Life Lessons, 2016 edition

I’ve been doing pretty well, lately.  Things are tough, but I think they always will be; that’s just life.  I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons so far this year.  But, they’ve all been very, very good lessons, and I can honestly say that I’m glad for the difficult circumstances that brought them about.

I broke my arm in mid-February, and it seems to have knocked the depression right out of me.  Well, maybe not completely.  But, I feel an enthusiasm for life right now that had been missing for years.  The anxiety is still hanging around, but I’ve started seeing a therapist, so I’m feeling hopeful that she can give me some guidance with that.  I’ve only had one appointment with her so far, but it went much better than any other therapy appointment I’ve ever had in the past, so I’m feeling optimistic.

Look at that – did I just use the words enthusiasm, hopeful, and optimistic in the same paragraph??  That never would have happened six months ago, so something’s obviously going right. 🙂

More than anything, I’m realizing how unhealthy so many of my relationships are.  My brain is busy trying to untangle all of the emotional abuse that I’ve been a part of, either on the receiving end or as the abuser.  It’s devastating to me to know that I’ve inflicted pain on people that I love.  Most of it I’ve done unknowingly, but still.  It’s utterly horrifying.  The reason that I know I’ve been abusive is because I’m learning how people in my life have abused me.  Recognizing the behavior in other people, is helping me recognize it in myself.

And so I’m trying to correct my own behavior, while simultaneously learning how to create boundaries (which are not the same thing as walls, I’m learning) to protect myself.  And I’m trying to figure out how much effort to put into salvaging certain relationships, and at what point you just let go of them, and move forward.  Having not experienced much relational healing in my life, success in that area feels very impossible to me.  My instinct is to give up, to walk away.  But, I’m beginning to see that that’s yet another unhealthy behavior in my life.  Maybe it’s time to try something new.  But, sometimes the other person has given up, and yet another thing I’m learning is that you can’t force someone else to care about you.  If you have to bend over backwards, and practically kill yourself, to get them to respond positively to you, that’s a pretty good indication that there’s emotional abuse going on.

Positive, healthy relationships (of any kind) will encourage communication, truthfulness, and openness.  Ongoing sullenness, pouting, and giving someone the silent treatment are not healthy.  Encouraging division in relationships with other people is not healthy.  Passive-aggressive behavior is not healthy.  Picking and choosing which parts of a person you’ll accept in your life, and shutting out the rest and/or causing that person to feel shame or guilt for the other parts is unhealthy and unacceptable.  If you want to be in my life from here on out:

  1. You have to show a desire to communicate with me (the good as well as the bad)
  2. You have to offer encouragement and advice that is geared toward health and healing, not division and spite – in all of our relationships, yours and mine.  
  3. You have to accept all of me.  You have to allow me to be myself around you.  It should be unacceptable to you that I would hide parts of myself from you out of fear or shame.

I realize that we all have off days, and things like depression can make this more difficult.  But I’m referring to a pattern of behavior, here.  This should be the norm.  Not a random bone tossed to me because you’re feeling good-natured today.  And I promise that if I see you trying to practice this behavior, I’ll try, too.

So, yeah, as bad as 2016 has been, it’s bringing about a lot of really good, much-needed change.  …And I still can’t get over the fact that I used the words enthusiasm, hopeful, and optimistic in this post!

For T, at a later date

You make me feel like I’m unworthy of love, but I know that’s not true because everyone deserves to be loved. And I just feel sorry for you, because I am so, so, so worth loving, and you’re shutting me out for no good reason. You’re the one missing out, and that makes me sad, because I love you.Please don’t do this to yourself, to both of us. Please let me back in.

Drowning

I haven’t been this low for awhile.  It’s amazing to think that just 6 months ago I wasn’t depressed at all, and now I’m right back in the thick of it.

My job is taking over my life.  It’s so hard because I really like my job, for the first time in a long time.  Things were going really well in that area of my life.  I enjoy the work I do.  My supervisor seems to think I’m doing a decent job (which is huge for me).  But, we’re short-staffed right now, and all this extra work keeps landing on me.  I can’t take time off because I don’t have a backup for some of my work (not that I want to be at home anyway, cause I’ll just be home alone and, for me, alone = anxiety/panic attacks).  I can never make plans on weeknights, because I never know when I’m going to get stuck working late.  And the commute is sucking the soul out of me.

And for what?  I keep getting passed over for promotions (the few that I would even be eligible for).  I barely make enough to pay the bills every month.  And when I do splurge on something fun every once in a while – opera tickets, concert tickets, knitting class, etc –  I end up having to miss out because of work, or I’m stressed out of my mind trying to make it to the event on time, because of – you guessed it – work.

So far, I’ve cut reading, online dating (or dating of any kind), my Italian lessons, playing guitar, cooking, and exercise (and probably more that I can’t think of right now) out of my life to make room for my job.  I don’t know how much more I can give.  I’m lonely (so incredibly lonely) and tired and stressed and angry and sad and anxious and fearful and sick and discouraged.

And I’m sick and tired of people telling me to let them know if they can help me.  Quit asking how you can help, and just HELP!  Do something, anything!  I don’t have the time or energy to give you direction.  Be present in my life, and when you observe something that needs doing – do it!

I’m drowning and I’ve come to the conclusion that no one can help me.  Family, friends, even God – all are useless to me at this point.  I’ve always relied heavily on my faith to get me through tough times, but I am sick of praying to someone who either can’t or won’t help me.  This past week, the moment when I decided to leave faith behind, I felt such a burden lift from my shoulders.  Even though the depression and despair were still with me, I still felt the relief of having one less area of my life to worry about.  One less thing to feel guilty about neglecting.  I guess you can add faith to the list of things I’ve cut out of my life.

