I Choose Life… Finally

Just a short post to check in with you all and to share a story of hope.

A couple of weeks ago I had a really strange headache. I get headaches all the time but this one was different and my brain being what it is was like “Welp, that’s definitely brain caner, you are probably dying.” Now a couple months ago I would have welcomed this. For the last 3 years I was actually so exhausted with the idea of living and so weighed down by the depression I was dealing with that I hoped I would get a brain tumor and die. Because I actually believed that I deserved a long, drawn out, painful death since I was clearly such a horrible person. Messed up. Remember… broken brain. But here’s the thing. This time as soon as that brain tumor thought crossed my mind I thought “I don’t want to die”.

What?!?

You guys it has been 3 years since I thought that. 3 years since I actually thought I want to live.

And it felt really good to feel that way again.

I know the dark thoughts, exhaustion, and depression will come back eventually. They always do. But for right now I feel actual happiness. Which is something I have not felt in a long time. And I am going to revel in it a little. I am going to enjoy this brief, or maybe and hopefully not-so-brief, respite from the darkness. I am going to enjoy wanting to see tomorrow. And I will hope for that for you too.

I hope you can find some sunshine, a little peak of light through the clouds if you are having a hard time. And if you can’t see it right this moment just remember that you will eventually. And you should hold on. Because we need you here. You are important. Keep trying. It gets better. I am living (thankfully) proof of that. It will be worth it.

Love to you… the unconditional kind.

p.s. The headache was just a headache, no worries 😉

My Favorite Love Story

Wednesday was my 20th wedding anniversary. If I had one wish for every single person on this planet it is that they could have a person in their life like my partner. Whether it is a friend, a spouse, a family member, at least one person like my Dana.

Dana and I got married very young and our relationship started when I was deep in the trenches of the trauma that would shape the rest of my life and mental health problems. When we were dating he would often be on the phone with me as I cried myself almost to sleep each night. That should have been a sign for him to run the fuck away as fast as he could but he was young and kinda dorky (in the most charming possible way) and maybe just didn’t think he could do better (he definitely could have).

I moved out of my house when I was 17 to live with him (and escape) and we were married the month after I graduated high school. I was not pregnant, just in case you were wondering (there is no judgement in that statement it is just that is usually the look I get from people when I tell them I got married at 18 years old). We were mostly happy and we were in love.

Our marriage has not been easy. Marriage never is. My sister got sick during our first year of marriage and died just before our first anniversary. So on top of the trauma I was working on pushing way down deep as a way to cope and move on and start my new happily ever after there was the new fun of some pretty extreme grief. This was all new territory for Dana.

Now don’t get me wrong, his life was by no means a fairy tale but he had it pretty good. He had pretty great parents, no trauma or abuse, he had never really lost anyone super close to him. He had a pretty normal life. Now he was thrown into this marriage with the complete opposite. And on top of that I had no idea how bad it really was. I had mostly lived a life where I went minute to minute and never really dealt with anything. In order to make it to the next thing and make it through I just had to leave all of the bad stuff accumulating behind me. There was no time to deal, I was just in survival mode. If I slowed down enough to actually think about what was happening and the emotional fallout of all that bullshit I would have killed myself a long time ago.

So we went on with our lives. I buried my feelings, I buried my grief. I occasionally brought it up but Dana just didn’t seem to get it and how could he? In fact I was sort of happy that he didn’t. But I felt a little alone. I mostly kept stuff to myself unless it got really bad but when we talked about things he just couldn’t get it and didn’t seem to want to try and it made me sad. I think he used to be one of those people who thinks depression is just sadness. You just have to be happy. Count your blessings. Be thankful. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Hell I used to be like that too. I thought “Well I survived all the shit I survived and turned out okay (spoiler alert, WRONG!) why can’t everybody else?” So little by little I talked to him about it less and less. And buried it a little deeper.

Fast forward to the last 3 years or as I like to call it my own personal hell. Things got worse. And worse. And worse for me. I started having mini breakdowns. They became more and more often and less and less mini. He still didn’t get it. I made some new friends. Ones that understood it more. I turned to them more and to Dana less. I thought that was okay, as long as I had someone who understood I didn’t have to burden him with the shit he didn’t understand. But then things got so bad. Like I pretty much checked out of life bad. You would have to be blind not to see that things were clearly not okay.

Things are a little blurry at this time in my life but eventually the word depression came up. I sent him a couple links to blogs, to articles and he read them. And one night as I was crying on the couch wanting to die his language changed. It was a simple statement. “I don’t know how you feel but I can imagine that must be so hard”. Fuck. He had never said anything like that ever in our marriage. It had always been I can’t understand. He couldn’t get past the fact that it made no sense to him. A totally normal reaction by the way. When it comes to emotions Dana is pretty simple. He feels one at a time and handles them pretty well. I am at any given time feeling 43 different emotions simultaneously and I have emotions that there are not even words to describe. We are polar opposites in this way. But with that one statement it showed me he was TRYING to understand. I have never felt so seen and heard. So loved.

