A Day in the Life…

It’s easy to be optimistic, cheerful and positive when life is being sweet and kind. It’s certainly easier to be up when things are going well. It’s the times when life isn’t so merry or the routine of daily living becomes mundane and stagnant that the mood starts to slip. Sometimes the decline can be so gradual it’s hardly noticed. At first there may be denial. You think, sure I’m a bit down but that’s normal considering the circumstances. You keep on plugging away, getting irritated a little more frequently (well that’s because they’re all idiots), feeling a bit achy (maybe it’s the flu), you want to sleep more (but who doesn’t when it’s cloudy and cold outside), you start getting behind at work (It’s just a day no big deal). Not until the muck of despair starts to stick and the stench of melancholy covers you do you finally look up and think, whoa, here I am again, sitting in the pit of depression.

Sometimes anger is easier to deal with than the overwhelming sadness. Fuck you depression, you worthless piece of shit! You have done nothing but make me feel worthless and hopeless, lazy, resentful, unmotivated and helpless. Then that anger starts to spread and nothing feels right. Is this relationship really what I want for the rest of my life? He just doesn’t get me and I don’t get him, maybe we are not compatible. This job is a total dead end. I do nothing worthwhile and I am learning nothing new. My co-workers are idiots. Why is there so much traffic?! I swear no one knows how to drive! Maybe I should just quit everything and leave!

Snippets of reality sneak in. Hey, you’re depressed; you know not to make any major decisions when you feel like this. You are with a great guy, he’s done nothing wrong. Your job is what keeps you from living on the streets. It’s not your dream job but it pays the bills. Where would you run to? You have nowhere to go. Do you want to live with your mom? Hell NO! Ok, then calm down freaky depressed self, here’s some mind numbing T.V. to distract you. And so you move on to face another day.

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Regret, A Useless Thing

Regret is a heavy and useless thing to carry around. At least with remorse there is a possibility of apology, or some kind reconciliation. To me regret, stems from a choice or choices made that in no way can be altered. The deed is done and the consequences must be lived with.

It’s all well and good for others to say, “Live life with no regrets” or “I regret nothing because my choices made me who I am today.” Good for them, hurray they can be proud of who they are and where they are in life.

Mentally I know regret is pointless, I tell myself nothing can be done and I need to move on. I’ve done mental exercises to alleviate regret in the hopes of seeing the silver lining that I’m sure is there somewhere. But 15+ years later I still cannot let it go.

I made stupid choices, I was carless, I can never make amends. That time was such an enormous turning point for me that I’ve no doubt I would be a different person had I just been smarter. Would I be happier, I don’t know. With clinical depression there’s just no telling. The problem is I use that time in my life to perpetuate the self-loathing I struggle with so often.  The unknown is always brighter than the reality.

There are people that I miss so much from that time long ago. But as time passes people change, who knows if they are at all the same.  Just looking at Facebook I can see the radical changes some people’s lives have taken. Would they still be a part of my life had I lived life differently?  I made up this silly poem as I remembered the past:

I miss the You of yesteryear

I miss the You of then not now

I miss the You of might have been

You are not the You I knew

Nor will you ever be again

And then it became:

I miss the Me of yesteryear

I miss the Me of then not now

I miss the Me of might have been

I am not the Me I knew

Nor will I ever be again

Then I cried.

Hold On, Here Come The Holidays

Holidays and special occasions can be a really difficult time for people. Not just for those with mental health issues, or people that have suffered great loss, just everyday people. There is an expectation of happy that is assumed and almost down right demanded when it comes to these events. Because humans are not light switches it can be difficult to turn up the “happy” when it’s just not there. Some people become so immersed in the preparation they forget the entire purpose. Everything needs to be “just so” or it all falls apart.

When we think of stress we usually assume it is because of a negative thing. But even too much happy and excitement can be stressful. When I was growing up I would get so excited and worked up before Christmas I would end up getting sick. I would get so overwhelmed with emotions my body just couldn’t handle it. I would be miserable as I opened presents under the tree and I would be so unhappy that I couldn’t enjoy them.

