Happy in Light Form

Really Real Mental Health Post

The last few weeks I’ve been struggling to get out of bed in the morning.

It went from “fuck, it’s 6 am and I’ve had 5 hours of sleep and now I can’t get back to sleep so I’ll get up and get productive”

to “oh look, 6 am, fuck this” and “heh, there’s 7am, nope” and then “oh hi there 8am, I don’t think so” followed by “oh shit, it’s 830 and i’ve gotta be somewhere at 9”

I’ve blamed it on low grade depression, and it’s probably that, but it’s not every day, normal depression.  It’s, “the fucking clocks changed and now it’s suddenly dark all of the time, and the cold weather isn’t helping, oh yeah, I has the SADs”, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So yesterday when I saw my post from last year with the picture of my smoothie and my happy light, it reminded me that doing those things in the morning for a few weeks really do help me and I made a promise to myself that I would actually push, pull, or otherwise drag my ass out of bed this morning.  I made a smoothie (and realized I was out of half the ingredients cause it’s been awhile and I haven’t been keeping track), and I’m sitting down with my happy light for 30 minutes.

Side note: My cussing filter is turned the fuck off, sorry friends, this is what happens when I drag myself out of bed and don’t wanna.

The concept behind light therapy is that is uses certain wavelengths of light that replicate sunlight and blah blah, neurotransmitters and blah blah, depression and blah blah.  I’m not a doctor or a scientist.  I know I can’t use it for too long because it will push me into hypomania for a few days.  And I can’t use it later in the day because it will keep me up at night.

They used to use giant lightboxes for this, and then at some point they became more portable.  Parker had one that was about a foot or so tall that I’ve been using the last couple of years.  Wonder Woman came with one that’s small enough I can see the computer monitor over it and that’s pretty nice. (I hope she doesn’t mind that I’m using it, it was easier to get to.  Shhhh, don’t tell her.  I mean, hi Wonder Woman, I love you!)

My typical pattern is that this time of the year I fight some low grade depression, but it isn’t too bad, I just need to keep myself active, and do things that I know work.

Which includes sitting here with a happy light for 20-30 minutes in the morning for the next few weeks until my body adjusts better to the time and weather change.

Thankful

Really Real Thanksgiving Post

I had a hard time figuring out how to write this one, even though I knew what I wanted to say.

Thanksgiving is really hard for me.  It’s one of my favorite, but also least favorite holidays of the year.  It holds the best memories, but also the some of the hardest.

I mean, it’s a holiday and that’s kind of what happens around holidays, we link a lot of memories to these “special days” and it makes sense that some of them aren’t going to be great.  Maybe a lot of them.  But hopefully we have some good ones.

I remember the first holiday meal that I offered to host was a Thanksgiving, probably 14 years ago.  I didn’t own any sort of mixer except for one of those hand crank mixers and I made mashed potatoes from scratch using one of those.  I got one hell of an arm work out.

My older sister bought me my stand mixer for Christmas that year and it was the start of us bonding online, over a love of cooking.  I still have that Kitchen Aid.  It’s one of the things I carried through countless moves and stored through homelessness and carried across state lines.  It means the world to me because of the bond it represents between my sister and I.  (This is another one of those things she may have no clue about, Hi Sis!)

It also reminds me of that first Thanksgiving that I hosted.   That first Thanksgiving is also where I found the recipe for my turkey.

I’m so thankful every year I get to make the turkey.

Everyone loves my turkey.

But some years I didn’t get to make the turkey.

One year we were too broke to buy dinner so we went to a soup kitchen instead.

One year we were in a hotel provided by the Red Cross, eating dinner out of Styrofoam containers sent over by a church, because we’d had a house fire 2 days before.

And holidays are still hard.  Thanksgiving was the first major holiday without Parker.  It hit me today that this is the 3rd one without her and that just seems impossible that it’s been that long.

This year it’s the first major holiday with Kidlet all grown up and moved out.

But I’m always happier when I get to make the turkey, and it’s kind of funny when we are going to someones house and I offer to bring a turkey, but they are normally kind of thankful, I think.

And I make a really damn good turkey (as the anxiety hits that I’m going to fuck it up this year, but that’s a pretty typical anxiety for me).

But I’m thankful that I’m spending the day with friends and with the woman I love.

I’m thankful that I get to make the turkey.

Goals

Really Real Mental Health Post

I tend to have an all or nothing attitude when it comes to goals.