From here I eventually started therapy. He showed genuine interest after each of my sessions. He still didn’t understand and didn’t always deal with the emotional fallout of each session well, but he tried. He communicated with me and asked what he could do to make me feel loved. When my therapist assigned books he read them too. He talked to the kids about what I was going through. He talked to me more often. He read so much literature about depression and mental illness. He educated himself and he changed the way he thought about it. The way he talked about. His language became more compassionate, more understanding, more loving. When things got so dark that meds seemed like the only other option before I ended my life he fully supported me. No judgement. He offered to go to my appointment with me. He encouraged me to start this blog. To share my experiences. And even though I often share things that are very personal and I worry about how that will reflect on him he fully supports me in my honest bravery.

His love turned from feeling to action. Don’t get me wrong, Dana has always showed love. He has always made love a verb. That is how our family lives. But he brought that kind of love to a thing that he previously didn’t understand. He channeled his energy into educating himself and making damn sure I knew I was loved and needed and had value. It is still hard for him but he makes the effort. He spends time always trying to understand it more. To show me how important I am to him. He has become my person.

A few months ago. Dana decided to look into the crisis text line. He wanted to help more people. He went through training and once a week he volunteers time to helping people in crisis. You guys I am so fucking proud of him I don’t have the words for it. In the last couple of years he has gone from a person who didn’t really believe depression was real to a person on the front likes of stopping the stigma and helping those in crisis. He is my hero. He gives me so much hope.

I often used to say that Dana saved my life. He got me out of the trauma I was experiencing as a teen. He rescued me then. White knight style. But that was not the only time. He saves me every day with his love. With his compassion. With his willingness to be uncomfortable and to constantly learn more. He doesn’t always do it right, I mean who does? But he is always trying to be better. He is always trying to understand more. And he is getting better at learning that when there are no words and no way to understand he can just hold me and let me cry and just physically be here for me. He is still my hero. Every damn day.

Dana has truly become my best friend. The person I can talk to about everything. He loves me without condition. When I do not deserve it. And even though it has been so hard to get here, here we are. I am so fucking lucky. And it only took 20 years (I joke, I joke).

Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done and I have done some hard shit. It is a balancing act and it is about persevering through the really hard times so you can enjoy the really great times. It is not always easy but it is always worth it. I am thankful for where this journey has brought us. That we have made through so much and that we can  truly enjoy each other. I am so happy that Dana saved me back then and that he keeps on saving me every day. Here’s to 20 more years. And beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Worth It. I Promise.

Today is the one year anniversary of my first therapy appointment. The day I decided I wasn’t going to give up on this insanely hard thing called life.

Before I started going to therapy I had gotten to a very dark place. A place where I didn’t want to keep going. Where everything just felt too hard and I was just too tired and I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I had many people ask me to try therapy because they were worried, and rightfully so. But I didn’t want to go. I was scared. And I also didn’t see the point. At this point in my downward spiral I didn’t really plan to be around much longer. But 3 of my closest friends and my husband all practically begged me to try it so I decided that even though I didn’t care about myself I did care about them so I would try it. For them.

I called the mental health clinic associated with my local hospital to set up an appointment and they set up an “intake” appointment where they would basically ask me a ton of questions and try to place me with someone. The problem was it was for 5 weeks from that day. 5 weeks. Just to get a placement. Who knows how long after that to talk to someone. That felt a little like an eternity. I panicked. I went to my best friend in tears.

I told her I didn’t know if I could make it that long. I literally didn’t know if I would survive it. Calling had been such a huge and difficult step and I had finally gotten up the nerve to do it and then this? I started to spiral again. I felt like everything was falling apart, like maybe life wasn’t really meant to be for me anymore. I had no idea what to do. She found me a site that I could go to and enter my city and it would list all the therapists in my area with bios and info galore. It was incredible.

I found a woman who specialized in relationships and childhood trauma. She wasn’t fully licensed yet but was working on it. The plus side was that it was incredibly cheap. I called her for a consultation and she was able to fit me in much quicker. I was relieved.

I went to my first appointment terrified. I had no idea what to expect. It was the hardest hour of my life. She wanted me to fill her in on my background and why I was there. It was an hour of glossing over a life of trauma and issues and negative shit and when I left I was utterly exhausted. I ugly cried in my car. It felt horrible. But it also felt good. I had found a person that I could tell anything and know there would be no judgement. And that the info I shared would not be a burden to her no matter how negative and horrible it was. This was her job.

One of the things that had kept me from therapy was that I didn’t want to burden another human with all of my baggage and bullshit. I always felt bad sharing with people because they got that look in their eyes and didn’t know how to react. Also I am so deeply empathic that I take on other people’s feelings and I always assume other people do the same thing and there is no way I want anyone else taking on this kind of pain. But one of the first things my therapist explained is that I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I couldn’t believe it and I felt hope. Like maybe this was the thing I needed to heal.

