Thursday, December 31, 2015

I Gave Up This Year

I don’t remember the exact date, but it was an early August morning. The day was shaping up to be hot again, which isn’t unusual for August, but frustrating for me nonetheless. I’d been working tirelessly on This Book and no matter what I did or how hard I worked it wasn’t where I wanted it to be. It wasn’t the same on paper as it was in my head. I’d been working so hard that my shoulders were riddled with knots from sitting at the laptop so much, I couldn’t lift my right arm above my head. I remember pushing myself away from my desk, closing my laptop, and saying out loud, “I’m done.” I remember taking a muscle relaxer and going to back to bed, and while physically I may have left the bed at some point that day, mentally I didn’t. Mentally I’m still buried deep under the covers suffocating myself with self-doubt and fear and too many other emotions to possibly resurface.

That was five months ago, and I don’t remember a whole lot since that day.

When I say I gave up, I don’t mean just on writing. That was the initial catalyst, yes, but I gave up on everything. I let myself mentally check out. I canceled so many plans with friends that eventually they gave up on me (I assume). I told myself it was easier that way. I stopped going on most social media websites because I couldn’t take being happy and supportive for people while also being so jealous it physically hurt. The only reason I left the house, usually, was to walk the dog. I shudder to think what would happen if I didn’t have him.  

I go on a writing retreat with a group of lovely, amazing women twice a year. Last January Kayla brought mason jars and we filled them with encouraging notes for each other with the goal to be to continue to fill them and open them on New Year’s Eve. I put all of two notes in mine. But the notes I got from others were still there, unopened, so I opened the jar this afternoon. I smiled at each one, feeling a bit better about things and about myself. There’s one note in the very bottom of the jar that I fish out. 

It simply reads, “Your work is awesome, never give up.”

I have no idea who wrote this particular note or why they chose to write that specifically. For all I know they wrote the same thing for everyone as kind of a “have a great summer!” that you write in school yearbooks at the end of the year when you don’t know what else to write. In the end it doesn’t really matter, because it was what I needed today. It’s what I’ve needed for months but didn’t know it.

I have no idea what 2016 will hold, but I’m somewhat awake again, which is enough for now.

Friday, March 6, 2015

I Wish I had Cancer

*Disclaimer: I do not wish cancer or any other sort of medical condition on anyone. I know first hand what cancer is capable of, and it's horrendous. In the case of this blog post, cancer is being used metaphorically. You can interchange it with heart disease, diabetes, or any other sort of disease/condition and the end point is still the same.

It's an awful thing to say, isn't it? To wish you had cancer? This awful monster of a disease that sucks the life right out of you. Yet I find myself thinking it nearly every single day. Cancer is something people can related to. It's widely talked about and researched and studied and (sometimes) cured. It's tangible.

Cancer doesn't frustrate people. When you say you're tired or sick or not feeling well or just not in a good frame of mind, people understand and are sympathetic. With depression, most people assume you're simply sad. "Come on, you're fine." "Are you really that tired? You slept like 14 hours." "You don't look depressed to me." "Seriously what's wrong with you? You used to love [insert hobby here]."  No I'm not fine. Yes I really am that tired. What, exactly, do people with depression look like? I'm also fully aware I used to enjoy things that I can't seem to enjoy now. That's the thing: I KNOW. Just because my brain may not be sending out enough dopamine doesn't mean it's not working. That doesn't mean that I still can't think for myself. And that definitely doesn't mean that your words aren't hurtful.

You say the word "depression" and people cringe. I've seen it happen too many times. They may not mean to or do it intentionally, but they do. They look at you differently, they judge you. As if you're carrying around dozens of razor blades and at any moment will use all of them simultaneously to cut various parts of your body off. There are people out there who understand, but they are few and far between. Though few they may be, I am immensely thankful for them. However, I realized this week that my greatest fear with depression is that the few people who are understanding and supportive will grow frustrated with me. That I'm not getting better "fast enough" or that I won't get better at all. Depression isn't really curable. It can be tamed, it can be molded into something different, it can be learned from, but it is always still there. Lurking just around the corner, waiting to come out and snatch you, kicking and screaming into the night. Or maybe you don't kick and scream. Maybe you welcome it as an old friend.

I remember years ago before I got married, I worked for a small mom and pop business. They didn't provide medical insurance for their employees but made arrangements for an insurance company to get in contact with those of us who needed insurance. They called me one day (while I was at work) to ask me various medical questions and to list my medications. When I listed Celexa (which I was on at the time), the lady on the other end paused. I heard her clicking her pen rapidly then tapping it loudly on her desk.
"And what is this medication for?" She knew very well what it was for judging by her response.
"Depression." I said strongly. I didn't know enough to know that I should, apparently, be embarrassed.
"And this has been diagnosed?"
At this point I grew frustrated with the conversation. "Obviously it's been diagnosed or I wouldn't have the medication."
Her long nails click against the keys of her keyboard. "And have you been cured?"
At this point in our very awkward conversation I laughed out loud. This small five letter sentence has haunted me ever since. As if taking this one tiny pill every day will cure me of the overwhelming desire to sink into a dark hole, never to reemerge. I know some people call them "happy pills," but to me that's insulting. They do not make me happy. They keep me from going insane. Nobody talks about that, though. At the end of the phone call I was told that because of my medical condition I would be charged an extra $40 a month for my already crazy expensive insurance which covered very little. I was making just above minimum wage at this point (I may have been making actual minimum wage, I don't remember), so it was frustrating to know that nearly five hours of my already tiny paycheck was going to this insurance company just because they didn't want to take the time to understand and get to know me and my illness. The whole situation bothered me so much that I eventually stopped taking the medication (cold turkey) and didn't have the courage to go back to the doctor for depression issues until seven years later.

My goal in life isn't to be cured of all depression. I know that isn't going to happen. My goal is, however, to get to a place in my life where I'm happy enough with who I am and the way my brain works so I can learn from my experiences and move on. To let myself heal and grow and become the person that I was supposed to be my entire life.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Puppy Bowl Surprise

We're not huge football fans in this house, so Superbowl Sunday is pretty much just a normal day around here. We'll usually load up on carb and cheese-heavy snacks and watch the game, but only because it's 'the thing to do,' not because we enjoy it (we do enjoy the cheese, though).

That being said, we are big fans of the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. I've watched it every year, and I even remember writing an article about it for my college paper the first year it came on. I was editor of the entertainment section at the time and all the other editors made fun of me. I promised them they would, in fact, be entertained. As we prepared for Puppy Bowl XI I suited Freddy up in his referee uniform I bought him last year (that barely fits him this year) and snapped a couple of pictures before yanking it off his chunky sausage body.

I uploaded the picture to his Instagram, tagged Animal Planet, then promptly turned my attention back to the puppies on TV as he snoozed at my feet. Just before the kitty halftime show I look up to see him on TV!!

It was only for a few seconds, and we had to rewind it to get a picture (thank goodness for modern conveniences!). He got over 100 new Instagram followers! I told him at this rate I think he'll get an agent before I do!