Posted in anxiety, depression, healing, self-care, self-love

This isn’t a gardening blog

But I did start a garden. It’s small. Four pots. Two vegetables and two herbs.

It’s an experiment in self-care. The idea came to me because I kept drawing the Nine of Pentacles every time I did a tarot reading for myself. The Nine of Pentacles often depicts a woman in her luscious garden, not laboring, but rather, enjoying its richness.

Work hard and then enjoy thIMG_4454e fruits of your labor. The garden acts as a symbol for my real work.

Since my last post, I’ve come a long way in my healing. There is still work to be done (because there is always more you can learn about yourself), but I am in a good place. It’s weird. I constantly question my happiness, am nervously waiting for everything to come crashing down on me and plunge me back into the dark depths of my own brain. But so far, it hasn’t happened. Can I get a HELL YEAH?!

Mainly, I think this is because, through therapy (and more therapy and more and more and more therapy), I’ve learned the skills I need to get back to my center. I have learned that I am worthy of self-care. As someone who has consistently put the needs of everyone I know ahead of my own, this is a new notion for me. But hey, turns out my therapist, Joy, has some pretty solid advice.

Depression and anxiety are different for everyone, but for me, a lot of it was being completely overwhelmed by the smallest, simplest of tasks. If I knew I had to do the dishes, I would dread doing them. I was too tired to do them, but looking at them made me even more tired. The stack would continue to pile up and become more and more daunting. Before bed, I would tell myself, “Tomorrow after school I AM GOING TO DO THE DISHES.” And after school, I was so exhausted I couldn’t bring myself to move off the couch. This could go on for days (once for 2 full weeks). Add to this a list of other tasks: homework; laundry; text so-and-so back; make an effort to socialize (ughhhh). Even things I legitimately wanted to be doing, like practicing yoga, seemed like so much work. I just didn’t have the energy. So I literally did nothing, and my list continued to grow, which overwhelmed me even more, so I did nothing still… you can see how the cycle goes.

Anyway, I have sort of learned how to better manage my anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely still fall to pieces here and there, but I try to take inventory of how I am feeling, try to be aware of my triggers, and (this is a big one) I try to say ‘no’ sometimes when I don’t want to or don’t have the energy to do something.

Which in turn, gives me time to do things I actually want to do, and thinIMG_4408k about things that I want to think about. One thing that I keep circling back to is writing. Even if it isn’t any good, even if nobody reads it, I just need to get the words out.

So, here I am, trying this blog again after a 2-year hiatus. (Oops.) I’m hoping to document my attempts at self-care and self-love. Because, although I’m better at it than I was two years ago, it still takes work and conscious effort.

But you’ve got to water the garden if you want to eat the damn tomatoes.

 

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Posted in anxiety, depression, healing, hope

Buried wounds won’t heal

It’s been a while. I’ve been sort of lost. The whole deal where I lock things inside until I can’t feel anything anymore got way out of control the last couple of weeks. My fiance, Justin, would ask me what was wrong, why was I sad, and I couldn’t give him an answer. I wasn’t sad, not exactly. I was nothing. Numb, emotionless, just going through the motions of each day. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this way, but I think it’s much worse than the sadness.

This issue stems from my childhood, where I was too busy protecting my mom and my sister from their own demons to add my own sufferings to their plate. My step-dad was not kind, and when he drank (which was often, in my teen years), he was downright mean. I learned to fly under the radar, to not cause trouble or make a scene of things because everyone else in my home was already at constant battle. How could I burden my mama with my broken heart when her own heart was already cracked enough? I learned early to become self-sufficient, to depend on nobody to take care of me but myself.

I want to take a minute here to explain that my parents did take care of my sister and me by providing us a home, food in the house, school supplies, clothing, gas money. We didn’t go without. Which is why it took me so long to realize that they hadn’t given me all that I needed. When I first began seeing my therapist, Joy, just over two years ago, she brought up my childhood often, and I pushed her away, assuring her it wasn’t relevant to my depression and anxiety. It was in the past, it didn’t matter. But it did. It does. My mom did everything she could to be there for my sister and me, but she isn’t perfect. And she wasn’t able to give me everything I needed. When I was 10 years old, riding along in her car as she searched for houses for rent, it was me listening to her anxieties, her concerns, her sadness about her marriage and her life. She wanted out, but it would be many years before she was brave enough to make that jump, and all the while, I was by her side, her rock when nothing else felt stable.

I love my mom more than just about anything. Even now, when I feel that sad tug at my heart, all I want is to fly home and curl up in her lap and cry while she pats my hair and assures me everything will be okay. But that isn’t our relationship. That isn’t what would happen. I feel this constant need to protect her, and that includes guarding her from my own pain.

Since I couldn’t trust anybody else to take care of me (emotionally speaking), I built up walls. The people I loved most in the world got close to me, but still, they were at arms-length, never close enough to see my pain. It’s so lonely behind those walls. You feel like nobody knows who you are really, so any proclamations of love or admiration are rendered void; if they knew about the darkness constantly hovering over you, they wouldn’t love you then. So you put on a show to the world. You wear a mask, so often, that sometimes you almost lose yourself in it. You act fine so often, burying all your true feelings, that the numbness just becomes who you are. And it’s terrifying and awful and it’s like drowning or suffocating and being too afraid to scream for help.

