Posted in Addiction, anxiety, Depression, faith, family, happiness, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, People, spirituality

Did…did Oprah Just Change my Life?

Glennon

(This is longer than usual, I apologize. But I needed to tell this story)

As you all know, I have been struggling like crazy (no pun intended) with my mental health recently, specifically an anxiety cocktail that includes obsessive thoughts, hyper focus on far-fetched illnesses, and catastrophic thinking. I would not recommend this cocktail to ANYONE.

I would like to announce that I had a little breakthrough yesterday. It actually started out to be a terrible day. I woke up anxious already, but I couldn’t figure out about what. I felt shaky and nervous and weird, and all I’d done was wake up. So of course, my anxiety is looking for something to hitch its wagon to. I see my brain start searching it’s data banks for the nearest fear it can blow out of proportion.

And let me tell you, I am just fucking sick of this shit. Pardon my language, but my GOD, this gets soooooo old. So, I sit down to pray and meditate. I send up an urgent prayer to God- please take this, please help me, HELP ME. And then I choose my meditation for the day- I love the calm app, and if you struggle to meditate, I cannot recommend this app highly enough. Guided meditations for every conceivable thing, plus you can choose your music, and the woman’s voice is incredible. Anyway, I chose one I’d never seen before…I just had to look it up, it was called “Investigating Anxiety” and let me tell you, it was one of the hardest 13 minutes I’ve ever sat for. She asked me to call up my anxiety, to feel it in my body, to sit with it. It was like opening up a fire hydrant and just letting it blast you in the face. But I did it. I sat there, with the knot in my gut and tears rolling silently down my face, and you know what…it didn’t kill me. For that time, it was just a very uncomfortable feeling. For some reason, I feel like that limbered me up a little bit- like I was looser, and less clenched, and so what happened next was able to get in, I was able to hear the message I was meant to hear.

Let me explain what I mean: I have noticed, throughout my life, that when I am desperate and asking God for help, God is listening to me. But I need to be open to the answers. Until I am open to the answers, I am not going to be able to receive the help even when I am begging for it. When my anxiety is full throttle, I am so shut down, just trying to make it through every minute, that short of appearing in the flesh in front of me and shaking me, I am not picking up what God is laying down- and for the record, if the idea of God makes you uncomfortable, just fill in that space with whatever word you use. (WOW that was a run-on sentence. My apologies) I really don’t think it matters.

Anyway, I was feeling a little less knotted up after my meditation, and when I returned home after dropping Cam off at school, I started listening to Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast. I started last week, and had moment of clarity listening to Brene Brown, which was so funny as I have struggled to get through her books…but something about hearing her speak got the message through. Anyway, yesterday, I trusted that I would find the right episode and chose Glennon Doyle, whose name I’d heard, but knew nothing about. She said some stuff about addiction, that it is a place where sensitive people hide because they learned early on that the cost of love and pain were too much. It blew my mind. Wow. There was more, but trying to convey it all here would be impossible- I didn’t take notes, I just let the message into my heart. After that, I listened to two episodes with Iyanla Vanzant- again, heard the name, know nothing about her. Let the message flow into me.

I couldn’t tell you the exact things I heard, but I can tell you this- I remembered a few things that my anxious mind was keeping from me. Things like, oh yeah- I believe in a benevolent universe, and I have a God in my life who loves me. That you can’t bank worry to keep you from future pain- it doesn’t work like that. And that sometimes bad things do indeed happen, but that is true whether you choose to live in fear of them or not.

But it wasn’t exactly what was said, I don’t think, that really got me. It was more like…my mind and my heart opened up because I was thinking in a different way.  The guests and the questions and the stories were like WD-40 for my mind, helping the wheels to start turning, getting me thinking again. And right in the middle of all of it, I opened up a notebook and wrote a letter to myself. I’m not going to share it with you here, but my therapist had asked me to write a letter of self-compassion last week, and I balked like no one has ever balked before. Just, YUCK. No. But lo and behold, I pulled it off yesterday. It didn’t even start off that way, but that’s where it ended up.

The thing is, my anxiety is not really about my fear of something happening to me, or to my children. My anxiety is really about me not being able to forgive myself for my past. It’s about me not thinking I deserve the blessings I have today, because I am just a mean-spirited ex-junkie who just got lucky. It’s me waiting for the jig to be up, for God to take it all away. My anxiety is me, telling me I am not good enough. That there must be some mistake.

