My Team Showed Up

November 28, 2017

Today was a rough day.

We’re four days post-Thanksgiving and rapidly approaching Christmas. My family was totally fine this year – only very very minor blips. I had a great time with the kids (two nieces and a nephew who are the light of my life) and no arguments. But *I* felt not good enough. I noticed I was single, I noticed I don’t have my own “little family” as my siblings say. I was my own worst enemy in my head and my heart and I haven’t been able to shake that off. I feel like I am not good enough.

Christmas is coming up. I loved having Christmas with my ex. Actually, the last two men I’ve dated; we’ve had our own little rituals and not a lot of presents, but thoughtful ones, and our own ways of celebrating Christmas. Last year, my ex and I met up with my family on Christmas Eve (his is not local) and brought lunches to homeless people and cleaned trash on the beach on Christmas, ending with watching a gorgeous sunset over a clean beach. I miss that so much — someone you can build traditions with.

I’ve been working way too much. Every day, at least a little, and frequently 10-12 hour days. I love my work but I’m exhausted and emotionally depleted. I had some housing drama today that I won’t get into but I feel unheard and treated unfairly and it triggered everything in me about security (housing, financial, emotional) and unfair treatment (I was the scapegoat in my alcoholic family. I always felt like if I could just find the magic words to explain how things weren’t fair, that someday my parents would actually GET IT. But they never did)

I also had a reading today in a new venue, reading something that I’ve read once before but it’s not my usual subject. I usually read my writing about my students, about education, about social justice, and those sorts of things. Occasionally I veer out into reading about depression, which is tough.

This piece was about being a beautiful empowered woman with my head held high. If there was an opposite of a beautiful empowered woman with her head held high, that’s what I was feeling today. I was feeling like a broken, defective, ugly, guilty woman cowering in bed.

But I had promised and it was a partner reading and I went. I got dressed up, I put on lipstick and sparkly earrings, and I drove to BART and took BART to San Francisco and took Lyft to the venue. The housing drama was escalating on my phone as I went and I was fighting back tears. I don’t even know what exactly the tears were about except that they were about everything.

When I was young, I had undiagnosed asthma and most of the people in my extended family were smokers. I had (and still have) trouble breathing at all near smoke, and when I was near them, I would say I couldn’t breathe. They’d laugh at me and the drunker ones would blow smoke in my face. I said my throat hurt. They didn’t care. I switched to saying my teeth hurt, no idea why, but it made sense at the time. Nobody cared. I started saying that my EVERYTHING hurt. They still didn’t listen, but I felt like it was true. My everything hurt when I was around them.

This is how I was as I walked into the venue. My everything hurt. My everything was making me cry. I looked around for the one friend who had said she could come and found only a text saying she had to work late and wouldn’t make it. I felt completely alone there.

Then, people started showing up for me. These are people from my writers’ group who were there to support the group (there were four of us reading), not specifically me, but they were also there for me because I’m part of the group.

The person who had asked me to partner with him in the reading asked how I was, and I didn’t say fine. I said I was having a hard time. His partner came and asked me how I was and I said the same thing. I didn’t lie. I told people it was a hard day, that Thanksgiving had been hard, that I feel less than everyone else, that I was having drama/misunderstanding with someone which felt awful, and that I just do not feel good enough. And that I feel alone. And single. And alone. (I wouldn’t mind single if I didn’t feel alone).

They didn’t run away. They didn’t get scared. They listened to me, I cried a little, and they told me how excited they were to hear my piece again and how maybe it was just what I needed to do tonight.

I listed to the other readers and tried to fight my thoughts and feelings. My throat hurt from trying not to cry. My eyes burned. My heart hurt. Because my heart always hurts when I feel worthless. My everything hurt.

