Writing Out my Demons

I told you that the beginning of school years were a bitch. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of deadlines, doctors’ appointments, paperwork, and obligations. Balancing all of that crap has been overwhelming and for a while, I didn’t know if I could juggle it all. I can and I feel as though I’m headed toward an even keel. I’ve decided to celebrate by writing, my favorite thing to do!

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One of my four tatts. Maybe someday soon I’ll share all of my ink on here….

I have a tattoo on my left arm of a feathered pen. Around my wrist are the words “Writing out my demons.” I got that tattoo when I finished my first book (unpublished and likely to stay that way. It’s a great story, but it’s not saleable. I’ve made my peace with that and there will be other books). Those words sum up my experience with writing and depression. At times, I need someone standing over top of me, holding my head in place and forcing me to write each word until I’m in a better place.

Starting this blog was a huge step for me. While I adore writing, my forte is in making up stories. I spin tales of fantasy and horror that emerge from the ether of my subconscious, spawn characters from the depths of my dreams. And I’m not going to lie; a lot of that comes from the pain of depression and anxiety. Many of my stories were born from a panic attack or a night terror. It’s therapeutic to write about fantastical horror to ease the real horror of suffering from these illnesses.

It’s not as easy to hold a mirror up to myself, take a snapshot, and then show the world. This has been hard. Posting things that I usually only share with my closest friends and knowing that anyone who wants to can access them has been …. well, it’s been a bit surreal. At first, I panicked every time I posted, afraid that I would be judged, that people would look at me different or treat me different.

I still have moments like that. When things get bad, as they did over the past two weeks, I can grind myself into complete inaction. I was unable to write a single word without worrying what the world might think.

The experience of sharing my stories, though, has been completely positive. So many people, people that I never would have told about my struggles, have told me that the blog has helped them. Hearing that they both understand and can relate has been extremely beneficial for me. And realizing that they don’t judge me for my demons? Well, that has been eye-opening as well.

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I think all of us who suffer with depression and anxiety worry that people will judge us for our illnesses. I know that for myself, I worry that people will only see the illness and miss the rest of me. I work very hard at that mask I put on for the world. Though it hides me and gives me the comfort of putting up a wall between myself and the rest of the world, it really isn’t designed for my comfort. The mask is designed to protect those around me from what I go through every day.

Opening up and letting all of my readers see inside has been difficult, not just because my wall is gone but also because there are now so many people on the inside. So many people look at me after reading these blogs and know that I’m struggling. I worry constantly that they are going to feel like they need to take care of me. Or treat me differently. Or stay away. I struggle with that constantly.

It’s been nice, though, to know that reality is so much different from my worst fears. People in my life who are now reading the blog are learning so much about depression and anxiety. And in learning, they are not distancing themselves from me or treating me any different. For the most part, people have been truly excited to learn. A surprising number have also come forward and said, “me too.”

I started this blog on a whim, realizing after Robin Williams’ death that I had a lot to say about mental health and the stigma surrounding it. I never expected it to be “big,” nor did I expect that I would want it to be “big.” The truth is, it hapurposes become extremely important to me and I do want that. I like reaching new people and knowing that my words have touched them. I like knowing that my struggle means something, in a bigger way than just getting through the day. I like helping people. And if I’m able to do that with my words, with writing which brings me so much pleasure, all the better.

Thank you for taking this journey with me and holding my virtual hand as I take these first shaky steps at opening up. It’s been a pleasure getting to know all of you and I hope that we can continue to open up together.

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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.

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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.

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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. 😀

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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.

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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.

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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.

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?

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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!

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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.