Posted in Depression, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, random

Sad News

I sat down here this morning to write how sorry I was that I haven’t been keeping up lately, to tell you that I have been so happy, and my life has been so joyful and full of so many good things, that I didn’t want to break the spell by trying to explain it all. That is what I intended to say to you all this morning.

And then I received an alert on my phone that Anthony Bourdain had died, at the age of 61, from suicide, and…you know, I’m feeling much more somber now. That’s two in one week, you guys- two that we know, personally, among many, many more, I’m sure. First Kate Spade, and now Anthony Bourdain. Two people whom, I imagine at least, have all of the things we think would make our lives “perfect” if only we had them, right? It struck me this morning, as I thought about it, that perhaps all the success contributed in some way to the problem. Like, if you have everything you ever wanted, and you still feel terrible, you still suffer with depression, anxiety, whatever mental illness plagues you- wouldn’t that make it even worse? I don’t know, I’m just speculating. I imagine that it would. I just know that I am especially sad about the loss of Bourdain. He was truly one of my favorites.

It is hard for me to remember what depression feels like when I am no longer in it- I have only had a few bouts of it, but that was enough for me. But I do remember that when I was deeply entrenched in it, I could not remember what it felt like to be happy. And more than that, I could not imagine ever being happy again. Worst of all, I believed that all the memories I had of a time when I was happy were lies. My brain was so sick and sad that I honestly believed that I had never really been happy in my life. So, I don’t know…I don’t know how long I could have kept going that way, what my thoughts might have looked like after too long. And I don’t know what it’s like to be truly suicidal, either. There have been times when I thought I might not try to move aside if a truck jumped the curb, and there have been times in my addiction when I really felt my family would be better off without me, but…I never considered killing myself, not really. So I don’t know, and I’m glad I don’t. I guess my mind is just trying to wrap itself around this latest loss, trying to understand, and…you know, I don’t need to, I guess. I can just be sad.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel qualified to even guess about this, let alone write about it. But it would be weirder, maybe, if I didn’t. After all, I was a huge fan, and I am terribly sad about this news. I wonder what was going on inside his head, what must that have looked like to make such a final, permanent decision. How awful things must feel if death looks like the best answer. Again, I’m glad I don’t know. I wish it was different for him, and for Kate, and for Chester, and for Chris, and for the millions of other people whom I do not know but have come to the same end. I hope they all find the peace that they sought.

I am not going to write about my happiness this morning, but I am not going to feel guilty about it, either. This poor world…it needs all of the light it can muster.

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Posted in Addiction, advice, alcoholism, Goals, inner peace, Life, Mental Health, mindfulness, People, random, relationships

Let Go of Everything

breathe

Today is the last day of my life that I will ever be 42. Forty-fucking-two, you guys. Holy shit! Tomorrow, I will be FORTY THREE. I honestly had no idea that in your forties, you could still feel the exact same way that you did in your 30’s and even in your 20’s. Maybe just a little more cautious, and a little less willing to paint your own toenails or pluck your own eyebrows- this is the luxury of having a bit more financial stability and less of a desire to stay up past nine in the evening, meeting friends for expensive drinks. You can pay someone else to groom you. I am only half way joking- this is one of the most enjoyable things about getting older for me. That, and getting to enjoy the full scope of Amazon Prime. I love that shit.

Anyway, for some reason, I always thought that 42 would be this landmark year for me. I actually looked forward to it for a really long time, and now, here I sit, almost done with the age…and nothing pointedly significant is jumping out at me. I didn’t get an agent (nor did I try, so that might be part of that problem), I didn’t have a New York Times best seller (also, didn’t finish my novel yet, so that could be why), and I am not rich beyond my wildest dreams (although this has been a great year for me, financially, so…). So what does that mean? Has this year been a failure because no giant big deals are jumping out at me?

Nah. This has been the best year of my life so far. I’m still clean. My mental health is outstanding- like, I am probably more stable now than I’ve ever been. My physical health is incredible. My parenting game is top-notch. My bills are all paid. My recovery is strong. I am closer with my family than ever, and I have some wonderful friends. My life is in really good shape.

