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The Sands of Time

These past weeks have been hard, friends.

I’ve been hurting, my soul has been hurting, my body has been hurting.

What people don’t talk about much as much is how depression/anxiety can manifest in your body as aches, pains, migraines and general exhaustion.

I’ve been living in a 10×10 room for much of these past few weeks.  Looking as the world passes me by.  At times I have enough energy to shower, to eat. Most days I only leave the house if I have an appointment.  Most days I only shower when I have to leave the house for an appointment.  It’s a planned life.

I wake up exhausted, I go to bed awake.

My husband has been holding our home together when he is home, while I hold down my bed.  He parents, he cooks, he has taken on the administration that I typically do.

The times I feel most alive are in real conversation with my friends, which are rare right now due to the amount of exhaustion and effort it takes to arrange.  Recently I met with a friend on my couch for a couple hours and it was just lovely.

We all just desire connection, understanding, truth, authenticity.  So right now this is me.

Authentic me.

 

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Dear Tempurpedic™,

These past two weeks, I’ve spent more time in an intimate relationship with you than I have in a year. My hip bones have made a permanent crease where typically my shoulders lie.

I look out my window at the world that goes weirdly on, as the world in my head swirls like the season of hurricanes hitting the south. I want to sleep so badly as I’m desperately exhausted, but when my eyes close, they can’t stop moving.

Your support has moved into just a container for my body to be while my mind quickly falls apart.

I get glimmers from the outside world while leaning against the back, my head with imprints of the columns of the headboard.

  • An email from my mother about hanging pictures on her wall (sure, let’s do that next week; defer.)
  • A Facebook message from a friend about Anderson Cooper (Yes, still sexy as hell; this is making me seem totally stable right?)
  •  A text from my husband that my child got the winning goal at his soccer game just now with 5 seconds left in the game.
    • Brain path:
      • –> I’m so proud.
      • —>Wow that’s great.
      • –> I wasn’t there.
      • –> I am in this bed right now instead of at his soccer game.
      • –> Watching fucking House of Cards.
      • –> What the hell am I actually doing?
      • –> I am failing at mothering and adulting and wife-ing.
      • –> I am failing at life.
      • –> (I fall apart at this moment.)

My place of solitude and refuge now becomes the place that has a grip that prevented me from participating in life.

The fingers of PTSD have me trapped in your expensive mattress.

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“You’re So Brave.”

Brave: having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty; making a fine show 

“You’re so brave.”

When people say this to me in regards to my story, my go-to outer response is “thank you.” My inner response is “I have no choice, so it’s not bravery, it’s survival and even that isn’t always a given.”

The past two weeks have been full of the bravery of a different type, simply figuring out a way to stay alive. I walked among the living, not feeling a part of them.  I smiled and joked, and played the part of the living, but was not one of them. I am around people, but alone.

PTSD is a Liar.  Anxiety is a Liar.  Depression is a Liar. Trauma is a Liar.

As someone aptly mentioned, trauma is like “my neighbors who not only play their music super loud but have extra bass that you can feel from across the apartment.” Wednesday night, that music brought me to the brink after a full week of operating at emergency trauma level, and I took a handful of pills on top of my typical nighttime medication.  This was brought about by quite a few of events involving a mix-up with a member of my care team, a person from my past coming up on Facebook surprisingly, and continuing feelings about the friend-breakup from the prior weeks.

 

My thoughts were scattered when I made this choice.  I can’t describe it.  I didn’t want to die.  I just didn’t want to live.  Or didn’t want to feel.  I’m not sure, maybe both.  Trauma is a liar. You can’t escape your brain, it’s always there.

So I talked about it.  First in a terrifying text to my therapist- where I downplayed exactly what I took.  Second, to my husband when “the story in my head” told me that likely my therapist would call the police to do a wellness check (which didn’t happen.)  Third, I reached out to my sister-wife, Diana.  Fourth, to Katherine.  Fifth, made a small circle post to my trusted people.  Oddly enough, the scariest reveal was to my bodyworker, as I was totally feeling very vulnerable about sharing this very deep scary part of my soul.  With previous attempts, I kept silent.  This time needed to be different.

