Life, Love, Mental Illness and Redemption

My Life's Journey through Love and Mental Illness.

Dear Mr. Williams…

It’s been a rough week. I know you understand. I wish I could’ve taken all your pain away. The angst, the deep black nothingness that is all consuming. I was very sad to hear of your departure. But I know all too well of your struggles. The toll it takes on your psyche. A despair so deep and hollow that you want everyone and everything to go away.

I was in the belly of the beast this weekend. I believe this is partially why your departure hit me so hard. I’ve wrestled with it all week. Knowing that it could just as easily be me. I could be one of the thousands a day desperately seeking an end to the brain noise. The cacophony of belittling judgements we hurl at ourselves. The complete and utter loss of hope.

I started writing to ease the pain. To help others. To be an agent of change in this world of misunderstanding. And yet I withdraw. I curl up into a ball and think it’s too hard. But we need global action.

You have sparked a dialogue that I truly hope gains momentum. And I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to be a part of that. We need to reframe mental illness into mental wellness. Fight against the stigma.

Raise our collective voices in the name of advocacy, compassion, empathy and understanding. Which I realize is incredibly difficult. It’s hard to ask for help. It’s hard to shine a light on that darkness. To expose that raw self to ridicule and taunts. Persecution and vacant stares.

I try to be open about my struggles. Yet, even I can’t seem to break the chains. We’re afraid of being judged. Afraid of letting down those that we love. Afraid of being perceived as weak or broken. But I will continue to chip away at the beast. And to take opportunities to challenge the status quo.

Mr.Williams, I am truly heartbroken by your departure. But it is truly a feat that I can wholeheartedly commiserate with. You will be sorely missed and I hope that wherever you are, you have found peace and freedom from the noise that had plagued you. I wish your loved ones and friends my deepest condolences. And I urge others in the midst of the struggle to maintain strength and tenacity. I’ve been there, I know it is hard. You are not alone.

How to talk about being okay…

I’ve been away for a long while. I’ve been up and down. Mostly in the middle. Which has had me wrestling with how to maintain a dialogue regarding mental wellness when I’m actually doing well. The sadness pours out of me rather easily. The despair, the heartache. All easy things to compose from those crafty alphabetic characters our brains assemble into words. 

But when I’m okay - or worse, doing really well, I feel self-conscious about writing. I feel like I have nothing worth saying or sharing. I’m so much better at commiserating than - well, whatever the opposite of commiserating is. 

But here we’ll give it a spin. 

Life is hard. It takes work. There are times - perhaps months, perhaps years - where things look like they will never get better. But it can’t rain all the time. Sometimes it’s a matter of making tough personal decisions. It can mean seeking help. Changing your circumstances. Abandoning toxic habits. And this all involves change. 

And change sucks ass.

But not always. And with enough practice, you really can learn how to shift your perspective. Maybe you can’t always see the glass as half full. But if you can occasionally just be grateful that it isn’t empty yet - that will help. 

Forgiveness and being grateful are two facets of healing that I have a horrible time addressing. The bitterness and sour venom of carrying grudges for nearly forty years is a burden that I’ve been working to relieve myself of for a while now. 

Gratefulness can be just as hard for me, because I’m a particular kind of person. My control-freak persona wants everything just so - all the time - loosening that grip allows me to pay more attention to the little things. Be grateful for the little things. Though I will be the first to confess that I have a horribly hard time doing this. 

I am living, breathing proof that there is always the possibility to fight those demons. But it is not easy. There are still bad days. Bad weeks. Bad months. But if you can find those moments where there is still a little something in your glass - those are worth hanging onto. Those are worth being grateful for. Whether it’s a smile, or a laugh, the way the grass feels on your bare feet, the coolness of a pillow waiting for you to start dreaming, there is always something to be grateful for. Even if it seems small.

Lol - lost tales of love and redemption. But there is no redemption. Only being. That’s really the best we can hope for. I suppose I used to find this point-of-view to be a bit pessimistic or cynical. Now I prefer to think of it as the view of a realist. There is no “good” or “bad” - just our perceptions. 

The sooner I can get over this hump the better off I’ll be. Tying yourself to the past is no way to tackle the future. 

