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.

 

Queen of Hearts

cards

“Life is what happens to us when we’re making other plans.”

That’s a dandy little saying for those who don’t have life punch them in the face while they’re trying to make new plans to make up for the plans that got thrown off by that left hook. Sometimes I wonder if feeling like 35 years is my mid-life crisis dooms me to an early demise, but with the way I’ve lived at times, it’s possible.

But suddenly, surrounded by ups and downs (though the downs seem to be reigning when it comes to hash marks) I wonder the eternal question; why DOES your metabolism slow down one you hit 30?

I also wonder how much one person can take; where the reprieve comes in, or if I missed the boat on that one and my struggles are the sail on a choppy ocean.

I’m an incredibly empathetic person, some might say an empath, but I know that’s a misperceived identifier, so let’s keep it simple. I have realized that I’ve inadvertently shut it all off, that I’m just managing. As I realize I’ve lost my joy; I am aware in a muted way of how hollow it really does feel. How exhilarating even the rough moments once were. Even in sadness it would swallow me whole and I’d sit in the underbelly, all neurons pinging. Happiness was a nearly manic state of bubbling effervescence I’d cling to; even if I had to supplement through man-made influences (take whatever meaning you want from that.) Anger would burn from inside, filling every blood vessel, every muscle until my cheeks would actually feel aflame and I’d unleash a fury my everlasting guilt and compassion would later make me feel terrible for. Apologies were rampant when I felt as though I’d upset the balance of nature with my toxic spewing of a momentary irritation.

I’ve always felt too loud, too expressive. I love games, but my face would make me the favorite of anyone I’d dare to play poker with. I thrived at acting in school and storytelling. I could wing a speech with flair and dynamics even if I had literally come up with the subject as I got into the classroom. The beauty of youth is that’s before you start to question the quirks and pieces you’re developing and you just simply live them. You don’t overanalyze your excitement; you don’t suppress your moodiness. You just are. As an adult my fear of the fact that I feel I overwhelm a room has always conflicted with my tendency to simply be that person regardless. Cringing as my laugh was too loud, but not being able to help how I felt in the delight of a hilarious moment. Feeling a connection to others that lightened the moment and gave us all levity.

Yet somewhere along the way, through grief, confusion, pain and disarray; I’ve lost the ability to revel in that. My laughter is halfway. My sadness is mellow and set in. My anger is simply a state of being at times that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth; but doesn’t stir enough in me to even enjoy that momentary fire. Due to situations and people and being an adult who adults hard without reprieve, I’ve lost my tenacity. At least to the degree I used to have. I’ve shielded myself from sensing others; from absorbing and examining their energy. I’ve blocked my tendency to read others to properly interact in a way that suits them.

And it sucks. That’s not eloquent, or well-stated or anything of the sort. It simply is and that’s simply me right now. I’m searching for what this part of my life should mean, but afraid of searching too hard inadvertently missing what I’ll realize was the meaning in two weeks; two months; two years. What lessons I’ll share with my kids when they’re asking why something is unfair or sharing joy in a new experience. I truly have no one to blame but myself, as much as I’d like to say life has done this to me; life has happened to me. While some of the moments I’ve been through would probably sound like fiction to some, I’ve stayed in them. I’ve tolerated them and I’ve allowed them to decimate pieces of me that I should have clung to. My strength required plenty of sacrifice; but I perhaps left behind a little too much. Confused ease of getting through a situation with who I was supposed to be. I’ve let too many in, too close and I don’t regret that, but I tend to forget how easy it is to allow moments to take me with them as opposed to keeping them with me. I wonder why in all of this; I’ve somehow still maintained the strength of my own self-doubt which has always been my crippling hindrance. What stops me from truly grabbing hold of me. I value others. Everyone, good or bad. I try to understand them if they seem cold or abrasive. I try to fix them if they seem broken. I thrive in the company of unadulterated jubilation in someone who just lives without giving a damn (even if deep down, I know they do). Being a friend is crucial to me. If I’m not being the one anyone can turn to, I’m not fulfilling what truly brings me happiness even when that emotion is quietly at half-mast.

I’m trying to find what makes me happy. Seeking what will re-ignite my soul; and bring easier smiles to my face and allow me to be the best I can be for anyone I come across, but mostly for myself. Which is the first time I’ve truly made that a priority, probably ever. And I feel guilty about it. I’m more than likely over thinking it all, but did I mention that’s something else that’s a key characteristic of mine?

I don’t need a dictionary entry of who I am. A Wikipedia page defining my character locks me in to too much. I’m mostly at a point where I want to find what I embrace and stand by that. To examine what I know I need to accept is a work in progress and simply gives meaning to moments and that maybe the bigger picture is too grand. Maybe it’s the blips on the radar. The joy I’m recently missing. It could possibly not be about the laugh that was too loud; but what made me laugh in the first place. What conversation with my kids made me feel at peace in the moment. How even if my successes are marred by frustration; it’s the drive to keep going and keep aiming for success as opposed to defeat. I’m looking for myself right now, and that might sound like heavy, dramatic commentary; it’s unpleasant that I had to be so far gone to realize I let it slip.