So I kept going every week.

Therapy may have saved my life but it was 100% the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And that is saying something. I went to that office every single week and re-lived some of the most horrible things that could happen to a child. Things I hadn’t thought about in years. Some things I had completely forgotten about. Things nobody should have to go through. I went home and I read books that would eventually help me to sort through all of the feelings. Books that nearly ripped my heart out with every page. It almost killed me. I left that office every single week and I ugly cried in the car. I got back to work and I ugly cried in my best friend’s office. I got home and I ugly cried to my husband. So. Much. Crying. This went on for a couple of months.

But then the crying got less. It would only be right after. And then eventually not at all. I was learning to process my feelings in a healthy way. I was learning coping mechanisms and healthy habits. I was learning to care for and love myself.

Things got bad again in the late fall and we decided that therapy wasn’t enough and I started meds which in combination with therapy and all of the tools I had gained ended up leading me to happiness again. Not just existence. And it feels so damned good to feel happy again.

If I hadn’t gone to therapy a year ago I know I wouldn’t still be here. I am glad I listened to my friends. To my partner. I am glad I realized that my kiddos needed me. Not just alive but healthy. I am glad that even though I didn’t think I was worth it I had a chorus of people around me reminding me (and guilting me) and encouraging me to find help.

If you are in a dark place right now I encourage you to get help. Find a therapist. There are so many out there and even if the first one is not right I know you will find someone who will click with you. The site I went to was https://www.psychologytoday.com/us and it is a great resource.

So try it. You are worth it. I promise. You bring something to this world that nobody else brings. And we need you here. Don’t listen to the darkness. The voices. The lies. The bullshit. Your broken brain. Listen to people. Listen to me.

You. Are. Worth. It.

Make an appointment today with your doctor or a therapist and start the journey to happiness again. It will not be easy. But it will be worth it. When you realize you are smiling again and that first time you feel real genuine happiness again it will be worth it. When you laugh and actually mean it. It will happen. And you will be glad you stuck around.

If you need to talk to someone right now text 741741 or call 1-800-273-8255. Someone is always there to help.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

 

We Are Not Selfish.

I have a favor to ask you. If you have never been diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety or suicidal thoughts or ideations or any other mental health problem please remove the word “selfish” from your commentary. In fact I would take this advice one step further and ask you to stop commenting period. I would ask you to stop talking and please take this opportunity to listen. Pick up a book on clinical depression, talk to a friend who struggles or do a quick search of blogs to get a first hand description of what it is like to deal with this monster. There is no shortage of resources out there but I beg you to stop judging us and try to educate yourself. Your judgement and harsh words do nothing to help us or build us up but it does more damage than you can possibly know.

***Trigger Warning*** I will talk in detail about my depression and suicidal thoughts so if you are in a sensitive place right now maybe skip this post.

Most people who have never experienced depression firsthand have absolutely no idea what is like. At times when there are high profile suicides in the news the internet becomes a dark and scary place for those of us who struggle with this chronic illness. Even those of us who appear to be doing well can quickly backslide. Because times like this remind us that even though we feel good right now, that monster, the deep, scary, terrifying darkness is ALWAYS there. It is lurking in the back of our brain just waiting for its chance to take hold again. Waiting for its chance to start whispering its lies to us. Waiting for us to lose our grip just enough where we will start to believe it again.

Depression is not sadness. It is so much more than that. It can feel like so many things. A complete and utter absence of hope. Despair. Like all of the colors have been drained out of life around you and everything is just washed in shades of gray. A complete lack of any kind of feeling whatsoever. But mostly it is exhaustion in your very soul. It slowly drains your energy until you can barely do basic things like make a meal, go to work, have fun, spend time with others, or even get out of bed. It slowly knocks out each and every one of your defenses against it until you are lying at the bottom of the deepest well in the world and you can no longer see that pinprick of light and it looks so utterly impossible to climb out that you just hunker down in there and get more and more exhausted and you get stuck. Trapped in your own mind with the monster.

And when you are stuck down there with no way out all you can hear are the lies from that dark voice in the back of your brain. The voice that you can usually tune out or ignore. But you are just so damn tired and it is just so damn hard to ignore and actually it makes some pretty good points. I mean who the hell can possibly feel like this when their life is so amazing? I have three great kids, a husband who is basically the perfect human, who takes care of me and them without ever expecting anything back. I have a great job, a house, enough money to not worry about what comes next, friends. Life doesn’t get much better. That voice is probably right. Who wouldn’t be happy with all of this? What kind of person can’t get off the couch to participate in family fun? What kind of person can’t contribute? Look at what is happening. My kids and husband are doing EVERYTHING. I’m not helping at all. It must be so frustrating to live with me. To take care of me ALL the time. I can see it draining them. Physically and emotionally.

