Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sometimes the most life altering events happen in the places you'd least expect

I'm almost nervous to write this post because I'm afraid that my words aren't going to properly convey my experience and emotions...but here goes.

As I've stated in a previous blog entry, I admitted myself to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital in late June. What I didn't mention is that the experience was not life changing nor did it help with my problems. A portion of that was my fault- I was terrified and ashamed and spent my three day stay holed up in my tiny room, refusing to come out for groups or meals. I left my room one time to attend an "assessment" which involved me sitting in a room with about five people staring at me and analyzing everything I said...I almost felt like I was on trial. That was the only time I saw a psychiatrist during my stay.

The aftercare wasn't much better, and after one appointment (which consisted of me completing various questionnaires on a computer) I stopped going. Yes, I know this was not a good course of action. I simply did not like this particular health system but I felt I had to go there because the other option- the hospital I work at- was out of the question. I was worried someone I knew would see me there and ask questions or, even worse, judge me. I went to the "bad" hospital's psych ER about three more times over the next few months and always left feeling no better than when I had started.

Fast forward to January 3, 2017. I had spent my holiday season drinking myself to the point of not being able to feel. I did that on purpose. I didn't want to feel anything because of my (apparently) impending divorce. I had spent a lot of time trying to prove myself to my husband, to make him believe I was worthy of his love and that I could be a "good" wife, that I was just sick and needed to find a way to get better only to find myself walking in circles. I wasn't able to understand that nothing, literally NOTHING I did was going to be good enough. Nothing was going to impress him or change his views about me. I found myself wishing I had a "visible" disease, something he could understand...because then he'd stick by me no matter what. Depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder are unseen medical conditions that manifest in unpleasant behaviors and reactions- and who wants to deal with that, right? Who cares what I'm truly like as a person? Forget her, she may exist under all those awful layers but she's not worth digging for, not worth waiting for. It was truly the lowest point in my life.

After a weekend of drinking (plus one extra day since I had Monday off for the New Year holiday), I woke up Tuesday morning feeling horribly depressed, hopeless and with very little will to live. I felt like I was still in a fog, still intoxicated. I made a decision for myself at that moment. I was going to call my mother and have her take me somewhere for help. I didn't care if it was for a month- I was going somewhere...and that somewhere was the hospital I work at. I felt I had nothing to lose at that point and I knew what the outcome of attending the other hospital would be.

My mom arrived within half an hour. I kissed my dogs goodbye and we were off. I was seen right away through the ER after explaining to the intake personnel that I essentially wanted to die- that if I had a gun I would blow my head off right now. My hopelessness, depression, anxiety and feelings of worthlessness were attacking me all at once- on top of the after effects of drinking.

After being assessed by a social worker and physician it was decided that, whether I liked it or not, I was going to be admitted to a psychiatric unit for help. I wanted the treatment so this wasn't a big deal but they made it clear that the doctor was petitioning for my admittance regardless. The next step was finding a place that had room for me. There was talk of sending me to Chelsea, MI and a few other places within about 50 miles but after checking availability the only unit that had a bed for me was right where I already was- the unit at my hospital. I didn't have much choice and I really wanted the help so I didn't protest.

A few hours later, I was whisked off to the hospital's psychiatric unit. I wasn't as nervous as the first time I was hospitalized because I had an idea of what to expect. I went there determined to make the most of it. I told myself I wouldn't hide in my room, I'd attend all the groups offered to me and take full advantage of the treatment options. The first difference I noticed is how much more welcoming and friendly the staff was. They made me feel at ease. My room was much more spacious and they didn't lock my bathroom for 24 hours like the other hospital did. I didn't feel so much like a prisoner, which was a pleasant surprise. I even attended an activity after I got situated and dressed- a pet therapy session. I was quite proud of myself for leaving my room so soon after admission- something I couldn't bring myself to do the first time.