I wanted to do NaNoWriMo, but once I couldn’t write every day, that got put on a shelf and instead I’ve been blogging every single day without missing one.  This goal is a success, that one is a failure, and there is no in between.

It’s kind of a problem.

The gym is the same way.

Either I go every day, missing very few, or I just stop going.  Luckily I have a gym partner (Bat Woman) who is very similar, so we push for 7 days a week.

And then something like a holiday comes along.

And the gym decides to close early (which I wholeheartedly agree with, let them have the holiday with their families.)

And I need to start my turkey at a certain time, and flip it an hour later, and I’m doing time math and realizing we’d have to go to the gym at the butt crack of dawn and it won’t make for happy Thanksgiving dinner at our respective houses.

So we take the day off.

But then I beat myself up.

I think there’s a fear that if I take a day off, 1 day is going to turn into 2, and then I’ll quit.  I have a hard time believing I have control over that because in the past it’s been too hard for me to control.

All or nothing.

It’s a really dangerous line of perfectionist thinking.

I am really good at setting goals and really bad at follow through, and I’m working on it.  And I’m working on realizing that one day off, here or there, one mistake, here or there, doesn’t mean I need to hang the whole project up.

One missed day doesn’t make me a failure.

Because once I convince myself that I’ve failed, I just walk away and stop fighting for it.

I need to fight harder instead of giving up.

No one gets out alive.

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But this isn’t at all one of my typical widow posts.  It’s more important than that.

One of the reasons that Wonder Woman is so great for me is because she doesn’t flinch when my really dark widow humor slips out.

And last night my filter didn’t engage quick enough and I let a joke slip out that even shocked me.  Thinking it doesn’t shock me.  I think really dark jokes about death all of the time, but I try not to say them.

But Wonder Woman didn’t flinch.

Even telling people I’m a widow makes a lot of people flinch.

Bringing up the fact that I saw Parker after she died makes people really uncomfortable.

It even makes me uncomfortable to type it because I know it’s going to make others uncomfortable to read it.

But why does death make us so uncomfortable?

Why don’t we talk about it?

Every single one of us is going to experience it at some point.  We are all going to die.  None of us is going to make it out alive.

And we’re going to leave behind a bunch of people who have to figure out what we want done with our remains, and how we want to be remembered.

I never really got to talk to Parker about what she actually wanted to have happen after she died.  There was no advanced directive, no will, nothing in writing, no real plans for what to do.  Did she want a somber funeral, or a celebration of life?  Did she want to be known as her birth name, or her chosen name?

Don’t you want to have some say in what happens after you die?

Without even getting into the topic of dignity in death (which I feel very strongly about), we need to be having more conversations about death.

Advanced directives are more than just some passing thing that the doctors office asks you about because they need to check off a box.  They are important, they don’t take that long to fill out, and they will give your family so much information about your final wishes should something happen.

And something could happen, right now, today, and who is going to be left struggling to figure out what to do?

If I didn’t have an advanced directive, my 18 year old son would be in charge of deciding what to do.  My 18 year old would have to make the decisions if I were brain dead tomorrow.  I can’t imagine putting that on his shoulders, but people do it every. single. day. because they don’t take the time to fill out the paperwork that protects their young adult children.

I’ve taken the time to fill out a document that named how I want my remains handled.  Where I want my ashes spread, how I want my celebration of life held.  It names when they can “pull the plug.”  Who in my family gets to make decisions for me, and who they should consult.

It takes the weight off of the shoulders of a bunch of people who are grieving heavily because they just found out I’m dead or badly injured.

Your turn.

Don’t keep putting it off.  Don’t say you’ll do it tomorrow or next week.  And if you do, put it on the calendar.

Here are the forms for Maryland and they work in some other states as well (check your local laws).  In Maryland, you don’t need a lawyer, just fill them out and have 2 people witness you signing them.

Click to access adirective.pdf

Please do this.

Talk about death.

You aren’t getting out alive.

Nothing

Really Real Mental Health Post

Yesterday I gave myself permission to do nothing.

First, I cancelled all plans and insisted that I not leave the house.

Then I gave myself permission to let, everything, go.

This of course meant that I saw all the things that needed doing as soon as I woke up.

I did end up wiping down the bathroom in a quick clean fashion (but like I told Wonder Woman, I just wiped it down, I didn’t get out cleaning chemicals or anything, it wasn’t REALLY cleaning).

I cooked dinner, and cleaned out the fridge and took down the trash, but I didn’t even leave the house for that, I stayed inside while she took it out to the cans.

I never left my front porch yesterday.

