So, you may have seen my entire photography post as I just uploaded it moments ago to my blog! I worked on that for about 2 or 3 hours (including taking the photos themselves) and I’m writing this post right now around 9p (it was published around 9p too, as my posts don’t tend to show times, unfortunately (but Twitter does!!)) so hopefully it doesn’t take me too, too long as I want some time to wind down for the night, fill out my planner, journal and diary card and mentally prepare for tomorrow at program! Also though, I fell asleep for longer than I meant to this afternoon (think of this as me jotting down what I was doing when and where; and so I may not be able to fall asleep as quickly tonight, sadly; it was one of those naps where you wake up again and think it’s the next day XD). So, yeah!
You know, I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to set out and cover for this post, but I’m thinking of the A – Z challenge, so let’s see what’s next!
Also, DAILY BLACK&WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY SUBMISSION BELOW! We’re officially rocking out on Day #2!
My response to this 2017 post in May: A is for Advocacy
Welcome to A is for Advocacy, 2018 Edition: (10p edit: I was going to do a unique 2018 version for A is for adaptation but I’ll cover that tomorrow or over the weekend instead)
It’s strange because I want to do more and say more but I think my 2017 version of myself said a lot of what I wanted to say. Additionally, I plan to write an article in my Treatment 101 series all about advocacy and what I do for it which probably will overlap with what ‘My Dreams in Recovery’ article covered.
But I will add new thoughts, and review old ones. I feel as though with the time I have available right now, that I won’t cover everything I want to so I apologize for that, and please bear with me. Let’s dive in…
Hello, welcome. My name is Raquel Lyons and I am the almost a quarter life’s old blogger behind the name ‘RecoverytoWellness’. I work closely with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Massachusetts chapter with In Our Own Voice presentations that are newly revamped presentations about people’s lived experiences with mental health conditions and I am getting my re-certification for the peer to peer mentor recovery class they have. I got the giant binders in the mail and everything! Which is something I won’t really look through until my online course is over.
I’m currently a senior, still, in my undergraduate career in Psychology (BS) at UMass Boston. I will be graduating this year, I guess in the winter session. I am taking two courses this coming semester while taking an elective cancer biology course right now during the summer.
I originally started my college degree as a Chemistry major going for Pre-Med. Then I took Chemistry. XD And knew I had to NOPE it on out of there, ahaha. Originally I was going to stick with pre-med just as a psych major but when I failed chemistry again I knew I needed a new career path (which, by the way, I think worked out for the better as I don’t think I’m equipped to handle a medical career).
I began college at UMass Boston in fall 2012. I graduated that same year from high school and began college a few months later. I went to the team-building activities and the welcome to freshmen seminars and took a STEM group that involved meeting once a week in a science building and supporting one another as we, the FIG as it was called, journeyed through the classrooms more or less together. I made some great friends that way, and it was a unit, a pack, if you will. I’ve fallen out of touch with them now, but we had some good times. I remember FrankenSquid which was a mutilated dead squid from one of our classmates in lab, pinning its arms to its head and middle body. It was hilarious. XD
I don’t remember exactly when I took psychology still as a chem major but it happened probably in or aro–actually, no, I think it was spring 2014. Regardless, I really enjoyed it and I did very well in that class. I believe I changed my major that semester. I had also added a philosophy minor but that got removed accidentally later and I never bothered to fix it. Just to be honest. XD
In summer 2014 my Mom and I went to Peru for maybe a little less than a month. I took many, many photos there; although my camera encountered problems and stopped working which was pretty devastating.
Around this time, but technically sooner, I had begun to develop symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In summer 2013 and fall 2013 into some of the spring 2014 semester I began to see someone at the counseling center mainly for procrastination. It really helped, actually. Fall 2013 I had my lowest grades in multiple classes and was left feeble and defeated, procrastination so bad that I often didn’t do any homework at all. End of the year, I picked myself up and reorganized my entire room and started fresh, re-taking chemistry for a better grade.
