training in January, so we only had a limited amount of time to really bask in the newly wed bliss.  We spent it well, though.  And when the time came that he had to leave, it was heartbreaking.  But, I felt good knowing that when I fell asleep at night, I had memories of him to think about.

It wasn’t easy for us.  It hadn’t been since day one.  Because I had mental health issues and Kirby hadn’t had to deal with them on my kind of level before.  He learned, and he was my rock through it all.  But, it wasn’t easy when he left either, because we hadn’t spent a day apart before that.  We made it through, and somehow we became stronger as a couple.  When he graduated and went to AIT, he was set to be in AZ for a couple of months.  I decided to move out there just so I could be close to him.  We had our first apartment there, and although I lived there alone, it was worth it.

We’ve been through ups and downs.  We’ve lived in five states, six cities, and seven houses over the last four years.  But each year rolls around, and each year I’m so taken back as to how strong we are.  Even when I think we’ve hit the max amount of closeness, of strength in our relationship, that we’re just too awesome, it all grows, we grow as a couple.

In the years spent in Texas, Kirby helped me through my mental health situation.  I was bipolar, and completely unstable.  I was on seven medications a day, I was sick, and I was tired.  He helped me when I decided to wean myself off of my medications.  He helped me when I decided to take a break from all of the doctors.  He supported me when I did it all, because he had faith in my that I could do it.  And on the days I needed him to baby me, he did without question.  And on the days where I needed him to take the kids gloves off, he did it.  And it was in those moments that I made the biggest strides.  I had him to keep me motivated, determined, because he was always there with the right words keeping me in check.

I’m convinced that had I not met Kirby, my life would still be in shambles.  I would still be unstable and sick and burning bridges.  I would still be making awful life choices, hanging out with the wrong people, and still stuck on medications.  I would still be the girl who gets told that she can’t have the life she dreamt of; that I would never had a family, that I would be in and out of a hospital for the majority of my life, that my life would never be good.  Without him, i would still be broken, but because of him, I am now whole.  Because of Kirby, my dreams are my reality.  Because of Kirby, I have a beautiful family, in a beautiful house, and I’ve experienced more than I ever imagines.  Because of Kirby, I’ve learned a lot about myself and how strong I am, and what it means to be apart of a couple.  Because of Kirby, I’ve learned what the definition of home is, and let me let you in on a secret, it has nothing to do with the walls holding up the roof over your head and everything to do with the people in your heart. Because Kirby is my home.  We don’t have the most conventional relationship; most people think they wouldn’t be able to handle Kirby, and most people wouldn’t be able to handle neurotic behaviors, bu hat’s what makes us work; we handle each other perfectly. I’m not a religious person, I lean too much on the what if’s of life to be one, but I do think that everything that happens in this life is purposeful. And I’m pretty sure Kirby and I were meant to be together.  We were meant to come together in a time where we were young and in need of some life guidance.  We were meant to come together with intensity, with a sort of power, with an overwhelming amount of love.  And we were meant to go through hell, only to come back on top with our dreams within reach.  Because now, I’m nearing twenty-six, and we have these two amazing children together.  Kirby is following his dream in his new career with the Army, and I’m following mine with books and hopefully school.  We’re following our dreams together as a couple, and I couldn’t be more blessed.

By reading this, you would never know that I”m not the lovey dovey romantic type.  In fact, neither Kirby nor I really believe in romance.  We believe in what’s real.  Flowers and chocolates only last so long, but the connection you have with someone, being able to show the person you love how you feel on a daily basis without all the false pretenses, is what is important.  We believe in speaking the truth, and that truth is that I love him, he loves me, and our story is hardly done.  It’s just beginning.  Here’s to the best four years of marriage, and the best almost five years of my life.  Here’s to many more.  Here’s to loving you with my entire being.  And here’s to you for changing my life, for being my reason for life, for being mine.

National Writing Day Excerpt

Things have been rather busy here on this side of the computer.  I totally and completely missed the fact that it was National Writing Day yesterday.  I suck, I know.  But, I felt like I wanted to share a little bit of Unconventional to celebrate that day, even though it’s late.  So, here’s the prologue! Enjoy!