“Useless,” the voice whispers. And you believe it. “Burden,” it shouts, and who are you to argue? Every new thing it says gets louder and louder and more convincing and it hurts more and more and it becomes impossible to ignore and will it ever stop? You start to spiral. Out of control. The voice becomes a constant stream of commentary on your shortcomings. Pointing out how you are ruining the lives of everyone around you. And no matter what you do, eventually you can’t drown it out and it is not really even in the background anymore. It hurts. Everything hurts so much and it is never going to get better because it has been so bad for so long and it just keeps getting worse. Hope is gone. Color is gone. You can’t even remember what happiness felt like.

Imagine feeling so much pain that the only way you can possibly imagine it ending is to just not exist anymore. To be so devoid of hope that things can get better that you can’t imagine living another day. To feel like such a burden that you actually believe that everyone around you would be better off without you. I mean clearly they would be sad at first but it would be such a relief for them to not have to take care of you anymore that it really is better in the long run for everyone. Because this is never getting better and they must be so fucking exhausted. You are always bringing them down.

Imagine lying awake in your bed at night being consumed by these thoughts, this voice. Imagine not being able to sleep and praying harder than you have ever prayed in your life that God would just let you die. It doesn’t even need to be quick. Just something terminal. Even cancer would be okay because honestly you probably deserve it for being so awful and ungrateful and useless. You just need it all to stop.

This is depression. Sort of. I mean it is so much worse than this because there is no way to put it into words. This is tip of the iceberg of despair. And I have been here twice in the last year.

I hope you never have to experience this. I hope you cannot imagine what this would feel like. I hope you never have to deal with these feelings coupled with the judgement of those who have never experienced the monster that is depression. But I would like you to consider this the next time you call someone who commits suicide selfish. Because I guarantee that the last thing they were is selfish. They were in indescribable, insurmountable amounts of pain. They were experiencing a deep chasm of seemingly unending pain and they just needed it to stop. They were trapped in their own sick brain hearing that voice louder and louder, thinking it would never stop and there was literally no other way out that they could see. And more likely than not they were thinking about how much better everyone else would be without them. Their brain was broken. They were sick.

I will say for the millionth time depression it not being sad. You can not just talk yourself out of it. You cannot just “suck it up”. It does not matter what you have in your life and how fucking blessed you are and how great everything appears because none of that matters. It is an illness. Like cancer or lupus or arthritis or heart disease. And should be treated by people as the same. You don’t just “suck it up” for any of those things. You get treatment. Mental illness is the same. We do not shame people for have any of these other illnesses. Mental illness should be the same. When someone has cancer we support them. We offer to make them meals, we drive them to treatment, we fundraise for them, we check on them. But when someone is depressed they are quite often looked at as weak or selfish. We tell them to get over it and remind them that if they just “count their blessings” they will feel better. Or we tell them they have no right to feel that way. All of the things that we do feed into that darkness and make it worse. Make them feel judged and “less than”.

I suggest compassion. I suggest you think of your depressed friend or co-worker or that celebrity in the news as a person with a chronic illness. And try to think for just one second just how hard it must be to be in their shoes and to feel that amount of pain. Please.

I also suggest that you reach out to any of your friends that you even suspect might be struggling with this monster. DO NOT wait for them to reach out and ask for help. That is too much to ask and quite honestly by the time we need help sometimes it is too late to ask. Do not be afraid of making it worse by talking about it. Just check in. Because they probably won’t. And they need to feel loved. I wrote another blog post about things that have helped me through my worst bouts of depression and it comes down to 3 basics. Tell them they are important to you, you love them, and you are here for them in whatever way they need you. Even if it is just sitting with them through the pain and silence and being present. Those things can help so much. (Though everyone is different this has been my personal experience.)

If you are struggling I will say what I always say. It gets better. I know it doesn’t feel like it will and your brain is telling you otherwise but it does. And you are worth it. You offer this world something that nobody else can and you are so fucking important. I promise. So take care of yourself. Take a walk or a hike or a run. Eat a healthy meal. Go out with a friend or have them come to you. Make a therapy appointment. Take your meds. Get some sleep. Take a shower. Drink more water. Lie in your bed and get somebody to rub your back. Ask someone for a hug. Anything at all no matter how small to make you feel even a tiny bit better.

And if you need help right now text the number 741741. Somebody will be there to help you. To listen without judgement. Or call 1-800-273-8255 if you prefer to actually talk. Just get some help. Because we need you here.

Thanks for reading this.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

 

 

Be Brave (Part 2)

I quit my job a couple weeks ago. And I don’t remember being this happy in years. I was talking to my best friend the other day and we were trying to figure out if there was a day in the last 3 months that I didn’t have a headache. We couldn’t think of one. But I haven’t had one in two weeks. Since the day after my last day.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were so many things I loved about my job. I worked with amazing people. I got to be in the school with my kiddos everyday and see them a lot. I loved being around the students. I made some pretty amazing friends. My boss was pretty great. I was really, really good at my job which gave me a large amount of satisfaction as it was very difficult.

