Striving Thriving

Sometimes as I am reading a book, there will be a passage I read that really speaks truth to me beyond the pages of the book.  It can be in a novel, a children’s picture book, a memoir, or another work of nonfiction.  It may or may not be integral to the theme and purpose of the book.  Then again it might not.  There is a passage in Pat Conroy’s Beach Music where he describes eating a tomato sandwich made with those ripe, beautiful tomatoes you go out into your yard to pick, the ones that will leave juice running down your chin.  In the grand scheme of the book, this passage is not terribly significant.  But it made me stop, reread, remember, and smile.  It took me back to the tomatoes my grandfather planted in our yard when I was a child and how I would steal the salt shaker and go outside to pick myself a snack.

From time to time in this blog, I plan to share such passages with you.  They may be like the one above which evoke a feeling or a memory.  They may be more like the one I’m sharing today that made me recognize a truth and really stop to think about how it plays out in my life and experience.

I love reading about people’s lives and often pick up biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs.  I frequently select a book about someone who altered the course of history – Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu.  Some of my very favorite memoirs have been written by people I have never heard of who had an unusual story to share. (I’ll include a short list of some of these at the end.)  While I really enjoy memoirs and biographies, I don’t tend to gravitate to popular entertainment celebrities unless there is something compelling outside of their fame.  Recently I read The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines.  There is something about this couple that is very real and charismatic.  I enjoyed reading the story of their time together from when they met up through the time when they stumbled into landing a television show.  Toward the end of the book, I read the following passages and felt like Joanna Gaines had written something so true that I needed to save the passage.  She said:

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“So what if my house wasn’t perfect?

“It was perfect just the way it was.

“I realized that my determination to make things perfect meant I was chasing an empty obsession all day long.  Nothing was ever going to be perfect the way I had envisioned it in the past.  Did I want to keep spending my energy on that effort, or did I want to step out of that obsession and to enjoy my kids, maybe allowing myself to get messy right along with them in the process?

“I chose the latter – and that made all the difference.

“This revelation was so much more than a lightbulb turning on in my head.  I felt as if a hundred pounds got lifted off my shoulders that afternoon.  I remember sitting there on that sofa going, ‘Holy cow.  I can breathe.’

“It all came down to a mind shift in which I asked myself, ‘What am I going for in life?  Was it to achieve somebody else’s idea of what a perfect home should look like?  Or was it to live fully in the perfection of the home and family I have?'”  p. 144-145

“It’s funny that these revelatory moments of mine happened on couches in two different houses, and I wonder why that is.  But I don’t have to wonder about the results of those moments.

“Shortly after I sat on the couch at the Castle Heights house and really noticed for the first time that I wasn’t happy, even though I’d worked so hard to make everything look perfect, I had a conversation with a friend of mine.  I was exhausted all of the time, and I said to this friend: ‘I feel like I’m just surviving at this point.  I’m not thriving.’

“Once I was in the Carriage Square house and embracing the laughter and messiness of my kids and not cleaning all day long, I realized that it was up to me to flip that switch from surviving to thriving.  It was just a mental shift, a readjustment in my way of thinking – like seeing my kids’ fingerprints as kind of cute instead of a miserable mess.
Then I got to thinking about the bigger picture:  If I’m going to sit around and say I am ‘just surviving’ every day, well, guess what?  When a big wave comes along suddenly, I won’t be surviving – I’ll be drowning!

“I mean, that’s life.  Life is never predictable.  Life is never really manageable.  If your mind-set is always, ‘I’m just surviving,’ it seems to me that would wind up being your mind-set for the rest of your life.  You’d just get stuck in it.

“So I finally flipped the switch in my mind.  I said, ‘I have to choose to thrive, even in the pain.  Even when it’s tough.’ And it was tough.”  p. 147-148

Now those of you who kScreenshot 2017-04-10 21.47.59now me need to stop laughing at this point thinking that I am claiming to have ever worried about perfection in my home!  I enjoy having a nice, cozy home.  I love when people tell me that they feel comfortable here, that they can kick off their shoes and put their feet up.  They can open the fridge and get something to eat or drink.  I like being surrounded by things that give me pleasure (hence all the books and photographs).  However, cleaning and keeping it completely picked up and spotless are not really high on my list of priorities.  I usually say that I try to keep it somewhere this side of the health department showing up. 

