It took around 1,300 days for me to break in half…
I was sitting in the waiting room of my therapist’s office,
seemingly under the attack of my own mind. The cognitive filtration system, by which we single out what we want and don’t want to hear was broken.
The lamp, perched on a table in the far corner of the room, had become menacing; its lampshade a tarnished, yellow orb that radiated a painful glow. A phone was unceasingly ringing, but no one answered it. I could hear the sound drawing out like a blade. It was as if it had physical dimensions; rough like sandpaper, and bumpy like the feeling of your backsliding down a staircase. When the receptionist finally answered, the annoyance in her voice was nightmarish, amplified, jarring and distorted.
The patients in the room, shifting in their seats, made a sound which made the hair on my arms stand up all at once, like the back of a cardboard cat on Halloween. One woman could not stop fidgeting, and her polyester pants rubbing against the cheap material of the chair cushion was a clanging metal pot with a steel spoon. Sound seemed to have color, and color to have sound. My senses had become one, hot, loose wire, frayed and sprawling chaotically in my brain. I put my head between my legs, held my ears and began to rock back and forth.
“So”, I thought, “this is what it feels like to lose your mind.”
I’m grateful to be able to say though, that I didn’t lose my mind that day.
For the next few weeks, however, I did teeter on the edge of madness, though I never fell off the cliff. I was always able to observe it, like a partial bystander looking in, and I knew what was happening to me, even if I couldn’t control it. I had experienced what was called a “temporary psychosis, induced by severe depression.” Interestingly, I recall being asked if I felt depressed or anxious, and saying that I did not. But it turned out that this was an anxiety and depression so severe, that it felt nothing like what I associated with either form of distress. It was a penetrating, cellular and spiritual invasion, a state of being so ingrained in me, that I almost felt a sense of evenness in it all.
The mental health crisis that I endured in the summer of 2017, was the direct result of half a decade of living in an extremely high state of stress, while enduring intense emotional abuse, and ignoring every physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental need within me.
I had acted as the single caretaker to my boyfriend, who had sustained a traumatic brain injury 3 years prior. On the evening of his accident, I was 24 hours away from buying an RV and beginning a life on the road, while promoting my 3rd record as a singer/songwriter. My boyfriend and I, who had known each other since high-school and had shared an incredibly strong bond, had broken up 3 months prior due a long-standing toxic history. But on the evening of his accident, he called me. The next day, I had an unexplainable, gut feeling that he’d been terribly hurt. I soon discovered that he’d been struck by a car, and was on life support. I flew to be at his side, and to say goodbye, but instead, ended up selling my RV, shelving my record, becoming his full-time, court-appointed legal guardian, moving in with him, and single-handedly devoting the next 1,000+ days of my life to see him thrive.
In this new role, I metamorphosed into a beautiful, sleek, singularly-minded machine; a robot who cultivated a super-human ability to compartmentalize her emotions. I saw nothing but TBI recovery. I ate, slept, and devoured literature and research. I structured our days around home therapies. I fought Medicaid for services they didn’t want to provide. I fought Doctors who didn’t believe that my boyfriend was worth the effort. I fired nurses aides who abused him, when they thought I wasn’t looking.
My boyfriend learned (among countless other things) how to eat, sit up, talk, read, and eventually walk again. But the price I paid was very high: I lived in a vacuum during those years, isolated from everyone I knew. I lived behind the glass wall of a touching story of survival and love, where I felt on display but never really seen. I never grieved or felt anything except the pressure to keep going, fighting, and pushing, for some ultimate end that would make everything alright.
1,300+ days was roughly how long my beautiful, resilient, mind could endure the self-inflicted and other-inflected abuse it had been asked to constantly sustain. I had never broken down before, and I’d gotten cocky in believing that there was no limit to what I could endure. I did not believe that my spirit had any real bounds. But that day in my therapist’s office, I learned otherwise, when the circuit breaker in my brain finally blew a fuse.
This story may seem like a strange jumping-off point for a blog about Joy.
But, the truth is, it was there in the emergency room that my journey with Joy truly began. How strange it was to realize, that my choices had placed me in the very hospital bed that I’d fought so hard to lift my boyfriend from; that my self neglect had brought me to my very own ground zero. I’d spent my life’s energy proving that I was capable of saving someone else’s life. But now I’d been faced with an even bigger question: Was I capable of saving my own life? Could I save myself?
