Hold It All Together…No More

Single Mom
Work Too Hard
Pulled In Many Directions
…once was but am no more

Hold It All Together
A precious balance so delicate
Runner of Miles To Keep Me Sane
…once was but am no more

Know where my life is going
A reliable achiever
Somehow Manage to Make Work and Home Balance
…once was but am no more

Once Was But Am No More

Posted in Anxiety, Coming Out, depression, guilt, major depressive disorder, marathon, mental illness, motherhood, PTSD, single parenthood, suicide, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My article in the August edition of ‘Women’s Running’

This came out at a great time. I sure need the motivation and reminder of what it feels like to be healthy. Thank you to Kara with Women’s Running for feeling my story was worth telling!

20140723-194753-71273286.jpg

Posted in Coming Out, depression, Health, major depressive disorder, marathon, mental illness, OCD, running, stigma, suicide attempt survivor, Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Which Brings Me Comfort

As I have learned, there are many different kinds of mental illness and of those, differing severities. I have read and soaked up all I can about the ones that torment me, because learning and understanding brings me comfort. It would be best if I knew how to fix these illnesses. But I don’t know if knowing this will happen in my lifetime or even in my children’s. I pray it does, but like many prayers I do not expect this one to be answered.

Instead, to ward off the one thing that would bring me the most comfort of all; death, of which I have never been afraid; I hold tight to the things that calm my anxiety and keep me from counting down the days until I am finally at peace. The things that make me less jealous of the happy people that revel at life. The ones who look forward to what I find mundane, painful and torturous.

My children; their pure and innocent hugs. The fact that I KNOW they love me in spite of these afflictions I fight every minute of every day. The smell they each have, which has calmed me since their births. My oldest’s effortless sense of humor and my youngest’s sensitive and loving heart. They are both so beautiful and it is a wonder to me that I helped shape who they are. I hope the most important things I have worked to instill in them are always a part of who they are: a lack of harsh judgement of others, equality among human beings, humility, forgiveness and kindness. They each have their own strengths as well and I am so proud of that.

Simple things ease my discomfort and bring me moments of peace: my well worn quilt I’ve had since college, the smell of which brings memories of security and warmth: the smell of lavender (the real essence of lavender not the fake, purplely floral scent you find in candles and hallmark stores): knowing that I have a full day with no plans or expectations and no projects to be completed: no pressure: my mother’s voice, unworried and not sickly…she has become healthy again recently and this reminds me of the way she used to be, I imagine my illness stresses her out as much as hers did me: unsolicited kind words from a friend or coworker, I am exceptionally gifted at convincing myself that no one really likes me that when someone reaches out to show me they care, it can turn an entire week around for me (my recent wedding reception surprised me with the people that came…some who I was convinced no longer cared; but also confirmed the ones who weren’t there- the peril of having a diseased but perceptive mind).

My husband. I know he loves me, even in my weakest state. I try so hard to be healthy for him. He and my children don’t deserve to have to deal with someone like me. So I power through as much as I can for them. I HAVE to get up and work and bring home a paycheck. There is no time for convalesce or hospitalization. I don’t have that luxury. So I bury my pain and paste on a smile and work my hardest and come home exhausted from fighting the depression and anxiety all day and hope it doesn’t bury me again.

This is why I collect the things that comfort me. Mentally wrapping myself in my lavender scented quilt in a dark cool, quiet room is so much better than easing the torment with thoughts of my death.

Until the next day when it is time to pretend again…

20140706-140052-50452720.jpg

Posted in Anxiety, depression, guilt, Happiness, major depressive disorder, mental illness, stigma, suicide, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

An entitled and self-indulgent blog about self-hatred

My mother used to say to me, every time she was about to punish me for something as a teen (a less than stellar grade, or the time I got a speeding ticket for going 45 in a 35 in town coming home from work) that she didn’t see that instilling more on to me than I was already putting on myself would correct the incident or benefit me in any way. She would say, “I think you have punished yourself enough.” She KNEW how hard I was on myself. Even then. Or so she thought. I would think of ways to make whatever I had done better; study more, pay better attention on the road, stop being so incredibly stupid…

