Day 237/365 Who Holds The Spotlight

This blog has felt therapeutic and cathartic to me in my grieving process. I love (and hate) the process of calling out my demons – fear, anxiety, shame, and sadness. By saying,  “I SEE YOU!” and shining light upon them, I feel as though I rob them of some of their power. It doesn’t change the fact that those feelings live within me, but calling them out allows me to take back some control. It feels like calling out a bully.

At the same time I don’t want to keep the spotlight on them – on those bullies.

They are a part of me but they are not me. I am so much more. In fact, looking back at my 44 years, the times I have been ensconced in these weighty emotions is but a blip. These feelings are very much a product of my experiences of late, and not predominantly what lives within me at my core. I know this to be the truth.

I have always had much more joy than angst (believe it or not).

So, my path to healing begins with making peace with the parts of me I do not love.  Calling out the bullies, and perhaps even thanking them for illuminating so many things.  Next, I can show fear, anxiety, shame and sadness that while they may bask in the spotlight now and again, they have never been, nor will they ever be, the stars of the show.

A few cameos, perhaps. That’s all. 

In some ways I don’t get to write my own story. The plot keeps twisting and turning, often without my consent. I don’t always get to choose which characters show up, but…

I can choose who holds the spotlight.

Day 235/365 Do You Remember What The Nothing Was?

You have no idea how desperately I want to write something incredibly hilarious and lighthearted for all of you. I think one of the hardest parts about being depressed is that you become entirely sick of yourself. I can only imagine you are growing weary of my weighty entries as well. Still, if this is to be an authentic way for me to share my life, I have to write from the heart…even when that feels like a dark place.

It is important to me that you know that it isn’t all darkness for me. I have my moments. I smile, I laugh…and I swear to you I am so grateful for my many blessings. Despite knowing this with all of my heart, I still get upset with myself….because how can I possibly be grateful and depressed? It doesn’t compute. This makes me feel weak and selfish. It pulls me in deeper, and I know that is dangerous…because it is simply not true.

I do appreciate what I have, and I do understand things could be so much worse…and still, I struggle sometimes. Let me tell you...

No, let me tell us both...

Gratitude and depression are not mutually exclusive. 

This suddenly seems like an incredibly important point to convey and to emphasize before moving on. Can we let it sink in?

Gratitude and depression are not mutually exclusive. 

Okay then, on to a story…

On Saturday I was at the lowest I have been in a while. I was talking with Monica, and she asked me very sincerely what depression looks like to me when I close my eyes. I described a black hole, one into which I was desperately trying not to be pulled. After a moment I realized it wasn’t a hole at all, not in the sense that it has a bottom and a top, and walls. Instead, it feels like the opposite of something…

A void.

My mind flashed to a movie I watched recently with my girls. It was a favorite from my own childhood, based on the book, “The Never-ending Story” by Michael Ende. In it, a beautiful world full of amazing places and creatures is threatened to be sucked up by “The Nothing”. The Nothing isn’t a who or a what, it is literally nothing, and it is swallowing everything in its path. 

That’s what it feels like.” I said. “It feels like The Nothing“.

“Do you remember what The Nothing actually was?” she asked, pointedly.

Yes! I DO. The Nothing was the absence of imagination.”

And there it was…

I have started to lose sight of what I imagine my future to be. I am not looking hopefully and enthusiastically toward it. I am still standing in the rubble of the life that has tumbled down around me…and I’m afraid to look forward. 

There is no HOPE without imagination.

So, that seems like a good place to start…

Being brave enough to imagine the future. It isn’t just about appreciating what I have, it’s also about believing that there’s beauty and happiness to come. 

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Day 234/365 Did You Ever Know?

“Did you ever know you were so strong?” he asked, tenderly (or was it…admiringly?). I could imagine him, grinning and shaking his head in mock disbelief.

After an emotionally draining weekend, I felt anything but strong. His words brought me to tears. I know crying makes him uncomfortable, so I fought against them. I tried to calm the tremor in my voice that would give me away…to hide how profoundly and deeply those words from my (ex) father in law had touched me.

Did you ever know you were so strong?

When he called I was walking through the woods, thinking about the last few years – the last year and a half especially. It is incredible how much has happened.  In my mind I was trying to rationalize my depression (Why am I still here in this painful place?).  I know I don’t need to rationalize it, but there I was nonetheless, making a mental list of all of the things that have happened that have weakened me – Everything that was causing me to feel so broken.

Did you ever know you were so strong?

