thief of joy

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They say comparison is the thief of joy.

I mean, come on, how true is this in our age of social media.

As we know, long long ago and far far away (like, less than 10 years ago), there was a time where we didn’t know what everyone in our world was doing every second of every day.

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc, have made this curse and blessing completely impossible to avoid now for most of us. But we know this.

So let me say, I love social media. I have an account on every app I mentioned above. I have this blog clearly. I enjoy posting pictures thoroughly, as you may have seen, and I genuinely like seeing what people are up to.

I love how on holidays especially, I can see how people are celebrating with their families or friends. It was cool to see all the halloween costumes this past year, since I wouldn’t have seen any otherwise as I was headed out of the country that day.

But oh woww, it breaks my heart that a significant amount of people don’t realize that social media lives are not real lives! 

I was in that trap of a mindset.

There was a time, a long one, where social media was both addicting and crippling to me. I had anxiety every time I logged on, but I just couldn’t not. It was like I knew it made me feel horrible, but I drank the poison without thinking twice. It honestly made me have feelings of hate towards people I hardly knew.

Because at that time, I had no pictures to post. My notifications were non-existent. My messaging box was empty. I hated the way I looked. My life wasn’t up to my par. I was ungrateful. I was angry at everyone else for posting their perfect pictures with their bright smiles. Simply put, I was envious. I wanted what I didn’t have.

We are so addicted to this immediate gratification lifestyle. It’s like a temporary high, in a way. I think I even read somewhere that is releases endorphins when we post things about ourselves. Getting likes on our pictures. Having people comment how much they love us.

While none of those things are bad in and of themselves, it shouldn’t be our prime reservoir of where we’re getting our acceptance quota for the day.

I forced myself to put on a new lens. A conscious one. Telling myself, more than just once, that what I’m seeing on social media every day is not an accurate reflection of real life. That posts and pictures can’t have the power to dictate my moods and how I feel about myself. That I’m enough. That most all of these posts don’t give a full context.

In a sort of related rant, I am tired of trying to abide by the invisible handbook and rules of social media. If you want to post a picture, even though you posted one the day before, freaking post it!!! If you are following someone that posts things that annoy you, unfollow them! You actually aren’t being forced to keep up with anyone’s life! It’s not that hard. Arrghh. Post when and what you want. You may lose a follower or two. I promise though, you will carry on. Anyway, off that soapbox..

If you take anything away from this, know that most of what you see on social media is life glorified, not reality. 

Also, if social media makes you feel negative every time you’re on it, maybe log off for a while.

Because real life is way better – promise.

XO- Laura

Proverbs 14:30 – A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

 

Song of Solomon 8:6 – Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

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Special thanks to Molly McGirt and Eric Fritz! Love you both.

 

“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9

XO- Laura

catalyst you insist to pull me down

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Sickness.

Maybe if you don’t see me on a regular basis you wouldn’t know that I feel sick often these days. Combatting mania in the fall means more meds. More meds means nauseous mornings, consistent body pain, and falling asleep at random.

Last September, in 2014, I fell asleep at All In Coffee shop in Clemson for over two hours from my medication. I guess I couldn’t let that Narcolepsy slide as Third Eye Blind would say/sing.

Being sick from medicine is bad, but being illed by bipolar is worse.

There are lots of people who don’t classify mental illness as an “actual illness” because “you can’t see it.” Maybe you qualify as this squad. So I’d ask this group (who is in great company)– can you see your own headache? No you can’t? But don’t you feel it’s affects..? What if I told you that I think you’re making your headache up. You very well could be, I will never know. While I’m kicking back on my good-intentioned anti-headache campaign throne, questioning the legitimacy of said headache, splitting pains are making it so difficult for you to function that you’re unable to form a rebuttal against me for my ill-infomed judgment passing.

Many of you believe in God, as do I. So can you see God? No, you can’t see Him. But we can see the affects of Him- what He’s doing in our life and the world. I feel a perpetual need to capitalize the H in “Him” because I was taught young that’s what you do. I’ve now digressed this post.

Like Landon Carter said in A Walk To Remember after Jamie passed away, “Our love is like the wind, I can’t see it, but I can feel it.” I digress further–fantastic movie though. Even if Wes and Eric disagree with me.

SO, that being said, just because you can’t see someone’s illness doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

And, it’s actually really frustrating and hurtful for you to question someone’s pain, just because you yourself haven’t experienced it.

