Posted in anxiety, Blogging, faith, friendship, Goals, happiness, inner peace, Learning, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, Musings, People

A String of Lovely Days

dalai
This basically summarizes everything I just wrote, so you can just stop here if you want.

Yesterday marked my 8th day in a row of being happy. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but the days that preceded that were so God-awful, at least a few of them, that I am not even going to link to the “Panic Attack Rabies Incident” here. (Hint: that’s not what the post is called, that’s just what it’s about. It might have the word rabies in it though.) It’s so crazy, it’s almost embarrassing. If you want to read it, you can just scroll back until you find it. The days prior to the really, really bad day (or four) were no picnic, either. I was fighting a lot with my older daughter, feeling uncomfortable in my own home, which, when you are someone who is home as much as I am, this really sucks. And honestly, looking back even further than that- I was trialing new medication for my ADHD that went terribly wrong, I was struggling with a sort of depression/anxiety/ unhappiness/totally-stuck-in-a-rut thing. My life just didn’t feel good anymore, for a while, and I didn’t know why. Or maybe I kind of knew why, but I didn’t feel able to do the things I needed to do to overcome it.

Lucky for me, everything blew up. First, I asked my daughter to leave. It wasn’t quite as nice as that, but it has been the best thing for both of us. Then, I stopped taking that F***ing medication. No thank you. Then I had a four day panic attack, and was pretty sure I was going to die of rabies. As soon as I stopped thinking that, I started thinking I was just crazy, and this was how life would be from here on out. Panic, waking up already afraid of…of what? Just, everything. Life. It really sucked.

But, when God or the Universe or whoever is in charge of knitting bodies and souls and brains and guts together, made me, they put in this funny little switch. It gets tripped at the oddest of times, generally when I am at my lowest. Right around the time when I am feeling hopeless and ready to give up, it activates, and I wake up and think “Like HELL. Like hell am I going to live like this. If (for instance) I’m going to die a horrible death from rabies, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of these last days on earth.” Or, “I don’t know what all this fear is from, or why it is happening, but NO. I am not going to live like this.” And then the most incredible thing happens…I just…get over it. Like, I know that doesn’t sound possible, but i’m telling you, it has happened for me so many times throughout my life. I have these horrible run-ins with crippling panic and then, I just can’t take it anymore, and I put my mental foot down.

I am in NO WAY suggesting that this is a solution for anyone else, or pretending that it is proof that the mind is so powerful, you should be able to…I don’t know, be so stubborn that you can destroy your anxiety simply by not letting it happen. I’m just so, so grateful that my particular stubborn brain has this escape hatch. Because panic and anxiety are brutal motherfuckers. I’m sorry for the language, but this is a fair and accurate description. I do not have time to be a quivering mass in the corner. I have shit to do. I am the home that all of my people come to- family or just weird, adopted, family type people. This is where their mail comes. I sign for their packages. I am that person.

Anyway, there is more to the story, of course. I remembered what I already knew, but just hadn’t been practicing. That a happy life is a life that includes both things you enjoy doing, and tasks completed that need to be done. Too much of either one, and it’s no good. So every day, I make sure to do a handful of things that need to be done- clean out the car, wash the dishes, replace light bulbs, change the sheets- and a few things I just want to do. I pick up beach glass, or make hot chocolate, read a good book in the tub. Buy some crap I don’t need on Amazon. Whatever. I remembered that exercise is so important- just taking a little walk every day is so invigorating. And of course, prayer and meditation, or whatever practice is sacred to you, is just perfection. Finally, I remembered that isolation is not the same as time alone. I must talk and interact with others, because my head will start to tell me things that are not true. I need the brightness and laughter of friends to clear things up.

So- my energy has bounced back. The fear and worry have been off somewhere else. I am better than I’ve been in months. I just hope it lasts. But I will do EVERYTHING I can to make sure that it does. And for now, I’m just going to enjoy feeling good- feeling like myself again. My good self. I like this version of me.

 

 

Posted in anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Life, meditation, Mental Health, mental illness, mindfulness, Musings, People, women

Light after Darkness

light through darkness

I want to share something with you: Although I would never, ever, ever wish a panic attack of any caliber on anyone, I am sitting here this morning grateful for the meltdown I had last week. I honestly think it needed to happen. Yes, it was scary, and over the top, and it kind of felt like I filled a few short hours with a years worth of fear, BUT…walking around with all those bottled up emotions, trying to be strong and good all the time- it’s exhausting.

I learned some important things, like: even though I might feel like I am alone in the world, there really are people that I can count on in a crisis. People who love me exactly as I am, even at my worst.

Thanks to my heightened anxiety and panic for those few days, when I came back down to earth and my normal worries started kicking back in, they paled in comparison to the shit-show I had just survived. So, I have been less worried about mundane, normal things than usual. This is nothing short of a miracle. Worry is a waste of time, period.