I was prepared for many things- the admission protocol, the types of groups I'd attend, the meetings I'd have with various mental health professionals, some possible medication changes. What I didn't expect, though, was what the next seven days were going to bring me. I didn't expect to meet a group of people that I would fall in love with...people that I'd wish I had more time with, people that I would want to keep in touch with "on the outside." People who understood me and made me feel more comfortable in my own skin than I have in many, many years- actually, possibly the most comfortable I've felt in my skin my whole life.

For privacy reasons, I can't use anyone's name nor will I use fake names in order to describe the diagnoses or issues any of my fellow patients have. None of that matters anyway. What matters is what incredible human beings they are. I've never seen such acceptance, kindness and camaraderie as I did during my stay in the unit. My very first group involved listing goals for the day on paper, something I had no problem doing. I figured I'd be turning my paper in for the social worker to review later, which was fine by me since one of my goals was a bit personal. As others around the room began volunteering to read their goals, then volunteers trickled down and people were being called on to share a slow feeling of panic spread over me. We had to read our goals OUT LOUD?

I leaned over to a man across the table from me and whispered, "We have to read these out loud?!"

"Yeah," he responded back. I felt like he looked slightly amused but I can't say I trusted my perception at that point.

"Well fuck. I don't want to read this one. I don't want to cry," I hissed, pointing to the personal goal.

"Don't read that one, just read the others or make something up," he whispered back, trying to be helpful. I instantly liked him. I had been watching him across the table as he cared for a much older fellow patient, reassuring her when she worriedly asked him if anything bad would happen today and complimenting her on the goals she had listed. I'd also heard him tell someone else to fuck off, jokingly (I think). My kind of person.

When my turn came, I bit the inside of my cheek for a split second, then read all of my goals, even the personal one, out loud. I glanced at him and he gave me the thumbs up. It felt great to let something out that I was scared to share and almost kept to myself. That moment opened up something for me and set the tone for the rest of my stay, from a participation and sharing standpoint. I attended all groups (with the exception of one because I woke up with a pounding headache and had to lay in my dark room with my eyes shut) and spent time outside my room between activities, making friends and socializing.

Each day I woke up feeling better than the previous day. There was no hangover. No stress, no weight on my shoulders, no black cloud hanging over me. I didn't think about having a drink to stifle my feelings. I found myself looking forward to getting out of bed and sitting with my "posse" and having breakfast and delving into the day's activities together. I shared my feelings in group therapy without feeling scared someone would laugh at me or roll their eyes. I felt heard and respected. I listened and respected. Each night at 7:00 we would gather in the TV room and watch the movie of the night, sharing candy and snacks and laughing while genuinely enjoying each other's company. And what's more, I was having a great time without any alcohol. Pure fun without a buzz. This was a relatively new concept to me and I fucking loved it.

I didn't want to leave. Obviously I knew I'd have to eventually, we all would have to, but I didn't want it to happen anytime soon. This was my safe place where I was accepted, mental health issues and all. Flaws and all. Scars and all. Nothing I could reveal about myself made the others dislike me or not want to be around me. And nothing any of them could have said about themselves would make me dislike them or think less of them, either.

It was like magic. I don't know how else to describe it. Not the words I'd ever have thought I'd use to convey my feelings about a stay in a psychiatric unit, but that's what it was to me. I felt free and happy. I felt more like my true self.

I am the type of person who either has all her walls up or completely down. There is no in between for me. My walls fell down on their own this past week. I let myself feel everything. I let myself make friends and not worry about whether or not they truly liked me- I allowed myself to believe they did. I also allowed myself to watch a couple movies with the guy who helped me through my first goal setting group. Everyone else had settled on a comedy on the main TV. For those hours, we watched movies and talked about our lives. Nothing I shared about myself seemed to repulse him or make him think I was "damaged." I told him about how I drank when I felt uncomfortable or sad. How I sat in my bathroom one night, completely beside myself with despair and hurt, and cut my arm with a razor- not to kill myself, but to make the pain stop. He understood. He didn't think I was a freak or a nutjob. That night, from the moment the first movie started to the moment the clock struck 11:00 and everyone had to go to their rooms and he walked with me to mine and lightly touched the small of my back and said he'd see me in the morning, is one I will not forget.

