Forgotten

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I had forgotten all about you. I had moved on. Found new hobbies. Were they worthwhile hobbies? No, probably not. But I was occupied. Mostly at least.

I still sit with my thoughts. I struggle with my depression and anxieties. I am okay. I am not okay. I am okay again.

Lao Tzu said “If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.” I get depressed about the future. The direction of the world, the direction of our society – it depresses me. The future I envision is a future I don’t want to be in.  Hell, I don’t want to be in the present.

It’s the first day of spring and I’m watching the snow fall. It all feels so wrong.

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Alterna

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You aren’t supposed to care what people think of you. I don’t think I used to. But now I wonder. When I walk into the grocery store after work in my dress and heels. My big silver bag. My flat wallet. What do they see?

When I’m at work behind the computer. On the phone. I imagine so many people see some prissy white bitch who doesn’t know what it’s like to be on welfare. She doesn’t know what it’s like to struggle.  Two of my negative coworkers have teamed up to call me negative. It’s the dry sense of humor.

I try not to judge people because I know that I don’t look like the real me on the outside. I look…. normal. I went to a great university, I finally have a real job. I put money in my 401k and have a separate savings account. My car is so new it’s still being paid off. Normal.

And then I come home. I sit with my laptop and obsessively play mahjong. My fingers are a mess because I constantly pick at my nails. I pick at my hair and pull it out. My back aches from the stress I carry in my shoulders. At work I sneak the medicine for my narcolepsy as discreetly as possible.  Hunched shoulders eyes on the lookout. I chat with my coworkers. We go on walks. We’ve become Facebook friends. They don’t know that sometimes I go into the handicapped stall in the bathroom to fight back tears.

And at home I sit. I worry. I over think. My house is a mess. I sit and stare. I pin things on Pinterest. Grand ideas. Things to do when I have energy. Hobbies to pick up for a week before I lose all interest.  Maybe I spend so much time acting normal that by the time I get home I am drained.

There are two me’s.  Everyone has an alter ego.  But does everyones Alterna suffer?

Reality

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A year ago I was in a pretty bad place. 9 months ago I was in a pretty bad place. I was in a job I hated. I was in a job that I couldn’t quit.  Your landlord doesn’t care if you hate your job. Neither does the electric company. Or anyone you owe money to. The job you hate causes anxiety, depression. Anxiety and depression cause other help issues. Headaches, fatigue, fucked up nutrition. All sorts of issues that keep you in this downward spiral.  I did everything the Internet told me to do. I tailored my resumes to my job applications. I wrote unique cover letters and used key words.  I networked. I drank water, ate fruits and vegetables, exercised. But I still contemplated suicide. What was the point of living if you hated every day?

When I finally received a job offer, actually I received two at the same time, I was gripped with even more anxiety. Which was the best path? Would I be happy? What if I hated it? What if I ended up worse off than before? What ifs. Gripped by fear and indecision.  I made a decision. It turned out to be amazing. I love my job. I don’t know how I got it. I was on the third list of candidates. Granted I was at the top of that list, but it was still the THIRD LIST. I didn’t have the veteran’s preference to get me to the first lists.

So now I have a job I love. I’ve poured my heart into it. I’m not yet a permanent employee, and that still scares me, although every says that’s just a technicality and I’ll be fine. I suffer from impostor syndrome. Even though I love my job and I’m getting very good at it, I still feel like I shouldn’t be there. Like I should still be making minimum wage in a job I hate.

And the thing is…. I deal with people who are victims of the system. People who are trapped. The ones that can’t seem to get a leg up. And I know how they feel. It breaks my heart to know how they feel. In acts of desperation they will lash out at me. They see me as the cause of their frustration, not as the person trying to help them.  The reality of it all is that the system is rigged. My co workers judge those who are struggling, but for every genuinely lazy terrible person there a hundred people who are truly struggling and trying to better themselves.

I don’t know how I lucked out. My mom says it was God’s work.  My friends say it was my hard work, perseverance and intelligence. I don’t know what it is but I’m afraid of losing it. Life is fucking hard. Life works against you. And the people who haven’t been to the bottom don’t know the reality.

two steps forward

and five steps back.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written.  It always is.

I love to start projects.  I have so many ideas.  Blogging! What a great idea! Adult coloring books! Running! Cooking! Video games!

Dropped. Listless.  Bored.  Unimpressed.  Uninterested.  I had thought I was getting everything under control.  In September/October, I was happy, optimistic….

And then I slid back.  Now I wonder if I’m worse than I was before.  Anxiety all the time.  Even before it wasn’t like this.  I can’t focus.  I don’t have friends, I don’t make friends.