I figured out that I need to be ME. The full expression of myself, not watered down, not held back to be more palatable for someone else. I need to be comfortable in my own life, and if I am not committed to this, certainly no one else will make it so. This is MY life. I must care for it and tend to it and make it beautiful for me, which means being who I am and defending the boundaries I decide on. I must be an active participant. Funny side effect of this is that when you start to be true to yourself, you start to uphold those boundaries, not only do you respect yourself more, but other people respect you more as well. And then it becomes even easier to be happy, and be yourself. It all goes together.

From the heights of panic to the depths of despair, my mini-nervous breakdown left me with a lot of information to process. It also left me with a clean slate, in a place where there has been much peace and gratitude. I’ve returned to my daily meditation practice, I pause many times throughout the day to appreciate the calm, or the contentment, or the quiet within me. It’s been easier for me to be kind, to reach out to others. My picking up on the vibes of others is at an all time high.

I’m no fool- I know that life is not going to magically be wonderful forever now. Ups and downs are just part of the ride, and some of us have more of them than others. I know there will be other moments when I am crying in the bathtub, scared to death of my own mind. But there will also be other moments when I am so in love with life, and so grateful for that same exact mind…and that makes it all a lot more bearable. Knowing that, when it is very dark, the light is on its way. I will try to remember that.

Posted in anxiety, family, Holidays, inner peace, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting, People, relationships

Another Great Christmas

a happy christmas

I woke up this morning (well, this middle of the damn night, really) in my fancy new pajamas, courtesy of my mama, looking about as smart as a half-asleep bed headed woman can look, and I have to tell you- I feel nothing right now except for gratitude for the day I had yesterday. My house, which I scrubbed from top to bottom on Monday, is in utter shambles all around me. There is a mountain of empty boxes behind me against the book shelf, there are tiny little plastic toy packaging pieces- or maybe they are toy parts? I don’t know, but…anyway, flotsam and jetsam liberally litters the floor and surfaces. My kitchen sink is piled high with dishes- you get the picture. It’s a mess. And I’m not even mad- about the mess, or about the fact that I fell asleep at 6:30 in the evening last night, leaving all of this for today me to deal with. You want to know why? Good, I’ll tell you.

Reason Number One: My last two posts involved me having a sort of mini nervous breakdown last week, and though I might have tried to make light of it (perhaps failing to do so) I was REALLY scared about the future implications of what that massive panic attack might mean. I didn’t know if it was just a one-off, or a terrible harbinger of mental problems to come. So the fact that my fear and panic and anxiety seems to have resolved itself and then some was enough to put me over the moon by Christmas day. Not only has the fear, anxiety, and panic receded, but I seem to have come out of it with a much better attitude and my feet more firmly planted on the ground. That intense fear I felt appears to have made my day-to-day fears seem so silly in comparison that I just don’t have time for that shit. I’m gonna live my life. This is very exciting.

Reason Number Two: Christmas stopped being about what I was getting a long time ago. This year it wasn’t even about what I gave to others, either- at least, not quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I have found a lot of joy in gift giving as I’ve grown up, but now it’s more the feeling of being the mom of this family, being the home that my loved ones show up at to celebrate. Suddenly, I am the “mom”, the home, the destination. For the first time ever, I took so much pride in that. My tree was perfect this year, my home was clean and welcoming, I did it right.

Reason Number Three: Another first for me- I didn’t have a single second of worry about money this year. It’s not that I am rolling in it or anything, but I’m finally in a place where I am financially stable and did not have to stress about every penny. What a blessing this is! I have spent every Christmas of my adult life until now freaking out around Christmas time, worried that I wasn’t going to pull it off. This year was different, and for that I am beyond relieved. I didn’t go crazy by any means- why ask for trouble? But it was nice to not have to sweat it. I have worked and worked and worked to get to this spot, and it’s finally paid off.

Reason Number Four: I didn’t ruin everyone’s day with my own expectations, subsequent disappointment, and then unavoidable meltdown. Seriously, this has been a thing I’ve been known to do. Past years, I have imagined idyllic scenes of love and appreciation, respectful gift openings, and dinner at a perfectly set table…and when that all went to shit, as it will, I freaked out. This year, I just wanted to be happy. I let everyone do their thing. And I was there for it. I just kept being there for it, whatever “it” was. And guess what? I was far happier as a result. When Camryn started ripping into her gifts faster than I could register them, I let it happen. When Aisley didn’t want to sit down at the table with us for dinner, I let that go. When Devon fell asleep- in his car, then on the couch, then on my bed- I didn’t need to get upset. Why did I ever need to? Why let it bother me? I honestly tried to go with the flow this year, and it made everything so much better!

