I have the writer’s nemesis: writer’s block. It’s why I have several half-finished stories.
This is a big part of my shame, the parts of me I wish I could surgically remove and join the doer world.
Books, articles, videos, podcasts, psychiatrists have been consulted – and I still procrastinate.
The controlling editor in my head won’t let me write a sentence in peace – there’s no ‘getting it out and edit later’ for me.
But writing calls to me anyway.
Writing is this beautiful, unhampered soul just waiting for me to get over myself and create. Why does that terrify me?
It’s a rhetorical question. I know the answer, or at least I’ve been given several explanations from the above list of resources – especially the psych docs.
Information is power, sure, and I’m writing now because this is a chunk. This isn’t fraught like finishing a story is.
It’s important that I write – even if it’s never published – even if no one likes it.
I’m writing because it’s what I must do. I just know, or believe, I can be and do better.
Living up to my potential is what life’s waiting for me to do, and I’m only a chronic disappointment to myself, and probably my mother, and possibly my family and everyone who knows me.
Except that’s part of the big lie the boogeyman in my head blocks me with. I give my energy, witting or unwitting, to fear. The unwitting I can do nothing about, but the part of me that knows has to step in and, gently (for me anyway), take pen in hand – or keyboard – and begin.
Maybe I’ll be found a failure and a fraud, but how can I fail any worse than I already have by never following through?
I’ve been so stuck in the past – as though it’s vital I get back there, as though that’s the only part of my life that mattered, as though now is a wasteland unworthy of notice when it is actually rich, and actually all there is. The past is gone – just like Steven Tyler sang in Dream On
all those years ago when, ironically, he was just becoming an adult.
I think the pain makes me feel alive, the longing gives me a sense of purpose, like: ‘Don’t forget how things were!’ – but it’s a lot of revisionist history because so much of my early life sucked-ass.
I was battling panic disorder, undiagnosed major depression, and PTSD – before PTSD was a word, and then only by soldiers who had witnessed untold horrors qualified.
Well, sorry, but trauma is trauma & fucks you up for life. Trauma literally changes your brain. My brain is different from non-traumatized brains, so stop telling me to have a better attitude! It doesn’t work like that! (“That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!“)
It’s also accepting, or trying to accept, that my beautiful boy, the light of my life, has grown up and not only doesn’t need or want my counsel, or my – anything – but he’s a man, and wants to be seen as he sees himself. I cannot divorce my connection to him as my boy, so therein lies the rub. So, that’s present pain.
I’m older. That’s present pain. There’s nothing I can do about it. That’s present pain. I’m lonely for connection more than just my significant other. That’s present pain. I can’t seem to hold a job. That’s present pain. My family is dying off. That’s past and present pain. I miss old connections. That’s past and present pain.
We’re living in bizarro world with dangerous politics and a megalomaniac president. That’s present pain, panic, anxiety, and PTSD!
Those are my fears writ large. The President is basically Michael Rapunzel, the head of the commune/cult, and the President’s sycophants, like Rapunzel’s, can’t see his horror, or they revel in their chance at power and gain riding on his coat tails.
I’ve been down this road and now I’m living through it again. It’s harder because I know the outcome. It’s all about oppression and control, not co-operation or decentralization of power. The President, like Rapunzel, is mentally ill, and no one is stopping him.
I can look at the present pain in my life and do what I can to minimize it. I know it’s also a flux issue. My feelings, needs, and desires change – sometimes on a daily basis – but there are times I’m truly joyful instead of longing for it.
There are days I’m connected to life and loneliness vanishes.
There are times my son calls or texts and I feel better for our connection rather than inadequate or stupid.
I’ve even been kind and accepting of my aging at times instead of railing against it – but anything I’ve ever let go of has claw-marks all over it.
T. S. Eliot’s line in, The Waste Land, speaks of April’s cruelty in uncovering what was covered and dampened by winter’s snow.
I think of it opposite – that April hems and haws its way into May – delivering warmth and budding growth, only to snatch it away in frosts and freezes.
Warmer weather and longer light modifies my depression, but April fool’s me the whole month.
I know April’s not to blame. I understand depression is a brain malfunction rather than a seasonal disorder, but Cabin Fever is practically literal for me – seeing as I live in a cabin.
I have been walking and getting out as much as I can, but the cold is enervating, depleting, and I need energizing.
I tried, Ketamine, a controlled substance & experimental depression drug under my doctor’s care, and it was another failure – a temporary, dissociative, relief from my depression with other untenable side effects. She said we’re using desperation measures now, and while some might really enjoy being altered that way, dissociation is not a good substitute for dopamine.
Sunshine, exercise, eating well, and decent rest are all helpful, but not helpful enough.
It’s also weird how February used to be my most dangerous month, then it expanded into March, and has now creeped into April. I don’t understand why that is. I used to assume February must be when some of my worst trauma happened, but now I think it’s some other mechanism. Maybe my aging brain is making less and less dopamine?
