90days

2160 Hours. Give or Take.

Today is a mile marker in my sobriety. Today I am 90 days sober.

I’ve been counting down to this for what seems like much more than 90 days. As much as I stick to the adage of one day at a time, I still have to have shiny objects for my mind to seek out and 90 days was one of those. It’s hard to truly put into words why it means so much and also why it was a stepping stone for me. Other than I would not have guessed I would be here if I had asked myself six months ago. This is the longest I’ve been sober in nine years. And I was only sober then because I was growing a person.

I’m happy, and proud and feeling accomplished. Excited to announce it and let people know I’ve done it. It’s only three months. 90 little days. 2,160 hours (or so). But a difficult 90 days that have taught me a great deal including the understanding that I have an intense amount more to learn.

But I’m also stressed, anxious and my depression is sneaking up behind me after a lengthy reprieve from its haunting effects. There are parts of these past 90 days that have been a breeze. No hesitations, integral revelations and appreciation for the route I’ve chosen. Others have been rife with hurdles and land mines. Some requiring moments of seeking out a life raft or reassuring words.  

Last night, as my anxiety and panic overwhelmed me over something that would perceivably be innocuous to others I had a moment of alcoholic longing. It was wine that came to mind. The velvet feel of it on my tongue. The warmth as it spread through my chest. The gentle buzzing that would fill my head space, crowding out the nagging thoughts and ringing cry of my unease over all the things my anxiety was showing me. 

Because sometimes my anxiety is like show and tell in a class of kindergartners who have been eating sugar all morning and also got no sleep the night before. Belligerently holding up their favorite toys, screaming at you to look and throwing tantrums when someone else gets more attention. It’s chaotic and demanding, which exhausts me.

Overall, while I have this significant moment to applaud and feel pride over, I’m weighed down by a clamoring of thoughts. Of dissatisfaction with certain areas of my life, that aren’t immediately reparable and some I just haven’t come to understand yet. The mom guilt on the days I question my parenting, which are most of them. Usually for simplistic reasons that are truly unjustified self persecution. Sullenness and frustration over constantly having to worry about finances, with very little room to breath and no reserve should anything drastic happen. Mental flogging for not pursuing my writing further, knowing it’s something I enjoy and I would like to see flourish. Even fretting about my exercise regimen and where the hell my discipline has gone to.

It should be a much more exuberant day and perhaps it’s winter doldrums as well, but I’m just struggling on my 90th day, and it’s unfortunate. Maybe part of it is that while I have learned how not to run from what burdens me, now I’m sitting with all of it. There has to be an in between that exists so as not to consistently be in the thick of challenges, feelings and lack of peace. I’ve seen it. Glimpsed it from time to time lately. I’m still determining what makes up the ideal of happiness so that I may claim my own particular definition of it.

Through all of this, I have not caved to the whispers of temporary freedom from these smothering thoughts in the form of a drink. I have stayed true to my drive to succeed at finding a better way. It’s definitely a challenge right now. While I’m excited to hit triple digits, I know that by the time I get there, I could be fatigued and begrudging my inability to moderate. There are times I get a little indignant about being in this position. Watching tv shows where characters drink with freedom, knowing I don’t have that luxury if I want to stay sane (and healthy). Attending my first social outing where I typically would have been plastered by the end of the night. I watched those around me take shots that I usually would have been the one to encourage partaking in and for a moment, I felt a little lost. Without tequila, who am I? Without the raucous laughter following the slamming of shot glasses, where do I fit?

But the moment passed and I embraced the opportunity to actually figure out who I am without inebriation. To know that the next morning wouldn’t be haunted by half-hearted texts about how awful I felt and attempts at piecing together missing pieces of the night. Because I’m not that girl who would have stopped at one. Or five. I never will be.

So here I am, at 90 days. Pieces of me reclaimed. Large parts of me uncertain. Anxiety ridden, at least for the time being. Understanding that even sometimes a day at a time will be too much and that’s okay. The next 90 will be worth it.

Cheers

 

Today I am 52 days sober. I had planned to write this closer to the New Year’s Day. And I’m not sure I ever intended an outright declaration or “announcement” per say. But I posted an image on Instagram that hash tags a movement in the sober society and it got positive feedback and support. So here goes nothing. Or everything.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been known as a drinker. The girl who can drink long past most people. Someone who is in love with vodka, tight with tequila, besties with beer and whimsical with wine. In other words, my liver would take a beating and not say a word. The abuse I’d put it through was all in the name of fun. Or for the sake of chasing away a bad day. Of avoiding an unpleasant situation. Escaping anxiety, suppressing depression, avoiding life for just a few hours. Yet, all those things I was avoiding always seemed to come back the next day. Along with a wicked headache I’d laugh about. Pouring hair of the dog that would turn into a whole puppy.

I think there is a stereotype or a pigeon hole of what people think of as a drunk or an alcoholic. But there are so many degrees of having a problem with drinking (or any addiction, really). I was functional. I waited to get home from work to drink. I day drank on weekends if I wasn’t driving anywhere. But isn’t that what all the fun people do? I’d swear I was going to cut back after this day or that day. I was only going to drink every other day. I was only going to drink on weekends. I was only going to drink on days that had an 8 in the date. I was only going to have one drink. Or two. Yet somehow, I never seemed to make it to any of those goals. There were always excuses. It was a shitty day at work. I was upset with my current relationship and just needed to avoid it for the time being. My kids were being difficult. I was sad. I was happy. The sky was blue.

