Tag Archives: depression

Cannabis and Mental Illness

When you suffer with an ailment long enough, you look for answers that are outside of the box. Sometimes it’s because you don’t agree with the answers you’ve received, or the answers you’ve been given just aren’t enough so you’re willing to venture out in hopes you can put together enough remedy to have some peace in your life. For me, this is the case with cannabis and my mental health struggles.

I have always taken my meds prescribed by my Psychiatrist and have been in out of Psychologists offices for therapy as needed. I’ve read enough self-help books to take out a forest. I’ve always searched for solutions and answers in hopes of living the best quality of life possible, for myself and my family.

I have followed the system and its parodical and for me there has been huge benefit. There have been bumps along the road, and some incredibly hard years, some of it from medication trial and error, some of it from misdiagnosis … (Finally after twenty years, I’m being treated more accurately for Bipolar Disorder), and some of it from not always choosing the healthiest coping skills.

My meds definitely help stabilize my Bipolar Disorder and I’m grateful for that, I’m in a functioning state with little to no mania and occasional depression. The problem is finding the balancing act with my BD meds and my anxiety meds .. While I take both and get some relief, I’m still very anxious a lot of the time. At times it’s manageable and at times it’s not, and I’m at the end of my rope, as it spills over into my mothering, marriage and all aspects of my life.

I began drinking to medicate, a glass of wine over a couple of years became a couple of bottles of wine, long story short it became an ugly thing in my life and almost cost me my family. So, the drinking to excess went away but the anxiety did not.

I had smoked cannabis when I was younger in college on and off recreationally. I could take it or leave it though, it was not really my thing. Twenty years later, when CA went medical legal I decided to get my card and try it for actual medical purposes, specifically my anxiety and insomnia.

I researched it online and asked a few of my doctors about the benefits and harms of mixing cannabis and pharmaceuticals. I got very mixed professional opinions and people’s experiences seemed to run the gamut from some swearing by it and stopping all their meds to others experiencing paranoia and finding no relief. I decided to give it a try.

For me, cannabis, specifically Indica strains have helped calm my anxiety. I don’t believe it is curing anything but it is treating my symptoms. It has taken trial and error like any medication to figure out dosage and strains. I’m not stopping any of my other meds because for me cannabis alone would not be enough. I’m also careful to balance it in my life. I only use it when I need it and usually at night when I’m done with my mothering duties.

I’m not open with everyone about this choice. To some in my life it is a moral mistake, and I’ve lost a few “friends” because of it. I worry about some of the legality of it because I have children, but I closely follow the state law. My Psychiatrist isn’t an advocate or against it. My extended family isn’t thrilled about it but they accept it and I try my best to be respectful of this. My husband is very supportive of it because he has seen first hand the benefit, the peaceful nights I have now, the sleep I get now, I’m more live able.

I share this on my blog because it has made a positive difference in my life. I’m not preaching or saying you should try it, or stop taking your medication .. Please don’t! Any changes you make please do responsibly with the knowledge of a Dr.

I share this on my blog to tell you, the mental health system is there to guide, but it is ok to look outside of it and see what else exists. It is ok to question and seek answers. It’s ok to trust that you know yourself better than anyone and to realize you have to live with yourself … Strengths, aliments and all.

Lastly, I share this on my blog out of intellectual curiosity. I’m curious about others positive or negative experiences with cannabis and mental illness. Feel free to share if you want, I would love to hear your story. Please be respectful though, if cannabis is not your thing, just leave this page without printing your judgement, life is hard enough already. Thank you.

Robin William’s Legacy ISN’T Dictated By his Final Act

July 21, 2015 Robin Williams would have turned 64, sadly he missed his birthday because he lost his battle with Bipolar Disorder. I am grieved that he suffered, that he gave so much to everyone else, brought joy and laughter to children and adults for over thirty years but couldn’t find place of peace within himself.

I’m sad for him, for myself and others that suffer from this unkind disorder. It can bring such energy and unfiltered enthusiasm, an unattainable idealism that makes it hard to thrive under normal means. It can bring one to such places that normalcy is completely without merit, and then swing you to a place of complete darkness and despair. Neither of which, are healthy places to live mentally for any length of time.

