Friday, January 31, 2014


A couple of weeks ago, I got my tax forms from my old job.

Part of my brain did cartwheels, because -- this was awesome. Because my previous employer was notoriously unreliable.  Because I had been concerned that I wouldn't get my tax information on time -- despite the laws that govern such things -- as this wouldn't be the first time this employer had delayed sending everything.

So. Part of my brain? Overjoyed.

Another part if my brain sighed with relief, thinking, now we are done with this company. If I had craved closure? Now I had it. We were quits. Through. Caput. Over. I held in my hand the documents that proved that our relationship was over.

And finally, there was sorrow. 

The sorrow threw me a little bit. I was -- and am -- happy at my new job. I love the people I work with and what I do. 

And yet.

From 2007 to 2013 I busted my ass trying to make my previous company successful. I lived it. I breathed it. I babied it. I was on call 24/7. I developed policies and training and testing. I didn't own the company, but I acted like I did through transitions in actual ownership and market shifts and every other up and down we experienced. 

And I loved it. 

Even when I knew it was time for me to go, I loved it. I loved it and I loved the people who worked for me as though they were family. Hell, some of them WERE (hi, mom!) and some of them? Well, I made them family (hi, Curtis and Tess!).

I hate the term "closure" but receiving my tax forms closed a door. I was done. It was over. And at the end of the day, I needed it to be over. I so needed it to be over. 

But it's hard to let go of something that you poured yourself into, despite how unhealthy that might have been.

I have closure now. I'm done. Someday soon, I might even know how I feel about it.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Old Hurts

Over the weekend, I ran into someone I've not seen in some time, and who I'm not friends with on Facebook. The first words out of his mouth, after "omg, I haven't seen you in forever!" were "How's Bean?"

I love Lizzie B. I do. 

But could not have predicted how painful it would be to hear -- and to have to answer -- that question.

Maybe it's because Bean was only a month old when I got her. Maybe it is because she was such a tremendous doofus her entire life. Maybe it's because I went through so much with her by my side. Whatever the reason, she was my girl in a way that Lizzie is not, possibly (probably) because Lizzie doesn't need me the way Bean did.

I know I did my best by my girl, but I feel like I let her down. Which, of course, resulted in bursting into tears in a public place after an inquiry by a well-meaning person who had no idea that he was ripping a scab off a barely healed wound. And -- because I'm so aware of my mental health these days -- as I was crying, I was also wondering if this was a sign that I needed my meds adjusted.

After reflection, I think -- no. I think that the reality is this: as stupid as some people think it is? I loved that damn cat, and because my summer was so fucked up, I didn't get to say good-bye or mourn properly. I can't change that. But I CAN, and will, give myself permission to grieve when/if I have to.

Even if it makes me feel a little stupid.

Because this one? Was worth it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Who Does Depression Hurt?

There's a commercial (or there was, it's been a while since I had cable ... Or a tv...) for ... Something... That asked "who does depression hurt?"


When I was in the depths of depression/ an eating disorder (which my family still doesn't talk about, by the way, and just refers to as "when you were really skinny"), I discovered that depression and mental illness ruin relationships. The kind of relationships you count on as un-ruinable.

Specifically, for me, it nearly ruined my relationship with my mom.

Writing about this is painful, but not as painful as the wide divide that opened between us. If you know me (or my mom) you know that we talk almost every day, that we finish one another's sentences, and are as thick as thieves. 

We always did. Until we didn't.

There were two periods of difficulty for my mom and me. The first? Was mental illness (mine) when I didn't know how to ask for help and, instead, lashed out. (The second involved an abusive partner, and my inability to say, um, I think I need help, but that is a different story entirely.) I knew that we were in trouble when I overheard someone saying to my mom, "You and Yellie have such a close relationship" and my mom replied, "Not so much."

Hearing that made me bleed. But not so you could see.

Mental illness hurts. It hurts the person who struggles, and it hurts the people they love. Sometimes you can save those relationships -- if you get lucky -- but sometimes you can't. 