I came home today. I woke up extra early this morning so I could spend more time with my new friends before my 9:30 am discharge. I said goodbye to some people I'd never see again and to others who I know I'll be in contact with. I cried as I hugged each one of them goodbye. I was happy to be feeling more like my old self and to be starting the next part of my journey but sad at the thought that none of this would ever happen again. Even if I was to be admitted again in the future (I can confidently say I won't) it will never, ever be like this particular stay. To me, it was as if all the "right" people were admitted at the same time with all their "damages" and different backgrounds so they could all come together. Maybe it wasn't as life altering for everyone as it was for me but I'm thankful for it. I'm not saying I'm "fixed." It's up to me to put the work and effort in now. But I feel stronger now, more confident and capable. I feel like I can do this.

If any of my new friends are reading this, thank you. Thank you for everything. I can never repay you for what you've given me. I hope I was able to give you something as well. Because of you (and some good medicine, ha) I am a different person. I now have hope. I feel like I have purpose. I no longer feel worthless or unworthy of friendship and love. Years of therapy couldn't have gifted me with those things.

And thanks to someone I'll call Miss S, I know one thing for certain, which I will use to close this extremely long and all over the map post: I AM a princess. I deserve a prince.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Night Terrors

While I am still hesitant to write about my mental illnesses and how, as my mother so perfectly worded it, they have made me an easy target for those who want to blame me for everything happening in my life, I do want to talk about nightmares. More specifically, night terrors. I haven't really seen too many of my friends mention experiencing them but I find it hard to believe I'm alone. 

Mayo Clinic defines night terrors, or sleep terrors, as "episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep. Also known as night terrors, sleep terrors often are paired with sleepwalking. Like sleepwalking, sleep terrors are considered a parasomnia — an undesired occurrence during sleep. Although sleep terrors are more common in children, they can also affect adults. A sleep terror episode usually lasts from seconds to a few minutes, but they may last longer. Sleep terrors are relatively rare, affecting only a small percentage of children — often between ages 4 and 12 — and a smaller percentage of adults. However frightening, sleep terrors aren't usually a cause for concern. Most children outgrow sleep terrors by their teenage years. Sleep terrors may require treatment if they cause problems getting enough sleep or they pose a safety risk."

I experience these several times a year and they scare the hell out of me. The first time I remember having one was my early 20s. I had strep throat and was on medication. I woke from my sleep laying sideways on my bed, and I could not move. I felt like I was suffocating. I saw black shadows crawling across my ceiling and I fought and fought to scream till finally I blurted out, "Go back to hell where you belong" and was able to kick my legs and breathe again. Needless to say, it was terrible but I attributed it to the medication I was on and went back to sleep. 

After that, they have continuously happened to me 3-4 times a year and they range from just waking up and not being able to move to feeling something hitting me in the stomach and seeing figures standing over me. I can't scream, I can't breathe and I am filled with absolute terror. Not only that, they don't always just stop after a few seconds and even when I am able to wake myself up, when I start to go back to sleep, they return. I've also, apparently, wailed in my sleep for minutes on end while moving my legs around (someone else witnessed that). 

It happened again last night and I think that's why I'm feeling so emotional today. I am exhausted from not getting much rest and I am infinitely sad that no one was there to comfort me and that the only being in the house who was near me and tried to help was Jake, my dog. I woke to seeing a thin, shadowy figure walk into my room and tried telling it to leave, that it was not welcome, but I couldn't speak or move. About 30 seconds of that, then I could move again. I'd go back to sleep and something else would happen. I had several vivid dreams that I couldn't wake myself from- being attacked by a dog (my mom's gentle dog, Zeus, which upset me even more), seeing someone I cared about being eating by a lion in a lake, I thought I heard my dogs fighting, I was at a party I didn't want to be at and no one would let me leave, something dark knelt by my bed and I screamed out, "I don't have any children" (I don't know why I said that). Over and over again I would try to fall asleep and almost immediately see some terrible vision and feel like I was being smothered, then break out of it by crying or yelling out. 

