Welcome to ReelChat! I am so glad you are here. Let me introduce myself in the most authentic way possible.
My name is Caitlin Lagnese. I am a mildly depressed, OCD-ridden, bipolar recovering people-pleasing, trauma survivor. More importantly though, I am a strong woman filled with an abundance of love and hope. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am so many things. While mental illness does not define me, it has molded me into who I am and who I strive to be. In many ways, I am grateful for my mental struggles because it has led me to a life full of empathy and gratitude; it has led me to writing this very blog.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD-induced bipolar and clinical depression. It was the year I fell apart. It was the year that broke me and stripped me down to the studs. It was the year I quite literally peeled myself off the floor and found strength I never knew I had. It was the year I truly found God and the meaning of redemption. It was the year of forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love. It was the year my amazing husband walked beside me, not in front or in the back of me. It was the year I bloomed into a wonderful and present mother. It was the year I found my true and eternal tribe. It was the year I, Caitlin Lagnese, was changed. I would never again be the same.
You see, for six years following college, I was in an abusive relationship with myself. I was sexually assaulted my senior year at BGSU. I carried the shame in silence. Like many do, I blamed myself. The more days, months, and years went by, the more I lost sight of myself and the things in life that really mattered. I am ashamed to admit that there was a time I didn’t understand why so many rape victims blamed themselves. Suddenly I completely understood. I found myself internalizing it as my fault.
I began looking at my life as pre-assault and post-assault. After the assault, I got married, had two children, got baptized into the Catholic Church, recklessly attempted to run a marathon (sustained a lovely hip injury), joined just about every club and committee I could find, and had my calendar completely booked for months. Slowing down wasn’t an option for me. I often longed to tell my husband and family what happened that awful spring day in 2011. I wanted to confess the real reason I didn’t graduate college on time. I wanted to explain why I had opened up 4 secret credit card accounts. I wanted to reveal why I had gained so much weight and where exactly I was hiding my fast-food wrappers. I was drowning in shame and guilt. I knew I was loved and needed help, but unfortunately, the lies that were feeding my heart and mind overshadowed my knowing. For years I truly believed that I deserved to be raped. I believed this was a punishment from God. I believed I was worthless.
During this period of my life, I was living as three different people. One day I could forget the past and be my normal self. I could enjoy a moment with my kids or a date night with my husband. Unfortunately, by the next day my past would creep in, seeping through my inner being like a slow gas leak. This is typically when I would experience a manic-like state. I would have these brief periods of feeling strangely confident and invincible. I would not, could not, slow down because slowing down meant facing my grief and letting go of my brief euphoria. This is typically when I became reckless and absentminded. After the mania wore off I would become breathless from my marathon. First I’d feel rage and shame, quickly followed by a deep depression. This is when I would go from feeling everything to absolutely nothing. This was when I didn’t have much will or desire to live.
I was at a breaking point and needed to step out of the closet of shame. I could not keep on living this way. I wasn’t just hurting myself anymore. I had finally hit rock bottom and knew this was a matter of life or death. I chose to live. With my husband beside me, I finally came clean and got help. A psychiatrist officially diagnosed me with PTSD-induced bipolar and clinical depression. I was put on medication which was a mixture of mood stabilizers and antidepressants. I began working with an amazing therapist and psychiatrist to unpack the trauma and begin the healing process. Once I received the tools I needed, something truly magical happened. I began transforming. I came out of my cocoon anew. I began putting one foot slowly in front of the other. I became the wife my husband deserved. I became the mother my kids needed. I became the friend a friend would like to have. I began hearing birds chirp again and feeling the warmth of sunshine on my skin. I did not realize how far I went astray. I was alive again. I was capable. I was worthy and ready to make changes. As I dealt with the trauma in therapy (mainly EMDR therapy), the manic episodes started to slowly lessen. However in the winter of 2021, my diagnosis went from PTSD-induced bipolar to just bipolar ll. While my initial symptoms were brought on after the assault, my psychiatrist concluded that bipolar depression will be something I most likely deal with for the rest of my life and I have accepted that. I have come to find that with proper treatment, it can be pretty well managed. Now of days, My lows are not as low and my highs are not as high. I am so thankful for therapy and modern medicine.
Therapy has been such a wonderful and cleansing experience for me. It has not always been easy, but it has always been worth it. I have done so much healing, maturing, and growing during these sessions. I was able to finally face my OCD (diagnosed in 2014), able to acknowledge my people-pleasing ways, able to start recognizing toxicity in my life, and able to heal wounds I didn’t even know I had. In many ways, the healing has only just begun. After all, if I’m not growing, I’m dying.
After years of therapy and rediscovery, I knew it was time to give back. It was time to help other women gain their power back and rediscover their voices. It was time to create a community of authentic women who were ready to ditch the highlight reel. ReelChat was born in February of 2021. ReelChat was developed by the guiding principles of trust, open-mindedness, and acceptance. This tribe exists to support and uplift fellow “chatters” and provides a safe place to voice your struggles and seek guidance from others who have experienced the same. From fitness and organization to anxiety and depression, ReelChat will cover a wide variety of topics aimed to help women who are looking for the tools to improve their life.
Together in solidarity, we are stronger, we are braver, we are wiser.
ReelChatters, welcome home!
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We love having guests on our blog too! If you or someone you know would like to talk about their journey with mental health/and or wellness, please e-mail us. We would love to have you! No prior writing experience is needed.