Sometimes we need a planned rest day, and for some of us, that’s a really really hard thing to do.

I found myself being really bored for a good part of the day, unsure of what to get into.  I have a few different hobbies and I wasn’t sure what to do first so I did neither for a long time and just played on facebook (the time suck that it is).  Finally I started a new chainmaille project and had a lot of fun remembering old techniques.

As a side note, I’m often amazed by how enjoyable it can be to sit in the same room with someone, doing your own separate things but just sharing space.  It’s one of my favorite things about living in a small apartment, we spend a lot of time just sharing space and figuring out how to make that work for our needs.

Anyway.  I also wrote my bio yesterday.  I’m going to start submitting pieces to websites that accept that sort of thing (The Mighty, Medium, etc.  I’m open to ideas if anyone knows of any) and they needed an author bio.  I realized, I can write about my situations, I can write about my emotions, but writing about who I am, that’s some hard shit right there.

Who the fuck am I.

That also brings back that question.

“What do you do?”

I survive.  That’s what I do.  And even better, I thrive.  Through some fucked up situations, and right now, I live my best fucking life and it’s just gonna get better.

Turn that into a bio that sounds good, and maybe has less F-bombs.

And you know what, I think I did.

So yesterday I took the day off, and also wrote something that was really hard for me but ended up being kind of easy in the end.

I failed at doing nothing.

But I didn’t leave the house.

Get Out

Really Real Mental Health Post

My neighbors had a really loud fight early this morning.

It was loud enough to wake me up with the shrill screams of “Get out! Get out! Get out!”   More screaming, doors slamming and car doors and later knocking on doors and my dog growling and barking.

I don’t know what happened down there, but this happens sometimes between them.  Mostly we just stay out of each others business even though we are friendly with each other.

The whole time I felt some combination of fear, shame, and guilt.  I wanted to curl into Wonder Woman or curl into a ball or just disappear and it was some combination of feeling like a little kid and hearing my dad yell, and feeling like a little kid and hearing the whole world yell, and feeling like a little kid and hearing myself yell.

How did I spend so many years yelling when I was that angry.

I feel so guilty for it.

Feel so guilty for letting my Kidlet hear me like that when he was little.

Downstairs there’s a little girl that lives in the apartment and I know she hears these fights and I can’t even think about her when it’s happening because I feel so guilty for the years that my own kid had to live through that.  He heard those same fights between his father and I, except no one was smart enough to finally leave for the night and I’d keep it going until I went to bed exhausted with no voice.

How did I ever let myself do that.

In hindsight it wasn’t fair to him, but at the time I couldn’t see the little kid who was scared, just like I was at his age.

It sucks that I’m just now figuring so much of this out, now that he’s out of the house as a full grown adult and Parker’s dead.  Both of them spent so many years getting the brunt of a very hurt person who turned that hurt into anger against those around her.

It wasn’t fair to them, and it wasn’t fair to me.

And the whole idea of “life’s not fair” just doesn’t work here.

I’ve apologized to my son.  I can’t go back and apologize to Parker.  I can’t take back the yelling and screaming.

Now it’s a matter of finding the boundaries.  My neighbor screaming isn’t me.  That isn’t my guilt, my shame, it doesn’t need to keep me awake for hours, but it does.  I don’t need to feel it to my core.  I don’t need to internalize it.  I don’t need to pay penance for their fight, or for fights I’ve had in the past, by staying awake at 3 or 4 or 5 am.

But yet, here I am.

 

 

Time

Really Real Widow Post

Today on Facebook memories it told me that it had been 3 years since Parker broke her ankle.

That doesn’t feel right.

Because it feels like I’ve been in this life, my new normal, for longer than that.

Just two nights ago I was sitting at my desk, in the house alone, ugly crying because I never really got to say goodbye (oh look, tears in the corner of my eyes again), but at the same time, it feels like forever ago that she left.

At one point, when Wonder Woman and I met, I would say that we needed to leave space in our relationship for Ghost Wife.  And we DID, because I was still married to her in every way.  I still called her my wife at that point and now it feels strange to say wife instead of late wife and I think my brain has accepted that she’s gone.

I made the statement the other night that we no longer need to leave room for her, but we will always need to leave room for my grief, and I think that’s a very different place for me to be.

I can’t believe it was only 3 years ago that Parker tripped on the front step and fractured the tiniest of a piece of bone off her ankle, and it lead to a series of events that changed my life so drastically.  Her broken ankle played so much into those final weeks.