Try to be mindful that there are people, close to you even, who hurt more than you’ll know or understand. Maybe you are the one who feels misunderstood for your pain.

Also, I want to make it clear that I don’t expect everyone to understand mental illness. There are always, and I mean always, going to be people who don’t understand certain things and don’t care to.

There are definitely many circumstances that I, up to this point in my life, can’t be able to fully understand. For example, my older brother had a rare ocular cancer as a kid and had his eye removed as a result of it. This is a situation that I will never be able to fully understand. Even though I was there the whole time, in the same house, seeing him in all of these stages of his life, I wasn’t the one going to countless operations and having radiation done. But, I can still show my brother love and not undermine what he both went through back then and still deals with today. Sidenote: His strength has given me strength and perspective for my own struggle.

It can be an odd thing to try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. We like our shoes. We want to feel comfortable. But what we don’t recognize sometimes is what our attempts to empathize can potentially mean to another person.

I don’t care if you say you don’t- We all want to be loved. We all want to be understood. Only God can promise us these things completely.

But, we as humans can walk alongside one another and validate struggle. Just being like, “hey, I know that must be really tough for you,” can go a long way. Mental illness or no mental illness, we all face trials.

I’m going to try to inconvenience myself today, similarly but not comparable to how Jesus did for me 2,000 years ago on the cross. I hope you’ll try the same.

“Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends.” -John 15:13

XO- Laura

thorns

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“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:7-10

This is the apostle Paul talking. His thorn. It’s uncertain what this thorn actually was. I don’t believe it was a literal, physical thorn– though that would be mad painful.

Scholars have endless theories on what this thorn could’ve meant for Paul. Some say he could’ve had a speech impediment. Others say it’s probable he had difficulty with vision. Maybe epilepsy or malaria. I (not a scholar lol) think it could’ve been a mental illness. The lack of details forbid a proper diagnosis.

To me, it’s pretty obvious that the thorn wasn’t made known on purpose. The ambiguity of the thorn tells us it really wasn’t important for us to know, because it doesn’t apply to Paul only.

The thorn represents any hinderance or suffering in our lives. Anything that we have to endure for our lifetime.

It’s important to remember the thorn is beneficial. To humble us. To show us our need.

That being said, let me tell you, the thorn IS NOT FUN! Mine is obvious, I’m writing a blog about it. But, that’s not to say that everyone doesn’t have one, because they do. Insecurity, depression, substance abuse, an unhealthy dependence on people, impatience, anger problems, an eating disorder, broken home issues, diabetes, cancer, deficiencies, learning disabilities.. these are just a few possibilities off the top of my head. There are millions! 

Everyone has something. If you think otherwise, I’m here to tell you kindly that you’re wrong.

Even the most put together world’s VIP, whose Instagram you stalk regularly that highlights their perfect life, has a thorn. They might not be writing a blog about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

We fall victim to the belief that there are actually people out there with everything. They can’t struggle because I mean come on, look at their perfect insta pictures canoeing with their boyfriend in the French riviera and eating Cinnabon with comedic superstar Aziz Ansari and his cousin Harris.

Mental and physical ailments plague all of us.

While most of us are like why God? It’s key to notice how these thorns are shaping us. They can either destroy us, or push us to become something better. The good news is that God loves us either way. Nothing we can do about that. The thorns He’s given us, though impossible to comprehend why most times, are for our ultimate good.

Because everything He does is either immediately good or eventually good. Eventually meaning maybe not even until we get to heaven will we understand.

While I do love life, I certainly look forward to the promise of heaven.

Where we’ll be completely thorn-less.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore. For the former things have passed away. And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'” –Revelation 21:5

XO- Laura

get up it’s gameday

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I love college football. As an added bonus to college football comes College GameDay. When I spent what should’ve been my first semester as a freshman at Clemson at home, I looked forward to watching CGD every Saturday with my dad.

I would the next year in 2013 get the opportunity from a ~dope~ friend/roommate of mine to have a “backstage” pass to stand behind the orange tape and hang with the coolies. I remember they had the most awesome random stuff back there. Thank goodness I document every trivial thing in my life so I can show you:

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But seriously, it was so cool because I got to meet briefly Samantha Ponder and David Pollack and a really nice security guard.

It was super awesome and Clemson ended up beating UGA that night which no one was expecting.

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Even though my worst mania, I still have a fond memory of that experience. I’ve always loved college football because I grew up watching it with my 3 brothers and my parents.

