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

Reaching Out and Being the Light

So someone you love has a mental health diagnosis. They are struggling. They may or may not have reached out to you for help. You want to help. Now what?

This honestly was my favorite part about Eeyore and the 100 acre wood gang. They accepted all of Eeyore and loved him totally.

This honestly was my favorite part about Eeyore and the 100 acre wood gang. They accepted all of Eeyore and loved him totally.

I think one of the most important things that family and friends of those with mental illness need to do is be honest with themselves. Dealing with a mental illness is hard; no one knows this more than those who suffer with it. Being the “go to” person for someone who suffers can be just as draining as dealing with the actual disease. That is why it is so important to be honest with yourself and your loved one about what you can handle.

Support can come in many forms: an ear to listen without judgment, a shoulder to cry on, the extra push someone needs to attend therapy, tough love when it comes to taking meds… We need all of that at different stages in our illness. But dealing with all of that can be exhausting and overwhelming and you might need to take a step back for your own mental health. How you step back can make or break your loved one, so I’m going to talk a little bit about that here.

When someone you love is in the midst of a crisis, obviously you want to be at your best. Completely on top of your game and there for them 24/7. The reality of crisis is that it doesn’t know timetables. My crisis might come at the same time that your youngest starts teething, your dog starts vomiting, and your car gets rear-ended. You’re stretched to the limits, but I need you. What do you do?

Your first instinct might be to hide all of the other shit and try to be on for me. It’s a noble act. But it can’t last, can it? We are not made of elastic and we can break if we try to stretch ourselves too thin. The best you can sometimes do for a friend in need is to tell them the truth: this is my life right now. These are my challenges. Tell me what you need most and I will do my best to cover that need.

I’ve struggled tremendously through my battle with depression and anxiety. I love the people who walk by my side, but I have never expected them to go down with my sinking ship. I would much rather honesty from them than to watch them slowly burn out as they try to be my everything.

So what else can you do? Your friend is cutting. You notice they’re not sleeping. Or you notice sleeping is all they do. What can you do?

Leave it to Hyperbole and a Half to sum up what NOT to say. Don't be this chick, mmmmkay?

Leave it to Hyperbole and a Half to sum up what NOT to say. Don’t be this chick, mmmmkay?

Ask.

They’ll probably lie.

Ask again.

And again.

I do not mean bombard them with a Spanish Inquisition style interrogation. I mean remind them of your love and of your acceptance. And ask them what they need. Ask what they are missing. Ask how you can love them better.

It might not happen right away. It might not happen in a week. But if you can prove to your friend that you will not judge them, the gift of trust is immeasurable.

depression_helpfriend

Below are some resources for talking to a loved one about mental health issues. If you truly believe that someone you love is suicidal however, the time for gentle prodding is over. Call the suicide prevention hotline listed below and talk to one of the counselors immediately. They can give you the words you need to give your friend help. They can help you save a life.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/)

How to talk to a friend who is depressed: http://www.wikihow.com/Help-a-Friend-with-Depression

Talking with a friend or family member: https://www.lundbeck.com/upload/ie/files/pdf/leaflets/How_to_say-lean_on_me.pdf

Specifically for younger readers: http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/help-someone-you-know/supporting-a-friend

A Happiness Interlude

I’ve been quiet this week. Sorry about that. Been busy pretending to be extroverted. ha. But actually, the meetings have gone really well thus far. The kids’ teachers are fantastic and I didn’t have to engage in long, drawn out schmoozing. WIN!

I thought that since it is Friday and I’m in need of a huge dose of happy right now, I’d share with you some things that float my boat. Something you should know about me right off the bat is that I have an obsessive personality. When I find something I like, I freak the fuck out about it and find out everything I can about it. Same goes for hobbies. I don’t dabble; I go in whole hog.

obsess

this right here? this could be me.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some of my obsessions likes. Prepare for a picture heavy post.