I’ve never been a believer in love. Okay, I guess that’s not true–I believe it exist, I
just think it’s bullshit. I know, I know, how can I say that when the proof of its amazingness
is all around. I guess because I’ve witnessed how double-sided it can be. Sure, on the
outside it’s beautiful and exciting, but have you ever taken a closer look? I’m talking about
being an outside spectator to what happens when love fails, when it rips you to shreds. It’s
heart breaking.
I watched as my father internally shattered every time he witnessed the woman he
loved being physically and emotionally beaten by her husband. Throw in the fact that the
woman he was in love with was my best friend’s, Emery Jane’s, late mother and we’ve
officially become a Jerry Springer episode.
I’ve often asked myself why I would let one example ruin me for life, and I’ve always
come up blank. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve toyed with the idea of dating to experience what
everyone claims is such an indescribable feeling while falling in love, but as soon as I get
close, I freeze, clam up, and shut down. Fear is stronger than I ever imagined, and my fear
of getting hurt seems to overpower the need to connect.
Of course, I’m no stranger to the physical connection part of a relationship; it’s easy,
less messy, no drama. Your eyes glance upon someone across the room, you find them
attractive, make your way over to their corner, flirt a bit, give them the “fuck me” eyes,
take them back to your place, get down to business, and never have to see them again.
There’s no heartbreak involved. There’s no life altering, earth shattering, heart obliterating
drama to change it all, to make you a hollow version of the person you used to be. It’s
physical, primal, easy. That’s how I’ve always done it, and honestly, I never planned on
changing that. Well, that was until I met Hunter.
This man blindsided me. He wiggled his way into my world with his award-winning
smile and sarcastic humor. He was merciless in the way he pushed me to open up to life, to
open up to possibilities, to open up to him. And he won, over and over again. But, it’s never
really that easy, is it?
Life is kind of a bitch at times. You wade through the hellish problems thrown your
way with the ever-optimistic outlook that at some point things will go your way. And when
they do? It’s amazing, and you feel light and happy; but it doesn’t stay, it never does, and
just when you think life is in your favor, everything changes. The rug gets pulled out from
underneath you, leaving you grasping for anything to keep you upright in this world. And
when you come up empty, it’s more devastating than you could imagine.
So do I believe in love? Yes, I do. Do I believe it’s worth it? That’s something I’m
trying to figure out.

Remember, you are not perfect, but that is okay.

Everyday cannot be perfect. You cannot be perfect. And that’s okay.

There is no such thing as perfect.

There is no such thing as truly normal.