Back in 2012, I decided I wanted to be a sports reporter.. Something I always give up on once I become slightly depressed. I love film and football so I feel like it works in my head. I’m still not convinced this dream is at all realistic and right now that’s just what it is- a dream.

This dream always comes back to the forefront in the fall during football season. Last fall, less than a week after my withdrawal from Clemson, I wrote one of my heroes, Samantha Ponder, a letter. I haven’t told many people this story because it’s actually pretty embarrassing. While completely manic and not allowed to drive or leave the house, I had my neighbor drive me to SEC network in Charlotte because I wanted to send Samantha a fan letter.

The letter was nothing too out of the ordinary. I figured famous people get fanmail all the time. I told her how much I admired her and that I had just had a really tough time, and also that I was coming to grips with being bipolar. I included a few pictures of GameDay and a picture of myself. The receptionist was really nice and she said she’d make sure someone got it.

Fast forward about a week. I have an incoming call from Bristol, Connecticut. For anyone who might not know, Bristol is where ESPN is headquartered. When I saw the caller ID I got so beyond excited. All of the possibilities of this call were running through my head that instant. I had just had a terrible and pretty lonely week. When I picked up the call, I heard a voice on the line say, “This is ESPN security in Bristol, Connecticut. Is this Laura?”

My heart dropped. I told him that it was and then he said, “Why did you write that letter?”

I told him I really admired Sam Ponder and that I wanted to tell her she was a hero to me. He told me that it was really strange and asked if I thought the same. I didn’t know what to say. Honestly I have never gone from so excited to so mortified in that few seconds.

“It’s just weird and people don’t usually tell random people about their story. It’s okay, but just so you know, we’re putting you on a list at ESPN, so don’t go back to SEC network or write anything else.”

I apologized profusely and hung up the phone. I started to cry. I was absolutely heartbroken.

Looking back on that situation, I honestly can’t help but think that the reason why my letter was so alarming was because I said I have bipolar disorder.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was just “really weird” to tell a strong woman in the sports industry that I look up to her.

Surely someone who is mentally ill that’s writing to someone and saying nice things must be a stalker and a psychopath.

I just can’t shake the feeling in retrospect that if I had cancer or a physical ailment that the letter would’ve been received completely different.

So is this what we’re telling the mentally ill community? Even if maybe we don’t mean to or think we are? Are we saying that we’re scared they’re going to stalk us and harm us?

I don’t think anything hurts me more than that. Not that any violence is ever justified, but maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy for those ill souls. Once again, let me emphasize that I’m not in any way condoning this behavior, but why do we treat people this way to their breaking point?

I never feel more inhuman than when I hear slams against the mentally ill being all killers.

It makes it seem like we are the sole problem with the world. That my bipolar should isolate me like some kind of leper in Bible times.

Well I refuse to do that. If I have to be one of the only ones to tell our story, then I will. If I have to let people know just how broken we all really are because of this, I will.

I can’t be told any longer to share less. If you don’t like reality, then move along I guess and wade in your ignorance.

The real enemy and issue we fall captive to is our apathy.

Because honestly, why put in the effort to care about anyone but ourselves and our bubble. That is the nation’s mentality.

Whether you like it or not, there are people all around you everyday that put up walls to hide their mental health struggle from you. They refuse to be labeled as the condition that ails them. They want you to like them, to accept who they are outside of their illness. We all want that. I promise there are far more people than you think.

Open dialogue and some empathy could really change the momentum in a positive direction for this world. I believe that.

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So love people well. Be aware. Stand up.

ps. I still love ESPN and watch it everyday. Even if they might not love me back HA

XO- Laura

like a rush of blood to the head

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So I just realized that in this blog I never directly explained what bipolar disorder even is. I’ve given testimony and other facts regarding misunderstandings, but haven’t told of what the diagnosis is. My bad!

If you’ve self-diagnosed yourself because you are super angry one moment and happy the next, congrats, you don’t actually have bipolar disorder! Though it is a common misconception.

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder characterized by unusual and severe episodes of both mania and depression that interfere with our ability to function in everyday life. The change is significant and it affects your mood, activity levels, and energy to the extremes. It’s formerly called manic-depressive disorder, and is different from the normal ups and downs people go through in life. It often first appears in early adult years. Psychosis can become a factor, and it’s a lifelong disease.

“Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.” says NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health).

HOWEVER! <—yay

Bipolar disorder is treatable and people with the disorder can lead fulfilling and productive lives.

…If they can afford it and have an ideal home situation (this is the bad news).