I understand the strain of years of this cycle, of this emotional pull to be on top of the world, and to not want to return to the darkness. I believe Robin thrived and made his living off of his manic phases, he entertained us and made us laugh, we loved him when he was in this place that brought us out of ourselves and brought joy to our lives.

He had a gift definitely, and he was able to find a way to use the attributes of BD in a positive way. Sadly, it must have been exhausting both physically and mentally to try to sustain his life in one realm of this disorder. I know he struggled with substance abuse for years, like so many of us with Bipolar Disorder, where I’m sure he was able to numb some of this struggle.

I think perhaps acting became a burden to him when he was depressed and I’m sure relying on it to provide for himself and his family was overwhelming at times, when he had nothing to give, much less sustain himself with. Despite all this, I think he probably had many years of satisfaction vocationally, contributing to other’s lives, making them laugh … one thing I’m sure he wanted for himself.

I wish Robin could have shared his struggles, his other side, the depressed, grieved part of himself. I would have still loved him, and I would like to think others could have handled his honesty, but as I say that I realize that mental health stereotypes still exist and the public eye can be harsh.

To some his suicide was eye-opening, perhaps now they’re able to see that mental illness can affect anyone, it doesn’t discriminate, by wealth, talent or intellect and it can very easily take all of that from you if you don’t take care of yourself. Which is not to say that he wasn’t taking care of himself, he may have been making his best effort. I also know he had physical health problems and financial struggles which I’m sure contributed to his suffering.

Others, took his suicide as an opportunity to self-righteously judge that which they truly don’t understand because it’s never been in their arm’s length. Which saddens me. Mental illness in my life has caused enough pain that I’m able to have empathy for others when they struggle even when it’s with a battle I’m not familiar with. I’m not judging his final act, instead I’m grateful for the legacy he left, R.I.P. Robin Williams.

Anxiety Ridden

At 17, I was diagnosed and hospitalized with depression, at 40 I was diagnosed more accurately with Bipolar Disorder II, but I swear I came out of the womb with anxiety.

Anxiety seems like such a common word. It’s  thrown around with little appreciation of the true impact it can have on some people’s lives.

As a child I worried incessantly and obsessively, by first grade I was seeing a school counselor. I worried about concepts, everyday happenings, and my own performance even during menial, every day activities. My anxiety would manifest itself in the way of stomach problems, I constantly struggled with knots in my stomach, dreading that I would vomit, which would only make this cycle worse because I had vomiting and illness anxiety as well.

I would lay awake at night facing towards my pink  wall, worrying that someone would break in, that spiders would crawl out the of the jagged crack in my wall. I had to always have the covers on, no matter the temperature, so no one could get to me. I have always slept with some light, the thought of opening my eyes and not being able to see was so overwhelming that I just accepted that fact that night lights would be a permanent fixture in my life.

I feared death by the age of 8 and it haunted me. Anytime I heard ambulance sirens in the background my stomach would drop because I was sure one of my parents was in a tragic accident. Our family vacations while growing up consisted of driving to my grandparents’ homes in another state, a drive that took over eight hours. As we drove at night in our baby blue Scout, I willed myself to stay awake because I was sure we would be killed in a horrid car wreck and I wanted to be able to say goodbye to my parents. I never vocalized this concern to my parents, but it weighed on me as I would watch my younger sister peacefully sleep the whole trip. And camping was a nightmare, as fear and anxiety, always worse at night would haunt the little sleep I was able to get. I could not get out of my mind the idea that a bear would kill us or that there were spiders crawling all over me. My poor Mother would trek with me down to the campground bathroom about six times a night as I struggled with stomach aches and swore I was going to vomit. I could find no comfort in my little red sleeping bag with my ever dimming flashlight.

Living in the Midwest as a child, storms were another area of extreme stress to me. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, too much snow, cracking ice, etc.   I would creep into my parents room and make a bed on the floor and try my best to stop the thoughts of lightening coming through my window and killing me.

I pondered the idea of what an eternity was in relation to death at the age of 10. I became preoccupied with the idea of the concept, and not until I became a Christian did I find some comfort in the grandness of that allotment of time.

As an adult with life experience I have the wisdom now to alleviate many of my childhood fears and anxiety. But adulthood has presented its own set of challenges in regards to the big events in my life and the daily struggles.