There’s this thing that all people do; they try to fit themselves into this tiny, perfectly shaped box when, by nature, human beings are too unique to do so. We all try to fit into this mold of perfect and normal when those two words are nearly impossible to define. My sense of perfect, my idea of normal, will not be the same as most people. And most people’s normal, their idea of perfect, will not match mine. That’s just it. That’s how it goes.
I spend so much of my time trying so hard to be perfect. Trying to paint this picture of what I want to be, but sometimes missing the mark.
I try to be the perfect mom. The one who never loses patience, or the one who never feels overwhelmed. Or even the one who can some how manage to keep the house clean, despite the fact that I have a twin-ado that strikes everyday, multiple times a day.
And I try to be the perfect wife. The wife who has it all together. The one who can keep the house spotless and have food made without burning it on the new (and in my opinion, evil and useless) flat top electric stove. The wife who never carries attitude in her tone for no reason other than because the day has been stressful and overwhelming and is taking it out on the wrong person.
And I try so hard to be the perfect version of who I want to be. The one who doesn’t have slip ups, every once in awhile, in the mental health department. The woman who takes on the world and handles it with ease. The one who tackles writing books, taking care of tiny humans, cooking, cleaning, and spending quality time with her husband, with her family, without dropping the ball on one of those on her list. The woman who takes the extra time to do her hair and makeup just to give herself a little confidence booster. The one who never makes a mistake. The woman who plans on going to school, until she’s in her thirties, with no sense of fear that she might fail despite every time she’s tried to follow her dream, where school is involved, she has fallen straight on her face.
I write that and I’m reading the words and laughing at myself. In my mind, it seems so black and white. Be perfect. Do everything right. When its not how life works. And that’s okay.
As much as I try to fit myself into this box of what my definition of perfect is for myself, for my life, I see that it is impossible.
It’s impossible because perfect does not exist. It’s impossible because in life, there are bound to be bumps in the road. It’s impossible because those expectations are just ridiculous.
I need to remember that just because I want to be able to achieve all of these things for myself, doesn’t mean that when I don’t, that I’m failing because in reality, it just makes me human.
I need to remember to take pride in what I do accomplish every. Single. Day.
Like being able to make my kids laugh so hard they snort, making me laugh so hard my face hurts.
Or being able to provide a healthy and stable home life, filled with smiles, laughter, support, and tons of cuddles because they deserve it.
Or the fact that in less than a year I’ve written two full books and I’m now working on the third. And not only that, these books are being published. I followed a dream I never had the balls to follow before.
And being able to say that I have the most solid and stable marriage with the most love and happiness I could ever imagine. And we achieved this by being the most Unconventional couple around , treating each other with nothing but respect, and being able to talk things out before the turn into an argument. Because I married my best friend, and that’s the truth.
And the not so little fact that I changed my entire life in what seemed like an overnight event and I work hard at it every single day. Some days are harder than others, but I still fight and I fight hard for this life.
Sometimes I need to take a step back and see this. Because I am human. I am not perfect. And most days, I take pride in what I do. But there are other days where I sit and think about every flaw, every tiny detail that I don’t like, and feel as if I’m not good enough. But its times like those, like tonight, where a good cold slap of reality is needed.
So here it is.
I am not perfect.
I am not normal.
But here’s what I am…
I am loved.
I am happy.
I am living a life I never thought I would be able to have.
I am a good mother.
I am a good wife.
I am alive.
I am breathing.
And I am flawed but those flaws are what make me, me.
Flaws are beautiful anyway.
So remember this on the days where you feel run down, incompetent, not pretty enough, not smart enough, or on the days where too many bad things have happened and you just can’t manage to sift through the gloom to see the light. Because you are worth it.

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out day! And in celebration of that, I wanted to share the prologue and part of Chapter One of Becoming.  It’s completely unedited and subject to change.

But before I let you read it, I wanted to say something.  Just a little something, since I’m tired, and I keep mixing up all of my words.

Remember to love who you are.  It doesn’t matter who your heart draws you to, you deserve happiness.  You deserve the life altering, heart stopping, I feel like I’m flying, kind of happiness and love.  You are worthy of it.  You are worthy of having a happy life, free of the chains that keeps you hiding.  You are worth every second of it.  Gay, straight, or a freaking alien, you deserve to wear a smile every single day. 

This is unedited and subject to change. 

© 2015 Danielle Ione


Prologue

Lily

Gay.  Bisexual.  Lesbian.  These words were never apart of my vocabulary growing up.  In fact, those words were something of a sin in my household.  My parents were the stereotypical overly religious types.  Not that it’s bad to have faith, it’s just they seemed to have this weird outlook on the way I, and the rest of the world, should live their lives.  And although I grew up with that kind of influence, I didn’t have the same beliefs.  I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around everyone being destined to be the same.  

I mean, look around you, no one looks the same, we don’t all act the same, hell, we don’t even think the same, so how could we all be expected to live up to the same standards? It just didn’t make any sense.  Not then, and it still didn’t now as a new adult in this world.  

I was homeschooled and I know that it affected the way I interacted with people, making me painfully awkward and shy but it didn’t mean that I was sheltered.  I knew there was such a thing as an LGBTQ community, I knew that you didn’t have to be gay to hook up with someone of the opposite sex, I also knew that you could be attracted to both sexes, I knew this, however I didn’t think it could ever apply to me.  