New drugs and treatments come on the market all the time, and I hope to try another round of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation by Brainsway instead of Neurostar. The Brainsway machine provides a slightly deeper brain stimulation that has shown statistical insignificance to Neurostar, but my sensitivity might respond better to that type of stimulation.
It began around January 23rd, and probably before then – building up – but that’s when I noticed the pall overhead and me trying to duck it, unsuccessful again. It begins with dread – or not dread exactly – but disturbance. Something is looming, something I try to stay ahead of, but am swallowed anyway.
I offer up all the positive messages I can. I acknowledge, ignore, accept, and end up pleading for its end.
Imagine a usual route you take, maybe some minor annoyances with traffic, or people, or maybe potholes, or other manageable blips on the way – and then you sense something when you get in your car one morning. There’s no reason – nothing seems different. The weather is good, the drive starts fine, and you chide yourself for misgivings about potential something ahead. A dog runs into the road and you avoid hitting it, and feel relieved. OK, that was it, that was the curve-ball that day, but your heightened awareness doesn’t ease.
You continue your routine, accepting the foreboding, or whatever it is you can’t shake, and then a tire blows, and you navigate your car to the side of the road. Vehicles pass by as you make calls to work, to a tow company, and you think that this was what your gut was warning you about.
Days pass, and the sensation dulls a bit, but doesn’t leave. It’s gnawing – like a toothache you hope will resolve on its own.
These days are leading to the precipice, but I’ve been triaging the whole time. It’s as though a separate entity is controlling my brain – or something beyond my control.
I know that’s not the case, I’m not possessed, I just can’t change the direction. I have to buckle up and hope I ride this out better than last year – better than all the years, probably since I was born, or whatever traumatic event(s) my psyche re-lives every. fucking. year.
Therapy: check. Antidepressants: no go TMS: check, but insurance won’t cover another round, and I can’t afford it out-of-pocket. Wise Mind Group: check. I’m starting a 13-week group today, and I’ve done this before, and do use cognitive behavioral techniques, but trauma is like trying to catch a greased, wild, pig. Even if you catch it, the pig isn’t domesticated.
The pig is autonomous though. Maybe the pig doesn’t think it’s self-determined – it probably doesn’t consider ‘self’ at all – but it knows enough to not want to be caught, and is frightened and raged at the trying.
February looms, but spring will emerge. That’s hope. The world still turns.
Day broke with a deep frost across the land yesterday: the first volley of winter. Nature appeared to hold its breath – nothing stirred – the air itself seemed under a sorcerer’s spell.
The heaviness must have seeped into me, the entire day spent fighting the pall, trying everything I could to reclaim myself.
It wasn’t until late afternoon that I realized it was depression. I had picked up every tool in my box to no avail. Redirecting my thoughts didn’t do anything, nor did changing my environment, reading a book, watching a comedy, pinching myself to stop the thoughts (there weren’t really any thoughts except trying to feel different), and acceptance. Even acceptance and cognitive skills did nothing to ease my condition.
I thought sex would at least release endorphins, and if they did, my S.O. got them all. I enjoyed the physical feelings, but it didn’t end the possession.
I finally fell asleep sometime after 3, the alarm jolting me awake at 7 this morning. I hit snooze and got up a half-hour later, dragging myself to the kitchen to make coffee.
Waking up more fully, I realized the spell had broken. I feel fine today.
You’d have sworn some terrible tragedy befell me. You’d have wondered if I’d just come back from my best friend’s, or my child’s, funeral.
You’d think me callous and unfeeling to see today’s change.
This is my tough time of year. I notice my melancholy in October – the end of summer transition – and I do what I can to mitigate it. I have a light-box that provides full-spectrum light, and I’ve busied myself with Halloween decorations, & attending a party, but I missed my son and the Halloween fun we shared when he was little.
I made the mistake of telling him, hoping for some connection or commiseration – I know, I know – am I stupid, or high?, and he was not nostalgic. I think it freaks him out that he was ever a little kid, and that I remember it all. It makes no difference that he’s getting older, he’ll always have the child perspective, and I’ll always be the weird has-been parent. I should have shared my longing with a friend, or a therapist…
So, I binged on Halloween candy, sugar-coating my feelings, and started pulling out my cold weather clothes which I’ll wash & put in the bureau after putting away the Halloween decor.
It will take some getting used to the brown and greying landscape again, and my mood will shift when the cloud-blanketed sky moves on & the sun illuminates the last golden leaves clinging to branches, or providing shadow-play through the woods and surrounding hillside.
Sauteing onions and garlic for the chicken soup creates more warmth and delicious aroma, heightened when coming in from the cold, and satisfying my hunger – unlike the sugary snacks that take more than they give.
Writing helps too. Getting out the essence of my longing – parsing my underlying fear of irrelevance, of aging, and of my existential loneliness.
Remembering that youth’s bounty was mostly a more flexible body because my life was dogged by my dark story and my clinical depression. Having more energy & vitality was nice, but I mostly just existed, and it’s only now, with better perspective, and some relief of my depression and anxiety through TMS, that I’ve been living more than existing.