His words reminded me that these things that have happened – they have not weakened me. They have not broken me. These turbulent times have forced me to keep rising up, over and over.  I have survived them all. I will keep surviving. I will keep growing stronger.

Did you ever know you were so strong?

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Day 233/365 I SAIL. I’M A SAILOR

There is no heat in my bedroom.

I don’t mean that metaphorically (smirk) though, sadly it does play in that context as well. I mean literally, I live in a converted summer cottage, and there is no heat on the second floor – only what rises up through the stairwell.

When my girls are home we all sleep with our bedroom doors open to circulate the heat (and also, of course, so I can hear them if they need me). Inevitably they both end up in my bed, along with the cat who likes to perform opera from atop my headboard at about 3am nightly.

He really knows how to commit.

On the weekends I close the bedroom door to avoid Diesel’s pre-dawn serenade (in the hopes of achieving that coveted and elusive REM sleep) and also to save on heat. It seems silly to keep it cranking from downstairs just for my benefit. So, on cold nights I throw an extra comforter or two onto my bed.

I woke up this morning with a sense of the chill in the room, although I wasn’t feeling it under all of the layers…flannel sheets, a quilt and two down comforters – oh, and I may have slept in a sweater (I know, I know, so much sexiness). I was like a reverse Princess and the Pea.

Anyway…I woke up feeling the weight and warmth of those layers and it was hard to get out of bed. I loved the feeling of being cocooned, protected. I thought of those weighted blankets they sell for children with anxiety.  The weight has a soothing quality.

Finally I dragged myself up and padded downstairs for some coffee.

Here’s where I admit to you that once again, I am struggling. I do see a pattern. I notice that sometimes the weekends can be hard for me. I don’t have my children here, and I don’t have to be at work…those are the two arenas in which I feel my strongest sense of self. They ground me.

I know my parent-friends who have their children with them all the time may not be able to relate to “time off” from their kids as evoking a feeling of loss. I mean, I know you can empathize, of course…but I do remember – I remember when I was with my children seven days a week (especially when I was a stay at home mom) having a Saturday without my kids was like a vacation. A really amazing vacation. I would be giddy over it. However, when it is virtually every weekend – the celebratory mood fades.

You miss them, a lot.

When you’re depressed, having children around helps. For one thing, I love them and being with them brings me true happiness (most of the time!). I am also aware of how my moods affect them, so I keep myself as even keeled as I can when they are with me.

So, sometimes on the weekends I let it all out, and I just depress the shit out of my dog, instead.

Zing.

I need to laugh, you guys…even if it is at my own expense.

It has been an emotional week here at Dipped In It, no? By Wednesday I had already tackled divorce, separation from children, and unrequited love. Loss, pain, and feeling like I have failed in some way. Feeling not enough

No wonder I am depressed, for Christ’s sake.

I need a vacation from my own thoughts.

Did you ever see What About Bob?

“You need to take a vacation…from your problems.”

Will somebody please tie me to the mast of a sailboat so I can have some effing fun!?

I SAIL. I’M A SAILOR.

No?

Okay, fine. A walk, then. I’m going to go bundle up and get some fresh air…“with the wind and the sky and everything…”

Thanks for listening. I actually do feel a bit better.

Day 223/365 Just Breathe

Over the past 223 days, I think I have missed four here on the blog. Four days that I didn’t write anything for you (or for me?). Two of those days have been in the past week.

My brain feels a bit like it is firing on overload. I have had so much going on that it feels like..well, it feels like complete chaos in my brain. I am often in a state of anxiety about remembering everything I have to do. I write everything down so I will remember, but it doesn’t quiet the constant chatter in my head.

What’s next, what’s next, what’s next…don’t forget, don’t forget…

At night I feel exhausted, and sometimes I feel like I just can’t organize my thoughts into something worthwhile to share with you. So I have given myself permission not to try…or at least, to try again tomorrow. 

I was talking to a friend yesterday who mentioned having gone on a medication for ADD.  I found myself hanging on her every word because when she was describing the calming effect the medications had on her, in sounded like heaven. This same friend has gently suggested to me in the past that I read a certain book…about ADD, and that hmm, ummm…perhaps I might fit the bill. 

I might.

I had always thought of ADD as an inability to sit still, or to focus…as hyperactivity. I never realized that there are people with ADD who do not display outward symptoms in this way at all. They can actually appear outwardly calm. People with ADD are even capable of hyper-focus if something holds their interest. All of the busyness is inside their heads. This can actually look like a calm dreaminess…like somone who is lost in thought (and they often are).

It can manifest as a lack of mental focus, and as distraction, irrtability, disorganization, anxiety, depression and exhaustion.

