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No matter how much someone covets mental illness recovery, some part of it feels scary. My struggles with mental health started when I was very young, and there were years and years where I was desperate for recovery—but I was also terrified of it. From what I’ve seen, my experience and feelings are not uncommon, so I wanted to take a closer look at that.
"Snap Out of It!" is honored to have spoken with Saskia Lightburn-Ritchie, the Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of My Cheshire Without Abuse (My CWA). Saskia lives with bipolar disorder, and she is proving every day that it's possible to be successful even with a serious mental illness.
Recently, a report by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that every adult under 65 be screened for anxiety by their primary care doctors (family doctors). When I first saw the headline, my initial response was, "Well, that's stupid. You go to the doctor when you're sick, and people know when they're sick." But, upon second thought, I realized this was wrong. Screening for anxiety in general doctor's appointments does make sense.
Self-harm is not avant-garde. Depression is not mysterious. I know these two statements to be facts, so why do some forms of media want us to believe otherwise? On the one hand, maybe I should be grateful. Grateful that topics such as suicide are even portrayed on television or in movies. Why, then, is the predominant emotion, not gratitude but sheer anger? (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
As a victim of verbal abuse for many years, I am no stranger to feeling like running away. This stress response will typically appear after I've hit the point of burnout and feeling that the only way to escape unfavorable circumstances is to leave physically. As a teenager, multiple times, I left my home and sought refuge with a friend, only to return again and face the consequences of my actions. Unfortunately, this pattern followed me into my adult life. 
“You are not alone” is a common phrase within the mental health community. I suspect it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but here’s what it means to me and my schizoaffective disorder.
Many of us dream of the day we are completely self-harm free. But does such a thing as a self-harm cure exist?
I’ve heard a lot about self-sabotaging or being self-destructive when it comes to anxiety, but somewhere along the way, I’ve convinced myself that I don’t do that. I’ve convinced myself that I don’t do things that prevent me from taking advantage of an opportunity or being in line with my goals. Has this been a form of self-sabotage in and of itself? I honestly believe so. Because when I take the time to think about it, I can think of many times in my life where I’ve purposely taken actions – or not taken actions – that weren’t consistent with things I have wanted for myself.
As someone who started flirting with anorexic behaviors in early adolescence, I have cycled both in and out of many toxic, compulsive traits over the years. But although I consider myself to be in a stable, consistent recovery mindset now, the competitive nature of my eating disorder still pulls me back into its orbit sometimes. In fact, I noticed this competitive streak reassert itself as recently as last night. The normally sweltering temperatures in metro-Phoenix have begun to cool down, so I went for a run with my husband to soak in the evening breeze. However, I was not hydrated enough to maintain our pace, and he easily outran me. Knowing my husband, this was not a race to him—it was a chance to spend quality time together—but as soon as he passed me, the competitive nature of my eating disorder took control. 
Nobody is perfect. Another way of saying that is: everybody makes mistakes. They're an opportunity for growth—something about failing forward, or, without mistakes, there is no progress, and so on. Some people take their mistakes in stride, learning the lessons and moving forward, seemingly unconcerned. As for me, whenever I make or may make a mistake, I deal with anxiety bombs of varying sizes that go off inside me, rendering me twitchy, edgy, and generally a mess.

