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The imperfect, structured prelude

October 12, 2015 1 comment

Critics at their worst
Could never criticize
The way that you do
No, there’s no one else I find
To undermine or dash a hope
Quite like you
And you do it so casually, too
— Aimee Mann, “Nothing Is Good Enough”

I am my own worst critic. And the negativity and criticism have reached critical level in my head to the point where I have seriously considered suicide. I even had a plan, too. Won’t tell you what so I don’t give any ideas to others who might be vulnerable but it was a plan I was comfortable implementing.

I have cried a lot recently. Cried over my self-worth. Cried over the time PPD took me away from my child. Cried over my difficult relationship with my child.

I guess it’s kind of bad. I have this “Christian” faith in God. But when it comes down to it, the faith that once helped to keep me alive I have now, in actions, abandoned. I haven’t really found a good excuse to stay alive. Except for my husband. I know he’d be devastated without me.

And I mean, devastated.

On September 29, I enrolled in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) in attempt to avoid full hospitalization. (The last time I was hospitalized, I was almost sexually assaulted.) My actual PHP began on September 30. Insurance has approved 10 days in the program and I have only been able to attend 5 out of 8 days so far due to medication side effects and illness (the worst migraine of my life that lasted at least 48 hours).

I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety too. It prevents me from doing the most basic (and annoying) tasks. I had an anxiety attack over balancing my checkbook, checking my personal email, looking at my reactivated Facebook account. I refused to even try checking my work email for fear I’d get sucked into flipping out of work projects and concerned emails from coworkers.

My husband has repeatedly expressed his desire for me to live. I want to honor that. If for no one else, I am going to attempt to fight back against my suicidality and negative thoughts so he can enjoy the rest of his life with his life partner. I feel fight in me right now. I can’t promise that I’ll feel fight in me on Monday. But I’ll try to hold on to this feeling.

I was enrolled in a PHP after my full hospitalization back in 2006 and I don’t remember it being half as good or effective as it is now. While it was structured back then, it is even more structured now. There’s a pattern to it. A 50-minute pattern that I appreciate. It starts off with the full group participating in either yoga (Mondays and Fridays) or mindfulness meditation. Then we break off into 2 groups for a daily check-in where we rate and discuss how we are feeling that morning. Subsequently, the 2 groups combine for a class based on a specific topic, such as core beliefs, shame, self-care. (Quite honestly, this is the one “class” where many of us nod off. Sometimes it’s boring but sitting there as if it were a class is sleep inducing.) After that, we have lunch and then head into open group where we can discuss anything that is on our mind or help someone who is particularly troubled or struggling that day. Finally, we end the day with mindfulness meditation again and a “check-out” that allows us to rate how we are feeling at the end of our daily PHP.

Quite frankly, I never appreciated structure until this program. I always disliked structure because I felt like things would become “routine,” which of course was the point. I preferred variation, changing things up, and never knowing what might come next. But as I’ve gotten older, lack of structure bothers me. It drives me nuts. Life with a toddler is anything BUT structured. Never knowing each day whether I’m going to work late is NOT routine. Structure doesn’t have to be precise or exact. Group doesn’t always end exactly at 12:20 pm before lunch like it should. Sometimes it ends at 12:17 pm. Sometimes it ends at 12:25 pm and cuts into our lunch a bit. And that’s okay with me. It’s a simple reminder that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and I can get back on track as soon as I am able.

My PHP experience is teaching me quite a bit. I’m learning to forgive myself and be patient with myself. To not be so quick to criticize myself when I screw up or to spew negative words at myself when I’m not perfect. I’ve identified a few core beliefs that are extremely negative and cause me to feel worthless and hopeless. I’ve learned that shame causes me to be impatient with myself, to not settle for being anything less than “perfect,” and causes my inner worth to feel tainted.

I’ve also identified several aspects of self-care for myself. I’m not sure how to incorporate them daily but weekly may have to do. A few activities that I consider to be self-care include the following:

  • journaling or blogging
  • listening to secular music in the comfort of my home
  • reading
  • writing a short story or novel (yes!)
  • spending time with friends
  • praying
  • reading the Bible
  • listening to Christian music that inspires me
  • attending church regularly and being part of a community

To help manage much of my anxiety, I have learned breathing techniques and grounding techniques. I never knew there were actually tangible things I could do to calm myself. I’d rather use these techniques before popping a Xanax.

So my PHP has been extremely helpful for me, and I’m really trying to absorb all of the information provided to me. I’m not ready to return to work yet. I still need to get my medication adjusted to the right dosage that allows me to function regularly (eg, lack of day drowsiness, lack of extreme morning grogginess, absence of headaches and nausea). I still have a weird jittery side effect whenever I’m still or at rest so I’m hoping that eventually goes away.