These days, I try really really hard to feel my feelings. Ha- not really something you would expect to take effort, but God, some days it takes everything I’ve got. Going to weekly therapy helps because Joy doesn’t put up with my “I’m fine,” shit, and she somehow barrels through every wall I build. I know that a lot of people have had bad experiences with therapists, but I do encourage you to find one that you click with if you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Mine has saved me from myself on many occasions.

Joy had some family things going on and was out of town for two weeks. And, try as I might, I was too tired and too scared to feel everything, and soon I wasn’t feeling anything. I was in my old rut and I had no idea how I got there or how to begin digging my way out. When we met last week, she could instantly tell something was wrong. I was jittery, tapping my foot and fidgeting with the rings on my fingers, spinning the straw in my water cup. I told her, “I’m so anxious and I don’t feel good, and I don’t know why.” And we got out two shovels and we dug.

I’ve been really upset about my step-dad lately. I’ve never felt close with him, and always disapproved the way he treated my mom and sister, but he isn’t a huge part of my life and I generally just ignore the resentment, forcing myself to 2 or 3 breakfast dates a year when I’m in town visiting. But, now I’m getting married next spring and the thing he said to me, the thing that really digs in was, “I sure hope I get to walk you down the aisle. That’s every daddy’s dream.” Which doesn’t seem like a big deal, probably, to most people. But, to me, it was like a slap in my face. He wasn’t there for me, ever. He didn’t give me support, financially or emotionally. Now that I’m in a different state, he doesn’t even call, text, or email. Our only contact is instigated by me, out of guilt and a feeling of obligation. My fiance put it best when he said, “He shouldn’t get to pick and choose when he gets to be your dad.” And that’s it. He didn’t earn this right, he doesn’t deserve to stand beside me on this day. He has let me down, countless times, and it hurts. I never realized it until now. It hurts. Why would he want to hurt me, to lie to me, to abandon me? Why does he feel the need to judge, to criticize? He should love me no matter what, and he doesn’t. His love is conditional.

Joy helped me find this anger and she helped me release it. She pulled up a chair where my imaginary step-dad was sitting, and she gave me rubber balls to throw at him. “Yell at him,” she told me. So I did. I cried and I yelled, “You should love me no matter what,” over and over. And somehow, my stream of sentences led me to my uncle. My late uncle Mikey, who passed away two years ago after suffering several years with a disease called Progressive Supernuclear Palsy (PSP). PSP progressively deteriorates your body and brain until you can no longer function without assistance. My family watched as my vital, lively uncle slowly deteriorated, losing the ability to walk, then move his body on his own at all, requiring assistance with eating, drinking, bathing, and going to the bathroom. He kept his warm heart and his sarcastic sense of humor as long as possible, but eventually, the medication took that from us as well. He slept a lot, and when he was awake, he usually wasn’t coherent and was often confused. It is an awful way to watch somebody you love die.

Before the disease, Mikey was known as my “dunkle”- my dad-uncle. He took me to breakfast every weekend, helped pay for my first car and my college, asked about my life. He loved me so much and he was proud then, and I think he would be so proud of me now. And that is who should be walking me down the aisle on my wedding day. He was the real dad in my life, one of the few people I could always count on, and he doesn’t get to be there. He was there for every important event of my life, but he doesn’t get to be here for this and it hurts so much. I miss him so much.

Mikey died two years ago. I flew home for two days to attend his funeral. I hugged my mom and my aunt, I patted their hair as they cried. I was strong for everybody else. And I didn’t cry until I got on the plane to go home. I sat in my window seat and silently the tears finally came. I am ashamed to admit, I never fully mourned this loss. I buried it so deep inside of me, and all of a sudden, sitting in Joy’s office on her familiar squishy couch, the grief erupted from my heart. All of this hidden pain finally surfaced and I let it and I cried and it hurt then and it hurts now. But it is so much better than the numb emptiness I had grown accustomed to.

Leaving Joy’s office that day felt like such a relief. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt like I had myself back. Like I had been missing and finally, there I was, hiding in plain sight all along. People say a lot of things about depression, but one of its ugliest qualities is the way it robs you of yourself. Because when you lose your feelings, you lose your self.

So, this is another day, and right now I’m sad because I miss somebody that I love a lot. But I’m also happy because I’m sharing a couch with my two lovely canine children, listening to their soft snores. I’m anxious-excited because school is starting soon and I’m anxious-nervous because I have an interview for a job that I don’t think I want to take. I’ll be sad and mad and happy and scared and a million other emotions every day of my life, hopefully. It’s not easy, this rollercoaster, but I’ll take it over the alternative any day.

Wishing you all an emotional day.

Posted in anxiety, healing, hope

Following the uncharted path

I’m feeling overwhelmed. My own anxiety is at a high point. (I had to take an Ativan on my lunch break in order to make it through the rest of my work day yesterday.) Generally, heightened anxiety for me means that I’m not taking the time to process and deal with emotions and/or thoughts, so they add up until they become too much, a heavy weight on my chest.

