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Danielle Ione

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

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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.

 

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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.

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.

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.

The Yes Girl by K Webster

The Yes Girl by K Webster

There’s a part inside of each of us that’s eager to please.  A part of us that wants to be the recipient of someone’s smile and praise.  A part of us that wants to be known as the agreeable one.  This quiet, lovable creature within is called The Yes Girl.

Can you and the kids come to Ethan’s party on Saturday?  Yes.

Can you bring refreshments to Bunko since Susan had to cancel at the last minute?  Yes.

Can you donate just five dollars to this simple cause?  Yes.

Eventually, after a lifetime of practiced yesses, The Yes Girl becomes strong.  She dons a brilliant white cape and she places her pale booted foot upon that gigantic rock of life and leans into the wind, a sweet smile upon her face.  The Yes Girl is reliable and a sure bet.  A girl who will help you out when no one else can.

But at some point, The Yes Girl begins to dole out yesses that should be noes.  She starts to feel the pressure of too many people coming forward with their requests.  Her reputation says she’ll say yes, after all.

Can you watch my kids so my husband and I can have a date weekend?  I know you did it three months in a row but I promise I’ll pay you back with your own date night next month.

Can you adopt this kitten?  My cat had a litter of them and I hate to take them to the pound.

Can you lend me forty dollars until pay day?  I know I still owe you the sixty so this’ll make it an even hundred.

The Yes Girl, with frustrated tears in her eyes and with overwhelming embarrassment, throws in the towel.  She retreats into the shadows and hides.

But don’t worry, The Yes Girl is protected.  The No Girl sharpens her claws, bares her teeth, and goes in for damage control.  She’s been waiting for her moment to shine.

Can you bake brownies for the PTA— No.

My daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies and—No.

Our car broke down and we need—No.

The Yes Girl desperately tugs on The No Girl’s black cape.  “That was my best friend,” she says.  “That lady up at the church has nobody else,” she explains.  “That guy works with my husband,” she tries.  But The No Girl is furious.  Where were these people when she was going crazy from being overworked and overmommed?  When she just needed five minutes to grab a latte along with her sanity?  Where were these so-called friends and family when everyone in the household got the flu and she ended up taking care of everyone despite her illness?  Where were these people when she suffered with depression and sadness and loneliness all the while serving their every whim?

The No Girl knows.  Her words are cold and harsh.  “They were hooking up with another Yes Girl.  But don’t worry, just until you’re better—until you put me back into my cage.”

And so both girls, from opposite sides of the spectrum, face off, wondering what to do.  How to make things right.  How to help but not get taken advantage of.  The Yes Girl wants to run and hide again.  The No Girl thinks they need more knives.

“Maybe you can meet in the middle?”

A girl, dressed in gray, but with a smile that matches The Yes Girl’s and shiny, black boots which make The No Girl envious, emerges from shadows.  She has a solution.  A brilliant idea.

“Yes Girl, straighten your back,” she says.

“No Girl, use this file for those nails of yours,” she instructs.

The girls step back and let The Maybe Girl do her job.

Can you come to the Christmas Party?  We might be able to.

Can you bake cookies for the bake sale at school?  Probably not, but I can pick up some paper plates and plastic forks.

Can you watch little Aiden on Friday since I have to work and nobody else can help?  I don’t mind this one time…But I’ll need to bring my kiddos over Wednesday for a few hours while I take care of some errands (the toes don’t do themselves).

The Yes Girl is stunned into silence.  The No Girl is nodding her head—this could work.  And the Maybe Girl hugs them both.

“You,” she tells them with a kind smile, “are the most important.  And the ones who love you will understand when you say maybe.  The ones who don’t understand can take a hike.”

And so all three girls learn how to manage their time and decisions when it comes to other people with a healthy balance of yesses, noes, and maybes.  They lived very happily ever after.

Moral of the story:  Don’t be a Yes Girl.  Don’t be a No Girl.  Be a Maybe Girl…she has cool shoes and free time.

An open letter to the mothers who have forgotten who they are

An open letter to those mothers who have forgotten who they are.

You are not lost, not forever, at least.  It’s going to be hard for you to remember who you are, as a person, aside from being the mother, wife, and writer that you are.  It happens, it’s normal, it’s life. Don’t let it get you down, don’t let it define your moods, because underneath the food stained clothes, the harebrained mind, and the ever frazzled expression, you are a strong woman.