But I have worked really hard to get here. I overcame my addiction, and even though it didn’t seem hard to me, it must have been- how many other times did I try and fail? How many years did I sacrifice to that monster? So, yeah, it didn’t seem hard but maybe that’s just because I have a good perspective about it and I chose to see the beauty in it. And perhaps it looks like I have a cushy job- even to me, sometimes. But I show up day in and day out and I try to do my best. I struggle A LOT. The point I am trying to make is that the same brain telling me I am not good enough is the one telling me I just got lucky. Yesterday I saw the flaw in my thinking. I do deserve my life. I do deserve my kids, and the love, and the happiness. And yes, awful things may come. But do I have to ruin all my happiness while it is good? No. No I do not.

I’m sorry this is so long. I needed to get this off my chest. The thing is, I am not magically cured. I just believe I needed to stay with those feelings until I got the lesson, and now things will, hopefully, begin to improve. In the meantime, I am going to keep asking for help and looking for the message, and really try to let go of fear and enjoy my life. So thanks, God. And thanks, Oprah. LOL. You’re the best.

Posted in Addiction, escape, family, Goals, inner peace, kids, Learning, Life, love, People, random, Uncategorized, writing

The Truth

prayer2I wanted to share with you a something I wrote weeks before I got clean, not because I think it is so great, but because it sums up perfectly the sense of desperation I experienced in my “before” life. I am so glad that I have written things like this, so that when I grow forgetful, as I tend to, there are reminders everywhere to help me see the light. I think it is remarkable that I am where I am, again, intact, thriving, happy. I am not proud of the things I admit to here, but they are the truth for me- or were. I can’t help but think my prayers were answered. I hope these words find the people who need them most, so that they know they are not alone, and that there is ALWAYS hope. Enjoy:

prayer (1)

 

Today, just a little bit ago, I was coding a chart for the cancer clinic (I am a medical coder, and I work from home 90% of the time) for this man less than ten years older than my mom. This poor guy- he has cancer everywhere. His throat, his bones, his lungs, his liver…it isn’t good. I don’t need to be a medical professional to know that. When I finished with his coding, I stopped, bowed my head, and said a little prayer for him. This is not at all out of the ordinary for me, honestly. Even when I am in the office, if something I see in a patients chart is particularly awful or scary or sad and overwhelming, I will do the work, then pray, and no one is any the wiser. I just feel like it’s what I want to do, they need it, and it certainly can’t hurt anyone, right?

Today, my prayer for this man was simple- Dear God, please take note of this man, he is very sick, and he is probably very scared, he may feel a little hopeless, I don’t know, I don’t know him. But if I were him, I may just feel like there is nothing good left for me, in my fear. Maybe he is not a nice man, and people don’t care about him. Maybe he is a great man, with great faith, and many people love him and have had their lives touched by him. Either way, lord, he is your child and you love him- please put your hand on him today and let something good come into his life, give him hope, or peace.” That is as close to exact as I can get you with my prayers, especially since, I don’t know about you ( how you pray, or even if you pray at all, let alone for random strangers) but my prayers aren’t spoken aloud, they are thought and felt as much as they are spoken telepathically, only inside of my head. So there is quite a bit going on along with the words. At the end of this prayer, though, rather than stop, my prayer pulled a fast one on me, changing direction. Here is the rest:

“Oh yeah, and while you are putting your hand on people, how about reaching out to me, God? I am not doing so well, over here. I realize I have every single thing I need to have a happy, good life, but I need help, God. I need you to pull me out of this sickness causing me to lay waste to every happiness in my control. It isn’t just me, God, I am affecting so many other people, ruining their happiness, changing their lives…my babies, my girls, God. I never want to hurt them, and I can’t stop. Time is going by so fast, and I feel like I am just stuck here. Please help me, God. Please, please do something. Get me out of this. Every single thing I am doing is wrong.”

As I was finishing this prayer, crying like a little scared girl, looking around for a paper towel to mop up my entire head with, the writing thoughts started up. I was annoyed for a second, because I can’t seem to have a meltdown of any caliber anymore without the thought of taking it down “for the book” popping into my head.

