Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter Blues





I think it’s time I start facing the fact that winter is here again.  I’ve never enjoyed cold weather.  As long as I can remember, I’ve been terrified of driving in the snow.  All I really feel up to doing is hiding in my house.  I know that I’ve been in a state of denial since about the middle of September. Just allowing myself to consider what is in store is actually causing a physical reaction.  I’m nauseated and very nervous.  On the cusp of a nasty panic attack. 

Approaching Thanksgiving once again, I am struck by how much I miss what used to be.  I never thought I would be in this position.  Very little family to connect with and certainly no close friends to invite over.  The only person I have even considered seeing is my dad.  I would like to invite him over, but he is in a lot of pain these days, and it might not be possible.  When he took that fall in August, I had a feeling life would change forever for all of us.

I grew up with a large family.  Four older brothers and one older sister.  Gradually, the family got larger as they married or had children.  Now, with every one of their marriages disintegrated, and a lifetime of bitterness between all of us, we will probably never spend another holiday together.  I looked forward to adding my little family to the group once Joe and I married. We are the only ones left standing.  Who would have thought?

I can’t even imagine putting up the Christmas tree this year.  I don’t know if I can do this.  Any of it.  I’m afraid.  So very scared.  I’m attempting to force my way through for the sake of my husband.  I took his family away by just my very existence.  I have lived for the moment when he opens his gifts for years.  This year, with finances not looking so good, I can’t even begin to start my online quest for a good deal.  I’m not going to lie, I am hiding all of this from everyone. 

I can’t face any more disappointed faces.  I can’t explain why “I just can’t” anymore.  I’m bored with myself and my irrational illness.  So very fed up with the various stages of uncontrollable sadness.  I know there are people out there that honestly believe that a person can just say, “I’m going to be happy” and it happens.  Maybe those people do exist, but in my world such a person is as fictitious as a unicorn or a leprechaun.  You would like to think the whimsy and wonder of such a being exists, but you’ll never see it. 

I’ve done that.  I’ve pushed the dark thoughts to the back of my mind far too many times to count.  I’ve told myself that you are going to be happy and enjoy your life starting…NOW. 

You know what happened?  Not a damn thing, because I am not one of those people. 

So, this year I guess I will just “get through” once again.  I’ll find a way because that is the only choice I have.  I can’t give up, because who knows how much time on this Earth my father has left?  I won’t give up, because the one man that means everything to me needs me to stick with it.  For those two reasons, I will make it through the winter, the holidays and the birthdays of those no longer with us.  No matter how difficult it is. 

Maybe I’ll find some joy this year.  It’s been gone for so long…maybe this year. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

There's a Name For That





Do you remember when you were a kid and you would find yourself excited about the smallest things?  The sound of the ice cream man coming up the street sent you into fits.  Forget about how over the moon you were the night before Christmas or the day of your birthday party. 

I remember just lying in my bed and dreaming of how amazing it was going to be when I got everything I asked for. 

Fast forward 30 years, and you don’t have a whole lot to be excited about anymore.  Occasionally, the idea of spending a girl’s night out or having a date night with your significant other gets your spirits up.  Mostly, you start to realize that you aren’t getting “excited” about normal things.  Instead, the feelings that you used to describe as butterflies in your stomach now come at the most inappropriate times, and don’t make you feel any type of happiness.

If you’ve been dealing with it for years, you can probably recognize that it feels an awful lot like an anxiety attack. Yet, giving it a name doesn’t give you a reason for it.  Suppose it’s Saturday, and you know Monday that you have to go see the dentist.  You hate the dentist.  He might be the nicest dentist you’ve ever met, but you’ve had more bad experiences than good with your teeth.  Suddenly, you are overcome with what can only be characterized as terror.  Your appointment isn’t even for a couple more days.  What is going on?

Well, I recently discovered something.  There’s a name for that, and it’s called Anticipatory Anxiety.  I’m willing to bet that the crippling effects of this condition have kept you away from more appointments, gatherings, and events than you can count.  So what exactly is it?  I’ve done some research, and I feel the following definition puts it all together quite well.

Anticipatory Anxiety is apprehension about an event prior to its occurrence.  For example, death, danger, or a poor evaluation by others.  Often, this is accompanied by physiological symptoms such as rapid heart rate or muscle tension.  It may also occur in Panic Disorder where an individual fears another panic attack. – Psychology Dictionary

Are you sitting there telling yourself that this all sounds very familiar?  That was the same reaction I had.  It’s difficult to determine whether this is good news or bad.  Now that there’s a name for it, shouldn’t we be able to avoid it?  Some people would lead us to believe that.  However, I’ve been through episodes where I wasn’t even thinking about anything that could lead me to these feelings, but I got them anyway. 