And then it was my turn. I haven’t watched the video yet but I felt good about it. I felt like my words were what I needed. I explained why I loved flamenco dance even though I’m not good at it (that photo is not me) and how my experiences with ballet had made me feel worthless. I told the audience how flamenco is empowering with beautiful women dancing who are stomping, who have a proud carriage, and who don’t lower their heads. I told them that I felt irreparably damaged and like I wasn’t allowed to take up all my space or be empowered. And I told them that I want to live my life with my head held high because I am beautiful and empowered and strong.

And these people, who I dont know well… these people were there for me. It wasn’t the support I wanted. I wanted a partner to drive me there, to buy me flowers, and to take me home and congratulate me. But it was a whole team and they got what I was saying. They were present with me. I hadn’t known how much I needed their presence.

I had a whole team with me. My team showed up and I hadn’t even known they would be there.

C6B5371D-DED8-410B-BAE2-85C6989B75AF.jpeg

 

Advertisements

Fear

April 16, 2017

If there is one thing that would change my life for the better, it would be having less fear. That is an understatement. It wouldn’t just change my life, it would revolutionize it.

I am not afraid of snakes, spiders, or bridges. I’m only a little afraid of heights and commitment. I am, however, terrified that I will not be taken care of.

I have believed in God for my entire life. But I don’t trust God. I don’t believe that God cares about me or will care for me. This is, of course, a bit of an exaggeration. I believe in my head that God cares about me, but it’s never made it to my heart.

I want that to change. I really do. I don’t want to spend sleepless nights trying to figure out what I’m going to do about housing a year from now or if I’m going to be alone when I die. I don’t want to go through every worst-case scenario and everything I’m afraid of and try to figure out what I’ll do in every possible case.

I want to actually believe God. I want to trust God. I don’t understand, but I want to know that God cares for me, cares about me, and will take care of me. I don’t want to fear the future; I want to be excited for what God will bring me.

But how?


How Not to Help With Depression

August 24, 2012

Here’s the thing with depression: people don’t understand it.  If you have a broken leg with a cast, they get that you need help.  Cancer, diabetes, MS: horrible diseases that I wouldn’t wish on anyone but (I think) people understand that those with those diseases need physical help sometimes, need rides places, need food brought to them.  No one is going to tell them it’s in their head, they’re not trying hard enough, or they’re not trusting God enough.  Well, maybe so, but it’s easier to see that those comments are horrible and untrue.  Not so with depression.

Two weekends ago, my ex-boyfriend got married.  It is a good thing we’re not still together and hi wife is probably in for some tough years unless he’s dealt with more than I think he has.  But it still hurts.  It’s the dying of a dream; it’s the feeling that I wasn’t good enough, that he’s able to find someone who wants to spend the rest of their life with him and I can’t find that.  It’s the fear that I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.  This was coupled with helping get ready for a very dear friend’s wedding.  I wanted to badly to be happy and excited for her but I was in a lot of pain.  Plus the summer of med-adjusting has definitely taken its toll on my confidence and mood.

I tried to take care of myself.  I knew it would be hard, so I asked for prayer and I asked for help.  In retrospect, maybe I didn’t ask for help as specifically as I should have but I know I did tell people I’d really like having people to hang out with and that I really thought I needed it.  Everyone kind of said they were really busy.  Which they are!  Someone had parents in town.  Someone else was out of town.  A lot of people were helping get ready for the wedding.  Someone had family birthdays.  Someone else was moving.  There was legitimate busy-ness.  But I know that if I had broken my leg and needed to go to the hospital, all of those people would have been there for me.  If someone had died, same thing.  If I had been throwing up, many of them would have come even if it meant dealing with vomit.

I texted people during the weekend too.  I was crying too much to call.  Many people asked me if I was going to be safe.  I answered that if I meant was I going to kill myself, I wasn’t.  I wasn’t going to self-harm.  But that I wasn’t by any means OK.  Some people said they were glad I wasn’t going to do anything stupid.  Some people told me to look on the bright side, I didn’t want to be married to him anyway.  Some people told me to stop being self-defeating.  Some people told me to go back to counseling.  Some people said if I could get to their house I could hang out (I couldn’t get out of bed or talk on the phone, driving was out of the question).  When I pointed this out, they said well sorry, they couldn’t get there.