I remember also being really sad when the holidays were over. It would be this enormous build up to an amazing gift and family filled event that would just end. This was never a gradual ending, gently lowered back to reality, it was a full on drop from the top. Christmas carols done, decorations put away, happy holiday wishes over. This was all traumatic in and of itself. I hated December 26th. I didn’t really consider New Year’s Eve a holiday until I was old enough to appreciate it.

As I got older I had to make a concerted effort to calm the hell down and appreciate each moment of the holiday season, not just the day. This helped me appreciate the other non-gift giving holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween so much more.

What I still see and hear about are those that haven’t yet been able to take that step back and appreciate the holidays for what they are. I don’t know anyone that will admit they want to show off their amazing cooking skills or brag about their mind-blowing decorations. But dang, if people don’t freak out when their potatoes are not fluffy or all the blue lights go out on their ridiculously huge Christmas tree.

What are the holidays about anyway? Are they to spend time with family, are they to remind us to be grateful for what we have, are there religious reasons? Whatever meanings the holidays hold in our hearts, those seem to get lost in translation when put into action. Remember the Reasons for the Season. Yes, that is an overused saying typically for Christmas decorations, but I think it holds true for any belief system that celebrates a special occasion.

Perhaps we can remind ourselves and those we love that it doesn’t matter if everything is perfect. Even if we are not full of the joy and thanks the holidays dictate, that’s OK too. Perfect is the time together not the stuff around us. Come on world, let’s give ourselves a break!

Where Is Our Empathy?

Some of the things I hear people complaining, protesting and vehemently bitching about are really freedoms and rights we take for granted. I find it amusing when the loudest complainers did absolutely nothing to deserve these freedoms they just happened to be born to them. They go on and on about their civil liberties, their rights, and justice for all. But “all” is who they deem worthy. Clearly they are worthy, they were born properly. Everyone else be damned.

Then there are those that protest the rights of others simply because their lives are harder than most, or so they perceive. They may have been picked on for being different, they don’t make as much money as they would like to, they may have been racially profiled or misjudged by others. They don’t have the “American Dream” so screw the rest of the world. I’m not saying they haven’t struggled, but why are they so angry with everyone else? No, this isn’t specifically about immigration, this is about the numerous things I see people make snap judgments and proclamations about.

There is a great demonstration that was created to bring awareness to rape, assault, and gender violence called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. I’ve seen pictures of men in the highest of heals walking that mile. It’s a literal and figurative statement that I find really beautiful. There are others that sleep on the streets to know what it’s like to be homeless and bring awareness to the struggles of our homeless population. Sure once the demonstrations are over, the men remove their shoes and put on their sensible loafers and the people return to their warm homes. But there are important statements made with these demos.

Would any of us choose to live in a country with no freedom, no rights, and constant war just to see what it’s like? Would we immerse ourselves in this culture so that we could fully protest their need to escape knowing the nightmares of tyranny and injustice they face on a daily basis?

Would any of us allow ourselves to be injected with heroin then get checked into rehab so that we can continue to call addicts weak? Would we still laugh at their struggles to stay clean and sober when our own bodies shake, sweat, become violently ill, and rebel against us?

Would any of us live with a person bigger, stronger, or more dominant than us that demeans and controls our every move so that we can continue to look down on those that live with domestic violence? Would we say “they asked for it” or “they probably deserved it” after we’ve been smacked for not preparing the meal just right? Would we run away, would we fight back, would we do all the things we say others should do when we have no money, no family, and no safety to run to?

There is this elusive emotion called empathy. It is the ability to put yourself in the other persons place to better understand what their struggles might be. It is with this emotion that makes the immersion process unnecessary. It allows us to see the barriers that others face so that we can create the resources and solutions to help them. Where has our empathy gone? There is so much judgment and self-riotousness in the news and I hate to say it even in my own extended family. We are no longer working on solutions or possibilities but we sure as hell will tell everyone when they are doing things wrong.

