Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writer's Block


Every now and then, I wake up in the morning really feeling the need to put words to paper.  I imagine what the topic will be, or the way the first sentence will read.  It feels good.  Like a power that I can harness on my laptop using Microsoft Word.  Then, I sit down at my desk, turn on the computer and stare at a blank screen for half an hour. 

Sometimes I feel almost as if one of the great literary works of our time is going to come flowing from my mind and into my working fingers.  I imagine a happiness that above all else and despite any obstacles I have attained due to my incredible knack for the written word. 

Then my brain replies back, “Yeah…not so much”.  It isn’t as if I can’t think of a single thing to write about.  I have too much to write about and no clear cut way of making any sense in the process.  I often refer to it as writer’s block.  Is that it, or is it just one more way that my depression keeps me from happiness. 

If you look up “racing thoughts” online, you will often be directed to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).  I know and understand that this is part of my diagnosis.  It is categorized by excessive, out-of-control worrying about every day things.  Are my racing thoughts about all of my possible writing topics really just me worrying about anything and everything? 

It doesn’t feel that way in the moment, but perhaps it’s something that I need to consider. The most difficult part of this condition is the desire to just give up if I can’t calm the images in my mind.  It’s too hard, so I give up writing that day.  Maybe that is the best solution to help preserve my sanity.  Those of us experiencing depression on a daily basis already have so much to struggle with.  I don’t think I need to add something that will send the pile spilling over into oblivion. 

I have been asked to guest blog for a few different websites.  I want to do it with every fiber of my being.  However, the fear is always inside of me…what if I can’t keep up?  I went years without writing a single word on a piece of paper.  Suppose I fall back into the same pattern, and I can’t fulfill my obligations?  It terrifies me.  I am all too aware that this fear will eventually lead to feelings of failure. 

I don’t ever want this disease to become the excuse that keeps me from real life.  On good days, I want to conquer the world.  On bad days, I need to take one step at a time, feeling lucky if I remember to eat.  I long to find a balance.  So, I will take each day as it comes.  Hope for more good than bad, and figure it out as I go.  I plan on looking back at each chapter, paragraph and sentence as me overcoming my fear of the unknown. 

 

I think I can be happy with that for now. 

 

 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I Am Enough


I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t experiencing some type of turmoil in my life. I grew up with 4 older brothers and an older sister.  They all took their fair share of recreational drugs or drank alcohol.  They caused my parents many sleepless nights.  Unfortunately, at an early age I began to experience the anxiety that would also cause me to lose sleep.  I don’t think I had a fair shot at a healthy existence.  Not for lack of trying. 

As the years went on, I knew something was a little off with me too.  Being overweight and made fun of a lot in middle school didn’t help.  High school went a little better.  I suppose I could have been considered popular.  I certainly wasn’t an outcast.  Yet, by the age of 19, my suspicion that I wasn’t wired quite right became a fact.  I was depressed, and there wasn’t a thing I could do to fix it.

I started seeing my first psychiatrist then.  I remember the first medication I was ever prescribed was Prozac.  I honestly don’t recall if it helped or for how long.  It was just the beginning of an arduous journey through the county health system.  At the time, I didn’t have mental health coverage, so I had to take what I could get.  It worked out alright for several years.  They really didn’t give a damn about you, but you didn’t have to pay for your medications.  I always lived by the motto, “Beggars can’t be choosers”.

With the depression came horrible anxiety.  Borderline Personality Disorder would soon follow, along with PTSD.  The older I got, the worse I got.  There came a time when I was on 7 medications at once.  I found myself drifting in a sea of worthless relationships with men that made me feel like a freak.  In 1998, I was in a long distance relationship that began online.  He asked me to marry him.  Before that could happen, but after the deposits had been put down, he dumped me.  Apparently a psychotic episode and a psychiatric hospitalization make you less appealing to the opposite sex.

With his hasty exit from my life weighing heavily on my shoulders, I taught myself self-injury.  I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time.  I didn’t know anyone else knew what it was either.  Ironically, I discovered it when I was rejected by another male acquaintance, and I had it in my head that life wasn’t worth living.  It was an accident really.  A failure of sorts that became a coping mechanism when things were too much for me to handle. 

