Scratch

As writers, we know the hardest thing to do is to write.

I hold myself back. I acknowledge this. I am a procrastinator, through and through. “I’ll do it tomorrow” is a staple in my vocabulary. “I’ll write in my journal tomorrow.” “I’ll write a paragraph for a story idea tomorrow.”

Joke’s on me, right? Tomorrow never comes.

In these uncertain times, my usual anxiety is heightened; I feel scared, irritable, sad, angry, and numb, in the space of minutes. My emotions swirl around in a wheel, the colours all mixing and bleeding into each other.

I overeat all day, or I don’t eat all day.

Control is vital to me. It is a main source of my anxiety, it’s why I’m scared of flying on airplanes, it’s why I’m an annoying passenger in vehicles – I’m not in control so I can’t relax. But I can control food. I can’t control if my family members will get sick during this pandemic, but I can restrict my own eating. I can binge and shovel food into the gaping hole made of anxiety and stress and fear until it’s (very temporarily) filled and buried.

The current state of the world is wreaking havoc on my brain, body, and soul. No doubt about it.

I have a follow up appointment with my psychiatrist next week, thankfully. I was doing pretty well three months ago, when he last saw me. I’m looking forward to telling him what’s going on inside me. It will be a tiny bit of relief.

I have no support system; I have no one to lean on, no one to go to for advice or comfort.

I carry burdens by myself. It’s so heavy all the time. Crippling.

And yet… I continue to stand and move forward. Sometimes I stagger; sometimes I take a few steps back. I fall and scrape my knees and palms and cry.

But I get up. I always get up.

Hope is there; hope is all around us, you know.

Mettle

My emotions have been VERY BIG lately. Overwhelming. A towering wave crashing over me, again and again, not caring that I’ve fallen over and I’m struggling so bad to get back up. I feel sad. I feel lonely. I look back over this year and I dwell on the things I should have done, the things I didn’t do. The negatives seem to outweigh the positives, but as I want to be more forgiving to myself, I’ll list the positives:

  • The creative writing course I completed
  • Ending a romantic relationship that was headed nowhere
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Making an effort to build new friendships
  • Practicing patience in the face of frustration

I have a physical journal that I keep. It’s leather-bound and quite beautiful. It was a gift to myself in the spring of 2016, to honour the ending of a chapter in my life and the beginning of a new one (as a single woman for the first time in almost a decade and as a mother). I have to be in a special sort of mood to read the oldest entries. I’d love to give that version of myself a big hug. I fell in love with someone, in those early days – someone selfish, controlling, and utterly broken inside – and the thing he said he admired most about me is my perseverance.

The concept has stuck with me: to persevere. I’ve felt so low, so terrible, so bleak. I’ve wanted to give up so many times. I get so exhausted and don’t want to fight anymore.

But I do. I’m here to stay.

So, dear reader, I hope you’ll stay too. Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Take time to huddle close and feel some warmth; be kind to yourself and to others.

Turning Points

Today I turn 30.

I struggle with milestone birthdays. 25 was a hard one, too. At 25, I was on the verge of a completely new life – single after many years in a relationship, a young daughter in tow. I came out the other side, obviously. I survived 25. I moved on. I did what I could to put the pieces into some semblance of a picture.

But 30?! I had all these plans and ideas of what my life would look like by now. A white picket fence sort of thing, with a doting, successful husband, a few children, a few pets. A garden. A front porch with a swing. A fulfilling career for myself. By 30 I would have all of those things. Wrapped in a perfect pretty bow.

I can still have those things. I know this. But it felt like 30 was a deadline and if I hadn’t achieved every single goal and dream by then, I’d be a failure. And so for the past few days, I’ve been feeling like a failure. I wanted to stay in today and hide from the world and not acknowledge anything or anyone.

But I didn’t. I went for supper with a few friends. We laughed and talked and had a good time. I’m glad I didn’t hide. I know ‘age is just a number’ and it’s ridiculous to think that life somehow ends at 30. I’m remembering to breathe and to remind myself that life now is good. Not perfect. But good. And that’s okay.

There’s loads of time for me to get what I want.

I am being very intentional about how I spend my time and where I put my energy now. I want love and compassion and reliability, so that’s what I put out into the world. I do my best to be kind and to be understanding. When I feel sad or frustrated, I take time to actually sit with the emotion, hold onto it; I acknowledge that shitty feeling and then I let it go.

It’s not easy, of course. I have a tendency to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings. Stew in it. Or push it down and bury it until there’s no room left and it all comes out at once in great howls of despair.

I don’t want that anymore. So I’m trying something new. I’m going into 30 with with as much hope and confidence as I can muster. That hope and confidence is a tiny, flickering flame right now, but it will grow.

I’m sure of it.

Intentions

Six months from now, it will be March 5, 2020. That feels very far away, but at the rate this year is flying by, March will creep up on me quickly!