Do you know what can also manifest as a lack of mental focus, and as distraction, irritability, disorganization, anxiety, depression and exhaustion?

Grief. 

So…I don’t think now is the right time for me to seek an official diagnosis on the ADD front. For now I am going to just try to be gentle with myself.

It feels like I have a bowling ball sitting on my chest….and my mind is spinning…so I am pinned here listening to myself spin. 

Brutal.

I miss my dad. With each day that we step closer to the holidays and the anniversary of his death, I seem to ache more. I don’t want to face it…

That day. The days just before. The days just after. Can we skip them all?

And…the Elephant has me really scared. He seems to be taking up more and more of the room. He won’t be ignored.

I know I just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To keep using strategies to calm myself – writing things down to ease my anxiety about forgetting, taking space for myself when I can (hot baths are amazing in this capacity), trying to get in as many hugs and laughs as I can squeeze into a day (without forcing myself to be social when I don’t feel like it…and I often don’t feel like it, to be honest).

It will all be okay.

I can do this.

Just breathe.

Day 184/365 My Dear…

My whole Saturday and Sunday too
I was thinking about ways not to lose
I lay down my weapons is what I’ve done
Too late to hide, feet too soft to run*

This weekend…I wallowed.

I laid down my weapons.

I waved my white flag…mostly from my couch, in my pajamas, subsisting on bread and chocolate, coffee and wine.

I slept A LOT. I allowed my myself to feel angry and sad and sorry for myself. It was a pity party of one, and I was the guest of honor.

When my kids got home last night, I was so happy to see them. I played games with them and I cooked us a good meal, but honestly I was still inexplicably exhausted. I found myself counting the minutes until I could seek the safe haven of my bed once more.

And then…

This morning my inner voice whispered to me…

You needed that. I understand.

But, my Dear…

It’s time to pull yourself up.

You can do this.”

I believe her.

My inner voice is very wise –

She has been through a lot.

 

 

*Lyrics by The Wood Brothers

Photo by Alexis Harvey

 

 

 

Day 183/365 A Witness

I am not an addict…but somehow I imagine the way I feel today must be somewhat similar to how an addict feels when she has relapsed.

I was doing so well. I’ve worked so hard. If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you know that I started it six months ago because I needed to pull myself out of a depression.

I can’t bring myself to do it, but if you were to start reading at the beginning, I bet you will (or have) witness(ed) quite a transformation in me from March to August. I had my small relapses, but I think the growth was mostly upward and onward…

{I think so, anyway. Like I said, I can’t bring myself to go back and read it. Not yet.}

By August I felt vibrant and grateful – even optimistic.

I hit a speed bump at the beginning of September.  I thought it was the change of seasons that brought it on, but looking back, I think it was intuition.

I felt the Elephant  coming before I could see it and name it…like tremors in the earth on which I stood.

Boom…boom…boom.

Then, rather than a monkey on my back, it was the Elephant that got me. I have relapsed into a place of complete fatigue and helplessness.

The worst part is – like that relapsing addict, I feel ashamed.

I know better.

I am stronger than this. 

I have so many reasons NOT TO BE HERE…AGAIN.

But, the Elephant…the Elephant wrapped its trunk around my legs even as I tried to run.  I’ve toppled to the floor, and now he sits squarely on my chest.

“Don’t forget to breathe,” they say.

Fittingly, as I sit on my porch writing this…a dog is howling as if he is truly suffering.

I’ve already investigated…still in my pajamas, soaking my slippers in the wet grass as I trespassed; compelled to make sure the dog wasn’t trapped and wounded somewhere.

He wasn’t…not really. He was just…alone. We locked eyes through the window. He stopped howling for a moment, considering me. Then he resumed his sad, wounding song.

There was nothing I could do…his pain was coming from a void I couldn’t fix nor fill.

Back on my porch, I am forced to listen to him in his grief. He won’t stop. I think about drowning out the sound with some music, but somehow that seems disrespectful.

So we sit here, Louie and I, witnesses to this dog’s suffering. Louie occasionally whimpers in sympathy.

Sometimes that’s all you need…

Someone to hear you – or to witness you in some way…until such time as things in your world can make sense again.

Thanks for witnessing me. 

Day 144/365 What Color is Your Veil?

I believe the energy we radiate cloaks us like a translucent veil. It impacts both how the world sees us, and how we see the world.  It casts our colors onto everything.

This is one of the reasons that depression is so hard to shake.  It colors the veil through which we see the world, and everything seems…bleak and impossible.

