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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Created the Sound of Madness....Well, Not Really.

The weekend was full of ups and downs it seemed. I hate the days like that. I am not a huge fan of change, so it makes sense that I like my mood and my feelings to be relatively even without the highs and lows. If I were to draw a picture of what it felt like on Saturday, it would look like an ecg and you would see v-tach. Up, down, happy, not happy. Angry, not angry. Sad, not sad. Come on brain, snap out of it. I guess that's just the nature of the beast when dealing with things like this. The worst part is not being able to put a name to it. You can't just say, "This is why I feel sad so I can do this to fix it." It's just there. It just is. But it still sucks.

So between taking classes and teaching classes, I've spent the last 4 Saturdays in a class room. Finally a weekend to relax showed up. I started thinking about ways to pull myself out of this funk I've been in, and I thought to myself, "Self. You should paint the living room. Paint it a calming color. Then after a long day, you can sit down with your knitting and your kindle and relax." Sounds legit, right? Once the wheels started turning, there was no stopping them. I wanted to paint the living room. Travis didn't want to paint the living room. So, we compromised and painted the living room. Initially, he was not any help. There is a method to my madness, though. I was not worried. I knew I wouldn't be tackling this job alone for long. He was working on the wainscot project in the kitchen, paying virtually no attention to me. As far as he knew, I was still in the thinking phase of my redecorating mood. Alas, I pulled the couch away from the wall, taped up the edges, and spackled the nail holes in the wall with concrete patch. I honestly did not know you couldn't do that. He walked out to the living room, took one look and said, "What the crap are you doing?!" I jumped, startled, "What? I'm spackling." I hadn't paid much attention to the label on the container. Perhaps I should have, but let's just be honest. Even if I had noticed what it was, I still would have assumed it was fine. It said it would patch stuff. And that's what I was going for so why not? I shooed him away and began my project. He returned with actual spackle and fixed the holes, told me to let it dry, and went back to what he was doing. Now what, I wondered. I sat down and watched the spackle dry. (Hey, feeling down isn't always conducive with wanting to do anything productive. After a few minutes, I assumed it was dry and started rolling the grey paint on the wall. I'm me, so of course I got it all over the baseboard and I wasn't getting it on the wall evenly at all. Now, if I was really putting forth great effort it might have gone better, but this was what I was willing to give at that time because I really just wanted Travis to do it. He emerged from the kitchen and said, "Oh my god, just let me do it." I said okay, and sat down to watch him. One wall in, I realized something horrible. I didn't like it. The paint was not as grey as I had hoped. It was more of a baby blue. No, that will never do. Back to the store we went for different paint. This time I was happy.

Painting continued into the wee hours of the morning. Since I was basically of no use, I sat on the displaced furniture and talked to Travis while he worked. I don't want to sound unappreciative. I'm very appreciative of all that he puts up with, because honestly, it can't be easy. That's one of the things I've really realized along the way to learning more about myself and who I am. It's easy initially to like me. I know that much. At first glance, I'm confident, kind, funny, and compassionate. I know that. It's when people really get into my heart that I have a hard time. I always have felt that if they truly saw my heart, they would see too much. I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I know what my flaws are. I know why I do the things I do. I don't know how to fix it though, and that's the problem. I'm planning to talk to someone who went to school to handle people like me. I have a long list of things that I want to change so I can finally be happy and content and know that it's going to stay that way. When Travis and I started talking, it all just came out. I'm my own worst enemy. I cut myself down and I legitimately believe the things that I say to myself. People pay me compliments fairly regularly. Whether it's in person, on Facebook, or through a text message or email, I hear nice things a lot. But I don't believe any of them. People tell me that I'm funny. Okay, I believe that a little bit. People tell me I'm beautiful. I don't see that when I look in the mirror. I see a 30 year old lady with dull hair and dull features. People tell me I'm amazing and I deserve to be happy. I don't believe that either, so when something comes into my life that could be a gateway to happiness, or at least supplement a happy life, I destroy it. Times that should have been happy and exciting in my life were not even close to being happy or exciting. For me, it was full of nerves and predictions that everything would implode. In my mind, the worst case scenario has already happened. That's where I live. I think I approach things this way because I'm so afraid of that worst case scenario, that I think if I beat it to the punch I can get ahead of the 8 ball. Like ripping off a band aid. Then if the worst case scenario comes true, I can say, "Ha. I told you so." And subsequently I can lick my wounds (I know they are self induced at that point) and heal. Will I learn for next time to be positive? Hell no. Every time it happens I become a little more jaded. A little more sure that the world is going to hurt me at every opportunity. I'm a little more sure that people will give up on me. Why shouldn't they? Who wants to be around someone like this? It doesn't matter what the situation is. I find the negative possibilities and I focus on them. Eventually in many cases those possibilities turn into the reality because I'm too busy tending to what is going wrong and not paying attention to what's going right. Is it too late by that time? Usually. And again, every time that happens, I just become more jaded.

When I found out my job was in jeopardy in 2004, from the moment I left my office until the day I handed in my keys and my ID, I lived in a box. I couldn't take care of my daughter. I couldn't afford anything because in my world, I had already lost my job and it was all done.

