Be Brave (part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join me.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind ❤

Stop Running Away From Your Problems… Literally

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love to you guys. The unconditional kind ❤

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It just is.

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

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

Love to all you guys… the unconditional kind ❤

 

I’m Still Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love to all of you, the unconditional kind.