It wasn’t Joanna Gaines’ obsession with keeping the house perfect that spoke to me.  It was her revelation that chasing an “empty obsession” and trying to obtain the unobtainable that resonated.  I have done that for much of my life.  In my case it wasn’t the keeping up of appearances through a perfect house.  Instead it was the keeping up of the appearance that I had it all together in my life.  That I was strong.  That I was independent.  That I could handle things.  That I was self-assured.

I grew up in a home where appearances meant a lot.  What would the neighbors think?  That doesn’t look good.  You have a role to fulfill and you need to follow the rules.  I remember calling my sister the first time I heard Miranda Lambert’s song “Mama’s Broken Heart.”  I knew she’d get it.  And she did.  There were lines in that song that screamed out to me:

“…I can hear her now sayin’ she ain’t gonna have it

Don’t matter how you feel, it only matters how you look

Go and fix your makeup, girl, it’s just a break upScreenshot 2017-04-10 21.52.10

Run and hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady

‘Cause I raised you better, gotta keep it together

Even when you fall apart…

My mama came from a softer generation

Where you get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face

Powder your nose, paint your toes

Line your lips and keep ‘em closed

Cross your legs, dot your eyes

And never let ‘em see you cry”

Mom and Dad both put a lot of stock in what others think and what judgment would be passed if they didn’t fit the role that they had been assigned or took on in their lives.  Is this car sending the right image?  Does the house look picture ready?  Is every hair in place, the makeup applied beautifully, and the full ensemble perfectly coordinated?  When someone comes to the house, will they walk away and speak well of how it looked and how clean it was and how perfectly they were entertained?  They taught me to worry over public opinion and keeping up with the Joneses.  It may have been the lesson I learned most fully in my life, and therefore, it became the hardest to shake when I wanted to abandon it.

In school I never participated in class.  I was sure that my idea would be wrong or, even worse, laughable.  Time after time I listened as one of the bright kids would speak and the teacher would gush over an idea that I had but didn’t share.  I joined in conversations and never disagreed, never spoke my opinion.  I echoed.  I don’t know that I saw it back then, but I’m pretty sure now that most people had no idea who I was.  I was never in the office so they principal didn’t know me.  I was average and quiet in class so the teachers didn’t know me.  And I was too busy trying to figure out who I wanted to seem to be that there were times I didn’t know me. 

I became the pleaser.  A role I held for many, many, many years.  (And truth be told, it is something I struggle with still.)  My people pleasing wasn’t limited to pleasing my parents.  I wanted to be accepted and tried to behave the way I thought would allow me to fit in.  I “liked” the same things everyone else did.  I “believed” what others said was right.  I took that attitude into my marriage and served myself up as the doormat, basically.  I did what I could to fit in.  The problem was that it never worked!

I didn’t fit in.  And I wasn’t happy either.  Now and then I would capture a glimpse of who I was and what I really liked but turned a blind eye to it.  Fear of not being accepted, of being judged and found wanting, made me jump away from any risk.  I once auditioned for the acting troupe of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and was accepted.  It was the first time in many years that I had stepped out of what had become my comfort zone.  And then what did I hear?  I was asked, “What do you think you’re doing?  You’re a single mother.  You can’t be abandoning your child like this.”  (I feel compelled to defend myself and tell you that the time commitment was one night a week rehearsing until we opened and only weekends after that.  Also, being a teacher meant that I had the whole week with him.)  At the first criticism, I turned tail and ran back to the safety of what was expected.  It still disappoints me that I shortchanged myself of that opportunity by trying to win approval from someone with expectations that I usually fell short of.
Screenshot 2017-04-10 21.57.17I came to a point where I realized that most of the things that I had wanted and the things I had loved when I was young were not a part of my life.  I was a full-grown woman and still didn’t know who I was.  I joked that I went from being Pete’s daughter, to Jerry’s wife, to Travis’s mother.  I’d conclude with, “someday I’ll find out who Lynne is.”

