I wrote a poem today. I think I did it, trying to convince myself, but not actually feeling it. I want spring to come. I want light and warmth back. But right now all I can see . . . all I can feel . . . is coldness and darkness.
Looking for Spring
Pairs of sandhill cranes,
flocks of red-winged blackbirds,
signal spring is around the corner.
The freezing days and the long nights
The cold and darkness of winter
clutches me in its claws,
attempting to squeeze the hope out of me.
But I try to take courage in the song of blackbirds,
the sight of cranes,
the belief that the needed warmth and light of spring
will soon be upon us.
I had another panic attack today. And I almost hurt myself. I wanted to. I wanted to so bad because I thought what I always used to think back when I did cut myself long, long ago—that the physical pain would distract from the emotional and mental pain. It was the worst panic attack I’ve had and worst I’ve felt in a long time. But I have more presence of mind (even feeling that bad) these days to remind myself how it doesn’t really help. I have more strength to keep myself from doing it. Even so, it’s hard to admit. It’s hard to write it on a blog where people will see. Even now, when I tell people I used to hurt myself or I have thoughts of hurting myself, I get that look—that same one I got when I first started admitting to people that the scratches and scars on my arms came from me, from myself. They look at me like I’m crazy, like I’m not normal. They look at me like I have some fatal disease they don’t want to catch and can only think about how fast they can get away from me. But I write it anyway—because I’m not the only one.
Last October at the General Conference my church holds, Sister Reyna I. Aburto spoke about mental illness. My favorite quote from her talk was, “…when we open up about our emotional challenges, admitting we are not perfect, we give others permission to share their struggles. Together we realize there is hope and we do not have to suffer alone.” We need to talk about these things so others can talk about it. So we can give each other hope. So we don’t have to suffer alone.
This past week has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve had some high highs and some very low lows. Last night I watched Hulu for hours and hours and feasted on waffle fries from Chick-fil-A for dinner, along with diet Coke and a whole six pack of raspberry-filled donuts. And I sobbed. A lot.
Today, I realized I couldn’t allow myself to engage in such destructive behavior again, so I thought about what might help me. I’ve talked about it before, but I will again—one of the tricky things about mental illness is that there’s no one set cure. Different things help different people. What works for one person might not work for someone else. I’ve dealt with my mental illness for so long that I’ve come to know what helps and what doesn’t—or at least what hasn’t helped so far. Two things that do help me are mountains and music. So I decided to take a drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon, while listening to music from my youth.
The drive was so good for me! Drinking in the towering granite cliffs with their varying shades of gray, black, blue, white. Being mesmerized at all the waterfalls I passed. It has been the second wettest spring on record here in Utah, so there were more waterfalls than I’d ever seen, and the river was raging harder than I’d ever seen. It made me downright giddy! And rocking out to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Collective Soul and Soundgarden—that was what I needed. That was my therapy.
Last night I was feeling pretty hopeless and defeated. I have those moments. We all have those moments. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to remind me that I don’t have to stay there. I’m a fighter. I will get back up and soar above that rock. It may be hard, it may be painful. I may stumble and falter as I scrape my way up, claw my way out, but I won’t stay down. And when I get up, I will be stronger than I was before. I will be able to look back at what I’ve learned and use it to propel me forward. Doesn’t mean I won’t get on anymore rollercoasters. Doesn’t mean I won’t have anymore lows. Doesn’t mean my mental illness will be gone. But it does mean I can keep going. It does mean there is still hope.
Cold, wet, dark.
Siren song of depression
lulling me to sleep,
enticing me deeper into blackness.
I need to prop my eyes open
But maybe I don’t want to see
the endless ocean,
relying on nothing but hope
to get me home.
Maybe I want to close my eyes.
Let the dark overtake me.
There are so many thoughts racing through my brain right now. I hope I can get it all out in at least a semi-coherent way.
I spent the evening looking for new cars. I came home to an empty house (my kids are with their dad), and I hate the feeling of being here all alone all evening and night, so I went to a movie. It was almost midnight by the time the movie got over, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go home. Instead, I drove around the streets of my home town with the windows down and the music cranked. Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden are some of the bands that came on the radio. Music from my youth. It was so nice just cruising around, belting out my tunes. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have someone there with me. I tried not to dwell on that, knowing the loneliness that would ensue could overtake me, and I didn’t want that. Dating/relationships are hard. I think it’s harder now than the last time I was doing it, before I got married. Add mental illness on top of that, and it adds even more stress to the equation. Maybe I’ll talk about that later. It’s one of the things I’ve been wanting to write about, but right now, before my tired mind unravels (like the sweater in that song by Weezer—yeah that came on, too!) I’d like to focus on the idea of hope—again.