Sometimes it takes remembering who you were, to make you realize who you are now.

Years ago, you were a completely different person.  You let the past make you who you are.  You described yourself as your illness, as your past, as your tragedy, but never as you were.  And over the years, you embodied all these different hobbies, likes, dislikes, opinions that you don’t necessarily agree with now.  You did that to fit in, or to appease someone else, or to feel as if you were normal, but I’m here to tell you, that it’s okay to be who you are, love what you love, and be comfortable in your own skin.

There will be days where your kids are driving you insane with tantrums, and where you feel like everything you do won’t ever be enough, and times where you feel as if you’re crawling out of your skin because you just can’t get your head together.  But just remember that you are strong, you are intelligent, you are you.  Who that person is, you’re still searching to find out but what’s what’s important, that’s what matters.

You may not be the girl you used to be but that just means you’re turning into the woman you always wanted to be.  You have the foundation.  You have the support.  Now put the rest of the pieces together.

Who you are.  What you love.  It all matters.  Big things, small things, it all makes a difference in what makes you, you.

Don’t get so lost in the daily life of a stay at home mom that you forget that you are a person too. That you deserve to take care of yourself, too.

Go out.  Have fun.  Re-discover your passion in the small things like politics or TV shows, or hell, even food.  Who knows what it’ll be, just know that the journey to doing it, to figuring yourself out again, is the fun part.  It’s trial and error but the best part about it is you already have the amazing home life.  You already have the phenomenal children to make your heart happy and you already have that amazing husband who keeps your heart beating, and you already have your dreams in front of you.  Now, it’s just time to find the rest of it.  You’ll have a family to share it with, and you have friends to help you experience it.  You’ve got this.

You are strong.

Your are intelligent.

And you are a person who deserves to put herself first once in a while.

Having the personality trait of the caregiver means that you don’t always think of yourself first.  When you wake up, you think about your kids, your husband, and then you.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It just means there’s a little extra work to be put in to find you again. Because your family is your priority but you can be apart of that too.

You’re not alone, either.  There are people all over the world doing the exact same ting you are right now.  You’re not alone, you’re not stupid, you’re not pathetic, you’re just growing. Because parenting, it makes you grow as a person.  You are not the person you were a year ago when the kids were born, because those kids have caused you to grow, to learn, to strengthen.  And when that happens, you change,and it’s for the better, but it also means you have to reevaluate.

Read this in those moments where you just feel so lost.  Read this in those moments where you feel overwhelmed.  Read this in those moments where you feel like you’re too tired, or too busy, to take care of you.

You are important.

You are important.

You are fucking important.

Remember that.

Limitless Cover Reveal!

image

The day I’ve been waiting for is finally here! I can’t thank my cover designer, Shari Ryan, enough for how amazing this cover turned out! Isn’t she talented?
I wanted to say a big thank you to everyone that helped me spread the word for this awesome occasion. Y’all have truly made me so grateful to be apart of this community!

Book: Limitless: The Story of Knox and Emery Jane
Author: Danielle Ione
Publisher: Booktrope Publishing
Date Published: October 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense

Knox appears to have the perfect life. He’s a photographer, living on the beach in sunny southern California, and a father of an intelligent little boy. Although, not everything is as it seems. Underneath it all, Knox lives a lonely life, filled with meaningless moments leading up to the 60 minutes he spends with his son every day. Until he met Emery Jane. Suddenly, the black and white world he lives in becomes brighter and the void of loneliness disappears. But, Knox holds a secret, one that could crush the promises of a future with the one woman he has grown to love, and the son he would do anything for.

Six years ago, Emery Jane ran. She ran from her past, from the people she loved, the secrets that were buried six feet under, and from her own living, breathing nightmare. Emery Jane longs for a life of normalcy and living in paradise seems like the perfect place to find it. She never expected to meet Knox, or his beautiful little boy, and she certainly didn’t expect to love them so fiercely. As she embraces the unexpected she can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, showing her that life doesn’t always have to be so unnerving. But Emery Jane knows that with secrets come destruction, and that destruction is knocking on her door.

As their pasts collide, inviting havoc into their lives, their limits are tested as they try to survive. Will the evils that chase them win, bringing everything crashing down around them? Or, can they both fight through the darkness and live a life of happiness?
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