It’s All Okay

Today is World Mental Health Day. I am glad we have a day devoted to the work of stopping the stigma but honestly I try to make every day Mental Health Day.

One year ago yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office in so much emotional pain that I am pretty sure I almost made her cry with my mere presence. The pain seemed to emanate from me in waves. I was sure that I was never going to be okay. I had lost all hope. I had hit rock bottom. Despite all the work we had done we decided that we had tried enough other things and it was time to try some meds. To me it was a last ditch effort. I was already considering suicide and if the meds didn’t work it would be the last straw.

This year I am in a very different place.

The last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for me. I have been reliving some pretty traumatic shit from my past, trying to figure some stuff out, and been stressed out about money and mom stuff. I have been focused on my lack of faith in humanity and I am feeling the pain of those around me in a way that has been crushing my soul. Add to that the fact that it has been raining for about 9 days and I haven’t seen the sun and I can hardly believe I am functioning. Yet here I am.

It is not easy. My life never will be with the constant presence of depression and anxiety in the back of my mind. There are many days where I wish I wasn’t here but I no longer think that maybe I should just step in front of a truck when I am out for a run and end it all.

The biggest difference has been that I got help. Somebody told me that it was okay to not be okay and that there were ways to make it better and I tried it. I went to therapy and learned about self care. I learned that the shit that happened to me when I was younger may have shaped the way that I am now but that it does not define me. That with a lot of work I can rewire some of those parts of my brain and do better. I learned that I really haven’t done so bad with the totally shitty hand I was dealt.

I also learned that chemicals play a huge part in how I feel. My brain doesn’t work the way a “normal” brain does. It needs a little help. And that help is readily available at any drugstore with a prescription from my doctor. And that does not make me a failure. It is just a chronic illness that should be treated as such.

All of this is why it is so fucking important to talk about this stuff. If nobody had told me that I was not alone I would not still be here. If I hadn’t gone to therapy and learned that my childhood circumstances caused so much of the fucked up brokenness in my life and that it was possible to make it feel better I would not still be here. If countless people had not shared that they too were medicated and that it was not a failure but a way to treat an illness I would not still be here.

We have to stop the stigma of talking about our mental health so people no longer think  they are alone. So they will know there is help available. That life can be better. We have to keep making it ok.

So take care of yourself today and everyday. Whatever that looks like for you. Go to therapy, take your meds, practice your self care. And talk to others about it. Reach out to someone who is struggling and share your story with them. Hell, reach out to strangers and share your story. Make this so normal that nobody ever has the thought that they are some fucked up freak show that doesn’t deserve to live. Because we all deserve to live. And we all deserve to want to live.

It is okay to not be okay. We do not always have to feel happy and that is fine. Being depressed is okay. Having anxiety is okay. Dealing with any other slew of mental illnesses is okay. There are so many others like us. We are not alone.

Join in me in not just stopping the stigma but smashing it to pieces. Because sometimes it feels really good to break shit.

And don’t forget that you are important and necessary in this world. I am glad you are here. And so are a bunch of other people. Just keep swimming. And reach out if you need help.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind.

 

Be Gentle Out There

This morning I sat at my dining room table and wept as I scrolled through facebook and had to explain the effects of trauma on the brain to another asshole who has never experienced anything remotely resembling trauma in their life but still managed to think he was an expert on the subject. I am tired in my soul of this. There is a wealth of science based information on trauma and the brain. We live in a world where the internet is literally at your fingertips and you can choose to educate yourself on any topic in a matter of minutes but people still sit behind their keyboards and spew hatred and ignorance at others who are experiencing deep pain and suffering. And right now with current events in this country there is an abundance of pain and suffering. An abundance of people having to relive their trauma each and every day. My heart aches for each and every one of them.

I have a lot of experience with trauma in my life. Trust me when I say I have experienced more than my fair share. And each event has left its mark on me. Each one has shaped the way that I experience and react to events in my life. Mostly for the worse. These traumas have been a source of so much frustration and pain and suffering for me. They are really the gift that keeps on giving in that way. Not only do you get to live through the traumatic event but the effects fuck with you for a lifetime. Making it impossibly hard to react like a normal human being to a totally normal conflict or situation. Making you seem like a complete fucking lunatic when even the smallest thing goes wrong. Making you feel like your entire life is spiraling into a giant flaming pile of garbage because of one small hiccup.

I could write multiple posts about my own personal traumas and the way that I have dealt with them but that is not the point of this post. My point for this post is that trauma is complicated and each person experiences it and processes it differently. Each brain deals with it in a different way but I think the main goal of our brain is to try to protect us from it as best as it can. That looks different for each person and varies depending on a number of factors like their resiliency and ability to process. It depends on the severity of the trauma and the age it was experienced. It even depends on the type of trauma. Everyone’s experience is different.