It’s not like being a homeschooled kid allowed me to have the most healthy social life, especially not with overprotective parents like mine.  In fact, I had never been in a situation where I could actually explore the feelings I had in a healthy way.  All I knew was that when it came to the idea of love and my future, it didn’t seem like it was all black and white.  And in reality, it wasn’t.  Not for me, and not for thousands of other people out there either.  But it didn’t really click until I moved out on my own, far away from my family and my sheltered life, and close to an environment where I could spread my wings and just discover me.  

Who was I? What was I about? Where was my life going?

I didn’t know the answer to any of those questions, but I wanted to find out.  I wanted to be able to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, and say “I’m Lily and this is who I am.” But, I couldn’t.  And it took falling for a straight woman and forming an unexpected bond with the girl from school to put me on my path to discovery.  It wasn’t an easy road, trying to find yourself when you don’t even know where to start, but having someone like Cambria in my life to hold my hand and show me the way made it a little easier, and a lot more exciting.  

Chapter One

Lily

When you look into a mirror, you’re supposed to see the person you are.  Your reflection is supposed to match up with the way you feel inside, but as I stood in front of the looking glass, all I could see is the face of a woman who had no idea who she was.  A woman who had more questions than answers when it came to her true identity.  

I tucked my long dark hair behind my ears, and inspected my face, as if it might be able to clue me in to the answers to my mental inquisition.  But, as always, I came up blank.

No new responses.  

No epiphanies.  

Just the same uncertainty hiding behind my hazel eyes.  

I wanted nothing more for it to be easy.  For me to see myself, and know with complete confidence, who I am.  But, it wasn’t as simple as asking the mirror for all the answers to my life’s most complicated questions.  I wish all I had to do was look at the glass and say “Mirror, Mirror on the wall who’s the girl in front of you after all?” And for it to answer me with the utmost clarity that I, Lily Chambers, was the girl with her life on track, her future bright, and her love life, her sexual identity, within reach.  

But, this wasn’t a fairy tale.

I sighed, as I brushed my bone straight hair, letting the way the bristles trailing across my scalp relax me.  

Every day when I looked at my reflection, every day that I left the house, I became a giant ball of stress, and today was no exception.  Having to make appearances in public was exhausting and only perpetuated the confusion that rushed through me.  It only made it more difficult to lie, to pretend, to avoid the truth.  

I wasn’t unaware.  I knew it.  I knew who I was attracted to, but I avoided it like the plague and I kind of figured that eventually, being blissfully oblivious, would work out in my favor.  What you don’t acknowledge can’t touch you, right?

As I swiped the round brush of black across my thick lashes, I tried to push it all out of my head.  You would think it would be easy, out of sight, out of mind, I mean, I’ve done that daily since the pesky thoughts started infiltrating my mind during my childhood, but it’s not.  When the truth demands to be told, it’s like fighting a war to keep in held in.

Guilt

I woke up this morning with an immense amount of guilt sitting on my shoulders.  I’m stable, or at least as stable as anyone can truly be in this life, but I’m not perfect.  Most days, my mind is solely focused on my present with my kids, my husband, my writing, and on our future as a family.  Normally, my mind stays in the present, but sometimes it takes a little walk down the treacherous path of memory lane.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s usually because of a nightmare.  I used to get nightmares a lot, some of them flash backs, most of them just my subconscious playing tricks on me, hiding these tiny little hidden messages telling me how dumb I was in my past.  Last night it was the face of the person I spent the most time with during my most unstable, during my most manic, during the scariest of times.  And this nightmare was dropping these subtle hints of how childish I had been, and how far I had come, at least I think.

But, none the less, I woke up in a weird head space and I woke up with a lot of guilt.

I hate it, you know, having this guilt still around even though it’s been six or seven years.  But, hating it doesn’t make it go away, and letting go of those memories doesn’t make it go away either.

I feel guilt over my past because I was not a good person.  I was not a healthy person.  I burned bridges, I made the most ridiculous decisions that could have ended my life, I lied, I embellished, I lived on a high of mania that screwed with me for years after it happened.  But mainly I feel guilt because I involved so many people in my mental issues.  My issues were the worlds issues, and I shouted them from the rooftops, which makes me cringe as I think about it.