One of my primary tasks is deconstructing the core beliefs about myself.

  • I can’t do it.
  • I don’t fit in.
  • I’m a loser.
  • I’m worthless.
  • I’m not as smart or talented as others so I’m no good.
  • I’m boring.
  • I’m not important
  • I’m not capable.
  • I’m stupid.
  • I’m ugly.
  • My thoughts are dumb.
  • My opinions aren’t wanted.

I’m having a moment where I feel like many of those things aren’t true. But WOULD TO GOD if I always thought that way. The first step to breaking down my negative core beliefs is simply identifying them. Somehow, I’ll need to move from there. (I have a handout about this but it’s riddled with spelling and grammatical errors so I’ll have to find something on the Internet.) 🙂

There’s a better story
Of true love of true grace
There’s the hope of glory
And our first chance to be truly brave
It’s the place we’re going
When we can’t stay where we are
— Sara Groves, “Rewrite This Tragedy”

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June 7, 2015 3 comments

Right about now, I should be posting about my mid-year goals. But this year has sucked so bad so far that my mid-year goals are what I want to write about least.

Are the basic things okay? Sure, my entire family’s healthy (for the most part) and we’re all alive. We have food, shelter, and water. We’re doing great on that front. In fact, I’ll even let you know that we’re financially more well off than we’ve ever been.

But I am miserable. I wake up every day wishing I were dead. What I earn does not make me happy except for the few seconds twice a month when I see how much has been direct deposited into my account. I am able to distract myself with Facebook and Twitter. But when those things are gone, I am left alone with my thoughts. And my thoughts cannot figure out how to escape. How to extract myself from my current situation. I cannot even brainstorm a decent way to commit suicide.

The year started off great. On January 2nd, one of my best friends and I spent the day in Philly taking in Independence Hall and enjoying a few beers at a bar featured on the Food Network. Then January 5th came. And then every weekday after that. It all felt like a nightmare. Being excluded. Not fitting in. Dealing with catty women. My current work situation takes me back to high school and the questions that I grappled with then: Why doesn’t anyone like me? Why won’t anyone go to lunch with me? Why won’t anyone hang out with me after hours? Am I not cool enough? Am I too weird? Is something wrong with me? I showered today but did I not soap well enough to eliminate any odors?

In early April, the senior editor left and I became the only editor in the entire agency. It’s not a big agency, only 28 people, but there’s enough work flowing through that I cannot handle it alone. I have found egregious mistakes in the final round before things have gone to print. On Friday, I found an egregious mistake on a piece that has already been printed and will cost the agency hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. (Likely thousands.)

In late February, the agency hired a new supervisor for the copy department. She has been difficult to get along with. At every moment I think she’s a cool gal (she’s going to San Diego Comic Con this year), she does or says something that upsets me. She seems to have cooled off within the past few weeks but I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel like I can’t get too comfortable anywhere.

People at the agency I thought I was friendly with have distanced themselves from me. People only discuss business with me. No one takes a real interest in my personal life. (Not that much is going on but I am a person with various interests too, I think.) I make an effort to discuss personal things with others but the sentiment isn’t reciprocated.

My son is a man’s man. He loves daddy and grandpa. When he hurts himself, feels sick, or tired, he gravitates toward daddy (when it’s just me and daddy around). I always thought I’d be the one to kiss his boo-boos and cuddle with him when he’s not feeling well. I always thought I’d be the one to put my child to sleep, play with him, watch TV with him, and take care of him. He likes me sometimes but not always. I’m not who he clings to. I don’t even feel loved by my own kid. When he was first born, I felt like I couldn’t bond with him and now I feel like PPD has robbed me of my ability to bridge the gap created by those first few months. He doesn’t even want me. Sure, he’s familiar with me and I can make him smile and laugh but if you spend enough time with the kid, he’ll gravitate to you too. He’s just a really nice, fun kid. But I’m no one special. And I want to be. And the fact that I’m not kills me. I’d rather be out of the picture than feel rejected by my own son.

My therapist tells me I need to love myself and accept myself. I’ve pretty much decided that’s not happening so we need to find another solution. Loving myself would require rejecting the majority opinion that others have rejected me and have deemed me not worthy of inclusion. Accepting myself would require thinking that my quirks (soft rock love and all) are awesome and what other people think be damned.

I can’t do that. Because I want to be loved by others. I want to be accepted by others. No, not everyone has to like me, but I want someone to extend the invitation to feel included. I want to not feel like a freak and a weirdo around the people I spend most of my time with every day. I just want to be included.