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I was talking with a gal on Insta today about how she was worried about her mental health stories being depressing.  And maybe they are.  Maybe we ARE telling the depressing stories.  We talk about clawing against the walls to get out of the well.  We talk about the awful side effects of medication and how we want to crawl out of our own skin with it, and without it. But here’s the thing, these stories HAVE TO BE TOLD.

Mental Health HAS to be talked about.

Suicidality has to be talked about.

I can appear at a mom’s group at 9:30 AM on Wednesday looking perfectly functional, joking, and at 5:30 pm try to end it all.  The person right next to you could be struggling with trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, all sorts of things and we AREN’T talking about it.

This HAS to change.

I’m not brave.  I’m alive.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts.  This week, despite my best efforts.

Bravery, in this case, is “Making a Fine Show.”

 

 

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Dear Depression,

Dear Depression,

You are heavy film across my eyes that makes them so easy to close.  I can’t sleep, but I battle to stay awake.  The medicine cabinet is full of things that say “may cause drowsiness” but my life is full of the fog I’m fighting to clear, while just trying to sleep one full night. I finally settle on half a pill, because the need to sleep outweighs the knowledge of the nightmares that a pharmaceutical drifting will cause.

I often can’t breathe, it’s easier to bury myself in my weighted blanket placed across my face. Then there is a reason I can explain to why I am fighting to inhale.  My belly can sometimes breathe but my lungs cannot.  My intestines are twisted in a knot so tight that I feel a catch when I breathe in and have very little to exhale. When I try to tell this to someone they look at me like I’ve spoken French to them so I laugh uncomfortably and mention how hot it’s been outside and comment on the how I hope Pumpkin Spice Lattes come out soon.  Depression, you make me weird to be around.

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A friend once described a feeling of “if someone touched me nicely I might cry,” this is you, depression, in a nutshell.  I go to my massages because I need to be able to breathe, but I fear to go because I fear I’m going to cry.

I want to be alone so badly, but around people that care as well.  But not a lot of people. And without any noise. If I could just be in a clear box that is quiet and dark, but that I could peek out of and see those who could reassure me that I’m not quite dead yet when I need to… that would be just great.

To imagine that one day we might part ways makes me wonder what I might be like without you.  To have a life free of days that I don’t hole up in my room needing to be void of any noise or people… what could that be like?  What would I be like without you?

I’d like to find out one day.

 

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The Cost of a Pencil

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In middle school, I sat and watched the popular girls pass notes across the aisles.  The notes would be written on blue lined notebook paper, intricately folded as if made into origami cranes.  As soon as the teacher’s back was turned, the kites flew across the desks as quick as lightning, the pre-Twitter glimpses of little girls intimate thoughts to each other about boys, friends, and future plans.

I dreamed of having these notes passed to me one day.  However, my fate in middle school was sealed on day one, and the only folded notes I had were ones I practiced myself.

I went into middle school poor.  That is to say, I was the girl showing up in torn second-hand clothing and a boys haircut.  This put me behind from the beginning.  I sat down in class the first week and a girl in front of me asked for a pencil.  I didn’t have enough to give away, knowing that what I had needed to last the whole year, so I said no… very hesitantly and regretfully.

Little did I know, this girl was the most popular in the 6th grade.  In addition, her last name was right before mine, so we were destined to sit next to each other for the rest of my middle school career in every class.  She was ruthless and had social collateral gathered to have a posse of girls against me within the day.  And so it went for three years solid.

Teachers watched as I would be bullied by a gaggle of particularly awful girls.  One would kick me in the head daily in choir class and the director would see it, look at me, then look away.

Looking back, what is most interesting to me was my deep desire to be accepted by these girls.  “What could I do to get these girls to like me?”  Was this thought to get them to stop doing what they were doing, or because I truly wanted to be liked by them? To this day, my motives on that question are unclear as I am an unreliable witness to my own past experience.  I had folded into myself.

My mother and father were lost in their failing marriage.  The family in poverty while the divorce drained the resources both financially and emotionally, leaving me not in the crosshairs, but totally forgotten.  I folded into myself.

I recall when the bullying had reached a boiling point at school and I finally said something to my mother.  She, from her place of privilege, spoke pretty words of 1. they are just jealous (which was just untrue, due to my place of poverty) 2.  they have anger problems (how is this helpful?) 3.  tell a teacher (they are literally watching this happen and doing nothing)  4.  let’s invite them over to our house (OMG ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?) 5. In a couple of years, it will be over (but for the next three years?) 6. Just ignore them (How does one do that when your entire realm is them?) I folded into myself with no ally in sight.