I realize as I look back on the past that it most certainly appears that I just didn’t experience a single happy moment in my entire life.  That isn’t true.  I found happiness quite frequently.  I held some gratifying positions with successful companies.  I was often promoted and thought of to be a problem solver.  I partied on the weekends, I met famous people, I went to concerts and sporting events.  I had a best friend that I met in 5th grade that was a constant in my life.  We were never apart for long, no matter what path we chose for ourselves.

I made new friends and met a lot of people online.  You know, in the 90’s when it wasn’t quite as terrifying as it is now.  Back then, not once did I think I was talking to a pedophile or a stalker.  I was lucky that everyone I met was who they said they were. 

The problem with my life was that as happy as it could be, the misery was a thousand times worse.  I didn’t ever put two and two together.  It never occurred to me that I couldn’t just take a bunch of medication and go on about my business and I would be all better.  I didn’t understand that I had to do the work too.

Once I made that realization, I started to make better choices.  I stopped meeting multiple people online.  I buckled down and worked really hard.  I met someone that although at first we didn’t seem compatible, we eventually discovered that we missed each other once we were apart.  In 2001, we were married.  Thirteen years later, he still knows how to make me laugh.  We are happy, even though I still have my highs and my lows.  I would be lost without him.  My calming force in a sea of chaos. 

Although I have spent over 20 years dealing with bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, panic disorder, borderline personality disorder, and self-injury; I am ALIVE.  I consider myself a survivor.  A warrior to say the least.  Every day I wake up and hope that it will be a good day.  Unfortunately, not every day can be. Thankfully, I am learning to process the guilt a bad day brings.  I am learning that I didn’t ask for this, and I certainly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.  But, I can do this.  If only people could understand how much energy goes into fighting this fight. 

In the last 20 years, I’ve experienced more pain than anyone should ever have to bear.  The death of my mother brought me to my knees.  The more recent death of my brother, on my birthday no less, sent me on a tailspin.  Yet, despite the outside influences that could have and should have broken me, I still fight on.  I see the doctor, I take my medication.  I give my feelings a voice no matter how hard it is, and I keep waking up every day with just a tiny glimmer of hope. 

There may be days when I look in the mirror and feel like a failure. Sometimes, I want to give up.  Then, I remember the strength it took to get me to this point in my life.

 
I remember I AM ENOUGH.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Storm

There comes a time when despite your best efforts to avoid further chaos in your life, you are faced with a crisis.  Regardless of your emotional state, you have to find a way to maintain your sanity and weather the storm.  In my case, it just so happens that this crisis involved my father.  He will be turning 85 on September 20th.  As far as someone who is 84 is concerned, he is in good health.  However, he does suffer with terrible memory loss, and has occasionally been known to pass out.  A few weeks ago, for a reason that is unclear, he proceeded down to the basement in his house, lost his balance, and fell.  The floor in the basement is essentially concrete.  By the time I heard about it, he was in the ER at the hospital nearby, and was just a mess. 

Ever since my mom passed away, and I was institutionalized, I find it extremely difficult to set foot in any hospital.  Let alone the one that had me committed.  Walking into that place brought back every unpleasant feeling that I had been trying to avoid.  On top of those feelings of sheer terror, and the burning in my stomach, you can add the fear that I was also going to lose my dad.  I’m just not ready for that.  I know nobody is ever ready to lose a loved one, but since I still haven’t recovered from losing my mom and my brother, I am even less likely to recover from the loss of my father. 

Thankfully, when I entered the ER where he was being treated, I knew that he was awake and fairly aware.  He was confused, and kept talking about strange things.  However, judging by the enormous cut on his head, and his torn up little body, this was no shock to me.  I so wanted to stay with him, and talk him through this.  Yet, I so needed to get out of there.  It’s a horrible, horrible feeling.  Knowing that you can’t be there for someone 100% because you are so lost in the maze of your own fears. 

Since that day, my dad has been moved a couple of times, and has had surgery on his neck.  They removed 4 sections of his neck and replaced them with metal rods.  Had he not had the surgery, and he fell again, he would have been paralyzed.  His current status is that he has physical therapy every day.  He is in a neck brace, his right hand is broken, and his left hand still hasn’t returned to a functional state. 