Poor Jake tried his best. He licked my arms and face and tried waking me up. I finally got the idea to lay with my arms around him hoping for rest and had only one episode after that- then sleep came, but not restful sleep. Every noise I heard woke me up. Every shadow I saw made me turn my cell phone flashlight on. I contemplated sleeping with the lights on. 

It makes me feel like a crazy person, I have to admit (perhaps some would say the correct word to use would be "crazier" person). Of course, no one likes nightmares- who would? I can't help but wonder if it's just another symptom of my other illnesses but I do know these are not my fault. Lately things like this have been happening with more frequency and so much worse. I'm not sure what the remedy is, if there is one at all. 

It felt good to write about this because I don't feel quite as much like bursting into tears for no reason as I did before I let it out. That's why I need my blog. I don't post daily but when I do post, it's because I need to. I appreciate whoever stuck with reading through my rambling words, I didn't have a lot of time to spend on this but again, I needed it out. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Seen and Not Heard

With the recent presidential election, I have seen the best and worst of people on social media and in "real life." I've read posts made by friends that make me wonder if I really know them as well as I'd like to believe. I've seen the city that I work in make national news because a white woman spit on a black man at the polls and called him racial slurs. It's not a pretty time in this country, that I know for sure. On the other hand, I have seen people trying to lift others up and encourage them during this shitstorm. I've seen friends respectfully disagree and it has made me think that perhaps all is not lost.

But that's not the main point of this blog. Something else is on my mind tonight and while this post might be all over the map, I need to get it out. For me, social media has been an extremely important part of my life (put down your pitchforks, advocates of "put your phone down and go outside). In person I am at times awkward. I don't always know what to say and I'm almost always suspicious that when I meet new people, they don't like me. I've done my best not to appear that way on the outside but if you could peer inside my head while I'm at social events you'd want to feed me a Xanax. Social media is a way for me to be to be involved while still feeling safe from the judgment I'm convinced I face when someone meets me in person. Is it all in my head? Yeah, I'm pretty sure it is. Does that make it any less difficult for me? Nope.

I have used Facebook as my outlet in many ways. I've raged about animal abuse. I've shared my (somewhat unpopular) opinions about this election. I've called people out when they try to hide behind a computer and be hateful to others. I'm not ashamed of any of these things. I've actually only been ashamed of my posts one time in my life, and that is when I shared personal information about what was happening between my husband and I. I should not have done that and can confidently say I will never do it again. I was acting out of a place of anger and hurt and neglecting to think about repercussions. I was letting myself feel all the emotions rather than stuffing them down. I'm proud of that part but not so proud of the rest. I have wanted to publicly apologize to my husband and I'm using this forum to do so. I am so, so sorry, Tom. I've made it clear to you what you mean to me and it's up to you to decide how far your forgiveness will go.

The title of this blog is "Seen and Not Heard" and that's essentially how I feel today. Today, after calling someone out for a racist, bigoted comment he made I was privately messaged and called a stupid bitch, a skank and ugly. I was told it was clear why I don't have a man. He said I loved black men (but he used to N word). He also said that "Blacks are ruining this country and stupid assholes like you talk so much shit." This stellar human being then proceeded to block me before I could respond.

I'm cool with debating. I don't even mind trading insults. But to send such a message then block me? That's cowardly. And I wasn't having it. I shared the message on my wall and told my 600+ friends that if they felt so inclined, to message Captain Fuckface and let him know what they thought of him. This isn't something I've done before. It's not me to ask others to fight my battles. However, when you block me as a way to "silence" me from firing back...that doesn't sit well.

Those who didn't want to partake kept scrolling. A good portion of my friends and family did message him. Then, out of nowhere, one friend told me I was being "immature" and that I needed to "be a woman" and turn the other cheek. I'll be honest, I kept calm with her because I have believed since I met her that she needs friends, but inside I was seeing red. Turn the other cheek? Be a woman? Allow me to understand this: a male internet troll is allowed to use words like "faggot" and "nigger" and we should all just shrug our shoulders and say it's cool because we should be the bigger people? No. Hell to the fuck NO.

