Fight or Fight

This was originally an essay I wrote for an online community for moms with depression. It hasn’t been published yet, so I wanted to put it here, with a new intro. As like my other writing, it’s unapologetically raw and honest.

A dear friend said something to me very recently that rang very true and was the most understanding and accepting I think anyone’s been in a long time.

“Honestly, I don’t know how you keep going every day. You just keep getting hit with one fucktastic things after another. It’s unreal and and I totally get why you’d be suicidal. Are the boys the only thing keeping you alive?”

Here’s an old answer for a common question.

My kids have saved my life. I’m a single mom who has faced a hellacious year; hell, tumultuous lifetime. Sometimes due to circumstances, other times due to poor choices. All while grappling with an ongoing 20 year battle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and addictive behavior. I can’t truly pinpoint the moment I knew I could crack from the inside out. There are memories of my downfall, and rise back up. On repeat. I know the crippling internal paralysis of a panic attack while attempting to present the right image of a professional, mother, friend; whoever is required in that situation. Drawing hash marks on a note pad to diffuse my brain or counting backwards from 10, so my kids can’t see the monster on my shoulder.
The moments of darkness inhibiting my vision of how to act properly while feeling the crushing weight of depression on my chest. Being embarrassed for what is merely an acknowledgement of the faults in a non-perfect being. Not knowing how to explain whether this suicide note was real this time or merely an outlet of feelings to prevent getting that dark.
Outwardly and most of the time I am a chipper, happy and friendly person. I can find positives in the situations of anyone in my life, guide them through to a more peaceful state of mind. Locate the reflection that will lead them to their silver lining. I often wonder if I’m so good at that, because that’s the only way I know how. I certainly don’t always do the same for myself; I at times am merely living to accomplish the present without thinking of why or how. Just doing.

I don’t remember what’s saved me before my kids. But I know now, that even in my darkest moments, I can’t leave them with that legacy. I can’t resist fighting. Clawing my way from the bottom; even if only to get knocked back down to starting position. Again, and again. I do fight for myself as well, but ultimately, fighting for them is fighting for me. They are a part of me. Blood to me. I brought them into this world knowing what they might face. Knowing what I face. If I lose all other parts of who I am for a moment, I’m still their guide. I’m have to see them through and be here until it’s my time. Not by my choice, but the way it’s meant to happen.

I’ve cut, starved, binged, purged, drank, overspent, had emotionless flings with ease. I’ve been there most times without anyone even knowing. Hiding. Keeping my place behind the wall seen; living in the alley behind. I’ll never hide my life from my kids when they’re old enough. Those parts of my life aren’t badges of honor, but I don’t regret where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Those hash marks on the paper, the literal scars fading over time built me. They’re my story. It’s merely been my responsibility to get to the next chapter. That’s how I move forward, keep climbing back up; smiling the entire way. I’ll always be a fighter. I want my kids to know judgment should never easily be passed. Every person’s story is theirs to keep close to their chest or share with whoever likes a good story. And just because you don’t like that book doesn’t mean you shouldn’t understand that others do.

I fear for their emotional health. What they will end up with genetically and environmentally. There’s still so much to understand about our brains and our bodies; even on the surface. Grasping an in-depth and thorough understanding is not something I’ll see in my lifetime. On the flip side, I don’t want them to fear the world. To worry that what they’re feeling is wrong and also realize that how others feel can affect them and shape their outcomes.

And the darkest thoughts; what if I have to save my child’s life someday. If my recognition of very familiar signs puts me into fight mode; tooth and nail to get them help either saving them or never being able to do enough. That’s a situation of failure I can’t handle envisioning; but I have to if I’m logical about life and cognizant of how difficult simply feeling in control of ourselves can be. I like to hope that by being open to the possibility of anything can put me in a position to be there completely. If I see my child fall down to the bottom, I’ll do more than throw them rope. I’ll jump down there and show them how to climb back to the top. Doing my damndest to show them the way far from that edge.

The one where I randomly talk about zombies…

As I’ve given advice and support in the last few days, and try sincerely to get others to see how important and how special they are, I realize I’m obliviously hypocritical.

I can’t tell others to love themselves, when I do everything I can to prevent the same within me. It’s far easier to wallow; to stare up from the hole I’m in than to find the ladder to climb out. When in reality, there’s always a way out. It’s just how determined you are to find it. Not to say it’s easy, or it’s going to not involve a fight, an inner struggle and slipping down the rungs here and there. For someone who has fought through everything that comes at me, to keep going and maintain an overall blind forward momentum, I still allow myself to let darkness squelch any light there was at the end of the tunnel.

There are many things I want to do, yet I can always find a reason why I can’t or I will fail. But failure isn’t a negative, it’s a chance to see how to succeed the next time you tackle what you’re trying to conquer. I’ve always been one to plan for the worst; assume something bad will happen. Even if I were to build an emotional shelter from the apocalypse, I could come to find out that the zombie virus is in fact within the walls.

I remember some intentions I had written back in 2008 and decided to re-read them. Follow along:

I’m not going to make these resolutions as much as I’m going to make statements of intention. I think firm ‘I must do this or my year will be terrible’ type resolutions only start the year on a negative note.

I intend to stop letting behaviors and actions of others affect me or upset me. I can’t dictate other people’s lives and no matter how much I hope they’ll change, they probably won’t. I will continue to realize that each and every person in my life (or out of my life) is to be dealt with in his or her own unique way and simply because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean they do or will understand me when I wonder why they don’t.

