It’s Been Awhile

Confession time.

Quarantine is/was hard on me mentally, but I don’t think that is a surprise to anyone.

Emotions ran high. I did a lot of self discovery. I made mistakes. I didn’t think I was good enough. I was disappointed in myself. I hurt. I cried. I wanted to hurt myself.

12 years of self harm recovery doesn’t mean that I don’t want to. The feelings are still there a lot! That doesn’t mean that my medicines aren’t working. That doesn’t mean that I am not doing the best I can. That means that I have to fight harder to make sure that I don’t revert to something that hurt me tremendously.

For the first time in over a year I had to put a rubber band around my wrist. For those of you who aren’t preview to the world of self harm, one of the coping mechanisms recommended to self harm patients is to use a rubber band to pop your skin to simulate the release most self harmers seek.

While it is not ideal to go as far as the image above this is what it comes to sometimes. I’m not proud of the image, but this blog is meant for me to be very open with my readers during the good and the bad times.

Understanding this issue is so important when it comes to helping others that you know with this form of mental struggle.

During this time so many are struggling and many are losing their battle with their minds and it is heartbreaking! I can openly admit that I have issues with control. If I don’t have control over myself and my life then I begin to spiral, and that is when things get tough. I am a planner. Being out of work scared me. Even though I am in a situation that is a huge blessing I still had no clear picture of anything happening for the 6 weeks I didn’t have an income. I am the sole monetary provider for my family right now. That is a decision that was not a light one, but it is one that I was more than happy to take on! I love working, and I am very lucky that I love what I do!

While trying to pour myself into different projects during quarantine, I wasn’t in control of my mind and I felt like I was disappointing a lot of people when in reality it was 99% all in my head.

At the end of the day please remember the importance on checking on your people! This mess is far from over, and is going to change the course of our history. While I silently struggled for weeks I get it was a disservice to my blog not to share even if it was delayed.

Title Credit:

Staid: It’s Been Awhile

Disconnected

If you’re finding this blog congratulations. This is one of the few I’m not alerting social media to.

Depression sucks.

I wish I could relay just how much. This post won’t be long, but I had to share a visual. I went to one of my favorite places today to sit and enjoy the outdoors and think in a quiet place.

Isn’t it beautifully creepy?

When I arrived I felt good and happy.

20 minutes later I was overwhelmed with emotion.

This is a hard time for people like me. This is a hard time for people not like me. Check on your people! They need you now more than ever!

“I feel so disconnected from everything
Everything around me
All I ever wanted was to feel like I belong
Somewhere else than here”

Title Credit:

Imminence: Disconnected

A Face of Grace

The next morning started off a little easier with a catered breakfast, that neither of us ate, and more friends were able to stop by to visit. We had church family, coworkers, and friends come by all day offering whatever they could bring or do to try and somehow help ease a little pain. We didn’t see it at that time, but their presence and love alone was all we really needed with every visit. I personally looked at food and was nauseous immediately.

Water was about the only thing I could keep down and I’m hypoglycemic (I need food and sugar to keep my body functioning). It’s a cheesy saying most times, but it truly was the thought that counted at this time! As the day went on and more nurses and doctors came through everything we had ever planned for Sydney was quickly changing.

Our first child was born c-section because of some complications, so we already planned to have our second via c-section. Doctors and nurses quickly changed this as they explained that another surgery and procedure for my wife in this situation would add a whole new level of risk. I can remember my wife breaking down in tears simply of fear because she had never planned this as a natural birth, but she too understood the risk of surgery and that it could be even worse. As a father, you feel hopeless in these situations. In both cases it is always in the doctor’s hands for safety. During a c-section though you are behind the blue sheet, just the two of you, and you don’t really notice the danger or risk in that moment. You feel like you can help your wife through it because she too is right there behind that sheet, maybe just a head, but she is there at the same time. However, during natural birth you just feel helpless. Everything is up to her for pushing, resting, and delivering this baby. You can hold her hand and help breathe, but it’s almost a feeling of “Is this all I’m here for?” At that moment I felt helpless, not just because of our situation with Sydney and there was nothing we could do, but that my wife is scared on her first natural delivery and there is still nothing I can do.

Quickly the day was passing and as more friends and family finished their work day they too came and visited. That evening around 5:30pm the nurses came and said that we were ready to begin. Contractions were steady and everything was looking good for pushing and delivery to begin.