Yeah, well, I wound up failing chemistry in spring 2014, but I did well in psych! Eventually I switched to a psych major completely, but the BS because I didn’t want to take a year of language and already had enough biology where it would make more sense to just do the BS.
In fall 2014 I was diagnosed with OCD on self-harm and suicide obsessions. Although I had symptoms of OCD for the two years previous, that’s really where things took…. a different turn.
Ironically I was taking abnormal psych during the semester I got diagnosed and we had JUST covered OCD and I had only related to it minimally before I got the diagnosis, did my own research and found out that yes, I did have a mental health condition.
I had a lot of self-stigma during that semester. I think, because I had had other identity crises before that point that finding out I had a mental health condition when I didn’t realize myself that I did was just jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching, shocking and appalling. I remember wondering how I couldn’t have known something was wrong, the OCD voice questioning in my mind whether or not I truly had OCD or whether it was just a lie.
I remember a lot of nights spent obsessing, ruminating and going over the thoughts and what was happening to me. It was the first time in my life that I faced mental health struggles. I may have dabbled in the past but this time it was raw and anxious and scary. I didn’t know it then but I’d be dealing with these symptoms for the rest of my life.
I always like to think that I didn’t act on self-harm urges during this period of my life but that would still be a lie. It was a twisted, fucked up version of a compulsion. I thought maybe if I did what the OCD said that it would go away, hide back into the shadows and I could be normal again.
It bothered me, and still does, that-that fact that people with OCD don’t act on their thoughts when I found myself defying that concept. But it wasn’t necessarily to harm. Or, maybe it was. It all kind of mixes together. I think when it was only OCD it was frightening to act on the thoughts but it didn’t necessarily stop me from acting on the thoughts but because I was acting on them at all, even minimally, it was scary. I couldn’t “go all the way” but I could do an inch, and an inch was catastrophized and magnetized more than necessary.
But these are darker memories, darker than I want to get into right now.
I think within the time frame that I was diagnosed with OCD I began to show symptoms of secondary depression as well. Depression would wait until winter break before striking. And things would get very confusing and very intimidating. And dark.
In January 2015 I had my first ever psych hospitalization. Which would be one of many. At the time of heightened OCD I remember staring at ceilings and worrying endlessly and during depression it was acting on self-harm (scratching) thoughts and suicide rehearsals and suicide preparations. It was trying to find an outside therapist and everything mental health and healthy version of myself mixing together in a pot of intricately designed goo.
Eventually I found my OCD therapist and switched over to them who I saw twice a week for a year. I had another hospitalization in June and started my first day program soon after, then attending the OCD-Institute in the fall 2015. I took the semester off from school and attended their OCD program for 5 weeks. I made some lovely art, and to be fair, I got into drawing again in 2015 itself when a friend of mine from high school visited me in the hospital and we drew together. I also discovered art therapy this year and that aided me in more ways than one thereafter.
So new drawings were made, songs were danced to (I remember struggling one evening and dancing to ‘Stitches’ by Shawn Mendes outside in the parking lot), laughs were had, trips outside were made and things were good.
For a little while, things were good.
Entering 2016 I was on the treatment high so to speak as I was in full-blown recovery. My recovery had begun back in March 2015 and I eventually developed IOS or ink on skin to try and cope with my crises when they came. Having been at the OCD-I I was doing a lot better. I took classes, I began writing for the university newspaper about my mental health experiences, I filled out an application for NAMI’s IOOV, I became certified for IOOV’s and did my first one in April 2016, and created my blog out of frustration and passion in May 2016.
Into fall semester 2016 I relapsed in my recovery. Technically I had a couple of lapses here and there before then but I was hospitalized again in September and again in November, I believe. By December 2016, I created my YouTube channel.
When winter rolled around, I got hospitalized again in January 2017.
In, I believe, February 2017 we acquired our first Chinese hamster named Nova. You know of him. ❤ He passed away in November, where we got our good, strong buddy named Galaxy.