They say that people are motivated by one of two things: inspiration or desperation. For me, I had never been so terrified, nor desperate in my life to change. Desperation, it turned out, was my greatest gift. It propelled me to make radical changes in my life.
I began to nurture my body.
My self-neglect was no more evident anywhere than in my physical health. At 236 lbs, I was pre-diabetic, had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, high blood pressure, Non-Alcoholic-Fatty Liver Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Hypothyroidism, cystic acne, IBS, chronic migraines, back and neck pain, a sleep disorder, and I suffered from anxiety and depression. Every trip the doctor brought more bad news.
I found the courage to go under the care of Dr. Furhman, who specialized in healing via plant-rich nutrition. I was taught his Nutritarian way of eating: a plant-rich, mostly raw diet, devoid of all meat, dairy, refined flours, processed oils and sugars. Within weeks, my body began to heal and quickly the weight began to fall off. My long standing, unhealthy relationship with my body began to heal. My disordered way of eating lifted. It felt like a miracle.
I began to nurture my mind.
In the months ahead, I built a network of support with licensed professionals, friends, and family to lean on. I did a lot of writing, meditating and exploring of self. I learned to grieve what I had put on pause the night of my ex-boyfriends accident. I had cried no doubt countless times, but I had never truly grieved. I had lived a life with no concept of self-care, but finally, I was seeing not only the validity of it, but that in order for me to do the good I wanted to do in the world, it was essential to me as the air I breathed.
I began to nurture my heart.
Then came the very heart-wrenching task of separating myself from the man I had known almost two decades. He had healed to a point where ultimately we had become the same, troubled couple we had always been. It took a year to work everything out as best as I possibly could, but finally, I cut all ties and handed things over to a new legal guardian.
I began to nurture my soul.
Just two weeks after my crisis, I answered a calling that had never left my heart: I resurrected my dream of travel, and bought another RV. But this time, I took a different approach. I bought a 1975, vintage Airstream that I’d found discarded in the woods of New Jersey. I was as drawn to her, as I was to the hospital bed of my ex four years prior. Despite at the time still being sick, and most of my family wondering why on earth I would chose this time to make such a big decision, I knew that in the restoration of this Airstream, I would discover the restoration of myself.
And I did. I named her JoyBug. And as soon as I was well enough, I began to work on rebuilding her.
35 And So Alive.
It’s been a little over a year since I began my walk with Joy, and it has been the most life-changing 365 days I’ve ever known. All of the energy I invested in my health has had a synergistic effect, and I feel positively transformed in every way!
I have lost 75 lbs, and now run 15 miles a week. I am in the best physical shape of my life! I am off all medications, and have reversed every single disease diagnosis from my past. I have fallen in love with the natural flavors that exist in raw plant food.
The insatiable need to write, the muse of my heart has finally returned to me. It seems she left me when I was not true to myself, but now has come back to stay. I am writing again; music and poetry. I have re-realized my desire to be published. I cannot wait to write and release books and albums again.
And in a beautiful and poetic twist of fate, Joybug and I are restoring each other. Every day when I was walk through her doors, the world around me falls away. And whether I’m tearing apart the subfloor, ripping out insulation, slinging a hammer or using a jigsaw, the process of taking this discarded shell, and turning it into something new and beautiful, has become nothing less than a powerful catharsis.
Most importantly, I have learned what it actually means to love yourself.
Which brings me to the point of this blog… “Catch the Joy Bug”
I decided to launch this blog, to share my journey with Joy. When JoyBug is finished, I will embark on my life-long dream of living nomadically; building a life around my passions of travel, writing, art, food, music and building connections with people. I want to share all aspects of that life with others. I want to empower people that no matter where they are at in their lives, or how dark things may seem, they too can find healing and manifest Joy. I want to inspire and encourage people to turn over the rocks in the garden of their lives, and not be afraid of what darkness lies underneath.
I am forever grateful for nearly losing my mind a little over a year ago, because I have learned that our darkest moments are our great teachers: they are the windows into our greatest light. I have learned that True Joy, when cultivated not through external sources but within yourself, is always possible. Once you have it, nothing can take it away. True Joy is not the same as happiness, which is fickle at best. True Joy is immovable and impenetrable, and for those reasons it is also invaluable.
That is why I can say with full confidence, that I have discovered the wellspring that is my own True Joy. And now I just want to share it with anyone who is willing to listen.