When we put in our offer on our first house, I was a basket case. There's always some hesitation when making a major purchase like a home, but there should be some happy anticipation, shouldn't there? I was positive the offer would be rejected with no counter offer made. To rid me of that possibility, I insisted, and I mean INSISTED that we offer the full asking price. My dad was sitting at the dining room table with me, Travis, and our realtor Karla when I said the dollar amount to make the offer for. His eyes just about bugged out of his head. "Glena Renee, that is the full asking price! You have to negotiate. You can get a better price." I didn't care. I didn't want there to be any reason for them to counteroffer or reject it, so we offered the full asking price. (Actually $5,000.00 over and we built that in as our down payment, but that's just fluff.) My dad wouldn't even look at me for the rest of the night. I felt awful because he of course has more experience with buying and selling houses than I did, but it was the only thing that would reassure me. Except it didn't. And that's another problem. I can never just be content about a situation. If one issue is resolved, I move on to the next. Nothing can be taken at face value. I'm always sure it will be taken away. Again, I can make some assumptions as to why I feel that way, but getting out of that world is what gives me trouble. When I feel myself start to relax, the worries about what could go wrong creep in again. It's almost like I'm not happy unless I'm worrying, and that is sick. If I am not worried, I worry about what I'm forgetting to worry about. If there's really nothing to worry about, then I create something to worry about. When I had to have surgery in 2009, my children were basically already orphans. It physically hurt my heart to look at them because I was positive that I was going to end up having ovarian cancer and I would die. After I was out of surgery and everything was confirmed to be perfectly fine, I worried about a post surgical infection and any time I felt any wave of not feeling perfectly healthy, I panicked.

See, the thing of it is, this is stuff that I've always sort of made fun of about myself. Then the reality hit me that this could actually be driving people out of my life. Again, there are days when I feel like I'm not worth anything and if anyone truly saw my heart and everything that is wrong with me, they would see too much and they would be gone. Perhaps I need to realize that the people who are supposed to be in my life would never do such a thing. Perhaps I'm too hard on myself. Perhaps I do need to learn how to relax and just let whatever is going to happen happen. Is that possible? I think it is. It won't be easy though. It's going to take a lot of work on my part and a huge drive to change and make myself into the person I want to be, and the person people think they know. I like that girl. I want to be her.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I'm Usually Funny.

Depression seems like such a secretive disorder. It doesn't always make itself visible at first glance. In fact, most of the people I interact with on a daily basis don't even realize this about me, but, I suffer from depression. It used to be something I tried to keep hidden. I have finally realized that there is nothing to fear. There is nothing to be ashamed of. This is part of who I am and likely part of who I will always be. Hindsight is often 20/20, and I saw a lot of signs when I really started looking back. If you're struggling at all, I hope I can help.

When I was in high school, I was happy. All the time, happy. The exception was my sophomore year when I had my first brush with depression. It was pretty mild as depression goes, but it was there. I was a typical teenage girl. I knew everything (or so I thought) and I had the usual stress that most teenagers had. Dating, acne, braces, just being awkward....you get it. I had awesome friends, though. Many of them I still count among my friends today. It only lasted a little while and I found my smile again with minimal effort.

I graduated. Got a job. Got married. Had a baby (not all in that order). Things were going well for me. We had a beautiful little house to match our beautiful little daughter, and some money in the bank. For being 21 years old, I was pretty well set. Then I found out that I was likely going to lose the job I loved and worked hard at. Then my grandma passed away leaving an ache in my heart that I can still feel almost 9 years later. Then our landlord had to sell our house and we were faced with having to move. It was a lot in a short period of time to take. I started doing these strange things. Nothing scary, just sort of strange. If I was feeling nervous (which was almost all the time at that time) I would brush my hair to calm myself down. And sometimes I would pace around the house while doing so. I was also putting on chap stick as if it was oxygen and without it I would parish. My mom noticed these new quirks and my compulsive question asking.

"Do you think?" "What if this happens?" "What am I going to do if..."  I will admit that I was driving my family absolutely crazy. One minute I would be frantically asking questions that no one could possibly answer, and the next minute all I wanted to do was sleep or cry. I felt tremendous guilt because I knew that I was unintentionally cheating my daughter out of the mom she deserved. I was closed off and I became really introverted. This was very unlike me because in high school, I was very outgoing and had many hobbies. I loved life. Suddenly I didn't really love life any more. I didn't get excited about much at all.

