Circus Fires

I had sent my blog into hibernation for professional reasons. I’m too raw to be taken seriously if any of my words might be misinterpreted. Glossed over. I could be seen as weak, when in reality, I know the strength I tenaciously hang on to every day. My blog was serving a therapeutic service and I had reached a point where some parts of my life had taken an upturn. Where I was getting back on level playing ground. But as someone who openly struggles with depression and other illnesses; but fights in a healthy way. Making it simply a character trait that I don’t let become a character flaw; I’m never done maintaining a balance of trying to stay okay.

I have a tendency to fight on the surface. Still practicing coping behaviors long set-in that have never truly been conducive to actual healing. Never created true acceptance of myself and the emotions my sensitive mind experiences on a daily basis. The ebbs and flows of self-doubt mixed with pride in continuing positively. Never letting my pain or my difficulties be apparent to others. Because I aim to serve as that positivity to others. To bring them happiness; brighten their day, even if clouds hang over my head. My intention is that it simply appears that I’m basking in the sun on a clear day. I carry an empathetic nature that means that I’m genuine in any support I offer to loved ones; friends and even strangers; but in turn it also means that I feel all of their emotions. It’s why I can be there, because I’m not just offering encouragement, I’m understanding their sadness, pain, anger, etc. and wading through it with them. Offering my help in ways that I’ve used to navigate the monstrous hurdles I tackle on a regular basis.

I simply love other people. I think everyone can be amazing in their own way. I see the good in anyone who might have even a sliver of good in them. My personal faith in appreciating others and knowing that I can bring them positivity is what allows me to accept a part of me when I don’t always embrace the whole package. When I doubt many aspects of who I am. Choices I’ve made. How I’ve ended up here. I find failure in feeling as though I’m not liked. And if we want to go all psycho-babble on it, I know that ties back to early school days when I wasn’t as welcomed into the fold of small town life. Kids who knew each other because their parents knew each other. I was always different. Always a beacon of complexity. I know it relates to being an only child. I’m as strong as I am because of the loneliness of never having a sibling. But it’s also made me struggle to accept being alone. Being okay with just me.
I get through my days sometimes feeling okay. But knowing I’m more than likely going to try to escape from my brain at day’s end, when in reality I should be feeling the brunt of it so I know how to get up the next day. I’m going to divert my feelings to other thoughts, other behaviors that allow me to not really feel any of what I should be taking on. I have my shit together, yet somehow I’m regularly falling apart. Some days I want that crystal ball that shows me that I’m going to have long-term peace eventually. Life will be simple. There won’t be mountains to climb; but rather hills to walk over without getting out of breath. I want to momentarily jump ahead to my kids being adults so I can flat out ask them if I was a good parent. If they knew I loved them every day and I was always so sorry that some days I just didn’t know how to parent like other people. I want to survey everyone who’s ever been in my life and find out what they really thought of me. If all the time I thought I was being kind. Being supportive and understanding. Self-sacrificing. If I really was actually just cloying. Too sensitive. If I shared too much, if I wasn’t enough. And before anyone says that’s not what I should be doing to base my worth, I know. But it’s who I am. I find my worth in being a value to others.

Perhaps that’s been my mistake all along. Maybe I’ve never asked myself those questions. Really and truly listened to the answers. Truly been there for myself first in order to be the best personal support I can be. I seek an escape on a regular basis. When it’s just me, I escape from myself. I escape from that person we’re all supposed to be with during out most private and raw times. Being alone with our thoughts and letting them wash over so we learn how to swim through them to shore is what makes us grow. I think ultimately, I’m just terrified. That everything I need to sort out is going to hit me like some of the pain I’ve felt. The grief I’ve worked through. The poor choices that have created utter rock bottom feelings. I feel so much, I’m kind of tired of it. But I’ve ultimately created my own self-fulfilling prophecy. I know that I’ve tucked so much away for later; that eventually, I’m going to stop my temporary coping behaviors; being positive instead of letting some negativity happen quietly and it’s going to be difficult. Self-accepting. As intense as a circus fire.

If you’ve read this, rad. If you’ve read this far; let me state I’m not a shrinking violet. I’m the softest thick-skinned person you might find. My surface is jaded and scarred, but the important parts of me are there. The kindness and compassion are purely genuine. I strive for self-improvement and can take criticisms with grace and acceptance. Anything I reference about the storm that’s in the distance for me; will simply be isolated showers. I’m not going to implode or go off the rails. I’ve been doing this long enough that I’m personally responsible in any ways I tackle chaos, particularly internal. I’m simply stating that sometimes I’m sadder than I let on. Completely unsure if I’m succeeding. I am okay with being this open, but I do fear judgement. That I’ll be seen as a mess if my words aren’t treated carefully. If people haven’t taken the time to accept pure and utter humanity. That we’re all fragile beings. I simply choose to bare it because it’s how I improve. It’s how I present the best person I can to everyone whose life I get the honor of being a part of. Because I value you all, it’s just that I accept that I don’t necessarily value myself. Which I probably should by now. I probably should have years ago. And if I demonstrate anything to my kids, I hope it’s that. If I create an impression in anyone’s life, I hope it’s positive.

You all matter.

 

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.

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.