Aging is payment for life on Earth – and regardless of relative time scales – everything decays, and nothing stays the same, no matter my, or anyone else’s, wishes.
Acceptance is about the only choice I have if I’d like some peace, but until acceptance and approval get untangled for me, life remains a battle.
Being suicidal is embarrassing. I should be better, stronger, cope well, and not need anything from anyone. I should be as strong, or resilient as I see others in my life who are not suicidal on a regular basis.
I’ve written about it, thought about it, talked about it, but when I’ve attempted – a really pathetic attempt, btw – I wondered if I could get someone to kill me. It wouldn’t be murder; I was asking for it, but what would that do to them? I can’t ask someone to harm their soul to help me die.
Also, if I wasn’t successful at ending my life, maybe I should be here. Maybe there’s hope, maybe there’s reason to stay.
Sure, I can continue to live with my shitty coping skills, and inability to control my PTSD, and failed trials of antidepressants, therapy, DBT, TMS, and now my doc wants me to try ECT, and it’s just another awful thing to endure to try to make my life more bearable.
If I found work I could stick with and manage, that would be good, and I continue pursuing doable employment, but you know what employers really like? People who consistently show up and aren’t depressed on the job. They like people who can let shit roll off them and carry on and not get overwhelmed and anxious, and they really hate it when you’re too drugged to do your work adequately. I’m sorry I’m late, I had to take medicine that knocked me out, and now three cups of coffee later, I’m jittery and still can’t focus on my work, and now that’s added to my shame bucket too.
Friends and family have their own busy lives, with their own issues piled up, and the laundry’s not sorted, and the bills might not be paid, and the kids are driving them nuts, or have to be at soccer practice, and good luck, I really hope you get the help you need, and I’m more alone than before I got the courage to call.
Happy, peppy me is the best me, and I like her the best too, but sometimes I pay more for her appearance than if I could allow myself to be quiet and observe.
I pay either way, really, because observing is seeing it all through my depression shield, or filter, or whatever simile works, and the point is I’m never in true connection.
I broke up with my significant other, or tried to, but he thinks I’m just fucked up me & my mood will pass, and he’s right, but why does he stay with me? I couldn’t take the trauma drama. I hate the trauma drama! I’d like to not be me. I’d like to disappear because it’s clear I’m not healing.
It’s clear that all the education, groups, therapy, drugs, meditation, yoga, exercise, eating right, thinking good thoughts, and all the things I try to do to get my life under control has not worked, and why would I hope for anything to change now?
My son deserves his mother, even if I’m guilt-ridden, & shame-filled, but still love him with every fiber of my being. My significant other deserves a healed me, but I’m really unsure he’ll ever get that, so I probably will have to leave and let him get on with his life.
I like me when I’m not around anyone. It’s lonely at times, but I don’t hurt anyone else. It’s sad to know that. It’s really gut-wrenching & messed-up that’s reality for me, but nothing is changing and I don’t know what else to do.
The survival will can obviously be overcome, and the best thing friends or strangers can do is not judge. And maybe listen, or maybe be with me in my pain because it’s not catching, it just sucks.
Two days prior to my last session was fairly horrific with a huge dip in mood & return of hopelessness.
The return to despair was devastating because I had counted on TMS to help me even though I thought I removed expectations for or against.
My usual technician, Nick, who is really lovely & has been a steady presence during treatments, didn’t oversee my last treatment. Instead the intern, Mel, who is also kind, and competent, was there with Kim, the other regular tech, who is also fine, and I had a previous connection with Kim outside of the practice so I felt comfortable enough, but neither have the ineffable presence of Nick, so it was a tough last treatment.
The NeuroStar representative was also there, so the room felt a bit crowded, and toward the end of the session, another assistant I’d never met before came in, increasing my stress.
Thankfully, I saw Nick upstairs as I was leaving and got to hug him & say goodbye as he’s also leaving for good in August. It was all I could do to not burst into tears right there, but made it to my car before breaking down.
Andy, my S.O., tells me he sees a difference in me, and I do feel somewhat better, but it’s like the difference between an overcast day and a stormy one – there’s still no sun in the sky.
Another unfortunate incident happened a few weeks into my treatment when I tried to get a form for medical transportation because paying the gas in the car I’m borrowing is costly, regardless of my appreciation for the favor. The form would have allowed insurance to cover the transportation cost, but insurance denied the request.
The psychiatrist asked me why I couldn’t use public transportation and I told her that it wasn’t easily accessible, and was still costly. I later worked out the math, which would have been twice what I paid for gasoline for the car, and even if I could have found a convenient bus there, I’d have had to transfer to their town’s system, having to transfer to 3 buses, and it would have cost me double the fare.
When the form was originally submitted it was denied because Kim told me I hadn’t given a medical reason. I was a bit stunned, and didn’t know how to respond. What the fuck was I going there for? I’m not a medical provider, I don’t submit the forms, so how was I supposed to know what should be on the form outside of financial difficulties, and inadequate public transportation? And the sole reason I was there was because I have intractable depression, and TMS treatments are not offered anywhere closer, but the providers didn’t know enough to note that on the form?
