I have been lacking motivation. Recently. For a long time. In just about every aspect of my life. I always think about writing, but don’t do it. Now I have a little time, and guess I mustered a little motivation.
My kids started school last week. I have to admit, it was really hard seeing all these people posting their first-day-of-school photos on Facebook. I was never one to take it very seriously. Usually I’d remember last minute and snap a quick photo before walking to the school with them. But I’d still take one—just to have, for remembrance sake. But I didn’t get to take a picture or drop them off because I had to be at work. I didn’t even get to see my seven-year-old before I had leave for work. It was just another reminder that my life isn’t where I ever thought or wanted it to be. I don’t want to miss out on saying goodbye to my seventh grader her first day of Jr. High. I don’t want to miss out on dropping my son off and taking his picture as he starts second grade. I envy those moms who get to do that.
It’s also been hard seeing so many people posting about vacations to Europe when I can’t even afford to take my kids to Moab for two days over Fall Break. Then, I think about my friend who recently spent two weeks in Africa. She met people who had nothing, yet they were happy and grateful, and I think to myself, “That’s who I should be comparing myself to. I may not live in a big, fancy house or have the money to spend weeks in Europe with my family, but at least I have a house, I live in a good place, my kids and I are healthy, I have a job, even if it means I don’t get to take picture of my kids on their first day back to school. I should be nothing but grateful and happy.” Then those thoughts get me feeling like I’m the worst person in the world—for comparing myself to my neighbors instead of people who have nothing. I should be grateful. I should be happy. I shouldn’t be down or envious. And the thoughts circle. And sometimes it’s so hard to get out of. How do you stop the negative thought process?
Do you want to know the worst part about having mental illness? The fact that it prevents and destroys relationships.
It’s hard forming real, lasting relationships when you have mental illness. Obviously I can only speak from my own experience. So here’s my experience. If I’m standing by myself at a social gathering, looking around awkwardly or I sit down by myself at church and bury my face in my phone or—again—look around awkwardly, it’s not because I don’t like you or want to talk to you, it’s because my anxiety is so bad I feel like I’m about to puke. Be by myself or puke on someone? I’ll choose the former. But even though that’s the route I’ve gone in order to prevent myself from having a panic attack (and possibly losing my breakfast, lunch or dinner all over you) it doesn’t mean I WANT to be by myself. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want the distance. I want to talk. I want to interact. I just can’t always do it—because of my stupid mental illness. It’s like this thick glass wall. I can see through it, I know what I want, but I just can’t break through.
Even harder than not being able to form relationships is when mental illness destroys one that you somehow were lucky or blessed enough to form. It always becomes the wedge that splits, fractures and disintegrates relationships. Sometimes it’s because people can’t handle the illness. Sometimes it’s because they just don’t want to be burdened by it. Sometimes it’s because the person with mental illness refuses to acknowledge or do anything about it, and that’s on them. Oftentimes it’s because the mental illness overshadows who you are. It becomes all the other person can see, so they start formulating ways to fix it, to fix you. Of course they think they are “helping” you, but when the entire relationship revolves around your mental illness, it’s not longer about the relationship. Just because I have relapses doesn’t mean I’m not trying. It doesn’t mean I’m not using the tools I’ve received and used before for many years. Just because I say something in a moment of fear, panic, obsessive thoughts or depression doesn’t mean I’m speaking in absolutes. I’m just afraid, panicked, obsessing or depressed, and I simply need you to listen and reassure me that you’re there and that it will be okay eventually. Because eventually I will come out of the moment, and I will be okay again. I’ve lived with mental illness for most of my adult life and some of my youth. I recognize it, I know what it is, and I take responsibility for it—always.
But it doesn’t matter. As many times as I have believed a person is finally going to see me—just me, all of me, as me—my mental illness drives that wedge between us and destroys it.
I’m so tired of it. I’m so tired of this thing ruining so many good things in my life. I wish I could just cut it out of me, even if it meant scarring and maiming myself in the process. But I can’t. I have to keep living with it and all of it’s consequences. It’s hard not to be hopeless at times. But I know I’m resilient, I know I’m strong, and I know I can keep going and can keep improving. I won’t let mental illness take that away from me, even if it takes everything else.
A friend posted this on Facebook, and I thought, “Story of my life.” Overall I have been doing pretty great the last several months. But the last few weeks have had so many of those moments that make me a pessimist. It hasn’t been anything big, just the little things. If something can go wrong it has. And all those little things start to add up. It’s like a mosquito. One bite isn’t that big of a deal, right? But when it bites you over and over and over and over again it starts to get overwhelming, especially when you already have anxiety. It doesn’t help when I feel like I keep screwing up. I even work things out in my head, think they’re the right thing to say or do, and when it comes out I find out I was totally wrong, and then I feel guilty and bad about myself. Then I start to obsess about it. And the vicious cycle returns.
