The Darkness

I used to be vivacious.  I vaguely remember those days, the days where I was always on the go and in want of someone’s company because life was full of possibilities.  I remember smiling and laughing without force.  Sometimes, when I try, I can even remember what it was like to not have a constant darkness standing over me and threatening to pull me into myself.

I’m not that person anymore and I’m left with only memories of who I once was.  I clinically suffer from depression and anxiety.  I’ve only said it or admitted to a handful of close friends and my husband, only 2 people truly believe me and not one really knows what it means.  I should have a shelf full of Oscars for the performance I put on pretending that “I’m fine”.  Today, I’m not fine.

So, what does it mean?  For me, it means pain.  It means fear.  It means sadness.  It means anger.  It means loneliness.  For me, it does not mean suicidal or batshit crazy.  I was spared the batshit crazy gene, thank God.  For me, it’s most definitely NOT “in my head” and I cannot simply choose to “get over it”.  There is no medication I can take and magically feel better.  I take medication to manage this condition, but sometimes it’s unmanageable.

More often than not, I can be in a depressive state or having an episode and you’ll be standing right next to me and never know.  I still show up to gatherings with friends and family because I still show up for my kids and my husband every day and these are the things required of me.

I am a mother, wife, aunt, daughter, sister, friend, and coworker and sometimes that’s really hard for me.  Sometimes that makes me cry from the overwhelming knowledge that so many people rely on me and deep down I know I cannot even rely on myself.  So many days I just want to let the covers swallow me whole and disappear until these horrible feelings disappear.  But, I can’t.  I have a life, I have children, I have a husband, I have a career and all of this means I can’t escape to a corner in my room for days like I want to.

I wish I could openly talk to my loved ones about this to help them understand what I feel, but I can’t.  I can only write.  It’s my mask.  Today, behind my mask, I will try to explain it to those who don’t battle these consuming disorders.

Anxiety makes me feel everything all the time and at one time.  It feels like suffocation.  It feels like drowning.  It’s consuming.  It’s scary as hell.  I feel like I’m losing control.  I can’t catch my breath, I can’t see my way through my own fears and I just want to find a dark room.  Hearing my loved ones tell me to breathe or calm down or take a pill only adds to these feelings.  I feel like they’ve just pushed my head a little further under.

When the anxiety starts to fade and I come out of the suffocating fog, depression is there to latch on and its hold is so strong and so hard to get away from.  Depression knows that’s when I’m at my weakest and it twists and turns like smoke and smothers everything that is good in life.  My doctor once said that depression is an emotional paralysis.  He’s right, it really is.  Depression lies to me, fills me full of thoughts of how worthless I am, how much I have failed myself, my family, my friends, my coworkers.  Depression steals any ray of light that reminds me I am loved and worthy of being loved.

When the smoke of depression begins to pull back, it leaves me with anger.  Anger at myself for falling victim to this disease.  Anger at myself for being so miserable.  Anger at my friends and family for not seeing through the fake persona I put on so that no one sees just how weak I am.  I just want to scream “I’M FUCKING DROWNING, DON’T YOU SEE ME??”, but instead I smile and say, “I’m fine”.

Depression is exhausting.  Once the anger subsides I am too tired to care.  I am too tired to get up and cook dinner for my family.  I sit and I cry because I know I have chores, I have duties, I have kids to feed, dogs to feed, clothes to wash, a house to clean and I just can’t.  I’m so exhausted.  I’m emotionally drained and I just need to lay down and cry and cry and cry.

These are my bad days.  These are the days when I succumb.  I can be like this for a few days and then not again for several months.  It’s sneaks up on me and I’m never prepared when it hits me.  Depression is a sneaky bastard.  It’s an evil I never knew existed and then when I knew, I never fully understood what all it was.  Now that I live with it, I know all too well that depression can be debilitating and suffocating and incorrigible, and I hate it immensely.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. 
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
– Oscar Wilde

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By the wayside

There are so many positive attributes that have come from the technological advances over time.  Computers have paved the way for personal growth instead of just being a big box in an office from which to run reports.  Social media has proven to be a means for people to unite from all over the world who would not normally do so.  It’s been a bridge that has connected people who would have lost contact for years, maybe even lifetimes.  Smart phones have made it easier to keep in contact, keep busy, organize life, and become more productive when used properly.  All these lovely creations have brought so much more depth to people’s lives by bringing others easily within reach – technically.

