Bullying and My ‘Little’

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She got a haircut last Saturday. I was thrilled because this meant no more fighting her to brush out the tangled mess at the back, underpart of her long, brown head of curls. My ‘Little’ (what her father and I have called her since she was born – 7 weeks early and finally came home a massive 4 pounds from the hospital; both of us afraid to break her at every diaper change) hopping around the house all weekend with her lighter, tighter curls bouncing around her head. “Now I am pretty”, she sang to herself.

To me she is and always has been beautiful. To anyone I could imagine, she must be beautiful. I am her mother, but I think I am fairly objective. She is 11 years old, brown eyes, a little above average height, always smiling, loves to read mystery stories, and chat. She has cute little glasses and likes to play (mostly pretend games). Did I mention she is brilliant? So maybe some of the kids at school don’t appreciate all of those qualities… I was much like her at that age; only not as smart and not nearly as cute.

When I was her age it didn’t bother me too much that no one wanted to be my friend. I did my school work, sang in the school choir and went home. There were some mean kids at school who would pick on me because my teeth were too big for my face and I was overweight and that did hurt my feelings, but my mother told me to pretend that it didn’t bother me and so I did. I went home and cried where no one could see. I did have something though; I wanted to be a singer and dancer someday. I watched shows about Broadway and musicals and knew someday I would do something like that and no one would make fun of me anymore. I would make up dances and practice singing in my room for hours until it was time to go to bed. Then back to school. There were other things in my life that made me sad and school was not the worst of it. School was almost an escape, not as good as home but I was able to learn here and the teachers liked me. I almost felt like I deserved to be picked on some. It just motivated me to work harder when I got home on my dancing and singing.

Flash forward seven years: I did end up with a full scholarship for dance and voice to a performance program at college – but I also ended up with no sense of self-worth and suicide ideation, major depressive disorder, OCD and severe anxiety that I battle to this day. Would I change something for me in my childhood now? I am doing well now but perhaps… But now, I see my Little in this very same place and I cannot chance her ending up as I have. I have to say I DO NOT believe childhood bullying leads to mental illness; but on the other hand, it can certainly exacerbate the issue if no one comes along to show the child they are worth more than what their peers are telling them they are. Not just for the victim of the bullying but also for the bully’s sake. A couple of the people that were horrible to me in childhood have come back and apologized in adulthood and I do believe they had suffered also.

Back to my daughter. She tells me in P.E. class a little boy named Davis told her one day after she mentioned in class her sister and she were in a car accident that they could have died, “Awe, too bad you didn’t!” I called the gym teacher at her Middle School (we’ll call him Coach M) and left a message, per his preferred method of contact. He never contacted me back, nor said anything to the young man, Davis or my daughter. Also, she tells me she has no friends from last year and doesn’t know why. (This is her first year in GT classes and I suspect that could have something to do with it.) She has joined both Reading Club and Art Club, which she enjoys and I hope this will help her find children with like interests but as a mother, other than giving her the same advice my mother gave, I don’t know what else to do (she doesn’t like to sing as much as I did and has shown little interest in dance). Oh, also after she went back to school excited about her “pretty” new haircut? She was told that she looked: “weird”, “okay”, “she could model if she ate a tapeworm”, “funny” and many other non-encouraging not-nice, definite not friend words.

She does like to run and we have joined the ‘Team Beef’ running team as a family, which is not easy to do over the last few years. Little was the last to do so. We hope to become more active in that in the New Year and I would like to see that boost her confidence the way dance did for me in High School. But by then for me, my self-confidence was already bruised. I sincerely hope teachers and administrators do take notice of the lonely ‘Littles’ like mine in their schools and know how truly alone they are. Give them an extra boost occasionally if you could. You have no idea what you are doing for their self-worth. And tell the mean kid next to them (or group of kids), to look up the word “empathy” in the dictionary.

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Suffering versus Living

The Myers Briggs Test; A fun little look into our psyche that companies will often give once we begin a work relationship with them. The company I work with gave me my first test when I was 23. My first result was the following:

The Executive-ENTJ

Assertive and outspoken – they are driven to lead. Excellent ability to understand difficult organizational problems and create solid solutions. Intelligent and well-informed, they usually excel at public speaking. They value knowledge and competence, and usually have little patience with inefficiency or disorganization.