Then it hit me. Here I am, sobbing, asking God, PLEASE, for a hand, for help, for a way out…and the answer is always, Writing. Write it down. Put it on paper. Don’t let it slip away, don’t waste it, don’t think you are getting out of this without using it- what do you think you are here for, anyway? You have a problem, a really BIG problem, and you can write about it the way you can talk- so that anyone can relate to you. This is not an accident. If you don’t make this problem a light that you can shine into the lives and hearts of people just like you, or people who love people just like you and cannot understand…well, then what will have been the purpose of all these years? All this heartache? Don’t waste it.

That is, I think, what I am being told, here.

I really haven’t wanted to listen. I wanted to tell this story when I was well, rather than in the midst of the worst, sickest part. It would be an easier story to tell from there, and easier to hear. But maybe I can’t help anyone well, not yet. Maybe you need to see the whole picture, this feeble, frightened woman who still feels like a little girl most of the time, a girl who hates herself- loathes herself, pretty much, for what feels like weakness. Weakness, selfishness, greed, compulsion, darkness. All of those things are present. Callousness, cruelty, rage, impatience. Side effects. Mercurial, unpredictable, inconsistent, confusing- all accurate. Sad, broken, desperate, scared, helpless, despairing. Yes. Completely fucking out of ideas, frozen in place, terrified to ask for help? Oh yes, all of those, also. And in quiet terror, I watch the years fly by, and me, still here, missing all of the things that make up a life. Here, but not here. Present, but detached, missing all of the happiness and tenderness, forfeited to the tyranny of my mental illness or whatever it is, turning every thought into one about me- “ do you think anyone is noticing me acting weird? Am I acting weird?” “Why is she talking to ME like that, I’m fucking here, aren’t I? why are they singling me out?” “No matter what I do, it isn’t good enough.” “Oh my gosh, when can I get out of here, I need to figure out where I can do this at.” Every thought in my head, obsessing over myself. Rushing through birthday parties, ruining Thanksgiving, never letting anyone see me for long enough to talk too seriously, keeping my kids from ever relaxing or getting to know their aunts, uncles, cousins. But, you know, they have their whole lives…I mean, plenty of time, right? I’ll be better way before it even matters. Right?

But I haven’t been better. And now Aisley is sixteen. Do you know what that means? That means I waited her whole life, her entire childhood, hoping something would change, and I would get better. I stole every single chance for normal memories of her childhood, memories that even I have, in my screwed up childhood. Memories that I CHERISH. I love my daughter more than anything, but I could not refuse myself, even briefly, to give this to her. There is something so brutal and awful about that. No wonder I despise myself.

I am in a battle for my life every minute of every day. You may not know it by looking at me. I have mastered, or at least become skilled at, putting my best face forward for you. I will smile and look you in the eye, and try really hard to keep my word, show up on time, be fair and honest and decent, because that is who I want to be, and the way I want you to think of me.

I don’t want you to know that I have been a drug addict since I was nineteen years old. That I have seen and done and known about things that would horrify the average person, but don’t even surprise me anymore. I would die if you knew how unhealthy the way I live, the way I treat myself, is. I would be so embarrassed if you saw how I behaved, sometimes, towards my children, or my mother, who have done nothing but love me. I would be so ashamed if you knew how poorly I treat my job, that gives me every tool imaginable to live a prosperous life. I would be mortified if the people I work with, my friends and respected peers that have shown me such kindness, so much love and support, knew the truth. I don’t want anyone to know the real me. And it is making it so hard to ask for help, that I don’t know when all this will end. I live in constant fear of being found out, and what the repercussions of that would be. I am terrified of that, but finding the courage to get help seems almost less possible to me most of the time. The rest of the time, I am just continuing on, not improving or worsening, steady in my pursuit of…nothing. More of this. More misery and emptiness and shame.

 

I guess I need to tell this story. I don’t want you to know me this way, but you are going to have to, if I am ever going to get better. And I HAVE to get better, I HAVE to. I can’t bear thinking of what my regrets will look like if I have to look back at my whole life, and see nothing but me standing in a wasteland, refusing light years of love being handed out on a silver platter. What a fool. What a sad, terrible fool. Please, God, please let this help. Let this be the start of a tunnel out of here.

Thank you.