This one isn’t an intention. It’s a statement. I will continue to wear my heart on my sleeve and be bold with my emotions. I spent a lot of time with emotional walls up and once I pushed past them, I was totally fine with letting people know how I feel as uncomfortable or blunt as it might be. Too many people hide their feelings, either because they’re afraid to face them or they’re afraid to create touchy situations with those around them. I’m not. And I’m okay with that. Honesty is best in the end and being truthful about how you feel is the best kind of honesty.

I intend to live like it’s always summer. For me, summer releases a kind of freedom; an openness that makes me carefree and relaxed. No coat, no shoes, just the crazy hippy skirt I only bust out when I can wear it with a tank top. I think I retreat into myself when winter hits, hiding in the cocoon that is blizzards and winter driving. I avoid leaving the house as often and I think that restricts living. I don’t think fall does the same, but it does cause me to let go of summer and wave longingly to the relaxation I felt in the sun. Spring is a tease. Half cold, half warm, always wet and muddy and I think I get too caught up in letting go of winter and anticipating summer that I forget to notice that the birds came back and flowers are coming out. I’m going to open myself to feeling the freedom summer breezes bring.

I intend to stop worrying about people liking me and compromising my integrity to be sure they do. I know who my friends are and I know why they are my friends. I have some pretty great friends at that. But as strong as I can appear, I sometimes have a fear that people don’t like me. I’m too strong a personality to mold myself in different ways for different people to like me, but every once in a while I find myself thinking of compromising my true opinions in order to match someone else’s. I know exactly where this weakness stems from, but my blog is not a couch in a therapist’s office, so I don’t think I need to go into that. But I need to realize that part of knowing who I am is acknowledging that I’m different and that people like me for who I am; not who they think I should be, and if they don’t, they’re not meant to be an integral part of my life. My ultimate goal with this intention is allow me to trust. Fear of not being accepted has given me an iron-clad resistance to trust completely. While I’ll never let that barrier down completely, I’ll hopefully reach a point where I’ll stop thinking the worst of each situation.”

I realize I’ve always let myself fall back on the insecurities and doubts I have about myself, about others and life itself. Life is messy and scary and brilliant and phenomenal. Not everyone gets to keep it and not everyone finds it within themselves to fight against the odds. It’s just as difficult to decide to give up as it is to keep fighting. I don’t want to be defeated anymore.

If I list things I want to do, I can easily find reasons not to, or to just cross them off the list. Yet I haven’t even tried. I haven’t put the work in to making it happen. I want to see my writing published. I want to learn how to play music on every instrument I can. I want to continue to be a support system for anyone and everyone who needs it. I want to spread kindness and genuine care to even those who seemingly haven’t earned it. I want to look back and be proud of what I’ve done and lead by example for my children. I want to make mistakes that will allow me to pull them through the mistakes they’ll inevitably make along the way. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and I’d rather see my life flash in front of me with all the times I tried instead of all the regrets at not even making the effort. I can’t go back and change the way things have happened, and I shouldn’t. Regrets and what-ifs are the zombie virus.

That’s not to say that I won’t falter, I won’t find myself lying on the bottom of the hole, or finding myself confined within the shelter I’ve brought into my head. Strength is innate, but cultivating it and embracing it are what make it powerful. I talk a big talk, yet I find I don’t always back it up in regard to loving yourself and working through problems. It leaves a room full of crutches. Ghosts in the room instead of skeletons in the closet. It’s no way to live and really, maybe zombies are just misunderstood. No sense in hiding from them until I have to cut one’s head off.

Icarus

sun

I made a pros and cons list yesterday.

It was about me.

The cons list went to the back of the paper. The pros list had two things on it.

I thrive on being nice to people. Making them feel better. Doing anything they need. Being there at any time. Showing kindness with no end. Never expecting a return; simply doing it because seeing people happy and supported is amazing. But somewhere along the way in my life, I forgot how to give myself the same kindness. I’ve always struggled with insecurity. Not in regard to life, just me. Who I am and what people say. I have an intense personality and demeanor and I know it makes some people not a huge fan of me; yet I can’t compromise myself accordingly, nor would I. People not liking me, though, stabs right down to the middle of my soul. I find that I base my worth on what I have to offer as opposed to what I like about myself.

One thing that has always given me identity, purpose and drive was my job. I’ve had two jobs since the age of 18. One for 13+ years and the other for 2 and half. In between, I stayed home with my kids; yet found I just wasn’t cut out for it. My first job was my life. I was successful, good at it and sincerely loved the people I worked with and the customers I encountered. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them; different demographics, passions and personalities. I enjoyed every one of them, even the cranky ones.

I thought I’d be good at staying home. But I just have always felt like I wasn’t naturally inclined for kids and have had to work on that. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but it’s so hard to remember how to be a kid again and see things from their perspective; at least when they’re angry or misbehaving.

My first job gave me a reason to be, even as I struggled through the strange tornado of life that was my 20s. I grew up there, earned success there and honed my skills to ones I thought I could be proud of. Already fighting the stigma of not having a degree, I had to work additionally hard; learn programs from the ground up to the point of knowing them in and out. Researching anything I didn’t know. Educating myself. Along the way, learning how to work with all different types of people, understand the business world always has its quirks; it’s which ones you’re okay having a part of your daily routine. We’re all human and aren’t perfect. Emotions don’t stay out of the workplace, regardless of what anyone says.

I built my professional life there, sometimes through trial and error. Mistakes were my stepping stones and the lessons I learned were what created positive results. I thought about work all the time, in a positive way. I worked as much as I could, at times being made to take a day off and being locked out of my email. It was how I identified myself. All while still living a life with friends and social activities.