However, one thing was clear, I felt very vulnerable. At 12, I experienced my first real serious depressive episode and became suicidal.   I was alone in my world, and no adult was going to help me.  I folded into myself.

At this point, the food I was getting from home was not meeting my needs (at this point I was eating one pack of uncooked ramen for lunch.)  I found out that a girl at school qualified for free school lunch, but never picked up her tickets… so because I was hungry, I started to pretend I was her.  Daily, I told the lunch lady my “name” and picked up her ticket.  I finally felt like I fit in and I got enough to eat for one meal out of the day.

I pulled this off for several months until one day I went up to the lunch lady and told her my “name” and she said, “no you aren’t!”  I still, to this day, recall the flush of heat I felt across my chest when she yelled this across the lunchroom.  You could hear a pin drop, and she pulled me by my arm from one side of the room to the other, with everyone watching me all the way to the office.  The school’s eyes bored into me as my shame radiated around me like a nuclear glow.  All this because I was hungry. I folded into myself.

I sat in the principal’s office waiting for my mother, and when she arrived the question was asked of me “well, do you have enough to eat at home?”  My mother worked for the district and was known by the principal, and with this additional complication, the answer was handed to me on a silver platter with her eyes boring into me just like the entire school’s had been moments earlier.  “Yes, of course, I do,” I said.  And I folded into myself.

My punishment for this egregious crime of stealing lunch tickets was community service for a month.  I emptied trash and cleaned blackboards of all the teachers and offices for all the after-school classes which all the richer kids could pay for.  The girls that mocked me all day long got to see me on janitor duty every day as well.  And I folded into myself.

At this point, my mother found me a therapist for a short time.  Every week I’d go there and play board games.  I found this hour a total waste of my time, mostly because at the end, he’d meet with my mother with me out of the room.  This felt like a total violation of any potential conversation I’d ever have with him, so I ended up just wasting time with him.

Near the end of our time together, he asked me once what my “biggest problem was,” and I thought about it.  I answered “my hole in my shoe.”  Thinking back on it, I was being REALLY honest.  If he had probed that answer, he would have really uncovered a LOT about poverty, my intense bullying and a plethora of home/school/life/abuse issues.  But alas, he closed the hour with a sigh. Soon after he gave up on me. And I folded into myself.

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Where does that leave us?  Somehow, despite suicide attempts, severe depression, anxiety and an equally oppressive high school career, I made it though.  No teacher ever intervened.  No adult stood up strongly for me, but more importantly WITH me, despite clearly seeing what was happening.  Though my experience was threaded with socio-economic and psycho-social issues, it snowballed from ONE event… a PENCIL.  A pencil in sixth grade almost cost me my life, several times over. We HAVE to do better for our young people.  I am ONLY ONE.

We have to unfold and to encourage others to unfold.  We have to do better. 13906608_10100592277897561_6423930915444828325_n.jpg

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“Depression is Funny Like That”- Reagan Myers

Reagan Myers climbed inside the mind of depression and slammed it down in this spoken word.

This week I sat in an auto zone parking lot and cried for ten minutes because I couldn’t change a head light, which sounds like a lead up to a terrible stand-up routine, right? One where the joke is always on me? Like, haha, I ate half a bag of pretzel m&ms at 11:30 in the morning IN BED or, I watched the pilot of Gossip Girl ten times in the past two weeks because I keep falling asleep half way through because being sad is a goddamn joke sometimes.

My headlight went out and my first thought was “seems right.” I couldn’t change it myself because I’d have to take off the whole bumper or something and I thought “of course” or “I wish I was dead.”  Being this kind of sad is funny that way, no inconvenience is a minor inconvenience, it’s all the end of the world or might as well be, my brain is dramatic like that.

Depression is a silent film, a monologue shot underwater, depression is sulking because I won’t talk to it anymore, by which I mean ABOUT it. There are some days I am so sad I don’t remember what it’s like not to be, like when you have a bad cold and you forget how to breathe through your nose and you’re so sure you’ll never breathe through your nose again and I’m so sure I’ll never feel joy again.