And the new meds are definitely helping. But this week will be rough. I can already feel it deep down in my bones. 

On Medication…

I’m numb. I’ve been numb for a long time. I saw my therapist this week. He agreed to let me try some different medication. Part of what spurred this was the increasing research into the apathetic nature of antidepressants. The latest article here: http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=66437 points to a myriad of my issues.

Numbness. Total loss of libido. Weight gain. And just the general attitude that I could care less about… well… anything.  

For me, the numbing isn’t recovery - it’s a mask that prohibits me from seeing myself. But as I found out over the holidays - without my antidepressants I completely fall apart.

Here’s to hoping the new meds help some.  

The Secret Life…

of Walter Mitty was fabulous. Makes me want to run away and do something extraordinary.

I wish…

I wish I had words of hope and courage. But just being here today is a feat in itself. The fact that humans make it at all is a triumph. Life is hard - for everyone. Whether they show it or not. Some of us face different challenges. Sometimes we get knocked on our ass. It’s the getting back up part that matters. Especially when no one else realizes how hard it can be to simply stand back up.

Somewhat happy holidays.

These past several weeks have found me struggling once again. For purpose and meaning.

But we are all still here. And that’s a good thing. For me, I’ve missed the catharsis of writing. And we most often turn and run from those things that are beneficial - typical because of fear, anxiety and sheer lack of motivation.

But we are still here. Hang in there.

I’m still here, are you?

Yes, I am still here. 

Life tends to take unexpected turns. 

All the while, we search for something. Anything to provide us security, stability, a sense of being, a sense of worth. We find this escape in our work. In our children. In our significant others. In our hobbies. 

And it’s all an illusion. Everything is temporary. Everything goes away in the end. 

You are not the sum value of the people and things you surround yourself with. Unless you choose to let that define you. It’s taken me a long time to look in the mirror and confess, to myself, that I make my way. Regardless of someone else’s actions, I always made a choice. I choose my reactions, for better or worse. To go, to stay - there is always an alternative. And we tend to lean towards what is comfortable. What is easy.

We give in all to easily to blaming others. We all play a part. And life is not fair - but it isn’t bad either. It is difficult. For some more than others. Adversity builds strength. Wisdom is derived from experience and from failing. And it is all way too short to wallow in the regrets of the past and the worries of the future.

So, this I have learned…

My divorce set me free. As painful as it has been, it has opened my eyes to the simple notion that I deserve happiness. We all do. In everything. Love and life. Surround yourself with those that benefit you, discard all others. Be kind and generous, mostly to yourself. This is not selfish - looking after yourself FIRST helps you discover who and what you are about. From there the charity and altruism build. From there you begin to heal. To develop compassion. Everyone is trying to find their way.   

My depression has cultivated awareness. I feel more passionate than ever that overall wellness is a combination of factors that we’re never educated about. We sit in our cubes, eating our fast food, saving for a retirement to rescue us from our lives that are happening right now. Why? The richest country in the world is built on the backs of some of the most miserable, unhealthy people. Our culture and society is falling short, and we trudge along. Punching the clock. Watering the lawn. Hoping that someday we’ll get there. Wherever it is. Well, it’s in your passions, your element. It’s right there waiting for you. Some of us just have to work a little harder to find it. And it is not easy. Actually, it’s pretty fucking difficult. At the end of the day, you have to sit with yourself - and be okay with that. 

My anxiety has taught me patience. Everything has a motive, every twitch, tick, nervous moment - there is always an underlying cause. Developing patience with myself has allowed me to take a step back in my most nervous and anxious of moments and ask myself why? I’m in a hurry, I want out of this moment… why? To answer this requires you to go pretty deep. And the results usually are not pretty. To bare your deepest flaws to yourself is to accept that you are human. And allows you to accept responsibility for yourself and develop the patience necessary to begin to at least manage and cope with your fears and insecurities.

For me, it’s all a process. A process of experiences, trial and error. Developing a toolbox that will help me navigate and manage these new areas of life. And in hindsight, I begin to see that every trial, every adversity has been followed by growth and opportunity. The dots connect, and I know that I am always right where I am supposed to be. That there is always something to learn. Always something to be grateful for. And always a choice.