Then I got pregnant. I was certain I would be working while on maternity leave, eager to return to work. Silly me should have known with my history of depression, I’d be slammed with a case of postpartum depression, different perspective and a confusing tornado of love for a tiny person who confused the hell out of me most times. As my maternity leave started ticking to a close, I was gripped with utter fear and mixed feelings. I had no idea how to leave this little person, all while being intensely depressed and emotional. Hormones are no joke, no matter how funny those jokes can be. So I left. I gave my six week notice, whittled down to part time and ultimately, my last day. Bittersweet, second guessed and a whole new territory of life that I had no clue what to do with.

Before I even chose to stay home, I joined a mom group. Thinking it would keep me busy, which it did. Getting my kid (eventually kids) socialized and participating in activities, which it also did. But other than being happy that my kids and I were together, I was lost. I needed to be working, the thought of which filled me with immense guilt over what that said about me as a parent. I didn’t fit in anywhere. All the moms were incredibly nice people, but as had always been the case, I had no place. No defined group, clique, whatever you want to call it. I tried, desperately, but I was so crippled with losing my identity and being uncertain of the new one, I was never fully there. They were my friends, for sure and talking to them got me through some incredibly difficult times. Yet, I never found that I was anyone but just a friend, for lack of a better description. That’s on me and no one else, for my perception of it and determination of where I stood. As for my kids, I did my best, but I was often overwhelmed, lost and unsure I was doing anything right by them.

When I started my next job, I was reinvigorated. My kids had structure in a daycare setting and I had a purpose again! I excelled at my work. I was around people, so many who were good people. I had learned from the mom group that it was up to me to simply put myself out there, never avoid being nice or kind because I thought someone might not like me nor did I need to make them best friends. Just having people in my life should be enough. Professionally, my skills were back in use and I was learning new ones. My life came crashing down around me, through my own choosing and outside circumstances and I fought to get through it. At work, though, I was almost always on. My difficulties were kept quiet on my part and I did my job with motivation and hunger to create work of which I was proud. Through anything else, it gave me identity and a place that I could still do something right and have some happiness.

And now. I fight to understand the unemployment process, try to figure out state assistance and medical insurance for myself and my kids, how I’m going to pay my bills and keep the place where I live. All of which I could fight through, surmount what’s ahead of me if I had a purpose. A place. Something that defined me. Some days I think I have the world ahead of me; opportunities and chances are endless. Then I get that rejection email from the interview I thought went well. And another. And another. It can tear you down. Piece by piece; shoot bullet holes through your pride. Interviews are never going to be objective. There’s always some aspect of emotions involved; human judgment. I’m not ashamed I stumbled over that a few times when I was hiring employees. It’s hard to separate that, and I don’t think you should. You’re getting a human being working for you; not an android. There is going to be a new type of personality you have to acclimate to the work environment in a way that best suits them. Knowing that can mean I leave an interview I was definitely qualified for, wondering if they liked me or not. If they didn’t, I want to know why. What’s wrong with me and if it can be fixed.

Nothing is definite anymore; I fear the next hurdle. What will go wrong next. I can’t relax without stability. I’m truly and utterly terrified of what’s going to happen. But it spills over to me, it spills over to my friends and loved ones. Being a single mom was hard while working, but again, I had somewhere to go. A place to throw myself into. Deal with what I saw as parenting failures. Tantrums that drove me to tears as I ran out of options to diffuse them. Now it can be incredibly overwhelming. I just want to feel as though I’m at least parenting right, but it’s incredibly easy to feel like you’re drowning. Lost in not knowing how to escape the anxiety that utter chaos of behavior can create. My kids are great kids. But they’re 4 and 5 and have had a tumultuous couple years as well.

I fear losing friends, because my depression causes me to barely hold my head up some days. Worry that my inner panic of losing those closest to me will continually project outwardly and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m in here somewhere, watching the me I’ve become and hating her. The misery, sadness, fear, mistakes and behavior. I feel like I yell to get out, to be happy and to like myself, but I can’t get through the invisible barrier keeping me back. Everything is in limbo and it’s easier to guard myself. I find happy moments in showing love to others. Doing everything I can for them. In those moments, I can see me for a second and it’s ok. It fades fast. It never occurs to me to do the same to myself because I can’t find the reason.

It’s like a twisted Icarus situation. I actually fear getting burned, so I don’t even attempt to fly. I took those wings off and locked them away to stay safe. But the ground sucks. It’s cold, and lonely and limited. I stay here and fight myself. I want to feel okay for longer than a few minutes, I want to send goofy and sassy text messages to my friends; not ones where I need support or help. I’m tired of burdening those close to me with my pain. It’s not their issue and I feel as though they need to be able to focus on any they may be experiencing. It’s one thing to be there for a friend, it’s another for that friend to bombard you with intensity. I keep a lot in to avoid being too much. Taking up too much space and making it seem as though I take priority.

I don’t expect life to be carefree. There are always problems, things blocking your way and moments to struggle through. I have periods of happiness; moments where I want to let my breath out and feel at ease. They’re just near the sun and I don’t know how to get there without getting too close.

I’ll Be Back

I wrote this piece this morning, almost posted and then hesitated. Second guessed my openness. It’s evident that I’m a writer who isn’t afraid to share what others fear. But my concern with this one, is simply and sadly, judgment. I’m exposing a flaw; a weakness here. And my overall point that, while I face these, I always know there is no choice but to move forward and plow through the harder days. Practice what I’ve learned works best for me in facing what I feel and getting through it. But simply put, the fact that I’m opening up about depression could threaten my job search.