The pregnancy and birth of my first son were extremely difficult and the fact that there were some medical issues just impounded that fear. From the moment I saw my beautiful son I worried for him. I cried when he cried, I cried when I couldn’t soothe his tears because I worried that there was something wrong. My son literally slept on my chest for the first year of his life. I wanted to feel and hear his little heart beating because I swore he would die in his sleep and if that happened I needed to be there to stop it or at least know that his death was peaceful. This was an incredibly hard time in my life because I was also experiencing post-partum depression and my son had colic … not a good combination but with God’s help we made it through.

I have spent many hours in prayer, trying to rationalize with God that I love my babies and I NEED him to protect them in a way that I can’t, I want reassurance that they will all out live me. I struggled when my first born started school, and thus began the habit of praying every morning while driving to school for each of my children’s protection, I could leave them at school knowing God was with them watching over them. After ten years I still do our morning prayer on the way to school, for my own well-being.

Anxiety effects my driving, I have a whole bunch of fears that generate in my mind, I especially hate semi-trucks, mountain roads, bridges, and anything that in any way can hinder my control over getting to my destination. I have to block out the images I see in my mind as I drive at certain times or it’s debilitating. Did I mention I hate flying? I developed a two Bloody Mary prescription before I board any plane, it seems to take the edge off and I have a praying ritual, which takes about 10 minutes and is a must before the plane takes off.

I have anxiety about entertaining, which still haunts me. I have an expectation that things need to be a certain way and then I completely loss myself in the anxiety of the details. Just this last weekend I threw my son and his baseball team their end of the season party. I started planning it a couple of weeks ahead of time and of course that’s when the anxiety started as well. The anxiety always grows as the event approaches. I told myself that this time I wouldn’t let the anxiety get to me, I prayed that it wouldn’t, I was able to sleep the night before,  but sure enough it got to me.

By morning, I screamed at my children as they tried to help me with helium filled escaping balloons, and wind-blown streamers. Tears ran down my face as I realized I had bought the wrong shaped table clothes. Nothing seemed like enough, I wasn’t happy with any of the efforts I had previously made for the party. I wanted it to be more, I wished I had more money to put into it, etc. etc. Logically, I realize of course that this is ridiculous, that a bunch of twelve year old boys could give a rat’s ass about tablecloths or steamers, all they want to do is swim, run around and beat the crap out of each other but at that moment there is no logic just panic, tears and anger. And sadly, this is pretty typical of what happens to me anytime I entertain.

This is my struggle with anxiety, even while taking anxiety medication. I have read a lot on anxiety, been in and out of counseling over the years. I have tried escaping it, tried drowning out the constant hum in my mind of all that I can’t control with alcohol which only landed me in AA for a time.

I currently take two medications; a mood stabilizer and an anti-anxiety med and I have a MMJ recommendation so at night or times of extreme anxiety I will medicate with MJ as well. I have three medications circulating through my body and mind at any given point just to get me through the day,  just so I can function like a NORMAL person.

I haven’t given up on the notion of internal peace, and there are moments of every day that I can find some of it. I’m willing to embrace those moments and the fact that despite the anxiety I feel I have been blessed with a good life, a beautiful family, and a faith that keeps me going.

Privacy Laws & Disclosure

In response to the tragic German Wings copilot that crashed his plane intentionally into the French Alps.

I have always been a big believer in patient privacy rights, especially when it comes to mental health, due to the stigmas that it can carry. It’s hard enough when you struggle to function with Bipolar Disorder or some other diagnosis, much less live with your spread sheet of mistakes. There are credit reports, resumes, school transcripts and broken relationships that go before you in any new attempt, and the explanations that need to follow. It’s hard to have to start at a deficit and explain your way into credibility.

To make available another level of very personal medical information is almost damning, it’s a hurdle that many would not be able to overcome. An obstacle I would not want to have to add to any already challenging list of self-disclosure. The thought of having to explain to a complete stranger, for example a potential employer about my struggle with mental illness in order to justify an opportunity seems unfathomable and writhed with discrimination.