The psychiatrist and the TMS team should have known better, and it sucks when those in helping professions don’t understand the poverty issues that go hand-in-hand with trauma, or can’t be bothered to work just that little bit more on behalf of those they purport to help.
Riding with the windows down from my TMS appointment today, the earthy scents of fields and pungent brook waters hit my brain in a nostalgic wave as I drove down the rough country road, longing to get out of my car and run through the meadow down into the brook, if only private property and ticks didn’t exist.
Summer days of childhood in the woods with friends crossed my mind’s picture screen for several seconds before receding back, refusing further examination, as though it were a dream I was straining to recall.
Perhaps it was a dream, and this is all illusion. If so, it’s a very good spell. I really feel like I’m here, like I exist, like this is a meaningful journey. Maybe life’s meaning doesn’t derive from the delivery mechanism, but I sure wish I could figure out what it means to me.
I’m still worried the TMS isn’t working, 21 visits in now, when I’m supposed to notice a difference.
I feel bereft of my old companions and our easy friendship. I wish depression didn’t exist & the elusive mind and life fuckery it creates. But that’s like wishing heart disease, or diabetes away. It’s not going to happen. I need to manage it, regardless of how exhausting the task. Eventually we heal or we succumb, and I have no idea which way it’s going to go.
Ease and balance are important, and I strive for them – try to cultivate them – and drain friends who know they can’t quell my demons so they’d rather not hear about it. I supplicate to whatever gods might exist, so far, to no avail.
I’d like to sink forever into that sweet summer dream: running through the meadow, cooling my body in the water, or exploring the woods – forgetting that time or otherness exists.
The upside is that I’m still here, illusion or not, and I get out of bed every day & make it. Coffee remains a pleasure and a boost, and I redirect my thoughts hundreds of times a day, just as I adjust my posture when I notice I’m slumping.
I’m nearly three months sober, and started a new depression therapy two weeks ago: TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. The therapy uses focused magnetic energy to target the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, thought to be a dark alley depression emanates from.
On my first visit, the tech & doctor mapped the specific area of my brain using the Neurostar stimulator, and I’ve been adjusting to the five-days a week treatments.
During the mapping, the pulse was painful while they determined my treatment threshold. The treatment lasts 38 minutes and several seconds, for me. Others have generally less time than I do, but not by much, and typically a lower pulse threshold than me, which I attribute to my redheaded-ness.
Forty pulses delivered in four seconds feel and sound like a miniature jack-hammer – or an eager woodpecker – but the computer prepares me by chiming a few seconds prior to the pulses. After about four rounds of pulses I don’t feel it as intensely, but I’m always glad to hear the ‘ding-ding-ding’ computer chime signaling the treatment’s end.
Worries about whether the treatment will work are thick due to continued suicidal thoughts, but TMS takes about twenty or so treatments before brain changes are apparent. That means I have another week to go before I’ll know it’s working. TMS has helped about 85% of patients, which is good news, but I’m a redhead, so we’ll see what category I fall into.
Today I was going through some papers I’d put aside nearly a month ago and found a notepad I had written goodbye letters to my friends and family when I tried to off myself. It’s hard to read my sadness between the lines of gratitude for their friendship, and while I’m not as low as I was a few months ago, I know I’ll get there again, and I can’t tolerate it anymore.
An AA meeting I attended tonight was on positive attitude, and gratitude, and how that’s the way to pull yourself up and out of yourself and into acceptance, etc. – and for those that works for, brav-fucking-o! But, for those of us who write our gratitude lists, and pray, and think positive, and carry on with positive intention, and ‘choose happiness’, and still want to die, you’ve got a non-patronizing friend in me.
Waking is dangerous this emotionally tenuous time of the year. The world we occupy, the new/old challenges surrounding me, our country, and everywhere, & I wonder if slitting my wrists would cause too much pain? Where would I do it? A stream bed in the woods, so romantic and peaceful sounding, until the age-old question of ‘if a woman screams in the forest in the moments before her death, and for being a dumb fuck, will anyone hear?’ Bueller? Anyone?
So, I wrench my lagging self out of bed and get fucking dressed, because that’s what we’re doing, and the inner three-year-old is not in charge today.
Sure, the world’s falling apart – literally in some places – and, yeah, life sure doesn’t match up to the brochure, but, then, so few things do.
You’d think people would stop procreating, but honestly, sex is about the best thing on the planet, that’s free – often…
So, on with the day. I’m dragging my ass through my life, but momentum is forward, today.
There’s no dress rehearsal. This is it – whatever that contains – but all that matters is the end. Am I in a tragedy, or a comedy? Life ending on a high note is preferable, thus, comedy it is.
I’m angry at the Universe, at being here, at the way. life. is., at being human, and because I either have to kill myself, or heavily drug myself not to care, I start to take my anger out on those around me. I’m sneaky though because I’m passive aggressive, and I don’t even really know I’m in attack mode except everything starts to bother me, and acrimony is just below the surface.