Yeah, I know, discrimination like that is against the law. When law is created and carried out by a being that has innate complexities to it, they will be prone to injecting personal opinion and viewpoints that can subconsciously affect behavior and reaction. So, I can understand there might be some employers who see this and fear the instability of the person who has written it. Ironically, part of my emotions below stem from not having work. My brain needs a challenge and when it’s not getting that, it can crash to what I felt this morning and documented below. If I were getting paid for writing, that’s one thing. But I’m not. I write because I enjoy it and a few people enjoy reading it. I don’t want my overall point here to be unheard by even the one person it could help or make feel less alone.

My depiction and recovery below is only shared as a story of me and me alone.  I would never speak for another’s emotions, moments of personal weakness and fear of what feelings they’re experiencing. Nor can I speak for how any other person gets through it. Keep in mind, if you had come across me in person, you’d never have guessed what was below the surface at the moments I wrote this. I know how to put out a front of who I really am while struggling to bring that person fully to the surface again. So I’m going on an edge here, exposing what could be perceived as a chink in the armor, when in fact, it’s why my armor is typically impenetrable.

So here you go. The blog that almost wasn’t.


terminator-arm

I have crumbs in my bed.

In the movie Terminator 2 there’s a scene where Arnold’s character is going to slice open his arm to make visible the machinery underneath to show the owner of Skynet what has happened in the future. Now as the viewer, we all know he’s a machine who just looks human. Even still, watching that scene, knowing it should hurt, but it doesn’t, makes you cringe a bit as he slices open the arm. And what’s beneath is fascinating and bizarre and intriguing. You just have to look past the mild gore of the scene. If you haven’t seen the movie, just keep reading, it’ll make sense all the same.

The crumbs in my bed are bittersweet.

They’re there because the kids and I had a picnic in my bed last night. We hung out, ate dinner and ring pops, read and watched shows. My mind was distracted, running through thoughts. But I tried to enjoy those couple hours, because they did.

The crumbs are still there because I just don’t have it in me to clean them.

I’m always incredibly flattered and humbled when others remind me of my strength. Because maintaining that strength can be incredibly difficult on those days where I feel anything but. I’ve had depression since I was 15 or so, probably earlier, really. Already being someone who feels emotions to my core, even those of others, it’s incredibly trying at times. The difficulty of fighting certain emotions fluctuates depending on circumstances, atmosphere, my fucked up receptors, etc. Sadly it’s something many battle quietly. I’m going to face it today. I’m going to give you a look at the machinery below.

Depression is stifling. Everything that happens is extreme, seemingly all a snowball effect. There are crumbs in my bed, I just look at them and feel messy. Out of control. I drag myself out of bed to take the kids to school. Come home, and face what’s ahead of me. Uncertainty, fear, loneliness. On most days, I can balance those with positivity. I have possibilities open to me, a chance to make a difference and do something new and awesome. I have two amazing kids who love me. I have a beautifully varied support system, all f whom fit like puzzle pieces in my life as a whole. I have somewhere to live, something to drive and something to eat.

Some days, though, it just feels like everything that’s happened as well as present and future difficulties are dodgeballs. And I’m stuck in the gym with them and a bunch of bullies. I can’t go anywhere, all I can do is run and hope I only get hit by a few. It’s easier to just stand there and let them hit you. You can face them, and feel them. It’s difficult and it’s painful, but you run out of options and breath eventually.

Even kindness can create a type of pain during this self-doubt. It creates a feeling similar to when you inhale a gust of cold air. It surprises you, shocks you, sends a chill through you with a touch of a sting. But in this case it feels as though your heart has taken in that breath. The sting and the cold are there, specifically and concentrated. Kindness means acceptance. It means that others see something I don’t right now. The fear of losing that kindness is there though, because that means failure. I’ve done something wrong to drive it away. Scare others into slight head nods in passing as opposed to hugs filled with warmth.
Even the disjointed nature of this piece of writing is indicative of what the difficult days can be like. My mind races everywhere, focuses and then loses focus. Gets excited and immediately crushed. Over and over again. I intend to get out of bed. I just don’t know why. Or how. I set plans and miss them all simply because I’m so weighted down by feeling as though I’ve lost the way. I shame myself for feeling this way and not being able to pull right out of it, even facing it with as much logic and rational thought you can muster. I know I’d be silently judged right now, people wouldn’t understand, nor try to. They’d simply see me as being lazy, throwing a pity party like a child. Not knowing that as I face them my sad eyes and inability to present the full image I’m expected to; I’m underneath there. Beating the nameless wall of emotion to get out. I want to feel like myself just as much as they think I should be easily doing so.

At least the above is how I feel on one of those difficult days. I don’t want my readers to worry about me, I’m sharing this because it’s one of the ways I move through these moments. Sharing them, putting them out there helps me sort through them. I can’t stay stuck here. I’ve worked hard for a long time to come out on top of this on a regular basis. I allow these moments because if I let them happen, I face what’s beneath them. Once I’ve gone there, determine how I’m going to handle how they make me feel, I can make plan of conquering and winning the fight. I’m simplifying far too much, but the point is, I’ll pull through it. There are many out there who won’t right away and possibly never will. Ultimately, I recognize that the machinery is bound to break down for everyone at some point or another. Given the right resources, it can be fixed, if you can find the manual.

I’ll find mine soon enough and hopefully not sleep in crumbs tonight.

Photo Takers

2015-01-17 11.21.05

Photos capture memories. They isolate a moment in time, almost as future proof that those 5 seconds existed. Photos will own the heart of those who see them. That may mean the swell of your heart at the warmth of that passing piece of the greater collage of your life. It can cause your heart to strain against the scars of previous breaks; to be reminded of the pain of that day, or simply to be reminded of someone or something no longer appearing in your photos. Your heart can beat faster with anger and anxiety at the sight of a much deeper story gone untold, or simply seeing another person in pain.