There are a variety of reasons I stopped. But honestly, one day I woke up, unsure of the night before. Panicked because I wasn’t sure what I had done now. Don’t get me wrong, this was something that happened on a regular basis by the time it got to the weekends. But this time felt different. There are reasons that are too personal to share here. But overall, I suddenly knew. I was never going to be able to moderate my drinking. I was always going to go out and be the one to push shots on people. The one to brag about how many I could take. I wore my tolerance like a badge, yet never realized it was a bandage covering a gaping wound I refused to address fully. I had mornings where my kids would remind me of things I had said or promised and I didn’t fully remember them. The shame of all of it would overwhelm me, my depression would plunge and I would ultimately and ironically suppress the resulting feelings by drinking again.

Yet, as I said, I was fully functional. The most people knew was that I enjoyed drinking. I could drink a lot. I would get liquor as gifts. Beer as thank you’s. Wine to improve a bad day. I was the girl who could keep up, who would always go out for drinks and who seemed okay with it. It was a large piece of my identity. Both to myself and others. Those who know me well know I struggled with the effects. They know I kept trying to quit. They’d listen to my laments over another foolish night. But what Jessica wants to do in the end is always what Jessica is going to do.

When I quit, it felt different than all the other times I had “quit.” It felt like the time I truly needed to. Over the first few weeks, my depression was completely manageable, with very few depressive episodes. The dark circles under my eyes started to fade. Stomach pain I had been experiencing disappeared (which I had even gone to the doctor for and pretended I had no clue what it was. But deep down, I knew). But my anxiety, life, my feelings, oh boy. I had clearly been chasing my anxious nature away with bottomless glasses of Absolut. High strung as a natural tendency, my anxiety was along for the ride like the drunk guy you have to cart home at the end of the night, puking in your backseat and passing out before you get to his place. There’s something I learned about in sobriety called the “pink cloud” and it’s essentially a feeling of euphoria as the weighted effects of alcohol leave your system. It’s when you start to feel all the things you’ve been avoiding, you learn happiness and everything is just there and intense. I have that. But I also now have the lows. The lows of realizing I have to learn how to face my anxiety without running away from it. When something makes me sad or mad or scared, I can’t avoid it with Cabernet. I have to break down each piece and understand what I can change and what I can’t. I have to be in control of my reaction and how I let it take me over or if I even let it into my mind in the first place. Tequila no longer gives me reprieve from feeling lonely. I’ve started tearing up at movies again because my emotions are becoming richer. A bad day sometimes leaves me with a full blown attack that I have to suppress completely so no one knows. Because I still have to function. I have to fight my addiction, carry on like a “normal” adult, be a parent, pay my bills, keep us all fed and clothed and safe. Sober. I can’t buy vodka on the way home. Funny story, I used to stop and buy myself alcohol for later, on the way to get my kids and I would pick up some juice for them at the same time. You know, to be nice to all of us. Maybe they had a rough day and needed some sugar (I’m kidding, simmer down). It was also to suppress the guilt I had over the stop I was making to begin with.

I fear future social settings as the novelty of my sobriety wears off and becomes a wet blanket to some. Don’t get me wrong my friends have been phenomenal. It truly is a part of this that has been much easier than I expected. One of my primary fears was losing people who would no longer see me as fun. Who wouldn’t get to know the sober Jessica. Who would have to find alternate presents to liquor. I luckily have surrounded myself with amazing people. Who are supportive and kind and loving and who don’t give a shit if I order a shirley temple at dinner. (And I don’t care if they order drinks.) Someday, though, there might be a situation where they may not know if I’m comfortable at an event and I may be omitted from the invites. But I’ve made this choice for my own personal health and path and I have to be okay with that. While dating has essentially fallen off the radar in the early part of sobriety as I’m learning who I am, and how to face the intricacies of the nuances of life, I do get lonely and it will come up. (But lesson from sobriety is dating inspired by loneliness is the never the right kind.) Yet, I know from a long history of dating that almost every meeting opener is “want to go have a drink?” As a result, I’m wary and curious how many will end before they’re even planned when I say “I don’t drink.” I mean, I’m well aware I’m fun sober, but alcohol has been welcomed as that social lubricant to the point of it being abnormal if you DON’T need it. But again, as with friends, I know it’s best to surround myself with those who understand my choices, support them and don’t try to dissuade me from doing what’s right for me.  I’m sure there will be more land mines along the way that I wasn’t expecting as I traverse this new trail. I’m going to trip, I’m going to be disappointed and I’m going to see all the things with new eyes.

The key to my success isn’t allowing fear to change my course. Because ultimately I know that fear is what got me here. Fear is what drove me to avoid everything I possibly could. Fear is how I no longer know who I was.

Now, I find out who I am. I’ll let you know about what I find along the way.

It Can’t Rain All the Time

This storm was predictable. Hints of a sharp current in the air; energy bouncing off the trees. Her brain signaling that the clouds were rolling in. The precursors making it clear she could only find shelter, not flee what was overhead. In the past, the storms had battered her and the rain had been torrential and the sadness had washed over her.

She knew it was coming because the changes had started with her. The atmosphere was her comfort level with life. Even if it wasn’t that comfortable; any disruption was sure to affect the air and potentially leave her to encounter what was ahead without the buffer of the temperature she had grown used to.

What she knows is this. Sometimes we come upon a crossroads. One way, is what we know. The other, could be a road previously traveled and it could be an entirely new pathway. More than likely it’s all a part of the same forest; one we’ve known the entirety of our lives. But there are parts of it we’ve never entered; trees we’ve never seen and walkways that haven’t bore our footprints. The sun may filter through spots where the trees aren’t as connected and we may come across clearings where we can bask in the warmth and have our way lit with what seems like all the rays the sun has to offer.