A blog post I read on AAS today made me recall times like these. As if those times are behind me. I am still like this today. If my husband gets aggravated at me for something…I apologize and know that I am just a terrible wife/person/human when in fact whatever it is I have done (spent too much on something unexpected, for example) wasn’t really that horrible of a transgression after all. He never gets too angry at me, anyway. I got “written up” at work once and instead of defending myself I signed the write up, which if I had expressed my reasoning behind being gone from work unexpectedly one afternoon for a half day (a near miss of hospitalization, which I let my friends at the office know scant details of at the time, as I thought my boss was on vacation and did not want to bother/worry her) I imagine I would have not been written up but I just justify it to myself as I imagine I probably did something else deserving of being written up and accept it as deserved. If one of my children has a bad day, gets a bad grade, behaves improperly; I just KNOW it is my fault. I am a horrible parent and should spend more time teaching them better study skills, more appropriate behavior expressions, or just be there more often…somehow. I know I am a failure. But I do the best I can, so I am just incompetent. This is what goes through my head every day; every hour, every moment. I rarely discuss it because I DO NOT want to be reassured or worse: felt sorry for. That just makes this worse. This is a part of me, ingrained in my psyche. I imagine myself a terrible, horrible, evil person. I try to make it better; make myself better. I volunteer as much as I can. I “pay it forward” any chance I see the opportunity but it feels fake. I see myself as an imposter, not portraying who I really am.

I tend to forgive way too easily. My former in-laws hate me. I came to understand this recently as some custody issues were ironed out and it devastated me. I fell apart in the mediation room when I was told by the shocked mediator. They always disliked me, I knew that and I loved them so much. I still care for them unwaveringly, but somehow, I know I did something to deserve this hatred. I understand they hear one side of my ex and my break up story. He has told them a detail that is untrue. He may have made himself feel it is true, but it is not. I feel horribly about myself but I KNOW I am no cheater. But I still feel the hate is deserved. I think they see me as I really am, even if this one detail never happened. I am a person deserving of their disdain. I almost soak up the mean glares and thoughts they are having about me. I deserve this. I am not good enough to have what I do. I do not deserve all the good that has come my way. But my children do, so I just accept it and continue on. The hurt I have inside for family lost forever I brought on myself. I love them still and miss them… So be it. I feel no ill will towards my ex. The father of my lovely Little. He created half of her and if I had ANY ill will toward him that would somehow reflect in her. I cannot. No matter what I imagine or actually hear that has been said or done. I immediately dismiss that and feel for him again. Not love like it used to be, but understanding. I understand why he does and has done what has been. I care for how his life is and will be. I do not want him or anyone else to hurt or do without. I feel guilty. He is a good and talented person, really, and only does what he does to protect himself. I guess we all have our own ways of coping. He has his, I have mine.

I have had relationships that were hurtful; physically and emotionally. My therapist says that I was in that so long because I felt it was deserved. “We accept the love we feel we deserve.” I stayed until I was forced to leave. Confronted with multiple wrongs that were so obvious I could not ignore them or pretend they didn’t exist anymore. It was affecting my ability to parent, so I left it. So I wonder now how I have ended up marrying someone who is wonderful in every way to me. I know I don’t deserve that and again, I feel guilty. What has HE done to deserve someone like me? Nothing. I am so thankful for him every day. He and my children have saved me; from myself. They love me and that is enough for me to ignore how I feel for myself.

How can a person hate themselves so profoundly? I have asked myself and my therapist this time and time again. I torture myself with it. I have been so self-destructive in the past; fluctuating between trying to destroy myself and trying to prove to myself that I deserve to live (I am smart/I am stupid…earn degrees/ promotions/ work to achieve physical goals…and then wonder how I managed to fool everyone in to giving these to me) it is a terrible cycle. Horrible. I know this.

Am I a narcissist? To be so focused on myself, even if it is all negative?!? I realize this and try to stop focusing on myself so much… I volunteer, get lost in my clients’ events and work extra hard, and spend time with my kids; ANYTHING to not think about how horrible I am because this is selfish. I am so self-centered.

