The Birthday I Wanted and the Birthday I Got

July 31, 2017

It was my birthday on Thursday. Birthdays were, for some reason, one of the only things my family did really well. No matter how depressed my mom was, she’d make a birthday cake and give me great ideas for parties: costume parties, pool parties, skits, games, and more. My dad would get into it and help and be silly and it was always really fun.

Maybe because of that, I still really like birthdays, even at my advanced age of just turned 42. But it’s also hard to not have expectations or dreams of what my perfect birthday would be. It’s even harder because I’ve had what I’d consider my ideal birthday.

My ex-boyfriend also did birthdays well, because he knew I loved them. For my 40th birthday, he took the day off work and we went to my favorite places in San Francisco: the mural stairs, the Japanese tea garden, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, and an excellent seafood restaurant even though he doesn’t eat seafood. It was a wonderful, wonderful day, and I think we ended with watching the sun set over the ocean. Then he had all my friends over for a potluck with a children’s book theme, where people got really creative and had a lot of fun. He did a really good job and made it really special, even though he’s not a big birthday person.

That’s what I wanted again. And it’s harder, because it’s not a baseless fantasy – I’ve had this. I wanted someone for whom I am the first priority to spend the day with me, flowers, natural beauty, nice walks, good food, cake, and quality time. I wanted reassurance that I was that special for someone.

That’s not what I got. But what I got was very good, if in a totally different package. My housemate got me balloons and gummy bears, because she knows I love gummy bears. One dear friend sewed me pillows that have black labs on them because they look just like my dog. Over a hundred people wrote on my Facebook timeline to wish me a happy birthday, and while Facebook does prompt people to do that, some of them were really personalized. Others called or texted. A student’s family showed up because I had told them that they could meet the dog, and they brought me a beautiful bouquet, birthday cards, and a Target gift card. A few friends went 80s dancing with me on my actual birthday, which was a wonderful escape. Two friends who don’t know each other went out to dinner with me on my birthday.

Then the absolute crowning event for my birthday was a friend who threw me a birthday party. She asked me if I’d like that and I was a little nervous because she is someone who struggles with a lot of fatigue and her own issues and who also does events really well, down to the last detail, so I didn’t want her to take on more than she would be comfortable with and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be the center of attention with the depression/anxiety struggles.

So I was honest. I said that I didn’t have the bandwidth to plan anything and I didn’t have the money either. And that it sounded like a wonderful offer but if there was any way she’d be resentful or would need me to do anything, that it wouldn’t work, and that I would still appreciate the offer. She said she would love to do it for me.

She asked a few others to co-host and it was absolutely beautiful. The co-hosts made amazing, amazing food, and the hostess had thought to make it a Moroccan theme because I love Moroccan food (and have been to Morocco!) She made me a wonderful memory book, with photos and memories from each friend who came, as well as photos of the flowers and food. She remembered that I love princess cake (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_cake) which is fairly unusual and got that.

It was amazing. I had friends from church, knitting, and other places I can’t even remember. There was not one person there who knew everyone, except for me. And people mingled, and got to know each other, and made new connections. I was worried that people would feel awkward, and it didn’t seem that way. I saw really excited conversations between people who had never met. And I had people who have been part of my life for periods of time from between 6 months and 17 years all together for me.

So, I didn’t get what I had wanted. But what I got was a beautiful, beautiful gift, and I’m so grateful.

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Worry, Worry, Worry

July 24, 2017

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this here, but fairly recently, a friend of mine, who is an atheist/agnostic, depending on the day, called me out on something. She said, “Listen. You believe in this God who takes care of you. You believe in a God who created you and loved you. That should make a difference in your life.” She went on to explain that this was something she (and a to of people) didn’t have. She doesn’t believe there’s any higher power or anything past humans, and she thinks that if I believe that, my life should reflect it. I should have more hope than people without this.

She explained it better, but you get the idea. If I believe in a loving God, who I can even TALK to, why doesn’t this make a difference?

I need it to make a difference. Either I believe this or I don’t. If I do, then I should, well, not give up worry entirely, because I’m human, but I should have a basic confidence that God is with me. Who can be against me? What can “man” do to me? I shouldn’t be afraid of housing prices or illness or anything else, but have a “peace that transcends all understanding.”

I know that a lot of people who read this are not necessarily people of faith, but many of you are. Do you have any ways to remember this, really deep down? As someone very very prone to anxiety and depression, this is essential for me to not go down.


Honesty

July 23, 2017

So, yesterday something, don’t know what, prompted me to share the blog. I made a facebook list of people who were safe, mostly because they weren’t related to me and I didn’t work for or with them, and put it up. I don’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I got a lot of empathy and a lot of relating. People I don’t know well commented that they totally understood. And for some reason, it helped.

I probably won’t keep it up – I don’t really want my name associated with this, and if you read back, you may understand why. But sharing it did two things: it made me feel much less alone and, in reading back to some of my early posts, it made me realize how incredibly far I’ve come and how much healing has taken place. I’m grateful for that. I hope it helped someone else too.