It is sure damnation, when an employer has two candidates in front of him and one has to disclose a mental health issue, you can be sure a red flag will go up.  To think at that point that it wouldn’t professionally be held against him, is complete naivete. We tell ourselves that an employer in that situation wouldn’t be biased but human nature being what it is, I wouldn’t want to give opportunity for discrimination unless it was out necessity. I want to be judged solely on my professional skills, and aptitudes, on my performance at past jobs not on the medication I take twice a day.

My “mental health” record would start when I was 16 years old, a junior in high school suffering with depression/bipolar disorder while my parents were going through a divorce, oblivious and too self-absorbed to notice. At 17 and still struggling I checked myself into Charter Hospital because I wanted to get better, I wanted help.   If privacy laws dictated that my hospitalization be public record and required that I report it would I have chosen the same route?  Perhaps not. Without privacy, individuals and families will be forced to suffer quietly in their homes and languish away any future potential.

There are just too many stereotypes to over-come with mental illness and not enough information in place to justify changing privacy laws. People hear a diagnosis like Bipolar Disorder and their mind instantly flashes to the latest tragedy they’ve seen where someone suffering from this illness lost their life. Meanwhile in suburban-ville many are living among you with this very illness, unnamed but successfully mothering, wiving, coaching, educating, and working. Some of them make the best teachers, nurses, writers, coaches, etc. and you don’t know or need to know their personal strife to benefit from the services or professionalism they provide.

Even as I claim and justify my point, I am left feeling like there is still a matter left unaddressed, there are still innocent lives that need to be protected. Are there certain vocations where there needs to be an exception?  I would argue perhaps, but it is such a slippery slope.

I would argue that there are two specific situations in which medical disclosure should be considered mandatory. One being, professions that require responsibility  for others lives, such as carrying a weapon, maneuvering large machinery or vehicles, some hospital work, etc. Secondly, I would argue that in these professions documented psychosis be something shared with employers. I never like to take anyone’s freedom and privacy away, especially when it’s an undeserved action and sadly no fault of the patient, but unfortunately innocent life must be protected when certain probabilities are in known existence. Odds are something we can only afford to take into account for ourselves, but not for others.

I argue this point, not just as someone who suffers from mental illness, I argue this as a parent who grieves for the children lost and all of the victims aboard that plane, including the co-pilot who might have also been saved from this tragedy had someone recognized and reported that he needed to retire his wings. Not in punishment or retribution but in care and for the benefit of others and himself. Praying for all of the families involved.

After Diagnosis

“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I’m past the initial discovery of being diagnosed Bipolar. I’m past the newness of it, the excitement of having answers to life-long questions. I’m into the now what stage. I’m into the now I have to live with this diagnosis stage.

This stage is difficult because it’s all the reality, its realizing that I’m sick and have been for years.  It’s rethinking my identity, looking at myself with new eyes, accepting a label I don’t fully understand.  It’s learning new strategies. It’s explaining to family, the one’s that want to know, and avoiding answers to the ones that don’t. It’s shielding myself from certain critics.

It means asking myself new questions. Why is answered now. This is the phase of why me? It’s a time of questioning my future potential, and hoping it won’t be limited by this illness and the stigma attached to it. I’m almost at a loss, because I just don’t know how this will all play out.

My therapist has suggested that I have a new way of viewing my choices. I’m supposed to view with them with a sense of stability and question, “is this the bipolar or the rational me making this choice.”  I kind of find this insulting, though I understand the point of it. In hindsight I know I’ve been bipolar since I was sixteen years old, and this is my normal. This is me, I’ve drawn from my experience for over twenty years. It’s what I know. It’s the things I love about myself and my weaknesses, it’s all intertwined and almost impossible to separate completely. I know I need to make changes, and I’m fine with that but I’m not going to totally disconnect from who I’ve been for most of my life.

It’s a time of medication trial and error, wait and see outcomes. It’s putting my life in the hands of a professional, and hoping their chemical cocktail offers some relief. It’s a time of both hope and grief. Where I just have sit with it for a while and try to really comprehend this new life I have in front of me.

It’s a time of praying and hoping that this illness doesn’t have negative long term effects on my marriage and children. Both in terms of genetics and the mistakes I’ve made with them while struggling.

I’m in the rebuilding phase, without the benefit of a blue print, but none the less moving forward.