I realize I’m fortunate. I have a phenomenal family, and without their consistent support I’m just not sure where I’d be. Nowhere good. I truly wish I could say the same about the rest of the nation and the world, but I can’t. Treatment is not only very expensive–it’s scarce.

Mania left untreated can last up to 3-6 months. Which is actually equivalent to an eternity for someone who is that far outside of their normal behavior. Mania can be just as destructive as depression, because it elicits risky behavior that wouldn’t normally be present.

Some people suffer for years before the term bipolar would even cross their radar. But what good is that term going to do in helping their situation? So that people can write them off as crazy and violent? No thanks!

So, as mentioned before, mood episodes represent a drastic change from a person’s usual mood or behavior. 

Mania– The overly joyful and euphoric state. Sounds like fun right?!

  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, racing thoughts
  • Excessive need to talk (pressured speech)
  • Unusually distracted
  • Increased activity, taking on many projects
  • Overly restless, can’t sleep/ not being tired
  • Can’t eat like a normal person
  • Unrealistic belief in your abilities.. (you can be an astronaut or Nobel Prize winner if you just put your mind to it!)
  • Behaving impulsively in high risk situations

Depression– the somewhat more understood state of feeling hopeless with prolonged sadness:

  • Overly tired and slow
  • Constant brain fog
  • Low sense of self-worth
  • Can’t concentrate, remember, or make decisions
  • Thinking about death or suicide
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Numb to the world

After an episode, people with bipolar retreat to their normal state and are free of symptoms….until the next episode decides to start! It’s kind of like a waiting game. For me, the seasons predict all of my episodes.

Episodes can become lesser and lesser if medical measures are taken. For example, fall is when I usually (always) become manic. So, my doctor put me on a higher dose to catch and stop the episode early. Apparently next year it’ll be even easier to prevent if I keep my symptoms at bay now. So.. it does get easier even if it doesn’t go away entirely (ever)!

This is pretty good news for me. Yet on the opposite side of the spectrum, episodes that are allowed to run rampant with no action, aka the case for the majority of people who have bipolar disorder, will cause more future episodes that are of the same degree. This is part two of the bad news.

The DSM medical handbook lists certain requirements to be officially diagnosed as Bipolar. I’m Bipolar 1. Basically the difference is I have severe mania, as opposed to the the lesser hypomania found in Bipolar 2.

So there you have it! The basic rundown of the disorder.

Hopefully this helped to better explain what bipolar disorder even is, and why it’s not just your ordinary need to go to the gym and eat healthier to get your mind right kind of deal. That reminds me, I need to get back in the gym. Not to cure my bipolar, just to get ready for the cruise I’m going on in a week with Eric and his parents!

XO-Laura

fall with the sunset

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“I’ll watch fear fall with the sunset
And see hope rise with the tide
And when the pain is true
Sometimes these troubles prove that I’m alive” -Moving Forward; Colony House

I have a questionably functioning memory as a whole. The rule of thumb is that I ask the same question at least twice by the end of our conversation. I will begin to tell you the same story on three different occasions. Forgetting where I put my keys is also a given. But, for reason not yet understood, it’s without fail infinitely easier to call upon the memories that I wish I couldn’t.

…The times that I’ve felt like I humiliated myself. And I’m not talking about falling on my face in front of people (which I have also done).

I’m talking about the times I said a little too much and revealed the entirety of my life story to glorified strangers.

Or the times when I monologued people during my delusions about what made minimal sense in regards to reality but absolute sense to me. Drug intake was a safe assumption, though completely false.

Or all the times I reached out to people on social media during a manic episode…or just straight blew up the Internet in general!!!

Or what about the people who met or knew thoroughly depressed, overweight, unable-to hold-a-coherent conversation Laura?

These are just a few of the myriad of memories that, for the longest time, I faced a great deal of resistance letting go of. They tip-toe their way back in– usually when I’m either lost in thought during the day or attempting the futile feat of falling asleep at night. Or better yet, when people bring them up to me!

Well, I decided not long ago that I’m tired of my demon-harrowing memory taking precedent in my mind. And I’m tired of feeling bad about myself.

I realized that I can’t change the past no matter how much I think about it–a shocking revelation! That rumination is only a hinderance to the current and the future me.

These memories absolutely chained me and told me I was someone I didn’t want to be.

I now recognize I had no control over most of my episode-induced actions. So after many an effort apologizing refusely to random people in hopes of de-embarrassing myself, I came to the conclusion that maybe just letting go would do my soul some good.