And there were bad things. I worked in high school athletics where people easily lose their minds and lose track of what is really important in life. It becomes all about winning and playing time. Coaches have giant egos and mostly only care about themselves and don’t realize you have multiple other sports going on at the same time. Changes happen quickly and things fall through the cracks and fires have to be put out. It gets pretty stressful.

But I could deal with most of that stuff.

It mostly came down to a person.

I had this friend the last few years. I considered them my best friend. We shared a lot in common. More than anyone I had ever met. We enjoyed the same things, we shared struggles, we found the same whack-a-do crazy things funny. We became so close it felt like family. And we went through A LOT together the last year. But things were never really healthy. And there were always problems. It was nobody’s fault. We both were messed up and the problems came because of that fact. We made it work the best we could. But this fall something changed. And things got bad. And we stopped talking. I may write a post about this another time so I won’t go into a lot of details but I was left hurt. So hurt. I feel like hurt doesn’t begin to describe the feelings that I experienced and I know a little bit about being hurt. But I haven’t felt this hurt in a lot of years.

Now most of the time when you and a friend part ways you can make a clean break and just be done. But this person still worked with me. Not directly, most of the time, but in the same building. There was no way to really avoid them and the hurt didn’t go away because it looked like none of this had affected them at all. This thing that had hurt me so deeply seemed to have no effect whatsoever on them. They carried on and ignored all that had happened and that added to the hurt. Every day.

Finally after months of negative soul-sucking energy and anxiety I told my husband that I think sometimes a person can hurt you so much that you just can’t be in the same space as them anymore. And this person wasn’t going anywhere. I was stressed out. I was anxious. I made myself physically ill sometimes. It sounds crazy but me and my feelings usually are.  I don’t know why I feel everything so deeply but I do. And I am trying to learn to honor that. And make choices to be healthier and happier just the way that I am.

So I made a really hard choice. I decided to leave my job. I felt guilty. Like I was abandoning my boss. I felt angry because why should I have to leave? I irrationally thought everyone would hate me (which of course they didn’t, I have never felt so fully supported in my life). But honestly it was time. I just couldn’t be there anymore. I didn’t have the energy to do it. I needed to be healthy again.

I didn’t have anything else lined up but I just couldn’t stay. So I put in my notice. I took a leap of faith. I was brave. It was hard and it was terrifying and I was so worried but I did it because it was the right choice for this time in my life in these circumstances. It was the first step I could see towards finding a little happiness again.

And I do feel happy. After all of those super scary, anxious, crazy feelings subsided I feel actually happy. That cloud of negative energy is gone and I can see the sun again. And no matter how crazy the whole situation may seem to someone else it has been the best decision I could have made for me.

I am pursuing a new career. One I sort of made up based on things I love and want to do. It is going to be slow but it is going to be worth it. I will have to make some sacrifices but if it results in a little honest to goodness joy you can bet your ass it will be worth it. I am still scared but I am more happy than scared. And it feels good.

One thing I have learned in the last few months is that before bravery there comes fear. And sometimes it is intense. You get this idea; this thing you want to do but you feel scared out of your mind. Bravery is telling that fear to fuck off thank-you-very-much. It is not our natural instinct as humans. To push past the fear. But it is worth it. The thing I have learned about being brave is that it usually leads to happiness. After the fear comes the joy. But we have to work for it a little. We have to be brave to get it.

So get used to pushing through the fear. Be brave. Find happiness. We all deserve it. You included. Do one thing every day that makes you want to pee your pants a little. It’ll be worth it.

Love to you all. The unconditional kind ❤

 

Be Brave (part 1)

“You are so brave.” I hear that a lot.

Sometimes being brave is really, really hard. But sometimes it is just as easy as speaking the truth. You start with small acts of bravery and you work your way up to the bigger ones. And it gets easier with each one. That is the beauty of truth telling. You grow to like the feeling of freedom it gives you. And with that freedom comes a little bit of joy.

One of the things that prompts this “You are so brave” comment for me is this very blog you are reading and the way that I talk so freely about my personal mental health even in daily conversation. Bravery is sometimes a combination of vulnerability and truth-telling. It is hella hard at first. You wonder “What will they think of me if they know this thing? This secret. Will they still like me? Will they think I’m crazy?” But it is so damn important. And when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If they choose not to like you for something that is a part of what makes you “you” then they are not your people. There are billions more out there, find some different ones. Find the ones that will love you for you. I promise there are so many of us out there in the world. And most of us are surprisingly accepting.

Also, honestly most people don’t care. A good percentage of people are dealing with similar things and they are relieved to hear they are not the only ones. They will tell you that just knowing someone else is dealing with the same shit is helpful in making it through another day. And the people who are not dealing with it either know someone who is or they are too embarrassed to talk about it so they just ignore it and let it go. Mostly you will probably help another human by speaking your truth. By being brave.