Other times, it’s dark in that forest. And we walk a path we’ve been walking for what seems like ages, and thunder cracks and rumbles. The only light guiding us are the flickers and the flashes of lightning. Bolts streaking across the sky showing us what’s barely in front of us and leaving us back in the dark as they just as quickly disappear. We weather these storms with what we’re carrying. Our fortitude to find shelter. Our logic to know it can’t rain all the time. Understanding that eventually the sun will break through the clearings again, and the latticework of the treetops that let that light in will paint their intricate patterns.

We decide how we brave the downpours that batter the forest and block off paths and flood some of our old walkways. Sometimes trees fall in these storms that give us a bridge to find a way to another part of where we’re going. Only if we notice these brand new pathways and understand it’s where we’re headed next. However, sometimes, it’s so dark up ahead, crossing that tree takes us somewhere there are no clear paths. The underbrush is still flourishing and overgrown. The smattering of brightness through the tallest of the trees isn’t certain. We don’t know how many storms we’ll endure in these parts of the forest.

Whether she knew this storm was coming or not, she still has to get through it. Figure out where the trees may fall and what gets washed away in the end. She knows if she stays out in the open, she risks it all. Should she choose to not seek the shelter right in front of her, she may not realize until it’s too late that she was guiding the way for the other travelers walking alongside her, behind her, ahead of her. In her footprints, or conversely clearing some of the pathways so she doesn’t have to, just as she has unknowingly been doing for them.

There are some days she’s tired of walking. Some where she just wants to stay in the shelter she’s found until the next storm rolls around instead of forging ahead. There are other moments she languishes in the light she sees and embraces it. Instead of thinking to the next rain, or lightning, or darkness, she basks in the momentary warmth. Feels every beam on her skin, looks ahead to that next path she sees. Realizes how alive the forest is around her. Knowing the next storm could keep her sheltered for longer than she’d like, she’s finding these moments to cling to, the further into the woods she gets.

Storms bring change. They renew the earth and the rain nourishes its surroundings. Making everything stronger. Including her. She just has to see it through, to find the flowers growing down the next path she’s on. Because sometimes the patter of the rain on what’s overhead reminds her that she’s been through enough storms and eventually, they stop. Sooner or later, she can keep on her way, finding that next fallen tree or a clearing that is filled with the sun. This shelter is okay. Eventually the rain will slow and the clouds will move away and the noises around her will be of life. Washed clean, ready to find the next part of the forest.

An Open Letter to My Kids

kids

 

Dear boys,

As a mom, I know that I am your stability in this world. I keep you safe, I keep you fed and clothed and sometimes I spend too much at an arcade because picking toys you’ve won lights up your faces. I took on the responsibility of bringing you into this world and know that means seeing you through every piece of it.

As babies you never slept. Some nights I had no idea how I was going to make it the next day on one hour of sleep. I’d stare at your cherubic little face in the 2:00 a.m. quiet as we rocked and I’d beg you to please try sleeping. Close your eyes and rest and let me rest so we could start again the next day. Sometimes I got mad, sometimes I cried; there were times I found myself pleading with a two month old realizing how little that was going to do. I loved you through all of it.

As you grew and as I grew and started to realize that the opportunity I had received to stay home with you wasn’t fulfilling me, I started to question myself. What kind of mother doesn’t want to keep that opportunity to be around you at all times. Who was I to want to go back to work when I had the chance to always be the one you woke up to and played with and learned with. I selfishly worried what I had done to my career by staying home. How would I find something new and make the decision to send you to strangers every day. I worried I had failed you by staying home when I wasn’t equipped to. Feared I wasn’t teaching you enough or letting you flourish. I spent so much time feeling out of place. Uncertain where I belonged. But I loved you deeply and immensely and without fail, every second of every day.

When I re-entered the working world, I wondered if it would work. Feared I may not be able to make it all flow smoothly. How often would I be able to pick you up if you were sick. My mind raced with all the things that can happen in daycare, positive and negative. Other kids could be mean, you could get hurt. Almost worse, you could get your feelings hurt. What if the teachers looked the other way at the wrong time. All while realizing I was facing proving myself to my employer and demonstrate why I was a value, after being out of the working world for an extended period of time. I didn’t know if those two years had done any damage to my success when I already started out with hurdles ahead of me. But being successful was a must. I had to do my best for myself and for you. You were always my priority. Always my driving force.

About a year later I made an incredibly difficult life choice and put you both in a confusing, hard to explain position. You were going to have two homes. Your mom and dad would have separate time with you. I had no idea how it would all work. And looking into the faces of two children under four and attempting to explain divorce will always be one of the more difficult periods of my life. You truly had no concept of what was happening. Just that your whole world was upending. All while mine was as well. I was lost, sad and trying to find my way. Keeping my head above water and still giving you the best life. I couldn’t tell you any of this, I couldn’t talk to you about those rough moments, the tears, the ugly times. I was strong for you and remained your pillar even if I was usually crumbling and patched together with crappy glue and duct tape. You were my hearts and you were what mattered.

As my life went on, and you got older, I made some pretty stupid choices. I had some life moments that are still bewildering. More hurdles, more difficulty and more sadness. But you couldn’t see that. You couldn’t be privy to those moments because you needed to know everything would be okay. I was a crumbling façade and at times you saw my weaknesses. You saw my tears and my pain and my inability to hold it together. But I kept you safe, I kept you happy and I loved you. With all of me.

During all of this, I suddenly found myself in a position of explaining death to two kids under five. Ty, with a crayon sticking out of his ear, not really understanding why we couldn’t see Grandpa anymore. Where had he gone, why did he leave. Would he be sad now that he was all alone. I kept my composure, but let you see me sad and told you how that part of life works. Even when months later we’d drive by a cemetery and you’d ask if Grandpa was coming back some day.  In that moment, I made sure you knew that Grandpa loved you very much. That he thought the world of you and that would never change.

