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.