Every single person is different.

Some of us may have similarities but there is no cookie cutter response to trauma. We are all doing the best we can. We are all trying to make it through one more fucked up day without throwing our arms in the air and giving up because it is just too fucking hard to keep doing this over and over. We are all just trying like hell to learn from another failed interaction, response, friendship, or relationship. We are all trying not to make the same mistake again and again and again. We are trying not to believe the voice in our head telling us that no matter how good things seem right now there is no way they can stay this way because life is chaos and happiness cannot last. We are all just trying to do better. To pick up the pieces over and over. And it is indescribably hard with this monster riding shotgun in our brain. Sometimes impossibly hard. But we keep going.

And do you know what helps most? I will give you a hint… It is not criticism and judgement, both of which I have seen in abundance over the last few weeks. It is your compassion. It is your love. It is your understanding. It is your offers of help and your willingness to learn about us. It is your gentleness. Your kindness.

I want to share that with all of the traumas I have experienced in my life the memories that I carry with me vary from each event. Almost none of them do I remember in vivid detail. Most are missing huge pieces, especially locations and time. I couldn’t pinpoint the age I was or the even the year that they happened for most. The one thing that I remember about each and every trauma my brain has allowed me to remember are the feelings associated with them. The fear, the terror, the hopelessness, the anger. These are seared into my brain and they are what flood my senses when a song or a smell or a word or a voice or a memory triggers them and makes me re-live them.

So I ask you this… Do not dismiss somebody’s experience, their pain, their truth because you cannot understand. Because their memories of an event do not check off the neat little boxes of what you think they should remember. Because their reaction to the event is not how you think you would have handled it. I guarantee you they have done the very best they could do in an impossibly unfair and shitty situation. The kind of situation that I pray you never have to go through. That nobody should ever go through. Their brain has dealt with this situation the best way that it could to try to protect them. And your judgement is not necessary or helpful.

I encourage all of you to be gentle with each other. You have no idea what each person you are interacting with is dealing with. What they have carried with them for a lifetime. What they may be hiding or masking. What kind of pain may be present under the surface at all times. The enormous amount of work they have put in to make it to this point. The setbacks that they may be encountering. The constant fear that they may be living with. Think about your words, your actions, your judgements.

And if you are a survivor of trauma in this current shitstorm please be gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace and love. Practice your self care. Think about setting up an extra therapy appointment. And for fucks sake stay out of the comment sections. That shit is not doing anybody any good right now.

Most of all remember that you are important in this world and we need you.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind.

 

 

 

 

#thisiswhatdepressionlookslike

 

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Today my Facebook memories popped up with pictures from a year ago. It was a hike in the woods with my hubby. It was a beautiful fall day with my favorite person on my favorite piece of trail in Minnesota. I was happy in that moment. Enjoying the company and the beauty of nature. Enjoying a respite from the feelings of low-grade (and sometimes high-grade) depression I had been feeling for years. For a couple of hours I dared to think that maybe this was the beginning of better times. The beginning of an upswing of happiness. Little did I know that after this hike I wouldn’t be happy again for a very long time.

Today was the day a year ago that started the spiral that almost ended my life. While I was in the woods enjoying my day something terrible had happened. Something that would trigger me in a way I had no idea was even possible. Something that would cause me to spiral so out of control that I thought my only option to end the pain I was feeling was to die. I am choosing not to share the event that triggered me because it involves others that may not want their story shared and honestly the details don’t matter. The point of this post is to share that you never really know how much a person is struggling.

For two weeks after this day I became more and more lost in myself. In my dark thoughts. In my feelings of being not enough, of being a burden, of being too broken to fix. In my thoughts that this world was broken beyond repair. In my empathic feelings of everyone else’s pain around me that I could not seem to escape. It happened so quickly yet to me it felt like forever. I think that some people around me noticed something was off but nobody, not even my closest friends or husband knew exactly how bad it was. And most people continued thinking everything was just fine.

I remember an interaction with someone at work from those dark weeks. It was a hello in the hallway with my trademark winning fake-smile. My co-worker said something about how my smile just always lit up the whole place, that I seemed like one of then happiest people he knew. I was literally thinking of killing myself. I’m pretty sure I went straight to the bathroom to cry. This was not an uncommon interaction in those two weeks and I couldn’t figure out why nobody could see the pain I was in.