So I want to write my future self a letter.

newmoon

Dear future self,

Right now you are feeling hopeful. You’ve been getting job interviews lately so that has been a huge part of your increasing confidence. I hope you are working at a job you enjoy. Remember to relax and breathe and still take time for yourself.

If you are in a relationship, I hope you are content. I hope you are loved, appreciated, and adored. You deserve it.

Do not settle! Put yourself and your daughter first, always.

Keep writing and try to be good to yourself. If you are going through a hard time, remember: this too shall pass.

So far you have made it through some hellish times and experiences. You are stronger than whatever tries to break you.

Love,

the September 2019 version of you.

Symptoms

Everything has been difficult lately. My anxiety has ramped up and my depression has, too. When I’m not feeling panicked about unemployment, lack of money, and familial relationships, I just want to lay down and sleep and sleep and sleep.

close up photo of water
Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

I saw a new psychiatrist today for the first time. I told him, despite being on the highest doses of Wellbutrin and Cipralex, how my mental illnesses, but especially my anxiety, have been increasing.

Back in May I attended a busy, crowded school event. My chest tightened up, breathing was hard, and I broke out in a cold sweat. I had never felt panic like that in a crowd before, and it really freaked me out. Since then, the same panic ensues when I go to a store or to the mall, etc., so I try to avoid spots I know will be busy.

However, I’m a mom and I like taking my daughter to special events, like the fair. So there are a lot of ‘suck it up’ moments for myself that are supposed to be fun, but I can hardly enjoy them when I’m screaming internally constantly being aware of who is around me and where the exits are.

I got in to see my family doctor right away. She made the referral to the psychiatrist. He wants me to try Lyrica, three times a day, on top of the other two medications. Needless to say, I’m exhausted. Perpetually so.

Does anyone have experience with Lyrica?

Steady

Finally, it’s October.

I’m lucky to live in a place where autumn is full of cool breezes and vibrant colours. I’ve been doing my best to get out and enjoy it, before the leaves fall and the snow arrives. It’s difficult to tamp down the anxiety enough to actually go outside.

But I’m trying.

We celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend, so in that spirit, I wanted to make a list of things I am grateful for right now.

  1. Most of all, I am thankful for my daughter. As her birthday approaches, I am reminded just how blessed I am to be her mother.
  2. Being able to enjoy and appreciate the colours of the leaves.
  3. Curling up under a fuzzy blanket with a pile of books.
  4. Trying different flavours of coffee and tea (even though I tend to stick with my favourites).
  5. Movie nights cuddled up with my daughter.
  6. Checking out different places to go for a walk and take pictures.
  7. My friends and family. Even though I isolate myself, I know that I am loved.
  8. Last, I am grateful for the gift of writing.

Thank you for reading. May October be a calm, steady breath in our lives.

Shift

Times of transition are always difficult.

For someone who makes mountains out of molehills (like me), times of transition are especially tough. For the past several months, I have been searching for a job. I have had around five interviews, and I was not the selected candidate for any of the positions.

Now, for a regular person, rejection is not easy to swallow. For someone struggling with depression and anxiety, this type of rejection feels like those dark, niggling voices telling us how worthless we are …are correct.

Thus the cycle begins: Of course I did not get the job! I am not good enough and I never will be. What is the point? Why bother anymore?

The loudest instinct becomes the one nudging us under a rock, into that heavy darkness of defeat.

Rationally, however, I know I should be treating these experiences as adventures; as necessary stepping stones that will one day lead to a job, if not a career. I should be chalking up these interviews as professional experience – and I do.

I need to take this time to focus on myself and my own growth. Yes, I will spend time licking my wounds. Rejection hurts; it always will. But it is up to me how I decide to react to it.

I have to take a deep breath and keep going.

Fear

For weeks, I haven’t been able to write.

Just thinking about writing made me feel anxious. Writing is supposed to be my outlet, not a source of stress. Instead of writing, I have been reading voraciously. I’m at the library every two weeks checking out new books. I’ve been focused on thrillers, mysteries, police procedurals, and histories of concentration camps and first-person accounts of time spent in the camps. The books range from 300-900 pages and lately, when my daughter is back at her dad’s house, I will devote hours and hours to reading.

It’s escapism. I know this. I acknowledge it.

I should be getting out of the house, going for walks and such – but I’d rather be a hermit and read the day away.

I recently saw a psychiatrist for the first time. He clocked me right away, and we discussed my low self esteem and fear of failure. He and my main doctor highly recommend more counseling, but man, it is so exhausting peering into my wounds and talking about how I feel and why.

I dislike talking about my issues in person. Writing about them, however, can be cathartic. I’d also much rather hear about other people’s problems and issues… so I don’t have to focus on my own.

I’m at a turning point in my life. I can feel it. I’m on the verge of something.

Honesty

I have been having trouble gathering my thoughts lately. I feel scattered and unfocused.

I had a sleep study done a couple months ago, and recently received the results: …I’m a good sleeper. I was surprised, considering I’ve been exhausted for so many years. Even the specialist and my doctor were surprised. So, back to the drawing board.

