Everyone has an inner critic; the small or sometimes loud voice that either tares us down or picks us up. How you talk to yourself will either encourage or discourage you. My inner voice uses to tear me apart; telling me I would never be successful or that I would always struggle. One of the ways I learned to love myself was by talking to myself out of love, like I would a good friend. Negative self-talk has catastrophic effects research has shown how it leads to low levels of self-esteem and high levels of stress. Whereas, positive self-talk leads to a greater sense of self-efficacy which will help you reach your goals. When you criticize yourself constantly you will only focus on the failures and not the changes one needs to make. Positive self-talk is a form of self-compassion and self-understanding; it is a way of loving yourself and being empathetic with yourself. Nothing changed in my life until I started talking to myself out of love; until I accepted myself for who I was. The amazing thing is I gained an awareness of my own strengths rather than focusing on my own failures. There was so much pain in my past; so many regrets and too many failed attempts to get it right. If I would have stayed in that mindset I would have gotten nowhere. I would have never finished college because I thought I was not smart enough to; I would have never found my purpose. When you are constantly attacking yourself over every small mistake your turning a small mistake into a huge failure. Your taring yourself down, lowering your self-esteem thus, effecting how you view yourself and ultimately creating a life you don’t want to live. I understand because I use to be like that; I was my own worst enemy. It wasn’t easy to change my inner critic into a trusted friend. It took baby steps such as when I thought of all the ways I was a bad mom I would then force myself to see the ways I was actually an amazing mother. When I told myself, I would never finish school I pushed myself harder and challenged those thoughts with thoughts of getting my PhD. Eventually I learned to love myself and accept my past failures and embrace my new successes. One day I realized how different I was, I was no longer viewing myself the same and others noticed too. I no longer complained or catastrophized every problem I had I instead looked for solutions or accepted the situation for what it was. One way to improve your inner critic is to monitor your thoughts; think about what you’re thinking. Stay aware of your thoughts if they are always negative your perspective will always be negative thus, creating a bunch of negative experiences. The benefits of positive self-talk and positive thinking are astronomical. Research has shown how it has benefits to your physical health and your quality of life. I know for me personally when I starting speaking to myself with understanding instead of judgment I rebuilt my entire life. I finished my goals, I started new hobbies, I found myself. I hope you find yourself too.
My name is Jessica Rodriguez, I am a full-time graduate student at The University of St. Thomas, studying Mental Health Counseling. Here is my story of how I overcame many obstacles in my life and my plan to help others overcome theirs.
My story is not one that will bring upon the feeling of joy, it begins when I was a child. My parents were active drug users and alcoholics. My father suffered with severe anxiety and OCD, he still to this day is un-medicated. My mother suffered with bipolar 1 and my grandmother has bipolar 1, they both are treated and medicated for these disorders. There was not time for dolls and dresses, bows and Barbie’s, my siblings and I took care of each other and our mentally ill mother. Often missing school or attending school in dirty clothes with dirty faces. I never could do girl scouts or school sports. My grades reflected my life at home and the physical and emotional abuse we endured left me struggling to make friends. By the time I was 10 years old I had endured every type of child abuse there is and was a trained expert by my parents on how to answer questions the teachers or guidance counselors may have. At eleven years, old my father went to prison, leaving my drug addict, unemployed mother with four children. It was not long before the Department of Children and Families showed up separating the four of us. The abuse I had endured had been what molded my borderline personality. Being a child who was borderline in the foster care system left only one thing that could happen; the shuffle from home to home then group homes and institutions. No one could handle my abandonment issues that made me a clingy child, then a promiscuous runaway teenager. By the time I was sixteen I was diagnosed Manic Depressant and Borderline Personality. Every therapist I had fired me and the ones that were still available rejected my case since then in the late 90’s borderlines where considered incurable, untreatable, and dangerous for therapist because of their ability to manipulate. After I was kicked out of yet another home and had a DCF file that was four inches thick the Department of Children and Families felt I was too much trouble and beyond their help, at 16 I was left homeless and alone. I slept on friend’s coaches and friends of friend’s coaches, I even slept in Fountain view park in Waterbury. Until I called my Aunt in Tennessee and found out my Father had been released from prison. My parents were together living at my Aunts and my grandmother whom had taken in my younger siblings had given them back to my parents. I assume they felt like after that length of time they had gotten it together enough to be parents, but they hadn’t. Moving to Tennessee was the biggest mistake of my life, I went from a bad situation to even worse. Their seemed to be no hope for me. My parents looked at me like an adult and I soon became a “friend” to my mom, she partied with me and experimented with drugs with me. I did not know then that the drug and alcohol abuse was just me self-medicating my mental illness. The life of drugs carried