Hope is the thing with feathers

I swear I just had an epiphany and the only thing that I could do is come write.

For years- all my life really- I have wished I was the “together” one.  The organized one.  The one who had it all figured out.  I have wished that my mind wasn’t cluttered.  That I didn’t always have 47 tabs open.  That I didn’t have to choose between feeling it all or nothing at all.

It’s Suicide Awareness Week.  Of course I couldn’t just let that pass by without reminding you that I am that person who stands toe to toe with that monster.  But I win.  I always win.  My gosh, I don’t want that to sound like there are people who lose.  You don’t know the giant they face.  But I do.

I posted on my IG account this morning and as I was replying to a comment I started to say something about how I wish I was the ‘together’ one but maybe I was meant to be the broken one and that was my lightbulb moment.

I AM meant to be the broken one.  And not because I’m ‘brave’ enough to tell my story- it doesn’t take bravery.  I’m just willing to.  I have a willingness and more than that I have a need, a burning desire, to try to help people find whatever it is that pushes them to see what tomorrow is going to bring because I understand how desperate that need can be.

Not everyone gets it.  But I do.

I’ve been told, “it’s not worth it”, “he’s not worth it”, a million other things designed to make me wonder what I was thinking.  Those people don’t get it and I’m so grateful that they don’t, I truly am.  They have been depressed, sure.  Everyone has experienced depression at one time or another in their lives.  The loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, seasonal depression…  Not everyone has experienced depression so severe that you truly believe your life does. not. matter.  You do not matter.  God does not love you. You are not serving any purpose on this earth.  You are not a benefit to any living being.  Your children would be better off without you.  You are not worthy of their love.

I get it and I’m willing or crazy enough to share my stories so that you know that other people are broken, too.

I may require therapy and medication and sunlight and my faith and my family and friends who are so funny it hurts and my social media friends who lift me with their comments and now jogging at a pace slightly faster than what my 77 year old mother walks, but I AM RESILIENT and I am here.  I am here.  And I never want to leave you.

Right now, I am happier and more content with myself than I have been in years.  I am learning how to live for myself and letting everything else fall into place.  When I am all over social media- you know I am okay.  I know I am an over-sharer 😉  But for real- if I’m ‘chatty’, I’m good.  It’s when I’m quiet that I’m not okay.  Just throwing this out there because it’s not an easy thing to self-regulate and also, if you are a person who is annoyed by the over-sharing, maybe it will help to know that it’s a good thing.

If you are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, you are not alone and you DO NOT HAVE TO FEEL THIS WAY.  You do not.  You can live a life free of those thoughts.  Maybe not 24/7/365, but life doesn’t have to hurt.  Please reach out.  To a friend, a healthcare provider, a pastor, a teacher, a counselor, a parent, me.  Please don’t be stubborn.  Please don’t be embarrassed.  You are not alone.

If you don’t understand depression but want to help your friends, just pay attention.  Pay attention to changes in behavior.  Your chatty friend is quiet now.  Your friend who loves make-up no longer has any interest in getting ready to go out.  Your artistic friend has stopped painting.  Your friend is giving away beloved possessions.  And know that sometimes people work so hard at hiding from their own pain, that there is no way you could ever see it.  It’s not your fault.

We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.  — Hemingway

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number
  • 1-800-273-8255

 

 

All Part of a Plan

I feel like I haven’t blogged in twenty-seven lifetimes.  So, here I am.

I think part of the problem is that I haven’t really known what to talk about.  Do I just jump right back into funny shit my kids do?  Do I pretend like life didn’t go off the rails for a couple weeks there?  I think about blogging a lot.  I love to write and I love to interact with people.  I love it every single time I write something and people tell me that I am speaking their language.  I love to process my own life and my own thoughts by putting words on paper (screen).  In the end, that’s why I’m back today.  This isn’t a marriage blog, a divorce blog, a parenting blog.  I don’t have to define it.  It isn’t going to fit neatly in a box, just like I never will.  This blog is me.  All 987 sides of me.

One thing that I have learned in the last few weeks is the value of self care.  I am changing, I am evolving, I am not becoming someone new- I’m learning to be more true to who I have always been.  I am working on taking care of myself in every way.  Mentally, physically, spiritually.  I’m going to church.  I’m exercising.  I’m working on my diet.  I’m letting go of the shit that doesn’t matter.  I’m learning to worry more about what I think than what someone else thinks.  I’m learning to stop being so judgmental.  The twist is that I’m not really very judgmental at all when it comes to other people, but I’m super judgmental when it comes to myself.  I’m telling that nagging voice to shut. up.