So what? What is the next step?

a life without pills

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For over half of my life, I have taken some sort of drug nearly every day.  For over half of my life, that drug was Paxil.  There were often others thrown into that mix, but that was my main drug.  Almost two years ago I decided I didn’t want to be a slave to anti depressants anymore.  I stopped Paxil cold turkey.  It actually wasn’t as bad as I expected, but then I planned for the absolute worst.  I only made it a few months before being urged by my boyfriend to see the doctor for more medication.  He claimed I was moody, anxious, and not at all enjoyable to be around.  I didn’t see the difference from before, but whatever.

This time I was prescribed Cymbalta.  A year and some change later, I am stopping that drug too.  Circumstances in my life have changed.  I have a new job that I actually enjoy.  I have normal working hours.  I don’t feel nearly as anxious or depressed.  Oh, and there is some evidence that shows people on antidepressants for long periods of time (more than a few years) are at a heightened risk for things like Alzheimer’s.  Hurray.  They say you shouldn’t be on any antidepressants for more than a few years anyway.  But I somehow managed to slip through the cracks of the medical system.

So here I am on this path again.  Of course you should probably wean off of these things.  Of course it should be monitored by a doctor.  But I’ve found that isn’t how I work.  So I’m trying this course now.  If it all goes to hell in a handbag I’ll be calling my doctor.  But I dream of a life without pills.  A life where I can just treat my body right, and it’ll treat me right.

Right now my head feels funny, but to be honest I had the brain fog while on Cymbalta.  My core feels tense, and I’m a little worried.  I’ve been a little moody, and I snapped at my boyfriend this morning. But I’m gonna keep my head up, and take things one step at a time, one day at a time.

12/27/2003

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While cleaning out my house I’ve come across some old writings.  Here is one from 12 years ago, when I was 18.

“””  I didn’t sleep last night and I flat out feel like shit.  I’ve been cursed with headaches nearly every day and today is no exception.

“Do ya’ll have a bathroom?”

I’m at work, sitting, desperate for money, otherwise I would have agreed to work until close.

I opened.

“No sir, we don’t.”

I imagine putting up sticky netting, like a spiderweb, invisible to only children.  I work in a temporary bookstore.  Kids and retail means you really can’t pay me enough.  The biggest crisis in the world is not AIDS.  It’s not starvation, poverty, violence.  All of these stem from our one real problem.

Ignorance.

“Ya’ll ain’t got a bathroom? The store before ya’ll had a bathroom.  What’d you do, blow it out?”

I get so tired of this.  Americans and their urinary issues.

“Yes.”

An amazing amount of people can’t shop in a place where a bathroom is not readily available.  Speaking of stupid people & ignorance, my niece is coming tonight.  16 years old and in the 10th grade, she thinks she’s cool because she’s the only sophomore that can drive.  She sees this as something great.  I see this as she was too stupid to make it through preschool.  She’s currently taking courses I took in eighth grade.  I’m not bragging.  But when I mention this her father said “it’s because of the blacks.  They have to lower the standards for the blacks.”

I laughed.  “So why is your white daughter struggling with such low standards?”

I wince at my headache.  Dull pains progress into migraines.  I desperately look at the clock.  7:25.  About 2 more hours here.  I hope to be in bed by 10.

Sometimes I imagine my forehead cracking like the ground during a drought.  My scarlet blood seeping over my eyes and down my cheeks.  In migraines blood swells into the brain, blood trickling out would cause sweet relief.

I can feel the pressure splitting my skull and I’m crying red.  The walls are bleeding in my honor and the world goes black.  life has ceased.  I wipe the blood from my eyes  and with my relief comes little diamonds that sing with voices so angelic I almost believe in God.

“Excuse me…”

Life is one big interruption.  I am dying.  I am sinking.  Free falling through eternity, towards the end of what we all thought went on forever.  “””

It’s almost surreal to read over things you’ve forgotten about.  To remember memories lost.  To see who you were.  I was so angry.  I think I’m still angry, but in a different way.  I see her, the younger me.  I see her and I feel her pain.  No matter how much time passes, I am still her.

the shadow

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I’m not exactly sure what happened.  Maybe it started with my dog’s sickness.  7 weeks ago.  He’s okay now.  Well, he has a tumor, but he’s living with it and doing okay.  And then my grandmother became very ill.  And then the hellish weekend vacation with my partner.  And then the hellish days at work.

It’s like standing beside me was a huge mountain of snow.  Peaceful, serene, beautiful.  Cold. It was threatening, but it was beside me, and it was stable. It was a shadow looming over me.  A bird shit at the top, and then it all came crashing down.  And now I’m buried underneath.  But if you’re buried in an avalanche, is it blindingly white, or dark?  Either way, I’m stuck.  Attempts to move have just made things settle in tighter.
I’m worried.  I’m scared.  I’m claustrophobic.  I don’t know if I’m going to make it out.  I don’t know how to make it out.