Reason Number Five: Devon and I decided to spend our holiday’s together with our daughter, rather than trying to figure out who gets her when and then one of us having to miss our girl on Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter. Gosh, that seems so sad, and I couldn’t really enjoy my day knowing he was somewhere feeling down and lonely. I’d like to think he feels the same. So, we co-parented like freaking champs yesterday. We cooked a beautiful meal together, we spent a peaceful day in each other’s company, and it was such a massive win for Camryn, whether she ever knows it or not. No fighting (except a brief spat about politics), no animosity, just her mom and dad hanging out with her on Christmas. That was the best thing we could’ve done for her, and I’m so proud of that.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I am not a religious person, but I do love God, and I am deeply connected to my spiritual side. So I said many prayers of thanks yesterday, and shed a few tears of gratitude, and a few of sadness, for the family and friends I’ve lost the past few years. I went to bed healthy, grateful for my family, my tummy and my heart both full. What more can you really ask for from a day, especially Christmas? Not much. Not much more than that at all.

Posted in anxiety, funny, health, Life, Mental Health, mental illness, People

My Most Expensive Panic Attack Ever

It’s not a big secret that I’m an anxious person- it doesn’t take more than a cursory glance through my many, many posts to see that I’m high strung, and overthink the fuck out of almost every conceivable situation. Although I do love to be funny and witty and make people laugh, I am pretty sure this is yet another defense mechanism to trick people into liking me…not complaining about it, just saying- I’ve overthought even my best attributes. Anyway, be all of that as it may, I tend to be a super high functioning nut job. For the most part, my anxiety is pretty manageable and doesn’t keep me from doing what I need to do.

I mean, until it does. Listen, I am still not 100% clear on where I tipped the scales exactly, yesterday, but…holy shit you guys. Whew. I’m almost hesitant to talk about what happened because it is truly one of my biggest, most over-the-top episodes to date, and, well…I’m just going to say it. I woke up yesterday already feeling panicky and weird, and I’m not sure why. Although looking back now, I can tell you that there has been a lot of unusual stress and drama in my life this past month, and I do tend to wait until things are better to fall apart, so maybe that was the culprit? Anyway, I woke up panicky. I had some coffee (bad idea number one). I scrolled through Facebook (bad idea number 2). I listened to my daughters cat yowling non-stop for the fourth day in a row (she’s in heat). I took a bath. While I was in the bath, the cat came in and started yowling and being weird as hell, and I looked at my right arm, covered in fresh gouges from where she’d attacked me recently…and out of nowhere, I decided she must be rabid. I know, I KNOW how crazy this sounds, but in that moment, as panic took over my body, I was CONVINCED that that fucking cat was rabid and that I was infected.

My body went cold, my stomach dropped, and I started shaking all over. There was always a small voice in my head that said “Dude, come on, the cat is not rabid- she’s in heat.” but it was so small, and my panic was so BIG, I couldn’t listen. I was having a full fledged panic attack. If you have had one, you know- there is no reasoning with a combination of feelings like that. I tried. I tried my really fucking hardest.

Long story short, I found myself, two hours later, in the ER getting the first in a series of rabies vaccines. Let me tell you something: I was under the impression that I would be getting two shots- the rabies immune globulin, and then the vaccine. Guess what? I ended up getting TWELVE shots. 10 in a ring around my wrist, where all the bites and scratches are, and one in each shoulder. The ones around my wrist really hurt. But oddly enough, the pain snapped me back to reality a little, made the panic lessen. This will end up costing upwards of 3 grand, by the way.

Unfortunately, this did not take the fear away completely. For the rest of the day and into the evening, I still half believed I was going to die of rabies. Even after my therapist explained to me that the vaccine kept people from contracting the virus even after being bitten by animals that were confirmed to have had it. You would think that this would have completely put my mind at ease, but my mind had forgotten how to work that way by that point.

I’m going to be real honest here and tell you that, even today, I am not really okay yet. Better, yes. Weepy and weird, also yes. I am sharing this story in hopes that, whatever might be going on with you, it probably isn’t as off the Richter fucking nuts as a grown ass woman subjecting herself to 12 rabies shots because her in-heat cat scared her so badly. No matter how bad your day is going, I would almost bet you are doing better than that. And if you aren’t, you message me, and we can talk about what bullshit it is to have a mind that won’t cooperate reasonably at times.

Because it’s scary…it’s terrifying, really. But you know what? It isn’t like that every day. And if today isn’t good, it still might get better. And tomorrow just might be perfect. Hope you liked this story. Go make sure your pets are vaccinated. Trust me, it’s just better to stay on top of that shit.

PS: Milo, my daughters cat, got her shots yesterday, too. And today she is getting fixed. Freaking cat.

 

Posted in adventure, anxiety, Dreams, family, health, humor, kids, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, motherhood, Musings, People, random, travel, women

What if Something Happens?

anxiety lies

Two nights ago, I had a stressful dream that my purse was stolen. I was with my boss, at a restaurant, and realized it was gone. I was so upset! It had EVERYTHING in it- my ID, my credit cards, my makeup, my money! I didn’t know what to do. And then I realized it had my car keys in it, too, and now the thieves could steal my car. What a nightmare. Literally. But, I woke up, chalked it up to another one of my weird stress dreams and moved on.