 

Suicidal Cancer

If you were diagnosed with cancer and had years of; treatments, prescriptions, hospitalizations, of pain, that stopped you from living any sort of normal life, with no guarantee of recovery, would you feel hopeless? If you had to live with this set of circumstances for years; five years, ten years, twenty years, a lifetime, would you question your ability to go on? How much heartache would you carry while others went on and lived normally healthy lives, while your existence was consumed with one thing … CANCER.

Sadly, for some people mental illness isn’t much different, it’s a debilitating illness that effects every aspect of their lives. This isn’t a cause and effect situation, there isn’t anything they did to cause it, nothing they could have done to prevent it.  They felt pain, suffered, saw a doctor, got a diagnosis, worked on treatment options and went on trying to live. For some, this means years of exhausting many treatments options, many hospitalizations, many broken relationships, many job loses, all due to an illness that unfortunately Science hasn’t been able to cure yet.

When we describe mental illness but give it a different title that people can relate to, like cancer, people are able to see it in a new light. When we think in terms of uncurable cancer, it seems understandable that there would be a loss of hope in one’s life. People are able to muster up some sympathy for a person in this situation.

I know as humans we judge others out of our own experience, traditions, and religion or otherwise personal belief system and I try to keep that in mind when reading others views on mental illness and suicide, but at times I find it difficult. I can always tell when some famous writer tries to tackle the idea of suicide and they have no personal experience in dealing with debilitating mental illness.

I can tell by their word choices and simple explanations. I can tell by the way they offer up meaningless options to the idea of suicide, solutions that would be great to choose if someone were well. Solutions they believe they would have chosen, and of course that anyone in their right mind would chose. The problem is when a person is at the point of suicide, there mind isn’t right, they are sick, and suffering.

People want to address the act of suicide but fail to see the victim’s lifetime of struggle, of pain. I can tell by the way they chose to judge the person who took their life, instead of understanding that that person is a victim as well. A victim succumb to their illness.

Some people want to throw out judgements that offer no grace, only damnation for someone who is clearly already suffering beyond what is bearable to them and mostly likely would be to others of us. We would never dream of doing this to someone who lost their life to cancer or an illness of the body.

As a society we fail to accept that mental illness can be a terminal illness for some. There is involvement on the victim’s part to make it terminal, but at the same time it’s important to understand that the body has a breaking point, it will quit after enough pain or illness is inflicted, but the brain is different.

The brain, unless physically injured, will continue on despite any amount of neurotransmitter dysfunction. Having been through hospice with my grandparents, at the end there seems to be a resolution, they are ready to die because of the condition of their body. But with mental this doesn’t happen, it can mean illness with no cure and no end.

I’m in no way condoning suicide, it’s not my judgement to make. I’m just trying to bring some understanding to it, hoping that with understanding will come grace. When someone takes their own life, I deeply grieve, for them, for their families. I’m grieved that the victim wasn’t able to find peace in this life, that they felt there wasn’t enough hope to give themselves more time.

I’m glad the scientific community is finally starting to make huge gains in the area of the human brain.   I’m hoping it will make mental illness more legitimate to society, to people that haven’t had it impact their lives in some way. I’m hoping for improvements in medication, and treatments so that suicide never has to seem like an option. I’m hoping that one day mental illness won’t be terminal.

Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone

 Ever tried? Ever failed?

No matter. Try again.

Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett

I am applying for college right now and am doing it with both excitement and trepidation. I have tried to be successful in the academic arena for years and have struggled. Years ago, before I had a family, there were a few semesters where I earned honors, but most of the semesters were marked with “D” for dropped or even worse when I was really struggling, an “F” because I didn’t even take the time to officially drop the course. My odds haven’t been the best I admit, I’ve attended approximately five different community colleges over the span of 15 years, with only 40 units to my name.

It’s easy to judge myself for this failing and I do. I feel shameful that I’m the only one in my family that doesn’t have a degree, that hasn’t succeeded professionally. I contribute some of my lack of academic success to not having enough discipline and immaturity. But in all honesty, most of those years were filled with the struggle of battling depression, and undiagnosed Bipolar disorder, of just surviving and supporting myself financially.  This is not a cop-out, it’s just part of hindsight that comes with accepting one’s self and being willing to grow.