However, like all positives there’s a negative somewhere.  It’s like my mom used to say, there is no hate without love and vice versa.  It’s the classic yin-yang of technology.  Because we’ve become so reliable on technology a lot of other areas of our lives have either changed or diminished altogether.

Tradition as we knew it just twenty years ago has all but gone by the wayside.  Ask the younger generations how many Christmas cards they receive, and of those how many are from their generation.  How many birthday invitations come in the mail for children?  Who, other than the ones older than generation X, sends birthday cards?  These simple traditions have been replaced by evites, texts, Facebook messages, posts, and emails.  The only letters I have hand-written and mailed in the last few years have been to my grandmother who is in a convent.  When is the last time you printed a picture to put in a photo album?  Personally, it’s been a couple years for me as I am just as guilty.

Never mind these simple traditions, what about the big ones?  We’ve become a society so busy with our technologically organized lives that we forget to plan for the big events or we’re too busy to do so.  Family reunions happen less and less.  One part of my extended family hasn’t been together for a holiday in years, and I mean years.  My children don’t even know who some of these people are and I grew up with them at every birthday, every holiday, and every family event.  Today, I see their posts via Facebook and pictures via Instagram.

Technology has begun to rob us of what we once held dear.  We may not be so wise of it right now, but it’s there creeping in slowly like the mist of a morning fog.  Don’t let your traditions fall by the wayside, grab them and hold them and then pass them to the next generation like that old creepy doll collection from your great-great somebody or other.  You never know, one day they may be worth something.

This week, we borrow from Nonamedufus and his self-titled blog, “Taught By My Example.”

“I love to spoil them.” and/or “tradition”

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Unmasked

I’ve gone through some life changes recently as I suppose we all do at some point or another.  I really wish we could go through some of them in our sleep, like a Windows update.  For some odd years (that’s the southern way of saying I don’t really know how many) I was battling a form of depression, or so I assume because at the time I refused to believe it or admit it.  It wasn’t until I read the handy check-list at the doctor’s office that I became aware I met all those ‘symptoms’.  Well, shit.

That was about the time I started my first blog.  It was anonymous and I created an extra email for it, it was where I was going to vent and find myself and get over this stupid bout of weepies that I didn’t truly believe I had.  It worked, for the most part, until I had yet another identity crisis and had to readjust myself again.  Between trying to find myself and what my meaning was and the dismay of no one ever reading my blog I cracked.  I deleted that blog and left the blogging world.

A few years later I felt a little more confident in myself, or so I thought.  I created yet another blog.  One that some of you readers (if they remember me at all) will remember it as It’s All A Bit Random.  Slowly, but surely, I went through the same thing as the one before it.  Another deleted blog and another feeling of utter failure and loneliness formed.  This recovery didn’t take quite as long as the last and I tried my hand at it again.  This blog is my 3rd and hopefully final blog.

I had some issues starting it again; I still wanted anonymity and wanted a place for me, just me to be me without any judgment, but something was missing.  I continued to write and continued to feel this void.  Everything in my life was starting to turn around and I felt better, but the blog and I were at odds.  The blog was becoming that smelly guy on the bus who’s eyeing you with his good eye and you just want to somehow leave the bus without passing his seat.  Something had to change, quickly.  I finally realized I had to sit down and peel away the layers of who I want to be in this community and what my writing means to me.  I came to the conclusion I didn’t want to hide any more.  I didn’t want to be afraid of judgment and I didn’t want to care what people thought of me.  So what if I was broken and on the mend, so what if my bad times caused me to lash out, so what if my opinion of world issues is different than theirs, I’m who I am dammit and I’m ok with that!