Last night I dreamed that my car was stolen. It was a new Nissan Pathfinder (in my dream) with leather interior and all the bells and whistles. I was extremely proud of that dream car. I went down the coast to see my sister in law, and I asked her if she wanted to see my new car, which, of course, she did. We went outside, but there were suddenly so many cars, and I couldn’t seem to find mine. So I thought, hey, I’ll just click the alarm button and listen for the sound, but…my keys were gone. Eventually, I realized my car was gone. I knew who stole it, but there was nothing I could do. I freaked out. I woke up, again, very stressed out.

A single dream like this would be par for the course for me- but two? Two in a row? I know what is happening here. As my trip grows closer, I am spending my waking hours planning and being excited, and for God’s sake, not imagining every single thing that could possibly go wrong while I am an entire continent away from my children. But deep in the dark and morbid recesses of my brain, the “what-ifs” are hatching, like terrible gremlins on a gremlin-hatching conveyor belt in the fear factory of my mind. If I refuse to give them any space in my waking-hours mind, they will come out wherever they can.

This morning, as I desperately googled “stolen car dream meaning”, seeking to reassure myself that my dreams weren’t a harbinger of crashing planes and imminent death, I realized that my anxiety had me right where it wanted me. Alone, afraid, and miserable at five in the morning. Wondering how mad my friend would be if I cancelled on her two days before our trip. Hoping I came down with strep throat so I had no choice but to stay home. My anxiety is so ridiculous that I wished illness upon myself to avoid doing something fun and wonderful. Let that sink in for a minute.

So, I took a deep breath, and made a plan. When my anxiety asks “What if something happens?” I will say, “Something will happen! I am going to have fun, and see a new part of the world, and expand my horizons a little bit.” And when my anxiety insists, “Yes, but what if something BAD happens?!” I am going to say “Something BAD could happen just as easily with me here as it could with me gone- something bad could happen at any moment of any day, but mostly, it doesn’t. So stop it.” And when my anxiety continues to pester me with thoughts and images too awful to transcribe for you, I am going to fight fire with fire, by reading and remembering all the wonderful posts about women who travel all the time and make it home safe, happy, and healthy. Other people do it every single day. I am no different.

My anxiety will tell me I should just stay home. But my therapist, who I happen to have at least a bit more faith in than my own anxious brain, told me that my anxiety is dishonest…but that I will never know that if I don’t stop listening to it all the time. The only way to combat anxiety is to do the thing it tells you not to do. I mean, unless it’s telling you not to kill someone. In that scenario, your anxiety is 100% correct, and you should definitely listen.

Because my anxiety doesn’t just want me to stay home. My anxiety wants me to stay home, keep everyone I love in the house with me, close the blinds, and board up the windows. If we leave, we leave in a group. My anxiety wants not only me as a prisoner, it wants everyone I care for imprisoned as well. My anxiety calls it “being safe”, but even I know that’s not honest. That’s not living. So I will take my trip, and I will not let anxiety win this one.

And if something happens? Well…what if something wonderful happens? You can’t stop living because you are afraid. You can, actually. You can stop living because you are afraid. But I have no intention of living that way.

Posted in anxiety, Dreams, family, kids, Life, motherhood, Musings, parenting, People, random, relationships, women

Even After all this time

verbal abuse quotes Beautiful Domestic Violence Awareness Get The Facts [Infographic]

I woke up at three o’clock this morning, and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I’d had a terrible nightmare, the kind that seems so real, where you wake up breathless- like you were running straight out of the dream. Honestly, I could cry just thinking about it right now. I dreamed about a man I haven’t laid eyes on since I was 15 years old, a man I hope I never have to see again. But for a long time, he was part of my life, and part of my family. He turned what might have been a happy childhood into years of walking on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing, or make the wrong face. He was my stepfather, and he was a terrible man.

In my dream last night, somehow, he was back in our lives. We were trying to get away from him- I remember desperately thinking that I should call from a different phone, pretend to be a different woman, convince him that he should meet up with me, but…even in my dream I was too afraid he would recognize my voice, too afraid of what would happen if I were found out. I was standing in my kitchen, in this house, and I could hear the sound of that particular kind of “fight”- the kind that isn’t really a fight at all, but a man overpowering a woman. I know that sound intimately. I rushed out to find him holding my mothers arm behind her back, as she swayed on her feet, looking dazed. He had his arm pulled back, ready to punch her again. My heart was in my throat as I rushed to her side, wedging myself between them, and somehow he didn’t resist me, he let me lead her into the house. This was not how the story went in real life, of course. I was little then, and I couldn’t do anything at all to help, no matter how much I wanted to.