I recently took a test for certification as a medical/scientific editor. It was sufficiently challenging. I wouldn’t be surprised if I passed or failed either way. It was a weighted test with difficult questions counting more than the easy ones. This year has been such shit, I’m sort of expecting to have failed. So I guess I will be surprised if I pass after all. (Even if I don’t, I will make plans to get to attend a conference in San Antonio later this year to try and take the test again.) I keep in touch with the former senior editor and she’s convinced that I passed. She’s one of those people who’s always convinced she’s right. And I hope she is.

My marriage is great, though. My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary in late August. No small feat! We’ve weathered my reoccurrence of mental illness, infertility, the death of loved ones, job changes, hospitalizations, surgeries, various friendships, waxing and waning spirituality, and so on. To celebrate, we’d like to take in a Red Sox vs. Yankees game at Fenway in July. I will be up there for a patient-centered conference on maternal disorders so we have been able to work it out.

My spiritual life is crap. I pray very little. I rarely attend church. (I’ve been attending the local Roman Catholic Church on and off.) I can’t tell you the last time I’ve read my Bible. I am back to the point where I am probably going to hell but am begging and pleading the Lord God Almighty to accept me into heaven in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not an atheist or agnostic. I have been antisocial and have not wanted to engage in corporate worship. Or schmoozing with anyone from church, for that matter. And then there will be the questions: Where have you been? Haven’t seen you. We’ve missed you!

Maybe we should go back. I know they actually miss us. But this stage of life has taken away our energy to socialize weekly and stay out late Sunday through Thursday. (Friday and Saturday are more flexible for us. But even then, the little man goes to bed at 8:30 pm and our community group gets together at 7 pm. What’s the point of going?)

I’m behind on domestic life. My husband does EVERYTHING: laundry, dishes, housework. He takes care of the little man when he gets home and stays with him through the night (No, our little man is not sleeping on his own and he does not sleep through the night. He is 16 months.). My husband drops him off at daycare and takes care of him in the morning. I now do very little. I wake up, go to work, spend at least 8 hours there, come home, eat, drink a beer or two, and then pass out. I’m very unhappy with my life. I’m a crap mother and a poor excuse of a wife. Being a freelancer allowed me the time and opportunity to do everything I needed to while still earning an income (albeit, inconsistent and fluctuating). I kept up on the checkbook, did laundry, managed medical bills and made sense of the explanation of benefits from insurance. My desk wasn’t super tidy but I knew where everything was. I kept an eye on items that needed to be restocked. Sure, I was powered by 5 cups of coffee a day but I was efficient and useful. My home has never been pristine but it’s not the mess that it is now (and no, it doesn’t really have much to do with my kid). I eat out every single night. I can’t tell you the last time I had a homecooked meal. We used to spend Friday nights with my in laws and my husband’s maternal and paternal grandmothers. Now everything is disjointed and I can’t tell you the last time I’ve seen my husband’s paternal grandmother (who we used to see every week).

I drink beer like it’s going out of style now. It’s the only way I can relax after a grueling day at work. If I’m honest, it’s self-medication. Alcohol has a relaxing effect on me that my actual medications to manage bipolar illness don’t. If I need to, I will drink beer AND take my medication. I really don’t care. If I get sick and die doing that, I’m actually okay with that. I really am that miserable here.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for reading. This post isn’t necessarily for others to read (although since you’re seeing this, you’re obviously welcome to it) but more of a brain dump for me because I haven’t been able to write.

I miss writing. Blog posts, news articles, creative writing—I miss it all.

Most of all, I miss me.

Categories: Personal Tags:

Guard Your Heart

January 12, 2015 1 comment

I am dealing with pain and hurt.

How do I be vague and specific about what’s going on in my life all at the same time?

I feel like I’ve loved and I’ve lost. Like the rug was taken out from under me. That I had no say. That every decision was made for me.

I feel as though I need to walk forward into life trusting few, if any, people at all.

I’m afraid that the ones I’ve opened myself and my heart up to will shatter me into a million pieces. Never to be fully reassembled.

I feel wronged and confused and bewildered.

I embark on a new journey and set sail with an uncertain course. I don’t know whether to keep my heart to myself or to open it up, leaving me open to brokenness again. I feel like I’ve already opened myself up to certain people and I just can’t take it back.

I wish I could. I wish I could be quiet, keep to myself, “normal” me. Busy as a bee. Quieter than a tree.

I don’t know how to slowly unveil myself. All my quirks, foibles, and eccentricities. I feel like I’m sort of a BAM! package deal or a “Nevermind, I pass.”

After years of pretending to be quiet and not showing my true self, I don’t know how to become bubbly and cheerful. I guess.

I’m afraid. Afraid that all my hard work will come tumbling down in a matter of weeks. Will I crumble? Will I succumb to pressure?

I thought I had a family. I did. But then they were collectively taken away from me.