At times the people-pleasing takes the shape of trying very hard to be what everyone wants and wondering if I have done something to anger people.  I wonder about what others are doing and thinking and where I fit in.  Depression speaks to me most in these moments.  It whispers in my ear, “Of course they’re all doing things and you aren’t included.  They don’t want you around.”  It screams, “You’re the fifth wheel.”

Over the years I had fleeting looks at the truth that Joanna found.  Each time caused my resolve to grow and expand.  At times it has even flourished.  I read Anna Quindlen’s short, powerful book Being Perfect.  I remember discussing some of the concepts in it with my mother, telling her about the idea that excellence and perfection are not the same.  She saw no difference and told me that they were the same, you are perfect or no good.  That opened a window for me into what I had been trying for and where the pressure I was putting on myself originated.  I have gone back to reread this book multiple times along with another of her books, A Short Guide to a Happy Life. 

Over time I learned to stand up for myself and try to be authentic.  Sometimes I have over-compensated and more often than not, I still have trouble because I want to fit in.  I’m fearless when I’m writing, but have a difficult time face to face with explaining myself, defending an idea, expressing my feelings, and especially standing up to someone being critical.  I lose my words and ideas.  I babble.  I stammer.  It is uncomfortable.  The more what I have to say matters, the more I love or care for the other person, the less likely I will be able to say what is in my heart with any eloquence or effectiveness.  I’m braver with strangers, but what they think will only matter in the moment.  The exception to this rule is when I’m treated as if I am stupid or I am accused of being or saying something that I abhor.  Then the anger rears up and I can speak…just when I probably should breathe and think, but I can speak!

As I age, I am more and more able to let go of what others think.  I’m not there yet, but I’ve traveled further and further down the path to being authentic. Joanna talks about flipping a switch.  I’ve done that, but it sometimes flips back.  In the last year I have actively sought out help with this.  I’ve had some very good advice.  I’ve had my perspective challenged.  I have read some books and articles and watched some wonderful video on TED Talks (TED.com) that have challenged me and made me question myself when the depression speaks or I start worrying about whether I’m pleasing someone else. 

So when I read Joanna’s words, they rang true to what I’ve been feeling and learning. She spoke my heart.  In subsequent readings I put my situation into her words.  What I was reading became, “It all came down to a mind shift in which I asked myself, ‘What am I going for in life?  Was it to achieve somebody else’s idea of what a perfect [person] should look like?  Or was it to live fully in the perfection of the [woman God created me to be]?’…Life is never predictable.  Life is never really manageable.  If your mind-set is always, “I’m just surviving,” it seems to me that would wind up being your mind-set for the rest of your life.  You’d just get stuck in it.  So I finally flipped the switch in my mind.  I said, “I have to choose to thrive…”

BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS BLOG POST OR THAT HAVE HELPED ME ALONG THIS PATH:

A dozen of the MEMOIRS that I have chosen in the past that you might never find on your own…

  • Albom, Mitch – Tuesdays with More (okay, this was a best seller, but it isn’t in the news any more)
  • Bryson, Bill – The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
  • Deedy, Carmen Agra – 14 Cows for America
  • Gaines, Chip & Joanna – The Magnolia Story
  • Hall, Ron and Denver Moore – The Same Kind of Different as Me
  • McBride, James – The Color of Water – A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
  • Ozma, Alice – The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
  • Pollack, John – Cork Boat: A True Story of the Unlikeliest Boat Ever Built
  • Ralston, Jeannie – The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected
  • Blossoming
  • Tada, Joni Eareckson – Joni: An Unforgettable Story
  • Woodson, Jacqueline – Brown Girl Dreaming
  • Walls, Jeannette – The Glass Castle

click on the book cover below for more information:

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TEN BOOKS TO HELP YOU MOVE FROM STRIVING TO THRIVING

  • Andrews, Andy – The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success
  • Andrews, Andy – The Noticer
  • Blanchard, Ken – The Generosity Factor:  Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure
  • Brown, Brené – The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
  • Harris, Dan – 10% Happier:  How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works
  • Manning, Brennan – The Ragamuffin Gospel:  Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out
  • Ortberg, John – Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them
  • Quindlen, Anna – Being Perfect
  • Quindlen, Anna – A Short Guide to a Happy Life
  • Robinson, Ken – The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

click on the book cover below for more information:

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7 thoughts on “Striving Thriving

  1. Sometimes we learn what we live. Sometimes we learn FROM what we live. Clearly, as a teacher and a mother, you showed that you learned from – because, although I’m sure you started in your share of bathroom graffiti epithets, you were THE teacher who sought out what was good and special in every student. Your child always knew he was special and important. I remember when you got the Ren Faire job. I remember your excitement and then your sadness when you told us you gave it up…. I know this was a difficult piece to write, but oh so important to so many. Including me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I didn’t get notifications or anything, so I’ll try one more time since I actually was strangely proud of my response!
    —-

    I remember first reading this blog at work and starting to respond, and then, as it often does — work happened.

    I read an inordinate amount of non-fiction. It’s as if studying to write fiction just bled it all out of me — and when I divorced and escaped much of my self-imposed misery, the need to curl away from the world dimished. I also read an inordinate amount of non-fiction about people dying in terrible situations, which I suppose is something that is a psychological thing to address, but here I am. One passage I posted on my facebook wall got quite a few comments on how lovely it was – it was from a book about the Donner party.

    Anyhoo. I can’t say I “keep a home.” I don’t at all. First of all, my husband takes care of those things for me. I work, and he takes care of literally everything else because I don’t feel like doing any of it after I get home from my insane job. I like to think if my jobs were less insane I’d invest more in housework and laundry, and I’ve done so on an occasion or nine, but my lot is the insane job. I would say I’d think people would be comfortable in my home but they wouldn’t, it’s not meant for them. We have a hard time having chairs available for more than three guests. We don’t have a living room, just a room we call ‘the sanctum’ and then our bedroom, ‘the gym’ and ‘the kitchen’ which has a lovely table and a chair that holds coats and go leashes.

    My grandmother, on the other hand, had a lovely home, and even had someone clean it once a week for it for a while, which was unendingly weird. Of course, like any proper southern woman, we had to clean before she got there (we can’t have her thinking we are dirty people, even though my father and his bouts of colitis … just ugh. I can’t even finish that thought. Or, I can, and I won’t because you already did. The TRUE power of words right there — from my head to your thoughts).

    Despite the fact I’m not a renowned housekeeper, I know the feeling of wanting to have done it. I know that feeling of wanting to have been perfect. My grandmother did a very good job of driving home that I had to at least APPEAR okay. Which is probably why I tried to slather on a bit of normalcy all the time when I was growing up. I didn’t know any other way.

    When I got to college I had been Evelyn’s granddaughter or Tommy’s daughter or, worse, “Little Debbie” my whole life. When I married, I became an extension of Art. When I divorced, for a while, I floated on being anything and everything just to see what fit because I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I did, of course, begin to figure it out and find my own way. I tried to pull myself back to who I wanted to be — who I had longed to be when I did those silent sobs all those years so I wouldn’t wake him up, or get my grandmother upset — or, or, or. Somewhere in all those or’s I found that there was a person in there, hiding. In other words, I know very well the differences between surviving, living, and thriving.

    I spent my entire young life being fearful of not being accepted, not being accepted, then acting like I was okay, and then hating myself for it more and more. The hate I held for myself and my failings is still something that scars me, and it haunts the back of my mind more than I say. I was terrified to speak up in class because I might be wrong. I never tried to do math because my grandmother and dad insisted I was Debbie’s kid and too stupid. I never tried to really excel at anything, and if I did, I was to give all the glory to God. To GOD? God didn’t sit and write all those words. God didn’t practice for six hours a day. My inner critic was taught by my many, many outer critics. I found the best way to avoid it was to be quiet, observe, and then being quiet more.