I will always hold people accountable for their fucked up behavior. It is not, and never will be, OK in my eyes to spew hate speech and misogyny because some cowardly fuck (who likely has a dick so small it's practically inverted) is able to hide in the safety of mama's basement and say horrible things to others without consequence. That's not what I'm about. I don't give a rat's ass if it's "just Facebook." Too many assholes are using "just Facebook" as their platform to tear down other genders, minorities, sexual orientations etc. and I frankly don't give a fuck who thinks it takes more energy to try and shut them down than it does to ignore...it's NOT OK and I will always make that known.

I feel like a lot of people want me to be quiet. I think I make people uncomfortable with how open I am, how much I'm apt to swear and my willingness to call people out when they do something shitty. Someone attacked my sister this morning and I refused to let it slide...and a family member threatened to unfollow me for "starting shit on Facebook." While I'm used to this, it still makes me scratch my head. And once again, it's over something a man said. Apparently we're supposed to shake our heads and overlook "boys being boys" because that makes us the "bigger people." If that's the case, I don't want to be the bigger person. I want to be the person who refused to keep her mouth shut. I want to be the one who inspires someone else to stand up for what's right, whether it's on social media or in person. I'm tired of being told to ignore it, to turn the other cheek, to rise above. Fuck that shit.

This is me. I am a fighter. I stand up for what I believe is right. I stand up for those with mental health issues. I stand up for anyone who has ever been bullied for how they look, who they love, which gender they identify with, etc. I will never, ever be everyone's cup of tea. People in my family don't even like me half the time. It used to hurt but to stifle who I am at my core to please those people will damage me way worse than their disapproval.

No one, absolutely NO ONE, is going to silence me.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dear Joe

First of all, happy birthday. You would be nine today. This morning I would've opened my eyes and snuggled you (and possibly sang to you) and told you how we'd celebrate when I got home from work later. I would've brought you some cake and ice cream and a toy that I'm sure Maggie would have immediately claimed as her own. You wouldn't have cared, you always shared your toys. I would've made you both pose in silly party hats and posted the pics on Facebook for everyone to look at. You see, a lot of people loved you besides just me. A lot of people had their day brightened by a cute Joe Boxer pic. I think it's safe to say you had a fan base.

Today is going to be a little different. 11/7 will always be different, for the rest of my life. Today I woke up and thought of you as Jake and I did our morning ritual of me hitting snooze and him snuggling up on my shoulder to catch a few more ZZZ's. I finally got up and had to coax him out of bed, just like I sometimes had to do with you. We went downstairs and Jake went outside to go potty then came trotting back in and waited at the treat jar, just like every other morning. He ate his treat and we headed back upstairs. I scratched his butt as he walked and he stopped at the landing so I could rub his back, too. We do this every morning now. It's comforting to me. I like it- it's good for me. And it's good for Jake.

I was looking through old pics this morning. I wanted to remember all your other birthdays. I always tried to make them special with cake or treats and presents and party hats and singing. You were the light in my life and I wanted to celebrate you every single day. Although my memories aren't all as vivid as they used to be, I still remember so much. The time you bit Kevin's head because he wouldn't stop shaking me by the shoulders (he was joking, and I did warn him, but he thought it was funny- till he was sporting tooth marks in his forehead). When you heard my friends out in our yard late one night trying to wrap my car in Saran Wrap- I didn't hear a thing but you sure did- you alerted me right away. You always kept me safe. I remember days of working as a waitress and coming home to find something new you had destroyed (digital camera, medicine ball, remote)- that's when I had to start crating you. But you were OK with it and always happy to see me when I got home.

We went on road trips together. You were my best buddy, my sidekick. I lost track of how many nights you watched me cry from whatever man had broken my heart at that particular time and you leaned on me and licked my tears till I couldn't do anything but laugh and hug you and feel lucky to have you as my dog. I could look at you, just a look, maybe a head tilt, and you could read what I was thinking. People may not believe that but you and I know it was true. You understood me and I understood you.

