Image Credit: Michael of Scott on Flickr
When tough stuff arises in life – we are inclined to analyze it and try to make sense of the chaos. Almost instinctively, we wonder, “why is this happening to me?” And, often, the answer isn’t what we want it to be. But that doesn’t mean we can’t rewrite the answer over time. It takes a lot of healing, rewiring, and acceptance. This moving post by Courtney explains how she rewrote aspects to her story – just by rephrasing her experiences and reinterpreting events. Just by trying to look at things in a different way – we can change the way we see ourselves and the course of our lives. It’s not easy – and it takes time. But it’s possible. Thanks for sharing this with us, Courtney. –Amanda
Why Me: Disease vs. Recovery
by Courtney Rundell, BeePea
Why (have all these bad things happened to) me?
1. I was an abused child.
My father was a violent sociopath alcoholic. He took my mother and I away from everyone we loved and moved us to the middle of Mexico, where we lived outside of a small fishing village. We rarely had visitors, so no one could see what was happening behind our walls.
I lived in constant fear and learned how to survive. I disassociated. I found ways to become numb.
2. I became an alcoholic.
I swore I’d never be an alcoholic like my dad. He drank from the second he woke up until he passed out everyday. His drinking was our problem. He was an alcoholic.
And then there I was, 24 and unable to stop drinking.
I was genetically predisposed and it was his fault. Alcohol was the only thing that brought me peace in my world and now that was being taken away, too.
It’s not fair that I have to do all this work just to not drink on a daily basis, when other people can have some beers and be fine. I can never drink again. People look at me like I’m a weirdo when I tell them I don’t drink. I’m damaged.
3. I went to a mental hospital.
I cried for 5 months, made a plan to kill myself and then was placed on a 72 hour hold. I was 7 years sober. Life was supposed to get better after I stopped drinking, not worse. My marriage fell apart. My life fell apart. I had to start over – again.
When I came back, people said that I wasn’t sober because I took psychiatric medications. The 12 step meetings that gave me peace were no longer safe. The people who saved me from my alcoholism judged me for my mental illness. I felt alone and misunderstood.
4. I have bipolar 1 disorder and PTSD.
PTSD was another gift from my childhood. Bipolar came from my mother’s side; alcoholism from my father’s.
I managed to get the worst genes from each of my parents. And they weren’t great in the first place.
5. I had postpartum psychosis.
I finally made the decision to have a baby after reversing the brainwashing of my childhood (I was systematically trained to never want children) and then I didn’t even get to enjoy it. I did everything right – my psychiatrist and therapist were with me every step of the way – and I still lost my sanity.
It scares me how fragile my sanity is and how hormones can absolutely throw me over the edge. The road back has been far too long. Maybe I’ll never be stable again or I’ll stabilize just in time for menopause.
Being a woman feels like another illness.
6. I’ve lost friends and family because of all of the above.
At 7 months pregnant, my sister disowned me and two of my three closest friends turned on me. I crashed my car and had a hard time getting rides to my 12 step meetings, after I’d been of service to so many of those women for years. I finally got brave enough to ask for help and I was denied.
And these are only the top six. I’ve also been raped, molested and bullied. I’ve attempted suicide. I had a very sad miscarriage. I’ve watched people I love die and people I despise thrive.
These things have set me back time and time again. I’ve been given an unfair set of circumstances. Somedays I just want to give up and give in to the crushing weight of my life.
Why (were these opportunities for growth given to) me?
1. I was an abused child.
I been given the opportunity to break the chain of family violence. I am a mother and I’m raising my son with a loving husband in a non-violent home. Domestic violence is cyclical. I have enough humility to know that my instincts can be way off base, so I do the work to be the best mother and wife I can be.
There are three rules in my house: no hitting, no yelling, no name-calling. Today, my home is a safe place. My home is a refuge. My home is filled with love.
By living the life I do today, I’ve been able to help many young women accept and move on from their dark pasts. Ends up I wasn’t the only kid growing up in the chaos and confusion of abuse. I’m not alone and what was once a liability has become one of my greatest assets.
2. I am a recovering alcoholic.
I’ve been sober for 14 years. Drinking brought me to my knees and gave me the desperation to admit that my way of living wasn’t working. I was led to the 12 steps, a fellowship and most importantly a God of my own understanding to turn to in times of trouble.
