Acknowledging my Mental Illness

Hi beautiful babes,

My name is Kayla Mae Cochrane my spirit name is Nagweyab Memengwa Ikwe, Rainbow Butterfly Woman in Ojibwe. My roots are in Peguis First Nation, Manitoba, I was born and raised in Winnipeg. I am Aboriginal, Dutch, Indonesian and Spanish. I am currently in my second year of studies in the disability and community support program, in the future I want to obtain my bachelor in family social sciences, either in human development or family violence.

I was 24 when I realized something was amiss and needed my attention. I was working at a call center for a real estate company. Some of our calls would be monitored then evaluated and reviewed, these were called ”quality assurance scores” there was a top 10 list every month.

I began the job doing well while I was in the office working shifts, but as I chose the option to take calls from home I started to feel unsure of myself. The shifts I worked were also at night, so I had no one to call to help me. I was asked to come in for a meeting and told that I was doing well, I was friendly on calls and that I had a good tone. -But and the big but, no one wants to hear. I was told that I tried too hard to help people if that even makes sense. I had a hard time just simply saying no and I would get myself in trouble. I told them that I understood and I would work on it.

I was going through a crisis in my personal life, I had a hectic living situation with my family including my two daughters, my partner, mother and myself. My mother decided to move out and take my daughter with her, I had to confront her for the first time in my life and take back the power she had over me. I was at the lowest point of my life but I somehow managed to conjure the courage to stand up to the woman who caused me the most pain. I was unhappy in my relationships with my partner and family, I felt like I had no control over my life and what was going on around me, I was starting to feel really depressed and let down. I was very reactive and sensitive and felt like I had the same fights with the same people over and over. My work performance was becoming more and more of an issue. I wanted to give up and started sleeping a lot more, having no motivation to care for myself.

I decided to go to counseling thinking it would cure everything. I began seeing a counselor, it went well but the sessions never seemed to give me enough time to express myself. I did not feel much connection to this particular counselor, I felt that I asked a lot of questions but didn’t get a lot of answers. I had told her that I was applying to a social work program, she told me that it was not a good idea right now. That really damaged me and it was the last straw because I did not want to see her anymore.

After this incident I was denied into the program I worked hard to apply for. I felt really down and ungrateful for everything going on in my life and was in a really dark place. I had my first and hopefully last panic attack when I was triggered in the middle of an argument. The way this person looked at me brought me back to childhood when my mother would physically, mentally and emotionally abuse me. I had to witness my brother be abused and it was a lot worse than me, which only made my guilt and shame unbearable. When I was triggered I instantly lost my breath, I felt terrified yet I knew this person wouldn’t hurt me. I was on high alert and my heart was racing, I could not control my breathing and it persisted for five minutes.

I remember feeling that same intense fear as I did in childhood, which was another really awakening experience for me. I forgot just how scared I really was, I was able to empathize with my inner child. I mentally apologized to my inner child as I had trapped her inside the box I had hidden all my darkness from the past in. I did not want to remember just how traumatically I was affected at such a young age.

So I harbored it all and now I am learning to let bits and pieces go, little by little. I remembered the events visually but never how scared I actually felt. I could not connect the emotions I felt to the experience until I went through something that triggered it later on in life. This time I was in a place where I could express my emotions and acknowledge them and let them go. In an attempt to reclaim my life I started reading article after article on mental illness, abuse, and family dynamics, it was therapeutic in a way, but I got caught up in it all. I had read about Narcissism, it was the perfect fit for what I was dealing with. Then I began thinking everyone was a narcissist. I had to let go of searching for the perfect answer to my problem. I knew I had to do something to change my life, so I quit the job that stressed me out and didn’t give up on going to school. I applied at Red River College and got accepted. I knew then that I was going to make it because I and I alone are going to make it happen.

Today I have additional supports being a college student I’ve utilized a lot of services such as councilling as well as indigenous supports. I have had the privilege to sit with elder May Louise and have had deep, meaningful and healing conversations. I’ve also volunteered and expanded my networks. I have volunteered in setting up a sweat lodge and was also adopted into a spiritual family that runs sweat lodges just outside of Winnipeg. They invite all walks of life to sit with them as well as men living in the correctional system. Being connected to my culture gave me a sense of belonging and identity.

I utilize my gym membership as often as possible, I’ve found staying active keeps me in a better state of mental health. I have also found like-minded individuals to assist me on my journey. I am grateful that I faced my adversities, as I might not be here with you today if I did not.

~Ky 🦋

~Your heart knows the way, run in that direction.  -Rumi~

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