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

My Blog on ‘Living with Anxiety’

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Father’s Day; My Dad; and Mental Illness

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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