We needed to move so we found a house in our price range, made an offer, and it was accepted. We closed in about 3 weeks and began moving. My mind was busy and I had things to focus on. I was excited to own a home. A little scared, but excited. I annoyed plenty of people through that process as well. It gave my family a little bit of a break, which they welcomed, but it was surely hard on our realtor and our mortgage loan officer. I would call them randomly with ridiculous questions. I was positive the loan would fall through. Why? I dunno. I was just sure it was going to. I took to the internet to research and find people who's home loans had fallen through at the last minute. I started grilling my dad about possibly financing the house in his name should something happen. (We had spotless credit at the time. There was no reason in the world the loan would have fallen through). We had to have several inspections done on the house before the closing date. I became an expert on everything from termites to well problems to haunted attics. I needed every single possible contingency thought of and prepared for. How could I sleep if there was a ghost living in my new house that would possibly drive the value down, trashing the loan to value ratio and then causing the loan to fall through? And if it was haunted and we didn't find out until after the fact, what could I do to make sure the ghost was friendly and if it wasn't, how was I to get rid of it? You get the idea. I spent many nights not sleeping. In short, I was a basket case. The hair brushing and chap stick applying was at an all time high. Why was I like this? I had moments of wondering that. When that started, the fear began to sink in. I felt like I couldn't trust anyone to stay in my life. I was annoying. I was insecure. Surely my husband would tire of it. My parents would change the locks on their door and I would have to call ahead to go home. This gave way to a whole new set of racing thoughts. I created things in my mind to worry about. I had a sense of impending doom and I had no idea what was bringing that to me.

It was the anxiety. It was the depression. And I had no idea what I was facing.

All hell broke loose one morning in January of 2006. I was fine (as fine as I could be at that point). Julie and I had started the morning with fruit and yogurt and were getting ready to spend some time together playing and suddenly that sense of doom fell over me. There was tightness in my chest. I was having a hard time catching my breath. I became dizzy and sweaty. I was 22 years old. I couldn't be having a heart attack? I sat down and tried to catch my breath. Julie toddled over to me and wrapped her little arms around my neck and said, "Mommy sick?" I hugged her and found some comfort in that embrace from my sweet 2 and a half year old. My eyes filled up with tears. Why did I feel this way? I knew I had to do something. I called my husband at work and within about 5 minutes he and my dad were both in my living room. By this time, I was laying in a fetal position on the sofa clutching the stuffed sock monkey I had played with as a child at my grandmother's house. My breathing was rapid and irregular. My whole body felt so tight. Somehow, my husband managed to get me into the car and we drove to the emergency room. I didn't want to go there. I didn't want anyone telling me that I was crazy. Was I crazy? I had no idea. I felt helpless.

The doctor in the ER asked me a series of questions. He asked my husband questions, and then he asked him to leave the room. I left with a prescription for Paxil. I have to take a pill to feel normal? That didn't agree with me. But at that point I was willing to try.

It took a few weeks to take full affect, but when it did, I was a new person. The next few years were pretty uneventful and the medicine continued to help. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I had to go on a new medication that was less risky for pregnancy, but the transition was smooth and everything was well. I had basically no problems with depression for the next few years. My work with the fire department was rewarding and I was enjoying it so much. Sure there were a few calls that hit me pretty hard here and there, but I handled it.

Or did I?

 I noticed that I could actually feel my serotonin dropping. I could be going along doing just fine. I had patience. I had security. All was well in the world. Then ten minutes later, I had despair. I was going to lose everything. This sense of impending doom was so strong that it brought that tightness back to my chest. Sometimes I could reign it in on my own by listening to music (Alexi Murdoch got me through a lot). I began practicing yoga and that did help, but still. Something wasn't balanced. Whatever challenge faced me seemed larger than life even if it wasn't.  Again, preparing for every single possible contingency was a must. The only way I would feel better was if all of my bases were covered, and even then sometimes it didn't feel better. I began to feel undeserving of everything. If someone genuinely liked me because they knew who I was on the outside, I quickly had to make sure that they knew I wasn't worthy of their time. I wondered if I ever could truly be loved by anyone for just being me. If they saw my heart would they see too much? If someone said I was beautiful, I wouldn't believe it. If a friend said they loved me, I doubted. Why would anyone love me? I was so convinced that I was nothing special and even if other people didn't think so, I had to find every negative detail I could and present it to them and if they still accepted me then maybe they were genuine. Until the next day when it began all over again. I didn't trust people, so I pushed them away. I began to see the Wallflowers song "I Wish I Felt Nothing" as my anthem. I felt so much. I felt emotions from the deepest depth of my soul to the surface of my skin. There was no emotion that I didn't feel. But as the song says, when you're alone, it's better cuz nobody leaves you. When no one's your friend, it's better cuz nobody needs you. So you turn your back on a world that you could never have. Cuz your hearts been trapped." No matter what anyone did to let me see that they cared about me, I shut it out. In my mind, I was the girl no one wanted. I was the girl with nothing to offer. And without even meaning to, I became that girl. A good friend told me once, "I wish just once, you could see yourself through my eyes. You wouldn't ever feel this way again if you could." I was touched. And then I went on a full on sabotage of that. I saw someone who loved me. I wanted to accept love, but I just couldn't. I was so afraid of taking it in and then losing it and feeling heartbroken that I had to sabotage it before it could touch me. I began to spend 90% of my time being the woman I made up in my head. When I would get called out on this, I would get defensive. Then I stopped and really looked at myself. Why was I refusing to let the woman my family and friends know and love be happy?

That question, my friends, is to be continued. I'm on a quest for inner peace. I'll find it. I have faith. The journey will likely be long and tiring, but I will find it. I do good things. I am a good person. I deserve to be happy. And I'll get there in my own time. Taking it day by day...minute by minute if need be, I'll get there.