But the best part is the ease of it all. What I mean is, I’m not afraid of living anymore. Like, I finally learned how to stop trying to make everything turn out exactly the way I wanted it to, and let whatever is supposed to happen, happen. And this small thing, when someone is the caliber of control freak that I am, is not really a small thing. Do you know how exhausting it is to constantly try to manipulate every possible outcome in your favor? If you do, you really need to hear this, because…I think I finally figured out the solution. Just let go. Let go of the outcome, and enjoy the ride. You don’t have to insert yourself into everything, you don’t have to put up a false front, you don’t have to do anything…just let things go how they will go. It’s literally the most magical thing ever.

I don’t mean stay in your pajamas and stop showing up for work. You still have to show up. But some things you don’t have to do? Okay, well- you don’t have to suffer fools. Let them go…show them the door, even. You don’t have to keep anyone in your life that doesn’t deserve to be there. You can definitely let go of people that suck. You don’t have to explain yourself, either. If you are done with someone, chances are they know exactly why you feel the way you feel, so BYE. You don’t have to apologize for your feelings. You don’t have to beat yourself up for being human. You don’t have to let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. You don’t have to let YOU make you feel bad about yourself.

And here are some things you can do: You can love yourself, exactly the way you are. You can love yourself, and still want to change a few things. You can let people into your life that make you happy. You can let those people go, if they want to go, and it doesn’t have to mean anything is wrong with you. You can be proud of yourself. You can tell that mean voice in your head to shut the fuck up. You can decide you are pretty fucking great, and defend that decision as if your life depends on it, because it kind of does. You can just be who you are, and relax.

I may not have done all of the things in the past twelve months that I expected of myself, but I did a lot of things that will help me get to where I want to be. I did some deep, deep, inner work, and it has given me back far more than I invested, honestly. Sitting here, writing this, I have so much peace in my heart. I am so okay with who I am. Flaws and all. It’s been a pretty outstanding year.

Posted in anxiety, Blogging, Depression, family, funny, Goals, kids, Life, Mental Health, motherhood, parenting

Three Things- Welcome, March!

three daffodils

I woke up this morning with the three things I wanted to write about already in my head- unfortunately, as often happens, they have completely disappeared. For all I know, they were stupid things anyway that only seemed to make sense because I was half asleep. That’s kind of how my early morning thoughts generally are- they seem brilliant until I’ve had a cup of coffee, and then I’m like “What the fuck? That is utter nonsense!” Too bad I can’t remember what they were, they might have been good for a laugh. Anyway, I have at least two I can share…maybe the third will reveal itself as I go. Here goes:

  1. Depression. Can we talk about this for a minute? It often feels to me as if I am constantly on the cusp of slipping into depression, or just over the line into it, and struggling to either keep myself away or get myself all the way out. This week has been extra bad in that respect, and I hate it. I wake up every day with the intention of trying harder, doing better, getting more done, but the fact of it is…when you are truly feeling depressed, it’s very hard to accomplish much. Or anything, really. I think…I think I might be dealing with this the wrong way. I want so badly to just snap out of it through exercise or positive thinking, or even desperate prayer. I don’t have TIME to be depressed. I have shit to do. I don’t have any reason to be depressed, either. My life is good. Well guess what? That’s not how depression operates, and it doesn’t care how good your life is, what your schedule looks like, or if you have time. Much as I hate to admit it, it might be time to talk to someone about this. Sorry for being a bummer.
  2. March. It’s freaking MARCH already. I love spring, and would be pretty excited if I wasn’t feeling particularly shitty this morning. Also, it’s pouring down rain here right now, which we need so badly in California, but also, I feel like the weather is mocking me. I’ve decided that for the month of March, I will go mostly meatless. That’s my theme for the month- Mostly Meatless March. I say mostly because I’m scared. I’ve never tried to go without meat for an entire month, and I might forget, or freak out. I’m going to really try, though, to be a vegetarian for a month and see how it feels. Who knows? Maybe I’ll love it! Maybe I’ll lose twenty pounds! Maybe I’ll go vegan, and talk about only that for the rest of my life! (Note: this will never happen. I love butter and cheese WAY too much).
  3. Well, Camryn just gave me my third thing. She just stumbled out of bed, with her hair standing up straight, and her cheeks all flushed. “What are you doing up?” I asked her, looking at the clock which read 5:49, “It’s way too early!” “The cat woke me up.” She said, climbing into my lap.”She had her arms around my neck.” “Oh, she was giving you a hug.” I replied, giving her a hug of my own. “Yeah, or she was trying to secretly strangle me.” I laughed so hard, you guys- this is an ongoing thing in this house. Our girl cat, Rose, adores Camryn, but you know how cats show affection…sometimes they get a little mean about it. They get so wound up when you pet them that they scratch you, or knead you a little too hard. Camryn is convinced that the cat is trying to kill her. Sometimes she’ll scream for me from the other room to help her, and I run in to see what is wrong, expecting blood or broken bones, only to find a little girl with a cat lying peacefully in her lap. “She’s starting to scare me!” Camryn will whisper. Wouldn’t it be awful if the cat really was being a maniac, but every time I walked in the room she acted all sweet and innocent? Maybe I should install cameras. ­čÖé