Some time around this juncture, I changed therapists to April who was more local and who I saw once a week for a year. I changed therapists because I mainly hit a rut in my recovery and I realized I needed to advocate for myself more and change to someone new, someone I could listen to more and actually complete homework for. I realized this one time when I took a psychological trauma class and reported back to friends about the idea. I had gotten inspired by the idea of having my therapist work for me and what happens when you get stuck with someone that you don’t move either forwards or backwards. (I’m sure I could go back into my old notebooks let alone add pictures to this post but I’m still trying to get it done, more so. I’ll probably include it in the future IE in a newer post dedicated for it or in an article).
Later in 2017, I took up a job as a mental health associate at a prison for those struggling with mental health conditions who had committed crimes. I didn’t last more than a month before falling back into my own suicide attempts. I was hospitalized at the start of one week, out three days later and back in again two days after that. It was like hitting turbulence on an airplane, the road was shaky and I wasn’t standing upright all that much. Around March is when I was tentatively diagnosed with borderline tendencies, something I cautiously accepted this time around.
In April 2017, I created my first ever Twitter account, to help with blogging and getting my name and message out there. (We’re getting to it, I swear)
In June 2017, I convinced my parents for us to get a doggo (after months of persuasion, begging and the like). Thus, June 3rd, Mokeys was brought into our lives as a three month old pupper originally named Pocket. She was one of nine from a litter and the littlest one, too. We picked her up in Rhode Island and it was surreal, for sure. She was so adorable and had the most gorgeous gray eyes and she would turn out to be an incredible family member and remarkable puppy. I was still getting over a cold when we got her and I remember having a coughing fit and her coming up to lay next to me so I would rub her and she would calm me down. She was highly intuitive.
She had hookworms when we first got her, so she wasn’t super happy and she was having explosive diarrhea but we took her to the vet (thinking at first it was the change in food) and she gave her medicine for it and got better. Ironically, I didn’t expect the large amount of judgment and stress from having a pupper and sadly went back into the hospital a few weeks later.
When I came out, 1800 by Logic was a thing and I really enjoyed it and wrote an article about it. (Say the Word Suicide series: Give it Time) I struggled a few more times that summer, getting help and support from therapy and school, narrowly avoiding the hospital.
In fall 2017, I began the semester but soon after tattling on myself to a hotline, got a wellness check performed on me and wound up in the hospital for an entire month (which was abnormal for me). This was one of my darkest times. I received new medications and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and road another high from mid-October to January 2018.
In January 2018 I would experience my darkest days yet, hallmarked into five unpublished articles, countless daunting text messages and Twitter threads darker than the night sky. It was notably the darkest time of my recovery, where I genuinely didn’t believe anything would ever get better again and I was very intent on acting on my thoughts.
I was hospitalized the week school restarted after an ultimatum with my parents. I believe from there I was recommended to go to Passages, my day program; a place my therapist, April, had recommended before but that hadn’t accepted my insurance but having had a change in that, they would accept me then.
In February, there was a rough day at program, followed from the previous week where I wrote a concerning article and created an unintended ruckus on campus, shockwaving out to people I didn’t intend to harm until I did myself in…..This was a hard time.
I had been heavily imagining and re-imagining my inevitable suicide, down to nitty gritty details and illogical scenarios and who I would tell, how I would do it and everything in between. I thought it was never going to get better again.
But I spoke with a friend from the paper, who wormed hope into my radar again. Maybe it didn’t have to end in my suicide after all. Maybe, just maybe, things could get better.
So I went to program the next day and told them of my thoughts and plans, as my friend Luna was not the appropriate person or place to tell, their hands tied, making me feel saddened and uncomfortable. But I was triggered at program and I spoke to my treatment coordinator who called the crisis team who came to interview me who I wound up leaving in an ambulance to the hospital down the street.
And so, from there, I would begin anew again. My January hospitalization had decreased my medications and it was about 3 weeks later when I was hospitalized again (about twelve overall in three years). In both hospitalizations of this year I wrote fanfiction and read books, starting book reviews and stealing many things. XD In July from Unit Z I stole a decaf coffee cup. Still have it and everything. 🙂
Luckily when I returned to Unit Z in January 2018 the douche canoe social worker had left and I was very happy about that (he wanted to put me in a state hospital back in the September stay; he also told me I wouldn’t have a choice in the matter either, grrr.)