Now our doctor had an event on this weekend that prevented her from being there, so at this point a doctor which we had never had an appointment with and never really knew was going to be our delivery doctor. He was still the nicest and most sympathetic doctor I had ever come in contact with. He explained everything we ever asked with great detail and quickly became our second go to doctor for any future children we may have! At this point I never did the breathing classes or training for a natural birth, even with our first child, so I really didn’t know what to do but hold my wife’s hand and tell her she was doing great. I probably sounded like a broken record of just repeating “you’re doing great, keep going“, but thankfully it was not a long delivery.

Around 6:00pm our baby girl, Sydney Jane, was born. I remember in 2015 hearing my son cry for the first time and seeing him all bloody and nasty before they wrapped him up. I remember the first smile my wife and I shared when I carried him over for her to see, and the first tear we both shared to finally know he was here. Everything was in full replay mode in this moment from his birth to hers.

For Sydney though; the doctor didn’t speak, the nurse didn’t say a word, and I don’t even remember if my wife and I even looked at each other. I just know that it was immense silence. I immediately tried covering my wife to somehow block the lack of noise and somehow think that I could change the impact of what just happened. At every attempt I failed, it may have only been a few seconds of silence, but quickly the crying and sobbing from my wife and I filled the room. 

At this point we both knew that Our plan for a miracle was not God’s plan. The doctor and nurse both explained how the umbilical cord had been wrapped around Sydney’s neck several times and had gotten tight. The doctor explained it more for the reason of trying to explain why this had happened, but the nurse explained it to try and prepare us for what she may look like. Her skin was torn around the neck and tender areas of her tiny body. Her hands, feet, and arms were even more wrinkled. Even the plates in her head felt more like jello because at this point they were no longer connected.

Through all of this though, no matter how bad the skin may have appeared we could still see all of her beauty in that tiny face. She was the absolute twin of our firstborn son! Her eyes, her nose, her lips, her ears, her hair; everything about her reminded us of the first time we saw our son. The first thing I noticed, and the biggest thing I will always remember, were here lips. They were a maroon red color, mainly from everything she had gone through, but I saw it more as she was wearing lipstick. Just as any princess or angel would, she was our perfect angel shown in all her glory. She had the softest head of hair and the most perfect little nose you just wanted to poke at and touch. The framed quote above perfectly sums up everything we felt on that first view of our baby girl,

All of God’s Grace in One Tiny Face

We were able to sit alone, just my wife and I, for as long as we wanted to and just stare at her beautiful face; but of course I knew grandparents and friends could not wait to come see her. We spent about half an hour alone with our baby girl and then I went to our waiting room to announce her birth to the family and friends who were waiting patiently. It was another big round of tears and hugs throughout, but slowly each family took their time and entered the room to see my wife and to meet our baby girl. I felt fearful at first for what people might see when they entered the room and how they might react, but I think with every visit God was evidently present in the room. Each person that entered was a new feeling of grace and love that it didn’t matter what our baby girl looked like or the fact that she was silent; they were simply there to encourage and love all over my wife and I. There are not enough words in the world to express our thanks to each and every person at that time, but we both love and cherish each and every person.

Now my wife is originally from Canada so when we told her parents the day before what had happened they immediately dropped everything and started the long two day trip to the States. They were still not expected to be in town until Saturday afternoon, but we both prayed that they could meet their first granddaughter in the hospital. We were supposed to be discharged Saturday afternoon, but the hospital was gracious enough to let us stick around with our daughter until my wife’s family was able to visit. Of course Saturday held new tears and new grieving moments with her family, but it was so precious to be able to have both sides of our family take photos with Sydney that will forever be cherished.

Within 48 hours I went from a father of one son and expecting our first daughter; to a father of a son on earth and an angel in Heaven. Even in these two days people continued to say how strong they thought we were, but without the Grace of God and the Hope that only He can give I don’t think either of us would have made it through this. Stillbirth is a topic that is usually very silent and many simply do not share what they have gone through in their experience. I could not imagine how I would have handled this situation if I had not known God and had not known that I would one day see my daughter again in Heaven.

I don’t know who will read this or where this post may go, but I hope that somehow it can show someone the goodness of God and that grace that He provides even in your darkest situations. As a lost sinner the only way to experience that grace is to come to God in repentance and accept Him as your Lord and Savior. As a saved Christian there would be no way we could experience His grace and goodness if we didn’t go through these trials.

If everything was always perfect in our lives we would never need God’s grace and mercy every day.