Finishing my degree, has been more of a long-term goal for me because it has taken a back seat to the more immediate needs of my family, of working and of just the fact that I was so overwhelmed with life it seemed an unattainable dangled carrot.

While going to college may not seem a big deal to others, it’s huge for me. Its part of the process of grace I’m trying to have for myself, for my life, past, present and future. I’m giving myself another shot at this, despite my own cognitive internal doubt that has held me back for years from risking, from believing in myself, from investing in myself.

My husband/family want a guarantee that I’m going to finish this time. Their doubt used to stop me in my tracks, stop me from trying. I would go through all of the reasons it could not work, and then I would get stuck there and not commit to college out of fear, of uncertainty, of the risk of failing again. It was like a huge momentum that I would just succumb to.

My husband doesn’t want to invest the money and time because there’s a not a guarantee that I will finish. And he’s right, I can’t guarantee that the financial burden I’m taking on will definitely be well spent, I can’t guarantee that I will walk down the aisle with a diploma in twenty-four months.

I want to make this guarantee with all of the certainty in the world, but I’m not going to. I can guarantee that I will try, that I will put my best effort forward, that I have every intention of graduating this time. And frankly, that’s enough for me for once. It’s enough for me to feel like investing in myself again, to do something for myself for once that isn’t about my husband and children.

I’m excited that I’m giving myself the opportunity to succeed, I’m excited that I feel I am at a place emotionally where I can and want to challenge myself and take on a long term goal. Despite others reservations and self-talk that tries to stop me. I’m taking this opportunity in my life to give myself a second chance, I’m excited that I’ve found grace for myself and some amount of belief that has given me momentum to move forward in an area where I’ve been stuck for years.

I’m not letting the self-talk doubt stop me this time. When it starts I hear it, I hear all of the reasons I could fail, all of the things that could get in my way, all of the uncontrollable circumstances that could occur in life. And I let doubt run its course. But then I start the rebuilding process of Grace. That it’s ok to try, without trying there is no chance of success, that risking is part of life, being uncertain is natural, that it’s ok to succeed and it’s ok to make mistakes because both are necessities of personal growth.

I’m encouraged and I want to encourage you. When you get to a place where you catch your breath and you have room for more, take the personal challenge, invest in yourself, give yourself a chance to try, to make mistakes, to succeed.

Find grace for yourself. Sola Gratia / By Grace Alone my friends.

My Yellow Ovals

I lay my yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter
wondering how the day will transform
and when I should take my emotional temperature.
I don’t want to be bothered by it.
I want it to just be an unconscious
undertaking like it appears to be for so many others.
I want to just live.
I don’t want to have to be reminded of milligrams of stabilization.
Don’t want to report back
or have to ask others for mood feedback.
It strips me of my independence
and self-perception.
Makes me vulnerable in a juvenile sort of way.
Reliant on others opinions
and faulty neurotransmitters.
I’m too old, with too much life experience,spend too much time caring for others to be reduced to this sort of infantile bullshit.
But there are no alternatives.
I have tried
to exercise them away
to pray them away
to explain their existence away
from prying children’s eyes.
So I grudgingly start and end my day
the same way
by swallowing down
my broken reminders
My yellow ovals on the sterile, porcelain counter.

Missing My Friend MANIA

Started my new meds.  My Pysch progress report would read, “Mania is gone and by all measures depression seems to have lifted”. This is progress and I should be happy, the medication has shown some success in balancing out my life. But, I miss my mania.   I say MY mania, because I imagine to each person there’s something independently personal about it.

I miss my mania because she came unexpected, crept into my life with her new perspective, different from the old drudge of depression. She brought with her energy.

I finally had the physical energy to formulate an exercise plan so I could achieve my long time goal of getting back into shape and losing weight. Every day I worked out for at least an hour, sometimes longer as I pumped music and lost track of time, lost myself to this new discipline.

Mania replaced the drudgery of slow moving depression. She brought an emotional and mental energy with her, and self-esteem. Years of depression meant low energy and after doling out scraps to my family it meant little or nothing left for myself. She told me I could change things about myself that I have struggled with for so long, she showed me a future I wanted.  She made me see I could actualize the self I wanted for such a long time.