I thought it was March, but maybe it was April or May, either way I was recommended into the DBT-Intensive program at Passages. It’s a 6 to 8 month commitment, can’t see my outside therapist as I’m giving one from the program and have to safety contract to not kill or harm myself while attending.
Passages. It has been so very, very life-saving.
I tell you this story because it is my own. And I guess I was feeling nostalgic. For how things were and how they used to be– and how much better things are now.
In spring 2018 I did return, after a speed bump, to happier articles and pro-recovery articles. I transitioned over more so to Twitter and have attended my day program three days a week for about 6 months. And for the majority of those 6 months, I’ve been happy, healthy and stable. Passages has given me my life back. I have given me my life back.
All of this is to say:
It’s been a long journey. My demons are still with me. Hiding in memories and hidden messages and, that is okay. Everything can be okay again and I can be okay again and you can be okay again and it IS possible to have more good days than bad days and although I’ll never be entirely free, I’ll take half-free ANY day.
Sharing my story is sharing my strengths, my vulnerabilities, my voice and ME. I’ve struggled with identity issues from the start of college. I was a Chem major, pre-med; to I was a procrastinator to a major degree; to a psychology student; to I no longer knew who the hell I was. Because if I wasn’t the person who never killed themselves, than who the hell was I?
Now I am officially and authentically ME. I am Raquel Lyons. I am an avid artist. I create photography, drawings, watercoloring, painting, scrapbooking, beaded bracelets, creative writing (mainly fanfiction). I *LOVE* unicorns, rainbows, rainbow lighthouses. I love gazebos, the idea of the woods, the beach, summer. I love my Mokeys. I love myself. I am a survivor radiating badassery. I am the blogger and face behind RecoverytoWellness. I am the mini blogger behind Recovery Raquel on Twitter. I write for my uni’s newspaper. I am certified in youth mental health first aid (I got the certificate and everything). I am an IOOV presenter. I work with NAMI. I want to be an MHS. I want to be a peer specialist. I want to one day, eventually, be a therapist. I want to be an author of a memoir, a novel, a recovery book. I want to make #WWRRM and #RecoveryHome and Recovery Restoration and Recovery Raquel a thing. I want to make something of my life, and making something of it every chance I get which is really, ultimately, what I am doing every day. I take medications daily. I attend my program as one does. I go to school. I could be your friend, your neighbor, your fellow Youtube creator.
I am me. And this is my story. Part of it, anyway.
Together we can make it through this hell. Because there’s light on the other side and I’ve seen it before and it is so, so very good. We can get easily lost in labels but what matters is our voice, is our story, is our saying ‘I’m not okay and that can be okay.’ Our stories live on, our journeys are never ending. We can inspire hundreds. We can be enough. We can be loved, we are loved, we are cared about. We can get through this. Suicide doesn’t have to be our ‘only’ choice. We can get better. Hope is out there; recovery is possible.
And I hope you come along with me on this journey of mine to self-discovery. To recovery in a positive light and fighting the battles of mental health conditions with every breath we take because one day it won’t be so difficult to breathe or to feel or to say something and we all deserve to have that CHANCE in life.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for visiting. Thank you for existing.
I will leave now with this NEW thumb and today’s photograph.
(Sorry for how winding and storytelling this post was, I didn’t necessarily intend to write so much about the past, and I’m hoping I didn’t trigger myself (only time will tell) and I hope you got the gist of everything. I would write more for the advocacy/who I am part but it’s pushing 11p and I still need to self-care in other ways! I imagine you understand. I could probably add more later to the ‘I’ part. Who knows!).
Day #2 Photograph:
An older, 1.5 year Mokeys.
Thank you, for everything.
You are loved. Your life matters. Your voice is worth sharing.
If you are in the USA feeling suicidal call 1800 273 8255.
Your life is worth living. ❤ ❤ ❤
Also, if you want to get involved in other sources of advocacy, check out:
Dr1ven website or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org