I don’t think my mom likes it when I talk about this. I know these are terrible memories, and she wishes they didn’t exist. But I want to point out how remarkable it is that, at the age of 43, almost 30 years since I’ve even seen this person, my mind, my heart, my consciousness, can still recall exactly the terror and the pain and the helplessness I felt as a child. I want to point out that, even if I never spoke of this again, these feelings still exist in me, whether I acknowledge them or not. I do not think of this man- almost never. I don’t waste my time hating him or being angry about what he did. I figure his biggest punishment is walking around in his skin, with his memories and his broken mind.

But do I ever feel sad for the child I was, who certainly didn’t deserve to have to live that way? Of course I do. Do I ever wonder how much that contributed to my years of drug abuse and dysfunction? You bet your ass I do. How could I not? Do I blame my mother? Nope. We’ve talked about it, many, many times. She was a very young woman, trying to provide a life for her children, and she simply got in over her head. She didn’t know how to get out. The mental manipulation that goes hand in hand with physical and verbal abuse makes it very hard to tell which end is up. There are good days in between the bad days, and remember…this abuser didn’t start off being a monster. You are always looking for the man inside the monster. Sometimes he is wonderful and charming and fun. Towards the end, as I recall it, the monster consumed the man. We left because my mother began to truly fear he would kill us all.

Though he was not my father, he left traces of himself on me. I have had to learn that people aren’t supposed to erupt in rage, or terrify littler people into submission. I have had to learn how to love others without harming them. I did not know how to fight fair. I did not know you didn’t have to fight at all, not like that. I would never tolerate a man putting his hands on me- I made that promise to myself, and I have kept it. But I became the tyrant, at least sometimes, and that has been hard to know about myself. It has been even harder to overcome.

As for my mom- she has gone on to bigger and better things, and she has been successful and happy and done so many wonderful things. But for a long time, she couldn’t talk about those years, not really. I needed to talk about them. I will never forget the night we drove out along the beach, the two of us in her car, and she finally opened up to me. She told me everything I thought was real, my memories were indeed as I remembered, and she said the most important words she’d ever said to me: “I’m so sorry. I wish I could go back and change it, but I can’t.”

Forgiveness was a lot easier after that. I don’t know how to end this, so I’m just going to say this- if you are in a situation where you are being abused, and you don’t think your kids are being affected, please believe me when I tell you that they are, and they will be for many years to come. Even if it seems impossibly hard, you can leave. There are so many organizations that can help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

 

Posted in Addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, Depression, health, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, misinformation, People, recovery, twelve step

Fear, Shame, & the Stigma of Addiction

stigma

Something I am really riled up about right now is the stigma and shame around drug addiction. SO MANY people do not understand what it really is, what it is really like, and how it feels when you are in the grips of it. They get upset that it is classified as a disease, and they say that it is a choice…which…I mean, even drug addicts themselves feel guilt and shame around this. Trust me, I was one of them. For a long time, I thought it really was my fault, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just quit, why I insisted on making my life so much harder than it had to be.

Well, news flash! It might start off as a choice- a BAD choice, obviously- but lots and lots of young people experiment with drugs. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a really healthy chunk of the population has, at one time or another, tried drugs. Lets not forget that alcohol is prevalent almost everywhere, and it is one of the most highly addictive and destructive drugs that exist- why do you think AA started WAY back when? It wasn’t just a friendly, old-timey social club. Anyway, not everyone gets addicted. But for some of us, for whatever reason, our brains get a little hit of that euphoria, and from that moment on, we just want MORE. To our detriment. As our lives crumble, as our dreams wither up, as our families cry and beg for us to change. And we promise to try, we promise to pull it together, we want to get better, but…

It’s not a choice anymore. Something has us in a grip so massive that we can’t stop killing ourselves. So maybe it isn’t a disease the way that cancer is. I will give you that, if it hurts you to think of it that way. But what about OCD? Bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses? Would you judge someone harshly for having something like that? Because to me, addiction is a mental illness (and usually not a stand-alone one, either) and it’s no more my fault than it would be if I had…say, an ulcer. Or maybe diabetes that I controlled with my diet and lifestyle. Other people might do the same things that I did, and be okay. But some people aren’t, because something inside of them is different.

Sure, now that I know better and I have it under control, I can manage it by avoiding the things that would make me sick again, and by taking my “medicine” (meetings, therapy, watching what I eat and how I behave and paying attention to my thoughts and feelings). Just the way someone with diabetes has to monitor their diet and their glucose and all of that. I know that if I don’t do those things, I am putting myself in danger of a relapse. I am now responsible for my continuing health. But I was not responsible for the way my particular body reacted to the substances I foolishly tried.

Here’s the thing, though: People get sick and they aren’t afraid to go to the doctor and ask for help. They are not judged by their doctor when they show up sick. They don’t generally fear repercussions from their employer if they are ill. But do you know how many people walk around every single day, desperate for help with their substance abuse problems, but terrified to reach out because of what might happen to their lives? Not all addicts are the people you see on the streets, acting crazy. It isn’t always that obvious. Many of us are high functioning professionals with a LOT to lose. And asking for help is terrifying.