As time has gone on, and I’ve seen how the world can be, the good and the bad, and I try to not let you see some of my latent cynicism. I don’t want to spoil any of the world for you, while your eyes still see good and your brain still processes primarily innocence.

When kids were mean to you, Dylan, I felt a rage I’ve never felt. I hurt and I cried and I wanted to put you in a little bubble and keep you with me always. But I knew that wasn’t the best way to see you through this part of life. I restrained from finding those kids and telling them they were not nice. I didn’t call their parents and ask what the hell they were doing. I got you through it. Knowing it will happen again. It’ll happen to both of you. And I have so much to fear sending you out into this big, sometimes scary world, but if I share my fear I don’t set you up for the best life you can have. If I scare you, your fear becomes too large for your hearts and that’s not what a mom wants. That’s not how I help you flourish.

As I’ve faced more difficulties, I hold it together because that’s what I do as a person. But also what I do for you. Knowing that my strength will be what you carry with you, always. The moments you see my emotions, good or bad, are the moments that shape you. Prepare you. Show you my love. Show you love in general.

Life’s going to be a real asshole sometimes. It’s going to knock you down, only to push you back down once you brush yourself off and get back up. It might do it multiple times until you just don’t know if you can get back up. But you do. Because that’s living. That’s knowing that when you didn’t realize it, you had friends helping you back up. You had family making sure you could stay up. And bandaging the wounds from falling in the first place. Life will be unfair, it will hurt, but it will also be great, wonderful and beautiful, if you let it. I’m still figuring out how that works myself sometimes. When you’re in the dark, wandering and lost, just know the sun has to be somewhere. The light has to be in a place you’ll eventually find it. Don’t give up. It’s not who you are and it’s not who we are. Because together we are strong. Together we can find our joy and what makes us who we are.

Don’t let anything stifle you. Don’t let pain guide you in the wrong direction. Keep your beauty and I can only hope the kindness I’ve tried to instill in you. I hope that as life goes on, I can continue to be your rock and the person you know isn’t perfect, but tries her damn best at everything. I hope you’re not embarrassed of my failings and while I would never tell you this now, because I know it’s unfair, sometimes it’s you two and only you two who are the reason I get back up, brush myself off and ask “What’s next.”

Because I love you and I always will.

Stepping on My Own Feet

My pants are too small.

Some of my pants are too small.

In a size that was falling off me three years ago during another bout of starvation, deprivation and channeling the strength of my eating disorder. A look I’m admittedly wistful for when looking at pictures. A look my best friend called gross. (It’s okay, I love her because she says things like that to me).

Self-worth shouldn’t be in my clothing sizes. I’ve spent the year working out after a few years hiatus from doing so, and actually attempting to eat more than once a day, past 4:00. My Instagram feed is full of body acceptance, love yourself messages mixed in with fitness gurus who do moves I kick myself for not being able to achieve at the same skill level. This is how I try to combat this disorder that has owned my brain for 22 years. By these minimal efforts that still leave me with doubt and dislike for myself. As I dwelled this morning on my new habits likely bringing my body to its natural point; it’s set point as I approach 40 (holy fuck), I realized there hasn’t been one full day in all this time that I’ve liked my reflection. I don’t get dressed and think “I look good.” I find the flaws. The bulges. The parts I believe in my mind people make fun of. I hide the “bad” stuff. Because that’s what this disorder tells you.

I know, I write about this topic all the time. But it’s hitting me hard right now as I find myself in a balance of attempting to accept that this is me. That I have an athletic build and working out emphasizes that. That eating is something most people do throughout the day, without panic. That I may have to go up a size, which shouldn’t matter but I know people can see it. I know people are thinking I’m getting big and wondering if I’ve let myself go. It’s all incredibly exhausting in finding my worth in my appearance. When a habit is ingrained for so long, there’s no other way. You want to see the logic; the path you’re taking and how long you’re going to stay on it. But then I look in a mirror and see how pudgy and unattractive my face looks, how large my legs are and the rationale goes out the window and all I know is I don’t like myself.

I miss the unnaturally sustained gross waif I once was even as unrealistic as that might be. But I also know I wasn’t happy then, either. I still felt too big, too much and like I was taking up too much space. I could still find the flaws in the mirror. I somehow put blinders on to all of the health effects years of abusing my body have caused. Intolerance to certain foods, digestion issues, a metabolism that’s been confused for as long I can remember and that’s not even to say what additional long term effects I will see. Even correcting certain behaviors can’t eliminate what I’ve already subjected myself to. Yet, it doesn’t seem to faze me in considering a dalliance with an old friend. Because all I know is what I see in each mirror, in each reflection, when I look down, when I put on pants… I truly don’t know how to conquer this, I don’t know how to accept what I look like, and while I realize how vain and shallow that makes me sound, it’s still a disease that doesn’t let me remember that enough. An addiction that tells me I need it to be happy, yet, somehow it’s never made me happy.

And as I find myself exhibiting those familiar behaviors and experiencing those difficult thoughts, I battle with the part of me who finds it all so ridiculous. I feel uncomfortable in my own body, like I’m shrouded with an imposter that is too much of me. Yet, I know I should be grateful I’m healthy. I check for rolls when I sit, and I also know that life could be much, much worse. The part of me who hates this tries to combat it with logic and sensibility and the fight between the two can be exhausting. I know all the thoughts people might have when they read of the experiences of someone with this type of disorder. I know they’re not all positive. As I walk toward a mirror in the gym and see how wide I am, I should just be pleased that I can work out and get stronger at the gym. It just doesn’t end up working out where those motivating, self-accepting thoughts win out. I’ve danced this dance before and I keep stepping on my own feet. I’m a terrible dancer.