Every time we go see him, he recalls a letter that I wrote him this year for Father’s Day.  I decided that I wasn’t going to get him a card, I was going to write him a heartfelt letter.  Apparently, he had forgotten about it, and discovered it on his desk a few days before his accident.  He cries every time he recalls my words.  He said to me, “Boy, you’re a real writer.  I didn’t know you felt that way.  I feel the same way about you”.   Despite myself, I had to smile.  I knew that now he was truly aware of my feelings for him.  The best part?  I knew that he was proud of me, and now looked at me in a new way, because he knows I have writing skills.  What an amazing gift to receive through such a tragedy. 

I still have tremendous difficulty going to see him.  It’s very hard to see the one person that has always been your Superman, in that state.  Not to mention, I have to deal with the possibility of seeing family members that I have severed ties with.  If I can’t get there to see him, we call him and one of the nurses holds the phone up to his ear.  We are hoping he is released before his birthday.  I am working through my fear, and with the support of my husband, I hope to come to terms with the situation.  I love my father, and I am grateful that he now knows without a shadow of a doubt how much. 

True strength is not necessarily found where you would hope.  It is found in the subtle nuances of your daily life.  Every day that you wake up, and summon the energy to live, you are finding strength.  Now that you have lived through another catastrophe, you can breathe a sigh of relief. 

 

Dedicated to the memory of

Robin Williams

And

Joan Rivers

Thank you for the laughter.  You will be missed.

 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mood Swings


Sometimes I feel like I am on the playground swinging back and forth on the swing set.  Up and I feel alright, down and I am thoroughly depressed.  It’s almost as if my body has a physical reaction to my mood swings now.  I’ve become so accustomed to them over the years.  One minute, all could appear to be right with the world, and the next minute all I can think about is what is wrong with my world. 

We have these strange days occasionally here in the summer, where it will be raining and the sun will be shining at the same time.  In speaking about this earlier today, it occurred to me that days like this are very much like a metaphor for depression.  The sun may be shining, but in my world it’s still raining. 

I’ve been dealing with writer’s block for a while now, and it was only until today….just in the last hour, when I felt my mood shifting, that I knew what to write about.  It starts with an overwhelming exhaustion, loss of concentration, and a need to escape.  Why take everyone around me down with me? 

Lately, I have been feeling a painful sense of being abandoned whenever I am feeling down.  I am grateful to those that have stuck by me through the worst of times, but still angry at those that could only handle the best of times.  Why was I the one that was called selfish?  Why not those that took off because they couldn’t handle the sadness, the pain, the depression?  That feels much more selfish to me than someone who can’t possibly control a chemical imbalance in their brain. 

I always thought I had a select group of friends and family members that I could count on when I needed them.  In the last year, that group has been completely decimated and reformed again.  Maybe from now on, I should call my depression Yoko.  Yoko strikes again.  I can’t blame her entirely though.  I know I am far too ready to call a spade a spade, even when perhaps that spade was a queen of hearts.  I am prone to overreacting, but I have noticed that trait also comes and goes like the mood swings.  So, essentially, I am just a delightful basket of what comes next?

Even now, it’s hard for me to focus.  Hard to find the words.  I keep reaching for my sarcasm to get me through, because if I didn’t I would probably dissolve into tears and curl up in the fetal position.  Moments like this terrify me, and here you are enjoying the fruits of my terror.  Rain is falling outside, and that couldn’t be more apt.

As you can see, my thoughts are scattered.  It’s a battle just to keep my fingers moving across the keyboard.  I want to give this minor crisis in my life a voice.  Perhaps I will learn something about myself.  Perhaps you will learn something about yourself.  When I am down, I am so far down it seems as if there is no return.  All I have the strength to do is sleep.  Of course, when I need it most, it so rarely comes because my brain is stuck on repeat.  It’s moments like this that have me questioning, why?  Why me?  Why now? 

I genuinely wish there was an answer.  Why do some of us carry this burden, while others have glorious, happy lives and do marvelous things without even a moment of sadness?  Yes, that may be an exaggeration of sorts, but you get the idea.  I get it, ok?  I understand that only the strong survive, but if I could trade happiness for strength, would that be a fair trade?  Would I be happy with that decision?  I would love to test the theory, just for a day. 