This cycle, it has never ended. My whole life, this is how I have thought. Medication doesn’t help this, it just helps me from becoming completely hopeless and tired. Depression can make me so tired and feel as if nothing can make any of it better. It’s like when I have the stomach flu and I cannot move or think because I am so sick. But instead of being my stomach that has me unchangingly down for the count, it is my brain. That is EXACTLY how this feels. It is unchangeable and completely out of my control when this happens. Like a stomach flu. Imagine having to move and work and parent and function while having this physical ailment…the stomach flu but worse, people understand how this feels but they do not understand PROFOUND depression. Unlike mild depression in a way that a fire you set in your fireplace (controlled and only mildly uncomfortable if you get too close) is different than a forest fire that burns for days/weeks and takes out a neighborhood and destroys lives. No comparison. Meds help me have a little more energy to function; for my kids, for my family. When I feel I am a complete waste of human skin I do think of them and put my self-hatred aside; my narcissism, self-centeredness, my absolute focus on myself and all of my flaws and missteps.

I have written down my ‘accomplishments’. The things I do when in that part of this ‘cycle’. The things that make me feel like I might be a decent human being. Do I do this to prove I am human for myself (self-serving) or for the people around me, who are probably sick of it all as well? I don’t know, but there it is. I go back and look at these things and feel many things, but pride is not one of them. I think it could be a waste. A complete waste. I have gotten letters, messages of thanks for writing about my illnesses from those who feel this, too. Those who understand; but do they really? Are they are completely self-focused/self-despising? I have had to defend myself before. Not because I didn’t feel I deserved whatever I was being attacked/disciplined for but because I KNEW if I allowed that to continue I would die. It would kill what little remains of what keeps me here. I have literally almost walked out of something I knew I shouldn’t because I understood that if I didn’t it would lead to my further self-hatred and thus, demise. But then if I did walk away, that also would. Luckily, I think that person partially understood this and held steady to resolve the friction, not letting me walk away. And I am thankful for that. But I did tell that person that I couldn’t handle that sort of confrontation. As my mother said…I am hard enough on myself. I do try to understand why, but it doesn’t help me.

I suppose I always will be.
sad

Posted in depression, family, guilt, Health, major depressive disorder, mental illness, perfectionism, suicide, Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Blog on ‘Living with Anxiety’

Link | Posted on by | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Father’s Day; My Dad; and Mental Illness

dad

My Dad, he is the best. No, he really is. I don’t think I had a true appreciation for him and all he has done for us until the last couple years. I have always respected and loved him, without a doubt, but I spent a large part of my childhood being scared of him as well. Just because that is how children in our family were raised for generations. One of those, “children should be seen and not heard”, “I was beaten with a stick when I was spanked and I turned out okay when I was a kid”, “because I said so, that’s why” kinds of traditional Irish/Italian families where the Moms stay home, the Dads rule the household and the children DO NOT talk back. And I didn’t talk back. I still don’t! This was tough love but love none-the-less.

I try not to write often about my family on my blog. My family is a private group. We keep our dirty laundry in the hamper, where it belongs (not that there is much, I am the most controversial in the bunch; the “Black Sheep” and not ashamed to be so) but out of respect and love for them, and because I do not feel they have negatively affected my mental illness, I do not find it necessary to tell their story. That is for them to do, if they choose. This is also the reason why I have not completed my book. I get to a place where the story would not make sense without mentioning one of my relatives and I stop. I have been either strongly supported, or patiently tolerated by everyone in the brood and I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that by writing something they would find unfair or unjust or that they interpreted differently and took offense. Someday, I may move past this wall, but for now I feel my progress does not hinder on writing this book, so it has stalled. All of that being said, my father being one of my strongest supporters, I know he is also one of the people that feels most responsible for my mental illness. And I feel so badly about that, because he is not at all. He was a strong disciplinarian, but was NEVER abusive; he was tough and worked a lot, but we never worried about money or our parents’ love for each other or our safety in our home. I believe he probably does have OCD and some anxiety (but I am NOT a psychologist), but, although these are possibly hereditary, it is not his fault I have these issues (in addition to some other fun illnesses) any more than it will be my fault if one of my children ends up with mental illness(es) or that it was our ancestors’ fault that my father may have OCD, etc. There is more serious mental illness in our family’s history on both my mother and father’s sides. This is just the way it is. The luck of the draw. I drew the brain serotonin issue card. Such is life! Now I know, now I have accepted it and now I do what I have to do to be healthy and function to the best of my ability. People work with worse and people do worse with better.