Which is fucked up.

Because it's chemistry, goddamn it. It's reactions and cells. It's not love, or intentions.

It's fucking CHEMISTRY.

Who does depression hurt?

Everyone it touches.

I got lucky. I was able to explain. We fixed it. My mom is a mom, so she worries -- paradoxically, probably more now than when I didn't talk about it -- and she knows that I have periods where I am good, and periods when I struggle, and triggers that I have to avoid. As for me, I know that I have to let her know: I'm good. Or I'm not good. We work it out. 

Not everyone is so lucky.

The knowledge that not everyone is so lucky makes me terribly sad. It's difficult enough being uncomfortable and terrified in your own skin without the added pressure of knowing that the relationships  that you count on could disappear.

And that? Is why I keep talking about it. I don't want to. I wanted to write a blog about what a doofus I am, and I will keep doing that, because -- well, because I'm a tremendous doofus. But I also know that for years I couldn't find the vocabulary to talk about the ways I was broken, and the thought that it was only me was almost worse than my broken brain. 

It wasn't just me. It's not just you, if it's you. And anything broken can be fixed.

I know this to be true.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

In Your Eyes

The thing about love, I said, is that it doesn't ever really leave you. It's like ... Song lyrics.

That's aggressively romantic, she said.

Well, yes. And no, I said. You know what I mean. You can hear a song that you used to love in a completely random setting and it's like you're catapulted back in time. You remember a specific moment. You know the words. There you are.

Love is like a Peter Gabriel song, she said.

I smiled and said, it is.

But you look sad, she said. Why?

Because sometimes I think we're so busy singing a new song that we forget the old ones. I'm afraid, I said. Afraid that I let someone down because I couldn't hear what he was trying to say to me because I was too caught up in other stuff.

Don't beat yourself up, she said. You torment yourself and you shouldn't.

Maybe you're right, I said. But also? Maybe I need to make sure to listen. I need to make sure to remember that the song is still beautiful, though its moment may have passed, and that I still know how to sing that tune.

You're a romantic, she said.

Have you ever LISTENED to Peter Gabriel? Who wouldn't be?! I said. 

We laughed. 

As we laughed, I also said a prayer. That I would remember to listen. That I would remember to sing. Thst I would try not to let anyone I loved struggle because I was too busy or too careless to hear what they were trying to tell me. That the new songs would not drown out the old ones.

And then we parted. She was on her cell phone. As for me? 

I sang along with Peter Gabriel, and smiled. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Depressed. Uplifted.

Writing this post is not comfortable -- these ones never are -- but if you, or someone you know, struggles with mental health issues, then I'm willing to be uncomfortable if it opens dialogue, because without that dialogue? The struggle is a lonely one, and harder than it needs to be.

In 2013, when my life was in a spiral of suckage, I cried a lot. The people who knew me were not overly shocked by this, because -- let's face it -- things were incredibly difficult and an emotional, possibly snotty and sobby response didn't seem terribly out of line.

What most of the people who knew me didn't know, however, was that the crying was uncontrollable. I would wake up in the middle of the night, sobbing. I would be singing along with the radio, driving to work, and suddenly have to pull over because -- out of nowhere -- I would be weeping. I would cry in the shower.

I didn't tell anyone. My friends and family were already working so hard, helping to hold me up, and I didn't want to add to the burden I felt I was becoming. I just kept working through it and buying Kleenex and eventually got to the other side. 

I wasn't crying all of the time anymore, I reasoned, so I must be all right. This despite the fact that I knew it was a lie. This despite the fact that, though I no longer woke up in the middle of the night, crying, I would wake up in the middle of the night gasping, sweating, mind and heart racing.

I looked okay. I played okay. I kept busy and worked hard and just kept swimming. I come from people who think that if you work hard enough, you can do anything. I applied this to mental health, apparently believing that I could outrun anxiety and depression and that, once I crossed the finish line in my imaginary race, I could stretch in a field of daisies, free and clear. 

As long as I kept running, I was fine.

Well, mostly.