I broke down crying in my doctor’s office. She’s been my family doctor for almost fifteen years; she’s very aware of my many ups and downs. I trust her and feel comfortable with her, which is a big part of the battle. I told her how stressed out I am and how I feel like a burden. How I’m so, so tired all the time and no matter what tests we do or what we try, nothing is helping.

She listened. She told me we would figure it out. We discussed ways to help reduce my stress, and now I’m trying a combination of Celexa and Wellbutrin. Hopefully I feel more ‘even’ soon.

I’ve been a mess. I apply for jobs daily, I send follow up emails, I do all the things I’m supposed to, and still – nothing. This feeds into feeling like a useless drain. I beat myself up a lot; my inner dialogue is horrendous. Intellectually I know that I need to think more positively and not be so hard on myself but damn, it’s difficult. My friendships and relationships are suffering and all I can do is worry about it. I either don’t know how to fix it or I can’t fix it.

What I need to do: let go, and chill out.

Clearly, both are easier said than done.

Gardening

The word ‘trigger’ and the meaning behind it has unfortunately become a joke. I take triggering content seriously, and this post will be one that deals with difficult topics – consent and rape in relationships – that I’ve never spoke out loud. So, if such topics are hard for you to read about, turn back now.

I don’t consider myself a survivor. Or a victim. Maybe because I haven’t fully articulated – or dealt with – the stark fact that I was raped. I hope that, by writing it down and sharing my story, a) I’ll be able to process what happened and b) possibly help others who are, or have been, in my shoes.

Let’s rewind about three years ago. I’d just gotten out of a nine year relationship with my daughter’s father. I was reeling; directionless. Numb. I told myself I would give myself lots of time to figure out my next steps and hold off on another relationship indefinitely.

That didn’t happen. Instead, I met and fell in love with someone just two months later. I was head over heels and my mind was full of warm fuzzies and visions of  happily blended families.

I waited four months before introducing him to my daughter. I wanted to do this right. However, in those months I ignored a lot of red flags. There was a lot of manipulation on his part. Along with jealousy, anger, and blame. He had a lot of his own deep issues and dark pain. I thought I could help. I thought I could heal. Yeah, I believed I could fix him.

One night, a few weeks after we’d gotten back together after breaking up for the second or third time, we were having sex. We were both into it. It was consensual, fun, vaginal sex. In the past we’d explored anal play; I wasn’t a huge fan. On this night, he decided to shove his penis into my ass. He pushed it in, despite me saying, “No, that hurts!” The pain was so awful that I felt dizzy and nauseous. He pulled out and was amused by the blood on his dick. I went to the bathroom to clean up afterward and I was shaking.

Until very recently, this situation did not compute in my brain as rape. Because in our society, we see rape portrayed as something that strangers do to screaming women in alleyways.

I was raped by someone I loved.

Life went on like normal. I went to class, hung out with friends, spent time with my daughter.

My romantic relationship suffered, though. We argued a lot and didn’t trust each other. He drank heavily after being sober for most of our relationship. He was one hell of a scary drunk. I was afraid of him and afraid for him at the same time. Now, I was having trouble focusing. All of my energy was spent worrying about him and about us, our future. How could I make life better and easier for him?

July 2017. One night, I went to the bar with a girlfriend. I had a drink and watched some people play pool. It was a long overdue night out. The entire time I was there – three hours at most – my boyfriend was texting me and messaging me, constantly. He demanded to know who I was with, who I was talking to, how much I was drinking, and when I would be leaving. Eventually I got fed up and told him to fuck off. I turned off my phone notifications when I got home and went to sleep.

In the morning, I woke up to hundreds of messages and a couple photos of his knife stabbed into objects. That was it for me. Shaking, I texted him that we were done. Over. I couldn’t do it anymore and he needed to leave me alone. After I said my piece, I blocked and deleted him from all of my social media. I was freaked out and genuinely afraid for my safety. Luckily, my daughter was at her dad’s.

I kept looking out the window, expecting my now ex boyfriend to pull in the driveway. (I haven’t seen him since July 2017; I still check my surroundings constantly, especially when my daughter is with me).

I saved the threatening photos and texts and took them to the police station. The male officer listened to my complaint. He also downplayed my concerns. I pressed on, however. I’m glad I did.

Victim? Survivor? I don’t relate to either term and I’m not sure I ever will. Sometimes the entire relationship I had with that particular ex seems like it was a dream.

I haven’t fully come to terms with the trauma or the fall out. There has been a lot of denial. Maybe some acceptance?

The fall out – the trust issues, the paranoia – combined with my severe depression and acute anxiety have made daily life hell. I put on a mask, though; I’ve fooled many people into thinking I’m okay. I’ve even fooled myself.

Things we bury have a nasty habit of sprouting back up, uglier and heartier than before. I know this, I swear. So why do I keep forgetting?