Progress Made

It’s a funny place I find myself in, sitting comfortably in my mid-thirties, rid of all the angst of my late teens to mid-twenties. I still recall the emotional turmoil I was in, the loneliness, the anger- so much anger! Despite the ability to recall it all, in vivid detail, it also feels like a lifetime ago. The suffering definitely helped to shape who I am, but that person, that version of myself seems foreign to me now.

I remember… staying up all night, watching tv and chatting over AIM with 5 people at once and writing two pieces at a time. I remember all the pent up rage over my (perceived) inability to live a normal life. I remember the feelings of isolation, desperation, and loneliness that overwhelmed me. I remember having my first full blown panic attack one night around 1am, while watching Vanilla Sky, wondering if I should wake my parents to take me to the hospital or let them sleep and maybe find me dead on the couch in the morning. I let them sleep and hoped and prayed I wasn’t having a heart attack and dying like I thought I was, like I felt I was.

I remember… writing dark and twisted poetry about the fury, the sorrow, and romanticizing suicide. I never truly considered it but it felt like such a tempting escape from the misery I was in.

I think back to all the crazy that I attracted to my life during that time. The drama filled people who seemed to find me like I was a magnet and truth be told, I probably was. It seemed like one friend after another was in crisis. My friendship circle consisted of self-harmers, pill poppers, and the like. It was also filled with people who had been dealt some really shitty hands in life but year after year they continued to be the victim rather than become the heroine of their own life. I remember one often repeating, “I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve all of this.”

I remember… finding solace in the darkness of depression, the depression that anxiety drove me into. Misery does love company and I found my tribe. I remember feeling so liberated being able to share the chaos and storms that were swirling within me. I was no longer alone in my looney tribe of misfits. We were all wounded in our own ways and suffering but we had each other and that made it less lonely.

I remember… the clouds starting to lift in my life. The poetry dried up and I feared I was losing my creativity. I remember that the down moments came less frequently, the mood swings not as severe. I remember feeling at odds with myself because I didn’t recognize myself anymore without turmoil. Sometimes, even now, a little part of me misses it. For the creativity that is. There is something about angst and writing that go hand in hand, at least in my twisted mind.

Yet, I wouldn’t go back to it. I like being in a happy place now. That’s not to say my life is perfect but I am more appreciative now. I understand my anxiety better and have a better handle on it. I’m thankful for my struggles because there are somethings one cannot fully understand without experiencing them, mental health issues being one of them. Yes, I remember my battle and I’m grateful for it but I am so content to be exactly where I am right now. 100_0291_2.jpg

First Step…

They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting that it exists. Well, I’ve long admitted that I have issues; with anxiety, stress, social anxiety, trust, insecurity, abandonment, need for control, need to fix everything, take care of everyone, etc. Ok in all fairness most of the issues stem from anxiety/social anxiety. I’ve known that ALL people could benefit from therapy while actively avoiding going to therapy. I did try it once, but it was the wrong fit and quite disastrous. Also, being (mostly) self aware I knew a lot of the things I need to change/work on/address so… How would discussing it with a stranger help me, really?

shutterstock_139247051.jpgStill… As the anxiety/stress was leaving my shoulders and stomach in knots, as I was reeling from the emotional fallout of some big decisions, and knowing that I deserve better in life I finally sucked it up and sought out therapy. Again.  I called my insurance stuffs, found a recommendation, and made an appointment. Even making an appointment led to my active mind kicking into overdrive. My therapist treats people in his office or at his home. His home was closer and also better parking options not to mention the day that worked best for me happened to be a day he was working out of his home. Enter active mind: I’m meeting a man I do not know, in his home, and I’ll be alone. Is that really safe?  Is that wise? What if he is creepy? What if he is some weirdo? What if, what if, what if? The two biggest words that roll around in my brain. Ok. STOP. BREATHE. 1. If your health insurance/employment is recommending this person he probably checks out. 2. If he is some psychotic, monster he probably wouldn’t have passed whatever screening was necessary to be recommended by reputable companies. 3. Just hush noisy brain. Hush.

