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.

Wordy Wednesday

I have so much I want to write. So many new ideas, on top of insights and questions and observations… But I’ve been tired. Bone-deep exhaustion fogs the majority of my waking hours; I don’t know what it’s like to not be tired anymore.

Today’s word is a happy one:

Redolent

Redolent has two definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary that I enjoy very much:

  1. exuding fragrance : aromatic
  2 a : full of a specified fragrance : scented

  • “air redolent of seaweed”
      b : evocative, suggestive

  • “a city redolent of antiquity”

 

Isn’t it such a beautiful word?

Would she be proud of me?

The older I get, the more twists and turns life takes.

I have been thinking about my younger self recently. What would she think of the woman I am today? Would she be proud?

My teenage self had big plans. I was going to be a successful child psychologist with my own home and a big happy family by the time I hit 30. Here is what happened instead: Around age 19 I had a breakdown during the last bit of university, (I almost flunked out thanks to then-untreated anxiety and depression), so I moved home and got a part time job and worked on a Sociology degree by correspondence. I have always been fascinated by people and why we do what we do, so the switch from studying psychology to sociology wasn’t too daunting of a leap.

I got pregnant. I struggled to complete my degree in the midst of a failing relationship and the sleepless newborn and toddler phases. I left the relationship with a three year old and a few boxes of belongings. At age 25, I had nothing. Or rather, that’s how I felt. I had the love and support of family and friends and my small daughter. I had a hard won university degree.

I decided to go back to school in 2016. That fall was the start of a new chapter that ended with convocation last week. I did it; I got my college diploma in Executive Office Admin. The journey was a rough one. I made friends; and I lost some, too. I dealt with a messy breakup in the midst of it. I’m stronger now.

No, I’m not where I thought I would be. I’m in a different place, still figuring out what I want and what it means to be fulfilled. I don’t have that white picket fence existence I thought I’d have by now, and that’s okay.

It’s okay.

 

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.

 

The Unknowable

I drove by a church this morning. Its sign said, “If you no longer feel close to God – who moved away?”

This made me think. I do not consider myself to be religious. I was baptized Catholic. Not because either of my parents are religious, but because my grandparents – who also were not religious – wanted it so. I do not like doing anything that I do not understand; I am quite a stubborn person. I did not baptize my own daughter. I want her to be able to make that choice herself.

I have a complicated relationship with God. I am not Catholic, or Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish. When I think of God, I no longer conjure the image of a wizened Merlin-figure I did as a child. Now, when I think of God, I think of the forest. Of the ocean, of mountains, of rolling fields. I think of lit candles, flickering. I think of the moon.

For me, God is everywhere. God is nature, God is space. God is neither male nor female. It is difficult to put these thoughts and feelings into the correct words. So, when someone asks, I typically say I’m agnostic. The true nature of God is unknowable, at least to me. I feel pieces and parts, perhaps.

When I close my eyes and feel the sun warm my skin; when I gaze in awe of the moon and stars on a cloudless night; when I hold tight to someone I love, I think, Ah, right there. Those are the comforting pieces and parts of the unknowable God. Right there.

 

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?

It’s Something

Acute anxiety.

Severe depression.

It’s difficult to say those words out loud. It’s easier to say, “I’m fine,” and leave the tightly wrapped gauze alone. The alternative is to unravel the gauze, slowly, strip by strip until the wound is exposed. When the wound is exposed, other things happen, too. Sometimes, it’s the blank looks. Other times it’s pity. There’s also sympathy. Even empathy, in rare occurrences.

All of it hurts. The kind words and the hugs have their own special kind of hurt. During those times I wish the earth would open beneath my feet and suck me in. I think, “If I wasn’t depressed, this person wouldn’t worry about me.” No matter how often I’m told I’m not a burden, that my thoughts and feelings aren’t a burden, the harder I wish I could disappear.

Let’s go back in time.

I’ve been a sensitive and emotional person for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I craved the attention, love, and acceptance of my parents. I’ve always wanted to make them proud. I was the smart and responsible kid. Criticism was hard to swallow; even the slightest bit made me cry. Bad grades made me cry. I worried a lot about disappointing my teachers, my friends, and my parents. But I didn’t worry about disappointing myself. I was pretty far down on my own list of ‘Important People.’

My anxiety also presented in a stranger way. I would lie awake at night, age 16-17, and be convinced that burglars were trying to break into the house. I would stand at my closed bedroom door in the middle of the night, listening, listening, my heartbeat pounding in my ears. I waited for imaginary killers to creep up the stairs. One night was so bad that I was a hairbreadth away from dialing 9-1-1. Somehow, though, I always felt better in the morning. Silly, but better. I didn’t mention it to anyone. I felt like I was going crazy, but I kept it to myself.

Dig the hole a little deeper each time, bury the feeling, pat the dirt back down harder than before.

I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression around age 19. I felt like an utter failure. Like my mental health was a test I had studied for and failed miserably at. For the past ten years I’ve tried so many things: different medication, counseling, therapy, diet/exercise changes. In these ten years, I’ve also given birth to my daughter; completed a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology; ended relationships, started relationships (ended those too); made friends, lost friends, reconnected with old friends; completed a college diploma; found jobs, lost jobs; cut ties with family members; had relatives and acquaintances die…

Life has marched on since my diagnosis. Life goes on, whether we like it or not. There are a lot of things I haven’t dealt with, people and relationships I haven’t properly mourned.

I hold on too tightly. I struggle with letting go. I feel like one giant flaw; a walking, talking gaping wound.

I’m still here.

That’s something.