As I glance out the window and see that now the sun shines amidst the raindrops, I know I will come out of this.  It will be ok.  The trick is not to expect too much too soon.  This weight in my chest will get lighter, and these crazy, racing thoughts will dissipate.  I’ve got 20+ years of experience on my side. 

I can do it.  You can too.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The OK Day




There are times when you are Bipolar that you can literally and physically stop yourself, flip through the pages of your mind, and come to a conclusion.  I am OK.  Right now, at this moment, I have all I need, and I feel good.  You put away all of the what if thinking that has you worried what tomorrow will bring.  You live in that moment, and damn….it’s a good feeling. 

 
My OK Day was yesterday.  I stopped for a moment and remembered how completely in love I am in with my husband, and that through everything, I will forever be grateful for his presence in my life.  He had just left the house to run an errand, and I needed him to know that I was OK.  I sent him a text thanking him for being my knight in shining armor.  That is what he is to me, and he is my everything. 

 
So, now that you have found your moment of bliss, the next thing you or your loved ones say is, “Let’s hope it lasts a little while.”  It’s a normal reaction.  It would be phenomenal if the path to a happy life was paved with hope.  Once that statement is made, the tiny little bit of logic I have resting somewhere in my brain reminds me to stop.  Don’t hope for more.  Live with what you have right now.

 
I learned a long time ago that one of the biggest traits that my depression brings out in me is the fear of failure.  One thing goes wrong, and that’s it….I failed…..AGAIN. 
So, I say to myself when I am fortunate enough to realize I am on that path, don’t hope.  Ironically enough, most people reach out and hold onto hope like it’s their life line.  I cannot.  What happens if I don’t have another good day tomorrow?  What if I spent my one good opportunity just hoping for the next?

 
It creeps up on me slowly, but it’s always there.  The F word.  You failed.  Another hope, dream, goal, and plan for your future is unattainable because you let your depression steal it from you.  And whether this makes sense to the average person or not, our brains will turn this into our biggest failure yet. 

 
Regret and guilt will soon follow, and you wonder if you were ever really happy at all.  I know how “crazy” it all sounds.  When I say crazy, I mean silly, odd, strange, and even peculiar.  Not mentally ill.  Even as I write this, I wonder who will truly understand. 

 
Everything I write has a purpose, and because of that, I feel like everything I write has an audience.  Even if this blog reaches ONE person who has felt as I have, I’ve succeeded in what I was trying to do. 
 
And for that reason, and many others, I finally had my OK Day. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Deadlines



All too often, we put deadlines and restrictions on our lives, not even realizing that we are setting ourselves up to fail. We will make a to-do list 5 pages long and wonder why we feel no sense of accomplishment at even taking on 2 or 3 of the tasks.  Take a step back and think for just a minute about what you are doing. 

Have you spent so much of your life expecting yourself to fail, that you barely know what it is to succeed anymore?  What if that list had 1 single item on it?  You would feel guilty, wouldn’t you?  Worthless somehow.  I know those feelings all too well. 

Let me tell you a little story about a moment in time in my life.  Everything had seemed to spiral out of control for me.  My family life, my finances, my health, and especially my depression symptoms.  Those of you that know me well know that I am a clean person.  I generally clean my house every single day, and nobody is allowed in here if it isn’t.  OCD?  Yes…..probably, but we’ll save that for another day. 

About 6 days passed and I hadn’t cleaned the house not once.  I didn’t vacuum a room, I didn’t dust, and I barely even stacked the dishes in the sink.  You know what happened?  NOTHING.  Absolutely nothing.  My world didn’t come crashing down around me, my husband didn’t leave me, I didn’t develop a bug infestation, and life as we know it went on just as if I had been tending to those things all along.

It was like an epiphany for me.  Would I want it to go any longer than that?  Good lord no, but the fact still remained that all of these impossible deadlines I put on myself were causing me more heart ache and pain than they were causing me to feel a sense of accomplishment.  I have come to the realization that I can say to myself, OK…today is Tuesday.  Today, you will try to recuperate.  You will try to find your center and dig deep down for the energy you are so lacking right now, and the first thing you will do, is wash the dishes.  That’s it.  No more, no less. 