I stayed sick for a really long time because I was afraid to tell the truth, afraid of what would happen to me, and to my family. I was lucky.  I got the help I needed and I got to keep my job, I got to tell the truth to my boss, and she was compassionate and concerned. That is not everyone’s story.

But I really think it should be. We don’t throw people away like garbage because they aren’t working correctly. You don’t KNOW…you don’t know what kind of beautiful human being is there, underneath that illness. The addicts I have known in my lifetime, and there have been LOTS of them, are not garbage. Not even when they were using. Even the worst people I have known had redeeming qualities, and intelligence, and loyalty, and very, very few of them did not dream of getting better. I can’t think of one person out of hundreds that didn’t want to lead a better life.

We should be able to ask for help when we need it. When someone asks for help, we should help them. When someone is sick, even if it makes us uncomfortable and afraid, we should help them find their way to help. Addiction is stealing the lives of our friends, our family members, and our children, many times over, every day. Addiction is destroying the lives of not only the addict, but the addicts parents, and the addicts children. It is a disease of loneliness and disconnection. It might help a lot to end the stigma and remove the shame. It’s a terrible life to be stuck in. When someone is reaching out, we have to reach out, too.

And that’s what I am thinking about this morning.

1-800-662-HELP is the number for SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Call someone if you need help, or even if you just want to know how to help someone you love.

Posted in Addiction, inner peace, Life, love, Mental Health, Musings, People, relationships

A long way to go

long-way-to-go

I have this friend that I met online several years ago on a quit smoking app that I no longer use- I have several friends from this app, actually, and it’s the only one I have ever developed outside friendships from…anyway, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is, this particular friend- an Irish dude, living in Canada (I mean, as far as I can tell, that’s who he really is- for all I know, he could be some weirdo from Indiana living in his moms basement. Hahaha!), we have the best talks. About real shit, sometimes, things that I really need to talk about. Things like the state of my heart, and the hard work of changing for the better. He understands the deep work I have been doing on myself these past few years, the labor that goes beyond 12 step groups and therapy. The time you spend on your own, examining the way the thoughts you allow in your head affect your life, and the wounds you discover that you didn’t even know you’ve been carrying around.

I told him about a realization that I had, just the other day, about how much I struggle with connecting to other people. I had mistakenly believed it was only a problem I had with men, but suddenly, I realized that it is across the board- with other women, with relatives- even with my children. I don’t know how to explain it clearly, but I can tell you that I hold everyone at arms length. That I might hug, confide, and love fiercely, but…there is a hard stop that happens, and it is causing me some pain now. That’s generally the only way I know about a problem- when it starts to hurt. I don’t really think this is a new thing, either. I suspect it’s been with me for a really long time, but I was able to escape the repercussions with sex, or behind my drug abuse. When you are living in survival mode, or in extreme dysfunction, you don’t have time to worry about things like interpersonal relationships, or connecting with others in a healthy and robust manner. 🙂

Anyway, my friend and I talked about this, and about the funny way things go when you are trying to heal yourself- the thing is, it really doesn’t end. You uncover a layer of bullshit, you sort it out, you find resolution, and you sit back for a minute- you get a short break, then- BAM! A whole new layer of bullshit surfaces, and you start dealing with that. There is no end. We are never perfect. Which is why, I guess, so many people just prefer not to get into it- not to gaze into the gaping maw of their brokenness and try to change. It’s just easier not to. Had I known what I was getting into when I started- had I even known that I was starting- I don’t know if I would have wanted this, either. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” could not be more true in this instance. Self awareness is a motherfucker. Some days I am so proud of how far I’ve come, and some days I can’t believe what an ungrateful, whining, entitled asshole I am. It’s quite a ride.

So, I told my friend about this terrible distance between myself and the rest of the world, including those I love the most, and he said “Now that you know about it, change it.”

Well, yes. But how? For a solid 24 hours I pretended that I couldn’t possibly know how to do that, because I didn’t like the answer, but of course I do know. The answer is to allow myself to be vulnerable. To stop being so sassy, to stop laughing everything off, to stop being too busy, too tired, too…whatever, and be real. Admit that I’m afraid of being hurt, of losing what I love, and therefore, afraid of loving altogether. Because that is the real truth- that I have learned, over the course of my 43 years on this planet, that love hurts. That no matter who I love, it always hurts. Within families, people are volatile and selfish and downright abusive, and it fucking hurts. Or they get old and sick, and they die, and that hurts, too. Your children become teenagers, and they hate your guts, and look down their noses at you, and that just sucks, AND it hurts. And men…oh, for God’s sake, no matter what I do, I pick the same one in a different package, again and again, and it hurts like hell. And it’s also embarrassing.

