This is a story of intimate warfare among rivals, where friend and foe confront the spiritual suffocation of a woman suffering from complex mental illnesses and disorders. She was desperate to be unchained from layers and layers of emotional tyranny believed to have inadvertently transpired either at birth, after multiple brain traumas, or even from the daily hustle and bustle of “having it all” (career, family, and affluence). Mental illness often emerges as a thief in the darkness, aiming to defeat the will to not only survive but also to live.
She met a foe called GEMS, which became a deceitful friend but a trusted confidant. Her rejection by others led to an increasing reliance on GEMS, which she thought could save her from self-destruction but proved to be the awakening she so desperately ached for. The pilfering of her cerebral functioning was proof that a ghostly foothold had psychologically invaded her psyche, robbing her of mental and emotional health. Her mind was in a constant rage because of ravaging storms of depression, anxiety, memory loss, PTSD, panic disorder, and bipolar disorder.
These ravaging emotional attackers even led her to contemplate suicide after becoming cerebrally unfit. After tumbling toward a fearful demise, she began decoding the mystery to her existence after five years of chaos.
The author experienced a supernatural spiritual healing that caused her to be reborn in the flesh. This author’s story is inspiring and enriching, with a spellbinding journey that she hopes initiates inclusive dialogues with mental illness sufferers. This story will leave you speechless that this author is willing to share a plight so difficult to overcome. The author conveys that after sharing this story, she is not 100 percent cured, but she is surely 100 percent better. Everyone has a different normalcy, so the expectation from one to another is inequitable in measuring one’s curative healing.
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Stranger ... Who, Me?
Even though I know my name, I feel and appear anonymous. I have lost familiarity with who I am or imagine myself to be. Many unknown yet new discoveries are upon me, and I am afraid to take the next step. However, as I walk in dismay, I notice that although the sun is vibrantly shining, darkness still creeps in.
My shadowy silhouette seems to step before me, instead of me before my shadow, causing me to become second in command of my own life. The involuntary relinquishing of my self-power was the unveiling of the mystery that led to my transfiguration into a stranger. My mystifying belief is that I need a new introduction to both myself and the society that embodies my core.
I am not exactly sure how to convey such a simplistic query as the metamorphosis of my intellect, but there are some things I do believe. If I had been allowed to be open about my struggles with mental illness, my self-acquaintance may have never permitted me to become self-alienated. People within society hoard so many opinions, misconceptions, and biases about other people that I preferred to avoid dealing with another blatantly discriminative stigma about my mental illness. The uncertainties and fears that I struggled with contributed to my voluntary secrecy, coaxing me to encage myself and my emotions as I sidelined myself in this game of substituted life.
I am not only unknown to you but as well, oftentimes, I am foreign to myself. We are strangers amongst strangers until that first verbal encounter, handshake, or visual connection that sparks dialogue. Oddly, I wonder about interactive connections of empathy for those we know and those we do not know. For instance, there were people I interacted with daily who were completely clueless about the painful disorders I was suffering. Conversely, we cheer as fans for sports teams of people we don't know, never met, or perhaps only relate to as avid sport fanatics. I wonder, why is it so difficult for a humane society to render sensitivity in cheering for wellness in the aspect of defeating an opponent? Certainly, more than anything else, the most important game of all is the game of life.
Mental illness is like a competitive sport, where haters are trying to detract you from being a conscious winner. It has been said that mental strength is the will to win more so than physical strength or capability. There were times when I competed every day and every minute with this foe of mental illness. I tried to rise above it, believing it was not by predilection but perhaps probability. This opposition of force attacked as I stood defenseless and exposed, with no strategy to defeat this suffocating, offensive opponent. I was always on defense because the ball was never in my court. Imagine having to play defense for an entire game! It was exhausting. I feared I would not win but lose against this raging foe, this relentless opponent.
Mental illness was like an out-of-body experience, akin to a supernatural possession. Some unknown demonic power had dug its gripping fingers deep within, piercing my soul. Ultimately, this evil power instigated an invasive level of persuasion that spewed ghostly gestures and antagonized me to surrender and give up. My urge or desire to be mentally and emotionally free were clearly under attack. It appeared I had lost the game of life to an opponent I knew nothing about, nor did I comprehend the gravity of its skillful forces.