For anyone who has never gone to therapy, the first session mainly revolves around paperwork, dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s, establishing what is bringing you in, in a nutshell. The first appointment we didn’t discuss anything huge. Right away I felt at ease with him. He reminds me of my uncle John that passed away. He has a plant growing in his living room, the same kind of plant that my sisters and I gave to our relatives for Christmas one year as kids. I felt comfortable.  I also realized pretty quickly that he was perceptive and picked up on the things I wasn’t saying. While we didn’t cover anything deep or significant, I felt lighter. He gave me some ideas to consider, a few challenges in how I think about things.

At this point I’m about 5 or 6 sessions in. I can definitely see it helping me. I was right, I know a lot of the things I need to work on but it does help having someone neutral to discuss things with. I’m finding that I am getting better at stopping my mind from spiraling out. My aunt says I am calmer, less nervous. The thing I’m finding, I didn’t fully realize how neurotic I was until I started making positive changes. I was explaining one of those realizations lately to my best friend and told her, “I was so crazy before, the thought process that would have been going through my head over something so insignificant, but now, I am ok with making this inconsequential decision and not analyzing it to death or assuming what the other person could be thinking.” She was very  gracious and told me I wasn’t crazy before but that my brain was definitely very busy and that it must have been exhausting. True dat. 

Processing

IMG_1047I’ve been processing a lot lately. I’ve been evaluating myself, my life, my relationships.  I’ve been looking at what brings me stress and what brings me joy. I’ve been focusing on my motivation and gratitude. I’ve made tough choices, I’ve made changes, I’m leaving myself vulnerable in ways I haven’t in a long time. It’s been scary and difficult and painful but I am moving in the right direction.  I couldn’t have done it without my support system, my family, my close friends.

I still have a long ways to go. I’m realizing that this world and all its ugliness is leaving my soul tired. It’s depressing and makes my heart hurt. It makes me want to run away, buy an island (like I have money for that), and never interact with the world at large again. Instead I need to be a force of change. I can’t run, I can’t hide. I can only do what I can to make the world a better place.

I have to let go of what I can’t fix because in truth, I want to fix anything and everything that brings me sorrow. I am accepting my limitations rather than dwelling on what I cannot change. I’m letting go and opening up at the same time. It’s hard, I don’t like to let go, but it’s a process and one I’m committed to.

The Tale of Dishonest Abe aka Another Dating Adventure

Well… I have another dating tale… I recently dipped my toes into the dating pool, as usual, giving only a half-hearted effort because frankly, online dating/dating in general doesn’t seem worth my time and energy. I had a few men contact me from the site and while some were ruled out rather quickly there was one that actually progressed to texting: enter Dishonest Abe.

At first contact Dishonest Abe seemed intelligent and capable of maintaining a reasonable conversational flow. His profile was severely lacking but the messaging aspect seemed decent. The first night we were texting involved all the normal getting to know you questions including my two least favorite questions, “Why are you still single?”   and “Have you dated x race before/do you date outside of your race?” HELLO!!! I’m on a DATING site! I’m talking to you! So clearly I must be ok with dating outside of my race or I wouldn’t respond to your contact.

When Dishonest Abe asked me why I was still single, I gave him the usual answer, “I guess I haven’t met the right man yet,” and then I turned out and asked him why he was still single. He said he’d just been waiting on me… Awwww. *rolls eyes* Since it was such a standard cheesy answer I decided to be sarcastic so I asked him if we were going to jump right into marriage or if he planned on us dating first. He decided we should date first, definitely, and know each other really well before getting married. That was a least a reasonable answer. As the conversation continued I mentioned my younger sister’s upcoming wedding. Dishonest Abe asked me when she was getting married and I told him. He responded with, “That’s cool, you and I are getting married in May 2018.” Strangely enough, commitment- phobe that I am, I found the conversation silly and amusing, so I went along with it.

Dishonest Abe happened to be black and as I mentioned, we had the conversation about one dating outside of their race. With the pivotal questions out of the way, I figured that things would progress as we get to know each other. At this point it was 10:30PM on a Sunday night and Dishonest Abe wanted to meet up. Somehow jumping in my car to meet up with someone I had just started texting didn’t seem like a good plan. I told him I was tired and heading to bed soon.

Throughout the week, we continued texting here and there, joking about our impending nuptials and getting to know one another. We had made plans to go out Saturday evening for our first date. He even told me that he deleted his dating profile which seemed unnecessary since we hadn’t gone on a single date yet. Of course since he put that out there, I had to check, and the only thing he deleted was his pictures from the profile, the profile itself was still there.

Wednesday night, Dishonest Abe and I were texting when he sends me the ominous message, “I have to tell you something,” to which my mind went into overdrive trying to guess what he might have to tell me. I was certainly not prepared for his revelation. “I’m African.” I responded with, “Ok…?” He said, “Well some people don’t like to date outside of their race, so I’m just putting it out there.” I was struck with a sense of déjà vu, hadn’t we already covered this conversation Sunday night? I mentioned to him, “We already discussed this. I have dated black guys before, you’ve dated white girls before.” He responds with, “ I know, just saying. but I wanted u to know that.” We move past that weird conversation that left me scratching my head. I shared the conversation with a couple friends, my mom, and my sister the next day. All of us were laughing over it and we all came to the same two concussions: 1. Either he is talking to multiple women and didn’t remember that he and I already had the race conversation or 2. He was trying to say he was like, straight from Africa (but then, wouldn’t he name the country he was from rather than the entire continent?). Anyway…

Friday was my day off but I knew Dishonest Abe was working so I waited for him to text me. That evening he did contact me, the standard, “Hi how are you,” stuffs but then he makes another confusing proclamation. For one to fully appreciate this conversation I think I need to share it, as it happened:

DA: Hi.. how r u

ME: Good. How are you?

DA: Sick bad

ME: Oh no!!! I’m sorry to hear that

DA: Yes since in the morning


ME: That sucks!

DA: I’m sorry. I could not eat

ME: Huh?

DA: I mean we could not meet today

ME: Well we weren’t meeting today. We were supposed to meet tomorrow…

DA: I know just letting u know

ME: You’re just letting me know that we can’t go out tonight when we never had plans for tonight? It really feels like you’re confusing me at times with someone else…

DA: I know is tomorrow. . I said I’m not feeling good. That way if I’m still sick . tomorrow we may or may not

ME: I see

DA: Yes madame

ME: Yes you said you’re not feeling good but why tell me we can’t meet today? Unless you were meeting someone else today and can’t keep your ladies straight.

DA: I am a one man lady … besides I am too old to play games It doesn’t get u anywhere I’m just telling u out of respect.

At this point, while I was highly entertained I was also over it. Besides, I don’t want to date a ‘one man lady,’ I want to date a one lady man. Saturday came and went without a word from Dishonest Abe but then again, he was ‘sick bad,’ so I wasn’t surprised. Usually at this point I would block a failed dating attempt to prevent further contact but I suspected there may be a little more entertainment value left with this one.

Sure enough, he contacted me Tuesday evening. There was no mention of the date that didn’t happen or the lack of communication from Friday to Tuesday. Being the asshole that I am, I text him, “So I guess Saturday was ‘may not’ huh?” He reiterated that he was ‘sick bad’ and apologized. I told him it was helpful the way he canceled the non-existent Friday plans as a heads up that we wouldn’t go out on Saturday. At that point he text with, ‘how r u my love,’ and as I was know home sick with a stomach bug I didn’t have the energy to play along any more. I told him I wasn’t his anything and wished him luck. Immediate blocking happened right after I hit send.

I think I will stick with my back up plan, which is stay single, adopt about 3 more cats, and drink all the wine while having a great time hanging out with my family and friends. Dating is certainly overrated.online dating.jpeg

The Cost of Being an Open Book

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Mark Twain

”Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 10.32.17 AM

James E. Faust

A half-truth is a whole lie.”

—Yiddish proverb

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.”

—Robert Louis Stevenson

I’ve always lived my life out loud, an open book, oversharing at nearly every opportunity. I think because the quotes I’ve listed above are ones I’ve heard most of my life or at least some version of them. I’m also a chatterbox, as anyone who knows me in real life is aware. I’ve embraced the idea of honesty and openness perhaps a little too much.

I think it is important to be truthful and to share one’s story. I believe that by sharing our own struggles we give others courage and lend them strength. However, where does one draw the line between being open and oversharing? I’m trying to figure that one out.  You see, there is a cost to oversharing, of living your life as an open book. When you share every thought, feeling, experience or slight someone has caused you, the people in your life know this, hold on to this, and are slower to forgive than you are.

Personally I am famous for talking myself into and out of things on a regular basis. I flip-flop which means I could never be a politician, or could I? I take the people in my life on my crazy, twisted journeys as I figure out what it is I want. For example, if I am trying to talk myself into a situation, I’ll share only the good points about the situation whether it is a purchase, a trip, a man, etc. Then, when my mind changes, people may be mystified when things seemed to be “so good.” In order to explain I now divulge all the misgivings, doubts, and red flags I had but failed to mention before. Sadly, if I change my mind (again), those I love are now skeptical. Or sometimes I feel I’ve boxed myself in a corner and have nowhere to go because if I choose this path, after sharing all the dark and dirty reasons why I was against it, well…

Granted, the opinions of others don’t stop me too much. They may slow me down a little, and only if the opinion is coming from someone I love and value. Still, I’m working to find a balance. To live a life that is true, authentic, and open but without the oversharing. Wish me luck! This is gonna be one heck of a task!

Queen Margaret Intro/ Of Pistachios and Meat Tenderizers

My grandmother, Queen Margaret, as our family affectionately called her was one of a kind. Whenever she spoke of my grandfather, who passed seven years before she did, she would always say that “God broke the mold when He made Frank.” Well that’s how we feel about her too. For years my aunts and uncles have said that I should write a book about Grams (one of her other names). This may not be a book but at least I am writing about her and her outrageous antics. Here goes:

IMG_0063Of Red Pistachios and Meat Tenderizers

I moved in with Queen Margaret when I was 30 and she was 92. She had lived on her own until that point, not wanting anyone to move in with her after Papa passed away. When it was suggested that I move in her response was always, “I don’t want anyone living here. I like living alone. This way I can pick my nose or scratch my butt whenever I want.” Then suddenly, she decided she no longer wanted to be alone and I moved in.

Grams was a night owl. She could stay up until 1am, 2am, 3am easily. Since she obviously didn’t have a job to go to it wasn’t an issue. It didn’t matter how late she stayed up because she could sleep in the next day. Me, having a job, I had to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

One particular night I had gone to bed while she was still up watching television, probably The Kardashians or The Little Couple, as these were her favorite programs. I fell into a comfortable sleep only to be awoken a few hours later by a bang.

As I lay in bed I listened intently, trying to figure out what the noise was. I didn’t hear the clattering of her walker so I was fairly certain she didn’t fall (also there were no curse words). I didn’t hear anything else, just the blaring sounds of the tv. I closed my eyes when there it was again BANG.

Now I’m trying to figure out what she could be doing to make that noise. She wasn’t calling for help. She didn’t seem distressed. I was about to give up and go back to sleep when I heard it yet again BANG. My curiosity was peaked and I had to know what she was up to. She was known for taking things apart and not being able to put them back together so I prayed she had not attempted a home improvement project. I was no more adept at that sort of thing than she was.

I crept down the hall and as I approached the kitchen I heard it again. However this time I got to see what was causing the sound. There sat Queen Margaret at the kitchen table, a meat tenderizer in her hand, a pistachio crushed on the white placemat. Because of her arthritis she couldn’t open the pistachio nuts the way most of us would, so being an enterprising woman she found her own way. To make matters worse she had insisted on red pistachios because in her mind, they tasted better. Her fingers were red, the meat tenderizer was dyed reddish pink, the placemat was also stained. Grams looked up to see me taking in the scene before me at which point she asked sheepishly, “Oh you heard me?”

I stared back and said, “Of course I heard you. I just couldn’t figure out the noise. I thought you fell or something.”

She apologized in her sarcastic way that wasn’t an apology at all and ordered me back to bed. As I headed back down the hallway I heard the banging sound as she said, “Maybe just one more.” Then another bang “ok maybe two more,” another bang, “three more.”

I gave up and went to sleep since I knew at that point she was safe. Her hands were stained for days from the red dye as were the placemat and the meat tenderizer. I had so much fun telling her caretaker the next day and the family at our next dinner. These are the sorts of stories that live on even though Queen Margaret is no longer here. Damn I miss that woman (but not the red pistachios).

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