So here it leaves me. Buying new pants because every morning ends near tears and considering discontinuing working out and definitely scaling back on this whole eating thing. Which, the logical portion of me, that has been louder of late, understands this is just not the right way to handle things. But the me who has always found comfort in finding value in my size just can’t see through the haze that is this dysmorphia. I’d love to use body acceptance hash tags with the confidence and tenacity that others seem to possess. I’d like to believe them. But I don’t. Not enough to feel as though I’ve conquered this. All I can do is keep trying, and I suppose that has to be enough. Revel in having to shop for clothes, even though, I just don’t want to. Know that I’m keeping myself healthier than I have in a long time and my body is trying to reclaim its rightful place and shape. Hopefully, one day, those words won’t ring so hollow as I stare in the mirror and mentally circle what’s wrong. Because right now they feel like lies so I don’t go completely back off the deep end.

Parks and Puppies

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

As another birthday passes, I tend to have high hopes in that this is the year I get my shit together. Sometimes I feel like I have most of it at least contained, but for a good portion of the time, it’s still the same uphill battle. My well-earned façade is great at first glance, yet it masks more than anyone would guess on some days. It’s like shutting a bunch of puppies in a room together. If you’re outside, it’s just a closed door. But inside it’s probably one big mess.

I’ve finally, after 20 years, figured out how to manage my eating disorder. The one that has made me hate myself every day I look in a mirror; throw tantrums over how my pants fit and essentially decimates the rest of the day. It’s exhausting to live in constant dislike for everything you see when you look down. To wage mental abuse for how I’m shaped. I’ve longed for (and had) bones extruding, knowing that’s not my body type. I feel massive guilt if I’ve crossed any food boundaries. Yet, within the last year, I’ve reached a point where I’ve been able to move past some of that. I eat meals, and sometimes I even let myself eat before noon. I’ve learned to be okay with what size I wear and if certain pants don’t fit, to just not wear them. These are huge strides for me that have taken so much work; so much rationalization and constant, unending dedication to preserving my self-worth.

There are trade-offs, though, as none of this is without negotiation with the thoughts that linger. These allowances are all as long as I continue working out. So I’m still striking deals with myself, but they’re healthier than striking the deal to avoid food to make up for any I’ve allowed. Yet I still find times where it would be easier to be waif thin; going against my athletic pre-disposition. Making sure I work out, so I can eat still feels like a compromise with my disorder and at times it’s just exhausting. I don’t just work out to stay “thin” or to eat, I do appreciate how strong it makes me feel and the progress I can see myself make. But the caveats are still there, latent because of how I’m wired.

Despite my affinity for working out and desperation to just accept who I am, I find myself sabotaging it consistently with poor outlets and vices that quiet my brain. These vices tend to negate any hard work or effort I make to stay healthy and be happy with myself and go against the thoughts demonstrated in the above rambling. Therein lies the crazy circle that is my brain. It’s like an amusement park. A really lame one. Where the rides are all broken. Every week I set new goals, or measures of moderation. Every week I slip far away from those intentions and set new goals for the next week. Excuses, rationalization, promises, etc. are all my tools of holding off another week on making those difficult choices to limit myself.

As the above starts to crumble, my depression sets in further, like fish hooks, curving back in which makes them much more difficult to remove. The smallest things trigger my anxiety and dark feelings and it compounds in that same little amusement park. Suddenly it all feels out of control, unsettled, like happiness is too far reaching of a goal and the rollercoaster is stuck at the top and none of us have safety restraints on.

Now, at this age, that usual, familiar cycle is wearing out but beyond that, now I feel like I’m too old to ride this ride. Yet I can’t shut it off and it’s often going too fast to jump off. Even as much as I champion for acceptance of mental illness and struggles, I still lambaste myself for experiencing them at times. Why can’t I get myself under control, why does self-harm have to cross my mind as an option. Will I be 60 years old and experiencing suicidal ideation? I sometimes want to just stomp my feet, and say it’s not fair because I truly don’t know what else to do to manage it.

I certainly don’t intend this to sound self-absorbed or whiny; more in that when I’m struggling, I really struggle. I’ve done such an okay job of managing it and learning the best ways to do so, that if I’m crumbling, it’s been a long time coming. My mental health collapses are now cumulative potentially due to ways I handle it, but also because I’ve learned to be strong through so much, I let less break me until I just don’t have any other idea how to maintain my composure.

This is probably the most selfish thing I’ve written in my blogs; the most juvenile and elementary. But I just want things to be fucking easy and maintain that smooth flow for longer than the blink of an eye. While I understand that things aren’t all bad. I do have positives in my life, things I’m appreciative for and treasure. But mental illness and strife just doesn’t allow you to experience those. You’re too busy surviving invisible monsters who just don’t know how to stay under the bed.

Each time I write one of these darker pieces, I sometimes leave it unresolved. Other times I throw around magic fairy dust and claim I’m going to start living and stop fearing. This one, though, leaves me neutral. I’m admittedly struggling with my age and again, wondering if this is how I’ll continue through life. Stumbling, surviving and managing instead of thriving and enjoying the vibrancy that’s often dulled. What do you do when you feel as though you’re too old to be broken? There are paths I haven’t taken in life I’m starting to realize I may never get to and suddenly I face accepting my story. There’s been so much time spent learning from the last hurdle that the next one is upon me before I get to enjoy walking a road with no interruptions. As I get older I start to wonder if I bartered my happiness and levity in some unknown deal that has been wiped from my memory. That’s extreme, I know. But these are all the only ways I can truly express what goes through my mind during these bouts.

