Coming Up Roses

I’m finally coming out the other side of the funk I was in. Life feels much more positive and hopeful again. Why was I in a funk to begin with? Because not feeling well takes a freaking toll. Because missing work because I don’t feel well takes a toll. Because I was feeling like I was letting everyone down but mostly myself. I was constantly on the defensive, at least on the inside feeling like I had to explain myself to anyone who asked. Here’s the reality: I don’t owe explanations to anyone.

With the flare ups I was having with GERD I was constantly nauseous and sometimes in pain. Now that I’m back on meds for that twice a day I’m feeling like a normal human being again. Which means everything else starts to shift into a better perspective. I’m still experiencing some anxiety but I’m working on that too. Lots of deep breathing throughout the day (not when I’m panicking but to help maintain calm). I’m also trying to get back to a normal sleep schedule. Things are slowly coming back together which makes me feel better mentally and emotionally.

My film class is going well. So far I have an A and my professor even gave me a “good job,” on my first film essay. It is only an 8 week course which means all the work of a 16 week course in half the time. I think it will be a little bit challenging but will also strengthen my fiction writing and give me a better perspective.

Now I’m off to enjoy my unexpected three day weekend. 100_0185_2

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Identity Crisis

Labels, identity, sense of self. We all have them, we a5407255785_5362a34d7d_qll use them, sometimes I suspect we all hate them. Wouldn’t it be great to live life undefined? No limits? Every day a blank slate and no preconceived notions of what a person is or can achieve?

Growing up, I was “the happy one,” as I chatted easily with everyone I met. I was bubbly and silly and terribly bossy (oldest child here). I knew my place in the family: the happy, chatty (bossy) one. I also wrote stories as a child and by second or third grade was considering a career in journalism. In my mind, those traits defined me, not only holding my place in the family but also my self-worth.

So… When anxiety and then depression hit around age 17 I didn’t know who I was anymore. I would expend a lot of energy to still be ‘the happy one,’ but it had become a challenge. I was busy fighting a war inside of me that I didn’t understand. The extra effort it took to appear normal was exhausting. I didn’t dare speak of what I was feeling because I thought I was crazy and broken. Talking about it wouldn’t help.

The battle to still try to be who I was when I was no longer that person was a messy one. Sometimes I did a great job at it. Other times, my struggles were taken out on those around me. I was cruel and angry. I’d snap a lot. I’d have mood swings. My mother tried to persuade me to see a therapist or go on medication but I felt nothing could help me so I resisted. I suffered, somewhat in silence, minus the angry outbursts directed at those I loved most.

Inside, I was out of control. I no longer knew where I fit. Family members have roles, people have roles. If I lost my spot then who was I? It was terrifying to me and depressing. What would my new label be? The bitchy one? That didn’t sit well with me.

Fast forward a year or two. I come across a document on my computer, a book report written by my sister. I read it and it was really good. While I took in her beautiful words I felt threatened. Writing was MY thing. My sister had always been great with math and science, in ways that I would never be. She had a natural ability for it while I had to work at it and struggle to make sense out of it. It didn’t seem fair for her to be good at my thing because I certainly wasn’t good at her thing. It felt like something had been stolen from me. I know that sounds completely irrational and dramatic. It was, it is, but that is how I felt at the time. I wasn’t angry at my sister I was deflated.

Where is all of this leading to? Recently my dad quit smoking and his journey reminded me of my own. It turns out that my dad identifies as a smoker. He is not a person who smokes, HE, as a person, is a smoker. So to quit, to let that go, means giving up his identity or at least part of it. I never in a million years considered that perspective. It gives me a new appreciation to the struggle that is quitting smoking. I’m sure not all smokers feel that way but I am also sure that he is not alone in that sentiment.

His recent experience and learning how that unnerved him made me ponder how much labels,identity, and sense of self affect us on a daily basis. I’ve read in parenting articles online how critical it is for parents not to label their children- none of that ‘smart one,’ or ‘pretty one,’ etc. I’m appreciating the why behind it. I can definitely say that I’m trying to remove labels from my daily life. I don’t want to ever use language that could leave someone feeling pigeonholed. Most importantly, I am trying to make sure I don’t limit myself by some notion of who or what I am.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons: Krisis Magazine

Emerging From The Darkness

I am emerging from the darkness. I am once again feeling stronger. After a few weeks of being down, dancing between two emotions; numb or melancholy, the fog is lifting.

Every so often I slip into a low. As my mother puts it, it is like a blanket that covers me and keeps me from being myself. I agree with her, partially. It is like a blanket, or a fog, or a haze that descends upon me. The usual happy go lucky demeanor takes a back seat. I get introspective, contemplative, quiet, and yes- moody.

However, I am still me, this is a part of me. Is it mild depression? Is it just part of my personality? The need to pull back now and then and take stock of my life? I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me, not too much at least. It doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t last. The only time it ever lasted I was on the wrong meds/too strong of a dose. Then I withdrew pretty much all together and spent any time not at work lounging or sleeping in my bed. That is not where I am now. That is not where I have been for a long time. 

To me, there is a certain beauty to darkness. I think embracing it now and then is important. Is it painful? Yes, but it also leads to growth, to joy, to a stronger version of me. Embracing it, as long as it is not stopping me from fulfilling my responsibilities (much), or totally cutting everyone out of my life, or having suicidal thoughts (which I don’t), then I say, embrace away. 

Still, there must be a balance. The dark cannot overtake the light. I mustn’t dwell for too long. Life is too precious, too fragile, too beautiful to focus on the misery and the sadness for an extended period of time. 

I was sort of due for this little segue into the land of sorrow. Uncle John’s birthday was just a week ago. There are other changes going on in my life that I was not thrilled to hear about. I have not been focusing on maintaining a positive attitude. There are a few stressors that had been weighing me down as well. Mix that all together and it’s a perfect recipe to backslide a touch. 

Besides, if I get too comfortable in life, if things are going too smoothly, it makes me a tad uncomfortable. I spent so many years overwhelmed and miserable due to my undiagnosed anxiety disorder that peacefulness can actually be unnerving at times. Realistically I suffered from my anxiety issues for years (at least seven years totally undiagnosed, three of those years experiencing panic attacks that scared the bejesus out of me). Just as I began to learn about my anxiety disorder and seek treatment the health of several relatives went into decline, one right after the other. 

In some ways, I’ve had a rough go of it since I was 17 years old.To be clear, not as rough as many in this life but this is my life, my journey, and my issues to deal with. Sure there were pockets of calm in between but also a lot of chaos, a lot of stress, a lot of… well… a lot. Not to mention the amount of growth a person does in those years regardless of other factors. 

So here I am, learning to adjust to a new normal. One I never imagined but one that I am content with. A normal that sadly doesn’t include people that I assumed would be around a lot longer than they were. A normal that still battles anxiety and depression. A normal with more amazing friends than I dared to believe possible when I was younger. A normal that includes healthy relationships with my family. A normal that is all mine. Yes, I am emerging from the darkness once again.