Praise the Lord that we can experience His Grace and Mercy through every journey! At the time of sharing this story, the end of April 2020, we have just had our third child. Our rainbow baby! Of course another post will be coming soon about baby three and how ecstatic his parents are!

A Friend in Need

As we arrived back at the Women’s and Children’s hospital, specifically the maternity floor, we were now in waiting mode. Thankfully, our assistant pastor arrived shortly after to encourage us and pray with us, as well as my family. Every nurse on the floor knew our situation, so we were placed in the back corner of a quiet hallway where a waiting room across the hall could be invaded by family and friends.

The first thing we did when we were placed in our room was to have another doppler test for a heartbeat. Still, there was nothing; no heartbeat, no movement, no noise except for that scruffy machine. Once everything settled down again and we semi-unpacked to feel more comfortable and for the first time of the evening I looked at my phone.

The overwhelming amount of messages already pouring in for sympathy and encouragement was so amazing I couldn’t help but again break down in tears. I was able to respond back to those texting us, as well as send a few text messages to friends and coworkers that I knew had not heard the news. Folks that had just gotten off work themselves and still offered to turn around and bring snacks and drinks or food to the hospital for whatever my wife and I needed. The love and encouragement we felt already was so amazing, but in our eyes nothing positive or negative had happened yet. God could still pull a miracle off if He chose to do so!

The first night seemed to go on forever because the doctors did not want to induce just yet. It was more of a monitoring evening just to make sure everything would be fine and safe for my wife. I journeyed back and forth from our hospital room to the waiting room that our friends and family were camped out in. We had friends that travelled an hour or more to see us and coworkers that had just gotten off 12 hour shifts that turned around to head back to the hospital. Friends that even in your dark times stick around to help you through it, even if just to cry along with you. Having all of these friends at the hospital I think helped my wife grieve as she had other women who had miscarriages or other ladies she was very close to come in to just cry with her or laugh with her in a way that I could not help.

Soon it was late and all the friends and family had gone home. Now, for me sleep always sounds amazing, but this evening was very different. We were just given the hardest news we had ever received in our life a few hours earlier, and now they had placed us on a floor full of screaming mothers and crying babies. They told us to try and get some rest as the next day was going to be a very hard 24 hours, but at this point neither of us could sleep. We both knew Scripture and had seen plenty of times where God stepped in and made the miraculous happen, so we both prayed all night for some kind of miracle. We both knew that He was still the same God of the Bible and if He wanted to He could easily fix our situation as we in human nature saw it needed fixing. I’m pretty sure we both dozed off at some point for at least a little rest, but the next day had arrived and it was going to hold something neither of us had ever experienced. Find out what that is in our next session entitled A Face of Grace.

A Father’s Perspective

April 12th, 2018 we expected the birth of our second child; our baby girl Sydney Jane. On April 5th, exactly one week from our due date, I received a phone call I pray I never receive again. My mom called from the hospital and told me to rush to the hospital as soon as possible. I began praying immediately that nothing happened to My Girls; my wife or my daughter, but I ran to my car and quickly began the trip. It was 4:15pm and rush hour on the main interstate through Huntsville was starting to back up. By God’s Grace I made a trip that normally takes 30 to 45 minutes, in 10 minutes flat.

As I walked into the office the nurses immediately rushed me to the back hallway where they do ultrasounds and I met my crying wife sitting on the table. It took two words spoken by my wife to change everything in our world in a split second; No Heartbeat.

I don’t remember speaking, sitting, or even breathing for the next hour or so. I arrived at the hospital before 4:30pm, but we didn’t return to our car until almost 6:00pm. Now usually our car is a karaoke jam from point A to point B as we both love music and singing, but there was no noise and no sound in the car at this point. Music didn’t play for another 2 weeks, until I returned to work.

The next part I remember after leaving the doctor’s office is when our pastor called as we pulled out of the parking lot. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember that as he prayed with us the thought that this isn’t a dream; it’s going to be the rest of our lives from that moment on. The entire ride home it was just my wife and I in the car so we held hands and cried the whole way home.  Of course all of the tears came from our sudden loss, but honestly it was more from confusion and praying for a miracle or that the doctors were all wrong.

Arriving back home we went straight to the rooms and just sort of collapsed on the bed where we slowly packed clothes. At that point we lived with my parents, so we had planned to have Sydney and place her in our room with us for the first little while until we could find a house. We had already moved most of our clothes to another closet in the house and had placed everything from newborn through 3 months in our closet.