on for way too many years ended up costing me custody of my two sons’ and the death of my third son while in utero. At twenty-four, I had lived in seven different states on a quest to find myself and had somehow landed in Houston TX. I was dead inside, yet a part of me so desperately wanted to live. Kaylee my fourth child who was a year old, had stayed most of her little life with her paternal grandmother as I struggled through my addiction to cocaine. I was five months pregnant again and knew from experience if I did not find a way to stop, I would kill this baby too. I couldn’t live with myself if that happened, I called every rehab in Houston until one said I could come in with no insurance. I left for rehab, it took three weeks to go 20 miles, but I made it. I prayed so hard for God to save my baby, and if he did, I promised to love her and be a good sober mother to her and Kaylee. I named her Grace, in the bible Grace means “undeserved kindness from God”. I knew I did not deserve my Grace and I would live my life in such a way that God would know with certainty he did not make a mistake. My drug and alcohol counselor at the rehab told me I would never stay sober. Her exact words were that I didn’t have what it takes to maintain sobriety it’s been over nine years now, and I proudly told my story there on numerous occasions. But my story doesn’t end there. I always had issues with highs and lows and would brush it off and say it’s just my personality. My husband, who I met at church in 2010, is an even keel type of man. I would always tell him I am an extremist when the truth was, I was suffering with bipolar disorder. I was a yeller; I didn’t abuse my kids physically, but I am sure the screaming negatively impacted them. I hated yelling and the guilt I felt was continuously eating me alive. My fear was to end up like my mother and grandmother, then one day I realized I had. The rage attacks for a while only happened when my husband was not home. The kids were easier to handle when he was there; because looking back now he did most of the parenting. Then the rage attacks became more persistent and the depression darker. I honestly thought I had postpartum, my last daughter that we decided to have together before tying my tubes was Vannessa and was just a year old. My PCP prescribed me Prozac, which I had taken as a child and teenager, so I felt comfortable with it. It made a difference, for about a week. Then came full blown psychosis. Driving home from work I thought about killing myself, as thoughts of inadequacy filled my mind. My foot hit the gas harder and harder, I was going to kill myself by driving into something, anything this would have been at least the tenth time in my life I attempted suicide. Then something stopped me, the thought of Kaylee and Grace and the fear that if I died their biological drug addict father would rip them away from the only dad they knew, my husband. When I got home, I cried on my bed, I yelled and screamed at my husband and children. There was a darkness that had engulfed my very being. My husband called me the next day at work and told me if I didn’t get help, he would take all three of the children and leave me. I called every psychiatrist in Houston, they all said
the next available appointment was four months out. The last call I made I told the secretary I would be dead if I waited that long, she had me come right in. I was then diagnosed again with bipolar 1, which was once known as manic depressant, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADD/ADHD and borderline personality. I was ready to get better, but as many symptoms persisted despite the medications my psychiatrist insisted it was borderline personality and only a therapist could treat that. The therapist who was the cheapest with my insurance still cost me out of pocket sixty dollars a visit for DBT/CBT therapy. The visits I could afford to go too, was just what I needed to know that it was helping. But bills need to be paid and the cost was not something we could afford along with the psych appointments and four medications I was on. I refused to give up, even though I was crying and desperate. I took deep breaths while trying to figure out a solution. Then I got online and read everything I could for days on DBT and CBT, I went on therapist help sites and printed out worksheets for patients and did them on myself. I did packets and packets daily while monitoring my thoughts and using contradicting tactics to eliminate negative thinking. I even created the non-judgment circle to repair the damages in my marriage. I was getting better every day, until I realized one day how different I was. The old me was gone and I was new, the negative thoughts where gone. Somewhere amid all this I wanted to document my journey, so I bought a domain from WordPress where I blog, and I named it Grace2Fight. During this time, I also decided I wanted to help people. I enrolled in college to study psychology, I want to be a clinical psychologist. I left my position at an automotive software company to take a lower paying position at a psychiatric hospital to help people like me. Also, it’s what I consider to be my own scientific research. It is like a very long naturalistic observation study of different psychiatric disorders. I am good at my job better than most, the patients feel loved, accepted and safe because of me. I get very close to my patients with schizophrenia, I imagine that has a lot to do with my mom. I am a mother, a wife, a fulltime employee that works graveyard, and a full-time graduate student with my BA of ARTS in psychology with a focused concentration in human development and a minor in Human Services. I am an overcomer, a survivor, a superhero to my kids. I am almost complete with my first semester of graduate school with A’s in all four of my classes. I have been seeing the same psychiatrist since 2016, I take my meds every day and practice self-care. I am an artist, a lover of animals. I am thirty-four years old and have been through more than one person goes through in a lifetime.