When brought to our knees, why not pray? I was down there anyway…
And I’ve been given the gift of being able to help so many people with only my experience. No degrees, no resume, no ego needed – just my story.
I can go to a bar right now. I choose not to drink on a daily basis. I have choices today because I am sober and no longer a slave to alcohol.
Drinking is not my solution today and I get to do the work to not only stay abstinent, but live a happy, healthy life.
3. I was hospitalized because I had a plan to kill myself.
Mental illness brought me to my knees as well. In that hospital, I finally got the correct diagnosis. I was misdiagnosed with anxiety disorder more than once and I felt hopeless when the therapy and medication didn’t work. My illnesses are progressive in nature, so as they worsened, I feared that life would only get worse and worse until I could no longer bear the pain.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear and that’s exactly what happened. I was led to the therapist and psychiatrist who have been on this path with me for 7 years now. I have a safety net of qualified doctors who I trust and can call anytime, anywhere. I have a solution to my problem today.
Being hospitalized is a humbling reminder of where I can end up again if I stop treatment.
There are still people who believe I’m not sober because of my meds, but they don’t stop me from going to meetings and speaking my truth. I’ve become a voice for people with co-occurring disorders and am working on a survival guide and a YouTube series. I can choose to be a victim or make the change I want to see.
I know my truth today so ignorance doesn’t affect me the way it did in the past, not that it doesn’t sting sometimes, but my truth is deeply rooted within me and therefore unwavering.
4. I have bipolar 1 disorder and PTSD.
I had to know the problem before I could be led to the solution. The work I have to do to live actually sets me free. The medication I take gives me a safety net to do the work.
The soul-searching wasn’t and isn’t easy, but living in my disease was far more difficult. I continue to learn how to live and thrive with mental illness and alcoholism. By lifting myself up, I get to help many others get back on their feet as well.
5. I had postpartum psychosis.
I outed myself on Facebook during a psychotic break, which led to my first blog post about mental illness. In less than a year, I’ve become an active voice in my community and continue to heal and help others.
I learn on a daily basis how to put myself first and care for my son. I remind myself of the oxygen mask theory, so much so that it’s become a mantra. I must take care of myself first so I can take care of my child.
I’ve also stopped comparing myself to other moms and hanging out with moms who are caught up in perfectionism.
My son is in full-time daycare. I let my husband do a lot of the work. Our son is truly co-parented. It takes a village and I love my village.
And menopause? I’ve met some amazing people on this journey who research mental illness and hormones. I have resources today and am learning about how best to handle menopause when it happens. By the time it hits, I’ll be armed and ready!
6. People judge me & they’ll keep on judging me!
What others think of me is none of my business so I stay out of it.
I found out who my true friends were once my mental health started to deteriorate a few weeks into my pregnancy. If my fair-weather friends didn’t show me their true colors, I wouldn’t have stepped out of my comfort zone and sought new, healthier relationships. My life is full of beautiful supportive people today and I couldn’t be more grateful.
See, “bad” is a perception. When I label something as “bad” or “good” I’m placing a judgement on it. Some of the most painful events of my life have ended up bringing me joy and freedom I never knew possible.
When I’m in it, I can’t see it. I’ve been foolish in this manner several times because I have to process, grieve and feel the feelings or I’ll never be free of them. That’s what I did when I drank – I numbed it out – I made the problem go away. Then in sobriety, I made the problem go away with too much solution!
In the big, huge picture, it all makes sense to me, but I live in the real world and get caught between the disease and recovery more often than I’d care to admit.
I’d be lying if I told you that I walk around in a constant state of gratitude.
Through daily prayer and meditation, I’m able to clear away the disease that stands in the way if me and my higher self. But it’s all a choice – do I choose to be a victim or a work-in-progress?
So instead of asking “why me,” why not ask “why not me?”
Because the final question I ask myself is always “how free do I want to be?”
And the answer is always “as much as humanly possible, thank you very much!”
Courtney Rundell – Freelance Blogger for WebMD, International Bipolar Foundation and the North Hollywood Patch. Thriving. Growing. Blooming. Bipolar. On Twitter @courtneyrundell and blogging at BeePea.com.