So why do I specifically write about my father today? Well, it is Father’s Day weekend and I have many strengths that I have to thank my father for. Even though I do have depression, I am not lazy (as is a too often assigned stereotype for those of us with depression) and I have a strong resolve. My father literally broke his knee jumping from an attacking swarm of bees while operating his several story high heavy equipment machinery device and somehow managed to drag himself to his truck, get home and prop up his leg (grudgingly went to the Dr. the next day at my mother’s insistence) and was back working that next afternoon. This man has literally never taken a sick day in his life. He has only missed work if my mother has been sick (as she was significantly so these past two years) and had to take care of her. My father gets this from his father who is the same, only more so. My Pop (Grandfather) pulled his own painful tooth once with a pair of pliers, as opposed to going to the Dr. and miss work. ‘Grit’ is what I have more aptly called this quality. This is what I believed has enabled me to continue working full time plus some, raising children, finish college and a Master’s degree, complete marathons, become a boxer as a hobby, and running a household all on my own despite battling my inner demons (along with some serious flares of Lupus) for years and years. I would not have made it to 38 years of age without this ‘Grit’. I understand this now. And I have him to thank for that.

When my Dad first learned of my attempt and hospitalization my worst fear was that he would be angry that I upset my mother and did something horrible ‘on purpose’ and that he would either say terrible things to me I would never forget, or possibly disown me…he did the opposite. He instead said to me, “I am not mad. I love you.” I haven’t heard anything more healing in my entire life. I knew then I WAS going to be okay. He and my equally as wonderful mother took me (and my two kids) into their home and allowed me to just heal. He took over all of the stresses in dealing with my exes and their threats of taking my children from me, he assured me they would do whatever they needed to do to make sure my kids and I were okay and that gave me the strength to continue working, get healthy and be a good mother again. Even now nearly two years later I know it was him that made me so that I could get back on my feet and be a strong person. It was him that made me feel that I am still a whole person, even though this happened. I respect him even more now. I feel much less fear and much more adoration of him not just as a father but as a person. If he could grow into this worldly and accepting father, maybe I can grow into a more resilient and more accepting individual of my own lapses and opportunities. He still will not accept any non-sense, don’t get me wrong! But he knows the difference between non-sense and helplessness, and he saw that difference in me when I didn’t. I thought I was a failure and he knew I was still his Christine. His firstborn and capable of so much more than what I had done up to this point. So I believe that, too. I take it easy on myself now. I know not to take other’s judgments of me harshly because my Dad accepts me so I know I am okay. Anyone who doesn’t “get it” is not someone I have to worry about. These lessons my father has taught me by example. And so…he has given me life a second time. I owe so much more to my dad than just a tie, or a card or a gift card to Academy. I owe him my life and to continue living it the absolute best way that I can. Just as he has always done for us.

Thank you, Dad. I love you!

Posted in Anxiety, children, Dad, daughter, depression, family, Father, Health, major depressive disorder, mental illness, OCD, perfectionism, recovery, stigma, suicide, Therapy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

I Used To Be A Runner…

there will come a day

Not a great one, not even a good one, but I was a loyal runner. Running made me feel good. It made me ‘okay’. On days when I was angry, run down, the worst of my depressive and suicidal moods could be alleviated for hours, even the entire day by a good long slow run. This was my medicine, my escape, my savior…

In July, the August ‘Women’s Running’ magazine will come out about how running saved my life. I truly believe it did, and it has. It saved me from the worst of my Lupus flares (I would get out of the hospital after an overnight/multi day stay for emergency dialysis and meet up with my running group for our weekly long ten miler without even blinking.) It would be slower than usual, but I knew the run would make me feel better. Mind, body and soul. I have NEVER regretted going for a run. So why am I now feeling like I “used” to be a runner?

It has been 15 days since my last run. And that was a pitiful 1.5 miler in my new neighborhood in which the average pace was 14 minutes per mile. Practically walking. Before that my last run was my last race. The Houston Marathon in January. I am ashamed, sad, and remorseful because I know what running does for me. It hurts me to walk by the running clothes I have set out ready to go whenever I go on my next run. I hold back tears when I look up in my office at work and see the three medals I earned at the marathon in January (for doing two runs back to back you win an additional medal for completing the ‘Houston Double’). I feel like a complete loser when I see all of the races and daily runs my friends are completing. Do I have an excuse for this lazy streak? I hate excuses. After all I have overcome to be a marathon runner, what is so momentous to stop me now?!

