The process and picture documentation of a panic attack

I’ve grappled with whether or not to share this picture with the world out of fear, embarrassment, being accused of being ‘dramatic’ and ‘attention seeking’ or perhaps looking for pity- and here I am, going against those voices in an attempt to teach and inform.

I truly believe I’ve been put on this earth for two reasons: one of those reasons is to act but, the bigger purpose of my life I believe, is to help people and spread awareness about mental health and mental illness. I talk about my diagnoses on YouTube and write about it, but until last night I didn’t have any “proof” of how this manifests its self (besides a video I have of me dissociated)

The reason I timidly and nervously am posting this picture is because I want to show people how erratic and unpredictable mental illness can be and help end the stigma. The top picture of me when I’m smiling and happy was taken at 5:59pm on my way to see a friends play- I was eager and excited to support my friend-what could go wrong? After intermission when the show started, within minutes I began to have a panic attack based on an OCD obsession and compulsion. Because I was not the able to carry out the “ritual” of what was triggering me I began to crumble during the second act of the show which was over an hour and began at 9:02 pm. I sat in my seat with tears rolling down my face,l had racing thoughts trying to figure out a way out of the situation; do I leave? Do I text my friend?

After the show was over and I was waiting for my friend to come out, I started texting one of my friends letting them know what was going on. As I was texting, my hands were shaking making it difficult to type, I was starting to get dizzy and I was beginning to hyperventilate which is when the second picture was taken at 10:48 pm—I wanted to show them what was going on. My friend from the show came up to me to greet me and saw that I clearly was not OK and grabbed his coat and we went outside. As we were walking down the street I began to lose it and was hyperventilating and crying. I was embarrassed and kept apologizing for my behavior because I felt so out of control and crazy. At the time I didn’t tell him what was going on and what triggered the attack, however now he knows—but I’m not comfortable explaining what happened on here. But I have to say I’m grateful for my friend for normalizing my behavior. He didn’t act like the way I was acting (even though he didn’t know the circumstances) was wrong,weird or crazy.

This is the first time I can officially attest to the fact that I’ve had a full out panic attack. I’ve had minor things like this happen such as hyperventilating and feeling like my chest was tight and had trouble breathing but nothing like this before. The third picture was taken 2 hours later after the initial attack at 11:02pm on the subway home when I was still in a state of crisis. And now, the last picture is of me 20 minutes ago, a day later. The fact that this was based around something around my OCD is something that I never thought I was capable of, or rather my brain was capable of creating.

So the reason that I’m sharing this picture is I want everyone to know that mental illness has a mind of its own and can truly paralyze someone and we need to stop stigmatizing people with mental health conditions. These diseases of the mind are inconsistent and things hit when they want to. People think that having mental illness is a sign of weakness or maybe attention seeking behavior, however what happened last night was truly terrifying and I felt powerless. 40 MILLION americans struggle with some type of anxiety disorder- that’s 18% of the population. This picture is meant to show that this shit happens to MILLIONS of people. I wish that more people were like my friend and would normalize this behavior and not have such a stigma behind it.

I hope for those of you that are reading this and struggle with mental illness whether it be OCD or type of anxiety disorder, bipolar, ptsd or whatever you’re struggling with is that you’re not alone, these things are normal, you’re not crazy and there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re perfect.

Now Is The Summer of My Discontent

July 7, 2017 1:57am

I try to turn my pain into hope for others. While this can be fulfilling at times, it can be exhausting for me. Try to keep a smile on my face and add levity to my situation but everyday it seems to get harder and harder. 10. 10 mental illnesses I am now diagnosed with. bipolar.borderline.ptsd.ocd.gad.complex grief.soical anxiety.adhd.edenos.body dysmprphia. Maybe that’s 11. I’m too tired to count.