I won’t say my presence on social media, and in real life for that matter, was fake but I always tried to keep things positive so I didn’t always share hard truths. I didn’t want to bring people down. I think a lot of people do this, not realizing how helpful it is to be raw and honest. Not realizing how much our experiences can help someone else to realize they are not alone. That others are in fact struggling with the same things. Knowing you are not alone is not a happy thought, but it does help. It helps to know you are not some freak. Some broken piece of trash. Most importantly it can help us to see that it does get better.

There was a movement on social media a while back where people used the hashtag #thisiswhatdepressionlookslike. The point was to illustrate that no matter how a person looks on social media or in their day to day life it does not necessarily reflect how they are feeling inside. Most people who are struggling are wearing a mask of happiness to cover up their dark feelings and I was no different. Sometimes our masks are very convincing.

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This is a picture of me the morning of the beginning of what was almost the end. Less than 2 weeks after this picture was taken (and the one at the beginning of this post) I was considering and very near attempting suicide.

This is what depression looks like. It is not always crying 24 hours a day. It is not always binging on the couch. It is not always voluntary solitary confinement. Though those things do happen, most people do not see them. They see the fake smiles. The compassion, the caring for others, the kindness. They see the smiles and fake happiness that we put out in the world because we don’t want everyone to know how broken we are. Because we don’t want anyone to worry about us. Because we don’t feel worthy of it.

When I dug out of the hole I was in I decided to share my story and my experiences with depression, anxiety, trauma and mental illness. I decided that putting on a fake smile and hiding the real me was not doing anyone any good. It has been difficult but also amazing. There are days where I wonder if people think I am crazy or whiny or just plain negative but there are also days where I have had people tell me that my sharing has helped them to hold on and keep trying. Sometimes it feels odd in a regular conversation to talk about therapy or meds or any other regular part of my life and sometimes I get odd looks when I speak of these things so naturally and nonchalantly. But this is how we stop the stigma. This is how we make it ok. And if I get a few weird looks or some people who don’t want to talk to me anymore I think that it is 100% worth it.

Let’s continue to talk about these things like they are normal. Because they are. When someone asks you how you are doing try telling the truth. It feels weird at first but eventually it becomes normal. And that is a magical feeling.

Most of all check on your friends. Especially the ones that seem okay. Especially the strong ones. Because those are the ones that are usually struggling. Let it be know that you are there and you care and that when you ask how they are you want the truth. Make sure they know you are prepared for truth and that you love them no matter what. Sometimes that can be the one thing that makes a world of difference in the middle of the darkness.

Remember it gets better. I am living proof of that. It is not always easy but it is worth it. I am so glad that each and every one of you are here. We need you.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

There’s Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself… and depression, and anxiety, and butterflies, and…

I haven’t had a panic attack since May. I haven’t had many symptoms of depression since then either, but over the last week or two I have had little warning bells ringing. Tiny things that may not mean much to most people and that could maybe be written off as a million other things but to me they make my brain scream “Maybe this is the beginning of your next spiral!!!!!!!!” Feeling overly tired, not having motivation, feeling a general sense of being overwhelmed for no particular reason, little tiny doubts that get in my brain and burrow down in there for awhile, small intrusive thoughts.

It could be the change in seasons. It could be a lingering physical illness. It could be anything really, but to my brain it is definitely the beginning of the end.

You see the thing about people who suffer from depression and anxiety is that even though we may feel really good for a really long time there is always that feeling in the back of our brain, a tiny niggling fear, that at any moment it could all end and we could be plunged back into the seemingly never-ending darkness. It is a thing that I live with. I guess that is one of the many awesome things about having the combo of depression AND anxiety. I get anxiety about possibly getting another massive bout of depression and it all feeds into a shit storm of awfulness.

Most of the time when I am feeling good it is easy to forget that fear and believe that maybe, just maybe, I won’t ever feel like that again. But when I start to feel even just a little bit “off” sometimes it is enough to let the fear take over. All I can think about is how I can’t do this again. It’s too soon. I’m not ready. I’m not strong enough to deal with this bullshit again.

Treatment is a magical thing though. Therapy has helped me identify my symptoms and notice red flags. It has also taught me some good things to do to alleviate the bad feelings and head off a depressive episode a little. I have a greater awareness of what is happening in my brain and I can monitor those changes and keep an eye on them. And meds help to keep things a little more even so the ups and downs aren’t quite so sudden and violent. They are easier to recognize and manage.

So for right now I am aware of these little things. I am trying not to freak out. I am monitoring it but trying to stay chill. I am practicing my self care and I am taking my meds. I am practicing a new deep breathing thing when I start to feel overwhelmed. I am trying to get out in nature and to exercise. But I am also practicing balance and giving myself grace for those times when I just want to curl up on the couch with the dogs and do nothing at all. Because that is important too… in moderation.