I want to live in a world where nobody goes a lifetime without getting the basic mental healthcare they need because they are embarrassed to talk about it. Where nobody feels like being strong is “sucking it up” and dealing with it on their own or even worse just stuffing those feelings way down deep until they become too much to deal with. Where nobody feels isolated and alone in their struggles to find a glimmer of hope and happiness. Where nobody gets to the point where they hurt so much inside that the only way they can see to escape the pain is to end their life. Where meds for mental health are treated no differently than meds for any chronic illness. Where mental health is just health.

I think the best way we can get there is for everyone to just start talking about it. It doesn’t need to be in a big way. It can just be little things. But mostly it is about not making a big deal about it. Treat it like it is a normal thing. Because it is. Don’t just stop the stigma. Smash the shit out of it.

I shouldn’t be considered brave because I talk about this critical part of my daily health. In fact I hope there comes a day very, very soon where nobody calls me brave anymore. Where I am just a normal person with a slightly broken brain. Like a pretty large population of the world.

But until that day I will “be brave” and I will speak up and I will truth tell. And I hope you will too. Help me out because none of us can do this on our own. Both the surviving the darkness part AND the smashing the stigma part. Ever since I decided I wouldn’t anymore my life has felt better. Happier. More hopeful. I want that for everyone.

Join me.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind ❤

Stop Running Away From Your Problems… Literally

This weekend I ran a half marathon in Fargo. For those who have known me for the last 8 years or so running has been an integral part of my life. It is who I am. A runner.

I discovered running at a point in my life where I didn’t know what my mental illnesses were. It quickly became an outlet for me and a sort of therapy. It made me feel better; happier. It gave me a short vacation from life, and my bad feelings. That runner’s high is powerful and it gave me the illusion that I was doing better. But really it was just another way to cover up the fact that I wasn’t dealing with my shit.

I started running longer and longer distances, spending more and more time out on the road and in the woods. More and more time escaping life. I found that my stubbornness and ability to persevere made me an excellent ultra runner. So I decided to start running and training for stupid long distances. I moved from marathons on to 50Ks and eventually 50 milers. All the while in the back of my head wondering if this had become an addiction.

You see addiction runs rampant in my family. I have felt those feelings since I was a teen and have always avoided any situation that made me feel them but with running I figured “I could be doing worse things”. At least I wasn’t drinking every night or doing drugs. This was a “healthy” addiction.

But then my body started to fall apart. I had a string of injuries and was sidelined from running for months. I was inconsolable at first and then so angry and then just depressed. I didn’t know how to cope without my outlet. This was the beginning of the spiral of the last two or three years for me. Eventually after an incredibly long injury that wouldn’t go away the doctors figured it is just arthritis. And it is moving through my body pretty fast. It started in one foot. Moved to my opposite hip and I’m pretty sure I have it in an ankle now. Running is no longer the joyful outlet that it once was.

Now I’m a pretty smart person but I never connected the dots between my childhood trauma, and recognized my depression and anxiety for what they were. I have dealt with them low key for most of my life but I just figured everyone has ups and downs and nervous ticks and fears and troubles, mine are just a little worse than everyone else’s. I was taught to just buck up and deal. Plus I was never taught to take care of myself. Just everyone else. So when my depression got so bad I was thinking about ending my life I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I figured anyone so badly damaged wouldn’t really be missed anyways; I wasn’t worth it. Fortunately I have good people in my life.

They convinced me to seek help. I started with therapy and it helped. I figured out where all my issues were coming from. That they had been there for so long and I had just been ignoring them. Making them worse and worse. I also figured out that people who had childhoods like mine shared these issues. It was a whole community. And that I could work through these things. Eventually I figured out that therapy wasn’t enough and there was also something a little off in my brain and I decided to go on meds after another massive bout of depression that left me considering suicide more than I ever had before. Those meds saved my life. I cannot oversell how much they save my life. But they did another thing too.

Slowly I lost the desire to run so much. I didn’t feel the need or the pull to go out on the road or in the woods for hours at a time. To “run away from my problems”. It was weird. But it was also convenient since my body had mostly given up on the distance running thing. I found out later that the med I was prescribed is also prescribed sometimes as a stop-smoking med. So it clearly helps with addiction. It was then that I finally realized over all these years I was addicted to this thing and that it had honestly just been covering up all of the problems I should have been dealing with all along. It helped in the grieving process of “losing” running because I realized I didn’t need it anymore. Not the way I had before. I was learning healthy coping mechanisms. I was dealing with the root of the problems and finding real solutions.

At Fargo this weekend I had hopes that I could run a decent race so I went out at the pace I wanted but at around three miles my body started falling apart. I decided I could keep pushing and be in a ton of pain and maybe make it a few more miles and have to limp it in or drop or I could just enjoy the morning. I chose the latter. I high fived lots of kids, I thanked all the volunteers. I talked to lots of cool people as I ran and I smiled the whole time. Even at mile 11 when my ankle was screaming and I thought I would have to walk it in I still smiled because it was beautiful outside and I was surrounded by so many awesome people who were doing amazing things and I was so proud of them. It was 2 hours and 20 minutes of joy.