I’m an introvert.  90% of the time I don’t need people, I’m happy hanging out by myself.  But in an avalanche, you need a rescue team.  I don’t have a rescue team.  No one knows where I am.  People see me, but they don’t know.  They don’t see the snow.

My boyfriend hears my cries for help, but he doesn’t understand.  He says “I don’t understand what you’re so upset about.  Things aren’t that bad.”  No, they aren’t that bad.  So why do I feel bad?  I said that if I could answer that I would win the Nobel prize.

I write here because I am anonymous. I can tell you my feelings and my problems and you don’t judge me.  Well, maybe you do judge me, but I don’t know you, so it’s not so bad.  I was hoping to find like minded people.  People who understood.  People with their own answers that maybe I could steal.

Once I told a psychiatrist that living with depression is something you never get over.  The depression is as much a part of me as my arms.  Even on the great days, I can see out of the corner of my eye the shadow. I don’t think I’ll ever be cured. The shadow is always there.

Looming.  Threatening.  Waiting.

The Broad Experience

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Dear The Broad Experience podcast,
I just found you today, and I had to write to say thank you. Two years ago I graduated from Uni, a pretty prestigious school, with the idea that I was going to make something of myself. I transferred from a community college, as a non traditionally aged student. I was in my late twenties when I began my life as a “third year” student, but I didn’t let it discourage me. This was going to be my time to shine, to pull myself up by my bootstraps and win the American dream. I’m extremely driven and ambitious, with the desire to make it to the top and be a leader and prove the naysayers wrong. I had a different world outlook and a maturity that my 20 year old peers lacked. I had a deep and sincere appreciation for the education I was receiving, while my peers took it for granted. I turned my nose at these rich, bratty, irresponsible NOVA kids who thought only of partying. I thought that all my terrible work experiences were behind me when I was accepted to Uni. All my hard work had finally gotten me my golden ticket.
I just turned 30, and last week I celebrated my two year anniversary at my job. Despite all my pain, effort, and dreams, the only job I was offered was one with terrible hours, a toxic atmosphere, and mind numbing labor. I am a college graduate in a production job. For two years I’ve been searching for something new, better, my big break, with only a handful of interviews. I have cried, panicked, been to therapy, career counselors, suffered bouts of depression, had my resume nit picked by dozens of people, all to no avail. To get through my job I listen to podcasts. Lately I’ve been especially depressed, anxious, and distressed, and I was looking for a new podcast when I stumbled across yours this morning. I was instantly hooked. The Broad Experience is the podcast version of my life, thoughts, and experiences. I killed my phone battery because I couldn’t stop listening to episode after episode. Thank you so much for your work. I was shocked as well as relieved that so many women have dealt with the same issues, the same criticisms and challenges, yet managed to rise. The Broad Experience has given me renewed hope and ambition, as well as comfort. One day when I make it to the top, I hope that we can meet and collaborate. Until then, keep up the good work.

spring cleaning

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Humans love to classify.  I love to classify.  Animals, plants, objects.  Names, categories, piles, cabinets, drawers  Labels.  Label makers! Post-It notes.  Name tags.  Anything to organize our disorganized world.

Oh, the Windex goes under the kitchen sink.  Laundry detergent in the laundry room.  Lithium in the bipolar person.  It makes sense.  Otherwise it’s chaos.

But lately I’ve wondered if our need to label has simplified us too much.  Or damaged us.  Oh, he’s Autistic, be careful what you say.  She’s so moody, she must be bipolar.  Obese, diabetic.  Anxiety, cancer, migraines, hyperactive thyroid.  We can sanitize the situation – she is depressed.  She has a lot going on.  Her family has a history of mental issues.

Or we could admit that, as William S. Burrough’s said “It’s painful to be a human being.”  It is fucking painful.  Sometimes a label can be reassuring.  All the issues you’ve been having summed up in one term.  I have felt like *blank* because I have *blank* and the doctor will give me *blank* to fix it.  But what if you just constantly feel like shit?  What if you doctor pulls out the latest DSM and you realize you have the symptoms of so many diseases.  You’re like a Venn diagram of disease.  You have everything.  You’re bipolar with ADD, Autism, schizophrenia, we’re going to make you a cocktail so that you can function.  Therapy.

I want to wipe it all clean.  I’ve spent over a decade in therapy, being medicated.  What if I just erased it all.  Started over.  Sometimes you have to throw out that old manuscript with all the notes.  It isn’t even legible anymore.  So I’m getting out the goo gone.  Getting all the old adhesive from the old labels off.  Starting with what I know.

Starting fresh.