I still have to make plans; I’m a grown up. I still have to do what needs to be accomplished to survive in a way that makes me proud and not as though I’m just squeaking by. I’m trying to keep life in my peripheral along the way. Find my joy. Locate my fire. Be me, unabashedly.

It all sounds simple, right? Maybe I just need to play poker. Nothing makes me angrier than losing.

Deal me in.

Faulty Wiring

I have the lucky characteristic of empathy. I don’t mean that in a pretentious, self-touting way, because it can be just as detrimental as it can be positive.

An empathetic tendency means that emotions wrap around you like ivy on a building. And sometimes Ivy can make a building more beautiful and other times it can overtake the entire structure, visually suffocating what lies beneath. You feel the energy of the rooms you’re in. It’s overwhelming, and exciting and energetic and cloying. Tension makes you try to calm it, yet creates your own personal stress that bear hugs you. You’re constantly struggling to be the positivity because of how much you just want peace and happiness. Seeing other people happy makes you swoon from inside out, that sensation in your sternum that feels like you’re bursting, yet containing it in a small space.

If someone seems angry; you wonder how you can fix it. Because it actually overwhelms your thoughts in concern for their well-being; but also makes you dissect your thoughts to determine if you had a role in creating it. Simply and ultimately seeking an end goal of fixing it.

Memories carry with them more than the picture in your head, the passing graze of your feelings during that time. They carry the whole experience; muted, of course. But your sorrow, glee, confusion, etc.; anything you felt, taps you on the shoulder until you turn to see it and decide how and when to send it away. Past experiences can give you a complete grasp on how you want to feel, what you need to be you, but also endless limits of tolerance.

But my tolerance has a stopping point; and it’s unfortunately extreme. It’s like a tire. You can drive on a tire for a long time; the treads will wear and tougher terrain will wear it even further. If you keep driving on it, though, the treads can become threadbare; thin. And if you drive it long enough like that, at some point you’re bound to end up with a flat. You metaphorically deflate. The air rushes out; the situation, relationship, atmosphere takes the last bit you had to keep driving.

When I end up in these moments; I’m reminded that I’ve been here before and struggle to determine what lesson I’m fated to glean if I allow it. What this will contribute to my life story and how I’ll look back and perceive my handling of it. I get a little lost. I potentially think that I should write, yet am so defeated, I can’t see the point.

I sometimes see myself as abnormal, that maybe I’m not being a good grown up. That life happens and my intensity of feelings through it aren’t an excuse to let it engulf my mind. That there has to be a balance. I wonder if I should observe others and how they cope. How they work through these types of frustrations, sad moments, heartbreaks, and any other human experience. If I’m doing it right and conversely if it’s fair that I should have to ask that.

And yes, life can always be worse than that moment. But how do we learn to deal with the especially worse situations that will inevitably be a reality if we can’t see the small and medium sized ones for the challenges they actually are. For their roles in how we evolve; use our individually varying emotional intensities to decide how we live through every step.

Per usual, this is a bit of a wandering train of thought, but what I present typically emphasizes how the situation feels. Smooth, thoughtful or erratic and grappling. I translate my human experiences in hope that not only will it shed some light for me but perhaps offer a different perspective for anyone who reads it. In my empathy, I reach out. I turn to people, not only when they need it, but when I need it. I try to avoid burdening others with my mind dump of thoughts; but if I feel as though they can handle me, I try to seek answers and respect their take on guiding my directions when I can’t read the map. I spread kindness with no expectation of return; but rather in hopes it forges a mutual appreciation for everyone. And because not doing it just seems wrong. This leads me to wonder if baring my thoughts is selfish. If sharing how I’m feeling is obnoxious; obtrusive almost.

As I process being in a darker point as opposed to living facing the sun as I try to do; I wonder when my path won’t have as many broken bricks to step around. Yet that’s negating the fact that it’s going to happen and I can’t expect to not have imperfections through life. I wonder what I’ll see on the other side of this one; if my reflections of this time will-be accurate or confusing funhouse mirrors. If I’ll simply think I was being a fool. We are our own worst critics, ultimately.

While it’s unavoidable to not partially shut down, yet also feel raw, due to understanding that I have receptors that don’t quite work right, it is possible to work through the situation in the best way possible. I have mental oppression that’s not my fault and is just a bit of my own wiring that is faulty, and that’s okay. I aim to get through a dark hallway with just a match to see in front of me, than to simply give up and not work to get through to find a light switch. Plenty of times I’d like to say screw it, and just not continue to be me. To give up on myself (figuratively). But there’s plenty of beauty in life to offset the broken parts.

If you’ve treated others the way you want to be treated, you’ll never be alone. You might be disappointed, but you’ll always have someone when you’re not enough for you. Life is hard, but not really living it is much harder on your experience.  Make the most of what you have even if it feels like it’s not much. Sometimes I think those last statements are bullshit, I’m just trying to remember that figuring out why they’re not is how I realize I’ve made it through the struggle. Found some electrical tape to slap on those faulty wires.

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.