Trying to Not Slide Down

July 22, 2017

There are a few signs of impending depression for me. Some of them are strangely dramatic: I start seeing things with less color when I’m depressed. Literally. Things start looking much more gray and I have trouble focusing my eyes. Objects look strange: is that a post office box or a garbage can? My brain slows down and I feel thick and slow.

There’s the more obvious symptoms: sadness of course, and the loneliness. The crying for no apparent reason, not being able to stop crying, not being able to get out of bed, and fatigue.

But then I have my own little special brand of crazy melancholy. One of the symptoms for me is that I start over-identifying with characters in books. Way, way over-identifying. If a dog dies in a story, I break down sobbing and can’t get back from it. If a character is a little pathetic – heartbroken or depressed or bullied, it haunts me as if I was watching someone I loved break down and can’t do a single thing about it. If a character loses someone or dies in a book, I go over it again and again in my head, willing them to do something differently so things can turn out differently, even though I know that it will turn out the same way, and I know that these people are fiction! It wrecks my head.

That is starting up. I just read a really good murder mystery but the main suspect (who turns out to be innocent) is nervous and a little pathetic and talks about how he would never have killed his girlfriend because he was absolutely in love with her, and it turns out he’s telling the truth. So he’s been through the wringer, lost the only person he’s really loved, been made fun of, and is broken hearted. But more than that, he’s described as sad, forgettable, easily bullied, wispy, etc. And somehow that was gut-wrenching for me. Maybe I’m too empathetic but I felt like my heart was breaking. And he’s not real.

I’ve also started to cancel plans. I was going to go to someone’s house and knit tonight but I was too tired. I was going to see some people in my writers group read their writing last night but I had too much work. And both those things are totally true. But it’s also a pattern I have and it’s hard to know when it’s depression and when it really is these other things.

And I’m feeling sorry for myself for being single. Sometimes I’m fine. I don’t write much when I am because I’m enjoying my life. But in the last couple days it’s back to this deep loneliness. Not having anyone I come first with, not having anyone who checks on me every day. I’ve had that and I miss it so much.

Now that I see the signs, of course, I have to figure out what to do. Do I wait and see if things get worse? Do I tell the doctor that I was feeling better – he was so happy for me – but this is back? Do we try yet more medication? If I am getting depressed again, it’s so much work to deal with it. And I feel like I’m disappointing so many people. Myself, my doctor, my friends who were so happy that I’m feeling better.

So I don’t know. Maybe the book just hit me strangely and I’ll be fine. But maybe not, because I recognize this.


Beauty and Loneliness

July 15, 2017

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It was an extraordinarily beautiful day today. I had little work to do (summer is my lowest time, which is stressful with money but good for mental health if I don’t worry about the money) and a friend called to see if I could have lunch. I had already eaten but asked if she wanted to go to the beach at the edge of town instead.

I forget about this beach. It’s slightly over a mile from my house and is the bay, not the ocean, perfect for kids, because there are no big waves. It’s not exciting: there are no snack shops, no souvenir places, no surfing, no snorkeling. But it is the beginning of the ocean, with sand and all the ocean smells.

I brought some camping chairs and we sat for over two hours, watching kids fly kites and play in the really cold water. I was absolutely covered in greasy sunscreen but it was perfect. The temperature was not too hot but warm enough and I felt so incredibly relaxed and content. I even kept saying, “This is just perfect,” sort of feeling like saying it aloud would keep the feeling.

The friend suggested we go for ice cream after which felt like a perfect little luxury at the end of this.

Then my brain kicked in, with all of its insecurities. I started worrying that I’d never have this experience again and that somehow I “wasted” it by not appreciating it more. I worried that I’d get depressed again when summer leaves because this weather is so wonderful that it’s going to be a huge loss. I worried that I’d never have friends to travel with again, that I’d be alone forever, that nobody would remember me, that tomorrow (I have no concrete plans) will be incredibly lonely, that my dog will die, and all of a sudden, I’m at the bottom again.

By this time I was home. In my ideal world, or what I think would be normal for a lot of people, I would have been glad for a beautiful day relaxing with a friend and savored that. Instead, I’m questioning if anyone would notice if I died or disappeared and convincing myself that I’ll be lonely forever and depressed and cold once summer ends.

I feel like I’ve thrown away the gift of a wonderful day. This is NOT how I want to be. I just don’t know how to change it.

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Single

July 13, 2017

I was at a family event recently and my four-year-old nephew was asking my mom about her wedding ring. Then he started asking everyone about their wedding ring. My brother said he had lost his. Other people showed theirs. Then he asked me. “Where’s your wedding ring?” I said I didn’t have one. “But who is your husband? Is it [name of my ex]?” No one really knew what to say. First of all, I didn’t realize he remembered my ex, because it’s been over a year But I just felt so sad. Even the four-year-old is noticing that there’s something different about me. Even he is noticing that i’m the one missing something, lacking.