That's why I knew I had to let you go that day. I knew in my heart you were ready and you were done- that you had fought as hard as you could and I fought with you but we weren't going to win this one. Life has not been all that great for me since you left. I always said that it would drive me to the brink of insanity to lose you but I didn't realize how true that statement actually was. I miss you every single day and I'm not sure what I would do if I didn't have Jake to hold onto at night. I often wonder what you'd think of him...he's kind of an asshole but that's a puppy thing and I do recall you were a bit of an asshole till about age 4. Of course I say that about Jake just as lovingly as I said it about you. It's a term of endearment, it truly is.

Tonight Barb from Camp (you remember Camp, you liked to go there and play) will probably come over and share some wine with me. It's not just any wine- it's a special bottle she brought me on New Year's Eve 2015- two days after I had to let you go. It was my favorite wine and they had stopped making it but somehow she brought me a bottle. I said I would save that bottle till your birthday and raise my glass to what an amazing dog you were, and it still sits in the cupboard today. I plan to sit and think about all the ways you were my perfect boy. Jake and Maggie will wear hats and they'll get some cake. I will be as upbeat as I can but make no guarantees I won't cry. Crying is good- it means you affected me that deeply. You changed my life, Joe Boxer. I wouldn't trade one moment for anything.

Someday I hope to see you again. Sometimes I think you're still all around me. I look for signs but I can't be sure. Happy birthday, my boy. Mama loves you to the moon and back and always will.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Another New Beginning

I haven't blogged in awhile so I figure my lunch break on a Tuesday is as good a time as any. Before this, I had posted about my intent to write about how happy I was at how my life was going. I'm glad I didn't because I'd look like a complete fool at this point.

The depression is getting SO much better. I think I'm finally beating that and will be OK although I'll always need to practice diligent self-care to keep it "in remission" (is that even a thing for depression?). Unfortunately, my depression and all the other ways I'm not perfect have apparently cost me my marriage. I have never felt so unwanted and damaged and broken in my life. I did want it to work and I loved fiercely with everything I had- that's what I do when I throw myself into something.

I think it's time to stop wearing my heart on my sleeve and believing that everyone has good intentions, and that "happily ever after" exists with a man because honestly? I don't believe it does. Not for a second. I think that I'm just a pretty face to every man I meet (I'm not intending to sound conceited here, either). I don't think anyone sees me as anything more than that and once I show my true self, even the parts that aren't so put together and shiny, a man will always run from that or try to break me down.

I have so many things running through my mind: moving (although I do have a place I can rent), losing friends, starting over, who will kill spiders for me...how will I ever date again someday when no one seems to really want the total Amanda package, etc.

I think I'm strong and I know I won't die. I can do this. I think the problem is the person inside of me who actually wants to have a family and build a life is so disappointed that she's never going to believe what anyone tells her about love ever again. She's always going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. And that sucks, because I miss her. She was happy and enjoyed life and always believed her "true North" would appear and she'd have her own kind of fairy tale. Now she's 34, never really goes out and does anything and thinks boxed wine is one of the food groups.

This isn't a post looking for pity. I just needed to get my feelings out. I don't need or want pity, truly. I do need and want my friends and family and I'm so thankful for the uplifting talks, people who have taken me out to get my mind off of things, just the support in general. I'm so damn lucky in that regard. I've kind of seen this coming. I tried to fight it but I have to take the gloves off now and hang them up. I'm looking ahead and I know I'll have my pets and my friends and family to help me muddle through.

I'm hoping this can be my last "sad" post for awhile. I want to go back to writing funny stories like I used to. I really, really enjoy making people laugh and smile even if it's by sharing a slightly embarrassing story or something that makes me look silly. I can laugh at myself and my sense of humor is definitely not dead. So if you're still reading, thank you and I promise things will get better after this. I had a fleeting thought to delete my old posts because what if someone new comes along and sees them and decides he doesn't want any part of that...but that would be betraying the many people who have messaged me or commented or texted saying, "Hey, me too. You said what I could not bring myself to say about how I feel. Thank you." I won't do that to those people. I'm only capable of being genuine and to delete would not be genuine.