I know suicide isn’t the option because I am able to help others though my pain, I still believe I have a purpose. But I get tired of fighting sometimes. Like now, my brain, body and soul is tired of fighting- of putting on a brave face for the “public” in a vain attempt to selflessly help others. I don’t lie, I don’t put on airs. I don’t try to act happier than I am but I am tired. I am 96 days clean of self harm. 96. When I think of that in number 96 is a temperature I hate, it’s too hot for me. I wish I could give up, cave and give in, remind myself that I am alive and here. My days are filled with lonlieness and dissociation. I drink and drink but I find it harder each day to get drunk and fully turn off. Instead my brain decides to dissociate and detach from reality and any semblance of being human.My face becomes emotionless, my words mean nothing and I am unable to communicate let alone feel. My sadness engulfes me, maybe thats what keeps me going. My sadness. My sadness gives me fuel to keep going because at least I know I am alive.

I wish I had something profound to say, like this is just a phase, things will get better. People tell me I am in a rough patch, but truth be told, I have been in a rough patch for 3 years. My mom died, I realized I was trans, I was raped, I began cutting, I dropped out of school- it doesn’t end. Now trauma from childhood assault begins to plague me and memories and nightmares begin to haunt my dreams. Restless from lack of sleep I toss and tun in my firm bed. I try to forget but my brain isn’t allowing me to. I want to rest, to feel whole and complete again. I wonder, what does it feel like to feel whole and not addled with pain and hurt? What does it mean to be happy and full? The only thing these days that gives me purpose is acting. Every time I get called in to audition I feel like I a doing something right. Like I am meant to be here for a reason. That when I step into that room in front of a table and someone hears me speak, I get to do what I love for 90 seconds. Those 90 seconds are mine to shine, to let my light shine and glow. I am reminded why I am here when I get to perform. The promise of being able to support myself solely though acting keeps me going and I allow myself to fall into fantasies of success and money. Not even fame, or recognition, but content–purpose.

I haven’t felt so low since December- February when I was self harming everyday. I don’t know what it will take to “snap me out of this.” Therapy 3 times a week instead of two? I don’t have the answers.

56 Little Marks.

56 little marks. 26 on my thigh. 16 on my left forearm. The rest scrambled on my wrists. Little reminders of how sick I was. Some are long, some are short, some go vertical, some go horizontal. Some are crooked, some are neat. All these little lines mark my body for the world to see. 60 days have passed since I have since picked up a knife and sliced my tender, soft, carmel skin.

There aren’t words to express how crazy it is to know that 2 months have passed since I last hurt myself. When I was self harming it was a daily habit. The longest I could go was usually 2 or 3 days, then I would cut again. Then I would make it a week then relapse. I was in so deep I thought I would never get out of the hole I found myself in. I thought “Okay, this is your life now. This is how you deal with your feelings, get comfortable.” What a relief to know my dirty little habit only consumed a short 3 month period of my life.

What a relief it is to not have to wake up to the massacre on my wrists after a night of excessive drinking and cutting. Half of the time I forgot I even hurt myself until I woke up and saw bandages on my wrist. Bandagaes carefully placed by my drunken self the night before. I would peel back the layers of gauze and bandages to reveal my shame from the night before. Guilt, weakness, shame and embarrassment would flood my body as I would see the risen mark and dried bits of blood stain my skin. I felt helpless, lost and alone. I’m glad I no longer have to go to walgreens and spend money on bandages and tape to cover up my cuts to help my body heal. It’s nice to know I don’t have to worry about being caught stealing another knife from a store because I am too embarrassed to buy a new, sharper, shiner one. What a relief to no longer wince in pain as hot water runs over my skin as I try to wash away the hurt and pain the next day. It’s nice to know I have moved on and have found better ways of coping.

To this day, I still don’t know why I cut. I know what caused the first incdent- a boy I liked didn’t text me back for 13 hours and I thought he hated me and abandoned me. But why it continued for 3 months is a mystery to me. I’m not sure which of my traumas I was trying to deal with when I dissociated every night and hurt myself. Was it my mom dying? My sexual assault? Or just a mere “symptom” of my mental illness? I tried in therapy to piece apart why I was doing this, and I still don’t have an answer. We have moved on to other things, things that still stand in my way.