I’m remembering to let the difficult times chip away at all the rough edges.  No grit, no pearl.

hide your crazy and act like a lady

So when we last spoke, I talked about how important it is to address mental healthcare in this country.  Now I want to talk about what an uphill battle that really is.

The earliest that I can remember and can identify as having been “depressed” is when I was twelve years old.  What I remember is not actually wanting to die, but wanting to get someone’s attention.  Wanting someone to see how very sad I was and wanting them to help me.  I made half hearted attempts to commit suicide for the next seven years.

When I was around seventeen, I went to the doctor for another issue.  Migraines, I believe.   The doctor must have seen something in my face.  Pain.  Sadness.  Total despair.  He asked my parents if he could speak to me alone.  They left the room and I just remember crying.  The doctor brought my parents back in and told them that I was depressed and he was writing me a prescription for an antidepressant.  I felt saved.  I felt like my struggle to want to live was FINALLY recognized.  Finally.  Thank God.  I saw a quote once that said something like, depression is a body that wants to live with a brain that wants to die.  For me, that’s exactly what it is and has been off and on for the last thirty years.  I felt so relieved.

My parents wouldn’t fill the prescription.  They meant well.  My mom didn’t want her teenaged daughter on psych meds and many parents still feel that way today.  They can’t have known how unbearable my life was.  They felt like many others, we can’t just throw pills at problems.  Yes, that’s sometimes true.  I have a chemical imbalance in my brain though.  If I had diabetes they wouldn’t have denied me insulin.  We didn’t have insurance.  We were a single income family.  There just wasn’t money for behavioral health.  There probably wasn’t really money for monthly psych meds.  Thirty years later these are still obstacles that families are facing.  Not enough money.  Not enough education.

I had to keep on doing what I had been doing since I was fourteen.  Self medicating.  I drank.  A lot.  My parents were the most strict parents in the world.  Let me assure you that teens will find ways to get around those rules.  I self medicated with alcohol and made a million bad decisions.  The next morning, my depression would be a million times worse with nothing but depressants and embarrassing memories of the previous night consuming my brain.  Looking back, I don’t know how I survived.

I was in my twenties before I finally started therapy.  Both behavioral and medicinal.  Honestly, I only did that because I was a parent at this point.  I HAD to live because I had a little boy who would never understand why his mom “chose” to die.  He would never understand that it wasn’t lack of love.  My brain is a saboteur.  I had him to motivate me.  I had a reason to want to live.  Obviously we don’t want teens having babies to give them a reason to pursue behavioral health.  Where is their motivation going to come from?

I was in my thirties before I finally found the right drug combinations to treat both my depression and extreme social anxiety.  Until then, I still used my self medication cocktail of alcohol now coupled with various meds.  That’s something else that people don’t realize.  Without proper supervision, there is no magic “one size fits all” treatment.  It’s trial and error.  It’s adjusting dosages and sometimes having to change medications because your tried and true just stops being effective one day.  If you aren’t fully engaged in keeping your mind healthy, it just isn’t going to work.  I don’t know what the right answer is, but we can’t leave these troubled teens and young adults out there just winging it.

The problem doesn’t end here.  I am very aware and proactive about my mental health.  I’ve had years of therapy.  I have been on the right medication for me for around eight years now.  I quit school a semester away from a psych undergrad degree.  I research. I read.  I am self aware.  Even with all of this, if my medication dosage is too low, (seasonal affective disorder, major life changes, etc.,) when it’s time to have my dosage increased, I can’t always be trusted to recognize that.  My brain is abnormal.  In December, I came closer to losing my battle than I have in sixteen years.  I WANT to live.  I want to live for me.  I want to live for my kids.  My mom was in one hospital.  My dad was being sent to another.  I was driving to meet my dad and the urge to just cut the wheel was almost overwhelming.  I had been suffering for months and still didn’t make the connection that every single Fall I have to increase my dosage because when your brain is sick, it’s sick.   My healthcare provider who is also one of my favorite people in the world, had been messaging me all week and checking on me.  That morning I had told her that I was really struggling and she told me to increase my meds to twice a day.  The only thing that got me to that hospital that night was thinking that I had to give it one more day for my kids.

