Spelunking 101

Okay, honestly this has very little to do with spelunking/caving but I jumped at the chance to use the word spelunking. Spelunk. lol. No, this post is about self-discovery and acceptance so if you don’t enjoy sap stop reading here. As many of you know, I love quotes. I find other’s words, art, and music to be so much more fitting than my own at many times in life and I hoard them in picture folders, notes on my iPad, and sometimes on my wall. They bring me comfort, guidance, and hope. This post is inspired by the amazing words of Brene Brown.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy- the experiences that make use the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” -Brene Brown

*******CW:mental health, nonspecific PTSD************

Bam. I can safely say that most of my life I have felt like an outsider both among peers and in my own skin. I felt like a spectator and bounced around from one click to another. Sure, I was invited to birthday parties, sleepovers, and physically included most of the time but I struggled to hold on to friends, relate, and feel comfortable around others. I have always found it easier to relate to older kids and adults. But that isn’t what I wanted to talk about, I wanted to talk about the internal struggle, the fitting in your mind and being comfortable with your thoughts, feelings, memories, and anxieties.

I mostly write about my physical illnesses and superficial life but I think I’ve finally gotten to a point where I am comfortable with my mind and understand it enough to express in the hopes that it might help someone on a similar journey. Side note, many of us with invisible illnesses are often misdiagnosed with various mental illnesses and some symptoms can mimic conditions like anxiety, conversion disorder etc BUT many of the conditions I have also have comorbid mental illnesses. With EDS, bipolar, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are common. It has taken me many years to figure out what symptoms/problems are of physical illnesses and which are mental and I still have a bunch of question marks. Mental illness is equally as important and dances along with chronic (physical) illness. PLEASE don’t make the mistake I made of many years of trying to separate them and treat exclusively. I personally have anxiety, PTSD, depression and compulsive behaviors. Depression and anxiety run in circles around both sides of my family and are no stranger yet it took me a very long time to get to know my anxiety, how it manifests, what my triggers are, what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. I have been on medication, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, exercise, diet changes, therapy, inpatient therapy, and much more.

My anxiety doesn’t present in the stereotypical panic attacks, it doesn’t disable me but it does significantly impact my mood, behavior, thoughts, plans, interactions, and stress levels. I have lots of different areas my anxiety clusters into, including but not limited to, social, medical, school, overstimulation, relationships, changes in plans, and unknown situations. I find comfort in sensory input (pressure, soft, certain noises, hugs, soft lighting), guided meditation, talking, listening to music, being in a comfortable space, and quiet. While I can no longer take medication because of my Long QT (blasted booger), medication did help lower my baseline anxiety. My PTSD is also closely tied to anxiety, especially when it comes to hypervigilence. Every time I am in public I have to locate exits, look for suspicious people, notice any police prescence, look for signs of deception… I would make a great cop… minus the seizing with loud noises and flashing lights haha. While I now function fairly well on the average day, the past couple years have taken hard work, introspection, listening, and a lot of trial an error to get to where I am today and I want to toot my own horn for once. I didn’t exactly have a choice to begin this spelunking through my dark, it was honestly a matter of survival but looking back now I am so thankful I did. I am not cured. I am not patched back up. I still have plenty of days where I think the world would be better off without me or that all my friends actually hate me but I am able to recognize the forces behind that and accept that this isn’t a me vs my mental illnesses battle. It’s not a battle. It’s just me. It took me 22 years but I have finally figured out that I can accept who I am now, my mind, my past, my body, my limitations, and still want to progress forward and make positive change. Apparently, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

To everyone who made it to this point and is struggling I hear you. I don’t care if we have only spoken once, never at all, or you are one of my closest friends, if you want to talk, need someone to lean on, have questions, I promise to do my best to be there for you. I challenge you to at least peek at that cave. I challenge you to give yourself the slack you give your friends. I challenge you to get to know all aspects of your body.

That’s all for now, enjoy your blasted fireworks.

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