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?

I don’t know what it’s like to feel well.

For the past few days I’ve been feeling grey; colourless. I went for a walk. I read a good book. I spent time with people I love. And yet, the feeling remains.

darkfog

Depression is this insidious, oily, thick black smoke curling around me, clutching at the back of my neck. It whispers all kinds of mean things – you’re worthless, pointless, everyone would be better off if you were gone – and I try to close my eyes against it. But sleep brings too vivid, sometimes frightening dreams, so sleeping the fog and the ache away does me no good.

I would love to channel these feelings (lack of feelings?) into writing. I have a story to tell; I feel its claws. It is digging itself out of me. I really should stop fighting it so much.

That’s what I do, you know. Fight. Every day is a battle against something: the feelings I have about myself, about others.

I am tired. Again. I am scared.

It’s funny, though, how I’m afraid to break. I’m already broken. Lots of jumbled up, jagged pieces in my head. In my heart.

What happens if I embrace the broken?

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.

Hurt

It hurts a lot, you know. Becoming. Becoming the person I want to be.

I have lost friends on this journey. I have lost relationships. I crave independence so badly and yet, for years I have settled for unfulfilling relationships because I do not want to be alone.

I have a very difficult time being alone. Left with my thoughts and obsessions. Writing helps, but even with a pen in hand, I get this powerful urge to reach out and grab on to someone, anyone. I would rather drown in someone else than face myself, especially lately.

So, when I do let go, it hurts. It hurts it hurts it hurts.

And my instinct is to make the hurt go away by any means necessary. Which, nine times out of ten, leads to heartache for me. I use alcohol or sex (or both) to make the aching loneliness stop. But I know it is a temporary fix. In the end, I hurt more than before.

Now? I picture my soul as a big ball of hurt, staggering along under the weight of co-dependence and depression and anxiety and too much booze and too many one night stands.

But hey, my soul is still there. I just need to peel away each strangling rubberband of self-loathing, slowly, gently, to get back to the person I am.