And that’s what I’ve done. You can find me, to the best of my ability, enjoying my present life and dreaming about the future–trying to be thankful for what I have.

Though exceedingly more ambitious, I’m attempting to rest in the truth of what God and the people who matter say about me, as opposed to what randoms have said or will say.

This is a lost art, I believe. It’s contingent on a choice.

I no longer elect negative past memoirs to delude my life.

…I won’t be perfect in this. And guess what, neither will you. But we can take our stabs at it regardless, because we know there is freedom in letting go of our humiliations and embarrassments.

I pray we are able to move forward. Feed our minds solely what is good. Let our memories fall with the sunset.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8

XO- Laura

friends

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I wanted to write a post about the friends I am thankful for. They stood by me when everyone else seemed to want to leave.

As is the case for most of us, I’ve been comforted, laughed with, cried with, and built up by my friends.

Friends aren’t like family in that they aren’t really required to be there for you, especially when something in your life goes a mess.

They stand by you even if maybe it’s not a good look for them to be your friend. Your name and their’s in the same sentence isn’t a problem.

I’ve had the friend who had many friends at the time when I only had her.

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I’ve had new friends come into my life and prove me wrong about the understanding and compassion people are capable of showing me.

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I have the lifelong friend since elementary school that I still keep contact with and we don’t even know how. (Seriously what happened in 3rd grade that was able to house anything substantial at all?!!) Also, I am very confident I would still think everything we thought was funny back then would be hilarious now.

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I have the college friends who still associate with me and want to see me even though my most difficult seasons in life were while knowing them in close quarters.

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I have friends who encourage me. Push me. Believe in me. Want what’s best for me. Don’t care what anyone says about me or them.

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They are heroes to me in their mission to be a good friend. The real MVPS.

So this is for my friends, whether I met you this year or I’ve known you forever, thanks for not leaving me in the dust by myself and hightailing it out of proximity (lol) and for valuing our friendship. I promise I do, too.

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Thanks for seeing me instead of and in spite of my disorder.

Love y’all seeeew much.

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XO- Laura

kaleidoscope behind my eyes

You are surrounding all my surroundings,
Sounding down the mountain range of my left-side brain,
Twisting the kaleidoscope behind both of my eyes. – Holding On To You; Twenty-One Pilots

Psychosis – n. – a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.

My doctor told me back in 2012, “I wouldn’t tell people you were in psychosis, because people think psychosis, they think psychotic, and they will label you as psychotic.” …So naturally I went and did the exact opposite! Ignoring Doc’s advice, I told most everybody about this crazy thing that had happened to me.

If anyone who knew me back then remembers, we really did think for a long time that it was onset by a severe adverse reaction to ketamine in anesthesia from my wisdom teeth surgery. That is an insufferable sentence to both read and write. Anyway, it wasn’t until 2014 that it became clear this was a product of my bipolar (though it still could have been charged from the surgery).

I started writing a book about this experience in the mania following. I don’t think this book will ever get finished for a lot of reasons. Psychosis takes the cake 100% for scariest time of my life…but also the most fascinating. It wasn’t until this experience that I fully came to know just how powerful and complex the brain is.

So, I’m going to give a very brief account of that summer.

I got my wisdom teeth out August 1, 2012. I was admitted to the hospital on August 16. This would be just 2 days before I was supposed to move in to Clemson University. Upon my arrival, the hospital thought that I was on drugs (Side note: I have never done drugs). I actually thought that my parents had drugged me, which they would obviously never do. Once they scanned me and found I was clean, it didn’t take too long to figure out what was really taking place.

Rewind to the night before I went to the hospital. I hadn’t had but maybe 4 hours of sleep in 3 days. I couldn’t sleep because my mind would not shut down. I started having all kinds of delusions about my life. The main one being I thought that the guy who I had just broken up with was proposing to me (yikes). I simultaneously thought my life was being recorded for a TV show. I started to go on a Twitter binge saying personal stuff about me and my family that didn’t make much of any sense. I Facebook messaged maybe 30 people saying mostly incoherent things. I was talking in code and constantly decoding what people were saying to me (when, in reality, there was nothing to decode).

I went to a second hospital, and things only got worse. I was in a walking nightmare. I thought everyone was watching me and things took a turn for the scarier. Suddenly, some kind of Nazi Germany scenario took over and my mind applied it to current day. My parents were allowed to visit once a day, but I just wanted to get out of there.