I’ve been thinking about how strange it is that we beat ourselves up so easily for mistakes that we make. It’s so easy to be hard on ourselves about things we would never be hard on anyone else for. I’ve seen others who have made similar mistakes I have, and I never think it makes them a bad person. I see a good person who simply made a mistake. I would never condemn, abandon, make fun of or gossip about someone like that. I would never expect or want them to be hard on themselves or think they were beyond forgiveness. Yes, I do believe there are consequences to our actions, but I would never presume that someone who has made a mistake—even a really big one—deserves what they have coming. I would still love them and care about and want the best for them. It wouldn’t change how I saw them or felt about them. Yet, for some reason, I just can’t do the same for myself. When I do something wrong I obsess about it, beat myself up over it, condemn myself for it, hate myself for what I’ve done. I tend to pull away from people because I assume they won’t want anything to do with such a failure, and it doesn’t hurt as much if I’m the one to back off than to have them abandon me. I wouldn’t abandon someone just because they did something wrong, but I assume that’s what others will do to me. I wonder why it is—that we’re so damn hard on ourselves, why we treat ourselves so much worse than we would treat others. One of the hardest parts is that mental illness only seems to exacerbate this problem, making that hole deeper and the darkness even darker. But there can’t be darkness without light. So, as always, I continue to hope—that the light will come back.
I hate silence. I suppose you could say it’s ironic considering that’s what my name means. I could have written so many things this last week. I had all this time because my kids spent most of the week at their dad’s. But the silence was too oppressive. It felt like a weight pressing into my chest, slowly getting heavier and heavier, about to crush my sternum at any second. So I’d watch TV or turn on loud music to distract myself from the lack of noise, from the fact that I was alone . . . feeling so lonely and empty. I thought about writing, but I couldn’t do it. Even now, I want to keep typing. Any time the click of the keys stops the silence threatens to suffocate me.
There have been many times in church I’ve heard people talk about the necessity of silence, of finding time to block out all the noise and listen for the whisperings of the Spirit. This doesn’t work for me. The Spirit doesn’t speak to me in the silence of my room. Obsessive thoughts come in the silence—that’s why I hate it. Without any noise, my mind can’t help but run over all those worst-case-scenarios I sometimes fear or replay all of my obsessive thoughts that threaten to consume me. So I can’t be one of those people who goes into my room to escape the noise. I need the noise.
Nature is a place that brings me comfort, peace, the ability to tune in to the Spirit. It is quiet in nature, but rarely ever silent. This afternoon I drove out to Antelope Island, on the Great Salt Lake, and experienced one of these needed moments of solitude where I, yet, didn’t feel alone. It was quiet, but not silent. A father spoke to his children, tall grasses rustled in the breeze, a hawk called to another. Distraction was lifted from my mind, loneliness forgotten.
Music is a necessity in my life. I have found answers to many prayers through music. I have felt peace, comfort, understanding—the Spirit—through music. The most spiritual and personally sacred experience of my life happened one day while I was out in Nature listening to a song by Live. It is an experience seared into my memory and my heart, one so personal I have only shared it with a couple of people.
Some people crave the silence. For some it is useful, helpful, needed. I am not one of those people. I will take the quiet stillness of nature, but I will also take the loud beating of drums and the chatter of my children.
I hate doing things wrong, and I hate disappointing people. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist. Yes, the picture above is an accurate depiction of what my house looks like most of the time! I do, however, like certain things done in a certain way, and I like them done right. I have often been that mother who corrects her kids’ grammar, though I’m trying harder not to because no one likes to be corrected. I don’t like to be corrected—because if I am, it means I’ve done something wrong or I’ve disappointed someone, and that causes my own feeling of disappointment and guilt.
Classic example—yesterday I made a mistake at work. I did something wrong. It wasn’t entirely my fault. My boss could have communicated better, sooner, exactly what she wanted or meant, but as her employee I have a job to do, and I’m supposed to do it the right way. I felt terrible when I discovered my mistake. Like knife-in-the-gut terrible. I tried telling myself it was an honest mistake, that it wasn’t really my fault, but the lies didn’t work. I continued to obsess about it, to feel bad about, to think about what I should have done differently, and wondered what my boss must be thinking of me. That one is the worst—to go over all of the things she could be thinking about me and what a bad employee I am. In reality, she’s probably not. She probably understands it was just a mistake because she’s a really great person, but . . . what if? What if she regrets hiring me? What if she is disappointed in me? What if she despises me? How could I have done something so stupid and wrong? These are the thoughts that plague my mind when I don’t do a job the right way.