Except when you have a cold you can call in sick to work, and people tell you to get well soon, and there is a whole soup genre dedicated your well-being.  I can’t call in “sad” to work. I can’t go to the grocery store and go to the “sad aisle” which would have like already stale popcorn and tea which your best friend swears is good for you.

So sometimes all I can do is laugh, if I don’t, there might be nothing left. There’s a crack in my bathtub in the shape of the Platt river, and I know this because I sit on the floor of my shower so often it’s become a permanent imprint in my thigh.

I’m here because I’ve been sad since graduation, not this one the one before that, or maybe I have a bad cold, or maybe it’s both, but the cold makes the most sense for sympathy purposes.

If I get out, I have to be a person again. Have to put on clothes, put lotion on my legs, eat a bowl of cereal at least, take care of this terrible body that refuses to take care of me back.  I’m so tired of talking about my depression as someone else, a ghost that haunts me and I am afraid of the seance, afraid of what it might want from me.

My depression doesn’t ask for much but when it does it is something I cannot give and that’s the joke, it’s just me asking for something I cannot give.  I ask to come back to my body and it’s only me saying no.

When people ask me how I am they might as well be asking me where I’ve gone. I”m driving down a dirt road, no headlights, when it curves I will not know, just drive on into the field my own voice playing on the radio telling me “there is no place for me here.”

 

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And Afternoon says “What’s Up?”

 

October 9, 2015, I penned these words into my journal:IMG_20170823_211324233.jpg

Less than a month away from the 15th anniversary of the rape, just coming out of a traumatic court experience and then just learning how to parent again after my broken body was knitting back together…

…I was drowning.

As women, as mothers, as survivors of trauma, we are expected to “have it all together” to live this life of denial of hardship.  I took this responsibility seriously.

And Silently.  As one does.

Sitting in therapy, 2x a week I felt like I simply couldn’t breathe for more than 4 days unless I had a place to expel the build up fear, anxiety and trembling that built up in my soul.  I experienced a full out panic attack.

A Panic Attack is the sensation of scalding water being poured up your spine spreading through all the capillaries of your lungs. Anxiety is the feeling of long spindly fingers grasping around your chest and squeezing gently, waiting for you to exhale, not allowing you to take the next breath while squeezing again.  Fear is another set of hands grabbing your skull and forcing you to watch films in black and white of every horror film of your past, present, and future (whether it happened will happen or not.)  Your heart starts to jump around like a caged animal, noticing all the chaos, trying to run from this terrible scene. Your mind mocks you the whole time telling you this is really happening, and you’re going to die.

“We need to have a plan”, she says.

I only partly hear her.  I’m preoccupied with making sure Ethan is being parented expertly, and that I am the best and most capable wife and did I empty the dishwasher? I’m managing the memories of trauma that even most of my closest friends don’t know that pop up while I brush my teeth.  I’m in the middle of analyzing whether or not Ethan will remember the few times that he triggered me enough into a trauma flashback that I reacted without knowing, enough to make me retreat into my room sobbing wondering if I should just pack my bags and leave because I’m sure there is a better mother out there who won’t react how I do when he throws his socks at me.  I’m busy managing my rapist who is on the other side of the door, comforting the sexually abused girl in the courtroom I saw a few weeks before, my present and future failure as a wife and mother, and why I couldn’t get my act together enough to tell all those people off who gaslit me for so long when I was younger.

Do you think you need to get away for a while?” She asks. (The story I tell myself is that she is going to take me away from my family. Which made no sense given the circumstances, but Trauma is a liar. Depression is a liar.  Fear is a liar. Anxiety is a liar.)

I start to plan my escape from this room. Can I leave?  What would happen if I just walked out the door?  I look at my purse, I slide my shoes on under the little ottoman and try to remember where I put my keys.  She notices I’m looking at the door.

At this point, I recall she just stopped talking.  This was an eerie thing because she typically has a lot to say, but likely she read that I was spinning everything she was saying into the web of doom.  So she waits me out.

Slowly the hands around my ribs loosened.

“I’m scared,” I say.  Likely the first authentic, raw thing I had said the whole session.  “I think I need medication to get through this.”

And Afternoon says WHAT’S UP.