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I hope you have the best day possible under whatever circumstances you are dealing with. I certainly intend to. Talk to you soon!

 

Posted in Goals, health, Learning, Life, Mental Health, recovery, writing

Balance or Burn Out

low battery
Literally how I feel right now

13 days into the New Year, and already, I find myself having to give myself a stern little talking to this morning, after seeing how events have unfolded, particularly over the past week. I never really did go into what all of my goals for the year were, at least, not publicly, but loosely, they probably looked a lot like many others goals- eat thoughtfully. Get consistent exercise. You know, take care of myself in all the ways that matter to ME. I tried to be pretty specific, and even wrote out recurring appointments for myself in my planner.

My planner, which I haven’t so much as cracked open in at least the past seven days. You see, my BIG GOAL this year was to focus on writing- ALL things writing, which you have, if you pay any attention to my blog at all (and thanks, by the way, for doing that) probably noticed I have been doing quite a bit of. Anyway, writing was my big goal, and, as I do, I went whole hog into it. Not just blogging- that is more of a secondary interest for me, a way to connect with other writers- but my novel, which is coming along freaking brilliantly. I am not kidding, I am in LOVE with that project right now. I started the month by cutting three finished chapters (which, by the way, was basically like murdering family) that were really not working, and starting over. Best thing I ever did. I got the story rolling again, in a direction that fit much better, and I have really gotten into my writing groove.

Like, really really really gotten into it. To the point of exhaustion. Brutal, terrible, this-isn’t-good-at-all exhaustion. Combine that with my other big goal this year- to be CONNECTED with others (meaning, spend the time I am not writing basically socializing) and already, I found myself hitting a wall. Tuesday night, I ran my women’s meeting, got home, got to bed late. Wednesday, worked all day, got off work, went to an event (which I will tell you all about tomorrow) with a friend in Santa Cruz, got home late, went to bed even later. Thursday, I worked all day, got off work, went to work my other job for a little while, got home, met up with a friend that I am going on a trip with next fall so that we could start planning. Got to bed late again. Friday, I was sitting at my desk at work, and…I kind of lost it. I thought I was getting sick, but I KNEW I needed to lay down. I took the rest of the day off, went home, and didn’t get off the couch again for the rest of the night. Except for when I went to Taco Bell and bought one of everything on the menu. I left the couch for my bed at 7, and slept like the dead. I didn’t even wash my makeup off last night- I barely remembered to remove my bra. I just checked, and yes, I actually slept in my clothes.

I didn’t make it to the gym last week, not once. I ate terribly, at least one really bad meal every day. Oh, and I decided that waking up at five wasn’t early enough, by the way, so I have been getting up around 4:15. Look, you’d have to be blind not to see that a schedule like this is going to lead to burn out. Now, as I sit here in yesterday’s clothes, with yesterday’s mascara clinging to my eyelashes, I am having my come-to-Jesus moment. I can’t do this…not like this. I have to pull back a little bit.