I have changed SO much since then. I wanted to rule the world. I had more motivation than anyone I knew. If I had been a race car I would have won the Indy 500! I knew nothing of mental illness; and certainly would have not identified as feeling any effects of that or any other illness like the flu or lupus, or even the common cold. Sickness was just the weak person’s excuse to just not go to work and get things done. Mind over matter, right?! I had things to do, marathons to run, degrees to finish, companies to take over, tasks to accomplish. I was SO clueless. I had no idea what I was doing to myself. That I was burying my pain and giving it a warm, dark place to grow and flourish. I would have told anyone who asked me that I was enjoying life, but I wasn’t. I had put an unimaginable amount of pressure on myself. I was climbing the corporate ladder at a record rate. I was losing my peace and health at that same record rate. My family had no idea. Everyone thought I knew just what I was doing. Although if anyone had questioned me, I wouldn’t have been able to see that anything was wrong anyway. I didn’t understand that I never stopped to enjoy my successes, but instead wondered about disappointed I didn’t do some aspect of it better/ more perfectly. Then I would immediately jump on the next task hoping to do better this time. I could always do better. Always room for improvement. No such thing as perfection. But I needed to aim for perfection…

It took me years to realize I wasn’t living life, I was just suffering through it.

The Idealist- INFP

Quiet, reflective, and idealistic. Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people.

I took a new Myers-Briggs test now, 16 years later. It is amazing how much your whole personality can change. I have absolutely no desire to take over any companies. I do still have an issue with perfectionism; and I do still beat myself up about not being more so. Or at least closer to. I think I may be exceptionally harder on myself now but I am more aware of it and am able to handle that better. There isn’t anything anyone can say to me (negative) that I haven’t said to myself and worse. Really, there is only one person who says negative things to me anymore and with the help of my therapist I have gotten better at drawing boundaries and creating roadblocks to make it more difficult for him to do that to me as much anymore. I know that is so much more about him than me and I do feel badly for him that he feels the need to do that to me. I just feel sorry for him in general. I have seen in person how people like that end up when they don’t get help. When they can’t see that they so badly need help.

Which brings me more closely to where I am now, to my fascination with idealism and therapy; specifically with people who are mentally ill. Maybe this is why I am so different that I was 16 years ago. That “hyper-type-A Christine” would have never taken time to slow down for therapy to access the pain of her past and illness of her present to fix the things that bring hurt today. This vast change could have only been brought on by my near death experience that almost took me away from my children and close family that I see now would have honestly missed me. I would have been missed. I couldn’t see that before. All I saw was a failure previously. After, I saw concern. I heard confusion, tears and strain in their voices. I recognized the lack of anger in their conversation and knew. I had to stay. For as long as my body would allow and until I had a natural death. So as long as that was the case and I was staying; I had to learn, that is what I do. Idealist. Who would have thought? I am loyal. I don’t wish ill, or bad for anyone; but I do defend my cause (mental health/illness and suicide awareness). My children, husband and other family matter the most to me in this world. Understanding people is very important to me; even the people who do not like me. Especially the one(s) who I feel may even hate me. I feel  like I have an excellent perception of a person’s true motives. This could be what makes me really good at what I do. I have been able to predict (100% so far in 16 years of doing weddings) who will stay married and who will not. People trust me, as they should. I am extremely honest and as such a great sales person and always surpass my goals at work. My brother is in the same profession (not weddings, though) and is also very successful in his work and is told the same reason; his honesty. We both give our clients our cell numbers telling them if they ever have an issue to call us ASAP and we will fix it. Not many sales people will do that…and there is a very good reason for that. Actually, often sales people will not even give you their real name…or will give you their first name only.

This is my life now. I am no longer suffering; not as much.

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It takes doing the right thing; so our kids and the future, can be healthy.

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It’s been a while. Sure, I have written little snippets here and there on Instagram and such but no blogs. I have just been so tired.

I took some time, finally, to heal; to heal fully. I found myself breaking again; isolating; growing more and more tired; avoiding making any kind of decisions; so depressed; and the seizures came. I was a physically ill mess and that made the depression worse. It was the happiest time of my life and I was numb. I went to a doctor and she said I had to get treatment for the seizures, migraines AND depression and I had to take time off of work to make the physical and therapeutic care worthwhile. I applied for disability and FMLA and did it. Thank God my new husband was encouraging or I never would have gone forward with that and probably would have never gotten better.