I don’t feel like I do this very often.  In fact, it’s been years.  I guess I used to need people a lot more but it hasn’t been true for the last few years so I don’t feel like I’m asking that much.  So I’m going back and forth between I am so angry and hurt that no one could be bothered and oh my goodness, I ask too much, I’ll never ask again.  But again, had I needed a ride to the ER, all of these people would have been here in a second.  Had I been sick from chemo, they probably would have scheduled an around-the-clock watch.  These are people who love me but do not understand.  I stayed in bed all weekend and cried more than I have in years.  Not only was the weekend bad, but I felt abandoned.

I did have two people come by – and they were the two people who really shouldn’t have.  The bride-to-be, who had 10 million things to do, came by to get me out of bed and take me to the grocery store, with no judgement or resentment, even though she REALLY didn’t have time.  My friend who is still post-op and needs to be careful with over-exerting herself AND had a family birthday AND was practicing music for the wedding came by with food.  So I’m incredibly grateful for those two people who really really didn’t have time.  But I’m so resentful and hurt at the others and I don’t know how to let it go or address it or even know if it should be addressed.

Again, if it had been something else, I feel like the reaction would have been very different.  But I also don’t feel like I should have to say I’m worried about being suicidal in order to have support.


A Sunken Place

July 2, 2012

I was looking up the word “depressed” because I feel like it’s overused and doesn’t really convey want I want it to convey.  I realized that there are different things I want to convey at different times.  Sometimes it’s that I’m absolutely at the edge of the pit of despair and that I can’t remember anything being OK, ever, and that I’ve lost all hope and am swallowed up in darkness.  Sometimes it’s just that something heavy is pressing on me and everything is harder.

One of the definitions I found was “a sunken place or part; an area lower than the surrounding surface.”  That’s how I feel today.  Lower than all the surrounding surfaces.  Sunken.  I got into bed this afternoon even though I wasn’t that tired.  My dog came in the bed with me and we took a nap.  Then I woke up – still not tired – and just couldn’t get up.  Couldn’t read, couldn’t get up, couldn’t make a phone call.  I wasn’t crying and sad, but I felt like I was in a sunken place – sunken into my bed and unable to get up.

I did get up finally, but it took a lot of effort and I felt like I was sleepwalking. Fortunately I had some dinner plans with friends which helped and I feel better now.  But all these episodes are reminding me of how this can come on when I don’t expect it and frightening me, because I’ve lost decades of my life to this and really don’t want to lose any more.


The Medication Dance

June 19, 2012

As anyone with a “mood disorder” knows far too well, medications can be difficult.  I think even most doctors will agree that it’s a lot of trial and error – and when you’re talking about your mental health, “error” is not what you want.  I started on Prozac when I was 20, almost 17 years ago.  Since then, I’ve had a series of medications regiments that worked somewhat – I was so used to being depressed, that I didn’t realize I had only gone from severely depressed to mildly depressed – for the next 14 years.  Finally, after a pretty major breakdown which involved an emergency room visit and an outpatient program, I got put on a medication which actually brought me up to not being depressed – a whole new level for me.

After 3 1/2 years of being pretty stable, my doctor and I decided it was time to address the fact that one of the medications might be giving me some anxiety.  I tapered this medication down very,very slowly, and was fine, mood-wise, so I even allowed myself to think for a minute that maybe one day I could be medication-free!  (probably not going to happen).  Although I was not depressed, I started having more trouble sleeping, so we decided to re-introduce that one slowly.  Frustrating, but it made sense.

Well, even though I’m on THE EXACT SAME COMBINATION as I was a year ago, it’s not working well.  I’m anxious and I’m crying easily and feeling sad and lonely.  I suppose some of it could be external but it coincides perfectly with putting that one medication back in.  It’s known to have anxiety as a side effect, so that makes sense, except that was on it before!  And I suppose the depression could have followed from the anxiety.  Or my body chemistry could have changed.  I don’t know but it is frustrating and discouraging.  And I am really not wanting to do trial and error again.

