The stigma of mental illness is still a problem

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Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

It’s in our human nature to want to appear like we “have it all together.” If I don’t want you to see my flaws, I surely don’t want you to think my mind is unraveling at the seams.

So I have put on quite the show.

“Where are you going?”

“To the doctor for a check-up.”

“Okay, I hope everything goes well!”

I have noticed that many people, including myself, talk about their physical health issues with co-workers, friends, and family as a form of reaching out for support. …

Though I escaped, the ghost of my abuser has lived in my mind

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Photo by Olaia Irigoien on Unsplash

Every abusive relationship dyad has its own unique characteristics. For some, the roles of victim and abuser can be blurred and maintained by the abuser’s accusation that the positions are reversed. Abusers sometimes claim that they are the real victim in life.

I did not know I was enduring abuse until after I found the ability to leave it.

I saw my role in our relationship in the way he portrayed me: as the pathological problem. I didn’t have the right to consider his behavior as abusive. I was too busy juggling his critiquing complaints of my overreactive and harsh behavior. …

Gaslighting left me confused, without evidence, and spellbound

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Photo by Christian Sterk on Unsplash

This piece incorporates reflections of abuse and may be a trigger. Proceed with care.

I thought that real abuse would never become a part of my personal story.

I was too intelligent, too religious, too enlightened, and too strong. Surely, I would never be like the poor souls who fumble into harmful relationships. That could never happen to me. But it did.

Like many people, I felt confused why anyone ever stayed with an abuser. I incorrectly assumed it was a simple choice to make, with full awareness.

I was raised in a society that downplays and undermines verbal and mental abuse. It only counts if he hit you. I thought that proof of torment was required to claim behavior as “abusive.” …

The power to heal and the power to hurt

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Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Words hold kinetic power.

We have all heard that it is important to be careful with our words, knowing they can be used to either heal or hurt. We often think of this in application to how we speak to other people.

But what about the words we say to ourselves and about ourselves?

“I am barely going to make it to tomorrow.”

“Work is going to kill me.”

“I’m going crazy.”

Pick an over-the-top hyperbole, and I’ve said it far too many times. …

These are fragments of my memory, not figments of my imagination

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Photo by toan phan on Unsplash

This piece incorporates reflections of abuse, and may be a trigger. Please proceed with care.

It’s starting to come back to me.

Memories are tricky and leave impressions, like fireflies flickering and zooming around. Sometimes you aren’t sure they exist. Was it my imagination? Sometimes you don’t know where they will appear, blacking out then lighting back up with a zap.

Sometimes you just might catch one.

Memory is defined as “the faculty by which the mind stores and remembers information,” involving the processes “to acquire, store, retain, and later retrieve information.” …

Is this really the perfect title?

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Photo by Jonathan Hoxmark on Unsplash

It’s a swing, and a miss. And the downward spiral begins. All it takes is one mild mistake, one fabricated moment of failure, and I am devastated with an emotional apocalypse.

The attention I received as a child was based on my spotless performance. I was praised as the “angel” in my family. I thought I would surely fall backwards into the pit of hell if anyone ever noticed I was missing a feather, or had a speck of dirt on my wings.

Angels evidently make prime candidates for abuse. The first time my abuser ripped my character and appearance to shreds, I swore to prove I was better than his words claimed I was. And though I left him long ago and have grown apart from a strange childhood, I have never stopped needing and trying to be perfect. …

I’m not just having a bout of PMS

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Photo by Thomas Verbruggen on Unsplash

“Wow, are you about to start your period?”

For being a friendly, empathetic human, I cringe when my irritability shows up to the scene. Being asked this single question would send me into a personal crisis about my character and ability to self-regulate. Oops, my humanity is showing.

I tried to track the peaks and troughs of my aggravation. Despite the fact that hormones can cause swings, my bouts of extreme irritability did not parallel with hormone fluctuations.

Come to find out, irritability can be a symptom of anxiety. …

A pandemic Christmas is strange, but so is my family

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Photo by erin mckenna on Unsplash

As a child, Christmas was a special time. After my parents divorced and mother ran off to be a “Gypsy,” there was a drastic shift.

Family Christmas gatherings became filled with the kind of drama I had only witnessed in movies. Instead of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, everyone is getting roasted and toasted.

Sister and I plan to meet at father’s house on Christmas. Not for a home-cooked meal, but to dine out.

Sister shows up late, throwing father into a tizzy.

Stepmother’s lip quivers to hide a snarl, disgusted by sister’s heavy blue eye shadow and ragged boots. We arrive at the restaurant to find a line out the door, wrapping around the building. …

Understanding and taming the silent beast

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Photo by Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash

Reflections of abuse and trauma in this piece may be a trigger. Read with care.

It’s not a matter of being shy, or a matter of hoping I can earn a five-star rating on my personality with every person I meet.

For someone who can jump on stage to perform a solo, stand in front of an audience to give a speech, or set off laughter in a room full of people, I would have never believed I have social anxiety. Would I be able to dazzle in the spotlight of life or accomplish career goals if I had crippling anxiety? I assumed not, but I was wrong. …

Coached to be dishonest, brainwashed into denial, I had to dig for the truth

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Early on, I learned from my abusive partner to sugar-coat and reshape our stories. I believed his every word, and his gaslighting slowly transformed my identity.

When I first pursued help for depression and anxiety symptoms that naturally occur as a byproduct of abuse, I lied to therapists. My words were thick with denial and dishonesty.

My attempt at seeking help was like eliciting a dose of Tylenol for a headache caused by a hidden, malignant tumor. …


Scarlett Jess Perrodin

Empath, mental health advocate, anxiety juggler, abuse escape artist. Personal stories, sometimes hints of humor. A diamond in the rough is still a diamond.

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