It’s hard to spend time with myself, really look inside to what’s going on beneath the surface. I work full time, have two dogs to take care of, classes and homework for most of the year. I live with my fiance now, which means alone time is sparse. The doesn’t even account for talking to/meeting up with friends and family. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining about having a full life; I am incredibly lucky and grateful for the wonderful people and animals close to me, for the fact that I have a job and a home and an opportunity for education. I just mean that I greatly value my alone time. It’s the time I use to reflect on all the millions of stimuli I have been exposed to over the past few hours/days/weeks. I need that time because, for me, being alone in the quiet of my own thoughts is the only way I actually listen and feel and process.

With a hectic schedule, I often resort to the unhealthy behavior of “turning off.” My job requires 12 hour shifts that often turn into 13-14. I deal with other people all day, everyday. Family, friends, clients, therapists, doctors, city Waste Management (who neglected to empty my trashcans… AGAIN). It’s exhausting. I feel like I barely have time to grab a frozen dinner to eat before going to sleep, waking up, and starting all over again. Dealing with emotions takes time and energy that I often don’t have. So, I turn off. I sort of block everything out, become numb, until I have the time (and mental capacity) to deal with it.

So, when I’ve been numb for too long, the anxiety starts to build. I feel a weight on my chest, making it impossible to draw in enough air no matter how deeply I breathe. Sometimes, it becomes so much that I end up spending some time on the floor (or in the bath) crying hysterically, letting everything come out at once. My therapist (aptly named Joy) uses a balloon as an example; you blow air in, little by little. If you don’t let the air out, eventually the balloon with either pop, or all the air will rush out at once, sending the balloon flying erratically through the room.

I know this post is long, and it’s gone in an entirely different direction than I originally intended. Basically, I am to the point that my balloon is very full, and I need to let some air out, like, yesterday. Here is a stream of consciousness that I scribbled down on my lunch break yesterday:

I’m sad today. I feel so alone. I miss my old apartment. I could just be in my room alone, instead of having to be alone with somebody else. I just feel like such a burden. I don’t know why J even loves me. I’m not pretty, not funny. I’m too anxious all the time and not laid back or chill. You know who is pretty? J’s friend so-and-so. She is pretty, and she’s fucking chill too. It would make sense for them to be into each other. What if they’re having a secret affair? Maybe she’s at the house now, maybe she’s met my dogs. Do his friends know? Do my friends know? Do my friends even consider me their friend anymore? I’ve been so busy, I need to make more time for them. What if they don’t love me anymore? NO. Stop. You have absolutely no reason to think this. J loves you. Your friends love you. Your anxiety is getting out of control. You need to calm down. What is really going on? What are you avoiding? It’s so hard. I’m so lost. Will this panic and sadness and insecurity ever go away? I’m going to push away everyone that loves me. Can I just be normal? I hate this. I hate being myself. I want to curl into a ball in my closet and stay there in the dark quiet, maybe then I will feel peaceful. I can’t do this. I can’t keep doing this. Deep breath. Deep breath. You’re going to be okay. 

Hence, the need to pop an Ativan before heading back into work, a veterinary hospital where I take care of animals and their humans. I am getting better at being self-aware. I can recognize when my thoughts are following an unhealthy pathway, the same pathways my neurons have been trained to travel my entire life. Re-training is the hard part. Stopping the thoughts, questioning them, and redirecting them somewhere positive. I’m getting better. But, as you can see, sometimes my thoughts run much faster until they’re so far ahead of me, I have to work to catch up. Does this happen to you?

When I actually slow down and logically look at them, it’s obvious that my insecurities are just that- not factually based proofs, but fearful delusions and what-ifs? So, I’ve stopped the thoughts. I question their validity. Now, to redirect. To find the truth and follow it to a place where I can be at peace with myself.

Wish me luck.

Posted in anxiety, depression, healing, hope

Hi…

Hello. I’m Jordan.
I don’t exactly know how to start this.

It feels weird to just jump right into this, but I appreciate straight-forwardness in a person, so here it goes. I’m dealing with depression and anxiety, I have been for many years, and while I think I’m getting better, I still feel somewhat… lost. Some days are great and other days I don’t even know who I am. How can I learn to love myself if I don’t know who my self is?

So, I guess that is the purpose of this blog. To help me work through my illness, to discover who I am, and, hopefully, to learn to love myself.

It sounds really cliche- “learn to love myself.” Cheesy almost to the point of losing all meaningfulness. But the way I see it, this world is already big and scary enough as it is, and the one person you (I) should be able to count on to have your (my) back, is your(my)self.

In the words of author, Sarah Dessen, “There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.”

Right now, I’m in a mostly good place. While I’m not as happy as I could be (as I hope to be, one day), I’ve definitely been in much darker places. So I’m starting this blog with a clear head and a hopeful attitude. I know there are others out there who are going through this too. And even though I know that, I also know how isolated and alone I often feel. So, maybe this will reach somebody and maybe it won’t, but if it does, I wish you all the love and happiness on Earth. Let’s conquer this.

With love,
Jordan