On this one, I really am lost currently. How do I find inner peace and learn to navigate depression and everything else in a way that I am able to find joy again. It’s there in little ways; my kids, a joke, that one moment where I’m okay with me. I’m striving for it to be there without interruption. For it to be easy. I know I can never be too old for any of the issues I face; but I do kind of wish I could “grow out of it.” It’s the part they don’t tell you, or at least broadcast as much. We’re stuck with these brains, and we can do all the work in the world and find progress and really apply therapy the best way possible. But we’re still all wired in that one finite way that certain aspects will find little flexibility and that’s not something we can grow out of. I’m seeking a balance and I desperately hope I find it before I age another year.

Throwing Down a Rope

My therapist asked me once what would happen if I ever found myself bored.

And not in the simplest aspect of the word; but in a lack of chaos. An absence of turmoil and pain, at least on a regular basis. If you know me, or have read my entries, you know I’ve encountered some storms that should have toppled me. In humility, I acknowledge I’ve still had positives; and some of my experiences have been self-induced. It’s slightly frustrating that I feel I have to disclaimer my thoughts, but I don’t want anyone to find me self-absorbed. Just reflective, lost, unsure of what path my life is on sometimes.

I recently returned to therapy after taking a break, due to feeling as though it wasn’t helping me any further. Potentially detrimental, as it’s not as though my depression was “cured,” since that’ impossible. I can’t even say it was fully managed. My anxiety and panic attacks hadn’t necessarily dissipated, they still ran roughshod over my brain. Depression and anxiety still scurried away like cockroaches when I could find a way to turn the light on, but the room was often dark and I somehow just became even more adjusted to the dim lighting.

As I spoke to my therapist, I said, “I’m bored. And you’re right, I don’t know what to do with myself or how to face life.” How selfish of me. To have things going okay and I find dissatisfaction in it. Yet, I also realized there are larger issues at hand.

I’m entirely neutral and shut down; I’m numb and I didn’t even realize it was happening to me. Self-preservation. I’m not sure when just getting by became how I function. I imagine the death in my life, the emotional breakdowns and recovery from them; the emotional toxicity I was exposed to all wore me down. Somewhere along the way, instead of getting stronger, I simply just started maintaining. Surviving.

I’ve always appreciated every aspect of my senses. Emotionally, I found the ties to physical effects from happiness, joy, fear, pain, etc. were what kept the experience of life complete. When you’re encountering joy and your chest swells and it feels as though a wave is rising from your stomach to your heart. It’s often momentary, but it’s there. Or the clench of your chest when you’re afraid and experiencing the fight or flight reaction to a questionable experience.

Those are gone. And I miss them. I feel broken; even more so than usual, yet I appear whole on the outside. A mirage. I still feel what I know; my depression, because it’s a mainstay. Disappointment, because it’s a common theme. My life isn’t shitty; I just can’t seem to be able to open myself to that idea or that realization.

I drink to shut the wallowing off. I drink because it’s what I know; yet it makes me irritable; it decimates the work I’ve done to get my body in shape and it often just leaves me feeling additionally depressed and run down. (Shocker that a downer might have that effect, right?) Sometimes I think it’s because my vices are one of few forms of chaos I have left. I became so used to riding tidal waves that now that the waters only throw me an occasional wave, I don’t know who I am. I live in this endless cycle of saying I’ll get back on track; yet I find myself only doing that in some ways and letting the other negative choices stay where they are. I’m excellent at making excuses for myself and fantastic for essentially justifying a negative choice.

I’m disappointed in myself for not pursuing more of my interests that keep me whole. I don’t write, though it used to make me feel as though I was accomplishing something. Yet it’s incredibly easy for me to explain to myself that maybe I’m not as good at it as I think. I can easily tear myself down in regard to my skills.  I don’t get out of the house as much as I yearn to; there’s just a mental exhaustion I carry around with me that makes me find excuses out of it. I often find myself questioning what kind of friend I am, because it seems at some point I became a less than exemplary one for various reasons. I’m caving to my depression because sometimes it feels like a comfortable friend and I don’t really know how to find the other side lately.

I’m going through the motions and it terrifies me. I used to be able to carry the negative with me; yet allow the positives to shine through. I want to laugh freely and with vivacity again. Find the intensity with which I used to approach life. Find my balance; knowing that my mental health will never be free of some of the shackles, but that I used to be able to dig up the key to free myself most of the time. I’m failing myself; I’m letting down my kids. I’m not being the friend I once was. I’m not me, and I don’t know how my strength allowed this to happen. How it slipped away without me even seeing it happen. I’m watching myself, instead of being myself. I used to chase rabbit trails in my thoughts; in my writing and now I have simply fallen down the rabbit hole. This is one of the first times I’ve written these thoughts out, shared them and not found a resolution. There is no tidy ending; not epiphany. I;ts not even my best writing.

I’m simply expressing myself because it’s a little piece that takes me back to where I once was. I’m yelling up from the rabbit hole in hopes maybe I can start to climb out. But I’m the only one who can throw me a rope, and I’m tired. So tired.

An Unresolved Ending

Sometimes when we get broken in increments, we don’t realize until much later how decimated we actually are. How much our survival skills are what we’ve been living on. Grazing the surface, floating through our days without the inner passion we once had. The emotion overflowing as we were prone to in the past.

I glance into my kids’ room on a day when they’re not here, and my heart swells at the thought of their innocence and how important they are to me. It’s at that moment I realize my heart has lost the desire to be vulnerable enough to feel joy because when that gateway is open, pain has just crept in too often.

We control our reactions to situations, both positive and negative. Decide how we trudge through murkiness or skip in delight. It’s not until later we realize where it’s either dented us along the way or added to our ability to enjoy happiness. I’m not sure it’s truly until after the fact that we actually heal. Or conversely realize the wall we’ve built out of survival has long outlasted the need to be protected. A safe place has become our dwelling place.