What Not to Say to Depressed People

Working in mental health as well as living with my own mental health condition, I witness all kinds of responses and reactions from family members and friends regarding their depressed loved one. Sometimes they mean well and other times they are just mean. Based on what I hear, it is often really difficult to tell the difference. In an effort to perpetuate the education and sensitivity of others I’m creating a little guide. I know these types of guides have been created before, but people are either not paying attention or they forget. Please print this out, pass it around, leave a copy at Starbucks or something! Perhaps we can start a movement of sensitivity and understanding. Not only are these phrases not helpful for people with depression, but they are not helpful for anyone that may be going through emotional turmoil such as grief, loss of a job, divorce etc.

Be grateful for what you’ve got, there are people who have it worse: Depression has absolutely nothing to do with not appreciating what you have. When the depression goggles go on, perspective takes a step back. By pointing out that anyone “should” feel a certain way just adds more guilt and shame to the already twisted emotions we already have. Sure, we could focus on the better things we have compared to say someone from a third world country, but does that make anyone feel good and happy? For some egotistical maniacs perhaps it does, for the rest of us, NO. This goes right along with…

It could always be worse: By golly you’re right. I’m so grateful my crap doesn’t have more crap on it I feel so much better, said no one EVER!

It is what it is: I hate this saying for a lot of reasons. For one, I think it’s over used and for another it’s usually used inappropriately. The only place this phrase works are in situations where it doesn’t really matter to you in the grand scheme of things e.g. You drive by a house and you don’t like the color. Someone says, “UGH, that is an ugly ass house”. You can then respond, “Well, it is what it is.” I think its original intent was to get people to stop trying to change things that they can’t, but the way I hear it being used they just sound like callus jerks. People that are experiencing a state of unhappiness or distress don’t want to hear this over used, useless saying. Let’s throw in “Don’t sweat the small stuff” as well!!

Cheer up, you are bringing me down: Then go away. If these words ever pass through your head don’t let them out, just let yourself out. We should also include “suck it up”. You suck so go away.

You need to get out more: Well if the weight of this misery wasn’t keeping me here planted firmly on the couch sure, I would be right out there with you.

If you ate this, took this vitamin or exercised more you would feel better: When it comes to physical health people suddenly become nutritionist and fitness gurus. They feel like they are in on a secret the rest of the world isn’t in on. Believe me, we have tried all these things at one point or another. They (for the most part) do not work. There is a reason they are called ‘FADS’.

Get out of your head, stop overthinking: Ok, I will do that if you can will your heart to stop beating. Stop needing oxygen to breath. Don’t think about purple elephants jumping on trampolines. Ya, not so easy is it?!

Get therapy, take meds: This isn’t necessarily a bad thing to recommend, but it’s how you bring it up. Often it’s the one with the least amount of knowledge regarding mental health that will say, “Just take a pill and get over it.” It may be that one person we wish would hear our words that says, “Go talk it out with a professional” or “shouldn’t you talk that over with your therapist instead.”

Depression can be frustrating not only for the person who is suffering but the loved ones around us, we know this. So often I hear people ask, “What can I do to help.” The easiest answer is, be there. Don’t go in thinking you are going to fix anything, most of the time you can’t. Just make your availability known, and don’t allow too much time to go by if they don’t make contact with you. Actions can speak louder than words.

I Am Friggin Crazy

It all started Sunday morning. I was feeling ‘ok’, got my coffee and decided to check out the latest posts on WordPress. The most prominent posts I see are from aopinionatedman. He posts on a regular basis and typically several times a day. Aside from his name sakes “opinion” blogs, he also allows his vast number of followers to use his blog space as a way to network and advertise their own blogs. I enjoy taking advantage of this opportunity as I’ve found some really great bloggers I would never have found on my own.

Sunday’s networking post was asking bloggers to post their top 10 posts within his comments section. This way his followers can easily click directly to posts the blogger may be most proud of and decide if they are interested or not. Simple right? I go through my posts and find only 3 I think may give a good idea what I typically write about: depression, infertility, and life in general. I copy and paste the links into the comments section and hit the confirmation button. I then click one of the links to make sure they are working. This is where the world begins to crumble. The links I’ve posted don’t take me to my published posts, they take me to the ‘edits’ section of my posts. I think, perhaps this was just because I am the owner of the account. My brain is now trying to rationalize something I refuse to believe has happened. I take a closer look at my copied link and sure enough, it has the word ‘edit’ in it. I’ve now posted an easy access link to my personal edit page so that anyone can go in and change, delete, etc. my deeply personal blog.