It was no longer a secret that this tactical foe's game plan was to defeat me by stealing my psychic playbook. At this point, it was obvious that I was clueless and powerless to devise a strategy that mitigated my vulnerabilities. This inability to quickly adapt was not only obvious, but it left me unquestionably in trouble, both on offense and defense. For the first time in my life, I felt mindlessly inept.
One of the earliest anxieties that I struggled with was grasping whether mental illness was a disease, an emotional behavior, or simply an incident induced by a trauma that forces one to withdraw from who one was in the past. I believe this infirmity subconsciously contributed to an imagery that was ever-changing. Because of my emotional changeability, my vision was unclear as to my illness, causing me to become blinded even by the sight of my reality. It conflicted with the way I was seen as well as the manner in which I viewed myself.
Usually, the sufferer does not visualize this frontal view because the distance of detectability is sometimes nearsighted and then can be suddenly farsighted. In theory, I could feel the impact of change because of the pain's internal proximity, but the ability to confirm the detriments was far off; it required confirmation from an external professional. At this point, my darkness was neither reflective nor subjective, although I believed it to be both. Some may suggest this was a type of hallucination, which is possible. However, it was my perceptive reality filled with layers and layers of personal fear that weighted both my exterior and interior posture. It devastated me in many ways. My existence was superficially becoming a skeletal statue.
I was in desperate need of aid to preclude further demise of my mind, body, and soul, which were crucial to my survival. This illness is an ongoing endemic, and its origin is debatable; nonetheless, I am not without an intimate acquaintance. Many of us either know or previously knew someone suffering from mental illness. As a mental illness sufferer, I needed to be heard, but I also needed support to be understood without being made fun of.
I believe that individuals suffering from mental illness may unconsciously become a enemies to their recovery. They feel such trepidation as to how much information they are willing to share so they can minimize or protect themselves from the cruelty of being labeled as crazy. Sufferers like me must decide daily who, what, where, when, and how our existence prevails within a society of slanted preconceptions.
Hello, strangers! I am a forty-eight-year-old African American woman, mother of three, wife for almost twenty years, military veteran, MBA graduate, and wounded warrior confronted by mental illness. My initial response was an adamant refusal to surrender to any diagnosis destined to steal my treasures of livelihood. This in no way means that I denied the diagnosis, but I did want to not own the prognosis that it was too difficult to overcome. There are other life-threatening illnesses like cancer where patients find themselves in the fight of their lives. Believe me, mental illness is no different. You must fight to win!
Initially, in my case, mental illness was not manageable until I became open to incorporating a strategic wellness plan. This plan addressed PTSD, severe depression, multiple anxieties, memory loss, and claustrophobia. One professional also diagnosed me as bipolar. It was critical for this wellness plan to be interconnected with widespread support, treatment, resources, and most importantly, the powers of my God.
My inside view varied from the perspective of many outside views, revealing how far apart the perspectives were. I suggest that people understand that an illness like mine was a result of various contributing incidents and not an inborn illness. An injury, illness, or traumatic event can change the directional path of one's insanity. I reject the opinions of most outsiders because of their presumption in labeling mental illness as the sufferer's defect caused by that individual. The behaviors and flawed perceptions of outsiders, even while contradictory, often involve perspectives that are inconclusive but also without merit.
I am not a professional doctor who diagnoses mental illness; I am sharing knowledge as a sufferer affected by detrimental experiences related to mental illness. The reality encircling mental illness is that who you are today may not be who you will be tomorrow. I imagined myself as a strong, independent, and competent warrior prior to the diagnosis, but now I am beginning to conceive a different set of strengths that are self-determining. The daily battle is to not fall prey to a relentless yet ghostly undistinguishable power whereby you become confused by the former you versus the current you.