But have you ever gone further? Looked at a photo and looked beyond it. Tried to find the reflection of the person taking the photo in someone’s glasses, and their part of that day. The mystery of who took the photo and what part they played. What happened to the subjects of the photo before and after that moment in time was captured. A photo of a couple; do you look beyond what you see at first glance. Do you look at their eyes, notice pain or love. Maybe the photo was taken by their child interrupting a fight with fear for their parents love fading and they pulled it together in that moment only to fall apart later. The pure, raw beauty of a family with a new child, oblivious to the snapshot of their joy being recorded. The pain in a man’s eyes who has lost his way, not noticeable to anyone else than those who knew him and could see beyond the smiles of himself and those he loved. A child laughing, the epitome of simplicity in finding happiness.

I take a lot of flak from time to for my number of selfies. And while I can agree that some selfies are overdone, to me they’re always more. The advent of the forward facing camera was my saving grace in capturing emotions. I’m not going to lie, there have been some shallow ones taken on my part. To see if I really am pretty. To see what other people see when they look at me. Or just because I’m having a good hair day. Emotionally though my selfies have projected a smirk in response to someone’s sense of humor; conveying desire for another person; shown my annoyance with a situation. My selfies have been a cry for help, only visible in my eyes which tend to say far more than I ever could. Some of the photos I’ve taken of myself have been gut wrenching to see again. Knowing what happened right before that; what’s gone and what’s left and how much pain I was in at that moment, that day.

My last 18 months have seen so many moments captured purely in photos of myself. A photo taken during a deep depression where I just needed to find my way. A photo taken when someone has made me happy; feel joy. A moment when I did feel pretty; felt like enough. As mentioned in previous writing, it’s not exactly been a delightful existence this past year and a half. I’ve experienced a divorce, wrought with emotion and involving two young children whose lives were briefly turned upside down. Which meant holding it together for them. Walking against the wind, smiling the entire time even if forced or completely and totally inaccurate for what I was feeling. I’ve seen debt so severe, there were days I wasn’t sure we’d keep a place to live and when, in order for my kids to eat, I had to limit what I did. Having your best friend buy you groceries is both an amazing and devastating feeling; a reminder that you’re a 33 year old mother of two, who can’t even properly provide for her children. The death of two loved ones; whom I loved in very different ways. The deaths also much different; one an end of an era and the other proof that while you can love a broken soul, you can’t save them and you can’t keep them here if their connection to this plane is non-existent. I felt grief that tore me apart inside. Pain so intense I sometimes could only sit and look at the wall and not move. But the whole while, I needed to function. I needed to be a parent, alone. The stress of the two hours of week nights at times would take me down to either complete numbness or monumental breakdown by the time I sat down for the night. No one could know except those I told. I needed to present a strong front. I faltered some times, embarrassingly. It makes me angry that I’m embarrassed because we’re human. Feelings are something taken for granted and emotions dismissed as weakness. While I stand strong on my opinion on that, I also know I can’t change societal stigmas, and even while fighting against them, I have to comply to fit in and not make others uncomfortable. These life experiences are merely just the tip of what this past year and a half has been like. I’m not sure I would have the time or dedication to pinpoint them all, at least right now. All of this while fighting the same depression, anxiety, panic attacks and multiple forms of self-destruction I’m prone to, simply because I’m so used to pain, it’s nothing to cause myself more.

And now, I face finding a new job. Another new start and a new beginning. In a job market that’s tough as nails and I come at having only had three jobs in my life (the first for 13+ years and only ended due to my decision to stay home with my children, which was job 2). I may fake some of my bravado and cockiness; but I know that my skill set is expansive and rich. I excel at my strong suits. But due to starting my career directly out of high school; that piece of paper, the degree they all require isn’t there. As always, I try to find the positives in this. This is another new start. A chance to begin a different version of my life. One that will hold new images in those photos taken. New emotions in my infamous selfies. So when my glasses break, as they did today, and I have to figure out how to get new ones, can I really complain? Have I earned the right to bitch about what are seemingly miniscule blips in a grander roller coaster of what has been my life? Maybe I’m just not comfortable complaining. Even with what I’ve been through, I still question whether I’m justified in wallowing or even making these situations a big deal. Things could always be worse. There are people fighting much larger and more painful battles than I am. I wonder if I overemphasized first world problems just simply because my emotions are as grand as my personality.

I bounce along, chipper and smiling even despite facing yet another hurdle. I can dedicate time to my writing, take on some volunteer positions and utilize my time the best way possible. I can find the entire silver cloud and not just the linings. Truth be told, though, I’m still facing the remnants of the past, additionally. There are still memories that can take me back to the pain, the bittersweet times, happiness and complete defeat I’ve felt which just accumulates on what’s ahead. Photos that remind me what happened that specific day which cause me to relive those moments, clear as day, in my head. Over and over again. There’s a last call I’ll never forget. The pain of seeing someone gone while still there and knowing my life was about to change drastically. Seeing a photo of an old house and remembering the days where I was able to find enough goldfish crackers that I could have some, too. Guilt in days where I simply have to turn on the tv so I can keep my kids entertained. Sadly, there are times I falter in keeping it together. Where I can’t help but fall apart in utter fear of what’s happening and what else could possibly happen. Paralyzed by the realization that I have no choice but to keep pushing against that wind I’m seemingly always walking against. At some point the weather has to change is all I can tell myself. I can find the positives in these difficult experiences, whether they’re simply lessons learned to apply to my future to knowing I served a purpose in someone’s life that will never be forgotten. I meant something. I was a mom, a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a professional and a bundle of energy and determination that has the raw force to drive me forward when I can’t.