    Even now, I still spend an inordinate amount of time uncomfortable around people, though people I work with wouldn’t guess that. Lots of people wouldn’t guess that one of my deepest fears is that people just invite me along to things out of pity. I never want to feel like that fifth wheel again, like I did in elementary school, middle school, and high school — so I simply don’t allow it. In college I married the asshole drunk and always threw a great party — can’t throw me out of my own party (but I wasn’t even the main character in my own life story at that point. Now i might rank as ‘interesting side character,’ I’m working on it).

    Interestingly, the way I discovered that even if you aren’t perfect you can still be good had to do with running. Because I’m fucking awful at it, and I mean it. I can’t run a fast mile at all! Not a bit! I jog, at best. I don’t look anything like a runner. I feel miserable an awful lot of the time. But it’s still something I give to myself because after I’ve done it — I feel better. It’s not how I feel doing it, or how I perform at it — it’s all about ‘having had done it.’ That’s what the runner’s high is to me (jogger’s high).

    I, too, am fearless when I write — I can chose my words, I can dictate their pace and I don’t stumble over them or get flummoxed, blush, or have unbidden tears well up in my eyes (I swear I’m not sad, they just do that). I find it so interesting that many of us will open up gladly to strangers — they seem to give approval more freely and if not it doesn’t matter. You got it out and on the table. Maybe that’s why I never lasted with a therapist for too long, once they started caring it got complicated.

    I’ve always had a thought that the more people get to know me, once people start to recognize me at a bus stop and talk to me or introduce themselves at the coffee shop or get to know how I like my coffee it’s time to move on. My life has often aligned that way and sometimes I’ve even used it as a determinant of WHEN I NEED TO GO. It’s the long term that can be challenging for me, the vulnerability of having people see who I am consistently, over time — seeing my foibles, finding out I’m actually a softie, or that I listen to really goofy music sometimes.

    I’ve not yet consistently learned how to beat the depressions, though, and apparently with the sort of shit I’ve seen that’s to be expected. I’ve been to shrinks long enough to find that out (that, and they would happily drug me into drooling oblivion over some of the damage, but that barely seems to be a reasonable way to address things!). I have learned some stuff, that sometimes I just have to short out everything, say “fuck this noise” and run, or maybe I have to do something indulgent and fun. But often, I don’t think people understand this, depression is being incapable of even doing that because depression tricks you into thinking you aren’t worthy, and that the world isn’t worthy of you, either. It is a tint that slumps into your life — an inescapable, dark tint on the world. I don’t yet know fully how to beat it. I’ve read the books (I even quit a bad drinking habit simply by reading a book and never touching alcohol again), but the idea of positive self talk just brings back the nasty voices of the past. I try to tell myself “ah, it’s fine” and I’ll think of the person who befriended me in middle school just so they could make fun of me and watch me cry. Or the fact no one could be bothered to be close to me emotionally when I was having my guts rearranged by surgeries I couldn’t even make my parents stop doing. Or, or, or. And between those ors, there I was, figuring it out anyway.

    I guess the point is, people with anxiety and depression can always find a host of ors. The ors that hold you back from trying something new. The list of ors that make you question what you’re doing. The ors that come to you in the night when sleep won’t. But there’s a space, and it might be small, but it’s something. I know from reading about all sorts of mountains, that any kind of space you can find will allow you to find your footing.

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    1. I’m glad your response finally came through. Your writing always has moments that take my breath away. As someone who has also dealt with depression for most of my life, I understand what you are saying. I would, however, encourage you to try some medications. Not all have the effect you talked about. I’ve been taking medication for years and it has made an enormous difference for me. One of my regrets is not having started earlier. I know it would have made a big difference in my ability to just get up and cope with a day but even more because it would have allowed me to enjoy my life more and be more for my son.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the compliment — it really does mean a lot! I re-read it and there’s so very much I’d edit. Anyway, I’ve tried a lot of the medications, all sorts of them, and haven’t yet found ‘the one.’ As I discovered the loveliness of my genetics, I started to discover why (many of the classifications of drugs I am predisposed to not having them work). My body is a bit like a chaos engine — because I was a born addict, you can’t easily predict how I’ll metabolize medication. Most antidepressants, for instance, throw me so far into the category of suicidal ideation (when I was in high school, I even attempted suicide twice, quite seriously, and thankfully neither worked). I’m trying, but depression has been a demon to me for as long as I can remember. Maybe I’ll give a therapist a try again, but my last try (a few months ago) resulted in her telling me to take ‘baby steps’ and give myself a ‘sabbatical from my worries,’ and I’ve seen ‘What About Bob’ and simply dealt with the issue the best I could. Actually, here’s a blog entry of mine from 2002 about ‘The Blues’:

        Since I work for a large medical corporation, I get to be spammed with voice mails concerning studies I may be eligible for, emails concerning studies I may be eligible for, articles in the newsletter concerning studies I may be eligible for…

        Well, you get the point. Today our department received an email regarding a study on depression.

        Daclaren really inspired me with one of her recent entries, where she really bared her soul and talked about her struggle with weight. I thought I’d rip off from her (once again, thanks 🙂 and do the same…

        with depression.

        I’ve struggled with depression for years. This isn’t just “ho-hum” for a week or two and then back to normal type depression, either. I think there are a lot of people who really don’t understand what it is, what it does to you, and how it affects the way you live your life. I’m not talking about something brought on by stubbing my toe here.

        Just because I’m depressed doesn’t mean that I look it. I can exude a happy persona. Yes, I can seem happy. It’s easy, seeming happy. In fact, it’s easiest for me to seem happy to everyone when I really just want to go home and swallow a bottle of pills.

        Along the age of 15 or so, my grandmother caught on to the fact that I may not be too happy. Maybe it was the fact that she read my journal one day, and found that for the last three or four months of entries I was reduced to writing things like “I’m fat, ugly, and stupid, I wish I could die. Why can’t I be brave enough to just try to kill myself,” or “I want to die” over and over, a la Jack’s “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in Kubrick’s The Shining. She responded by having me go and talk to our Associate Pastor who, at the time, was charging her for the service (and I think he was also certified for such things).

        He was at a loss.

        First of all, I think he was approaching it from the idea of faith, without ever realizing that I wasn’t questioning my faith or my ability to have faith. At the time, I knew there was a God, and I knew he hated my guts. This put us at an impasse very quickly.

        It also doesn’t help when you start thinking that all of your dirty laundry was going to be aired around the water cooler to all the ladies in the church, and it would all get back to my grandmother, and she’d have that look of disdain that I hated, and would be ashamed for no good reason whatsoever. So, I just clammed up.

        Which is easier than looking happy, I might add, although sometimes when I clam up, I forget and want to laugh instead.

        Anyway, so when I asked if I could stop going and our AP assured my grandmother that he was making no progress, she didn’t make me go anymore.

        And that’s when it went up a level. I went to see my family’s PCP (at the time, he was just the family doctor, now he gets a funky insurance title), Dr. Martin. I told him about all the headaches I had been having, and he suggested Prozac. Oh yeah, and that I see a psychiatrist at least twice a week.

        Twice a week. With a shrink. My grandmother was thrilled. She was so thrilled we immediately got into a fight over it. She didn’t understand why I couldn’t just open up, and tell my family all my troubles.

        Hrm. That would work, except for the fact I didn’t exactly want to reveal what was going on in my head to my family. Hell, my family was a good 75% of my problems at the time. It’s tough to relate to people when they all thought you were going to end up retarded, I guess. And, well, when the issues you are trying to deal with directly involve the people you are talking to, and there’s a lot of old, bad blood there, it’s not going to work out.

        So, it was to the shrink I went.

        There, I didn’t feel as uncomfortable talking about anything and everything, but he was male. That was a big problem. I was also ‘blossoming’ into womanhood (why don’t they name it what it is? It’s not like a goddamn flower unfolding, it’s more like being run over by a truck), and many of the issues that I was trying to work through involved my own sexuality. Which I wasn’t about to open up about in front of Mr. Shrink.

        So it was to a psychologist of his recommendation for three sessions a week, and to him once a month. Grandmom was even more thrilled. That’s shrink number two!