With emotional and mental energy, I could sit and write every day, ideas would just come to me, words had special meaning, I didn’t have to sit and ponder in my thoughts. She told me to get off the couch, she wanted more for me than just dishes and laundry, she had ideas about going back to college, finishing what I started before I became so devoted to everyone else but myself. She gave me back a sense of self, she was a whirl wind of bravado.

I miss her.  I want her back, but I realize that she and I were unlivable to others. While she propelled me forward, she was bold and wasn’t afraid to take all that energy and direct it in one direction, on me. She was the selfish. She moved so quickly that she lost patience for those that couldn’t keep up. She drove and voiced things more aggressively. She was irritated with the small details of life and didn’t want to be bothered by them. My husband hated her, he preferred the slow me, the couch me, the more accommodating me. My children didn’t have words for the morphs that transpired in my life. But I could see while she valued me, she wanted less to do with them. She couldn’t be bothered to read a book to them or show affection, she was onto the next thing already, missing some pretty important parenting moments and opportunities. My best friend dreaded her presence as well, communication became more complicated to keep up with and self-preservation was at the forefront of her thoughts.

Now I’m left with how to reconcile what she started. I still see what she wanted for me, but I question if those goals were just too lofty for where I’m at in my life.  Is going back to college now doable, while helping three children get through school? My skinny self is almost unobtainable, exercise is burdensome again, and comes after my long list of other obligations, the pounds are creeping up again. Writing is more of a chore, the words are there but I have to make the effort to formulate them into sentences. Everything is taking more effort again, with much less of the enthusiasm.

Grieving her absence. Trying to accept that she can’t be a part of my life. I don’t think this makes any sense to my husband, children, or friends so I don’t even try to explain it. It’s my grief alone. Struggling to not be resentful over the fact that mental illness has resided in my life for so many years and made certain goals seem unobtainable. At the same time, trying to be grateful for the fact that I’m not bed ridden with depression, but that I’m functioning now. Trying to grasp onto the fact that I’m lucky, that some with mental illness aren’t as fortunate and bare an immense burden much larger than mine. I’m trying to reconcile it all in my mind. I’m trying.

Hollow Days

Some days, weeks and months I go through the motions.

I prepare meals, assist with homework, go to church, attend baseball games, attempt intimacy and provide transportation when needed. I say I love you and try to embrace my children, my husband and my life that is. Some days this doesn’t feel like enough for me and I’m sure it’s not for them.

It takes all my emotional energy to just exist, but it’s not much of an existence. I’m hollow. I’m flat. I’m a shell of a person.   My life consists of doing things for others out of obligation.

I signed up for this/my life fifteen years ago, when I thought I had some depression and that is was completely treatable by my morning coffee and Zoloft. I signed up for a lot not knowing there would be times when I had little to give. That when there was so little of me left, I would cling onto my last morsels of self, for preservation’s sake. This naivete meant not realizing that having lives depend upon you for sustenance and nurturing and not being able give it freely, produces a tremendous amount of unbearable guilt.

Some of the fifteen years were better suited for that morning fix, or I was better suited for it. There have been a lot of days, weeks, months, and this last year that make me doubt my decision and myself, I call them my hollows.

I want to feel love and connection to those I’ve committed my life to, but during the hollows all I feel is an urge to flee. I know logically that fleeing would fix nothing, that I cannot be free of myself, that I have to put my big girl panties on and address it here in this life that I’ve committed to. I know that love is more than a feeling, it’s a commitment and that the emotion of love will come back after the hollows leave. And I stay. And it does.

I want to appreciate my life, I want to enjoy it. I have so much. I know I’m fortunate. Many have it much harder and are not as blessed, but this line of reasoning doesn’t help me at all, I wish it would. I read about young moms that die of cancer and their grief stricken families, and I want to grasp this … and tell myself to stop the bullshit in my head. I want to. I want to hold this knowledge so tightly that it frees me from myself.

My family can sense these hollow days, I am more distant, angry, sad or irritated. My husband will try to fix it, though I’ve asked him to stop. I try to just move forward with the best of intentions on these days. I try to reassure them that I will come back around on another day, maybe tomorrow. I tell myself this as well. I want it for myself and for my family, I want better. A better me. I want years, month, weeks and days with no hollows.