I’m starting to recognize this as I start disliking my significant other, and wanting to leave, and be left alone by everyone. Only perfection would be good enough for me because my true fight is against the bully in the sky telling me how unworthy I am at every turn, and if I’d only let It micro-manage my life, then – maybe – I’ll be accepted by It and allowed into some perverse kingdom that only judgmental assholes will be going to. If I accept the son of this bully, then I get out of jail free – no matter what I’ve done or do, as long as I’m truly repentant – and, oh, btw, I have to forgive everyone no matter what they’ve done & no matter what harm their actions caused, or continue to cause.
So, yeah, I’m a little touchy today.
I just wanted to be a light in a dark world. I didn’t want to have to jump through hoops, and I never asked to be allowed in It’s shitty kingdom. Will I rend my invisible garments and gnash my non-existent teeth? Yeah, it’s a metaphor, I know, but if god doesn’t see what a shitty idea free will was, then It’s not really a god, because It would fix Its mistake, wouldn’t It? We clearly cannot rise to our noble nature, and after seeing the eons of horror – humanity’s inhumanity – and continuing to let us exist doesn’t speak of a good god, or a just god: it speaks of an impotent god. Because innocents are harmed every. day. But the convenient excuse is that It’s a mystery – as though that’s a valid answer – and that we’re born into sin, so there are no innocents. If you’re here, you’re guilty as fuck, and so whatever happens to you or your brethren is warranted and self-caused.
If I signed up for this, can I renege? Can I desert my post? Can I be destroyed – just utterly destroyed? I don’t want to exist beyond here knowing that none of it mattered, and yet it was impossible for me to detach, and it sure feels like it matters while living it.
God is no comfort to me, nor am I a comfort to god, I’m sure.
I’ve had a tough time writing lately. Maybe depression has set in – apathy leading the way. Nothing feels interesting or worth investing in. I could look happy and present, but whether or not I am, it shifts quickly.
Is living for the young? Should twenty to forty be the only important part of life? After forty the pain began. It has only increased since. Different issues, more work & time to address it – the ‘free ride’ over.
The problem is the lack of appreciation for a body that feels good & functions well. It’s inspiring when people born without limbs, or other horrific problems, live high-functioning lives. It shames me & I’m so tired of living shame.
Even the love of my life can’t breach the gap. It’s not his path, even if he loves me with all he has.
In my wildest imagination I am alone: succeeding, happy, fulfilled. I’ve never seen it with someone else – just me. Maybe that’s due to trauma – neglect & abuse – I don’t know. I decided that no one, NO ONE, will take anything else from me. I lived that life and I’m not able to continue helping someone else do well at my expense. I mean emotionally. If I had billions I could give most away without issue, but I’m tired of people who want to take my soul.
That’s where I am today. I’m sure it’ll change tomorrow. Cheers.
I don’t know who coined that phrase, but hearing it changed my life. I bring me with me – moving away never solved my problems, though it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. Looking back to my 20’s and 30’s, I’m surprised I survived. Even if I had tried to off myself, I would likely have been unsuccessful, and then maimed for life. So life would still suck, and I’d be scarred, or worse. Great.
Getting over self-preservation is no small undertaking. No one makes it out of here alive, so there’s that reasoning, but what we might do here goes beyond us.
A therapist told me that if I kill myself, I give my son permission to end his life too. I fluffed that off, but since I know 3 people who were successful in the last few years, it’s been working on me in whispers at vulnerable times.
‘You’ll never get out of debt, loser girl.’ That’s one of the lovely names my inner asshole has for me. The ‘girl’ is a nice touch – colloquial and derogatory at once. ‘You’re worth more dead than alive’ – true – as long as I can keep paying the insurance, which looks less likely each time the payment’s due. ‘You’re aging now and you’re losing the little looks you had, and you’re worth less and less.’ ‘You’ve failed everything you’ve tried, and it’s too late to make it anywhere.’ ‘You can’t even get a regular job! Not one interview, and no prospects.’
The most significant, however, is the voice that tells me that I’ll end my pain. No more suffering. No more challenges. No more heartache.
Except, wherever I go, there I am.
Maybe I’ll have a consciousness, maybe I won’t. I’ve never died before. I’ve read lots of books and studies on people who have died and been revived, and they usually talk about bright light, and seeing loved ones who’ve passed on, or of spirits – ghosts – that seem to be stuck in the thoughts and feelings they had when they died.
Finding work I can do has been the bane of my existence. Clearly, I have to get entrepreneurial, but figuring that out is the rub.
The positives of staying alive are seeing the beautiful land where I live, hearing birds trilling, and flying around, watching the fireflies this time of year, and listening to tree frogs and crickets. Cats and dogs don’t care what I look like as long as I can scratch behind their ears and feed them. They aren’t body-based, or judgmental, but humans sure are.
And when depression’s shroud descends, none of that matters in my messed up head. I don’t care about anyone, and that disconnection is bizarre to witness.