Questioning everything becomes the way of life. Wondering if we’re wrong or if we’re just embracing who we’ve become and what we need to flourish comfortably. Because unlike a literal wall, the proverbial ones are actually much easier to build than they are to tear down.

Survival mode stunts our growth because getting by is the main priority; but it’s easy to forget that it’s necessary to come out on the other side. While it’s protecting us, it’s also suffocating what’s beneath the surface. We realize we’re navigating a shell of our being.

My generalization in using the terminology of we and us is more in my embarrassment in admitting that more often than not, I’m obviously speaking of myself. The realization of my selfishness in doing so creates an environment where I want to hide under the blanket of making it about humanity.

I don’t see my life as being better or worse than anyone else’s. I don’t compare on such a myopic level. I just know that through trials, tribulations, triumphs and all the rest, I got to an age where I’ve lost some pieces of myself and I’m not entirely sure how to reclaim it. If my scars are simply just re-opening old wounds, and only kind of healing again since the integrity of the surrounding tissue has broken beyond repair.

I question my tendency to become so internally focused and my loss of the ability to relax and feel light and happiness. I’ve pulled no punches in acknowledging my struggles with depression, anxiety and all the rest of those potholes along the way that at some point, no matter my swerving, the car is going to blow a tire or bottom out on. Yet I also realize how incredibly exhausted I am from it. Strength and armor have become my main stay and I’ve dropped vulnerability like a bad habit. I’m still here, I still care about others intensely, but choose carefully how to feel it. I let my frustration with what are truly minor issues encompass who I think I am. I doubt the moves I make and feel unsettled in wondering if I have more flaws than I realize.

I can blame the situations in my life; and I honestly think I’m justified in doing so, whether or not I made choices that led to them or if I was just in a situation where my emotions led my mind and the fall out was unexpected. That being said, they’ve piled on so often and affected so many, I wore out my welcome mat to asking for help. My need to get insight, communicate in order to hear reciprocation. I talk and talk and talk because hearing my own words and reading them help me realize the root cause, but I fear that others are humoring me or just letting me handle this on my own at this point after offering ears, hands and hearts along the path of my experiences. I’ve been judged for where I’ve invested my heart. Questioned for the choices I’ve made with others and the reactions have encouraged me to retreat further within myself. To realize that I’m living this life on my own when it comes down to it. And I understand the exhaustion of those who have tried to stick it out. I relish the support I’ve had even while causing immense frustration. When you see someone making choices that you know aren’t healthy or will have devastating or damaging fall out, yet know there’s nothing you can truly do. And I’ve been that person more often than not. Wild, inhibited, prone to caving to passion and my heart without reality weighing in. I’m surrounded by wonderful people who have ridden out my life moments, even while tensing up in anger, frustration, etc. Yet I also realize there comes a point where I can’t keep adding my moments to their stories, I have to figure out how to muddle through in order to grow.

That being said, I find myself behind my wall, on an island I went to myself. No one had actual control of me; my coping mechanisms were my own. I chose this place out of safety, exhaustion and need to be as okay as the fragile parts will let me. Yet I’m tired of being here. I’m starting to realize my fear of drowning in the water around my island are preventing me from taking emotional risks. Yet here I sit.

The discouraging part is that I can see land. Where I once would have relished the excitement and risk of what’s over there; I now feel more content viewing from afar. The internal struggle between hating this island and appreciating how contained everything is where I spend most of my energy. As opposed to just trying to swim there and see what happens. There are no life jackets. Solitude was once my enemy; yet now I find that I turn to it because it’s less complicated. Easier to navigate. This island is everything I was once opposed to. And I don’t remember actually ending up here. It just happened. So here I sit with a beautiful view without the energy to be a part of it.

A View from the Fork

I’m writing and re-writing this opening sentence, as it tends to be the springboard for the streaming rambling of my thoughts. My attempt at proper characterization of emotions is indicative of their actual definition. A gray area, written and re-written. Backspaced and re-typed.

I’m tired. I’ve said it more than people probably want to hear. I’m not entirely sure where it happened along the way. Single parenting, work, life, love; all topics that are nothing or out of the ordinary for really anyone. Yet I’m feeling swallowed whole. Somewhere along the way, I forgot who I wanted to be or at least an attempt to claim it.

I’ve spent my summer deciding to have a clear mind, yet failing. Living the same cycle I’ve lived again and again. Determined to figure out who I am and own it; no second guessing or debating with myself over my significance.

I might have a good day with my kids, but focus on the bad ones. The rough drop offs; the therapy sessions where I uncover emotions I’m proud my kids understand yet defeated in that they face them. Find someone who cares, sabotage it. Whether it be through second guessing or a brick wall around my soul I’ve pieced together somewhere over the last few years. Through my realization that my beautiful empathy has seen better days. Weathered storms that tore my sails and made me dock the boat. I’m defeated; and it sucks, for lack of eloquence in speaking.

I miss my sparkle. My sass that broke through even the most difficult of moments. I’ve referenced my laugh that carries and I know is too loud. It seems to be in a place where I make it loud in nostalgia of when it was there with little effort. A heart I bear on my sleeve, both metaphorically and literally in ink. Yet right now, it seems to be below the surface of my skin, much like the tattoo mentioned in the last sentence.