This also freaks me out because even one day of anxiety/depression can catapult me right back into what it feels like to be in the pit of despair, not able to get out of bed and not able to see any hope in anything.  I’m not even close to that but these little pills might be all that’s standing between me and that situation and that is truly terrifying.


Purple Flowers

May 8, 2012

I’ve made a decision.  It may not seem that dramatic, but it’s been coming for a while and I think it has the potential to change my life.  Here it is:

If I say I trust God to take care of me, I need to trust God to take care of me.

I know that sounds obvious and simplistic, but I’ve been so worried about so many things lately (work, money, future… I’ve even found myself not able to sleep at night because I don’t know who’s going to take care of my in my old age.  I’m 36.) and worry is contrary to what I say I believe: that God loves me and cares what happens to me.

I don’t understand, but I remember one time when it was as if I actually heard the voice of God.  About 8 years ago, during a time when I was not doing very well emotionally or spiritually, I found out that my landlord was selling the house I was living in and I had to move.  That doesn’t seem like that big of a deal now, but I was having some issues with insecurity and upheaval and it just felt like one more thing I couldn’t do. Even though this news wasn’t exactly earth-shaking, it felt like it was.

I talked to a number of people and shared how scared I was about the future and how much this one thing triggered me.  The one thing I heard over and over – from people who were Christians and those who weren’t – told me to ask God (or “the universe”) for exactly what I wanted.  For some reason, what came into my mind was that I really wanted a house with stairs, a yellow bedroom, and purple flowers out front.  I don’t know why those things were what came up, but I kept asking for them.

I felt pretty silly but then I found a house to rent.  It had stairs in the front and a few inside, beautiful purple Mexican sage out front, and the room that my roommates didn’t want was a lovely pale yellow.  It was so exactly what I was looking for that I still have a couple of friends who say “remember the purple flowers?” whenever I doubt.  I felt like God was looking me directly in the eyes, saying he loved me and would always take care of me.I know it could be a coincidence but it wasn’t.  I can’t explain how I know, but I do.

Again, I don’t understand.  Why would God provide what I was asking for in silly details of housing when he wasn’t healing my depression (and didn’t for over 6 more years)?  Why was God providing this and not other things that I was asking for: a husband, healing for someone I knew with cancer, the ability to sleep through the night (still don’t have any of those)?  Less importantly, why did I get to have this house for only 9 months before that landlord sold it? And, of course, why would God pay attention to these details when there are people without basic needs?

I don’t know.  I have no idea.  But I’m making a decision to trust.   It doesn’t come naturally to me (it would be an understatement to say I’m a worrier) but that seems to make it more important somehow.  A few years ago, I got a tattoo to remind me that God was always with me.  It’s a beautiful thing, to know that the presence of God is with me.  It’s time to live like it.


The Plans God Has for Me

May 1, 2012

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I don’t know how this can be true.  I really don’t.  I know that our definitions of “prospering” are probably not the same as God’s.  Often, we have tiny little picket fence dreams of what “prospering” means – I know I do.  And I get sad and frustrated and lonely  because I still have financial issues or I’m not married yet.  My plans for me haven’t worked out in a lot of ways.

And honestly, I have it really easy compared to a lot of people.  I’m not living in poverty, I’m not homeless, and I’m safe most of the time.  In addition, I have good friends and a lot of luxuries.

So, I’ve been thinking about why I still believe this verse and others like it.  Because I do – I question it, but I always come back to believing it and I just do not understand why.  I can’t shake it.

I’ve been feeling some strength from that lately.  Also, this section:

“I will go before you and will level the mountains.  I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.  I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you too may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” (Isaiah 45).

I’m waiting for those mountains to be leveled.  I’m waiting for the plans he has for me.  I don’t know what they are or if I’ll see them but I’m guessing it doesn’t necessarily fit into my little list of what I want to happen in my life.