The reality is, most days, if I even start to think about my past, I’m happily met with a blur, because that’s what happens when you’re too high up on the mania scale to slow yourself down.  I like when it’s a blur because, as much as I’d like to remember some things, I’d like to forget most of it.

But, today is not one of those days where the blurriness of my memories is what I’m met with.  No, instead I’m carrying around this guilt, this chest tightening, head throbbing, guilt and this sense of wanting to close my eyes and forget it ever happened.

When I think about the things I did in my past life, all I can think of is the ache it causes in my chest to remember the things I did that could have ruined my life.  And all I can think about is how I wish I could erase it.  Take a giant eraser, and make a hole where that time of my life was.  Mainly because it hurt a lot of people, and also because I let that part of my life define me for so long.  Even while I was with my husband, the effects of those times haunted me, and he had to deal with it along side of me until I got better, until I had the good sense to let go and free myself from those memories.

I don’t talk about them very often.  And normally when I think about them, I’m happily met with no emotional attachments.  It’s just a memory that I have and it happened and it’s done.  But there’s a difference in feeling sorrow over the mistakes I made, and feeling guilty about them.  The drowning myself in sorrow has ceased, the mourning, the depression over it is long gone, but every once in awhile, I think about the days my children will be old enough to ask me what I was like after high school, and I’m not going to have an idea of  how to handle it.

I feel guilty that I dragged everyone I loved through this giant mess that I had going.  I feel guilty that I even was that person to begin with, I just feel guilty that I continued with those memories for as long as I did, letting them define me as a person, when I should have let them go the moment it happened.

It’s not a healthy way of thinking, I know, but I had to get it out.  I had to write it down, in order to move past and go towards that positive way of thinking that has gotten me to the stable mind I’ve been in.

Because nothing is ever as simple as just being stable, being sane.

It takes work.  Hard, excruciating, heart wrenching work, that never stops.  It’s worth it, but in order to get to that place of peace, it takes running through memory lane, feeling the things you need to get out of your system, and working your way through them, thinking your way through them.

Yes, I feel guilt.  But, should I? All the people I have in my life now don’t hold me accountable.  They don’t push it in my face that years ago, I was fucked up.  So why should I be doing it to myself? The answer is, I shouldn’t be.  What happened, happened.  I can’t take it away, no matter how many times I day-dream of doing so, of changing it all.  So why take the time and energy.  I have to come to peace with what I did, who I was, and realize that I turned it all around.  Most days, I know all of this, but after a nightmare, it tends to take me back a few steps.  Maybe that’s good, maybe it’s humbling, to remind me that I’m not perfect, to remind me that I came along way, that I’m a fighter, and not to take anything for granted.  Maybe it’s good because sometimes in the daily life, we become so focused on the tiny things that might bother us, like the house being a mess two seconds after we clean (by we, I totally mean me, and my insanity that is cleaning up after twin toddlers, lol) when my focus should be on the fact that I have a house and a mess to clean up, that I am alive, that I am living my dream life with my dream kids and my dream husband.  My focus has to be on the fact that I changed, that instead of following down the road I was taking, I changed paths.  Or else, I’ll be stuck in this perpetual cycle of guilt and shame.  That’s not how I want my children to see me.  That’s not how I want to show them a person should act.  That’s not how I ever want them to be if they make mistakes in their lives that they regret.  No, I want them to move past it with their head held high, knowing they screwed up, but knowing that they can be better, do better, and move on.
So, I let myself feel it all.  I sift through it.  I watch the memories go by on a fast cycle, and I let myself feel all the guilt, the shame, the regret.  Then, I make myself realize that, although those times were awful, that there’s no sense in bringing it up, digging up the past, just to make myself feel horrible about something I can’t change.  I moved on.  I did better.  And I continue to try and make up for what I did with karma, good deeds, and being a good person.  That’s all that I can try to do, right? To be a good person now, make good memories now, be the person I always wanted to be but was too sick to be now. Live in the now, be in the now, and focus on the important things, like my kids, my husband, my writing, my beautiful life.
I don’t know if this will ever make it out of the pile of drafts I have saved in this site, or if I’ll actually publish it, but sometimes thinking isn’t enough.  Sometimes I have to write it all down to make sense of it all.  Because writing is more powerful than I continue to give it credit for.  It brings out the epiphanies and the good feelings that take away the bad.  So when I woke up, my head in this weird head space, I worked it out, I thought it out, and then I wrote it out to make it stick.
I’m sane, I’m stable, but I’m not perfect.  I will have these days, but I’m just glad I know how to deal with them.

