Healing Hard

Running a mental health blog is a dicey prospect, especially when you do it the way I have. I pull no punches here; to me, it seems pointless to write my posts with anything less than total honesty. That said the content can get pretty damn raw. It’s been hard for me to balance the raw truth with my desire to hide behind a mask.

Papa knows what's what.

Papa knows what’s what.

My most recent post scared a lot of people close to me, and for that I’m sorry. It was extra rough and showed a very vulnerable side of me. It’s just the nature of loss, and that is exactly what I am going through. Loss.

I lost a position that I had held for a very long time and that had become part of who I am. It was a sudden, unexpected loss; it felt almost like the loss of a limb.

I’m healing, moving through the stages of grief as it were. With the help of my friends and my husband, I’m even laughing about some of it. Some…. It still stings like a motherfucker.

I don’t regret that last post. I know that for some, it was shockingly bitter. Many people reached out, worried about my mental state and what might have caused such a heartbreakingly honest post. For those who reached out, thank you … from the bottom of my heart. It meant so much to know that you were there.

Let me be very clear: I have a mental illness. I can laugh and joke about it with the best of them, but that is actually a defense mechanism. The hard truth about depression and anxiety is that it isn’t fucking funny. It sucks. It is as draining as that last post made it out to be. When I get down, really down, I’m not funny. I can’t laugh about it. Because it sucks the life out of me. Most people don’t see that side of me because I hide it away.

See? Funny ha ha. That's how I hide... ;)

See? Funny ha ha. That’s how I hide… 😉

Look, I don’t like that vulnerable side of me. It’s so much easier to laugh at the crazy triggers and make a self-deprecating game of all of the self-doubt. But the reality is still there; I live with it every day. My husband lives with it every day, and I know it is no picnic for him. Somehow, he loves me anyway and I’m damn lucky for that. He’s one of the main reasons that despite the pain of the last week-and-a-half I remain self-harm clean. I really couldn’t have done it without him and my friends.

I’m going to get through all of this. It sucks and there are still moments when I’m bogged down in sadness, but I’m going to pull through. I’ll be stronger for having faced it head on. I’ll be steadier for having accepted help and relied on good friends. And I’ll be wiser next time.

word.

word.

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Still I Rise

My heart is bruised, broken, and so very sore. Over the past week, I have lost things that defined who I am: my character, my very essence and the core of my being, and my most basic purpose. All of those things have been ripped away, leaving this empty shell that I don’t even know what do with. Friendships have been called into question; ties that I thought were unbreakable are showing rust and evidence of cracking. I feel as though I have been caught, unaware, in a vicious rip tide of changes, a cycle that keeps knocking me down every time I think I can stand up for air.

knocked down

I want to throw my hands up and just give in, let that tide carry me out and just give up. But I can’t. No, I won’t. With every fiber in my being I want to break down, but somehow I’m still walking. Still smiling, even though it burns.

People say it’ll get easier, the smile will begin to feel real. But the losses that I’ve accrued this past week will haunt me forever. I feel as though my smile might never be the same. I feel as though I might never be the same.

And is that a good thing? Honestly, I don’t know. I had a home, a place and purpose there that defined who I was striving to become. It was a purpose that had pulled me out of the darkness so many times. There, I was surrounded by people who saw in me all the good, the spark of potential that I needed to come out of the other side slaying the demons in my own head. And for all of that, I was better.

It’s gone now, that shelter. It was ripped away in that current of change and I am left standing here amid the ruins. I keep looking around, waiting to wake up from the stupid nightmare. Waiting to know that the shelter and home I’d relied on hasn’t really been taken away.

I’m not going to wake up. The nightmare of it all is so real and I have to begin again. Suddenly and without so many of the tools I’d used to get where I was.

broken heart

Rock bottom. I thought I’d found it before, but I realize now its transient. With every wave that hits me I realize that I can always go lower. Those angry waves seem hell-bent on proving that point.

My heart is broken, shattered into a million pieces and I don’t know that it’ll ever be whole again. But I’m choosing to move on. I’m choosing not to make myself available to further insults. As hard as it will be to let go of the ties that I thought I had, I need to remember that if they were real, they never would have been so easily severed. I need to define my self-worth outside of that former home and remember that the people who love me, love me for the person I am and there are no strings attached to that love. And I need to know that I will begin again.

The truth is, I’m not okay. No matter how many times people I love ask me that question, and no matter how many times I give a false smile and say I’m fine, the fact that I am not okay hasn’t changed. And the people who really love me, know the truth. They call me a liar to my face and hug me tighter because they know. Truthfully, I don’t even know what okay looks like anymore. The face of it has changed so drastically, I might not even recognize it when I see it again.

But that? That is okay. It is fucking hard to admit, but it is going to be okay that “okay” has changed. I can redefine okay. I can take in the changes, breathe, and come out the other side a stronger, better person. Some of the things I thought were permanent may be gone, but I am still intact. I may be shattered inside, but the shell is still there waiting for me to put the pieces back together in a new and wonderful order.

I will rise, just like that phoenix tattooed on my side, and nothing is going to stop me or hold me down. People will catch me, hold me while I need it, and then they’ll be there on the other side waiting to say, “See, we told you you could do it.”

I’ll make it through. And those have to be my last words on the subject.

best for me

Airing Out the Bunker

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I realize that is stating the painfully obvious, but I want to acknowledge my absence. I could blow it off on mundane crap and say that I was too busy, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t make time amid the crap to sit down and write. And I have paid the price.

I sat down yesterday and tried to just breathe. My therapist right now is really into mindfulness exercises, and truly, they work well for stopping a panic attack in its track. That said I suck at doing them on my own. Especially when I look around and it seems like the whole of humanity’s shit is piling up around me. Instead, I girder myself inside a bunker, wait for the shitstorm to pass, and inevitably focus on all of the bad things.

... again.

… again.

There is something broken or in need of fixing in every part of my life. Literally everywhere I look, I see something that needs attention or fixing or healing. When I sat down to do my mindfulness exercise, I minded my way right into a full on panic attack. Go me!

The point of this veritable pity party is that I need to draw a line somewhere. I cannot let this get to me the way it has. I’ve been moping, wrapped up in the thoughts of what is going wrong and where I am failing, unable to see anything positive. There are rays of light, for sure. But for the most part, I haven’t let them touch me. And I am worse for that.

Perhaps the mindfulness exercises are working better than I give them credit for because I can see now that it’s a choice. I’m choosing to wallow in the impossibility of my current situation instead of letting the light shine through. Instead of valuing the things that go right. I may not be able to will myself out of a deep depression, but I can choose to open up a freaking window in my bunker and let in the air.

So, that is what I’m doing. Airing out the bunker a bit. Things may in fact be fucked up all around me. There may be more to fix than I am humanly capable of handling at this point, but that doesn’t mean that I am without hope. It doesn’t mean that I have to sit in a cold room wrapped in the thoughts of what is wrong. I can take my own advice and let small victories lift me up.

 

So … Good news: My mom, who had major surgery on Monday is now home and resting comfortably. Though she’s going to need more PT and recovery time than we anticipated, the surgery itself was a success. She’s in less pain now and on her way to recovering fully.

More good news: I opened an Etsy shop offering cross stitch patterns and hand stitched items just in time for the holidays. It allowed me to take something that was just a little hobby and make a bit of money from it. And since it’s my shop, I can be as irreverent as I want to be. For instance, I can sell bookmarks that are lacy and delicate and read “bookwhore.” Because I want to and I think even lacy, delicate people should be allowed to love the dirty words. You feel me, I know you do.

Even more good news: I was nominated for a blog award! Despite my absence! I will be adding a post on Monday describing the blog award and nominating some other blogs that I would recommend to my followers.

It feels fresher and brighter in here already. Little bit of air, little bit of sunshine … it clears the bunker right up, doesn’t it? When I’m in a rough patch, I often find it very difficult to breathe and accept any good. It’s so much easier to focus on the negative and let that stack of bad grow to monstrous proportions. I’m not negating the bad stuff. I’m not saying I should just blithely ignore the problems. But I do need to work on ways to refocus myself. I have friends and a therapist who can help me with that, but honestly? This is something I need to work on for myself. I’m not always going to have someone around who can refocus me and help me breathe.

What do you do when the bad stacks up and looms over you like the big, bad wolf threatening to blow down the walls of your safe space? Does meditation work for you or do you prefer heavy metal blaring in your headphones while you work out? I often prefer the latter, but have lately been unable to work out due to some health issues. It sucks. But, in keeping with allowing in the light, I’m also getting a great chance to heal. <~~~ Look at me all Zen and shit.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

and that shit has just GOT to stop.

If you’d like to share your secrets, please feel free to share them in the comments. I think this is a problem many who suffer from mental illness face on a regular basis. I’d love to have a conversation about what we can do individually to combat the problem. I will see you soon with my next blog post. Feel free to poke and prod me if I leave you hanging for too long. The bunker can sometimes suck you back in if you’re not careful.

Why Being Labeled Sensitive is Bullshit

I think everyone has heard this at least once. You may have even said it. I know I have. “You’re being too sensitive. You need to lighten up.”

I’m here to tell you those words are utter bullshit.

sensitivity

Think about every time you’ve ever been called sensitive. Chances are, you took words that someone said to heart and it hurt you. Maybe you called them on it. Maybe you withdrew a bit to protect yourself. Maybe you just changed the way you dealt with them. Or maybe you started to question yourself, and your reactions. Maybe you blamed yourself for feeling hurt.

Let me be very clear: we are not always right in our interpretation of others’ words. Our feelings, however, can’t be wrong. How you feel inside when you hear someone’s words is never invalid. And when someone tells you that you are too sensitive, that is exactly what they’re saying. Your feelings are invalid; my right to say what I want is more important than your feelings. So suck it up.

Bullshit. Don’t let them get away with that.

I’m honestly the worst with this. People don’t even have to tell me I’m too sensitive; I just naturally think they think that about me. So if something that someone says hurts my feelings, I hide the hurt and make a joke. Or I just smile and nod. I bury it and keep it with all of the other things that poke at me at night when I can’t sleep.

It’s time to stop that shit because my insides are beginning to feel like a worn out pin cushion.

Yes. I am a sensitive person. I feel deeply All. The. Time. And you know what? That’s a goddamn super power. If I tell you I love you, you can be sure I feel it from the tips of my toes all the way through every inch of my hair. If I believe in a cause, I will support it with every fiber in my being. And if I don’t like you, well … I guess we’re done then. Because I feel that to my very core as well.

fucks

I also apologize for myself pretty much constantly. I caught myself today. I was walking into Wawa (a local convenience store for you non-PA people out there) and a gentleman held the door open for me. As I walked in, I nodded and said thank you. And then, almost immediately, I said, “I’m sorry.”

Sorry for … what, exactly? Walking into the store? Taking up space? Existing? Seriously, there was no reason to apologize, but I did out of habit. It made me think about how many other times I apologized for no good reason. Let me tell you, it was a lot.

This all ties into being “too sensitive.” I’m not sure what it is in our culture that makes some of us feel the need to apologize for our very being, but it is there. I have a number of friends who apologize when they give an opinion, when they missed a phone call, or when they didn’t find something funny. Why are we so eager to apologize away our very existence?

If you are a sensitive person, like I am, and someone tries to make you feel bad for feeling bad, put your foot down with me and say enough. You don’t have to be mean, but offering a small education would do all of us a favor. Instead of laughing with them, next time say something like this: “Actually, that hurt me. And you probably didn’t mean to hurt me, but you did. I’d really appreciate it if you could find a different way to say that.”

And DON’T apologize for requesting that they respect your feelings. You’re going to feel exposed and vulnerable. Trust me; I know from experience. But if the person is your friend, I genuinely believe that they will understand. It might open up a dialog that in the end will benefit everyone involved. And if it does offend them? Maybe that tells you all you need to know about them right there.

I’m going to try to do this right along with you. I say try because, honest to god, I’m having a minor anxiety attack just thinking about speaking up. But I’m going to give it a go. I encourage you to do the same. Let me know how it goes!

In other news, I’m running a weekend contest over on my Facebook page. If you’d like to participate, head on over to the page, like it, and then comment on the contest post with something that makes you happy. It could be a picture or a sentence. At the end of the weekend, the comment with the most likes will win a $25 Etsy gift card for a little bit of Retail Therapy! Hope to see you over there!

Celebrate Little (and big) Victories

I love big victories. I mean, we all do, right? I love the days when I can look at what I’ve accomplished and go, damn… the world is lucky to have me.

Yesterday was kind of like that for me. I got to teach a seminar on basic self-defense with fourteen young women. I was nervous; these were teenagers and teens aren’t exactly my best age group. But the day went fantastic and the girls had fun. Most of all, I think they walked away feeling stronger and more prepared. I had a hand in that and it makes me feel pretty awesome.

Now, I’m not exactly saying that I do nothing most days, but there are days when the best thing I did was take a shower and feed the kids takeout. It’s really easy on those days to look at all of the things I didn’t accomplish. In fact, I think even on days when I’m pretty productive I tend to focus on what I didn’t do. And really, don’t we all? Isn’t it so much easier to criticize ourselves with our failures than to praise ourselves for the good we do?

self talk

I don’t think this is a habit linked solely with depression. In fact, I’d argue that our culture kind of teaches us to focus on what more we can do in all aspects of our life. We’re conditioned to never be satisfied because if we are satisfied, we become complacent. And if we become complacent, we will stagnate and never grow. I do, however, think this trend can be exacerbated by depression and turn a normal drive to do better into self-defeating, negative internal talk that is actually quite counterproductive. Let me explain.

As I’ve said numerous times in previous blog posts (Battling Invisible Wraiths, Parenting While Depressed (part 2)), depression is a dirty, dirty liar. It tells us how completely unworthy we are no matter what we do. It tells us that there is nothing we can do to make up for how awful we actually are. Add on to that society’s message that we should never be satisfied and, well … you see the dilemma.

I would like to say that I’ve conquered my inner demons enough to celebrate big victories in my life. I’d like to say that, but dude… that is why I pay my therapist top dollar. The truth is, I struggle with taking credit for even the big victories. It’s like I’ve conditioned myself to brush it off as nothing because, well, I think I am. Nothing, that is. So when all I have to celebrate is not smelling icky? I struggle hardcore.

Now, I’m not looking for reassurance. The one thing I’ve learned in my year and change in therapy is that self-confidence cannot come from outside. People can blow sweet smoke up your ass all day long about how amazing you are and you can find a million and one reasons not to believe them. They’re just being nice. They feel bad for you. You’re burdening them with your self-pity. Oh look! There’s another reason you suck.

Catch my drift?

I decided to write this blog post because teaching that class yesterday was a huge personal victory for me. As I mentioned in my last post, it has been a rough few months for me. Anxiety has been a major bitch recently and it has been preventing me from doing some of my favorite things. I find myself ignoring my phone, refusing play dates, and even skipping teaching at karate, which is one of my favorite things to do in the world. All because the thought of getting out there in front of people is crippling me with anxiety.

So getting up in front of a group of girls I didn’t know was going to be a challenge. I was nervous: about teaching them properly and about having a panic attack in the middle of presentation. In the end, I sucked it up and dealt. I taught, with the help of my best friend at my side, and those girls laughed and learned. And I did it without popping a Xanax or having an anxiety attack.

Win!

change-your-thoughts

And you know what? I still feel like that’s a win today. Which is a huge step for me. Four or five months ago? I’m certain I would have come up with a reason why I shouldn’t be proud of myself. I’m keeping those voices at bay today and I’m counting it as a win.

If you too struggle with allowing yourself a savor victories, do me a favor today. Find something in your day to be proud of. Catch it before the negative voices trounce on it and grasp it tight. Now sit with it for five minutes and think about how amazing it is that you had a win today. Protect that win from the voices in your head telling you it isn’t enough. And when you wake up tomorrow morning, I want that to be the first thing you think of. Can you do that for me?

Come back here tomorrow and tell me how you fared. I promise I’ll do the same for you. Maybe together we can beat back the voices telling us we aren’t enough.