It’s All Relative

I had a med check last week to make sure my anti-depressants are still being effective. During the appointment the doc asked me all the normal generic mental health questions that they ask to assess your level of depression and risk. Not the super intense ones a therapist would ask but just the easy ones… Are you sleeping too little, too much? Eating too little, too much? Feeling like a failure? Feeling no energy? Feeling out of control fidgety? Feeling like hurting yourself? Along with a couple others. I thought I was doing okay as I answered the questions but when the doctor compared my score to last May he was a little concerned. My score had gone up quite a bit. Not a dangerous level of up but enough to make a difference.

I explained to him that it is the holidays and this is to be expected. I don’t have happy holidays I just try to survive them. I deal with a lot of grief at the holidays and in the last year there have been massive changes to my life with my family and friends. It is also the birthday of my sister this month which is an especially difficult day of grief even after all the years that have passed since I lost her. I grieve for the things I never had with both her and my childhood. It is all made more difficult with the constant family-centric questions that make me feel uncomfortable because nobody wants to hear the real answers and it just makes me long for things I do not have or have never had and brings up trauma to re-live once again. Sometimes the holidays seem like a mental war-zone

I assured my doc that compared to the last 3 years or so this holiday season has seemed like a picnic so far. That I am usually on the verge of suicidal or catatonic depending on the year and that right now I don’t feel nearly that bad despite my slightly concerning score. We talked about being on top of things and I told him I would keep up my self care strategies and make an appointment with my therapist if I needed to. I have these tools to call on now. He renewed my prescription and I went on my way.

Thinking about it the next couple of days I realized how relative our mental health can be. Depending on life circumstance and time of year one person’s moderate depression can seem like a fucking day at the park. Don’t get me wrong. I do not feel like dancing in the streets right now. I feel an undercurrent of self doubt and anxiety and the last couple of days the feeling of being perched on the edge of a cliff leading to the inevitable holiday spiral has been palpable. But I’m holding on for now. Holding my broken pieces together if slightly precariously. I’m keeping my head up and trying to find joy in the things I am doing in the present with my children who love this season. I am breathing and trying to stay out of the past as much as possible. And so far I am okay.

So if the holidays are tough for you consider this a reminder to practice self-care. To take it easy if you need to. To survive. Reach out to someone if you need to. Do what you need to do to make it through. Because sometimes the holidays just aren’t happy. And that is okay.

Be gentle with yourself out there. And remember it is okay to not be okay. Just keep doing your best.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

 

 

 

Using My Mental Toolbox

This time of year is hard and it is very easy for me to find myself backpedaling with my mental health. Part of it is that there is just so much change. Change in seasons and weather. Change in the amount of sunshine vs darkness. Change in my children’s lives with back to school and trying new activities and getting used to new schedules and routines. I am notoriously bad with change. Add to that the negativity of news and elections and money stress and it is easy for me to start sliding.

It all starts with little things. I start eating like shit. I stop sleeping because my mind won’t turn off. I lose interest in doing things that make me happy because I am just so fucking exhausted from the lack of sleep. So I stop going to my yoga classes and I quit running. I spend more time on the couch. I disconnect more from life.

My brain takes this opportunity to start to lie to to me. It starts with little niggling insecurities and moves on to bigger and bigger sweeping generalizations. Eventually I am a terrible mom. I am a terrible wife. I am a terrible friend. I am a terrible human. I am useless. I start rapidly descending down the rabbit hole of self doubt.

In the past this kind of downward spiral would lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations. I would think that I am so awful I don’t deserve to live and really everyone else is better off without me anyways. I’d be doing the world a favor if I wasn’t here anymore. Down, down, down.

But I do not find myself there this fall. At least not at the bottom of the hole.

I am struggling, true. I thought I was getting pretty bad, yes. I started fearing the worst was coming again, absolutely. But then I remembered something. I remembered my toolbox. All of the tricks and tips I have gained from therapy. Sort of my mental first aid kit.

I remembered to stop and breathe and take an inventory of sorts. I am still going to yoga albeit not as frequently. I am running occasionally, when I feel like I really want to, but not constantly like a compulsion. I have a weekly date with my bestie and I am still leaving the house to do things with my hubby. I baked cookies the other day. I have not walled myself off emotionally or physically from the outside world. I am still taking pictures of nature and recognizing beauty. I am still seeing color; not everything is grey.

Fuck you brain. You fucking liar.

From there I can pep talk myself into making some small changes. I will start eating better. Less sugar, more veggies. I will make it a point to get to yoga 2 times a week. I will not pressure myself to run if I don’t feel like it. I will do those fucking dishes in the sink. I will volunteer at the kiddos’ school. Baby steps. Little things.

I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do ALL of the things. Doing some of the things is totally acceptable and really probably normal. Also everything doesn’t have to be awesome all the time. Sometimes it is okay to be just okay. And sometimes it is okay to not be okay. Neither of those things is a failure. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. This is the thing I will struggle with all the way to my grave. But I am learning. Slowly.

So today I will go to the pharmacy and pick up my refill of my meds and remember that I am taking steps to be okay. Lots and lots of little steps. I am in a much better place than I was a year ago. I am okay. And that is okay.

It feels okay to be okay.

If you are struggling I encourage you to dip into your mental first aid kit and take an inventory. Be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that it is okay to just be okay. And if you feel like you are absolutely not okay and you find that inventory to be empty then please reach out and get some help. Contact a friend or better yet a therapist. Get the help you need so that next time you start down the rabbit hole you don’t go quite so deep.

Love to you all. The unconditional kind ❤

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

 

fb_img_15383169125278345813927401305274.jpg

 

 

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.

fb_img_15383168957207843572621594331503.jpg

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 🙂

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

 

 

 

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 ❤