        Then I met Deb, my counselor. She’s so cool. I wish I could remember her last name, or maybe I should ask my Grandmother about getting into contact with her, because she was sooooo cool. Anyway, I opened up to her, but I still played with her.

        I was (and am still) smart enough to know what the kinds of answers they are expecting / hoping to get out of you. And, I was mortified that there was something seriously wrong with me (I’m no longer mortified of it, I just accept it). So, I hid as many of the serious things that I could, and left the not-so-serious there to be plucked.

        I ended up with documents that said I suffered from “Chronic Depression.”

        What that basically means is, I’m depressed all the time.

        And, I think it’s pretty accurate. Even with everything I hid, I think it’s damn close. There are a couple of other psychological snafus, but everyone’s brain is different, and everyone’s depression is, therefore, different.

        At first I didn’t think it was so bad, until I realized I hadn’t exactly mentioned to any of my friends that I was in counseling, and I wasn’t about to mention the whole depression thing. I pulled away from everyone I thought important in my life, figuring that I was about to go on a very self-destructive binge. I just didn’t want them around me — no one, I didn’t want to infect them.

        And no, I wasn’t dumb enough to think that depression is something that people can catch off of each other or anything. I am simply more aware of how moods affect other people. I just notice such things, and I pull away so that whatever I’m going through only takes a toll on one. It’s ultimately efficient — the needs of the many and all that jazz, so it’s the route I take.

        But with depression, it’s not the wisest route to go. And I found that out the hard way. Eventually, the drugs and counseling and everything failed me where friends wouldn’t have, and I did several stupid things in rapid succession. I won’t go into them here.

        And, it didn’t just up and go away after the oh-so-troublesome teen years. I wouldn’t say it got worse, but it didn’t get any better.

        I’ve described it a number of different ways — like a gray veil that drops over the world, like being in a glass box, like so many other things that separate people from each other, from their world, and it’s ultimately what depression does, it’s the nature of the thing. While other people are laughing and utterly happy, you are lukewarm at best and ice cold at worst.

        It tints the entire world. It’s amazing in some ways, that it’s able to permeate so many areas of life. It makes you not want to wake up in the morning, makes you want to get away from people.

        Yet when I went to a PCP here in the ‘Burgh recently and was prescribed an anti-depressant, I took it. And it kind of worked. But I stopped taking it. Why?

        Because it makes me not me. Depression is, sadly, a part of who I am. I can deal with it (on most days) without taking a chemical to balance this crazily-wired head of mine.

        But there are times I know I need help. And at those times, I eventually find it. And I urge anyone who is reading this, please don’t let it destroy you, don’t let it control you. Whether it means counseling, or talking to a friend or priest or shrink, or learning to enjoy the simple beauty of a cloud in the sky for one moment a day for sanity, do something about it. Hack your head.

        -chix

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        1. It took me a while to respond to this. Not because I had nothing to say but because I have too much to say. Thank you. That is saying more than those two words let anyone know. But I’m sure you know that when you read something and know that someone else understands, it somehow makes you feel less isolated or strange or whatever. I wish I had known what you were going through in hs and that I could have been brave enough to share with you. We could have been good for each other.

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  3. I wish I had been brave enough to tell you! But, there’s good news – we can still be good for each other! I have a bunch more tools in my toolbox than I did when I wrote that piece that many years ago, but it doesn’t matter with depression. It’s you vs. you — whatever new thing you’ve learned, it can adapt. Depression is insidious and cruel, and it mainly works by convincing you that you aren’t worthy, and then just tearing you apart from there It’s horrible, and it makes me so sad and yet so relieved that you understand. I’ve been pretty down the last couple of days myself (with good reason. Life, sometimes, rears its nasty head), but I’ve been trying my usual bag of tricks. . . to very little success. But I’ll still get up and force myself through the day tomorrow any way, whether I know why or not. ❤
    I am trying to at least force myself to do the self care thing right now. Even if it's just 5 minutes of meditation or my bare minimum running schedule, etc. etc. – but there are times the depression can just suck the life out of you so much bare minimum seems like it could be lowered, especially this year!

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