mental health

Letter to Self

22 October 2020

Dear Catherine,

Of all the letters you have written during treatment, this one may be the most important.  I know that sometimes you feel hopeless, helpless, worthless, and like you will feel that way forever.  I want to remind you that no feeling is final.  I want to remind you that in the moment you are writing this, you feel a sense of hope, peace, and comfort in spite of the fact that there are a lot of really stressful things going on.  I want to remind you of some key elements that will help you remember how to get out of the woods when all you can see is darkness and trees. 

First of all, check the facts.  Is it really true that you don’t deserve to live or is that just your brain being mean to you?  I know you’ve done some unkind things in your life, but you’ve helped people, too.  With your courage and vulnerability, you have helped others know that it’s ok to ask for help and seek treatment when they aren’t doing well.  With your kindness, you’ve shown people that they are worthy of love and belonging.  You also learned from when you messed up.  As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  What would someone else have to do for you to feel that they don’t deserve to live?  Have you done any of those things? My guess is that no, you haven’t.  You don’t believe in the death penalty for other people, so why would you believe in it for yourself?  I know that right now it feels like these feelings will last forever, but that hasn’t historically been true.  Even when it feels like the night will last forever, the sun eventually rises.  It has without fail every time before.  You have no reason to believe it won’t this time.

You have known about self-compassion as a concept for several years now, but you hadn’t really done much work to put it into practice until recently.  You have found that when you acknowledge that you are in a moment of suffering with your hands over your heart, it can actually make you feel better, as silly as that may sound.  You have found that when you practice kindness towards yourself, acknowledge your common humanity, consider the power of hugs and gentle caresses, observe what you are feeling, describe what you are needing, remember that to err is human, and remember that suffering = pain x resistance, you are a much happier and healthier person and you judge yourself far less harshly.  I know sometimes it can feel like you are the exception.  You sometimes feel like it’s ok for everyone else in the world to make mistakes except for you.  That isn’t true.  It is true for everyone in the world including you that it’s ok to make mistakes, especially when you use them to grow and learn, which you do almost every time.

Two of your core values are vulnerability and courage.  When you live from those values and use vulnerability and courage to share your experiences, you feel like you are making a difference in this world, even if it’s just for one other person.  You know that your most read blog posts were written when you weren’t doing well.  They are open, honest, and authentic about your struggles.  When you are courageous enough to be vulnerable about how you are doing, it helps other people, but it also helps you.  You know that when you write posts like that, you get messages of love and support.  So reach out and tell someone how you are honestly doing, even if it’s only one person and you don’t currently have the capacity to write a blog post.  It will be good for you and it will be good for whoever you choose to be courageous and vulnerable with.

Advocacy is another core value of yours.  I know it’s exhausting to have to try to stick up for causes that affect you every single day.  I know it’s exhausting to feel marginalized and lonely and alone.  I also know that you have the power to impact positive change in systems and people around you.  Sometimes it feels like you don’t have the capacity to advocate, and that’s ok, too.  You have to take care of yourself before you can help make change for yourself or anyone else.  Sometimes it will feel like people expect a lot of emotional labor from you.  That’s because they do.  They always will.  As a fat and disabled woman, you’re going to be marginalized and experience oppression.  Don’t forget the myriad of ways you hold privilege, but don’t let that invalidate the oppression you experience.  People are going to expect you to explain and justify that oppression to them and to random people and to the people oppressing you.  You are not obligated to explain to someone who is hurting you how and why they are hurting you.  Someone they aren’t oppressing can do that.  Be willing to take a step back when it feels like it’s too much and allow someone else to do the education surrounding the issues that affect you.  When you have the capacity, by all means, help educate people about causes and issues that impact you.  When you don’t have the capacity, don’t feel guilty about it.  It’s also ok to speak out about things that are hurting you without having to be the person who educates the person or people doing the hurting.

It’s ok to be open to new experiences.  I know new things are scary, but they aren’t always bad.  It’s also ok to go back to old experiences that you know support you.  If you need help, reach out to your therapist, The Refuge, or Willow Place.  If you need that level of care again in the future, it isn’t something to be ashamed of.  You can feel proud knowing that you’re asking for what you need and doing what is best for yourself.  You can feel good about putting yourself first so that you are able to help others later.

I know you are struggling and suffering right now.  If you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t have sought out this letter.  I’m sorry that you don’t feel like you’re at your best right now, and I want to remind you that there is hope.  “Stay afraid, but do it anyway.” Live anyway.  Love anyway.  It won’t feel like this forever and when this feeling passes, you’ll be so grateful that you decided to stick around and actively engage in life.   

I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but I do love you. I love your laugh and your smile and your kindness.  I love the way you’re always thinking about how to help other people.  I love your intelligence and your ferocity and fierceness.  I love the way that you can imagine a better world.  I love your passion.  I love how much you love reading and traveling and sharing things you’ve baked with other people.  I love your sense of humor and your love of baking and the love and care you show River.  River loves you.  Mom and Dad love you.  Jac loves you.  Dani loves you.  Georgianna and Amelia love you.  Tiffany loves you.  Ashley loves you. Beth and Jim love you. Your family and friends love you. There are many people and beings in this world who love you exactly as you are.  They love you so much on your good days, but, my god, how they love you on your bad days.  You never expected that to be true.  You are worthy of their love, even on your worst day.  You are worthy of belonging, even on your worst day.  You are worthy of eating, even on your worst day.  You are worthy of water, even on your worst day.  You are worthy.  You are loved.  You are enough.

Love,              
Catherine  

Adventure

VeteRAN Jam 2014

 

As someone with a degree in counseling, multiple family members with mental health issues, and mental health diagnoses myself,  I’m passionate about mental health on several levels.  If you know me personally, you also know that I care deeply about the people around me, including an amazing family named the McArdles.  The McArdles lost a loved one, Joshua, as a result of his PTSD that resulted from his service in the United States Marine Corps.  Please consider donating to and/or attending this event.  I know it would mean a lot to everyone involved.  This family is one of the strongest, kindest, most caring families I have ever met.  Please do what you can to support them, support Joshua’s legacy, and provide support for future veterans affected by PTSD as a result of putting themselves in danger every day to protect our safety and freedom who lack access to services.

 

As posted by the McArdle family:

“Recently, the department of Veterans affairs reported that each day 22 Veterans take their own lives. While this statistic only represents 21 states, it is clear that more must be done to ensure our military members have the proper resources and support system upon leaving the service. 

Alot of people have experienced interest in supporting us from afar and this donation page will hopefully fullfill that. This June we kick off the first annual VeteRAN Jam and what we hope to be a starting point for something much bigger. With your support, we will be able to honor those in our community like Joshua A. McArdle, a veteran of the Unites States Marine Corps whom are no longer with us on earth but forever in our hearts. 

Beyond this festival, we will strive to help other Veterans and their families whom struggle to live with their PTSD or mental illness. 

Thank you for your support and love,

The McArdle Family”

 

 

http://www.gofundme.com/73yvqw