Last night I was talking to a friend, who has also been divorced. I told him it had been a year now. I’ve been divorced/a single parent for a year. He told me the first year is always the hardest. “That’s good to know,” I said. “That means I can make it.”
I have hit some of the lowest points of my life this last year, but I have also had some incredible highs. Overall, I think I’ve grown more this last year than I ever have before in my whole life. I was thinking about a saying—the one where you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I do believe in picking yourself up and continuing on. Sometimes I’ve had to lay in the mud and the muck for awhile before I could do it, and even when I did get up, I had to trudge through with pain, like dirt, still clinging to my clothes. I’ve dealt with some anxiety and OCD again recently, but for the most part I’m still doing really well. I don’t know what the future holds. Right now I can’t try to look too far into it or I’ll go mad. I’m having to live each day as it comes, but I’m doing my best to keep each of these days good.
I guess what I want everyone to know is that you can keep going. Even through the most bitter of trials, the most painful of experiences you can learn and grow and find peace. You can even find happiness. It’s never completely gone. It’s never completely out of reach. Despite my often-times love/hate relationship I have with hope, I always come back to it. I can never completely let go of it. And I’m glad of that right now.
A Facebook friend recently posed a question about why it’s so hard for us to choose to believe we are enough. At first, all I could think was, “That’s just the way we are as humans.” But as I thought more about it, I realized there was more to it than that. Others responded in a myriad of ways, but for me it has to do with the way other people have treated me.
It’s hard to feel like you’re good enough when so many other people treat you like you’re not. It’s hard to feel that you have worth when so many other people tell you that you don’t.
In the last year and a half I’ve been told multiple times by family members that I’m a horrible, awful, evil person, that I’m a bad mother, that I’m going to hell, that I’m completely incompetent and that I’m wrong. Then there are the men that have been in my life since I got divorced. Every man I’ve dated, liked or been interested in has used me, lied to me, betrayed me, manipulated me, made me feel as though they liked me, cared about me, even loved me, and then rejected me because I wasn’t good enough, perfect enough—I just wasn’t enough.
Now, I know God loves me and cares about me. I know I am of great worth to Him because I am His child. I know I’m of worth to my friends, and I can even confidently say that I’ve made a difference to some of them the way they have made a difference to me. But does that mean I’m enough—in everything? How can I not feel worthless in some way when my own parents and some of my siblings—the people who were supposed to love me the most—hated me so much and felt such a strong need to tell me how bad and wrong I was? How can I not feel that there’s something wrong with me when people who act as if they care about me always end up rejecting me? If it happens over and over again that must mean there has to be something wrong with me, right?
It’s hard not to have those feelings and thoughts. It’s nearly impossible to not lose hope. I have lost hope. And I don’t know how to get it back, or if I even want to. Is it better to live hopeless or to constantly have your hope crushed? I still don’t know.
I didn’t think I could get any lower. Then I lost my job, and suddenly that pit I was in got a whole lot deeper, a whole lot darker.
My job wasn’t much—just a couple hours a day, a few days a week, but it was something. It was enough to help. And it gave me a sense of purpose, a feeling that I was doing my part to contribute to my family’s financial needs. It also worked so perfectly with my schedule, allowing me to be able to pick my son up from half-day kindergarten and be home with him and my daughter when she got out of school. Now it’s gone. And now everything rests on this new venture of mine as an independent sales consultant for this company. It’s a whole lot of pressure and fear. Pressure to make it work. Fear that, not only will I fail, but that I’ll make people dislike me even more. Yet, I have to hope that it will work, that I won’t fail and that people will be understanding that I’m only doing my job—only trying to put food on the table.
Yes, I have some hope. I have to, otherwise I would have given up completely. I still feel very hollow and numb inside, and I still have no hope in other things in my life, but in this one endeavor, I see a very tiny, very faint light far, far in the distance. Maybe it’s enough right now. I guess only time will tell.