I ran my worst race this weekend but it was so fun. And it was therapeutic in helping me let some more shit go. Even though my time for PRs and awesome races may be over I can still be a part of this community that helped me through so many tough times in my life when it was what I needed. Running can’t be what it used to be for me. And that is so okay. I have learned new ways to deal with those scary, dark things in my life. But I can still be a part of this community. I can go out and run when I feel like it. I can take more pictures. I can notice the beauty more. I can talk to people and give them advice because I know so much about running and have so much experience. I may not run fast or far again and that is okay. It just is.

Running served me well when I needed it and now I am ready to move on to this next chapter. I have been doing that a lot lately. And frankly it feels good. And healthy. And so much better. And it makes me happy.

I hope you can find your happy. I hope you can realize that you are worth it. You deserve happiness. And if you need someone to talk to and don’t have anyone know that I am here. Reach out. Because nobody should feel alone in the darkness. There may be nothing I can do but I am a really good listener.

Love to you guys. The unconditional kind ❤

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

The last 3 years of my life have been filled with changes. Some big, some small. Some bad, but most for the better. All of them have included some pretty tough decisions followed by hard, at times exhausting work. Therapy, meds, digging into my past and trying to fix the crazy-making damage that was done for so many years. Trying to find out who I am and cultivating that new self. As a person who has a very hard time with change and unpredictability it has seemed at times impossible. But I have persisted because I want to be healthy. For the first time in my life. And these changes seem worth it.

Last week I decided it was time to make another big change.

I decided it was time to leave my job. My job had become a source of such enormous stress and unhappiness it was affecting my family and really everyone in my life. It was draining me of my happiness and positivity to the point where I was starting to wonder if that was ever even who I was or if I had just imagined that I used to be that way.

The thing is, I am so good at my job. It is incredibly difficult and requires a great amount of organization which I am great at. You have to be very detail oriented but also flexible and able to pivot quickly but able to keep approximately 1,465 ducks all in a row at one time while drawing from a bottomless well of patience. It is challenging but also satisfying. And I have always taken a great amount of satisfaction in being able to do it so well. I feel good when I am successful. And I am usually successful because I am a very driven, hard-working people-pleaser. My happiness often hinges on success and making other people happy. This is a thing I have discovered in the last year is very unhealthy. Because one cannot always be successful and hinging your happiness on that is very dangerous indeed.

The thing about my job is it is also very frustrating. It involves a fair amount of baby-sitting other adult human beings who never seem to do what they are supposed to do no matter how many times you tell them. People who have enormous egos and don’t always treat you with the kindness and respect that all humans deserve. My job has a million moving parts but so many of the people that I work with think that they are the center of the universe and require so much attention and hand holding. And my job depends on them to do the things that they are SUPPOSED to do. When they drop the ball it sets off a chain reaction and I spend so. much. time. putting out fires that wouldn’t even exist if they would just do what they are supposed to be doing and think about another human being for just one second. And when they fail it comes back to me to fix and it ALWAYS looks like it was my fault. And it in turns makes me feel like a failure and frankly a little angry and frustrated most of the time because how hard is it to just do what you are supposed to do?!?! It is fucking exhausting.

For someone whose entire happiness and well-being depends on success and people liking them it has become a complete and utter nightmare for me. And it has started to drain the me out of me. All the good parts of me, the part that sees the silver lining, that gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, the part that loves everyone no matter how awful they are because there must be some good reason they are acting that way, the part that always has a smile for everyone, has been slowing disappearing. And I hardly noticed. My job has been sucking all the good parts of my life away. The sad part is I just started to think that this new person, the cranky, sad, angry, complain-y, depressed person I have become is just who I am. But it’s not.

Change is hard. It is especially hard for me. One of my biggest issues is an over-developed sense of responsibility and loyalty. If I quit my job I am letting people down. I am so good at it that if I leave everything will fall apart and it is all my fault and I am ruining literally everyone’s life. Also because I can’t handle this I am clearly a failure. And not just a failure at my job but at life. I only deal in absolutes. Black and white. There is no grey in my brain. That is the most broken part and the thing I have been working so hard on the last year especially.

But thankfully I am not in this thing called life all on my own. I have a whole support system of people helping me out. Reminding me that everyone deserves happiness and I cannot take on so much responsibility at the cost of losing myself. And reminding me that taking care of myself and my happiness is in no way a failure. I have some really amazing people. People that have convinced me I deserve happiness and I am worth it.

This brings me to my second mantra of this last year. In addition to “let that shit go” I find myself saying “it just is” a lot lately. Because it is so true for so many situations. I used to think everything had to be blamed on somebody or something. Me being me, I usually took on that blame. But that is not how the world works. A lot of the time “it just is”. There is nothing anyone can do about it. It is just life. And it will go on. No blame needed. It really helps me in my letting shit go.

This whole situation is nobody’s fault. It just is. The job is what it is. It will always be that way and there will always be people to do it. I have just realized that I cannot be one of those people anymore. It is not the right and healthy fit for me. That does not make me a failure.