Panic rushes through me, surly if I can post something I can just as easily delete it! I search and search only to learn that I can’t do a damn thing. The owner of the accounts controls everything once you’ve posted a comment. WHAT? WHY? Even on Facebook if you post something on someone’s wall you regret later you can delete it !! Anger, disbelief and cursing ensue. I then find aopinionatedman’s email address and send a series of three emails. The first being completely blank because in my panic instead of writing anything in the body of the email I just put in a subject and hit send. The second was a self-depreciating, “hey I did something stupid can you please delete” message. I try to sound calm, I try to sound normal. I let some time pass.

Once some panic eased the imagination took control. Rational me said, ‘Relax, the people that use WordPress are good people. They will respect my privacy and once they realize my error they will quickly get out of it and read the posts for what they are.’ Crazy me said, ‘Oh my god you are a complete idiot! Some crazy person (more crazy than me) is going to steal your account and use your posts as their own. They will change what you’ve written and you will look like a bigger idiot! You don’t deserve to continue writing; you need to just delete this account. Your heart and soul has been opened for the world to manipulate how can you go on?’ Crazy me won this battle.

By now I’m unable to function. I’m crying like a moron. I’m staring at my email in the hopes the blog’s owner lets me know it’s been taken care of. It’s only been about an hour. I send my third email, this one making my desperation and irrational state of mind clear. A few minutes after the last message I receive a very simple, kind email that says it’s not a problem and the post has been deleted. The world did not end, no one went in and did anything to the posts (that I could see) and I did not die. Will I ever be able to post links again, I do not know I may be too crazy :-(.

Here is link to his post: http://aopinionatedman.com/2014/11/03/wordpress-meet-and-greet-3-all-bloggers-welcome/

Depression and Anxiety…are they a couple?

I’ve been exploring WordPress a lot lately, specifically blogs related to depression. So many people write about having a combination of depression with anxiety. Initially, I felt very different than these bloggers because I don’t believe I currently suffer from anxiety. I am overly sensitive, I do experience irrational fears, distorted thoughts, but I don’t have the panic I read so much about. But as I began exploring my childhood I realized anxiety may have been an early component. I remember so many late nights I would become overwhelmed with fear, become sick to my stomach and shake. I was so young I didn’t know how to express what I was going through other than the physical symptoms. My poor mother would stay awake with me while I shook and cried uncontrollably on the toilet with a bucket in front of my face for vomit that never came. Trying to remember exactly what would trigger these episodes I believe ranged from fear of loved ones dying to fear of friends still being my friends when I went to school the next day.

Have I grown out the anxiety? I don’t think so. Whatever it is I believe it is still a part of me but has manifested into other traits. It seeps out in other unhealthy and intrusive ways.

I over think. I will replay scenarios in my head from years sometimes decades ago and still have regret, embarrassment, sadness, and or anger attached to it. I will replay what happened, then think of all the ways it should have happened. Most of the scenarios would be considered by most to be inconsequential. Things others wouldn’t even remember the next day, let alone eons later. I’ve no idea what makes these specific incidents stand out so much. There have been other similar incidents in my life that don’t have the same effect and I forget about it. It’s all very random and annoying.

I do have an irrational fear of failure. I don’t take a lot of risks when it comes to people, learning new things or employment. When I do take risks there is a LOT of anxiety, but I think some fear and anxiety is normal when it comes to new things. I could be wrong.

I always have to have a plan. I’m flexible within a plan, but without an initial plan I don’t want to undertake the journey or task. If I’m forced into a situation that has no plan I become angry, irritated and do anything in my power to create one. Maybe I’ve just accommodated my anxiety. Maybe I just forced myself to adapt. Will I over think this as well? Of course!

Right now I have no answers. I’ve never explored this with an objective purpose. I’ve used words like “uptight”, a bit OCD, “set in my ways”, and of course depressed to describe the way I am. And so the exploration of me continues. I’m grateful for others who blog freely and honestly about their experiences. It has helped me learn more about myself and normalized much of what I experience. I hope mine may do the same for others as well.