We also had the bed side baby bed ready and other baby items sitting in our room. So pushing past all the new baby items and trying to pack our items became even harder as you grab the newborn onesie and now realize it will never be worn, or spit up on, or used. With packed bags we were headed back to the hospital for a night and weekend that held no answers and no hope for our family or future.

My wife and I are both believe in God, but at this point in our lives everything seemed hopeless. Why did this happen to us? Why now? Why would He take away our daughter? What good could this ever bring to anyone? We simply couldn’t understand the purpose or reason as to why any of this happened. Keep following and find out how these questions are answered as our story continues next time on A Friend in Need.

Blog Collaboration Intro

I’m so excited to announce our next collaborator, Stephen. I know Stephen all because of a semicolon keychain and we just hit the ground running on ideas! I am very thankful for his story as it is a glimpse into a totally different side of mental hardship. Even more important I am excited to introduce a male perspective!

Depression comes in all shapes and sizes and is handled in a broad spectrum of ways. It was very apparent from the first time I chatted with Stephen that his faith is very strong and he leans on it. So help me welcome Stephen!

Hi there! My name is Stephen Keeling and I am 27 years old. My wife Jenn and I have been married for 5 years and we have three children; Julius, Sydney, and one on the way! Our firstborn Julius is my mini-me in every way. He is 4 years old and everything from looks and attitude is identical, but he does have a little bit of his mom 😉 Sydney Jane is our second child and by far our biggest miracle. She was stillborn 7 days before our due date and is the reason we have a story to share. Our third child at the time of writing this is still cooking, but we are getting very close! We are due around the end of April and have kept it a surprise for everyone, but God on what the gender is. While we do have some names picked out, no one in our family, the doctors, or even us know what we will be having.

I’d like to express my appreciation to Mattie for letting me be a part of this blog and to share our story. My wife may chime in a little from time to time and we may show both perspectives, but know that we both will always put our heart into every post 🙂 While neither of us have a direct link to self-harm or suicide; we do both have a story to share of HOPE! That is what we would like to share with every post, is the Hope we have found and the positivity we have experienced in every situation. I pray that this blog is a blessing to you and is something you will look forward to sharing with us! Know this, in every trial, hardship, or earth-shattering event; it is Never the end of your story. There may be a new chapter beginning where one has just come to a close or you may be in the middle of a hard chapter of life. In any event there is always Hope. There is always a positive side to focus on. So follow along and pay close attention, we have exciting things in store for you!!

Well I guess it doesn’t matter anymore

“There are blood stains everywhere on your sheets. It looks like you’ve killed someone.”

I can still hear these words, told by my mother earlier today as she was doing the laundry. She does not know I self-harm, she still thinks it’s the “acceptable” monthly blood. And yet she can feel something is not right, there is too much blood, but she does not get what exactly is wrong. She will never get it because I will not let her know why there is too much blood. I will not let anybody know about the delicate self-torture that takes place in my room three times a week. I cut and I burn so that the sad bored version of myself let the happier and calmer me take the rains, so that I am in peace. And this, no one will ever know, this is why I am unblameable, unjudgeable and above all unstoppable.

I don’t even want to stop anymore, I’ve stopped trying to quit when I realized it hurt me more than self-harm itself and self-harm became so normal to me now. I keep telling myself it’s not that bad. After all, it helps, or at least I feel it helps. Some people drink to feel good, others eat, others smoke, I self-harm and the immediate consequences are positive. I even try to convince myself it is self-care. It is my trick to make myself happy, it is a moment I spend caring only about myself, it is only me and my body, only me and my feelings. And yet I know it’s all but a lie to myself, self-harm should not be considered normal, self-harm is unhealthy. I find this tragically fascinating, how you can get used to things that would shock so many people. I still remember the time when I was shocked as well, when it was still something not okay to do. When I started self-harming I did not know what self-harm was. I freaked out each time I hurt myself. I would cut then look at myself in the mirror and see what I had done. I saw a mad woman. Why would anyone hurt themselves on purpose?

But repeated self-harm often leads to tolerance and habituation, and now I have to cut deeper, more often and burn as well to get the same feeling of relief. How did I let this happen? How could I get used to it? I still do not understand and I blame myself for this. I do not understand why I kept doing it when I could still stop. And yet I can still stop. People often think it is an addiction, it may be to some but not to me. I am not addicted, I could stop if I wanted, but I don’t want to because I am dependent, I rely on it. I can stop for weeks and I have already done so, but what is the point if these weeks become unbearable? Now that I’ve been self-harming for two years, it is part of my life, it is part of who I am and I have forgotten how it is not to self-harm. This is why this remark made by my mom, it looks like a murder, made me feel so uncomfortable: it was a reminder of how violent self-harm is.