So I'm off to put on my big girls pants and face whatever comes next. Standing on the ledge ready to take the leap. Maybe I won't fall, maybe I'll actually fly this time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A soul not so black

This week I helped rescue a puppy that was being sold on a Detroit garage sale site. I say helped because it was truly a joint effort...I found her and wanted to save her but my friends and family, being the amazing people they are, all assisted to make it happen. For two days I argued with the seller who kept standing me up on when he'd bring this sweet baby to me. A lot of people who care about me were worried he was scamming me or that he was setting me up to be robbed. Some thought there was no puppy at all and that he was stringing me along. My heart told me to keep on trying anyway- to not give up just yet.

And last night, this beautiful baby was placed in my arms.

I don't have proper words for the emotions that came over me when I was finally holding her. I was going to be able to make sure she had an amazing life with a loving forever family. The fact that I had the power to forever change the world for this sweet little soul made it all worth it. 

I don't get to assist with rescue nearly as often as I'd like, but I do what I can. I wish I could save every single animal in need that I come across, but I can't. I've been asked, in a roundabout way, why I put myself through it. I don't even view it that way. This is my chance to do two things: make a difference in the world one animal at a time and maybe, just maybe, save myself from believing all the horrible things my brain- my depression- tries to tell me about myself on a daily basis.

You see, even when I'm not having "an episode" or a low moment, I'm almost always fighting a struggle inside. I'm ugly, I'm useless, I drink too much, I have gained too much weight. I'm not a good friend, not a good daughter. And definitely not a good wife. All these marks against me have made me feel like my soul has turned black and that there's nothing special or worthy about me. When I save a life it makes me feel like maybe I'm not all those things, at least for a little while. I feel like a good person who is making contributions to the world rather than just pathetically existing until she dies. Animals have always had a way of making me feel more selfless, more giving and more kind. 

Some days I feel pretty inside and out. Those are the days you'll see me on Facebook being cheerful and funny, and posting selfies. The majority of the time, though, I'm just struggling to get out of bed, put on my big girl pants and face the world without wanting to retreat. Animals help me with that. 

So that's why I do the things I do. Maybe someday when I meet my maker, if there is one, he'll forgive the bad things I've done in my life because the good things will overshadow them. 

And when I get there, I expect all the dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, squirrels, frogs (and any other creatures I may have left out) I have rescued and loved to be waiting for me. That, to me, sounds just like heaven. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Coming out the other side of a black hole

You may not know this about me, either because you don't know me well enough or I didn't share this aspect of my life with the world till now, but I suffer from severe and at times debilitating depression and anxiety. I've struggled with it all my life although I wasn't officially diagnosed till my mid 20s. Since then, my life has been a roller coaster of being fine, being just OK or being in what I can only describe as the deepest black hole I can imagine. Part of the black hole is my fault- I take daily medication for my condition and once I started to feel good, I'd stop taking it. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision on my part. I never woke up one morning and thought, "Man I feel good, I'm not taking my medicine today." It would be forgetting to take it one day, then two, then seven, then a month...and then I'd find myself back at rock bottom, fighting demons I can't see and hating myself for ever thinking I could exist without my medicine.