There are going to be thousands of photos in my life, even metaphorically. They don’t necessarily have to be onscreen or saved anywhere to have their effect. If someone catches a moment of sadness, their reflection in those glasses will remind me that while I hurt, I had support. Pure joy can be seen in the selfies I’ve taken with my memory. Progress in that framed image of two happy children who have love and while some day will have to face every emotion possible and situations possibly even worse that what I’ve seen; have parents who try to ensure they don’t always know what goes on behind the scenes. What brings me the most happiness in life, though, are the photos of others and my place in their brief snapshot. A photo of a friend with happiness in their eyes, simply because they knew I was there, unfailingly and unconditionally. The picture memory of a hug that saves someone from crumpling. If I take anything away from all of this, it’s that in the end, you have to smile, put those rabbit ears up behind your life and say cheese.

Unicorns And Kittens

New Year’s post! You knew it was coming. Probably could have been a blog, but does anyone even read that? Anyway, you can read this or skip it, but I do talk about kittens. Just saying.

I’ve been waiting since probably July for 2014 to end and to start a new year. It just seemed like the year had done me in. But so much more was ahead; filled with complexities and pain and new starts, and I had no idea. And now that we’re approaching a new year and it’s so close; this new door. The closed one. The next level we advance in the game. I realize how strange it is that we give the changing of what’s really just a date and the aging of the earth such significance. As though as humans we need something, a life scapegoat or landmark (depending on the year we had!) to assign our perspective on where we’ve been and where we’re going. If there is anything I’ve learned, there unfortunately is no literal changing of the page and starting a new chapter in a book. If we decide metaphorically there is, and pin too many hopes on that chapter already having been written and we’re intended to follow the words laid ahead of us; we’re not going to enjoy that part of the book. I’m not going to say that sometimes it’s not just a matter of shit happening, good, bad, painful, enlightening, etc. But overall, we really do have the choice to change the chapter at any time and write our own or at the very least, choose some adjectives and verbs.

I know I can’t sit and wait out a calendar year and hope the clock strikes midnight and fairies and kittens and unicorns dance around me and bring me nothing but joy and delight. For one thing, it’d technically already have been that day in Australia, so if I’m going literal, it doesn’t really work hoping for the tick of the second hand.

We ultimately don’t know what’s going to happen at any given time. We can have intuitions, gut feelings, premonitions; an idea we don’t know the base of but it just seems right. Obstacles, triumphs, difficulties, joy are all things that are going to enter our world, our personal bubble anytime. It’s how we’re living before, during and after those moments that define how we survive. How we live and what energy we exude to others. Life’s a damn jerk sometimes, I’d be lying if I said otherwise. The world can be terrifying, whether we choose to face the depth of complexities there are to what’s going on around us. But in the end, we have to live for us, hope for the best and handle the worst the best way that gets us through to the other side in one piece.

So, while I am actually still using that moment we technically start a new year as a marker, I’m not going to assume those unicorns are bringing me joy, because they could very well be taking a crap on my floor at 12:01.

But I can complain about it, and decide the whole year is ruined because of one pile of crap and just sit and let it stink up the room. Or I can realize I probably shouldn’t have had a unicorn in my living room in the first place, clean that shit up and make the logical change to put them outside.

So happy new year soon, but don’t wait until 2015 to realize you’re living your life every second of every day. Unicorns are cool, but keep them outside.

Seasons

If we broke the seasons down into stages of humanity, as opposed to weather; I think there’d be a different perception. Spring is an awakening. A time when environmental and personal beauty are given new appreciation. New life starts and inspires us to make that move, that new perception of emjoyment. Summer is freedom. Fully embracing what and who is around us. Living in free wheeling ways whether simply in a freer thinking or monumental actions. Fall is nature giving us a beautiful, impactful temporary end while new beginnings are giving us the drive to move forward among the changes. Winter. That’s our test. That’s the moment when we evaluate. We try to collect our memories of the year into a little box we’ll view from time to time. Our emotions will still emanate from it. But the tenacity it takes to fight how intense winter can be, physically, mentally, etc. is what makes the rest of the stages the progression. We end winter sometimes bitter and weary, but suddenly know what’s ahead. Those easier parts exist. But strength is what makes the rest of it so much easier. Makes us view our memories with our purposes and not with that one moment but collectively.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate winter. I hate driving in it, the danger of it intrigues, yet worries me. It’s so much more complex right down to how the amount of clothing necessary increases.

But there us purpose everywhere. It’s not blatant. It’s not defined. It is what we make it and allow ourselves to feel.

Life is beautiful because of the pain sometimes. Because we know that something has hurt us enough that we have no idea how we’ll see another side. Yet it also means we’ve had a monumental, human and purposeful experience. And it shapes us. We never stop shaping ourselves if we allow it. It’s the shapes we go with that create what we experience.

Rabbit Trails

Every time I start thinking about writing, I start with one subject and hop to another, and merge to something off the wall, and so on. You’ve all read my rambling. This post was intended to start out as my proclamation to finally follow through with a lifelong dream of writing a book. Or two. Or more. Then I started thinking about why I was writing. Someone whom I’ve lost used to joke that my head was full of rabbit trails. I was constantly following different ones. And that’s precisely how I work.