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Jason
As a well educated person, in the workplace and with those outside the workplace and the socioeconomic circles that I interact with, people generally don't do tattoo's. I suppose I have an advantage of having an education and therefore knowledge that its toxic poisons (little understood) being injected into the body. Aside from the potential damage, skin cells are constantly dying and being replaced. About 330 billion of those cells are replaced every day — that's about 1 percent of all our body's cells. Our skin cells are replaced more often than almost any other. When someone looks at a 50 year old tattoo for example, ALL of the inked cells have long gone decades ago and the ink has migrated all over the place. Clearly its mostly people from lower socioeconomic poorly educated backgrounds getting tattoos. For some observers its a form of mild self mutilation (one is clearly carrying out deliberate damage to the body) irrespective of the reasons to get one, and in my experience its mostly peer group pressure, rebellion and yet at the same time to fit in. Perhaps the same sort of reasons as smoking, body piercings, car joy riding, gang membership, and most drug use? Often regretted once the mind starts to mature in later life.
Jay
Hello!
I’ve been dating an individual with “high functioning DID” (their words) for about 9 months. I would say I’m in a relationship with 4 of them and love them all very much and have a very different relationship with each of them. I am polyamorous and so these relationships have worked for me and how my brain functions. In other words, I haven’t felt like I am sacrificing, settling or giving too much. Some days have been hard, others so happy- just like any relationship. But the highs are high and the lows are low. One alter is a self prescribed alcoholic and frequently has mental breakdowns and she has been out a lot recently. I feel like she is only stable when I am with her. On top of this, a destructive alter has been re-emerging for the last 2 months or so and has been preying on the alter previously mentioned who has frequent breakdowns. I have tried my hardest to talk to this destructive alter and reason with them, ask them what they want, make friends with them. They have said that their goal is integration- all alters merging into one. Even though this is the conventional form of healing for people with DID, this alter is going about it in all the wrong ways. He is “taking” alters away out of malice, not for the end goal of healing. Anyways, I don’t know what to do about this. Everything was going so great until this alters emerged. But I have to come back to the fact that this alter is a part of the ones that I love; they are all connected.
On top of all of this confusion on how to navigate these relationships, the first alter mentioned, had one of her mental breaks when I wasn’t able to be with her and decided to go to her moms house and tell her everything, which is a rule of the system to hide themselves from their mom. When this was going down I was encouraging of it because I thought the mom could help in my absence as I was afraid for their safety honestly. Anyways, their mom did not accept them, didn’t understand, didn’t want to understand their DID. This feeling of rejection from their family led to an intense mental break. I feel like I can’t leave their side now. I don’t know what to do. I want them to get better, but I don’t know how that is possible honestly. On top of this, I have my own dreams and aspirations. I don’t know how to balance my happiness with loving them. I don’t know if that sounds terrible. Don’t get me wrong, I need them too. I love them and would be devastated without them. But I don’t know how to have both even though I want to.
Is anyone else dealing with anything similar- difficult alters, unstable alters, difficulty balancing your personal lives and love lives?
Bill
I too struggle with the steps and don't accept all of it as "divinely inspired." I'll save you the details; but I plan to return to my group (I need support) while maintaining my personal identity. It's a balancing act, for sure.
Julie
I've had friends for 10 or 20 years and then it's just over. No one tells me why. I am emotional and can be volitile. Having a condition doesn't mean that people give you a bit of leeway. I just get blocked. I go from close friend to invisible. As I get older, it gets worse. If I didn't have a partner, I don't think I woud go out and meet anyone - not much point as they will end up ghosting me. Everything that comes out of my mouth is wrong, every decision is wrong. I've done training and it's helped me to be nicer to everyone - but I don't get the same back. Feel like I'm just smashing my head against a brick wll. Being unlovable/unlikeable is pretty hard. Also I'm Childfree by Choice - so I don't fit with many people (talking about and looking at babies/toddlers is so boring to me)
Tommy C
I think under normal circumstances my Ed’s splitting episode would have been like my worst nightmare come true. It was so much worse After spending everyday for almost 2 years together, literally in the same space when Covid started. I was so proud of us thought we’d get through anything together… then she was just gone and it was like none of it mattered I was her enemy and she did everything she could to never have to even really talk to me again.

It’s just so hard when it’s a scary time.. I wanted to get back out into the world but then leaving me became like her empowerment move… it breaks my heart all over again just thinking how close and sweet I thought we were, to the 180 she pulled…

I feel so ashamed for loving her, believing all her promises, she set me up used my past and pin to split and that was it… the closest connection I have ever felt to another person and it was just lies… I was like her stepping stone, I still feel so used and hurt but gets easier in time.

I won’t lie tho I still wake up crying too often, feeling like my soul has been sucked out of my body, it really does a number in you being that close and finding out you meant nothing. My heart is sinking just talking about it, so I won’t anymore.. but I promise it gets better you just have to keep trying