Being a student with mental illness isn’t easy; especially when I am studying how to help people plagued with the very conditions I am. I often think to myself if they (my peers and professors) knew the truth would they accept me still? If they knew that I too suffered with suicidal ideations would they tell me to stop pursuing this career. If they knew that my mind was as broken as the patients I intended to help would they see me as unfit. I struggle with my own truths, my irrational belief that a therapist must have exceptional mental health and practice strict methods of self-care. Self-care is it exercise, is it limiting your caffeine, is it practicing meditation? Things I so much struggle with. Is it eating healthy and taking care of yourself? Things I have yet to incorporate in my life.
I am succeeding, I have A’s in my classes, but am I worthy of this career I am working so hard to build? Those are my racing thoughts, stemming from my irrational belief that I must be perfect to be a therapist. But, I still continue to do it. I still show up to class, read my books, do my assignments because nothing will stop me from accomplishing my dreams. I am driven, I am resilient. I have had to be in my life, with foster care, no parental guidance just me against the world.
Maybe I will never be “perfect” maybe I will a therapist who sees a therapist because I will always struggle with my mental health and that is okay with me. I will succeed! I will help so many people because I can relate to their struggles and still have found meaning in my life. I found a purpose and am living what feels like to be a dream. I am not just pursuing a masters degree but I am also raising some pretty amazing children. I have a life worth living with a man I love so much. I am living life with bipolar disorder and those that are struggling you can too.
“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being” (Carl Jung)”
I completed my undergrad as I battled my mental illness. I received four scholarships to attend graduate school this fall. I did this with bipolar 1, severe mood swings, sometimes medicated sometimes not. It truly is a miracle and I am still in disbelief that I actually did it. When I received my diagnosis in 2016 it was a death sentence. I believed I would forever be sick, depressed and crazy. It has been almost a year on Abilify and my life has never been better. I know it is more than just the meds but the meds keep me so balanced mentally. I definitely feel a difference cognitively as my school work is easier when I am medicated. The longer I take the meds the more I realize how much I need them. Typically when I begin feeling better I no longer wish to be on meds. I will stop them believing that I am fine, in control of myself and clearly not mentally ill. Then a few weeks later the roller coaster of moods swings occur and I am back at square one. This time I decided to do something different. This time no matter what my mind tells me I take my meds. I completed my undergrad and I am going to be a mental health practitioner. Anything is possible in your life if you believe it to be.
Self-care for someone with bipolar disorder is imperative in obtaining stability in ones life. I believe it is more than just taking my meds everyday, practicing healthy habits, and loving myself; it is also about surrounding yourself with people who support you, love you, and make you laugh. It is about breaking out of your comfort zone and letting the light of others encompass you.
Tomorrows promise never come; all we have is right now to do something different. Changes promised for tomorrow await in the denseness of ones mind and never make there way to the surface of ones life. There has to come a point in ones life where making the right decision now is imperative rather than subservient.
As I watch my loved ones make the same detrimental mistakes time and time again I wonder if the end is anywhere near. I realized this go-around that the hope I seen for so long in them was based off of my own personal experiences rather than there own. Reflecting on their experiences….dissipated my hope as they repeated the same actions despite such severe consequences. My mental health has stayed well despite my heartache and stress. I keep taking my medicine even when I hate it and do not want to do it. I am fortunate to have a husband who supports me and my mental health. As always he is my rock and my anchor.