There’s nothing to pinpoint being wrong, and that creates the biggest struggle. I battle stress I used to thrive on. I have trouble feeling sufficient as a parent; yet my kids are cared for and loved and I work hard to meet their emotional and physical needs. I have someone who cares for me; which I’ve lacked as of the last couple years, yet I pick at the tiniest fissure I can find in an effort to tell myself not to get comfortable. I’m 36 and I still can’t eat freely without wondering how much I’ll gain and how I’ll feel in the morning. I resist wearing what makes me happy in an effort to cover what is currently haunting my comfort level with myself.  I have friends who are real and substantial and matter and I pull away, to hide the immensity with which I battle myself regularly.

I share this often, and now it rings true:

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

I’m staring at this fork in the road, facing my path. Large grinned cat staring at me in the form of my doubt and questioning. My vulnerability to find myself on an unknown path that could mean I find the next phase that will bring me the peace I’ve sought. My acceptance to live one day at a time with whimsy and handle adulthood with one hand tied behind my back. I honestly don’t know what’s down the other path. It feels familiar. Like I’ve taken it before, and just keep following it to come back to the cat again and realize this fork has been my landmark through my life. I just don’t choose the other path.

This isn’t one I end with resolution. One of my more rambling pieces that visualizes what I’m trying to break through. How I’m trying to find my way out of this darker place and live like the person who has put it all out there before. Thrown caution aside and embraced the potential. I’m woeful of my fear because it means I’ve let it win. I’m not the same as I was before. I was much more. Muchier. I’ve lost my muchiness and I look to go the right way to find it and keep it much safer this time.

 

Life –

 

the letter

 

What are you doing with your dash?

If you know me, you assume I mean that completely inappropriately.

But this time I don’t. A good friend helped me see the side of this thought. Good friends are your heart. Your saving grace. Your life jacket.

Your dash is the point between the beginning and the end. It’s what you see on a gravestone. Birth to death.  The date you were born to the day you reached your end point. No one likes to talk about that end point.

Death. It’s so heavy. Somber. Scary. But it’s a fact of life. Sometimes it comes early. Other times it’s late, which is quite subjective based on what we want. It’s surprising, selfish, peaceful, chaotic, and so many more adjectives than we can express or come up with words for. It inspires grief, which is a monster in itself. Pain, hurt, closure, completion.

As someone who battles depression and is fairly open about it, death is a factor in thoughts that make you want to shake its hand. Is that selfish, completely. But it’s inexplicably and painfully something that crosses the lost person’s mind.

As someone who fights and conquers life’s darker moments, I’m ready to share something I’ve alluded to. Something I’ve touched on. A piece that has been the larger half of my puzzle.

When you need saving, you look to those who have either lost the battle, this time out of perspective or additionally you seek those who want you to be here.

I’m going to share a letter from someone who just couldn’t find those moments of peace. Those life jackets. Someone I loved deeply. Who was troubled and conflicted and made mistakes.

This letter hangs with me. It stops my own choices of selfishness. Whoever loves me going forward will have to accept this as a part of me. But this is a part of my dash. This supplements my story. It saves me.

The image included is an actual picture of what I’m about to share. It’s raw. It definitely happened. I’m sharing this because we’re all human. Very few loved ones of suicide victims get this. Very few. But I did. And I’m sharing it. Openly. Finally.

 

“Jessica,

I’m not really sure where to begin. I’ve been wondering what to say to someone who has not only given my life purpose, a family and meaning… As I write this, I go back to memories of us, of our first date, of the late night “conversations” and it’s good. It makes me smile, and more than a little sad that I won’t be there for you in the years to come. You deserve to be happy and have someone by your side, but it won’t be me. I’ve struggled to fix my life for the last two years, and have contemplated, many times, on “checking out.” I’ve done well to hide it from everyone, but you always seemed to pick it up, when I was in one of my more pensive moods. That said, you have been the one constant that has kept me from acting on it until now. You and the kids showed me what it was like to have a family and made it easier for me to forget the past for a time. I will always love you and those boys for giving me that. Both the memories and feelings of a true family. The reason I left, the reason I’m no longer here is because I can’t get past the past. With my ex, my job, losing everything. I’ve said to you I don’t feel as though I had a purpose, which was only partly true. I lost something after the divorce, after another leaving me. Hope. Trust. A reason for being. Respect for myself or others. To this day I feel listless. Lost and can’t truly imagine a future beyond tomorrow. I used to wake up every day and feel nothing but heartache and despair. It’s what made me drink, smoke too much, lie to you and everyone else I knew. I’ve come to realize I’m living just to live. I plan, scheme, and view everything with a singular thought, myself. It’s no way to live. You are the one bright, trustworthy and unselfish part of me that still exists, and I hope that despise all of my flaws, that I was a good influence in your life as well as the boys. I love you so much, love them so much, it makes me cry to know what you will go through. I want you to know, you were always enough. You were always there for me. Stood by me, by us and for that I am forever grateful. In the end I was just to broken to fix.

I love you, Jessica, forever and always. Maybe one day we’ll see each other again. Take care of yourself and those boys and damn it, woman, you better eat!

Also, I found that shirt you were looking for, the blue sweatshirt. I’m holding it now, and god help me, it smells like you. I’m going to miss seeing your smiling face in the morning. Hugging you, catching your scent as you walk by. I’m glad I have this shirt and photos of you to look at as I drift off. It brings me peace.

I want you to have my tablet and accessories. I know it’s not much, but it’s all I have left to give. I only wish I’d had more…

I love you, hun. Please forgive me.

Fred.”

 

And his dash ended there. It was a part of mine. It always will be. It shapes me. It saves me.  I’m sharing as much to honor the pain there, as much as to show how it can feel to be in that place. It happens to so many of us. I was his saving grace until I no longer could be. We find our purpose and either hang on to it or we let it pass us by.

We’re all human. Strange beings who are just trying to find the happiness.

We have to make the in between whatever we can, while we can.