If you asked my why or how I stopped I would simply say cutting myself served it purpose and I have grown up, out and away from needing to do that anymore. I no longer spent my nights as a drunken, dissociated mess of a human being. Instead I lie in my bed, watching netflix and talking with friends. I didn’t know who I was for 3 months. It’s like I completely disappeared under the knife, and only now am I beginning to resurface. Air is being breathed back into my lungs and I am starting anew. I don’t ever want to feel that low again, but I know my reality. I know that I have very serious mental health problems and disorders that very well may place me on that road again in the future. While I am aware of that possibility, I am not going to sit here patiently waiting for it to all crumble down around me again. I am going to stand in the light that is just beginning again to illuminate my skin. I’m going to bask in the light that I searched so hard, fought so hard to find again. I am glowing. People say they see a change in me, that I am happier. Thats because I was lost and now I am found again.

If I listened to my borderline mind

If I listened to my voice of borderline all the time, I would have no friends and I would have pushed everyone away, of that I am sure. If I were to tell every person when they take more than 2 minutes to respond to my text if we are texting back and fourth, I assume I am not important, worthless, small and not worthy of your time. If I were to tell others that when I sense a change in tone even in writing whether that be simply by the lack of punctuation that I think they hate me and I did something wrong, people would say that I am crazy. People would argue that I am paranoid and need to calm down, smoke some weed. If I told people how attached to them I got after hours of talking to them they would think I am their stalker and a lonely loser. Sure, this does not happen with everyone but with new friendships and romantic interests this is most always the case.

I hang on to peoples word, my mood hanging by a thread on what is said or isn’t said. If I were to tell people how thoughts of abandonment turn to vicious thoughts in my head, people would tell me to seek help. If people knew that when someone does not respond to me I think I am fat, gross, ugly and worthless they would feel bad for me. I don’t want pity. I want a world where it isn’t bad to ask for what I need without the stigma of seeming crazy for having these thoughts. I try to explain these feelings to others and they don’t understand, “take it slow” they tell me. There is no pause or slow motion button in my head or for my thoughts, it’s full steam ahead all the time. How am I supposed to date someone or get to know someone when quickly they become my everything? How am I supposed to be in a normal relationship when I am waiting for the inevitable moment when someone tells me they don’t like me and I am a ruiner. That I have a pretty face, I’m sweet and kind but “too intense” and I “come on too strong?” How will anyone get to love me past my illness when it causes me to push others away? I will never be free of bpd, this is my life- I’m stuck with it.

I just wish there was a world I lived in where I could tell someone all my truths and not be thought of as aggressive or too much. I just want to be freely me and then have someone decide if I am right for them. If I listened to my borderline mind I would have been dead at 22. If I listened to my borderline mind I would have stopped in traffic already or jumped out a window just to see if I would die. If I listened to my borderline mind I allow myself to whole heartedly believe I am crazy and unwell. If I listened to my mind, I would believe that I am unworthy of love and affection because I am too sick. I want my mind to be quiet. To be at peace. To allow things to naturally unfold and not have a ticking time bomb clicking away, making everything so intense and urgent. I want to feel what it’s like to slowly fall in love with someone, and not crash into it. I want to know what it’s like to grow fond for someone overtime instead of them becoming my everything after a day. I want to know what it’s like to have normal, healthy relationships.

When My Innocence Was Stolen

Monday March 6,2017  12:45am

The Loss of Innocence

I thought of writing this post 2 days ago but put it off because I was too scared. I was too scared to see what would come out of my fingers, what I would say, what would I think, but evermore, what would I remember? I want to talk about innocence and the loss of it in my life. Innocent by webster’s dictionary is defined as “lack of guile or corruption; purity.” When I think of the word corruption, I see 2 events specifically and one long term event that corrupted me and caused me to lose innocence.

The first turning point of me losing my innocence was when I was 16 and was dealing with a very sick, alcoholic mother. The memories are hidden and buried deep, and to turn them up to please the eyes of strangers that will read this and never comment seems sadistic, so I won’t say much. I will say from the age of 16 which was freshman year in high school is when my life started turning into shit. My mom was verbally and more importantly emotionally abusive for her last decade on this earth. Those that may be reading this that knew her will be shocked and maybe saddened to hear this, but I have to speak my truth. I strive to preserve her memory of the wonderful, beautiful, empathetic person she was but her disease took over and ruined her. That is the part my family refuses to talk about and acknowledge in public. But I won’t say silent. My mother would call me names, make fun of my body, swear at me, sometimes hit me, bang on my door, break my things, stand in front of my car while I was trying to escape and blame me for her problems and I was the reason why she drank. I got the brunt of it, not my dad, not my sister but little 16 year old Rilen.