Confessions

I have something to confess, and it’s not going to be easy. I’m sure once I’m done writing this, I won’t even have the guts to re-read it.

It’s something that needs to be said, a story that needs to be told.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of article about heavy medications being FDA approved for off label use in children.  I’ll be honest, every time I read one of those articles, my heart constricts.  Because I remember what it was like to be a medicated child.  I remember the numbness, the cloudiness, the out of body feeling every time I woke up.  I remember it all and the thought of another child going through it without having any idea of what it would be like, it scares the hell out of me.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes medications are the answer, but a lot of the articles I’ve been reading have been the use of strong, heavy for adults, medications for behavior issues.  Not mental illness, not autism, not an actual condition, but to get them to sit still while in school or to not throw temper tantrums like children do.  And that, God, that kills me.

I want nothing more than to shout it from the roof tops that this idea of medications being the answer for everything in this life is so incredibly wrong.  But I’m just one voice, one tiny tiny voice shouting against thousands of louder ones.  There’s not much I can do about that, but I can tell my story.  And that’s what I plan on doing, at least a part of it.

I was only twelve when I was put on my first medication.  It seemed like the best solution.  I was showing signs of severe depression, severe anxiety, among other issues.  Now, the issue wasn’t just that I had more severe symptoms than the average child going into adolescence.  Of course, that played a part, but there was something a lot more important and that was that my biological Dad is a drug addict and we knew that his addiction stemmed from something just as serious, and that was a mental disorder.  Bipolar, most likely.  I showed signs of being like him, mentally, with an imbalance, and the thought alone scared the shit out of my parents, and out of me.  I was young, but I knew his story, and I knew that was not how I wanted to turn out.  Medication for us was the best choice, at the time at least, because there was such a large possibility that I could get worse, that I could go down the road that he went, and that’s something we wanted to avoid.  I don’t regret it, not completely anyway, because at the time, my parents and i did what we felt was right, what we felt would keep me safe.  It’s hard, you know, not knowing how to prevent something that could very well be hereditary.  So, we ventured into the world of medication in hopes of a fix, in hopes that it could solve my issues, solve the fear we all had that my life wasn’t going to be as bright if I didn’t get some help.  We had no idea what we were getting into, but I don’t regret it, because for a little while, it helped.  It gave us some peace of mind.  My grades improved, my mood improved, and I was doing well, until I wasn’t, until I built up a tolerance, until I became my illness.

I remember being so terrified to take these pills and I remember feeling stupid that I was so scared of them.  They were just pills.  Tiny little pills.  All I had to do was swallow them.  Drink them down with a glass of water, and I would be okay.  I would be normal.  I would be like my peers, I would be less like my father, I would be happy.  But, I think somewhere in my mind, I knew that they could be dangerous, even if I didn’t really know the ramifications of them.

I cried a lot the first few weeks.  I felt so foreign, like my body didn’t belong to me.  I had a really hard time adjusting, thinking, keeping myself awake.  I was in school walking around like a zombie.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to see anyone.  I was so hopeful in the beginning, but that hope started to fade.

My doctor assured me that it could take four to six weeks until I felt normal, whatever that word really meant.  I nodded, said okay, and continued to struggle with how I felt.  It’s hard for me to remember everything from that time period, in fact, I have an extremely difficult time remembering a lot from my ten year walk with medications.   Some parts are blurry, hard for me to even picture.  I remember how I felt, but I can’t remember how I looked or sounded when I talked to other people.  I can’t remember if, in those first few weeks, I snapped at my mom or gave her attitude like I had been known to do.  But I do remember how I felt, and I felt…desolate.