If you are struggling here is your reminder to take care of yourself. Seek some kind of treatment if you need it, because that is NEVER a sign of weakness. Take your meds, set up an appointment with your therapist, or maybe just go for a walk in the woods because it is so fucking beautiful this time of year.

It may not be the beginning of the end. It may just be a cold. Or autumn. Or some crazy chakra thingy. Who really knows. Humans are crazy yo.

Just don’t forget that we need you, and you are worth it. Always. And if you need help reach out.

Just keep swimming.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind

P.S. If you are wondering about the butterfly reference in the title it has nothing to do with anything. I am just really scared of butterflies. As evidenced by this picture of me in a butterfly garden thingy on a recent vacation with my husband where he tried to convince me I needed to confront my fears. He can be a real asshole sometimes;)

Butterfly Hell

P.S.S. This is actual 100% fear, no exaggeration or acting on my part. And yes my husband is 100% laughing at me.

P.S.S.S. I hope this gave you a little laugh for the day 🙂

Be Unapologetically You! (A Post by by Teenage Daughter)

My daughter had to write an essay for school last week and when I read it I have to say I have never been prouder. Of both the writing and the content. And also the human that she is. Being a teenager is hella hard.  Being a teenage girl seems borderline impossible most of the time. Yet she navigates it with the perfect mix of grace, beauty, and awkwardness.

Reading it was one of those rare moments where I felt like maybe, just maybe, I might be doing something right as a mom. Also the content sort of fits with the type of stuff I publish here so I wanted to present it to you. So take a couple of minutes to be steeped in the wisdom of my 16 year old daughter. I often say I want to be like her when I grow up. She is sort of the best. Here you go:

Be Unapologetically You!

By Melissa Schroeder

The thing about middle school and high school is that everyone feels this crushing pressure to fit in all the time. You are constantly surrounded by groups upon groups of people who all dress, talk, and act exactly the same in a desperate attempt to just “fit in” with the many norms and stereotypes of school life. I have some experience with this from switching schools, plus going through more friend groups than I can count on two hands. The thing that I finally learned over the last year was that you will never truly find your people you belong with unless you can find yourself and just be you no matter what. In theory, this sounds so easy and parents, teachers, and guidance counselors are constantly shouting from the tops of mountains that “you just need to be you!” and waving their motivational cat posters in your face. The reality of it is when you are constantly swimming in what seems to be an ocean of neverending negativity, judgment, and stress it seems close to impossible.
This summer I realized that I had twisted and tried so hard to fit in with everyone at school that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Right when I noticed this I started helping out at the Playhouse and as soon as I stepped into the brightly lit theater I made a total 180. The whole atmosphere was so completely different from what I had just spent an entire school year stuck in. Rather than feeling the need to be a photocopy version of everyone around me, I actually felt like I could just be myself without worrying about what other people would think about me. There was a constant environment of love, acceptance, positivity, and family that I had been desperately searching on hands and knees with my big bright flashlight of fake positivity for all year. Everyone was being their whole unique self 24/7 and loving each other for it. I had truly and finally found my people. We may not all go to the same school, we may not even see each other every day but they are always going to be there for me no matter what happens.
Truthfully I think the world would be a much better place if everywhere had the same atmosphere as the Duluth Playhouse but that is a little unrealistic for the world. In order to find a happy medium, I think it is so important to try in little ways to be yourself. Whether that be wearing the overalls I bought for back to school shopping, or wearing my hair in pigtails, or saying “yikes” whenever I’m awkward. I believe that in order to truly find my people I had to unapologetically be myself all the times. If you can’t find yourself you won’t be able to find your people who will love you, for you no matter what.

Greasy Fingerprints of Kindness

I came across this the other day:

You might think that you don’t matter in this world, but because of you,

someone has a favorite mug to drink their tea out of that you bought them.

Someone hears a song on the radio and it reminds them of you.

Someone has read a book you recommended to them and gotten lost in its pages.

Someone’s remembered a joke you told them and smiled to themselves on the bus.

Never think you don’t have an impact.

Your fingerprints can’t be wiped away from the little marks of kindness that you’ve left behind.

Yesterday I had a chance to catch up a little with an old friend. He used to be my best friend but life and our mental illnesses happened and for many different reasons we haven’t talked in nearly a year. But the visit was nice and much needed and left me feeling really good about a situation that has given me much anxiety and a lot of bad feelings for a really long time. I felt healed. And it only took a year. Feelings are especially fucking hard for some of us.