There were those midnight anxiety attacks. And there was also the extreme need to control my environment. This caused more than one person to ask, as casually as possible, if I thought I might need to go back on my medication.

Because of course I wasn't medicated.

Because of course, like so many other people, I thought I should be able to fix my brain chemistry by myself. 

When I consider what I just wrote, "I should be able to fix my brain chemistry by myself" I can see what a flawed belief that is. Hard work will not amend chemical reactions, the way synapses fire, neurons. I know that. 

But I keep fighting with it anyway, the idea that I can force my brain to work properly through the force of my will.

So I was not medicated. And when asked about going back on medication, my response would be as falsely casual as the inquiry: of course not, I'm fiiiine.

But at two am, the sheets twisted into knots, my hair plastered to my forehead, I'd know that "fine" wasn't a country I lived in or even visited.

I worked. I kept running. And then, I went on vacation for two weeks, and there was no work to do, and the snow began to fall, so there was nowhere to go.

It was when I found myself going to bed at 4:30 in the afternoon because listening to myself was so incredibly exhausting that it was easier -- and better -- to be asleep that I realized: I am not okay.

I still didn't tell anyone.  

I woke up after sleeping for 14 hours for the third day in a row, got a pen, and started writing.  I needed healthy habits. I needed to keep structure in my life but I needed not to be a prisoner of the structure. I needed to call a doctor and use the tools available to regain control of my life. 

And I needed to talk about it.

So I am.

Because the thing that bothers me the most about all of this is the fact that I was so ashamed. I have been embarrassed by the fact that I was struggling. I found it humiliating.

As of right now, I refuse to continue to be embarrassed by my brain -- because honestly, that's what this boils down to. My brain. It has the capacity to do amazing things, this brain. It's done things I'm proud of and dreamed up moments of awesome. It's a good brain. It just needs help to work properly.

I'm still working hard, but I'm working hard to understand that I can't do this by myself and that I don't have to.

And if this is something that you've struggled with? 

Neither do you.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

This Is Who I Really Am

I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. Getting older is fine with me; the alternative is rather unappealing. After what can only be described as a challenging year, however, my birthday seemed like a good time to take a long, hard look at myself. 

So I did. Literally. I went into the bathroom and stared myself down. There's a difference, I think, between glancing in the mirror while you brush your teeth and actually looking yourself in the eyes and telling yourself the truth about who and what you see.

I saw a face that I believe in -- and that belief comes because of the last year rather than in spite of it. I saw some fine lines creeping in, but they are a result of time spent laughing, and who can complain about that? I saw that my default expression is not a frown, but a grin. I saw lines in my forehead that are a result of very mobile eyebrows (I am not in possession of a poker face).

Beyond that, I saw someone who sees herself. I know that there are people in my life -- people who love me -- who don't understand or can't accept the reality of the person I see in the mirror. I am stubborn, independent, unlikely to ask for help. I am not warm and fuzzy. I have a tendency to pull away when someone wants to hug me. I don't like to lean or rely on anyone. I'm not the best at keeping in touch.


I'm loyal. I will go to the wall for people I love. I'm smart and I'm tough. I try to be generous. I love to smile, I love to laugh, and I will do anything for a friend.

It's true that I'm a mess. It's true I have anxiety and depression. It's true that I have moments -- days -- weeks -- where I feel like I don't want to go out or deal, when I feel like I can't cope. It's also true that despite that? I keep coping, because I refuse to quit.

On my birthday, I realized that I will never -- not ever -- be the person that some people in my life want me to be. 

But I looked into my own eyes and realized that I am exactly the person I want to be. Craziness and all. I observed myself and realized that, finally, after thirty-eight years, I am okay with myself and fuck anyone who doesn't get it. I'm through justifying or trying to squash myself into someone else's definition of who I should be.

It's glorious.

I blew myself a kiss in the mirror and then made a birthday wish -- not for myself, but for you, dear reader. My birthday wish was that you look yourself in the eye and love who you are right now, this mintute. You deserve it, you know.

We all do.