Change…. tomorrow never comes….implement the changes now.
Freedom seems unobtainable for so many. They relish in the idea that anyone other than themselves is holding their freedom from them. Negative choices prevent freedom; positive choices lead to freedom. When faced with uncertainty in a matter of what to choose, choose to analyze the outcomes and paths to which the choice leads you to. The easiest avenue is often the wrong choice. Human nature wants to take the easy way out whether it is household chores or life decisions. But, the easiest avenue comes with a price. The price we pay for taking the easy way out often comes with the least consequences or detrimental consequences depending on the circumstances or situations to which we chose from.
We as human beings need to slow down, stop racing to a finish line that leads nowhere. Stop seeking the end and enjoy the journey. Revel in the idea that the journey itself is the process to which your life’s memories are made. Stop rushing to live your life and live it in each moment. Reflect on your choices and take your time to decide what is best for YOU! Not what is best for everything or everyone else. We must make changes in our society if we ever wish to evolve as human beings. What is life? Life in itself is a product of thousands of decisions we have made that as human beings we are forced to live with.
So many human beings want happiness yet so little of them want to take the journey. They want to wake up and live inside a movie screen living a life worth living that was free from the consequences of their own decision making. Every decision comes with a consequence; positive consequence or negative consequence. How do we know which to choose? The one with the hardest steps is often the one with the best outcome.
We fail to realize that this life we live is constructed by us through our thoughts and choices. Our thoughts build our perspective; our perspective becomes our choice maker. Our perspective is what builds on our decision to choose either avenue. If your perspective or perception is negative than our choice will be negative; and so will the consequences. If we are optimistic, realistic, and honest our perspective will be too and thus, so will our choices; so will be our consequences. Choose wisely and know choice can either bring us freedom or pain.
How did it get that bad? Is the question I ask myself
The thoughts echo in my head as my heart beat pounds like background music.
You want to call someone, you think it over and over again
But you know the minute you say suicidal everyone will start freaking out
I won’t really do it, I mean how could I when I have children
But how did it get that bad that my thought in midst of my chaos is suicide?
Happy memories of yesterday feel non-existent and crumble away from my mind
As today’s anxiety overtake me
Everything felt so out of control and peace felt so out of reach
You see objects out of place and your skin crawls
You notice every crumb, every streak, on every surface in your house
And the thought of cleaning it, yet again, fills you with rage
What else could I do but lay on my bed and sulk in my misery
That’s when the thought came….
That the only way to end the suffering would be to die
The thought that I will be like this for the rest of my life
Up down Up down like a yoyo that never stops.
Then you get it all out releasing it from your mind and you begin to feel a calm wave through your body
For this moment all is well again and that’s all that matters
Enticed by the grip that holds me inside
There’s something about the darkness that makes me feel alive
The way it feels flowing through me as I spiral down its slope
Traveling down the rabbit hole no longer needing hope
I do not want it to fade as my brown eyes turn to black
My stone cold heart slowly begins to crack
I am falling into the spiral of darkness and the lights start to fade
This time is different as I welcome the other half of myself no longer afraid
I embrace it for it is who I am, no longer fighting its tenacious grip on my soul
Maybe just maybe I will finally feel whole
Realizing nothing stops this part of me from coming back time and time again
It returns the feelings so familiar like a visit from an old friend
The pills they feed me are supposed to distort my insanity in hopes of making me sane
But they destroy the parts of me and cause me so much pain
Confusing me as I am always in a daze, they mask who I am as if I am not real
They take away the parts of me; the parts that can feel
Numbing who I am is this what is to be sane?
Wires crossed as they control my brain
Telling me how to feel and when to feel what
Can’t you see I have had enough
I am the mad hatter and this is my life, two halves of a whole
Darkness and light and lack of control
A spinning mess of madness and occasional rain
I do not want the pills or to be sane
I want to be free, to be who he intended for me to be
My unique DNA that made me become me
The ups the downs and everything else in between
Half hero half evil queen
What ever I want and who ever I want to be
I want to wake up and just be me