Now, several months later and I am better than I have been in years. I still need to be very aware of how I feel. I am told I could slip back into “too much” fairly easily. I was told to keep in my back pocket the possibility that I may not be able to continue in my line of work. I can give them that since event planning and hospitality is one of the “most stressful careers in the country” according to the latest polls (learned via an article passed around the office). We all just giggled as we read and went back to work, silently sighing to ourselves as we went back to our mounds of work, challenging clients and 60 hour work weeks; although I have not worked more than 45 hours a week since my return. You don’t do this job for the money. You do it because you are a little (or a lot) OCD and you really do enjoy the pressure, challenge and fast-pace of the job. Also the end satisfaction of making the impossible, possible and a job well done.

When I did finally return my coworkers were very warm and welcoming and haven’t shown the least bit of resentment or frustration at having to absorb my workload in my extended absence and that was my greatest fear and guilt while I was gone. I was so anxious that I would not be accepted when I came back because they wouldn’t, or couldn’t understand my illness and why it was so important that I took so much time to get well. It was difficult enough for me to understand. I started to try to make them understand before I left. I kind of was reaching out, maybe for help, before I left but things move so fast around here we are all almost ‘every man for one-self’ that no one really latched on. But that was really unfair of me. That isn’t how the workplace works. At least not yet. Maybe someday it will be possible to have the ability to let it be known you are breaking and need a compassionate, stable person to listen to you and get you somewhere safe before you leave, wondering into the black on your own. I mean, no one would allow a wounded, bleeding person to go and drive themselves anywhere right?! For adults…the stable place may only be work and the black may be home or the road on the way. Luckily, I have people at home that love me, but not everyone is so lucky. I will tackle this on my future advocacy task list. For now, there are other pressing issues I want to pursue.

I am okay now. That is the good news. Actually, ‘okay’ is great! Very tired still but I will take tired over numb and hopeless and seizing all of the time. I have been lucky enough to have been published many times in National publications and online (CNN.com, Women’s Running, the book; ‘My Bright Shining Star’, Women’s Running.com) as well as appear on Glenn Beck’s television show (The Blaze) on August 13th as a guest expert regarding suicide. All of that is great but what I would love even more is to be able to be able to get more to my local community here in Texas. It’s no secret we had three suicides last school year. Three students; children attending the high school where my daughter attends (luckily none so far this year that I am aware of…but I have NOT been researching and that is on purpose). Also, I know of two parent suicides and parent murder/suicide in a prominent neighborhood. When I was able to meet with Administration hoping to get them to allow me to bring in free, professional help for the kids on the subject (The Non-Profit: To Write Love On Her Arms, A movie about them is coming out in 2016 btw) I was told this is a subject best handled in the home. Obviously not. Most parents (and many teachers) do not know how to handle this subject any better than the kids do. Like the alcohol and drug programs they bring in; depression and suicide also HAS to be addressed by the professionals. A few of the faculty need to be specially trained and a program needs to be brought in. We cannot lose any more children (or parents) to this awful disease. We have to give them resources at least! It will not go away. And so, National attention is flattering, but not going to get me anywhere at home, which is what is truly important for me and this little town of Montgomery. It may help them see I know what I am writing, speaking, and teaching about. I HAVE been there (depressed and suicidal) and as such I got help and learned about depression, mental illness and suicide prevention. I learned I am NOT crazy; I know I never lost touch with reality and have NOTHING to be ashamed of; but also learned how to never be in that place again and how to ask for help if I find myself slipping. I taught my children what I want to teach (or have someone teach) the community’s children/ young adults. We have to talk about it; read about it (local paper…who is afraid of writing about it); hear about it; post about it (crisis number posters….protected behind locked poster doors). And employ trained psychiatric counselors in our district. WE NEED THEM!!! Make room in the budget. I know it can be done. I have seen the budget and have seen where some of the budget overage goes at the end of the year…don’t make me blog about that! It is very important that everyone know – *If spoken/ written about correctly (aka. in a non-sensationalistic way) it is BEST to communicate often about this subject and to NOT hide this from our children or our community. This is not something to avoid or treat as taboo. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is not good, obviously. But neither is alcohol and drug abuse, and yet we talk about that. It IS okay to offer help; A crisis hotline; a program; a professional trained in this field (not just a former teacher with a Master’s degree and a sign up sheet). Empathy is good, but not enough.*

I had stepped back from my advocacy for a while to heal myself but it is hard to stay away. I am still drawn to help but get very tired when I think about everything that needs to be done. It just takes doing the right thing; so our kids and the future, can be healthy.

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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!

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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…

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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