I’m a SuperWhovian. That means, I watch Supernatural and Doctor Who like it is my job. For the record: Dean girl, Sam curious, and I ship Megstiel; imo, Dean and Cas are like brothers, not lovers. Nine is my Doctor. Love Rose, but River is just the shit; seriously, no one has ever been better for the Doctor than River Song. (If you’re not in those fandoms, I apologize for the gobbledygook that you just had to read. But in all seriousness, what the hell are you waiting for. Put on Netflix and start watching those shows.)

sexy and baby: two of the most important objects in the universe. in their female forms of course. it makes sense if you're in the fandom. sorry...

sexy and baby: two of the most important objects in the universe. in their female forms of course. it makes sense if you’re in the fandom. sorry…

This leads me to my next thing: Cross Stitch. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Jen. How does this even relate to your nerdy fandom? I’m glad you asked! I’ll show you the project I’m currently working on in just a second. But the real reason that cross stitch is one of my favorite things is that it does wonders for my sanity. There are many, many people who have watched me counting out stitches and told me it would drive them batty to do what I do. I get it. It takes a lot of counting and patience. But that is exactly WHY I need cross stitch. When I’m working on my projects, my brain doesn’t have a chance to work overtime. It calms and quiets my mind and lets me breathe again.

image (2)

brand new aidia canvas and all those colors. *sigh* happiness.

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what i’ve done so far. i know. doesn’t look like much yet. but wait until you see what it’ll be!

yup. exploding TARDIS, baby. told you i was an obsessive fangirl...

yup. exploding TARDIS, baby. told you i was an obsessive fangirl…

Happiness to me is a cup of coffee, a good book, and my animals curled up at my side. These little rascals are my furry children. Meet Dug the Chocolate Lab and Hermione the Tortie princess. Yes, they live up to their names. Dug loves everyone he meets, just like Dug in Up and Hermione is practically perfect in every way, just like her namesake. 😀

image (4)   image (5)

If you’ve read my profile, you know I’m a black belt in karate. I started practicing about three years ago now and earned my black belt this past June. Teaching those kids gives me immense joy and being able to hit a heavy bag to the point of knocking it over ain’t too bad either.

black belt 057

this is the day we got our black belts. some of my best friends are pictured here, faces obscured to protect the awesome. 😉 i’m the one with my back turned on the right, with the pig tails and tattoo showing.

image (6)

And last but certainly not least, my family. These smiling faces bring me joy all the time. Those people in the middle? They’re my mom and dad, two of the best people I know. I am, and always will be, Daddy’s little girl. He’s a superhero to me and no one has ever been able to prove any different. And that lady right there is my hero in every way you can imagine. She makes me proud to be her daughter, and now that I’m grown, her best friend as well. And those kids? Well … they’re the apples of my eye. Little man can pull a smile out of any one with his quirky sense of humor and little laugh. And he’s scary smart too. And that lovely little lady is my baby girl. I couldn’t be prouder of the brave, smart young woman she’s becoming. She’s on her way to be a kick ass ninja just like her mom too. 🙂

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Thanks for allowing me this time to share some of the things that make me happiest. I hope you enjoyed learning about my favorite things and got to know me a little bit better in the process. If you have things that make your day brighter, I’d love to hear about them. All of you readers out there and another part of my happiness and I’d love a chance to share in yours.

Refilling the Empty Cup: The Danger in Giving it All Away

I’m not good at setting limits. Not when it comes to the people I love or things I care about, anyway. My best, I find, is often not enough to meet all of the needs that are out there. That doesn’t stop me from bleeding myself dry in order to try, however.

Times have been rough for the past month or more. I put on a good face, but inside I’m full of turmoil. I recently left the therapist that I’d been seeing for over a year and took about a month off of therapy. My timing sucked as my month off happened at one of my lowest points ever. But this week I started with a new therapist and it looks promising. It’s draining though, opening up that closet door and letting a stranger poke through all of the skeletons and dig through the dusty drawers.

I find myself exhausted most of the time. Exhausted and exhausting. I literally exhaust myself with my circular thoughts of what I’ve done wrong and how I could be better. This exacerbates my anxiety issues. I just don’t have the reserves to keep it under control and so I’ve been having more panic attacks. Which leave me – even more fucking exhausted.

several days

i feel like this defines anxiety attacks. it feels like several days just up and jump on your back all at once.

Yeah. I’m kind of over all of this shit.

You’d think, then, that I would relish the time I get to replenish. There are things that do that: sitting with a good book and hot coffee in quiet, plugging in my headphones and filling my head with music, sitting with a special friend and having a beer … all of these things help to refill and renew my energy. I just wish I could appreciate those things for longer than the time it takes to do them.

I spent last night with a good friend. Someone I can be totally honest with and put aside the mask completely. We had dinner, drinks, and watched a funny show. It may have honestly been the best medicine in the world even though it was completely mundane. Spending those few hours without the weight of a mask was refreshing. I felt lighter, able to relax for the first time in a week or more.

glad you are alive

it’s great when things that make you glad to be alive are people too.