Grandma Moses said: ‘Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.’ She began painting her quaint village scenes in her 80’s, and she lived another 20 years, so not only do I have those phrases to shore me up, but Yogi Berra‘s: ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over’, is another adage to hang onto.
So, wherever I’m headed, I can’t escape myself – and I prefer self-love over self-loathing, but there I am – whatever it is.
My child is grown and gone. He’s 25, and living large in the city, and yet, I have trouble not interfering. I want to say, ‘please listen to my advice because I never listened to those wiser than me, and I totally screwed up my life as a result.’ But, I know it wouldn’t do any good. That was me, not him.
I try to remember that I survived domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. He had a pretty solid upbringing, regardless of my Momzilla-ness. I was present and available. I provided structure, love, and guidance.
Did he have cotton in his ears the whole time? I warned him about my DNA, about his father’s DNA – that the likelihood of him becoming alcoholic is stronger than it was for me, and for his father – but I think he took that as a challenge. He can defy history. He can out-drink his DNA.
It’s painful, and I know he’s young, and he’ll probably survive – but he also might not.
And there’s nothing I can do.
I don’t want to badger, advise, attempt management, or control. It’s not my job anymore. Maybe I fucked up so bad that drinking is his way of getting through life, but that doesn’t make sense. I know I did a mostly good job, and he appreciates my influence in his life.
Letting go and letting him figure it out is what I need to do, I know, but it’s proving very difficult.
It’s there in the morning, when I’m most vulnerable, stirring back to consciousness – especially if I haven’t had a good night’s sleep. It follows me to the bathroom where I splash cold water on my face & say ‘good morning beautiful’ to the sad face in the mirror. Why does it surprise me that a compliment – a talisman, really – slightly boosts my spirits?
My actions happen under duress as I lay out my yoga mat and lay down to stretch. The thing is fierce now – practically yelling at me, telling me to give up, just go back to bed; sit down and do nothing. Why bother?
Hate’s litany joins in, and I battle this every. day. I manage to get some exercises in, but don’t complete my whole routine. My new task is rewarding myself for progress, not focusing on how much I think I suck.
Today’s epiphany isn’t new, but newly remembered: I worked myself out of a job when my son grew up and left. It’s wonderful that I managed to foster a productive, beautiful, kind human. He’s bright and independent – and I am empty.
I wouldn’t change how things are except to be alright. I failed to take care of me by solely taking care of him. I was it. A single parent – who had lots of help – but my child was my everything. I showed up for him when my constant demons told me it was too much, and I soldiered on. I cried through making meals sometimes, or house-cleaning, or the myriad unending tasks – but I did them, and I can’t seem to muster the same resolve for myself. I don’t matter as much as my child did, but my work is changing that.
Perhaps getting out of bed, splashing water on my face, doing my PT exercises, getting dressed, and brushing my teeth are as much as I did for my child, even if minute in comparison?
Whether or not I’m doing the best I can, I’m still failing to fully show up for my life – for what’s left of it.
Raising my child is still the best thing I’ve ever done, and while admirable, it’s not my whole life. He grew up, and so did the other children I watched for several years, but childcare is not my passion, even if I’m good at it.
Childcare is thankless and lonely. If you do a good job, who cares – it’s what you were supposed to do. There is no recognition ceremony, no severance package, no pension. Transferable skills are laughed at – even though there are many.
Grief moves to the side when something rewarding and motivating takes up more space, and though I engage in singing, writing, and acting, I’m not making a living through those passions. Friends have gotten book deals, national singing gigs, or paid and recognized acting jobs, and I’ve got to make a new choice because those passions are a dry well for me.
There is an answer, but whatever it is has to happen soon, and must move my grief so I’m not pushing through it every day – so that every day doesn’t look the same.
Shame is possibly the worst side-effect of trauma. Guilt, shame’s ignoble cousin, seeps in churning the mess. Guilt has its place, when you do something unkind, unhealthy, or unhelpful, guilt proves conscience – and shows that you’re probably not a psychopath, although you still might be an asshole.
But guilt that worms its way into my psyche without validity serves no purpose. Shame lies to me, but I believe its lies.
I’ve read that young children cannot process that their parents or caregivers might be wrong, or harmful, so I took it in as my fault. I didn’t have friends in my first years of school, and even then, at 5 or 6 years old, I thought my classmates knew that I was defective. But I was resilient; I knew how to laugh, and laughter was my guardian. I didn’t know I was smart because I didn’t grow up in a nurturing environment – I just knew ways to escape without going anywhere, and how to hold in my anger and fear until they finally exploded in tantrums and sometimes blind rage – usually toward my antagonizing next oldest sister.
Shame clung to me – it twisted into my DNA, bored into my neurons, exchanging itself through synapses.
Of course I’d try to get unkind people to love me throughout my life, it’s what I was taught. Of course I’d find men who would add to my shame, further deepening what I already believed about myself. I never got what I so desperately wanted and needed, love and approval. Approval is exoneration, absolution. If I got validation from others, then I wouldn’t have to be ashamed anymore.
Only it doesn’t work that way. I have to validate and approve of myself.