Which led me to thinking of writing this post about this year. This cock monkey of a year. I’d apologize for offending there, but this year has done it’s fair share of disrespect. I’m allowed something. 2014. Seriously. I’m a free thinker, open to all possibilities and genuinely believe in energies, visions, etc. But this year has made me question everything I’ve ever done. Anything I’ll ever do going forward. Loss, pain, heartache, confusion, complete and utter depression. Along with happiness, friends who should have given up and didn’t, meeting new people who bring more to my life. It’s just all been mixed with emotions I’ve never experienced, in all my 30 or so years. Well, that’s a lie. Emotions I’ve previously avoided. They’ve been there from time to time. I’ve done all I can to avoid them. But they were in fact mixed with ones I’d like to avoid feeling again.

With a realization, that through one set of wise words; that no one is responsible for keeping me in check, but myself. My choices, my reactions and my coping are all innate to my ways of thinking. I do dumb things. I do smart things. I’m a genuinely nice person with an incredible lack of willpower at times who simply wants to enjoy life. Hedonism isn’t necessarily conducive to all aspects of adulthood, though. So you have to face that grown up bullshit that some people choose to embrace, and some choose to disregard, misunderstand or handle flippantly.

But how do yo find that balance between being who you are and who you think you should be. Not to mention that added pressure of realizing that regardless of what anyone wants to think, they’re going to base that decision heavily on the perspective of everyone but themselves.

There have been times this year where I’ve been so completely downtrodden, so tackled by life, and I should have just sat down and gave up. But I couldn’t. All I could do at that point was put on a smile, and as Winston Churchill proclaimed, if you’re going through hell, keep going. There’s got to be an end point somewhere, right? And if not, hey, maybe you run into the devil and he turns out to be a pretty cool guy who is just misunderstood.

What is my first book going to be about? Without an official outline, I can say it’ll be about a girl. A girl and her life. The choices she’s made, the situation she finds herself in. The seriously preposterous stuff she’s gotten herself into. And where reality, wishes and perspective’s lines start to blur.

I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons in order to stay in a good place. I have children who need a sane mother, who can maintain stability for their advancement and proper growth. All the while I’m trying to grow up as well. Life can kind of force that you on you, even if you think you’re there, sometimes reminders come from left field, that nope, not quite. And the question is, faced with forks in the road and detours on the trip, which path do you take.

The key is whether your gut, your heart or your head took you there. Because those three very rarely work together without ongoing disagreement.

Until next time…..

Give Thanks

You’ve either wondered what I could possibly come up with to say on Thanksgiving, or you’ve got more to do than read Facebook today, and I’m sure some of you have just hidden my feed given my lengthy musings I share.

I’m writing this grumpily, while trying to define positivity. I sometimes hate complaining about this year. It’s not even over yet. There are others dealing with far more pain and anguish and fear. I suppose as long as I recognize that, I can convince myself that it’s okay to acknowledge my own experiences.

I tried to come up with an accurate description of this year so far. Like walking on ice and not sure what spots would break through. Those devices on movies or video games, where a character has to run through swinging pendulums in hopes of not getting hit by them. But ultimately, this year has no accurate description.

And I’m wading through to identify what I’m going to appreciate not only today, but new understanding of the past and going forwards. Friends. I love my friends. I have best friends, meaningful friends, casual friends, spiritually connected friends, fair weather friends (hey, we all have them!). Some of those I consider part of my family. Family doesn’t have to be blood related or have some other definitive marker. It’s knowing that they have a special place in your life and your heart. And I’m appreciative for each one of those friends. Some will stay, some will go and that’s as it’s meant to be. And I’ll appreciate the emotions that accompany those changes.

My kids are a given. Even if they thrown five minute tantrums because they suddenly forgot how to put their pants on or say they’re not my friend because I won’t buy them a specific kind of juice. I have one who gives out compliments left and right because he wants people happy and another who has grown into a little boy who can actually help me more and hold his brother’s hand when he needs it. Both who already express care and concern about others emotions. And I love that I’m raising children who have already learned how important feelings are.

Even in loss this year, one I had a chance to handle slowly and say my proper goodbyes. And I’m appreciative of that. And the other, while there will never be a true peace there, I know that I made someone else’s life good. I brought happiness to a sad place. I gave someone peace when they most needed it. Doesn’t make it any easier, but if that soul had to go, it needed my presence. And I was gifted with the ability through this realization that my strength is far better than I thought. That my motivation to do good can shine through and is a good thing when handled correctly. I’ve felt new emotions that I didn’t know existed and while they suck sometimes, they’ve given me perspective. I appreciate that perspective.

And you. Everyone. Whether you like me or you don’t. Whether you know me well or barely at all. We all still exist together. Unfortunately I wouldn’t say co-exist in some situations. But you’re there. Trying to make the same sense of different things. My appreciation of life is tainted, but also increased.

Hope you all have at least one thing to appreciate today, and if you aren’t sure, you’re looking too hard. It should be right there.

My New Year’s post is going to be epic……

In the hearts of men.

I don’t know anyone in Newtown. I’d never heard the town name before Friday. But I know moms and dads and how our hearts feel about our children. I know that I’m struggling to understand the tragedy that has happened. Again. Too often. And while every shooting, every death is heartbreaking and senseless, there’s something about losing classrooms full of first graders that is making me not be able to think about this without completely crumbling inside. My son is only three years younger than some of the victims. I unfortunately imagine him, in a classroom, terrified and I fight the urge to build a panic room and live in it forever. I read the victim’s names and recounts of the day and the tears well up again and again.