The medicine that my Psychiatrist and therapist have given me to keep me alive. These two little pills that change the chemistry in my brain, supposedly for the better. You see, I did almost lose it all back in November 2012 when I was trying to use willpower and running alone to battle a very serious mental illness or two. I have spoken and written much about them; OCD, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety, and PTSD blahblahblah. People get tired of my harping on that, I know. I have lost friends over these revelations and constant advocacy and my lack of embarrassment in admitting to all that comes with having these illnesses. That doesn’t bother me. If it bothers them and they have to ignore me, fine. It still is and I still am… What bothers me is that now that I am facing these head on, and not pretending they don’t exist and putting myself at the mercy of the mental health industry, I have come to feel even sicker than ever.

Thank goodness, I am lucky enough to have great insurance. And a job that pays well enough that I can visit my health care team as I am supposed to. I feel so much for those that have to go without in order to be well. I am doing as I’m told. A few months ago I began to feel extremely low again so before the suicide urges came back too strong I asked for help, as one should. I was almost hospitalized but my husband and I felt we could have me try some additional medication the Dr. prescribed and keep me out of the hospital. I HAVE to work, that is not even up for discussion and I can’t imagine being away from my kids. Besides, we have our honeymoon and reception coming up. I just had surgery on my foot, so my usual mood boosting run was out for at least 6 weeks. That was 8 weeks ago. Now I battle my medications. I have stayed on my anti-depressant (just upped the dose a little) and my anti-anxiety med that I felt guilty about taking. I now understand that I have to take it regularly for now and I don’t feel so guilty. I have a fear of becoming medicine dependent and taking a controlled medication scares the crap out of me. I won’t even take pain killers after surgery. My therapist has assured me I am the exact antithesis of one who would become an addict, so I trust her and do as I’m instructed. Then a new medication was added. I researched it at length and became alarmed to find it was an anti-psychotic! I am NOT psychotic! I have never lost touch with reality and am only too aware of my circumstances at all times, but apparently they will often give a significantly reduced dose of these meds to the seriously depressed who seem to be medication resistant at times. So I took it. I immediately began to feel better; but then I felt funny after a few days. Shaky, unable to relax, I couldn’t get comfortable or sleep and I was taking way more anti-anxiety medication just to try to relax enough to sit still for even a few minutes. It was HORRIBLE! I wanted to jump out of my skin. BUT I wasn’t depressed, just felt like a total nutcase. I stopped talking them and went back to my Dr. He agreed I was not tolerating them well and gave me a different one. I began to relax and sleep finally. Much better! Until…I stopped wanting to do anything BUT sleep. I could peel myself out of bed on time but it was a struggle to move. My arms and legs were concrete, my brain in a complete fog.

Like I said, not working is NOT an option. The moment I stop working I give in to illness. I won’t do that, besides I LOVE my job and my career. Most days, it is all I have that makes me feel ‘normal’. I am good at what I do. Even with the illnesses I have to work around. It helps me fight. It gives me value. I have to work and I do still believe my job needs me, too. I know I have a unique ability to empathize and work well with my particular market. And I am still intelligent enough to have much to offer. But I have to stay well. So I come to work every day and give 100% of myself. I even won an award for smashing my quota for the last quarter and look to be doing the same again this quarter. These types of ‘atta girls’ from the real world give me hope. They keep me trying. This is what keeps me feeling human. There aren’t any concessions here for people with illnesses and I don’t ask for any. I am treated equally and I will perform as such. But then I go home and literally collapse into my home and drag myself to my bed. Completely out of anything. Nothing to give my family. No energy to even shower. This isn’t right either. I’ve gained 20 pounds in two months. This isn’t ‘me’. So I stopped taking that as well. I can’t help feeling that I just need to run. I NEED to become a runner again. I have to drag myself out the door.

I will become a runner again. I will.

Posted in Anxiety, children, Corporate, depression, excuse, family, Health, hospitality, major depressive disorder, medication, mental hospital, mental illness, OCD, PTSD, running, stigma, suicide, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments