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.

Heavy Heart

shutterstock_306532232My heart is terribly heavy right now. I’m feeling the urge to do something, anything to try and be a positive impact on the world right now. I don’t even know where to start. I’m mourning the lives lost in senseless and unnecessary violence. The current state of affairs in this country of ours is depressing me. As in, one day off, I barely got out of bed and I laid there crying as I read articles about the horrific events happening lately. My heart is hurting but I’m also feeing led to speak out and make a difference. To get involved and do what I can as one human being who sees the need for change and to affect others positively.

I ask that you check out these three videos I’v seen in recent weeks. I ask that you watch these videos with an open mind and an open heart. I know that some people feel like BLM is creating ‘more racial tension’ in this country by focusing on race. I ask you, how does one fix an issue if we can’t admit it exists in the first place?

Trevor Noah we should all be pro black and pro police!

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4 Black Lives Matter Myths Debunked | Decoded | MTV News

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Why ‘Black Lives Matter’ Is Important

click here

Peace and Quiet

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 12.30.02 PMWhen I was younger I longed for some busy, hectic, fast-paced life. I wanted to be a social butterfly (does anyone use that phrase anymore?) Unfortunately my mother was very strict and while I was more than welcome to have friends over, I was not allowed to go to friends’ homes very often. As an adult I can appreciate that it must be scary to let your child go to the home of someone else where God only knows how well the other parents supervise their children. However, as a kid, it bummed me out terribly.

As an adult… I often have invites to go out, to do this, to do that. I have a great group of close friends and a lot of people I am friendly with. However, I find myself declining invites more than accepting them. Sometimes I wonder if I had been allowed to be more social when I was younger, would I find myself wanting to be more social now? I really don’t know if that would have had any bearing on the course of my life at all.

All I know is that nowadays, I tend to prefer peace and quiet. I love being at my home, with my mutts, my computer, a good book, tv, a glass of wine, etc. Or I enjoy spending time with my family or my closest friends. I like small get togethers, intimate conversations, silliness, and spending time with people who encourage me to be the best version of myself. I tend to avoid large crowds or bigger get togethers. Lots of people + lots of alcohol tend to = unnecessary drama. I’m so uninterested in drama. I have very little patience for it.

Whether I missed my calling at being the girl who is always out and about town or not… One thing is for sure. I have come to adore peace and quiet.

Happy 2015

Recently I turned 34 yBlue Happy New Year 2015 Greeting Art Paper Cardears old which has me thinking a lot. It’s odd, I didn’t have a hard time saying good-bye to my twenties. In fact it was more of a feeling of ‘good riddance,’ when it came to that. However, I’ve had an affinity with the number 33 my entire life so it was an age I looked forward to and dreaded leaving. It’s not just my birthday that has me thinking. It’s the holidays and the new year that has my mind in overdrive.

This time last year I was still nursing the wound left from  losing my Uncle John. There was a lot of uncertainty in my life and stress. Despite all of that I felt stronger than I had in a very long time. I felt like I needed to be strong for him because he would be. It also forced me to start admitting to the poor choices I was making in regards to my own health. While I have a long  ways to go I am working on eliminating or lessening the presence of chemicals in my life. I’ve faced one of my greatest fears and saw a GI doc which led to answers and now I’m learning to manage my conditions.

I started to feel a pressing need to get back to school. It was this unfinished project hanging over my head and I don’t like having anything hanging over me. Part of the reason I have not bothered with school is the annoyance of how long it will take to complete a degree. It’s funny where we find inspiration but I saw a quote online that said, “Don’t let the time it will take to complete a goal discourage you. The time will pass anyway.” It resonated deeply inside of me. At the last minute I managed to get into two classes this fall.

I have realized at this stage in my life I don’t feel old nor young. I just am. I am evolving and embracing and living, maybe for the first time ever. I am excited for 2015 and to have a blank slate. I know this year will be different for several reasons. Last night I went to a party for New Year’s, which I have never done in my life. My family has always taken the approach to  stay home where it is safe and call each other at midnight kind of celebration. Granted I was home before midnight but still, I went out. I’ve also never, ever rung in New Year’s with a friend and one of my bestest ladies actually went to the party with me and then crashed at my house.

Today, I was up by 8:15 am which is rather early for me. These changes, however small are making me happy. I’ve also opted to give up Facebook for the year. All resolutions tend to be broken quickly so I’ll have to see how that one plays out. I have a few other resolutions in mind but none that I want to share. While the public acknowledgment could lead to a feeling of accountability it could also lead to a sense of failure if my life path takes me in other directions. Just because something sounds like a great plan doesn’t mean it is what I should be focusing on. Time will tell and trusting one’s gut and intuition are key.

So today, on this first day of 2015 I am wishing you all love, peace, and prosperity. Be blessed people.

*side note, my blog is set to automatically post to Facebook so I’m not cheating 🙂

The Dreaded Prep

I really should be doing reading for school right now, or homework for school, or something productive like cleaning my house. Instead I am sitting in front of my computer, feeling drawn in, this need inside of me.

Part of it is the need to communicate. I have Messages open on my computer and keep bouncing over to Facebook. Part of this distraction is my need to write, what exactly I am not certain but, we shall see what develops here…

I realized that today, I am living one of my greatest nightmares. When I started observing that I had GI issues way back when I didn’t want to deal with them because I knew that all roads led to a colonoscopy. I knew that one day, say at the age of 50, I’d have to get a colonoscopy. However, I always hoped that it could wait until that point.

The dreaded prep for the procedure has sounded terrifyingly uncomfortable. The procedure itself, well excuse me world but that right there? It is exit only! So I avoided. I ignored. I lived in denial because I simply didn’t want to deal with it. Occasionally, when I’d be in a lot of pain I would think “Perhaps I should see a doctor about this…” But that thought trailed off leaving me shuddering in fear for the torture that would be bestowed upon me.

Today, as I drank a lovely Gatorade/Miralax cocktail it hit me that I am living one of my worst nightmares and ya know what? It isn’t so scary. By this time tomorrow evening I plan on being stuffed to the gills with every delicious food I can think of. I am mad at myself for losing sleep the last few nights, worried about what this day and the next would be like.

I am proud of myself that I was able to calm myself last night and get some sleep. I sort of removed myself, mentally, from my body. I took a step back. I told myself that no amount of worry would change a thing. The only thing it was doing was leaving me sleepless and tense. I needed to appreciate the comfort of my bed, get a good night’s sleep, and let the next day take care of itself. After some deep breathing I put on a movie I’ve seen a hundred times at least, and before I knew it, I was out.

Tonight, on this rainy, sticky eve I wish everyone the best. I wish people courage to face their fears, peace to keep them calm, and a good night’s rest.

Back to School Take 2

So I am back in school, it is official. I have completed one week of class already. While the new week started yesterday I have not done much about it other than map out what is due and when. I figure that is a good enough start.

I cannot believe that it is already September. I am trying to soak up every ounce of good weather that we have left. I have been walking my dogs like crazy! I’ve been riding my bike, though not in a few days now. I’ve cut lawn but it is about time to do that again. I sit on my patio sometimes while reading things for school. I will make the most of this weather while it is here.

The increase in my physical activity and tracking my food is starting to pay off. I have lost about three pounds and I have been told that I look like I am losing weight. That is always a great feeling to know my hard work is paying off a bit.

This week I see two doctors in the quest of fixing me. That is about it for me and my life at the moment. I’m happy, busy, and at peace.

The Tragedy of Mental Health

Robin Williams. Robin fucking Williams. One of the funniest people on the planet. Gone. He is gone because of a disease that turns the mind against itself. I was shocked and terribly saddened when I learned of his passing. It felt like a punch to the gut.

A friend had posted something on Facebook which sent me on a rabid search of the web. At that moment there were two results to my search; one gossip site proclaiming his death and one rather sketchy looking site proclaiming it was a hoax. I clung to the hope  it was a hoax. We couldn’t lose Robin Williams.

In the back of my mind I recalled he did suffer from depression and had substance abuse issues in his past. The site that was announcing his passing said it was suicide brought on by a severe bout of depression. I know that what I am writing so far is nothing new, nor am I an authority of any sort. I have no degree whatsoever, just my own battles with mental illness and bearing witness to the battles my loved ones have endured, and one that lost her battle.

In the days following Robin’s death there has been a great deal of dialogue. Questions like, “How could he? He was so rich and successful. He was so funny,” etc. What people don’t get is that mental illness doesn’t discriminate and that it is an illness. I skimmed over a few insensitive comments on Facebook. I even fell victim to one mistaken thought myself. For one, very brief moment, I thought it was dreadfully sad he chose to take his life while people like my uncle, who was killed by cancer, wanted nothing more than to live. How selfish. How very selfish.

At that moment, luckily, I got angry. Not at Robin, not at anyone who has ever committed suicide, but at myself. As someone who battles anxiety and mild depression, I, of all people should know better. I do know better. In my sadness though, I forgot, for just a moment.

Mental illness is coming into the open bit by bit but not fast enough. It is not given the same respect or understanding as diseases like cancer or diabetes or anything quantifiable. With mental illness people usually look ok. The same way that sufferers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia look ok. There isn’t a blood test or an ultrasound or an MRI to detect it. Mental illness is a disease of symptoms and feelings and thoughts. So for many, it isn’t real.

Well-meaning people give ineffectual advice like, think yourself out of it, or focus on the happy thoughts, or just breathe. One cannot think themselves out of diabetes, or emphysema. In fact, if someone told a diabetic, “Just don’t think about it and you’ll be fine,” they would be looked at as if they were crazy. Yet, for people suffering from mental illness it is common practice to tell them to think their way out of their disease. It doesn’t work like that…

I have general anxiety disorder and mild depression. There are days that I’m scared to death, panicked, over nothing. I may wake up that way or it may hit me out of nowhere, in the middle of my day. Imagine waking up from an intensely scary dream, your heart pounding,being totally overwhelmed with fear. Now imagine feeling that way for no apparent reason. That is what a panic attack is like.

I cannot even count the number of times I have argued with myself, trying desperately to tell myself there is no reason to feel this way. Nothing is wrong. Calm down, breathe. Focus. I’m fine. But I am not fine, not in those moments. In those moments, I’m terrified, or feel like I am dying, or want to cry because internally I am out of fucking control. I’m shook up, on the inside.

I went years feeling detached from the world around me, feeling numb. I was sad and angry. I was filled with rage. I couldn’t explain it, couldn’t tell a single person why. I have a good life. I have two loving parents who are still together. I grew up in a stable home environment. I have been surrounded by a loving, extended family. I have never been raped or molested or kidnapped or beaten. By all accounts and measures, I have a good life. No trauma to “explain,” why I have these issues.

Yet, I have a mental illness. It turns out, it runs in my family. While I do, in some ways, count it as a blessing- it gives me an empathy and understanding that no outsider can truly feel- it is also a curse. Freaking out over nothing? Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room and suddenly feeling like I can’t breathe, that I am dying? It’s awful. Experiencing tension throughout my body  that is so painful and an ever churning mind that I cannot shut off? Torture. Having my stomach in knots, heart pounding, and feeling split in two? Certainly not fun.  

When my anxiety is running high I am like two people in the same body. There is the version of me that others see, the version that is trying desperately to act normal and carry on like everything is ok. Then there is the other side, the darker side, the one that is struggling terribly, trying desperately to coach myself through the situation.

Try having a conversation with a total stranger, staying focused and coherent, while inside your heart is pounding, breathing is difficult, you feel tingly, you want to run away, you want to scream, you want to cry, you think you’re going to be sick, maybe your face feels numb, or you have odd pains, you wonder if you’re having a heart attack or stroking out… So many feelings, all of the feelings, wrapped in panic and fear and worry, happening inside of you all at once. Welcome to my life. Welcome to the life of someone with a mental illness. Sounds like a blast, doesn’t it? To top it off you feel dumb because you know its totally illogical, there is no threat, no danger. The panic is useless but it’s still there, unrelenting.

Sometimes I wish for education sake, people could be forced into a panic attack, just once, so they would get it. So they would see how thoroughly futile it is to “think your way out of it” I wouldn’t wish an anxiety disorder on anyone but if everyone could feel it just one time…

Depression is even scarier. I have mild bouts of depression from time to time. I have never been suicidal. Suicide was an intrusive thought, a tempting release from the pain I was in. It was dark and beautiful and poetic. It would mean having some semblance of control when everything else felt hopeless. Or it would be a way to punish those that hurt me. However, I am lucky, for me it was just a pretty idea to write about in morbid poetry. That was enough of a release for me. I’ve also never been a cutter, and while I have occasionally had too much to drink, I don’t use alcohol to self-medicate or treat my anxiety and depression.

I am lucky while others are not as lucky. There are people that I love that are Bi-Polar II. It painful to watch them spiral out of control as they enter their lows. To know they are engulfed in despair. To know I’ve been there but never as dark or as deep as them. I know what it’s like to sleep away life, I’ve done it. I know what it is like to feel… Nothing. To simply exist and go through the motions day after day. I know what it is like to hate yourself completely. To not find a single redeeming quality about yourself. I’ve been there. Still, as dark as I got, wrapped up in my own misery, I have always seen light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe faint at time. Sometimes things felt completely pointless but there was always a shred of hope. Not everyone is as fortunate.

One of my friends committed suicide a year ago. She had fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, she lived with her abusive mother, she was in her thirties but couldn’t hold down a job due to her health issues. Some days were good, some were awful. There were days she couldn’t get out of bed because the pain was so bad. She was hospitalized many times for her Crohns disease. She had such dreams, such beauty inside of her, compassion for others. Yet, the suffering, her diseases were too much. She couldn’t make it through. I was heartbroken when I learned of her suicide. I was angry. I questioned myself if I could have saved her. I was sad because she was gone from this earth. I was sad for the hand she was dealt. In the end though, no matter what I felt, no matter what I said, no matter what I did or could do… I was not her. I didn’t know the extent of her demons, the depths of her despair, or the hopelessness that swallowed her up.

I do not condone suicide but I do ‘get it,’  I can understand being at war within yourself, feeling hopeless and beaten. Knowing that so many people suspect you’re lazy or faking it, or that life just isn’t that bad. As someone that suffers from mental illness I know the dialogue society still has about it. “Everyone has stress, you need to learn to deal with it.” There is still a stigma, plenty of judgement, and a gross lack of understanding. I hope one day, that won’t be true. People with mental illness are so busy fighting within ourselves we don’t need to defend ourselves against the world too.

*** To be clear, I am currently in a good place, my anxiety seems to be under control again and I’m not “down,” or otherwise affected by depression. However, they are a part of me, so this topic really hits home and I felt the need to voice what it is like to suffer.