I honestly don’t know what’s going to become of me in the upcoming months.  I don’t know how much longer I can keep up this pace at work.  I don’t know where I’ll be living in a matter of months (I’m essentially being forced out of my current living situation), or how I’ll find the energy and time to even look for a new place to live, let alone move. I don’t know how much longer my friends and family will still want to have anything to do with me, when I can’t give them the basic attention and time and positivity loved ones deserve.  I have nothing to hold onto anymore.  “Darkness is my closest friend.”

Be my Strength

Things I’m good at (in no particular order):

1. Disappointing people 

2. Making things harder than they need to be

3. Smiling when I really just want to die

4. Sabotaging any relationship with anyone I actually care about

5. Apologizing when I didn’t do anything wrong

6. Losing and/or failing

7. Ruining a good time

This is what a severely depressed person (myself) actually believes they’re good at. Don’t tell someone who’s depressed to try to come up with positive traits about themself. They literally can’t do it. That’s what depression is.  If you know someone who’s depressed, tell them what they’re good at. They probably won’t believe you (it’s almost certain they won’t believe you, especially at first), but it’s the only way they’re going to hear a reason to try to keep going. Think the positive thoughts for us. Feed them to us like gruel to a starving man, slowly and gently.

When I’m depressed, please don’t tell me to find my strengths, be my strength.

A quick rant

“Positive thinking does not resolve all of the world’s problems.”
Saw someone just post this in my FB feed and it totally made my day, because someone finally got it. I’m so sick of people who believe that if you just think happy thoughts your life will be great. Sometimes bad things happen to great people and good things happen to terrible people, too. I am, in general, all for optimism, but some people just get shit on, and telling them they just need to have a positive attitude is not helpful. Sympathize with them, cry with them, hug them, do something nice for them, but please stop with the empty platitudes.

Rant over.

Missing my Strength

Here I am, at the beginning of another weekend alone. This time, I’ll be alone simply because of the cold temperatures forecasted. The high on Sunday is -7 (yes, there’s a negative sign in front of that seven), and I’m feeling protective of my car. If I can keep my car in the slightly-warmer-than-outside garage, then I will. So far, I don’t feel a lot of anxiety about the weekend, but I know that the panic can come on very suddenly. If my neighbors will be relatively quiet, that will help a lot, I think.

Sometimes I really miss the days when long periods of time alone didn’t cause anxiety and panic attacks for me. I think it’s  probably the biggest loss I’ve had in my life. I always used to think that if someone had to be single for most or all of their life, it might as well be me, because I got so much enjoyment out of being alone. Now, the mere idea of more than half a day alone is enough to make my heart pound and my hands shake. 

The second greatest loss in my life is probably the slow deterioration of my self-confidence, what little I had to start with. Being single into your mid-thirties, with no prospects, can really rob you of any self-worth you might have.  I used to spend a lot of time wondering if other people thought I was pretty or smart or funny or worth getting to know. Now I just assume that no one thinks I’m any of those things.  I hide in my job because I feel at least some worth there, though I still live in constant fear that every  tiny mistake I make will be the fatal one, the one that causes me to lose my job.

Even losing my job would be better than this damn anxiety, though. How sad that what once was one of my greatest strengths (being alone), is now so crippling to me. I wonder how long I can keep going like this?

Weekends and panic attacks

On the verge of a panic attack right now.  I’m sitting in my living room, and I feel like if I get up from this chair, I’m going to lose it.  My heart is pounding, my head feels like it’s going to explode, I’m shaky, and I want to sob uncontrollably.  I’m afraid that if I stand up, I won’t be able to breathe in enough air.  It’s irrational and terrifying and lonely.  What do I do?  How does one work through this?  Who do I ask for help in this situation?

I just started a three day weekend, and I have absolutely no plans for it, and I feel like the emptiness of the next two and a half days is going to swallow me whole.  I should be happy.  I should be reading, since my neighbors are being quiet for once.  I should be playing the guitar, or putting on my new guitar strings that I just bought.  I should be knitting, finishing the headband I started this week.  I could watch some Netflix, or start taking down my Christmas tree.  There are a thousand things I should or could be doing right now, but all I’m capable of right now is staying glued to this chair, until the feeling of panic passes.  Who knows when that will be?  Could be five minutes, could be a couple of hours.

The worst part is feeling like no one can help me.  What are my friends and family who live hundreds or thousands of miles from me going to be able to do?  And my friends who are close by – they’re not equipped to know how to handle this, any more than I am.  And God forbid I call 911 or take myself to the hospital.  Don’t want to make waves, you know.  Don’t want anyone to know that my life is in shambles.  Sweep the crazy under the rug, along with the pieces of my shattered dreams and my broken heart.  Smile so they can’t see how haunted you are by all of your mistakes.  And if you can’t smile, at least keep your head down, so they can’t see the fear in your eyes.

Weekends, for me, equal alone time.  And everyone that I know wants to believe that being alone makes me happy.  There was a time when they would have been right in believing that.  But the only thing alone time is for me now, is a big empty space with a panic attack waiting to happen.  Alone time is knowing that everyone is having a good time without me, and that my presence would only ruin things.  Alone time is being face to face with the futility of hope.  Alone time is stepping unarmed into a battle with darkness and discouragement.  Alone time is being glued to a chair until panic decides to lift her hand from your chest.