Blog Collaboration Intro

Hey everyone! I am so excited to announce my first blog collaborator, Nina. She has written her own intro for me to post so everyone knows what’s going on. She will then post her own content with her own signature so everyone can differentiate between who the blogger is! So without further ado help me welcome Nina!
Hello everyone,
My name is Nina, I am a 22 years old French girl, going on 23. I have been self-harming for more than 2 years now and I am extremely grateful to Mattie for letting me share my story on her blog. I hope this will help you better understand self-harm and mental health and make you feel less alone if you suffer as well. I wish I had known I was not alone when I started self-harming as it took me time to stop feeling guilty and understand what was happening. I would not want anyone to feel that way. I now feel way better than when I started, although I haven’t stopped self-harming yet.
I like to read about self-harm in my free time, but it is obviously not the only aspect of who I am, I have plenty of diverse interests. I love (horror) movies, music, cooking and politics and I am fascinated with the American culture.
Thank you and have a nice day!
Nina

You and Me

My mind has really been focused on this blog for the last few days, so hopefully I can get everything I need to say out in the best way.
Mental illness affects individuals, but we also have to remember it affects their significant others too.
Years ago when I was dating my husband he didn’t really get my issues. It wasn’t until my mental break in 2017 that he really understood what was going on.
One thing I encourage people struggling with mental illness is to be completely open with your significant other. One thing that Jeremy and I agreed on when I made my life change was if he ever noticed I was acting “off” that I wouldn’t get my feelings hurt if he asked if I was taking my medication properly. This is something VERY important in our relationship and here we are 3 years later and he has had to ask a few times and I have kept my promise to be 100% honest with him.
Do you have a significant other that is dealing with mental illness? Communicate with them. Ask them how they are doing. Learn their triggers. Encourage them. A little goes a long way. 
Dealing with mental illness and have a significant other? Communicate with them! Make sure they understand what you are going through. Tell them when you are struggling. If they don’t understand, try your best to help them understand. Take them with you to see your doctor so they can help them understand. 
Our significant others should be our safe place. If you are married, they should be the one person you should be able to fall back on. 
The one thing I want to leave you with is communicate, communicate, communicate! I learned a long time ago that the more I held in the harder it was on my marriage.
Title Credit:
You and Me: Dave Matthews Band

Ugly

What do you think when you look in the mirror?

“I’m fat.” “I’m ugly.” “I have too many wrinkles.” “My nose is too big.”

I’m sure the list could go in forever. So let’s talk about self image.

Why are we so hard on ourselves? Because society is hard on us! For years now there has been a movement about empowering women (and men) to feel better about ourselves, but does it really work? Does our internal monologue change because the media tells us to change it? No. Will your internal monologue change because I’m asking you to change it? I would love for it to, but I have to be realistic!

I used to spend hours looking in the mirror and picking at my face and my skin. I would find all my imperfections and focus on them because others were telling me I wasn’t worthy of being considered beautiful. If I couldn’t sleep I was in the mirror. At one point when I was self harming I even cut fat into my stomach and ugly into my calf. That’s how I viewed myself, a fat, disgusting human being.

I imagine this is the story of millions of young women (and not so young) and it devastates me to know others are struggling the way I used to.

I don’t remember when I stopped judging myself so harshly, but I know it was after my daughter came to me when she was around four and told me she was fat! FOUR! I knew then and there that somewhere along the way she had probably heard me say I myself was fat. I knew I had to change my perspective.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am human and I still have days where I don’t feel good about myself. I could lose some more weight, I could work harder to drink more water, but more days than not I have to remind myself that I am worthy and I am beautiful.

So what can you do to help yourself with your self image?

1. Change your inner monologue. Start small. Take it a day at a time.

2. Dress in clothes that make you feel good about yourself.

3. Surround yourself with supportive people.

4. Surround yourself with words of affirmation. Hang a sticky note, create a piece of art, do whatever is best for you! (I am beautiful, Today is the day, I am worthy etc.)

5. Stop expecting perfection. You aren’t perfect and that’s ok!

6. Change what you can.

7. Don’t compare yourself to others.

8. Take a hot bath or shower and relax.

9. Don’t live in the mirror.

And finally…

10. Give back. Help others. Do something that makes you and others feel good!

Title Credit:

Ugly: The Exies