I remember one of the first times I made myself sick to try to deal with the pain I was feeling was when we were in ixpapa mexico on vacation at an all inclusive resort. We went to a the fanciest restaurant on the grounds called “Don Quitoe” and I ordered the spaghetti pasta. Mom was impaired and ruined the dinner. Eventually everyone left the table before we even had our meal and I sat there alone at 17. A beautiful meal ruined. I went to the bathroom and stuck my fingers down my throat to make myself feel more balanced and better after the turmroil that unwound at the table. To this day I don’t remember what was said or done, what specifically happened, but I remember my mom leaving first, then my dad, then it was just my sister and I. But the specific moment of innocence lost was when I called the insurance company to find a rehab for my mom at 20 years old. We were trying to plan an intervention for her. My dad and sister didn’t do anything. I was in community college for communications and on a Sunday afternoon at my apartment I was on the phone with my insurance company trying to find rehab facilities for my mom. Why my dad didn’t do this still to this day bothers me. I was a mere child trying to save my mom, I thought I was her superhero, destined to save her. Because I failed, she died. She couldn’t stay sober and I feel guilt because of that even 3 years later. The logical part of my brain says, she needed to have wanted to recover, but the other part of my brain says you didn’t try hard enough.

My innocence then took another dive when my mom died when I was 23 and I discovered her dead body. You can’t recover from that or go back, that chips away at you, it forces you grow up before you were ready. You always picture your parents dying when they are old and grey, after you have given them grandkids, not when they are 56. Seeing her in bed…I can’t describe in words what that did to me or how it forced me out of my youth but it changed me greatly.

When I was sexually assaulted on September 5,2015 any semblance of innocence I had left was savagely ripped away from me. For any survivors out there that are reading this, you know as well as I you were forced to mature wise beyond your years because someone decided they had the right to your body. I thought I had seen it all and was mature and had seen enough for two lifetimes but when that happened I had reached the point of no return, I was now an adult and no longer a child. Any sense of self and security was taken from me, my body was not my own— it was tainted, used and foreign.

Do I wish these things would have never happened to me? Of course. Do I wish I wouldn’t have had to be an adult and sometimes the parent at 16 years old, sure. But there is nothing I can do to change my past. I have to accept it for what it is. I am wise beyond my years. I’ve been forced to deal with very traumatic and difficult circumstances that some people will never have to be exposed to. I guess through my stolen innocence I have learned who I am and what I am capable of. I know that I am strong, ruthless, intelligent and a fighter. So many crack and crumble and never return to who they once were. I am not 100% and haven’t totally retuned to who I was before these things happened to me and I know that even through therapy the chances of getting my childhood back will never happen. I was an adult at 16 and I am even more grown at 27.

Chutes and Ladders

Monday February 27,2917 6:31pm

Recovery is complicated. For some reason when I think of recovery I think of it as a straight line going up with no kinks, just an arrow going up. What I am learning is that recovery is much more complicated than that. While the general direction might be up (if you are lucky and putting the work in) there are a lot of squiggles and knots along the way. When I was in AA, recovery was looked at a day by day thing. Every second by second, as long as you don’t pick up. But then there are the stories of success where people just decided on X day they would stop drinking. When I got sober on February 22,2017, I didn’t drink for 8 months. It was that Monday that I said I am done. We were told in AA that it’s okay to slip up, it’s not the end of the world,but why does it feel like such utter failure when you relapse when its a process?

I have been clean from cutting for 4 days. I am learning to be gentle with myself and say THAT is recovery. Sure, I’m sure soon something or someone will trigger me, whether it be loneliness, depression, isolation or whatever,I am almost certain I will cut again. But I need to realize that at this moment, I am in recovery and bettering myself. Recovery is like Chutes and Ladders. You climb up the ladder (4 days clean) but then you fall down a little bit, but eventually get back up and go further next time. Maybe instead of looking at recovery as a fixed point “I will never cut again” perhaps, I need to look at it in smaller bites. Perhaps it should be, “I haven’t cut in 4 days, that is incredible considering my record used to be 2 days a week ago.” I think the main part in recovery is patience.