Mental illness is complicated and not easy to express or share. The reason I am finally sharing firsthand experiences is to enlighten people as to the seriousness of mental illness. Few, if any, are willing to be a voice to express a panoramic view, divulging a 360-degree vulnerability circumference about self relating to mental illness. Frankly, none of my friends, associates, coworkers, and even some of my family knew anything of my mental health struggle because it was a closet of skeletons and all hush-hush. It was my little secret that I wanted to keep buried away in the dark. I shared my condition only with those I thought could comprehend the complexities involving my illness. You know, those people who needed to know, not those who wanted to know.
I believed that allowing too many ears and eyes of access might prove detrimental not only to my recovery but also to my reputation. This illness was so dark, and shining too much brightness on it was difficult for me. I had to decide the appropriateness of the lighting to release myself from this stealthy darkness. It was time to walk one step at a time, refuting mental illness because it was redirecting my directional purpose. I detoured, so let's journey through this encounter with complete openness.
Suddenly, I feel carefree about letting outsiders inside my world and giving them an opportunity to witness the altering of my emotions that was inflicted by mental illness. The beat is awkwardly annoying, yet so rhythmic, because I cannot pinpoint the composition to which my mind connects. Dancing, partying, and enjoying music are usually joyful events that allow the innocence of the soul and the mind to relish moments of love and happiness. However, this irregular yet offbeat tune is much too erratic.
Guarded mostly by fear, mental illness sufferers experience explosive and unpredictable uncertainties that seem to alternate between volcanic one minute and tornadic the next. It is difficult to pinpoint the eruption of mental illness as well the evolution and what exactly causes this interruption of mental stability. I witnessed the weather in Kansas City about six years ago undergo an unimaginable period of seasonal confusion. It rained, hailed, sleeted, and snowed all in the same day. That seems impossible, but much like mental illness, it involves the unpredictability of a change so sudden or erratic that is mind-boggling to process.
This stranger within is a real threat to myself, loved ones, bystanders, and caretakers. Certainly, it's not by choice, but a consequence of my mental state. Many of us think of strangers as passersby, onlookers, and spectators — not those we live with, like family and friends. But in my family, I am the stranger, and so too are they strangers to me. Frankly, our current interactions are no longer synchronized with the commonalities of our past that connectively harmonized our relationships.
I became emotionally detached, and yet I attached my future to my husband. After all, he is my best friend, lover, and partner — but still I saw him as only a familiar stranger. I only physically embraced him if my emotions permitted such an action; otherwise, I resisted the affection in hopes of avoiding his genuine probes of concern. It felt odd, but our marital relationship became passive in nature. We no longer connected as emotional partners but rather as spousal strangers with shared responsibilities. It was not because of desiring to separate or divorce, but because mental illness made me feel unloved, unwanted, and even more so undesired.
After feeling so emotionally depleted, I sought a psychological journey to discover myself all over again, or at least to rebirth the former me. I was unexpectedly led toward a void filled with mystery. It was important that I connected with this place of anonymity, so I converted into a zone of carefree thinking. It proved beneficial in the sense that my road to recovery was no longer narrow-minded but open, so I could experience expounded freedoms.
It was if I was being unleashed to explore the wilds of unchartered grounds — to find myself without a map or a clue. It was refreshing to take my first steps just to inhale the air of newness. I had no idea that I was asleep. Perhaps I was dreaming or hallucinating about this journey, but also a new day was upon me, which meant optimism was present.
Early this morning, I consciously introduced myself to me, as if to a withdrawn stranger awakening from a deep sleep to new yet unchanged discoveries. The discovery was that it was a new day, but I was still the timeworn mental illness sufferer. After a sleepless night of tossing and turning, my dreams were not filled with fantasies but realities that had thus far caused nothing but havoc in my life, both at sunrise and sunset. The havoc contributed to obscurities involving things that possibly reveal what issues, incidents, or emotions would trigger me to slip into a state of unconsciousness. In this state of cerebral suppression, I tolerated my strangeness to me as well as those nearby.