Look- the concept of “balance” is kinda played out, I realize this. The idea of having a perfectly balanced life is utter bullshit. We are messy, fucked up little human beings, and we can’t even find our keys, we have kids who never have any idea where the hell their shoes are, and even when we can find our keys and their shoes, we get halfway to work and realize our coffee, their back pack, etc., is sitting on the kitchen table. Balance isn’t ever truly going to be achieved. It’s a myth. Once in a while, you are going to have a perfect day- enjoy it. That is not how life really is.

BUT: You (and I mean “I”, obviously, as well) do have to try to take care of yourself in the basic ways, the ways that fuel and tend to your body. And I have not been doing that, not by a long shot. I haven’t slept enough. I haven’t eaten right. I literally drank maybe two glasses of water all week. Now, I am paying for it. After all that sleep I just got, I could still crawl back into bed and sleep the day away.

So, what is the solution? Well, I am NOT going to allow myself to sleep all day, because that won’t help at all. What I will do, however, is drink some water today. Hit the gym. Pick up some groceries and make sure I have healthy options available this week. And I will get to bed at a decent hour tonight, knowing I will be right back at it at 4:15 tomorrow. It’s great to have goals, and drive, and I love the passion I have for my writing, but…what’s that saying about the marathon and the sprint? Yeah, it’s the longer one of those. Yawn.

Posted in advice, inner peace, Learning, Life, living, Mental Health, mindfulness, Musings, People, recovery

It’s ALL in Your Head

its all in your head

 

I’m just going to go ahead and warn you right now- if you are not in the right place to hear what I am about to say, it’s going to irritate the piss out of you. It has been my experience that, when I am being negative as fuck, the last thing I want to hear is someone telling me that maybe I should change my attitude. Also, if you are suffering from legit mental illness (and really, aren’t we all, to some extent), I mean, severe depression, etc., then you are excluded. But for the rest of us, the whiners, complainers, procrastinators, and the “I feel fucked over” population, this is for you. For US, actually, since I am right there with you most of the time.

I don’t know exactly when it started for me, but I suspect it was somewhere in my mid-30’s, when I began to feel this sort of pervasive dissatisfaction with my life. Weirdly enough, if I had to point out a distinct portion of my life as the beginning, it would be around the time that everything settled down for me and stopped being so completely chaotic. You would think, wouldn’t you, that once things stopped being so messy they started feeling better, right? Not in my case. Perhaps I was so used to the chaos and upheaval that, once the dust settled, it didn’t feel very exciting anymore. I think I have written about this in the past, the way I love a good challenge, and overcoming obstacles is so gratifying for me. I have dubbed it “The Phoenix Syndrome” because I get off on rising from the ashes.

But you can only burn your life to the ground so many times before it becomes exhausting. I am 42 years old now, and the thought of starting over, picking up the pieces after wrecking everything myself- it holds a lot less appeal to me. I have evolved into this strange creature who pays her bills on time, and watches carefully her processed food intake. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that I used drugs made partially from Drano, for Pete’s sake, and now I worry about the saturated fat content in a burger. Sigh. I am laughing about this now, but only because it’s true, and super weird.

So, my life settled down, and my mind began to change, and somewhere along the way, instead of just enjoying all the blessings of this incredible life I was living- clean, employed, blessed with a beautiful family, a nice house, enough of everything I needed- a little voice in my head started bitching, complaining, and feeling put out about everything, and it’s tenacity is astonishing.

This little voice never wants to do anything, and I mean anything- except of course, the opposite of whatever it is I happen to be doing at the time. If I am sitting on the couch, blissfully indulging in a Netflix marathon of Ghost Whisperer, the little voice is haranguing me because I really ought to be doing: The dishes, the laundry, or some type of meaningful interaction with my kid. Okay, so maybe the little voice is right. However, should I give in to the little voice, here is what inevitably happens: As I do the dishes, or the laundry, ┬áthe little voice will then say something like this: “You spend your whole life doing things you don’t want to do- when is it time for YOU, Courtney?” Or, in case I am playing Go Fish with the spawn, it says “You should really move this along. You could be doing something productive right now.”

In short, the little voice’s mission seems to be to make me as miserable as possible, no matter what I am doing. And, check it out, I am not talking about a psychotic break here. These are not disembodied voices that are barking directions at me. No, this voice sounds an awful lot like me, and I am nothing if not convincing. Much of the time, I buy into that shit, 100%.

