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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 ❤