Karina Pommainville-Odell
Feel-Good Corner

Mental Health – 1 Year Edition

Hey everyone, today I have an article that deeply touches me. It’s a personal update and one that I share proudly. The 24th of August marks the one year anniversary of my blog: My passion, my rebirth. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. This blog is a huge part of the reason I’m still around and doing so much better. Every time I wrote it added a puzzle piece to my reason for living. Passion grew from the void of hopelessness that had take over my life. I remember when eternal sleep felt like the answer…and yet here I am.

A new version of myself is emerging. I am so incredibly grateful to be here with you and sharing what I can. I know that I can’t do much in this vast world but something is better than nothing. I have a dream, a goal, an aspiration. It might be too big for me but I’ll never know unless I try. I might still want to become a psychologist but I think there’s something I’d like even more.

My Dream

I want to form an organization, a network. A holistic centre for mental and physical well-being where everyone and anyone can join. A place to share, a place to grow, a place to be safe. How would I do this? I honestly have no idea. But would I have imagined that the college I go to would want to purchase copies of my book to sell in the bookstore? That people would actually want to read what I write? Definitely not! I know it’s not the same magnitude but why not try?

Before I continue this upbeat, motivational and hopeful tone, I have to come clean with you. If there’s one thing about my writing with you it’s that you always get the truth. My perception of the truth, anyway. This means I won’t pretend and say that I’m following my own advice, making all the right choices and riding a rocket to the top. I wish. No, the truth is that life is a mixed bag. I’m happy…I’m super grateful for the many wonderful things that happened in this past year. I’ve also grown a lot and I really hope that growth continues. More than hope; I’m going to do my best! The thing is, try as I might to step forward without leaving muddy footprints, I’ve gotta admit that I’m messing up.

As I wrote that strange and random sentence about mud, something clicked in my twisty brain. What if those muddy footprints are perfectly normal? Please follow me on this one, I might get lost in my analogy. Let’s say we’ve had to walk through a very yucky swamp. (Read – Hell – Mental Illness – Trauma – Grief – Fill in the blank) We finally cross to the other side of the swamp and step onto the clean ‘shore’. We’re taking steps forward – away from the swamp! – but we’re seeing these annoying muddy footprints that remind us of the yucky place we left.

I think that’s a pretty decent parallel huh? I get the meaning but I’d like to fully internalize and FEEL it. It’s true though: When we’re working on recovery/self-improvement the past can stick with us. Some things remain for a while as we make our way further and further from whatever bad thing or time we’re moving away from. As the distance grows though, the mud will be left behind.

Trigger Warning: Content Including Self-harm

Continue When You See The Next Heading

Moving on – I’m still mad at myself. Some of these ‘muddy footprints’ are relapses along the path to recovery. Understandable? Probably…but definitely frustrating and guilt-inducing! I’m feeling quite a bit of anxiety and pressure lately. The weight of my responsibilities is getting heavy and I only see the load increasing in the future. How have I been an adult for 4 and a half years? (For goodness sake I’m still counting half-years! That sounds like a proud kid correcting an adult by saying they’re 8 and a half. FOR GOODNESS SAKE!) But my point is that I feel like only now am I actually being faced with true adult…’things’. (I’m clearly off to a great start. Eye roll.) Seriously though. If these responsibilities feel heavy NOW…I’m downright terrified. For so many others what I’m dealing with is probably nothing. That makes me feel really bad to be honest, even though I write about NOT thinking that way. See what I mean? Full of mistakes over here. To get right down to it, I scratched a patch of skin on my arm and started cutting before a bit of sense kicked in and thankfully got me to stop. Unfortunately that bit of sense disappoints me too because it was for a superficial reason: I remembered how bad I feel at work with so many clients asking about my scars. Seriously? THAT’S what got me to stop?!

It’s Safe Now

Honestly, I’m really struggling. I’m coping, but I sort of feel like I’m doing a twisted balancing act. I might have a fit of simultaneously laughing and crying at the absurdity of my mind in a little corner somewhere. (More than might…I have. A few times. It’s ok. Gotta let it out.) The juggling act of my mixed moods is hard to take and it has repercussions. I’m feeling up and productive and then empty. Really angry to intensely anxious. Sad and sensitive to confident and talkative. Sane and rational to buying useless items that I can’t afford. Enough said. It’s making me tired, confused, testy, not fully concentrated, overwhelmed and even sometimes hopeless. I HATE feeling hopeless and though I haven’t felt it for a while, it’s been creeping back.

Despite this I have a sense of faith. Things might be rocky but I know that my mood fluctuates more when I’m stressed so this will pass. I’ll get settled in. It’s probably not as bad as I imagine. For example today is my first day of class and even though I’ll only be taking one this semester…I’m freaking out right now. The drive to the city is long and stressful and when I went there for therapy yesterday there were a million people. COVID? Social anxiety? Horrible memories triggered by being back on campus? Impulsively buying a super light-gauge long-sleeve top last night to hide my scars in this tremendous heat? Mmhm. But…as a great friend told me yesterday; the first day may be hardest but the most challenging is actually the anticipation of that first day. I’ll try not to imagine the worst.

Deep down, this is what I believe / am trying hard to believe:

I don’t know my destination but I’m enjoying the journey regardless; I think that’s what matters most. If I continue to stay true I’m pretty sure my efforts will amount to something even if it’s not in the way I expect. yes I’m facing a lot of destabilizing changes, but I have an incredible marketing opportunity where I’ve already started working, a passion to further and a DEC to crawl towards. I’m figuring out who I am as a human and as an adult. No one said it would be easy…but no one said it would be this difficult either! Anyway, here are a few of my most recent affirmations:

  • I can still be happy even when I’m afraid. 
  • I can keep faith even when I’m lost and confused. 
  • I can move forwards even if I don’t always know why. 
  • What didn’t kill me DID make me stronger. 
  • I can’t change the past but I can rewrite my negative associations and move forwards.
  • Having Bipolar and BPD gives me the opportunity to experience the intense borders of human emotion. While painful, it’s also an eye opening window that increases my understanding. 
  • My struggles have fostered an empathy for others that I may never have reached otherwise. 
  • Without my journey through ‘hell’ I would have never discovered my purpose in life; doing my best to help others improve their mental health. 

Proof of Progress

As a reminder to us all that recovery and self-improvement is possible, here are some of the things I/we accomplished in the past year:

  • We did a Mental Health Month Initiative in May!
  • We worked on personal growth exercises and reflection.
  • I took part in the ‘Bell Let’s Talk’ event at John Abbott College.
  • I published two books: ‘I Will Not BE My Mental Illness Part 1’ & ‘Let’s Recover Together’.
  • I completed 2 consecutive semesters of college.
  • I discovered / pursued a passion and maintained my health journal writing habit.
  • I stayed clean from cutting for a few months. (Ouch. I so very much wish I hadn’t messed up the other day.)
  • I started working at a pet store and truly love my job, coworkers and boss.
  • I’m beginning a new semester and even though it’s only one class, it’ll still be a third consecutive semester.
  • I finally passed my driving test and am paying off my very own car. (Much freedom – Much happiness!

Thank you!

Growing with you is a tremendous privilege and something I’m incredibly grateful for! I hope to continue this journey with each and every one of you and to meet more fellow travellers along the way. Thank you for your support and contributions! I love you all and as always, I’m with you in spirit.

A special thank you to my parents, my fiancé, our wonderful doggos, my therapist and everyone else who has stayed by my side!

P.S. What obstacles did you overcome and/or survive this past year? What progress did you make? What are your hopes for the future? Comment below!

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