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

IMG_0043

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.

IMG_0044


Happily Boring

May 29, 2017

This long weekend has been boring. Happily boring, which is a new thing for me.

I used to equate boredom with depression. When I was really young, I would say I was bored and mean I was really sad or lonely and didn’t know what to do. It actually took me years to realize that boredom and depression are two different things because boredom was such a trigger for my depression. I just didn’t have the right word for it.

In college, one three-day weekends, many people would go visit their families, of course. I usually stuck around and I was lonely and bored. And really, really, severely depressed. Again, it seemed like the same thing for me. It’s a visceral memory for me – being in the quiet dorms with just the out of state students left for company. I’d walk and walk and read and read and try to outrun the feelings.

So you can see why it felt like a minor miracle that this weekend has been extraordinarily boring and restful and it feels fine. This is what mundane progress looks like.


Alan Alda

May 19, 2017

[written for my writing group for the subject: Permit]

My second-grade teacher and my parents were at odds over how to deal with me. They didn’t know they were giving me such mixed messages because I didn’t tell my teacher about what was going on at home (although, having taught 7-year-olds, I am sure she knew something was wrong). And my parents never received any complaints from my school, just the occasional note that I seemed sad.

One afternoon that year, my teacher had us watch Free to Be You and Me, the 70’s TV special narrated by Alan Alda and some other people I don’t remember, all about being comfortable in your own skin, not putting labels on people, and various other hippie ideals that were not quite as popular in 1982, but that my teacher firmly believed in.

I remember very little about the TV show except for two things: the radical notion that boys and girls could like the same things and the song “It’s All Right to Cry.” You see, in my family, it wasn’t all right to cry. Crying was not permitted, at least for me. It was all right for my little sister to cry, and my mom was rarely not crying. I was pretty sure that my little brother or sister on the way was going to be crying most of the time. But for me, it had never been OK.

My mom had me when she was 25 – not that young by the standards of the day, but she was completely emotionally unprepared. To this day, when someone talks about how they might be less lonely if they had a baby, or how it would be nice to have a child so there would be someone who was always there, I have to walk away. I recently ended a friendship because my former friend spent tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments, confiding to me that, without a partner, she was really lonely, so even though she was financially and emotionally unprepared to have a baby, she just “really needed someone who loved her unconditionally.”

That’s exactly what my mother intended I would be for her.

It should really be no surprise then that she couldn’t handle me. From the time I learned to walk and talk (both around nine months old, which shocked everyone), I had opinions. Actually, I probably had opinions before then. I was not the malleable precious little doll-baby she had imagined, but was strong-willed and emotional, and she had no idea what to do with me. So she made the rule that I couldn’t cry. After all, only one of us could be upset at a time, and it was usually my mother.

This rule was enforced in different ways at different times. I’m not sure what the mandatory reporter laws were like in the late 70s and early 80s, but it was probably more convenient for everyone that I didn’t talk to my teachers about this enforcement. The mildest version was to be sent to my room if I cried, and if she could hear me through the closed door, the next threat was to have to spend the night in the garage. I never had to do that because I would put the pillow over my head and hold my breath, trying to stop myself from calling out for my parents, who were clearly not going to be any help.

If my mom wasn’t feeling patient, she’d slap me across the face which would generally do the trick. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” and all that. It’s hard to blame her – that would have been an act of love compared to what she grew up with. It’s no wonder that I grew up steeped in shame and fear; she had come by those honestly and passed them on to her children in our DNA and from her behavior

One day though, everything changed. I came home from school and something happened, and I cried, and she slapped me across the face. We had just watched the last part of Free to Be You and Me and I just wasn’t taking it any more. “My teacher says it’s OK to cry!” I yelled at her. “It was on TV! You can’t punish me for crying!”

I’m not sure she had any idea what I was talking about but I kept going. “If you hit me, I’m going to tell my teacher because I’M ALLOWED TO CRY!” I screamed at her. And went in my room to do precisely that.

That ended it. There were plenty of other problems in my family, but I wasn’t punished for crying anymore and she never hit me again.

But, of course, it didn’t really end it. The shame never left. I still feel it every time tears come – I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m disappointing people, I’m not good enough.

My nieces and nephew though – they don’t have this. They know it’s OK to cry. They know feelings matter and are valid, and they don’t feel ashamed when they express their feelings. The cycle of shame seems to be ending, and maybe it’s time for the adults to learn from the kids. They didn’t even need Alan Alda.


Giving Myself Credit

May 16, 2017

I’m exhausted. I’m changing my anti-depressants again. I went off of one that was making me feel crazy, like actually crazy. I have an appointment on Wednesday with the doctor. Not sure how long the withdrawal from the one I went off takes – it wasn’t that high a dose so maybe I’m imagining things but I feel exhausted and am really craving sugar.

And you know what? Right now I’m eating the sugar. That’s not a fight I’m willing to have with myself right now. The sugar is comforting, and I’m eating it. I’m not harming myself in any drastic ways, I’m not self-medicating with alcohol or drugs… I’m going to eat the damn cake. For now.

And I’m trying to focus on what I HAVE gotten done today. Yes, I took a 2-hour nap in the middle of the day even though I slept enough. Yes, I dropped my bike and scratched up the new bike that I love. I left things places that I’ll have to go pick up tomorrow because I’m so tired that I am getting really absent-minded. And yes, I’m going to bed at 9 pm.

But also: I tutored four kids today and I think they learned something. I edited three articles and answered a ton of emails and went grocery shopping and rode my bike. That all counts. And I prayed. And I ate. And I took my medicine.

So I’m going to try very hard to convince myself that today is a win.