It just is.

So remember sometimes things “just are”. That is life. But also remember that there is always happiness to be found. Sometimes it feels a million miles away but it never really is. It is always there, usually just outside my reach 😉 But don’t forget that we all deserve it. And if we can let some of our shit go and realize some things “just are” we can probably find it a little easier.

I hope you have people in your life that remind you to let that shit go. People that remind you that you are worth it and you deserve happiness. Because you do. If you don’t have those people then take it from me… You deserve happiness and you are worth it. Now get out there and find some.

Love to all you guys… the unconditional kind ❤

 

I’m Still Here

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I haven’t written anything in a while but I wanted to let everyone know I’m still here.

I’ve been having a tough time lately struggling with self doubt, demons, darkness but I’m still here.

I’ve had days where it has been hard to keep moving forward but I’m still here.

There have been days where it has felt impossible to ignore that voice in my head that says I’m not good enough/strong enough/kind enough/smart enough, the one that says I’m a burden to everyone in my life and everyone would be better off without me but I’m still here.

I’ve been taking my meds, practicing my self care, checking the things off my list, and I’m still here.

And if you’re reading this you are too. And I am so glad. Let’s remember this month (and always really) that it is okay to not be okay and that the best thing we can do is to just be here for each other broken brains and all. Because the only thing worse than living in the darkness is having to handle it all on your own. Let’s do everything we can to never have to do that.

I’m here if you need me. No judgement. Just an open heart, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on if you need it.

Love to all of you, the unconditional kind.

Let That Stress Go

I have noticed lately that we are getting some things very wrong in this country. We live in a society that is a little bit broken. A society that measures our success by how busy and stressed out we are. People here take a certain satisfaction in how little time they have for themselves and wear their stress and busyness as a badge of honor. It is a sickness.

And it is a sickness that we are passing on to our children. Our children look at us running around like chickens with our heads cut off and think this is what life is supposed to be. They subscribe to the notion that if they are not busy at all times in their lives they are failing… not keeping up. That time for themselves is selfish. They think they have to go to the best schools, get the best grades, be in 15 extracurricular activities at a time. The scarcely even take time to consider what is necessary and best for their long-term plan. They start young adding unnecessary stress to their lives because it is what is taught and mirrored to them.

I see this in my kids despite the way we parent and try to put the emphasis on mental health over anything else. Even though we try to limit things somehow my daughter has ended up very overextended this semester. Volunteering, acting classes, school play, and all of the demands of going to school at a private college prep school. Something has got to give. And at times it is her mental health. She is stressed.

She is taking steps to make more healthy choices for her future and decided to share this with her school counselor and to get her input and advice in this process. I applaud this step and this initiative but here’s the thing… The counselor said she could handle the stress, she should just get better coping mechanisms for it. She gave her a lot of great advice and some very helpful tools. While I appreciate this sentiment and the tools she gave my daughter this entire attitude gave me pause. Of course she CAN handle it but why SHOULD she? If she has the ability to make choices that fit in with her future goals and at the same time eliminate stress in her life why should she CHOOSE the way paved with stress?

This is madness. And we do not have to do it. We do not need to teach it to our children. We have the power to change it.

We have the power to make choices to minimize stress in our lives. To make choices to put our mental health and happiness first. To evaluate our lives and make better choices that make us happier. To cut back. To realize that we do not need to keep up with everyone else. This journey of life is different for every single one of us and we need to make choices that are best for us individually. Just because we CAN manage stress doesn’t mean we need to or that we should choose it. We can choose to simplify. We can choose to make changes to eliminate that stress. We can choose happiness. There is so much power in choice.

Change is scary and minimizing our lives takes a lot of change. It can be hard to look that fear straight in the face and get through it to find our happiness. But it is absolutely worth it. There is power in facing our fear to choose to live healthier and happier.

Let’s teach our children to do better. Let’s teach them that they do not need to do it all. Let’s teach them to cut back. Let’s teach them that instead of being proud of all the busyness and stress we should be proud that we somehow manage to find time to sit down at our dinner table and eat as a family nearly every single night. That we have one night a week that is sacred family time and we make it a priority. That anything can be dropped at any time if it serves us in a way that brings us happiness. That stress is a sickness and not some badge of honor. That each of us deserves to be happy and that mental health should always be a priority.

In yoga our guides teach us that our practice is OUR practice. And every single body is different. Don’t worry about how your neighbor is doing. Only pay attention to what is happening on your own mat. We have choices in every pose and we are reminded to choose what serves us in that moment. We could take a lesson from that.

Let’s teach our kiddos to be present, work hard, breathe. And let that shit go. And to never take on more stress than can be handled with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and some Netflix binging on the couch while snuggling with your doggos 😉 Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed and if anyone else tells you differently they are flat out wrong.

Thanks for listening to my rant. Love to all you guys. The unconditional kind ❤