And that is too bad, you know? Because the truth is, I deserve to enjoy my life. Every one of us do, to be honest. It is our God given right to be happy in this lifetime, however that looks to you. But every single time we listen to that shitty voice in our heads, we are bound to feel the opposite of happy.

So, what are you supposed to do about it? Well, this is the tricky part where I start trying to give advice about something that I haven’t mastered expertly just yet. I do well for a while, and then I backslide a little, start listening again. But I do know a little bit. Like, for instance, start noticing it. Start really paying attention to the thoughts in your head, hearing the critical voice when it starts talking. Because when you are aware of it, you can have a conversation with it. Your mind may say “You are so lazy. Everyone else keeps their dishes done, what is wrong with you?” And you can say, “I work my ass off all week long, I am the furthest thing from lazy, I am dealing with the loss of Jim right now (Ghost Whisperer reference, sorry), go away. I will deal with the dishes later.” You are allowed to defend yourself, even to yourself. My only advice to you here is that you have this conversation internally, unless you are home alone. People do tend to become concerned when you are having frustrated, one-sided conversations with yourself out loud.

Another thing you can do to combat this is to notice the tone of your thoughts, and, when they are negative and critical, redirect them. This happened to me yesterday, actually, when I was faced with the task of working in my enormous, weed filled yard. It was hot, and there was so much work to do, and I am not a big fan of manual labor of any sort. I started thinking about how much I wanted to be inside, doing nothing, and how shitty it was that I had to work all week and then spend my time off doing something I hated. And THEN, I looked around me. I was spending a sunny afternoon in my own yard, and people who loved me gave up time out of their busy lives to come help me, for free, clean up my yard. There was music playing, and kids laughing, and we got so much done! Suddenly, as I stood there, bent over at the waist, shoes and gloves full of fox tails, I broke through the spell that negativity had cast on me, and I could see the truth.

I was actually having a perfect day. I just had to be able to see it. Changing the conversation we have with ourselves, in our heads, is not easy, it is not quick, and it is not permanent. Like everything else worth achieving in life, it takes a lot of effort. But there are days now when I can nip it in the bud the minute it starts, and I always, always end up having a better time. I would guess that 90% of our experience of life is in the way we view it. If you let that little voice have too much power, you will not be able to enjoy anything. You could win an all expense paid, ten day trip to Disney World, and spend the whole time upset by how long the lines are for the rides, or worrying about your dogs back home.

So, basically- Pay attention to your thoughts. Listen to the way you are speaking to yourself. If your thoughts are lame, change them- you are not only allowed to do this, you are the only one who can. If the way you are speaking to yourself is shit, correct it. Don’t let your head talk to you in a way that you would never tolerate another person to. Remember, you are in charge of which thoughts you believe- it may not seem like it, but it’s true. The more you redirect yourself, the easier it becomes.

That’s it, that’s all I’ve got. Have a wonderful day!

 

Posted in Addiction, inner peace, Learning, Life, Mental Health, Musings, People, recovery

Back To Earth

back to earth

There are signs that I am improving; My internal clock is working again- I go to bed before most of the world, but I wake up before most of the world, too. I am crawling out of bed, pulling myself out of the tangle of sheets, blankets, children, dogs- before the sun has even thought about peeking its glowing face around my corner of the world. I am back to my routine of soaking in lavender scented baths every morning, thinking about nothing. Then, I like to wrap myself up in my robe and sit on my front porch with my coffee, listening and watching as the rest of the world wakes up. The lavender scented water that has gotten in my hair is freezing cold by now, and when it drips down the back of my neck, it feels really good- this robe does not breathe. I need a new one. Anyway, in between the sounds of early morning traffic, way down the hill, I can still hear the pounding of the surf, and the little birds that have made their home in my neighbors attic.

Another sign that I am improving? Yesterday, I bought a book. A real, paper and ink book, which I read this morning in the tub. I don’t read in my other state. And then, there is this, of course. That I am sitting here, writing this, is another sign. Yesterday, I went for a walk with my dogs, one of my children, and a good friend. I wasn’t trying to find anything, I didn’t bring home a pile of garbage and call it treasure. I just walked. Well, I did try to get a library card in a neighboring town…but they were on to me. Jeeze! You don’t return a few measly books thirteen years ago, and you are branded for life. I may never check out books on this peninsula again.