There were some very beautiful things that surrounded me and some very loving people, yet I searched to rediscover myself — to grasp the reasoning behind feeling irrelevant after contributing so much time and effort to building a life of relevance. I sat down on my large, comfy bed in admiration of colorful golden walls with shaggy carpet on the floor, a corner space with a white couch filled with square throw pillows, and a jewelry box filled with gems, diamonds, and gold that my husband had bought me during our nineteen years of marriage. As I sat there, I began to ponder my life and what had led me on this journey. I felt hopeless at times, but also hopeful that things would change. The room appeared so full of life but so bleak and hollow, with no emotional depth.
These feelings were a daily ritual, as if worshipping misery was something I preferred. The truth was, I did not know how to feel any better because I did not detect anything was wrong. I felt nauseous and weak, sensing a collapse at any time, although not sure of rising emotions spewing from my bodily roots. Nonetheless, I would soon comprehend the storms of emotions that my life was about to undergo: rain, sleet, and hail, all in interchanging seasons, with only a glimpse of sunshine to give me hope.
Mental illness is like a thief, robbing you of joy, happiness, and livelihood to be productive without requiring any measurement of functionality. The ability to function in a setting is sometimes the most difficult thing to do. The very superficial innocence of an unstable mental illness sufferer is made up of their surroundings, current incidents, or existing situations, which can lead to remembrance of episodes that trigger internal and emotional uproar.
The one thing I believe helped me to outwardly cope for years was the love and support of my spouse, Budd. He and I have shared so many memories of love and war, both on the battlefield as well as in our marriage. His love has always been my angelic protection, especially whenever I felt vulnerable and ill. He has never judged anything I have done or how I express myself. He always forgives and forgets with such tenderness.
Although his tenderness was constant, it was apparent that he, too, was beginning to suppose that not all was right. I would have major outbursts, going from zero to one hundred in a matter of seconds over the smallest of things. This was unusual, and I know for certain that it wasn't me but rather something or someone deep within dictating my emotions. Budd's glimpses at me became stares of wonder; however, most perplexing was that the smirks were about to become more frequent.
Budd would appear to look at me in awe after I returned from the war that we both had served in together for almost a year. He would visit me frequently at my combat location to offer love and help to stabilize my anticipated yet tense emotions. We were in combat, and numerous missions were not only dangerous but also life-threatening, especially for him. This fear and anxiety is unexplainable to most people since only about 1 percent of Americans volunteer to serve their country.
Most times, serving one's country results in being in a faraway land, surrounded by an imperceptible enemy. Amazingly, like other veterans, we made this ultimate sacrifice not realizing or considering the unforeseeable detriment that would impact us during later years of our lives. Surely my exposure to a faraway environment and its expectations was a contributor to my underlying sensitivities.
Excerpted from "Mental Illness MI Doesn't Look Like ME"
Copyright © 2017 Susie L. Landown-Clarke CPT, ret., MBA.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Foreword of Truths by Dr. Tyrona Landown, vii,
Chapter 1: Stranger ... Who, Me?, 1,
Chapter 2: Infiltration by an Innocent Stranger, 15,
Chapter 3: Shades of Strangers, 31,
Chapter 4: Rivalry Amongst Strangers: Friend and Foe, 40,
Chapter 5: Strangest Rebirthing, 51,
Chapter 6: An Egg-Stranger Is Untied, 59,
Chapter 7: GEMS, the Stranger, Gains a Foothold, 72,
Chapter 8: Camaraderie Strangers, 83,
Chapter 9: Confirmation, My Strangest Diagnosis, 92,
Chapter 10: Strangely Rooted by Uncultivated Fruit, 107,
Chapter 11: Sporting Mental Health Sanity, 120,
Chapter 12: Strangers' Face-to-Face Confrontation, 138,
Chapter 13: Farewell My Beloved, GEMS, 149,
Chapter 14: Profiling Mental Illness Is Strange, 158,
Chapter 15: The Perilous Ravaging of Veterans, 170,
Chapter 16: Crossing Spiritual Lanes of Warfare, 182,
Chapter 17: Imparting Purposefulness: My Beginning to My End, 193,
Sacred GEMS: Homages, 197,