Don’t read that and think that I want sympathy.  I don’t.  I want understanding.  Within a couple days of doubling my dosage, I still had all the same issues in my life but I could think clearly for the first time in months and that is my point here.  That’s why I’m telling all of you a fact about myself that embarrasses me because even though I’m an outspoken proponent for mental healthcare and removing the stigma associated with it, letting people know that I have had to actively battle suicidal thoughts for the last thirty years is embarrassing to me.  I wish my brain was “normal”.  The point is that mentally ill people don’t always have the capacity to recognize that they are in need.  Depression especially robs you of the will to do anything and I don’t even know that I would have mustered up the energy to address it if my friend and healthcare provider wasn’t messaging me multiple times a day to check on me.  I’m so fortunate to have her.  What happens to all of those people who don’t have someone actively concerned about their wellbeing?

I wish I could sum all of this up with the perfect answer.  If you get anything from this, I hope you get that there really isn’t one.  If you don’t deal with mental illness, I hope this helps you understand how deep the problem is.  I bet so many people who know me will be shocked to find out how much I struggle.  You know that I love my life.  You know that  I love my children.  What you may not know that is that I have to fight my disease to maintain that life.  Truly my biggest fear is that there will be some sort of disaster/terrorist attack/end of the world as we know it event someday and I won’t be able to get access to psych meds.  How sad is that?

Maybe we just need to understand it so we can figure out where to start.  Part of understanding that is understanding that we can’t trust mentally ill people to seek help on their own.  I don’t know how to fix this.

now I’m changed and now I’m stronger

I grew up in a home full of conflict.  Well house, really.  Home is a word that feels like where you go to be restored and there was no restoration to be found there.  There was stress and fear and anxiety and loneliness.   I’m not going to go into details.  I just want to say that the cycle of abuse is real and it’s hard to be a loving parent when you were never shown that in your own childhood.  As an adult, I understand and I’m beyond grateful that I was blessed with the mother that I have because her sweet, loving nature was an important building block for me as a parent myself.  The cycle stopped here.

As a child, it’s impossible to know that you aren’t the problem.  You grow up feeling inferior and bad.  Surely you’re just not easy to love.  You look at friends who are treasured and adored and you wonder how to be more like them.

As an adult, I had to learn how to love myself.  For me, part of this process involved making an effort to understand what motivated my father to treat me the way he did.  Understanding that he was a product of his own difficult childhood allowed me to understand that I wasn’t at fault.  This was the beginning of the healing process for me and it allowed me to let go of so much baggage.  Only I can’t just stop being the person I was for the first 20something years of my life.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the person who I am today, but like everyone else, my view of the world is seen through the glasses of everything that led me to today.

I don’t get attached to people easily, because I’m still insecure and scared.  I come across as snobby or standoffish.  Really I’m just shy and insecure.  If I don’t know you well and I see you out somewhere, I’m waiting for a cue from you to trigger my response, or I’m hoping you just don’t even see me to begin with so I can avoid possible rejection altogether.  This is subconscious of course, but Lord knows I’ve had enough therapy to be able to look back at a situation and assess it.  People are going to read this and tell me that I have a ton of friends, and I shouldn’t feel this way, etc.  I know this.  I just haven’t learned how to control that first response that has been ingrained in me for 40+ years now.  It’s not you, it’s me.  For real.

All of this leads to a real problem.  When someone does manage to breech my defenses and I allow myself to let them in, it’s very difficult to let go if things go south.  I’ve trained myself to look for causes of bad behavior so that I can release myself of responsibility.  If I can say, yes, you committed a relationship ending offense, but I know that you are this way because of a negative experience in your own life, I start to feel like I can’t punish you for that.  And because I’ve witnessed a huge change in myself from the person I was in my teens and 20s to the person I am today, I know all too well that people can be different if they choose to be.  Becoming a better version of myself is such an important part of my life that I automatically assume everyone does or should want the same in their own lives.  I am so grateful for the people who didn’t give up on me.  I sometimes sacrifice myself so that I’m not giving up on someone else.

I don’t like talking about ANY of this.  But all of this brings me to the other change that I’ve starting embracing in the last year and is important to where I am going.  I’ve had to stop sacrificing myself and learn how to let go of people who are toxic to my mental wellbeing and I’ve had to learn how to try to do that without guilt.  I’ve had to address the way that makes me feel.  Anxious, heartless, bad.  I’ve had to start learning how to take my own advice.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.