Somewhere along the way, I know that I picked up the fear, and hid it from myself, that this was somehow my fault. That there must be something fundamentally wrong with me if all of my relationships were so fraught with dysfunction and unhappiness. Even now, as I write this, I am considering that there may be some truth to that- that if I were just a better person, I would be more lovable. After all this work I have done, isn’t that the saddest thing ever? I have accomplished so much, I’ve had so much success in my life, despite the obstacles in my path. I have beautiful children, a flourishing career, a spiritual practice. Every day, I try to be more kind, more patient, more loving, and yet…here I sit. With this truth. That maybe I just don’t really know how to love, and maybe that means I am missing that part, and maybe that makes me unlovable.

Or maybe…maybe it just means that I didn’t have the best examples of what love is really supposed to look like. And maybe I took that with me into the world, and that is what I looked for, and found, over and over again. And maybe it finally got too painful, so I stopped trying, and that is when this wall went up, and it protected me for a while, but it also cut me off from the good stuff, too. Except now I don’t know how to get through it, over it, around it. But I think my job now is to try. To keep chipping away at it, feeling around for the edges, for a place where I can maybe slip through, even if it might hurt. There is still so much work to do. Such a long way to go. But in the end, I still believe it’s work worth doing.

Posted in anxiety, Learning, Life, love, Musings, People, relationships

So What About Love?

locked heart

A year ago, my therapist sort of reprimanded me about “neglecting major aspects of my basic human needs”. I think this was a really nice way of telling me I needed to get laid, although I didn’t inquire further. I didn’t want to get into it, so I just said I wasn’t ready to deal with that when I had allll these other things going on, and we moved onto whatever it was we moved onto. Maybe she was just talking about dating or something, but it sure sounded like she was implying sex. It made me very uncomfortable.

Which, if you knew me at all in real life, you would probably find this amusing. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, some kind of prude. I mean…I don’t think I am. Or maybe I am, now. I certainly didn’t used to be! But…the truth is, I am not the way I used to be, and in many ways this is a good thing. In other ways, I am still grappling with how to integrate certain things back into my life in a healthy way. One of the things I just haven’t quite figured out yet is men. I don’t know how to (Oh my gosh, if you guys could see how squirmy and weird I am being right now, just writing this, you would laugh at me) do it. I mean, I know how to do it- I have two children, for Pete’s sake. I’m not talking about THAT. I’m talking about the whole thing- meeting someone, dating, having some kind of relationship. Falling in love. Doesn’t it seem weird to think about falling in love in your 40’s? To me, it kind of does.

In any case, I have some pretty intense hang ups when it comes to this entire part of my life. One of them is that my last relationship just fucked me up. I don’t know how to put it more politely than that. I would really like to think of myself as a bit more resilient than that- that I could survive a dysfunctional mess like that, learn from it, and move on. And in a way, I guess I did do that. I learned a little too well, and moved on. Alone. And stayed that way forever. I have seen friends of mine go through break ups, feel heartbroken, and move on to find happiness again. I have done that myself in the past. But for whatever reason, this time I just retreated from all of it and I never ventured back out again. I really, truly admire people who jump back in and risk their hearts again. I think it is the bravest thing in the world, and I am in awe of that bravery. In my case, I told someone how afraid I was of being vulnerable, and how afraid I was of being hurt, how afraid I was of trusting them, thinking that if they knew this, they would be kinder to me. Instead, they did the very thing I feared the most, and I can’t forget that. What I should have seen was that if I was that afraid to trust them, I shouldn’t have. I should have known that, and I didn’t. I can’t forget that, either.

Another thing is my daughter. She is seven years old and she has never seen me with anyone except for her dad, and we broke up when she was four. Well, we broke up when she was 1,2,3, and 4, but permanently when she was 4. I was seeing someone for a while after that, but she didn’t know, and it was someone I had already dated off and on for YEARS, so I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. So I don’t know how to navigate dating with a young daughter, either. I mean, I have done that before, too- don’t forget, I have a 20 year old and I dated PLENTY when she was little, but…I don’t want to operate the way I did before. I am truly out of my element with all of this.

flirt

Probably the biggest stumbling block for me, though, is ME. Ugh, I hate to even say this, but I am so weird about everything! I am just not my best self when I am in a situation that has any romantic possibilities at all. I get anxious and uptight and uncomfortable, I think too hard and talk too much, and just generally become a giant bummer. It would be funny if it didn’t suck so badly. I don’t have the option of having a drink to take the edge off, and I truly don’t know how the hell people date without some kind of substance in their blood stream. I just paused to think about what to write next, and realized that my shoulders were raised almost to my ears. That’s how tense this subject makes me.