The last layer I peeled off was my mask.  My twitter is linked to my blog so I changed the contact email to my personal email, my picture to my real self, my name to my real initials, and I clicked that little button to let twitter find my contacts.  It was pretty powerful and I was pretty damn scared.  I’m still not out promoting my blog to my family and friends, but I’ve added several of them to my twitter followers where it prominently links to my blog.  I have officially come out of hiding.  It’s liberating, it’s refreshing, and it still scares the hell out of me.

 

My submission for Studio 30+

A father’s daughter

My father called me yesterday, no doubt after a conversation with my mother who told him of my recent bouts of the weepies.  My father is a great, loving man with a heart deeper than the ocean.  I have always been a ‘daddy’s girl’ and I guess, even at my age today, I still am.

We spoke last night for an hour and half.  I don’t know how your parents are, but in my family my mother is the most loquacious and my father just sits back and listens so that he called me and we spoke in length, says a lot to me.  The last two days have been so refreshing to speak at such lengths with each of my parents.

He reminded me who I am, how I was raised, and how I don’t need anyone for me to be ok with me.  Something I seem to have forgotten these last 10 or so years.  He reminded me that we choose the people in our life because we want them there, not because we need them there.  He’s a wise man who has been through a lot in his 61 years, and his words ring true to my heart and soul.  He’s never been one to pick a side and when I’m wrong, he has no problem telling me so.  He doesn’t often offer advice without being asked, but I am so grateful that he did.

He’s so right – I have lost myself – I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be who I am and stand on my own two feet needing no one to hold me up.  He raised me to be a strong person, not take no for an answer when I deserve a yes, to be self-sufficient, and self-reliable.  He raised me to be fierce.  I am slowly cowering away, letting myself get wrapped up in some sense of doubting self worth.  Maybe if I remember that I don’t need anyone, but instead want someone, I’ll figure out just what I want and what I don’t want – I’ll no longer be clouded by the preconceived notion that someone completes me.  If I can’t complete me, how can I expect to love me, how can I expect to love others, and how can I ever expect to be loved in return?

Being a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, o r an employee does not define me.  Who I am, not what I am, is the definition of me.  It’s time I rediscover that.

Strength

Strength is one of those words whose meaning changes with each person and each situation.  I have overcome a lot in my lifetime; some would probably even consider that I have strength or gained strength because of the adversities.  Looking back, I cannot say the same.  I remember praying for strength at an early part of my adult life.  When I consider what events unfolded after, I chuckle.  I’ve always been told by the wise women in my life that God answers you in ways you wouldn’t foresee.  For instance, if you pray for patience, you don’t become patient – you are presented with an opportunity where patience is needed.  If you pray for love, you aren’t given a knight in shining armor but instead a situation in which you either give or receive love.

I prayed for strength when my oldest son was born.  I shortly thereafter became a single, twenty-year-old mother, working three jobs, and living on our own.  I found the need to be strong, not strength.  Strength, I later realized, was inside me all along.

After a conversation with someone who is quickly becoming a very, very dear friend to me and someone I value a great deal, I began to think about those times of prayer.  It’s something she said to me after a heartfelt conversation, ‘when it’s time you’ll know’.  She’s right.

I’ve come to the conclusion that God gives us the qualities we pray for on the day we take our first breath.  He has already gifted us with these abilities and rather than conjuring them at the opportune time, He teaches us by putting us in situations in which we need to use these gifts to our fullest advantage.

Today, I chuckled after beginning a prayer to receive answers and strength.   I laugh out of fear.  Fear that not only do I possess the answers I request, but also because I know I have already been given the strength needed when I hear these very same answers.  It’s what I decide to do with the answers that define where my strength is most powerful and as I’ve been told once today….when it’s time I will know.  I find a bit of comfort in that when I know, I’ll be strong enough to overcome and close another chapter in my life.

Life is chaos, love, chances, decisions, heartaches, and strength.  Life is also as short as a baby’s breath.  I intend to live it to the fullest while I can.