Turns out I hadn't actually hit rock bottom till earlier this summer. The years of taking my meds then stopping, pretending I was just fine and self-medicating to avoid situations that made me uncomfortable (family parties where I was worried someone might ask why I don't have kids yet, gatherings with friends that made me feel like unless I was drinking no one would like the real Amanda who is actually kind of reserved and quiet) caught up with me with the force of a speeding freight train. I found myself hospitalized- I put myself there. I called for help on my own because I was scared to death at how low I felt and what dark thoughts were running through my mind: "Maybe you're better off dead" "Your family might hurt for awhile but they'll be happier without you" "Your husband doesn't need your bullshit and could find someone better" "Your life will never amount to anything else anyway- you might as well stop it all now"- these are all things I actually thought and believed and it terrified me. So I made a call and was checked in at U of M. I spent three days there hiding in my private room, wearing pants with no drawstring (you can't have anything on you that could be used for self-harm) and having my every move monitored. I felt like a failure as a person, wife, daughter, sister, dog mama. It was like everyone was watching me and nodding their heads saying, "We knew this would happen. We knew she'd crash and burn." I was very embarrassed. It's not easy to admit you don't have control over yourself, that there's a chemical imbalance in your brain, a defect in your DNA, that makes you different than "normal" people in society.

It wasn't my last trip to the hospital, either. I wanted SO badly to be well after those three days, to be able to put it all behind me and smile and be a productive citizen, one of the shiny happy people. I couldn't think of anything I wanted more than to be the woman who is always smiling. The woman who keeps her husband happy and is a good friend and family member. I didn't want to be the one who sometimes didn't want to get out of bed because despite all the things she has in life, she couldn't see past the darkness in front of her. It's like being in a prison in your own head.

It has taken me till very, VERY recently to start to feel like maybe there's hope for me. It's been one week and a day since I stopped self-medicating and started taking care of myself and seeing past the black void that I felt swallowed up in. I don't know how else to adequately describe how depression feels for me except that nothing is ever enough. No goal or thing I want (tangible or otherwise) is enough to make me stop feeling like my life is collapsing on itself. I more or less have EVERYTHING I've ever wanted in life. I wanted to be with my husband more than anything else I'd ever wanted- now I'm Mrs. Quick with a big ring on her finger. I wanted to live closer to my family- as of one year ago, I'm a resident of Monroe County and can be at my parents' house within about ten minutes. I wanted a good, reliable job- I'm coming up on three years in a great position at a fantastic company that pays well and offers incredible benefits. Yet none of it was enough to ward off feelings of despair, self-loathing and sadness. So basically for me, depression is feeling so low that you can be handed the world and still feel like you've got nothing. The glass isn't just half empty- it's bone dry. And that really, really sucks. I don't think some people understand just how badly it sucks to want to be happy and show the world what a good person I am and that I want to be here and I value everyone in my life but not be able to do it. To almost lose people I love because I just CANNOT bring myself to get out of bed, to leave the house, to go socialize. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.

But now I feel like maybe, just maybe I'm reaching a point where I understand that this is not my fault. Depression is not my fault. Anxiety is not my fault. What would be my fault is to not get up and try, to stop taking my medicine, to not go to a therapist. Those things are within my control. Taking care of myself is within my control. Things as simple as drinking enough water, washing my face and putting on moisturizer, sleeping on clean sheets so I can rest better...those are basic self-care tasks that I need to do for myself because I deserve to feel good- but no one else can do it for me. I've got to put me first. I have not done that in years, if ever. I want to start.

So I'm going to start blogging again. I've said this before but writing has always helped me to feel better about things. It also helps me to explain myself to others in a way I can't always do face to face. I hope some of the people reading this- the friends I haven't gotten back with, the people who have seen me be a hot mess, the ones who have taken my sobbing phone calls when I felt like I had nowhere else to turn- will have a better understanding of what I'm feeling. Why I might not return that call or text right now, or complete a project I agreed to do as quickly as I originally promised. I am doing the best I can and working to repair myself and my marriage. Those things, and caring for my animals, are trumping everything else right now. If that upsets anyone, I'm sorry. Things won't be like this forever but this is what I have to do right now to get what I want out of life. So if you see me on Facebook, say hi. Maybe I'm having a day where I feel more social. If I respond to a text or message that's a week old, don't be mad at me. Please just be patient. I'm going to be the person I was meant to be. I owe myself and my loved ones and my animals that.

And if you're suffering from depression or any other mental illness, please do not be embarrassed or feel like you have to hide. There are lots of resources at your fingertips when you're ready to use them. Talk to someone about it and NEVER be ashamed because it's NOT your fault.