The point, though, is that even though I had bad feelings about this friend his fingerprints of kindness were still on my heart over the last year and always will be. One of my favorite songs is a song that he recommended to me. A song that made him feel all the feels even in the dark times when the feels were hard to feel. And every time I hear it I think of him and feel a little happier. Or at least I feel something, which if you have struggled with depression you know is a welcome thing. And when I am having an especially hard time I intentionally play it and I think of why I love it and why I love him. That is a gift he gave me that will be with me always.

There are many other things that remind me of him daily. Good things mostly. And the more I started thinking about this particular friend the more I realized how true that passage is. Our interactions with people leave a mark. Whether it is a gift or a trinket we gave them, an experience we shared, a joke we told, a kindness we did. We leave our mark. And somewhere out there someone is probably thinking of you fondly. Every day.

So never forget you matter. Just by being human and having relationships and interacting with people you leave a mark. And you are important. To someone but probably to many.

So today do something to leave a fingerprint of kindness in somebody’s life. I try to do things like this as often as I can. Send a card, bake a treat, text someone a cheesy joke, tell someone you love them, or if you see something you know a friend would totally dig buy it for them (or send them a picture of it if you can’t afford it because really it is the thought that counts).

Cover people’s lives with the kind of greasy fingerprints of kindness that they have to scrub like fuck to get off.

Leave your mark of love.

And if you can’t do that today because you are just too tired maybe try to see some of the fingerprints that have been left on your life by others. It will help you to remember it is worth it to keep going.

Consider this your pep talk of the day.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind

p.s. The song is Cloud Cult “There’s So Much Energy in Us”. Check it out here and consider it my little gift to you for today: Best Song Ever

 

 

 

Hang On

Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. I feel like that should be everyday but I guess one day is better than none. I haven’t written in a while so I figured I should probably post something.

Last year at this time I had decided that suicide wasn’t such a bad option. Things were bad, I felt alone, I was spiraling hardcore, and I had pretty much figured I had tried hard enough for long enough. I was exhausted and my brain had convinced me that it was not getting better and probably never would. That the option to not exist was all I had left to make the pain stop. But here’s the thing; depression lies. And so does your brain when you are dealing with mental illness.

So last year at this time I decided to try one more thing first and I made an appointment with my doctor and got on some meds. They saved my life.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t immediate and there was still a lot of work to do but today I feel like a normal human. I am experiencing that feeling called happiness more and more. And I am very glad that I didn’t listen to my asshole, liar brain and make a decision that could not be taken back.

I am thankful that I am here for my friends and my family. I am thankful I was able to make decisions that made my life better and worth living. I am thankful that my children do not have to grow up without a mom and do not have to deal with the trauma that would have resulted from me listening to my liar brain. I am thankful that I still get to see sunsets and feel the sand beneath my bare feet on the beach.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I know it is not easy to think of these things when you are in the throes of a major depressive episode but I ask you to wait. You can do almost anything for 1 minute. Even survive. So if you are in a spot where you can only think of that one minute then do that. Make it through that 1 minute and then deal with the next. Eventually move on to hours, and then maybe days, It will get easier.

If you have no idea what to do or how to make it through please talk to someone. It can be a friend or a stranger. Use the Suicide hotline by calling call 1-800-273-8255. Or  text 741741 to chat via text if you do not like talking. Someone is always there to help.

Things that help me:

Take a walk

Take a bath or shower

Eat a healthy snack (ice cream sometimes helps, too, though)

Do some yoga or exercise

Get coffee with a friend

Take a nap

Have my kids or friends or random people on social media tell me something good that happened to them that day (seriously, social media can be used for good and this is one of my favorite ways)

Get a hug from someone

Snuggle in bed with my kids

Do something nice for someone else

Talk to my therapist

If you do not know how to find a therapist please talk to your family doctor. They will have suggestions. If they tell you that you have to wait some ungodly amount of time, that is a lie. There are other options. Reach out to me and I am glad to talk to you about my experience or go back and read some of previous posts where I talk about my therapy experience. Try this one: I’m Officially Less Crazy? or this one: You Are Worth It. I Promise.

Meds are a lifesaver and if anyone tries to tell you differently they are stupid. Your family doc can help with those too. Here is more about my experience with them: The Magic of Meds 

Finally, just talk about it. You will be surprised how many people have been where you are. People who can give you sound advice and people who can tell you from experience that it gets better.

Because it does… Get better. So hang on. It will be worth it eventually and you will be glad you stuck around. I will be glad you stuck around. And so will others. You are valuable and unique and wonderful and the world needs you.

As always, reach out if you need something, to me or somebody else. Anytime. There is always someone here.

Love to all of you.. the unconditional kind

 

 

 

 

 

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.