There are other signs (I just accidentally spelled signs “sighns”, how very ironic. Or is that ironic? well, whatever, how funny.) that I still have a ways to go…I don’t really feel like shaving my legs. I haven’t washed my face before bed in well over a week. I cry- like, a lot- about everything. Yesterday, I saw this harassed looking man, walking two dogs while shouting into his cell phone. Trailing behind him was the most sad faced little red headed boy, about four. I wanted to pull over and scream “Hang up your phone, and pay attention to your kid, asshole!” But I didn’t. I just cried the rest of my drive. I don’t enjoy this overly-tender state I am in. It makes wearing mascara treacherous. But this is what happens when I stuff all my feelings for…what, five months, this time? Yep.

So, the crying. The fact that, even after getting a no vote from friends on Facebook last night, I still went to pick up Camryn’s medicine from Rite Aid in my pajamas. I could have at least put on yoga pants. The worst part? They aren’t even cute pajamas- they are super old, faded, purple flannel with big coffee cups all over the legs. You can’t even pretend they are anything other than pajamas. I didn’t care. Well, until after I got there and realized they had screwed up the meds, and I would have to sit and wait for another fifteen minutes. Then I cared. Lesson learned, Universe.

I’m tired. I’m tired of feeling like this. I’m tired of feeling like that. I just want to be okay. But I know I am getting there. Or hope that’s where this road leads. I suppose we shall see.

Posted in Goals, Life, love, People, Uncategorized

5 Little Things

Well, hello.

You’ve probably all forgotten me, and I don’t blame you- it’s been a long time since I’ve sat down here with something to say. I need to apologize, I suppose, for my absence. There is this thing that people do when they are feeling incredibly bad, and sad, and miserable, and overwhelmed…it’s called isolating. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Anyway, I sort of had a ┬álittle nervous breakdown, took some time off work, and I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself. Work that did not include writing this blog, unfortunately.

The good news is, I am better. The great news is, every time I go through something like this, I learn more about myself and what I really need to do to keep myself well. I am lucky that I have lived a life that has afforded me the luxury of safely taking care of myself- a job that allowed me to take a couple of months off to get better- I know that is not the case for all the people I know ( some of whom could DESPERATELY use a little self help…or ANY help, for that matter.). The point is, I realize how blessed I am to be where I am and have a great employer who really does give a shit about their employees ( they were probably like “PLEASE, PLEASE GOD, let that girl request a LOA before we have to fire her!)

So, back to my point…what was it, again? Oh yeah! What I have learned this time about me, and about my happiness and mental well being is so simple that I have whittled it down to five little things, henceforth called :

The Five Commandments of Courtney:

  1. Thou shalt not imbibe ANY illegal narcotics, ever, for any reason, other than major surgery.
  2. Thou shalt go to bed when tired and get eight hours of sleep, or more, whenever possible. And it is usually possible, so thou shalt not make it into something harder than it is.
  3. Thou shalt eat good, healthy food.
  4. Thou shalt get off your lazy little butt and MOVE. Exercise is good for your mind, body and spirit.
  5. Thou shalt have a spiritual program of some sort.

That’s it. That right there is the recipe for happiness for me, and since I have been making sure to live by these rules, guess what? My life is completely okay. Alright, I feel a little embarrassed about it, but in all honesty, my life feels WONDERFUL again. I forgot that when I feel great, my life is automatically going to seem more manageable to me, and by default, will become a pleasure again. I forgot that when I feel like a giant ball of shit, everything in front of me is going to look like shit, too.

Life is really not supposed to suck all the time. If you find that yours does, you may need to do what I did, and take a look at what the problem is. Chances are it is going to be you, but don’t despair! That is GREAT news- because YOU are the only one YOU can change. So there’s hope.

If anyone even still subscribes to my blog, I’d love to hear what your “commandments” are. How do you live your life to stay happy? Was there ever a time in your life when it was so bad you had to make some serious inner (or outer) changes? ┬áI can’t wait to hear- so I’ll obsessively be checking my stats all day again!