Should Wednesday roll around and I still do not feel as if I can get out of that bed and find the momentum I need, then I need a smaller goal.  We’ll reduce it to just getting out of bed.  There will be no guilt, there will be no one standing over you telling you that you are not good enough….that you are not enough, period. 

I can’t promise you that the blogs that I write will help everyone.  I am not a professional, I have no formal schooling, but what I can tell you is how each experience has worked on me, my own personal guinea pig. 

Do yourself a favor, until you feel stronger and more confident, throw the lists right out the window.  As I said at the beginning, you are setting yourself up for failure, and an even longer bout with depression.  Just give it a try. 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Pain




For many years, the phrase, “I have a headache” was just a comical excuse to get out of sex with your significant other.  It was most often used by women, so I don’t think most men truly comprehend the impact that headaches can have on your quality of life.  In my experience, many women can’t grasp the concept either, because they are fortunate enough to not ever have had to deal with a true migraine headache, and the aftermath. 

 
Mine started when I was about 12.  I had a math teacher who would let me go sit in a dark room adjacent to his classroom if it got really bad.  His wife had them too, so he understood.  Coincidentally, I also had just recently gotten braces, so I always wondered if there was a correlation.

 
My teens were not excruciating as far as migraines went, but once I hit my 20’s, they doubled in length, intensity, and frequency. By the time I turned 28, and I was about to get married, I was getting probably 5-10 a month.  It seemed like each year they got worse in one way or another. 
We moved in 2002, and after that I would get these marathon migraines that would last for 4-5 days, and I always ended up in the ER. 

 
I had been complaining about these issues since I was 12, but no doctor was ever able to offer the correct advice.  I’ve been on many medications, stopped taking aspirin, only to have the headaches quadruple, and been to the ER so many times I can’t even count anymore. Not to mention, tried several different types of eyeglasses.  For a while there, I was taking a medication that worked about 85% of the time, which was a wonderful thing for me.  Eventually, it started producing crippling side effects that I just couldn’t deal with anymore, so here I am, back at square one. 

 
The last time I was placed in the psychiatric “hospital” I spoke with a nurse practitioner there that had spent a great deal of time working with a neurologist.  I looked at her and I told her that no one could figure out why this kept happening.  She looked at me as serious as anyone ever has and said, “Honey, there is no reason for you to keep getting these migraines.  You have MIGRAINE BRAIN.  You were born with it, and it’s never going to go away”. 

 
I guess in the back of my mind, I always knew that was the case.  I mean when you’re in the ER on Morphine and your head still hurts, you’re probably up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  So, this is why I get aggravated when people give me all of their wonderful herbal remedies, or the number of the best doctor ever, or suggest some new medication.  It’s a give and take, I guess.  As sick as they are of hearing about my headaches, is probably pretty close to how sick I am of hearing about their miracle cures. 

 
This is just something I am going to have to manage, just like my depression.  It’s going to mess things up, cause me a lot of pain, and probably piss a lot of people off, but I don’t have time to worry about that anymore.  I have to worry about having some type of life despite all of the obstacles placed in front of me. 

 
So, there you have it.  When I say I have a headache, I’m not screwing around trying to be funny.  I am probably in horrible, excruciating, blinding pain with no end in sight.  It’s OK for you to say, I hope you feel better.  Just please don’t tell me what your best friend’s cousin twice removed that is related to a doctor told her to do and it worked this one time.  I don’t care.  Not to be an ass, but it’s the truth.  I just don’t.  What I care about is working through it, like I always do, and coming out on the other end pain free.  Yes, at this point I am at about 10-12 headaches per month, but guess what?  That’s down from 15, so I guess I’ll take that as a sign of good things to come. 

 
It’s like I’ve said before, you can’t possibly walk a mile in my shoes, or anyone else’s.  They don’t fit, and you would be bitching to get them off in about a minute and a half, so don’t even try.  Just be there to understand, and maybe once in a while check in and see how that person is doing.  None of us is asking you to FIX it.  We just want to be understood.