I don’t want to live in shame anymore. I’ve done nothing to warrant such heavy chains, such a terrible prison.
My S. O. likes to try to cheer me up when I’m spiraling down, which is sweet, and it would be great if that were the answer to my mental illness, but rather than climb into bed and try to sleep away my hell (which doesn’t work, but at least it’s warm in bed), I agreed to go out with him.
He had plans and it was fun to not know where we were going, but it turned out tickets were sold out for what he had planned. (Of course they were – I could have told him that.)
Aside from the asshole in my head, he rallied and told me we could eat out wherever I wanted. Initially I chose a place that we’ve been to once before for coffee, and aside being good coffee, offered a simple menu of pizza, calzones, salads, and pastries, but my S. O. said anywhere, and I had never been to another, fancier, restaurant in the town, so off we went.
He got the blackened swordfish, and I opted for chicken pot pie, which was good, but heavy on the cream sauce in the filling. The dessert menu included crème brûlée, an amazing dessert when done right. Alas, it was a dense custard than the better pudding quality, but I still ate it, being a long time member of the ‘clean plate club’. Sigh.
We soon wished we had saved half of what my S. O. spent and gone to the other place, but we couldn’t know until we tried, and soon after, the heaviness too much, I threw it all up.
Maybe that wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t having an episode, but I rarely eat rich foods anyway.
Perhaps a cleanse (and an exorcism) will make me well again.
I’m supposed to be writing. I know, I am writing, but I’m supposed to be working on one of the project’s that I’ve tried to complete for the last decade or so. Maybe I don’t really want to write. Maybe I just want to want to write? I mean, thinking is easier than doing, right? Except, it’s not, really. It’s just as painful to avoid as it is to confront – at least in this instance.
Am I afraid I’ll be found a fraud? Out of ideas? Stupid, incompetent, poser?
I’m all that. I’m just me, trying to figure out a way to make my time on this spinning living planet work for me.
I thought I wanted fame, and I am sooooo glad I never got it. Fame is crap – unless you get rich by having fame, and then it’s not the fame, it’s the wealth. For some, it’s the fame. Egomania.
Of course I’m ego-driven. I wouldn’t be writing if I didn’t think I had something worthwhile to say – even if it’s just worthy to me. I also get inspiration, edification, joy, and connection from other people’s writing, art, and other creativity, and it’s satisfying to get positive feedback – or even neutral feedback. Negative feedback sucks, but then I have to step back and ask why I got that kind of comment. Was I offensive? Are they reacting from their fear? What’s my responsibility to them – or them to me?
We owe each other nothing, which makes connection all the more beautiful.
Often, I write to survive. Just getting something out is therapeutic, especially when I feel the nothingness crowding in.
Some things are far too personal to share except to skirt around the edges, and other instances have found me kicking up all the muck and slinging it around on the page, hoping that someone will relate – that someone will tell me their story too – that someone else’s noise will quiet mine.
Nat King Cole croons The Christmas Song, and I remember that it’s my sister-in-law’s favorite holiday song. Many years ago we went caroling: she, my brother (her husband), my next oldest sister, and our younger brother, as well as some family friends, and I remember our fun, our exuberance, and just us as young adults.
Eventually, our lives expanded out like the big bang – each of us in our various orbits, claiming our bit of space, our independence from one another.
What role our family trauma played, I’m unsure, but untreated trauma does not resolve of its own. It can be medicated, white-knuckled, tossed outward, or left festering inside, but it has to be handled.
There are healthy ways of dealing with trauma and not so healthy ways. So much creativity has been born from pain, and those who’ve had that outlet are sometimes healed, but not always.
I doubt my brother would want me to feel sad for him. It’s not pity he needs, and it’s not pity I’m giving. I lived with my parents too. I was there too. I was affected too.
He doesn’t want advice from his littlest sister, even though I had to deal with my trauma or die – even though I sought professional help, and practiced the tools I was given – even though I trained to help other trauma survivors – even though sometimes it’s still next to unbearable remaining alive.
The best way out is through, for me. Just let the feelings be, but visit the skills I’ve learned before I’m in crisis. I forget that. I think I’m healed – that I’m all done feeling pain – or that I’ll always cope well from now on.
Pride kicks in too – the belief that I’m knowledgeable, and therefore untouchable. The other side is despair. Why remain alive if I keep going through this, or if I can’t make life better?
I can hold my brother in my heart – as well as my whole family – and I re-affirm that he is whole and complete. He is competent, capable, and has enough humility to seek what he needs. He knows I care, he knows I’m available, and he knows I understand as perhaps few others can.
He’s made it through, all these years later, and I remember that what’s not dealt with keeps manifesting itself until it’s faced – whenever, or however, that trauma shows up.
I’ve re-connected with most of my siblings after raising my son and having my space again. My S.O. has been an understanding, caring, and deeply loving partner, and I know how rare that is, and I still want to run away now and then. My old nemeses, fear, self-hate, and depression, muscle their way in, but if I’m fortified enough, they’re easier to battle.
