When PTSD Stops You From Recognizing Yourself

I Didn't Recognize Myself In The Mirror For Two Years

And it took me a while to get to where I am today, make fun of me all you want.

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Some people might downplay the way that advocacy can aid an individual in being able to heal and call it a silly blog or journal, and it needs to stop. Flat out. I've personally heard this from people who have mental health issues themselves when one of the biggest problems with mental illness is not being yourself and feeling incredibly alone in your path. Downplaying what a person is feeling is what is creating this problem and continuing it.

I did not recognize myself in the mirror for two years, or at least, I didn't want to recognize the person I saw.

I can't really sugarcoat it, I've been through some sh*t. I dealt with bullying from a very young age, sexual harassment even before I had hit puberty, and even rape. Did I deserve any of it? Absolutely not. I wore Target clothes because they were comfortable when I was a kid, not because I was asking to be bullied in elementary school. I was kind because that's what I was taught to be with people, not because I was asking to be sexually harassed since middle school. I trusted people because I always wanted to see the best in people and believe the words that they tell me, not because I expected or wanted to be raped because I trusted them.

I can't remember a "me" without depression or anxiety at the very least.

These past two years have been especially rough. PTSD kicks your butt every single day of your life, even after you get it under control. At this point, I have undergone intensive therapy for an extended time, learned how to get myself out of suicidal thoughts and be able to actually live day-to-day even when I see things that trigger me. When the things that trigger you are the things you need for something as seemingly simple as going to class, believe me, it's harder than it looks.

I don't know when my rapist is going to be in the same place I will be. I know there is a no-contact order and he has to leave if he is in the same place as me, but I live in the constant fear that he will be there anyway. And that kind of fear changes you, especially for an extended period of time like two years.

I didn't see myself in the mirror after I was raped. It's hard to describe because I was there, but I wasn't me. It was like I was separated from myself in almost all aspects of my being and I watched myself continue to "live" without me.

And it makes you feel angry, sad, helpless, frustrated—such a myriad of emotions that you don't know what to do with them. And no one could possibly want to deal with that, so you sit alone in your room, desperately trying to understand your own emotions. But that doesn't work because you can't do this alone, even though you don't want this to burden anyone or make them feel responsible for the things that you are feeling (unless they are the ones who are, in fact, responsible for it, like a rapist).

It took me 9-10 months to even allow myself to say in my head that I wasn't OK after what happened. It took a couple more months for me to tell my boyfriend and best friend, even longer still to tell my family. I didn't get help until a year and a half after I had been showing symptoms because of what happened. Picture not recognizing yourself the entirety of the time that you are trying to handle an overload of symptoms and emotions that are not your fault to be feeling in the first place.

You lose yourself even more. The shadow of yourself that is watching "you" live your life gets weaker, it doesn't understand.

So I did what I could to bring me back. Not the me that my rapist forever has because of his actions, but the me that I want to be. I changed the way I looked, I changed from the way he had known me to look so that I was my own again. I got piercings to personalize myself to what I wanted to show, the beauty that I knew had been inside me. I got a tattoo to remind myself every day why I'm fighting, to show that version of me that is lost to my rapist that she is no more. I change the color of my hair so that I see the growth, the effort and the time I've put in to change.

I recognize myself in the mirror now. It's been two and a half years. And I'm not going to stop.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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Netflix's 'Special' Is A Groundbreaking Series About A Gay Man With Cerebral Palsy

Based off his memoir "I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" Ryan O'Connell reimagines his journey in this witty 15-minute comedy.

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Ryan O'Connell is a gay man with cerebral palsy, and he's here to showcase his story in a must-see eight episode series. O'Connell navigates his world behind sexuality and disability in a coming-of-age twentysomething comedy, that's extremely important in today's society. When it comes to the topic of representation, O'Connell exceeds expectations as he shines a light on internalized ableism, being a fish out of water in his own community, and even the topic of gay sex. This series has a significant amount of charm, it's almost like a rated-R Disney show with its quirky music, fast-paced story and it's a success in making everyone's heart melt.

"Special" is about Ryan Hayes (Ryan O'Connell) a charismatic and shy gay man with mild cerebral palsy who's "28 and hasn't done a goddamn thing." Therefore, he takes the initiative of becoming an unpaid intern at an online magazine titled "Eggwoke" and begins his journey in soul-searching for his identity. His boss Olivia (Marla Mindelle), a chaotic Anna Wintour-type, expresses that most articles going viral right now are confessional ones. This allows Ryan to have his moment, as he writes an anecdote about getting hit by a car and inflates it from a minor injury to a traumatic piece, which allows him to use it as a cover story for his limp and to keep his condition a secret from his peers.

Ryan befriends one of his peers, a South-Asian American woman named Kim (Punam Patel) whose professional niche involves body positivity, the empowerment of being a person of color and a curvy girl. Her constant confidence helps paint her as the motivating friend that helps Ryan get more comfortable with himself. They share a moment at Olivia's pool party in a room when Ryan refuses to take off his clothes and she coerces him into taking off his clothes and appreciating his body. Kim might be a bit of a push towards Ryan, but she's only leading him in the right direction.

"Special" is extremely self-aware, especially within the first scenes of the first episode which explain what mild cerebral palsy is and in response a child screams in fear and runs away, leaving Ryan confused but humored. There even is a complex relationship between Ryan and his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht). Karen's an overprotective mother who only wants the best for her child, but when she's at that point of finally letting him be free she's put into a place of loneliness. The show tackles a very specific mother/son relationship, as Ryan tries not to rely on his mother for help all the time, Karen does not mind any hassle regarding her son... especially with his condition. The two butt heads at multiple occasions, but their love for one another prevails.

"Special" has eight episodes that you can watch on Netflix right now, it's binge-worthy especially with each episode being around 15 minutes and it's also an eye-opener. This show helps strive for self-revelation and self-evaluation, it's a reflective process on identity and what categories we put ourselves in. Ryan O'Connell has made such a marvelous show, with a charming cast, multiple important messages, and a motive to help normalize disabilities and homosexuality to the public through a unique and specific perspective. It's a personal experience that everyone should watch, learn and love from.

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