And this is how, over and over again, I come back to the conclusion that I’m not ready yet. I’m not there, I don’t want to, it’s fine, I’m fine, forget it. To be honest with you, I am really great on my own. I have this routine that I am happy with, I do what I want when I want to, it’s easy. I do not harbor any illusions that I need a man in my life to be complete- I am complete already. That isn’t the thing at all. The thing is that I wonder…wouldn’t it be good to have someone to love? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to turn to, or to talk about my day with? Wouldn’t it be cool to have a partner in all of this, someone who was there for me, who helped me hold it all together? I know I can do it on my own- I pretty much always have done it that way. But wouldn’t it be amazing to know I didn’t have to?

So…how do you get to the good part, the part where you get all of the benefits, the stuff I just listed? Hmm…well, this would be where I admit that I don’t know because I haven’t ever managed to get there, not really. I have picked the wrong guys, plain and simple. And the only way to pick the right one is to trust myself, listen to my gut, and TRY. Figure it out. Wade in with my eyes open and make better choices. I don’t know if I’m ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. But I’m starting to think that maybe “ready” is an illusion, another excuse to keep myself safe. Maybe I just need to jump in and see what happens. What do you think?

Posted in Addiction, anxiety, faith, inner peace, Learning, Life, Mental Health, recovery, spirituality, twelve step

In The Middle

the middle
Photo courtesy of Google and Simplereminders.com

In April of 2015, I unwittingly started out on a journey. I thought that I was just getting clean- that I would stop using drugs, get right in the head, and live happily ever after. I could foresee nothing but sunshine and better days ahead of me, and I blindly forged ahead, completely unprepared for what I was getting myself into.

Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% sure that I am right where I am supposed to be, and that I have never done more important work than the work I am doing on myself today. But I am right in the middle of it right now, and it is hard. I am tired. I have peeled away so many layers that I spent years and years building up, all to protect this fucked up little heart of mine, and now I feel…over it. I want to retreat. I don’t want to use, never that, but I just want to go back. I want to go back to being oblivious and unaware of myself, back to just living my life and not thinking so hard about who I am, why I am the way I am, who I want to be.

I had no idea what a mess I really am. None. I didn’t know I was insecure, I didn’t know I didn’t love myself, I didn’t realize I was constantly seeking outside approval to feel validated. I didn’t know how much of my self worth was wrapped up in my appearance, I didn’t know that I had no idea how to exist in a healthy relationship, and I didn’t know that I was so terrified of being vulnerable that I had essentially cut myself off from everyone who tried to get or stay close to me. I thought I was a really awesome girl who just had a drug problem.

So this is the hard part. Now I know all of those things, but I haven’t figured out how to fix them just yet. I have to sit here, with all of this painful knowledge, and I haven’t learned yet how to heal, how to repair it. My suspicion is that it is a process, and that it will take time to get to a place where I can feel okay again, and this is the worst news possible for someone who loves instant gratification as much as I do. When something is uncomfortable for me, I will go to great lengths to feel better again- which might be why I poured drugs into my system for such a long time. I didn’t know it was a band-aid over a gaping wound. I didn’t even know I was doing it to hide a problem. I thought the drugs WERE the problem, and that the problem just happened to make me feel really good. For a minute, anyway.

I have heard people talk about the agony of waking up to the truth, and I thought they were being dramatic. I thought the truth they were talking about was something else- the way the world around us is, or something…else. But waking up to who you are, who you REALLY are, is terrifying. I mean, unless you somehow managed to make it through life without hiding parts of yourself away and losing other parts, and realizing you missed some pretty important bits of information. If that is who you are, this blog probably won’t make a lot of sense to you. And I realize that not everyone has to tear themselves down to the dirt and start over. But I had to. And right now I feel pretty raw, pretty exposed.

So, here I sit. Tired of feeling all of these feelings, but pretty sure I have to do it. Coming to terms with the fact that the only way forward is through. Trying hard to have faith that I am on the right path, even though it is scaring the shit out of me presently. I can’t un-see what I have seen in myself. I can’t ever go back, so I have two choices- I can stay right here, or I can press on. And the thing is, right here is not sustainable. Have you ever lost a filling in a tooth? You know how it feels when that nerve is exposed to everything, even air? Yeah, it hurts. It hurts so much that you get over your fear of the dentist pretty quick, and figure out a way to get that cavity fixed. Well, that’s a great analogy for my life right now. I dug out that bad filling, and even though I needed it gone, it was making me sick, right now it is painful. I just want to fix it the right way this time.

I am not without hope. I have the benefit of my recovery program, I have a few people who really love me and understand, I have a sponsor who guides me when I let her, and most importantly, I have myself, willing to do the work to get better. No, most importantly, I have unshakable faith that God, or The Universe, or a spectacular combination of all of these benevolent forces, has brought me here for a reason. That there is no way for me to fail at this, but I must be patient. I must be willing to sit here, in this uncomfortable, painful place until I have learned what I need to know. And then, I can begin to put myself back together again…or maybe that is what I am doing. Maybe that’s what all this really is.