I have been manic for the last week since my moms 3 year anniversary. I have been impulsively spending, among other things I am too shy and ashamed to admit to. It seems with me my problems are like a whack-a-mole. One problem gets slightly better and another pops up. I struggle with an eating disorder and have been falling back into those pattern specifically if I am drinking. It’s like, the depression starts to dissipate but then KA-BLAM BITCH! Another problems bitch slaps you in the face. I have felt relatively normal this past week, not crippled by depression mostly because I have been up, because of my mania.

I just hope someday…I’m not sure. I hope things will be easier and I will stop falling down the ladder so far everything, instead of starting at the beginning each time I make smaller slips. But I need to be kind and say I am trying my hardest. I am in therapy 3-4 times a week, I reach out when I need help, I write, I sing, I listen to music. I am trying. But half the time I feel like a loser. To hear the concern and disappointment in my dads voice on the phone when I tell him of my latest relapse or shennagains hurts me more than when I cut my skin open. I want to make him proud of me, I want to be the perfect son who is financially independent and responsible. Instead my days are ruled by depression and now lately mania. Recovery is difficult, but I will keep fighting until I reach the top of the ladder even if I stand shakily at the top, I will get there with the knowledge that there may not be complete recovery.

That Hue Of Purple

Thursday Feb 16,2017 1:28AM

That Hue of Purple

I remember the days when I had to stop drinking caffeinated mountain dew at night so I could fall asleep so I could forget your purple face and skin. I used to lie awake fearful that I would see you standing at the foot of my bed, in the same state I saw you last; dead, gone, deceased. I used to have nightmares of you hiding underneath my bed and finding you with your eyes snapped open, frozen in rigor mortis starting at me. I will never forget the amount of seconds it took for the paramedics to assess that you were dead. They walked up our blue carpet, must have seen your hue, felt that you were frozen, and made the assessment that you were gone at 56. I’ve woken from my bed, screaming, crying, fearful of the images I saw that day. The last time we spoke echoes though my head like an ear worm. The sound of your slurred words and click of me hanging up followed shortly by the ringtone on my phone with your caller ID calling me back, I press ignore. Oh, how I would have answered that call if I knew it would be our last. I would have told you so many things, about how beautiful you are, how we both hurt the same. I would I have told you you are loved, and stunning, intelligent and generous, but instead I kept shopping at walmart for a stupid sweater while ignoring your call.

Days go by, even weeks and months where you no longer haunt me. I no longer fear, that after the 3 years that have passed that I will find you at the foot of my bed, staring at me. Although that shade of purple that illuminated your skin will never, ever fade from my mind, sometimes I see you as how you were. With your sparkling green eyes, beautiful soft blonde curls, a cackled laugh, a cigarette in hand and a smile on your face. I remember when you received golden braces on my birthday. The years have passed, each one gets easier than the next. While you are not with me in every waking thought anymore, I wear your ring around my neck, the diamonds sparkle, just like your eyes once did.

So much has changed since you left us. I am no longer who I used to be, I am now Rilen. You could have had a son, my dear mother, but you left too soon. I chose my name for you, Rilen. It’s gaelic for Island Meadow. While you are not in my thoughts every second anymore, I carry you with me on my skin, with my tattoo— art on my brown skin. Now this art is framed by scars, framed by shame, guilt, sadness and hurt. Oh how I wish you could see me today. Flat chest, facial hair, square round face. I know you are with me, I feel you sometimes. I hear you when you communicate with me though music, you’re here. But theres so much I want to ask you. Are you okay with the fact that I am trans? Do you like my new name? How do I deal with my mental illness? How do I stop cutting? Why am I so sick, and alone? These questions I will continue to ask myself for years, but the one that haunts me  the most; are you proud of who I have become? Is the man that stands, broken and tall, who you wished I would be? Should I be doing more? I want your guidance, I need your love. I want to feel your skin, hear your laugh, feel your arms wrap around me once again. Even if it’s only in a dream I will take it. I will take it over these haunting, vivid memories that are so visceral and real. But most of all what I want mom, is for you to rest peacefully, knowing that you are loved by many.