I woke up however, to discover that in the midst of everything that I needed to accomplish yesterday, I’d forgotten a commitment I’d made. I’d forgotten a lesson I was supposed to teach and left my student waiting without any notice that I wouldn’t be there.

That kind of carelessness is completely unlike me. Promptness and reliability are things I pride myself on, even in the midst of my worst breakdowns. But I let it slide and instead, I took time for myself. It wasn’t a conscious choice, mind you. I didn’t say, hey! Fuck this lesson. I’m going to have dinner with my buddy. No… I just forgot that it was scheduled and did something for myself.

And the guilt is crushing me. I know that it was a mistake. The student is fine. I spoke with them and they completely understood: lesson rescheduled and no one is the worse for it. I know that it could happen to anyone. But it was me. It was my responsibility. And I failed.

Times like this, it becomes so very difficult to silence those voices that say I am not good enough. That I let everyone down. That I don’t deserve friendship, relaxation, or ease. It’s really hard because I feel like that mistake damns me in some way. It’s not rational. I should be able to let it go.

I can’t.

And this is why my cup is almost always near empty and why I feel like what I have to offer is never enough. Because I pour out so much more than I refill.

I’m working on it. I have friends who remind me to take time for myself. They remind me when I feel guilty that refilling the cup allows me to give more. It doesn’t help the guilt.

And this is why I need therapy. *sigh*

peace

peace: what i hope to gain from therapy.

My People; My Arsenal

I have this friend. Really, she’s the sister that I never had growing up. We just met like three months ago, or maybe now it’s three years (that’s an inside joke, by the way). Anyway, in the grand scheme of things, we’ve known each other only a fraction of our lives. And yet, she is one of the most important people in my life. And I’m going to tell you why.

I was having one of those weeks. If you have depression and anxiety, you need no further explanation. For the rest of you, let me expound. Something triggered my anxiety. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I was revved up beyond even what I normally consider high alert. It was really bad: cold sweats, heart racing painfully, irregular breathing, and this overwhelming inability to concentrate on anything.

anxiety

It’s exhausting, physically and mentally. When you get that way, you cannot come down. Simply holding it together for an hour long play date is like running a marathon, but no matter how tired you get, you can’t get into low gear enough to truly rest. Sure, you might sleep, but you wake up just as exhausted because the entire time you are running away from the voices in your dreams. The anxiety follows you everywhere.

When it gets bad like this, I will admit that my coping mechanisms are not the healthiest. I stress eat. I drink more than I should. I’ve engaged in cutting behavior. But it all boils down to the fact that I hide. The stress of dealing with that anxiety is so extreme that I go into self-preservation mode. And I tend to pull away from friends and family. I know that I’m in no shape to be a good friend to anyone and I can’t summon the fortitude to ask for help. So I just wait it out in the bunker of my subconscious until the tornado passes and I can pick up the pieces.

At least that’s how it worked before I had a person.

Do you watch Grey’s Anatomy? I actually don’t, but I kind of love the friendship between Meredith and Christina. I’ve seen enough of it on Tumblr and Pinterest to know the gist of it, but my favorite part of their friendship is this little phrase that they pass back and forth to each other: “You’re my person.” It’s kind of become a thing for my best friend and me.

I’m lucky enough to have a couple “people” in my life, not just my surrogate sister. They work in very different ways to keep me semi-sane and functioning. The truth is I’m not easy to work with. In fact, I’m kind of a bitch. I fight against help when I’m in a bad place and I seldom reach out when I really should. I wear this mask, exhausting though it may be, to hide the pain and appear normal. It protects me from the reality that I’m really not coping well. It protects me from the knowledge that in those moments, I’m about as far from OK as one could get.

My people can see through the mask with little more than a glance and keep me from self-destructing. Everyone needs different things in life and in the midst of anxiety attacks; knowing what one person might need is an incomparable gift. Sometimes, it’s as simple as pulling the person out of their own head for five minutes so they can just breathe.

I’m not saying that it always works. There are times when they try their best to pull me out and I only retreat further. There’ve been times when they’ve tag-teamed me just to get a result. In the end, I’m here. I’m writing this blog for you. And in many ways, I owe that to my people: my personal arsenal against a truly badass opponent.

friend

Thank you. I know you know who you are.