Before the medications, I didn’t even feel that depressed or hopeless.  I just thought that was normal, and to me, it was my normal.  But after the medications, in that adjustment period, everything just felt bleak, and I constantly contemplated if it was worth it, if living this way was worth it.

But, like clock work, the fifth or six week came and I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I wasn’t so exhausted and I didn’t feel so alone.  I was getting better.  I can’t even begin to explain the relief that came from it, from going from thinking suicidal thoughts to smiling and laughing.  I think that first bout of medications lasted the longest than all the others I had taken.  I was starting to act like a normal kid, even though I still struggled with the side effects, my mood was better and that’s what I was happy about.  Of course though, the other shoe had to drop at some point.

At some point, the side effects became more apparent and they came out of no where.  Headaches, exhaustion, my eyes were dilated to the point where my sister constantly asked if I was using drugs.  They never went down, you never saw the greens and yellows that encircled my eyes, all you saw was black.  It wasn’t just the eyes though, I was starting to get sick.  At some point, I was constantly feeling sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t eat, which made me lose more weight.  I was already 110 lbs, soaking wet, I didn’t have much more to lose.  And once the side effects showed their faces, the medications stopped working as well, if at all.

This is where I went down the long road of changing medications, desperately seeking that relief I once felt from my thoughts, and failing miserably as more and more medications were piled on and more and more medications made it worse.  The more they added, the more dark I went.  I was an eight grader having to be watched by my school counselor because I was afraid that I would give in, that I would hurt myself.  And I did, a lot.

I could explain how it felt every time I changed a medication, but it would be repetitive, I guess all you need to know is that I never felt settled.  I hurt, mentally and physically.  I felt heavy, and dragged on because these pills made it hard for me to move my body.  The medications either made it so I couldn’t sleep, or made it so I only wanted to sleep for eighteen hours at a time.  I never felt like myself.  I felt trapped in my own foggy brain, trying to claw out an escape.

As I got older, I accepted that it was my norm.  As I got older, I accepted that this would be my life.  As I got older, the side effects got worse, as did the disorders.

Part of the issue will always be with the doctors.  There’s this standard where throwing medications in their patients way, without talking to them, discussing things with them, happens all too often.  I’ve seen dozens of doctors over the years, and they were all the same.  Some were worse than others, but for the most part, it seemed that they were all too focused on meditating, and not focused enough on fixing the issue at hand.  I had a lot of issues that I needed to face, but didn’t until I had already made mistakes, burned bridges that I still wish I hadn’t, and until I was able to see and think clearly.  Not all doctors are bad, but the norm these days seem to be solving side effects with medications, which forms more side effects that are treated with more medications.  The cycle is vicious, and it’s hard to escape. But that’s a story for another time.

I tried, many times, to get off of the medications.  I would be successful for a couple weeks, maybe a month or two, and then would relapse, hard.  And those withdrawals from the meds, in those first few days after not taking those magically evil pills, they were almost worse than the relapse.  Some days, I couldn’t stand, hell, I couldn’t even lay down, without feeling the world spin.  The pain, the nausea, the misfiring in my brain because I didn’t have those extra chemicals running through my body, it was killer.  I felt alone, and afraid, a common theme when dealing with this stuff.  And the relapses, they got worse every time.  I think at some point, my brain, my body, it had no idea how to function without added chemicals.

I pushed through though, always finding a small relief in the brief months that the medications would work.  I would add more and more until I was taking seven different types a day just to function.  But those last couple years, when I was well out of my childhood years, married and supposed to be living a sane adult life, the side effects really took a toll.  I gained weight fast, especially when my husband left for basic training.  My anxiety was crippling, I hated leaving the house, but the withdrawals from the clonapin or xanax never felt worth it.  I had a seizure, I was constantly sick, and I developed a twitch that only .5% of patients would get.  At some point, I was just tired.  Sick and fucking tired, of being sick, of not being able to just get better because if it wasn’t my mental stability, it was my physical health.  I was done.  So incredibly done.