Once I finally got to go home after about a week, my delusions spiraled further out of control. My sight and hearing became monstrously amplified. Everything, colors and light, were so bright and vivid. Sounds were way louder. My delusions grew and played off each other. I wasn’t seeing people who weren’t there or anything, my mind was simply ascribing to real people things that weren’t true. Anything anyone said to me was something I had to decipher.

I remember my mom read the same couple of verses to me when I woke up terrified each morning. I remember saying I felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders. One of verses was Psalm 94:19, which says, “When anxiety was great within me, Thy consolations delighted my soul.” I held on to that truth when I had nothing to go off of but lies my brain was telling me.

I walked around different settings in this state with my parents. I remember going to the nearest shopping center and feeling like everyone was watching and talking about me–they weren’t. I remember going to my old high school’s football games and thinking they were all staged for some kind of ploy that furthered the story-line in my mind. I was in the middle of a sham of a war. But to me, it felt real. My parents would tell me over and over again, “You are not believing the truth.” or “That’s not real. We will help you tell what is the truth and what is real.”

When I finally came back to reality– almost a month after its onset, I was shattered. What in the world just happened to me? And why am I not allowed to talk about it?

I was supposed to go on with my life like nothing had happened at all.

If anyone asks, say, “you weren’t yourself for a while.”

Psychosis is a strange phenomenon. I don’t think it’ll ever be completely understood. The brain is far more paramount than we will ever be able to comprehend.

So that was the sparknotes of what happened–the kaleidoscope behind my eyes.(never again.)

XO-Laura

a letter to Brandon Marshall

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Brandon,

Even though you have the most alpha male career in life being an extremely accomplished NFL wide-receiver for the New York Jets, you have inspired a little girl to put back together the pieces of her life.

A little over a year ago, my older brother Wes told me about you and about your story. I remember distinctly we were at my younger brother’s away football game in Greensboro, North Carolina. I was in the midst of a manic episode, but it was on the decline.

I had just withdrawn for the 3rd time from my semester at Clemson University where I should have been a Junior.

“Have you ever heard of Brandon Marshall?” He asked me. I told him I had heard your name but I didn’t know anything about you. He told me about how you wore lime green cleats during a game the past October for mental health awareness. He told me about how you were fined by the NFL for $10,500 for the cleats and that you matched the fine to donate to mental health organizations.

“The money the league will fine me is nothing compared to the awareness raised tonight,” was what you wrote on Twitter afterwards.

In almost an instant, you had become my hero.

I went home and looked up more about your story. That you struggle from Borderline-Personality Disorder and went through the difficult but necessary journey of piecing back together your life and making sense of it all at McLean Hospital in the off-season.

But you didn’t stop there. On the A Football Life documentary, your mom and even your psychiatrist admitted that they didn’t think at the time that you should tell the world about your disorder. That you would be labeled as “coo-coo” as your mom put it, and that people were not going to be understanding.

They then said they were ultimately so glad that you did what you did next, which was telling the world in a press conference about your BPD.

Even though we are so different, we are so the same. I saw myself in your story. I thought wow, this man really understands me and what I’ve been through. Which is strange, because we’ve never met. Also the fact that you’re a pro-athlete and I’m a 5’3 college student. We look different, but we feel in the same ways. I have lashed out. I have felt like I didn’t belong. I’ve felt rejected. I’ve been unsupported. I’ve been misunderstood.

But I also have the same impulsive desires that you did to inform people of what I’ve been through. To give people an opportunity to understand. To not hide. To use our story. Your wife Michi said as she was getting wrongfully arrested, “Someone is going to learn from our story.”

She was right.

Not just someone, many someones. And I am one of them.

I cannot thank you enough for putting down your pride to put the whole team of mental illness on your back. You said no one was stepping up to the plate, so “Let me be the face of this.” And you are.

Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in a career that is the opposite of what people would ascribe to the mentally ill.

Thank you for unknowingly welcoming so many out of their shadows and into the light.

Thank you for messaging me back today and telling me how you were so proud of me. I nearly fell over in my class and that’s not an exaggeration. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face or the joyful tears from welling in my eyes as I flashed back to that moment this time last year when I first heard your name.

Thank you for all that you’ve done for this community and for the world. Can’t wait to paint the world lime green together.

Sincerely,

The young woman you inspired to break free from the shame and chains of her illness.

ps. I’ll be keeping the Lego Brandon Marshall figurine that my brother got me on my dresser, always.  🙂