To make matters worse, we sometimes get down on ourselves for feeling the way we do, especially if we are generally grateful and joyful people.

We know we have it in our wardrobe somewhere – that golden veil of joy and gratitude – but it is hidden.

Sometimes we just don’t know when we will lay our hands on it again.

Only time will tell.

What I can offer for those presently viewing life through a darkened veil, is that having known the darkness allows a person to better appreciate the light

…and once you find that golden veil again, you may find that the world is more beautiful than ever before.

Day 116/365 It’s Not About Nutella

“So, you cut away the stems that are dying off,” I explained to my girls this morning in the garden. “That way, the plant can put it’s energy toward the beautiful, new growth. See these new buds growing? Now the plant can put its energy toward those and it won’t waste it’s energy on parts that aren’t so good anymore…Come here. You have some Nutella on your chin.  Hmm…maybe that’s what I’ll write about today.”

Nutella?!

“Ha! Ummm, no. Not Nutella. New growth…making way for it.”

So, here’s the thing I have learned the hard way in the six months since the unexpected loss of my dad….like it or not, we only have a certain amount of energy – physical energy, heart energy, and brain power – with which to process our lives. This is true under the best of circumstances. Add grief, anxiety and/or depression – and we have even less to give.  That makes perfect sense. When we feel good we have more energy, and when we don’t feel good…well, we have less.

Many of us struggle to manage that trio – Grief, Anxiety and Depression. They are a tight knit group of visitors, and they always overstay their welcome.  They are the uninvited and entirely messy guests who can wreck havoc on our lives.

While struggling to evict those three thankless bastards I have learned some valuable lessons.

I have learned to really sit with what feels good to me. I more easily recognize what works for me and what doesn’t. I have learned the power of NO and the power of YES.  I have begun to say more of both, actually. I’ve stopped doing things I don’t have to do, just because I feel like I should. I’ve ordered up more of what feels good. For me I’ve noticed that means doing less. Creating more space, more peacefulness, more quiet, more down time.

What I’ve noticed as I’ve begun to help these uninvited guests pack their bags (as my dad would say, “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?”) is a heightened awareness of the moments in which I feel completely contented and happy. Truthfully, I’ve always been good at taking snapshots in my mind of beautiful moments…but now, I notice more of them, and I swear I feel them more deeply.

Even the really little things, like the feel of my daughter’s small hand in mine as we walk down the street together. I notice them more – the beautiful bits.


So, back to the plant…

The plant doesn’t recognize its dying parts  from its new and beautiful ones. It spreads its energy everywhere, equally. It can’t help itself. Just as those of us with that awful trio visiting cannot help but give our attention to them, pulling away valuable resources from noticing and developing the good stuff.

Eventually, we will be able to be more discerning about where we send our energy. This process may look different for everyone, and sometimes (like the plant) we might benefit from a little help.

In time, blessedly, we will be begin to send our energy where we truly want it to go…and we will notice the most beautiful blossoms.

Day 80/365 Worrier Princess

“I’m a Worrier Princess!” she proclaimed triumphantly.


“Do you mean, Warrior Princess?”

She laughed, “Oh yeah, warrior, not worrier!

It was good to clarify, because she does come from a long line of worriers.  My cousin, Lynette, and I will sometimes joke about the fact that if we can’t readily think of something to worry about – it worries us. 

“There must be something I’m forgetting to worry about! Oh God. Whatever it is, I bet it’s awful.”

When I get up there on my Queen Worrier throne, I try very hard to remember the best advice I ever heard about worrying:

Ask yourself one question – Is there something you can do about it whatever it is that is worrying you?

If the answer is yes, then do that thing that will help – do the project, fix the mistake, make the apology….whatever. If there’s something you can do about it – do it.

If the answer is no, then let it go. If there is literally nothing you can do about it, what’s the point of worrying?

Sometimes this exercise works really well.

Other times we are presented with such a constant stream of worries that worrying becomes our default setting.  This manifests itself in anxiousness (racing heart, racing head…); we become stuck in the heightened state of “fight or flight” and then, we become exhausted.

A young poet by the name of Sabrina Benaim said about her depression,

“Sometimes my depression is a firefly in the palm of a bear.

Sometimes it is the bear.”

That’s how I feel about my anxiety. So I get it. I know that sometimes it isn’t as simple as asking yourself whether or not there is something you can do about it.

In fact, sometimes that advice feels really patronizing and trite. (Sorry about that).

Sometimes what you need to do is go to bed. Let the head and the heart rest, and hope that when you wake up in the morning you will find a firefly beside you on your pillow, and not a big hairy bear hogging the bed.