The withdrawal from all seven of those pills was pretty grueling, but I had enough experience in it that I knew what I needed.  I needed at least three days of posting up on a couch so I could battle the headaches and the dizziness and the sickness.  And I needed something to keep me busy because the chemicals would leave me, and I would be left in shock.  And I needed a backup plan in case it all went down hill.  It never occurred to me how sad it was that I had developed that kind of program for withdrawals since I was a kid.

But, I got through it.  And I promised myself, if I could just make it a month without the medications, I would be proud.  I wanted so badly to just be better, because my quality of life wasn’t just ruining me, it was hurting my husband as well.  I had to man up, grow up, and take this medication free life by the horns.  I did, it wasn’t easy, but I did.  I found myself wishing I had a xanax or my anti-psychs just to make it through the day, but I never took them, reminding myself of how bad it was.

In that time of heeling, repairing years of destruction done, I had a lot of time to think and I realized a lot.

I realized that I couldn’t remember a lot of things I did in those ten years.  I remembered the highs, the mental highs, the memory highs, but when I was low, when the meds weren’t working or I was withdrawing or on a new one, it was all too fuzzy to remember.

I realized that I spent a lot of time feeling sick when that wasn’t normal.

I realized that had I been stronger, sooner, I could have improved my life.

But most of all, I realized that medications aren’t for kids, not the ones that aren’t needed.

Because as a kid, I had no idea the ramifications.  I had no idea what was normal, what wasn’t normal, what this all meant for me.  As a kid, I had no idea that I was going to have a different childhood.  I had a family, with a roof over my head, a pool in my backyard, food to eat, a dog to play with, a Step Dad to watch DVD’s with, but that along with those things came so much more.  It meant medications, dosing, gauging my moods, gauging my side effects, plans to help myself when shit hit the fan.  It meant growing up in one way, while missing my childhood in others.  It meant trying to fit in with the other kids in school, while battling depression, medications, doctors.  It meant feeling alone because I was sure no one understood.  It meant having to try and understand things that a child shouldn’t have to, like looking out for signs of crashing, or maintaining suicidal thoughts.  And it meant keeping quiet about the way these medications hurt me, because I didn’t know any better, because I was embarrassed, because I was tired of being a burden, because I thought that was what my life was supposed to be.

It wasn’t all the medications, I know that.  A lot of it was the disorder, but the medications, the switching, the increasing doses, the chemicals in my body from such a young age, that crippled me in a lot of ways I didn’t realize until I was done.  And sometimes, I have a hard time looking people in the eye from my past, talking to certain people, knowing that in my illness induced mind, I hurt them, that when I was struggling with these medications and was too overwhelmed to function, I hurt them.  I want to be able to take it back, to apologize, but using these things as an excuse for my actions seems…wrong somehow.
And I have a hard time seeing these articles where they’re prescribing heavy medications to get kids to sit still, to behave better, to be different, because I know the path they’re going to go down.  And I know the way it’s going to hurt.  I know the way it’s going to feel as if you’re yelling, screaming, as loud as you can to tell someone, anyone that these things are hurting you, but nothing comes out, you’re silent, and no improvements come.  I hope that in this extremely personal post that someone can read it and think twice about medications, or relate in some way.  I know that some medications are necessary, and I fully support those, but some need to be thought about twice, three times, maybe more.  Because unless you’re the one taking them, unless you’ve been there, you’re going to have no idea what it feels like.  It’s not talked about nearly enough.  That needs to change, and that starts here.

I’m now twenty-five years old.  I’m coming up on three years un-medicated.  And I’m seeing things so clearly.  Instead of medication being the first step, there needs to be more people teaching coping mechanisms, ways to think positively and healthily, ways to fix your issues or make them easier to handle.  That’s what’s important, that’s what made my quality of life improve in wa way I never imagined. If i hadn’t changed or gotten off of the medications, I wouldn’t have had the life everyone told me I would never have.  It was hard, and sometimes i wanted to give up, but it was worth it.

Feel free to share your stories, or to ask questions, I want nothing more than to help make a change.

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