My heart hurts. My heart bleeds. My heart wants so much more. I live hard. Love hard. Live deeply. Love deeply.

It’s a blessing and a curse to be so alive, to give your heart out to so many.

Because the majority of people will break it without care.

I feel so heartbroken. As though I entered a 3-year romantic relationship only to be broken up without a plausible explanation. Shift the blame on me and when I try to do what it takes to make the relationship work, cut me off like a New York driver in rush-hour traffic.

I wanted to make it work so badly. Even if the break was in my best interest, I wish it would have been relayed to me. But now, I feel adrift. Alone. Cold. Without a home.

There’s another land on the horizon. I just don’t know what challenges and benefits it will bring. Will it bring any benefits at all? I’m gearing myself up for challenges.

I need to guard my heart. “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” — Proverbs 4:23

And let me TELL you, I have issues.

Categories: Personal Tags: ,

Everyone’s a critic (including myself)

May 9, 2014 Leave a comment

For the next week, I’ll be working full time filling in for someone who is out on medical leave. During that week, my mother will be here.

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t want to sound critical of my mom but…

(Yes.)

…she can be very critical of me with comments about my weight and my parenting.

I’ve adopted this critical attitude toward myself. I’ve realized no one is harder on me than I am. It just often sucks to be validated about the criticisms I lay on myself.

Working full time (even temporarily) outside the home has made me tired. I barely have energy to think let alone work. Extracurriculars, such as book club and exercise, have fallen by the wayside.

 

 

Full-time negativity

May 9, 2014 Leave a comment

For the next week, I’ll be working full time filling in for someone who is out on medical leave. During that week, my mother will be here.

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t want to sound critical about my mom, but she can be very critical of me with comments about my weight and my parenting.

I’ve adopted this critical attitude toward myself. I’ve realized no one is harder on me than I am. It just often sucks to be validated about the criticisms I lay on myself.

Working full time (even temporarily) outside the home has made me tired. I barely have energy to think, let alone work. Extracurriculars, such as book club and exercise, have fallen by the wayside.

Categories: Personal Tags:

Lies That I Tell Myself

May 8, 2014 1 comment
  • Nobody loves me.
  • I’m a failure.
  • I suck.
  • I’m a horrible mother.

Those are just a sample of the lies I tell myself on a daily basis. I know they’re lies because

  • I have a family who loves me.
  • I have a successful freelancing business.
  • I have tons of helpful friends.
  • My kid is still alive.

But as illogical as it might sound, if you think on something long enough, it starts to feel true. I deal with loneliness, perfectionism, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence.

Often I have the tune of “Jesus Love Me” stuck in my head, but here are the words I hear:

Nobody loves me
This I know
For nobody
Tells me so

Which is a blatant lie because my husband tells me he loves me every day.

I don’t know how to overcome these lies in my head. I don’t know how to focus on what is true. I don’t know how to not feel so alone in my mind and my heart.

Categories: Personal Tags: , ,

Professional Widow

May 7, 2014 1 comment

I grew up in Long Island, New York close to the New York City metro area. I was raised to believe in making something of myself professionally. My father always wanted me to be able to support myself and not rely on anyone else.

Fast-forward to the second decade of this millennium and I am wholly reliant upon my husband to provide for me and my son. I am deathly afraid that if something were to happen to him that I would not be able to support myself. This makes me feel inadequate and incompetent. This makes me feel like a failure.

I’m kind of like a guy—I derive a sense of self-esteem and self-worth from working. Not having a full-time job kills me because I feel financially and emotionally deficient.

I wish I could say I grew up putting family first but I didn’t. I didn’t have a brother or sister to turn to and my parents buster their butts working to provide a decent life for me. My mother missed out on a lot of my school events and she had no idea that I was bullied in school. She also didn’t understand the depression I dealt with.

Family never came first. That’s the model that was set for me. In practicality, work came first. I was a latchkey kid for most of my childhood. I missed out on after-school activities, Girl Scouts, and other programs that other kids were able to take advantage of.

Academics were always important. My father felt as though the better I did in school, the more successful I’d be in life.

I hate to think it hasn’t translated that way but it hasn’t. I’m not as successful professionally as I’d like to be. I wish I could earn enough to help support my family—to afford a second car and help pay a mortgage. Even contribute as a partner to the rent. But no, I am wholly deficient. It’s hard for a creative type like me with a limited set of skills to make a lot of money. I wish I could.

My son needs to be my priority; he’s 3 months old. My husband needs to be priority; he’s family and loves me. But I can’t shake the need—the feeling that I am a colossal failure if I don’t help my family financially. I can’t help but feel like a colossal failure if I’m not putting my time and energy into a profession that either provides for my family or makes a difference.

And right now, I am doing none of those things.

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