There have been times when I feel like I’m constantly being judged by the outside world.  Especially when it comes to a particular diagnosis. I don’t want it to appear that I am just collecting conditions to use as an excuse later.  I would prefer that people consider what this situation really is.  I am trying to learn the most I can about my condition so that I can improve my quality of life.  Being honest about what is plaguing me is certainly not trying to find an excuse out of my responsibilities or my life. 

I resent anyone who would think otherwise.  If I could snap my fingers and feel “normal”, I would do it in a heartbeat.  I would hope that any of my true friends would know that.  I certainly don’t sit around deciding that I don’t want to go somewhere or do something, so that day I will pretend to be suffering a panic attack. 

What people need to know is that there is a physical as well as an emotional aspect to this horrible disease. While some of us may be better suited to control the symptoms at different times, there will be instances where we have no control over anything.  That, in itself, is what scares me the most.  Losing control over whatever tiny little bit of my life that I thought I could handle. 

Every single day is a battle.  Not every battle can be fought and won.  I long for people to understand that. 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Drowning



I’m lost.  I can’t see anything in front of me, except darkness.  The weight on my chest is unbearable and I can no longer breathe.  I’m drowning, mired in this metaphorical ocean of instability.  Most of the time, I can reach out for something to cling to.  A tiny sense of hope.  At that moment, I know that if I could just get this, this and this to follow through, everything will be OK.

Today, there is no “this” and there certainly isn’t any hope.  It’s such a simple thing, really.  A small mistake that has spread like a disease.  I’ve been awake most of the night trying to find a solution, and I am afraid I have not been successful.  For once in my life, I can’t think my way out of it. 

I’m so tired and so sad.  Why does it seem as if no matter how hard I try, I can’t get ahead of it all?  Am I having a pity party?  I don’t know.  Whose business is it, really?  If you aren’t paying my bills, or taking care of my family, I don’t care about your opinions.   I just wish I could find the strength to swim to shore, and find my way out of this mess. 

I spend so much time trying to help others so that they don’t have to follow my path, and go through these feelings of defeat, fear…failure.  I would love to be able to talk myself down from the ledge.  It’s 2:58 am, and here I’m stuck in every way.  I don’t think I can find a positive message to end this post with.  At this point in my life, nothing seems the least bit positive. 

 I have no answers to any of these questions, and for a person with control issues, that is a terrifying experience.  All I can ask is that I at least make it out of this in one piece.  I’m going to try, but whatever strength I had has long since left me. 

 

Be well, my friends. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Getting To Know Me



Rebecca Lombardo began writing as a child. In third grade, she told everyone that her dream was to be a writer. At the age of 19, she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, but continued to write poetry into her 20’s, until her illness consumed so much of her time and energy, that she just lost the will to write.

She never gave up her dream to be a writer, but the despair she felt over not being able to find the words anymore was just too much for her to take, so she gave up writing for many, many years. Sporadically, she would begin a journal, blog, or even write a poem for her beloved husband, but it was never the same again.

In the summer of 2013, Rebecca faced one of the biggest struggles of her life. After losing both her mom to lung cancer in 2008, and her brother to an accident (on her birthday) in 2011, she felt as if she was drowning. Her physical health continued to deteriorate, and the migraines that were once just a nuisance became a constant, and would sometimes last 6-7 days at a time, and were cause for countless trips to the emergency room.

Trying to pick up the pieces of her life after her mother’s death, she moved forward with running her own pet sitting business, and attempted an online multi-level marketing business. Yet, she fell apart, and there was no way she was going to come back on her own this time. She attempted to take her own life, and was hospitalized against her will in a horrible, horrible place.

When she came out, in roughly the first week in July, her PTSD, anxiety, depression, and grief were overwhelming, and she decided to begin writing again. When the words began to flow easier and easier, she decided that she would be willing to turn it into a blog so that others could see her struggle and know that it’s a vicious cycle but it can be overcome. She hoped that in addition, it would help her get past all of these horrible experiences. As her writing went on, she would receive more and more feedback from total strangers, sometimes in other countries, that would thank her for telling her story. They were grateful that because of her, they were now able to get help.

Eventually, she reached out to a couple of websites that she was fond of, and was invited to be a contributing writer on each.  When her work was finally becoming validated, she felt as if she may be able to turn her blog into a book, to try and help even more people.

At 41 years of age and happily married for nearly 13 years, Rebecca can finally say that she is on her way to reaching her dream. Not only does she hope to help people that are struggling with depression, she hopes to help them realize that you are never too old to find your voice, and make your dream happen.

Rebecca lives in a suburb in Michigan with her husband, Joseph and 5 cats. 4 of which were rescued. Her father lives a short distance away, and is going to be turning 85 this year. She has 3 brothers and 1 sister as well as several nieces and nephews.

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.