This time of year is filled with the ghosts of trauma past, their presence appearing unconsciously, making it seem as though now is the problem, or that I have made no emotional progress.
I cannot save my brother, or anyone who doesn’t want to be saved, but I continue to love and care anyway. The violence witnessed, and perpetrated on us, got into our psyches, but it was also programmed into our DNA before we were born, from the violence done to our parents, and on down our line, but we can use our will, we can learn self-love, and we can practice self-care, changing not only ourselves, but the DNA we pass on to our children, and that they will pass on to theirs.
Christmas is about hope in terrible circumstances. Whether it’s just a story, or has some historical truth, the message, to me, is perseverance, self-love, and love, and hope, for humanity.
Love, kindness, and care are what matters, and the carols my family and friends used to sing were, and still are, a gift of light in a dark season – for ourselves as well as others.
I wish all whatever you need, and for more joy, comfort, peace, and love – whatever you celebrate, or not!
I understand this makes me an insensitive cretin, but I wish collections would be taken up for those of us in dire need, but not having some dread disease. It seems that’s the only time people are willing to help – even a dollar or two – if that’s all they can do.
Terrible diseases and disaster compel people to give, perhaps as a bulwark against ever facing that illness or circumstance themselves, paying it forward, in a sense, or maybe just as a caring human being, but only willing to help when the need is life or death, and not just poverty’s scourge.
Poverty is viewed as self-inflicted, so less worthy of help – especially from a stranger.
Disaster impels us in a way that ‘ordinary’ trouble doesn’t.
Except, I have a friend who has always been there in my darkest hours, offering hope, if not some tangible sustenance, and I’ve been that for her as well, but as both of us have been in deep poverty, we can never offer more than a bandage, even if those stop-gap measures have helped us through many extra-rough patches.
I don’t want a terrible illness, and I wish for those people to get well – and I’m grateful that people give to defray medical costs, or other ease for those sufferers.
A champion is required for me, as it’s seen as gauche to plead on your own behalf.
I practically needed a crowbar to get myself out of bed this morning.
Way over-doing brush cutting and hauling scraps out to a pile at my mother’s place left me with contracting pain down my right arm, making it impossible to sleep, so I took a muscle relaxer, which; while it helped, also relaxed everything – and I still feel like my head weighs a ton.
We’re at another end of October, the summer’s retreat depressing, but autumn’s offerings somewhat eases the transition. The turning leaves have been spectacular, and it’s been lovely to witness.
Our local Pumpkinfesttook place this past Saturday, October 24th. One of my girlfriends invited two of us to sing back-ups with her for, Curly Fingers DuPree, a great local band, so we debuted as the ‘Curly Q’s’. It was so much fun, and as with most shows or events I’ve been involved in, there’s the anti-climax feeling when it’s over – like, ‘that’s it?’ Heavy sigh.
I broke up with the best guy I’ve ever dated, and I started listening to suicide’s siren call again. If I go that route, I know I’ll cause irreparable harm to my son, my S.O., and many friends and family.
I actually opened my virtual ‘coping toolbox’, and found a reason to hang on another day. I’m doing what I can to stay positive as the darkness and cold increases. I’m using all the attitude adjusters I know to not slip down.
Sometimes keeping that guttering candle of hope burning is as easy as lighting a new candle with the old flame, but other times a bonfire is needed, and as many others before me have said, it’s better to have a full ‘coping toolbox’ when times are easier than trying to fill it when I’m desperate, and not in my right, or wise, mind.
I re-read that many suicidal people, if not most, want to end the pain, not their life. Lately I wake, usually in serious pain, and my first thought is how I can die with the least suffering for those around me. How and where to end my life, what arrangements I should make.
After moving around, or doing my PT stretches and core exercises, as well as just getting on with the day, the desire to die lessens, and I think about how to make my life more manageable and more pain-free.
Drugs definitely help the pain, but have other effects, like addiction, or severe itching, as well as other unpleasant side effects.
I don’t enjoy events, or my friends, as much as I used to. It’s not a big leap to go from here to not here anymore.
Gray days like today increase my dark mood, and I have to remember that I have a full-spectrum light-box to start using this time of year. I also turned on all the lights in the common area, so I’m not sitting in gloom.
Time-management is super tough for me. The to-do list is large, and taunts me with nothing being checked off, except, I am writing. I will make food. Laundry is being done. It wasn’t on the list, so I put it on, and cross it off. Maybe more gets accomplished than I know, and I’ve created a poor list.
The new list reads:
Get out of bed
Brush my teeth
Start household tasks
Tell myself I’m doing well.
Look at the big TO-DO list and see if there is one thing I can accomplish. Can I do it now? Remember there is nothing I can do about the past. Ask for forgiveness of self and others, and move on. Focus on what is getting done – stay there.
I understand my day’s list is some else’s ten minutes, but that someone else probably isn’t anxious and depressed. That someone manages well – has good skills. I manage damn well for where I am.
Smile – even a half-smile – like an exercise move. Stop the self-hate, and the judgement.