I won’t talk gun control. I don’t feel I’m educated enough on either side to offer valid opinions. But I want to talk about something I feel will be mentioned but not addressed. Because as I think of those victims, I also think of the family of Adam Lanza. They’ll live forever knowing what he did and wondering why. Wondering if they, as his blood relatives, should have been able to see this coming and if they somehow failed him. Mental illness continues to remain a stigma, a parodied, misunderstood condition that affects so many and yet never seems a reality to those not suffering. When I see pictures of the shooter, I don’t even see a man, I see a boy. A haunted, possibly ill boy who looks emaciated and as the mother of boys, his face and his actions haunt me nearly as much as the suffering of his victims. I am in no way defending what he did. His decisions were heinous and deplorable. I know how (guns), but I want to know why. We’ll never get the answers, but if we continue to ignore mental illness, questionable behavior and the severity of emotions any one person can be experiencing, this can only be the worst of all trends we could ever see.

Some shooters have been bullied and I feel that schools, adults and parents have made steps (albeit, minimal in my opinion) to rectify the torture school children endure at the hands of their classmates. But mental illness, whether it’s depression or bipolar, autism or anxiety, are widely laughed off. They’re not tangible. You can’t see the suffering, so they’re not real. Maybe the person is making it up. But they’re very much fact.

Through my teen years and into adulthood, I’ve personally dealt with merciless bullying, severe depression, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia, self harm and most recently, postpartum depression following the birth of both of my sons. I’ve fought through; I’ve fallen down and gotten back up. Sometimes with my own strength and sometimes with the support of others.  While I could never imagine turning on anyone with any form of violence, I still to this day wince inside when I think about the bullying and hate that part of them that turned their insecurities and their cruelty on me. I know when I’m feeling emotions that may cause an eating disorder relapse and I stop them. I know my depression signs and can let others know it’s coming. While in the past, I would consider and did harm myself, I’m far too much of a bleeding heart to think of hurting another person. It’s unfathomable to me to consider the act of it. But I know the pain and the hurt and the confusion that you deal with when your brain just isn’t working the way society is telling you it should. It’s like being in a maze that has a dead end at every turn. You just turn in circles and go left and right and every time you run into a wall. It’s maddening. You scream silently for help, but in most cases you don’t feel you deserve the actual attention you’d receive if you spoke loudly enough for someone to take heed.

Our brains are so very confusing and there’s much we don’t know about them. There’s science upon science about our behaviors but there’s never any true way to know why one neuron may fire and another may not or who this might happen to. And there’s enough evil in the world to cause our fragile minds to process life in such different ways. PTSD from sexual abuse that may lead to eating disorders, mania and anxiety. Bipolar disorder purely from the genetic card dealt.  I recently read an article that detailed scientific evidence regarding our digestive system and its direct tie to our mental state. Our enteric nervous system, which is what lines our gut is so complex and influential that scientists refer to it as a second brain. The serotonin being produced there can directly affect our reactions and our stomachs. If our digestive system can be so complicated, I can’t even imagine what is going on in our brains.

My experience and knowledge of mental hurdles makes me afraid for my kids. Not only in sending them to school not knowing how safe they are, but also in what they may come up against emotionally. Will they be too ashamed to tell me if they’re feeling emotions that scare them or make them act irrationally? I tell myself I would notice if their behavior is amiss, but I fear in the fast-paced world, I might overlook a warning sign as just “being a kid thing” or that they’re just having a bad day. If they’re being bullied and don’t know how to tell me or their dad, I hope they reach out. I hope they tell someone, but I know fear of payback may scare them into painful complacency and mounting, confusing feelings. And if I’ve somehow failed them and they bully someone else, I hope someone tells me. When it comes to bullying and mental illness, we can educate our children, hang posters in schools and count on teachers, with their limited resources, to try and address any concerning behavior. But despite the video series, It Gets Better, I want to keep the secret from my kids that sometimes it doesn’t  Even as adults, we come up against bullies and confusion and mental anguish, it just happens. It hurts now, just as it did then. As parents we need to be the strong ones who power through and while we show weakness, also show our children how we deal with those weaknesses and come out on the other side. This means trying to understand each other, addressing the issues that are hitting our children, like mental illness. Not starting internet fights about gun control or whose fault this is. We owe it to our future to stop sweeping some issues under the rug because we’re not comfortable with them or we don’t understand them.

I want to stress again that my heart hurts for the families of the victims and I wish there was a way to step in and change time so that this never happened. The shooter’s mother may hold some responsibility in exposing an obviously fragile, potentially calculating (possibly even sociopathic, I’m not discounting that) to a stockpile of weapons. Weapons no person needs in their home. (Off that soapbox, quickly).  I question how so many of these people get to the point that we lose innocent lives at their hands. Are they shrinking violets, wallflowers who isolate as they calculate? It’s unfortunate I don’t know more details and am obviously making grand speculations, but I’m struggling to cope with this and the fear in my heart of this world.

There’s a story making the internet rounds about a popular high school boy who saw another boy struggling with a large pile of school books and instead of ignoring him, he helps him. This forms a strong friendship that grows over their years together in high school and the boy with the books goes from being alone and sometimes made fun of to having a wide circle of friends. As they graduate together, this boy, as the valedictorian talks in his speech about the day he was heading home to kill himself. Suffering from depression and feeling alone, he wanted to end it, and had chosen to clean out his locker and take everything home so his mom wouldn’t have to do it. And then a stranger had taken time out to go to him and see that he needed help and reached out. He saved his life.  I’m sure I could internet search or debunk this story with Snopes, but I’m not going to. Because this is how I hope and wish for society to be. Instead of laughing and pointing at the boy with the pile of books, help him.