But so much time has passed since then.  And not just time.  So much of my life has passed since then.  I’ve lived more in the almost two and a half years since she’s died than I did in the 10 years leading up to that.  It’s probably why it seems like so long ago.

But this is healthy.

I don’t think time heals all wounds.  That’s not a very nice way of putting that, especially to people who are new to grief.  Time doesn’t make it easier because when it hits me and I’m sobbing and ugly crying it still hurts as much as it did the first month, maybe even more because I don’t have shock as a buffer.

But time gives me space between those horrible moments, and I can live a really full life in that space.  Actually, I have to live a really full life in that space.

But this really full life means that this new normal feels like it’s filled up an entire lifetime already.  I’ve lived such an amazing life in just a couple of short years and I’m so thankful for that.

And I’m also crying, because Parker spent her last 6 months with a broken ankle, with very little joy, and she deserved to see this side of life too.

Sometimes I still feel like I’m living for both of us, but I try not to, because that’s an awful lot of burden to carry.

Widowing isn’t always easy.

Ben and Jerry

Really Real Fitness Post

I think this is fitness, but it’s also a little bit of mental health and real life and maybe even some grief thrown in for good measure.

And let me add, I’m writing this while chowing down on some Ben and Jerry’s Everything But The . . . , because I didn’t take my medicine with dinner (we were out), and I need my 350 calories with it, and I’m not really hungry, so if I’ve gotta eat and I don’t really want to, I’m going to eat something I enjoy a LOT.

A week ago I really wasn’t feeling this gym thing.  I wasn’t noticing any changes in my body and the scale is telling me I don’t weigh any less even after two months of this shit (I type as I put another spoonful of ice cream in my mouth), and I was just completely over all of it.

And then a few days ago in the shower I realized I had some definition in my calves.

Okay, that’s kinda nice.

I mean, my thighs and arms are gonna take a long while to show anything, I was blessed with plenty of padding there and the muscle has a lot to work it’s way through before it’ll be visible.  But my calves are always one of the first places to show.

Finding the little changes and focusing on them is what’s going to work.

Batwoman keeps saying it was like this the last time too, that I hated how slow it started and had a hard time sticking with it until my body started changing.

Today I did a 3 miles in 30 minutes and a 10 minute mile is an improvement over what I could do last week.  I’m getting faster and building endurance.

It’s not only about the scale and actually, the scale is my worst enemy right now.  If I can keep myself off of it I have a much better chance of sticking with the gym each day.

It’s hard when so much of society talks about that number, and when that number is such a tangible change and the rest of them aren’t as set in stone.

Depression likes to tell me all of this is for nothing and that it’s pointless because if I stop, depression wins.   The depression has a much easier time taking over if I’m not kicking my own ass each day.

I’m not asking for advice on how to lose weight.  That’s not what this is about.

I’m not really sure what the point of this post is honestly, except to put in writing that I am noticing changes, and to remind myself that those changes do matter.

Sticking with this matters.  All of this little stuff will add up eventually.

And now that I got my 350 calories of Ben and Jerry’s I can put this away so that these calories don’t keep adding up.

Reality or Excuse

Really Real Mental Health Post

This morning the weather is gross.  It’s sleeting and icy and I can’t quite tell if it’s laying on the ground but it’s the first time this has happened and United Way may not have known if they were opening late by the time mobility came to take me in.  They get me super early.

It didn’t look THAT bad out there, but I’m also not that close to the office, and they tend to err on the safe side.

So I ended up cancelling going into my volunteer job today, but I feel really guilty about it, because maybe it was just an excuse.  I’m still fighting this low grade depression and I really didn’t want to go.  But I also didn’t want to be stranded sitting there with nothing to do, potentially outside in the weather because I didn’t know if the building would be closed too.

This constant worry of, am I pushing hard enough or too hard.  Am I setting myself up for a bad situation, or using it as an excuse.

There’s not always an easy answer.

I did get out of bed this morning , and I did really think hard about going, which is a lot better than just deciding last night that I’d not go and sleep in all day.

They probably will open on time, and mobility probably will run just fine, but the anxiety was pretty high that those things wouldn’t have happened.  And if I would have gotten there and been stuck in the cold sleet and rain it would have been pretty bad.  It’s not like I have a car to just drive myself home.

This may have been a little bit of both, a valid reason and an excuse.  But that’s why I’m volunteering and not working in an office yet.  I have the flexibility for days like this where I just don’t quite make it out the door for whatever reason.  I’m getting better at it, and I’m lucky to have a really understanding coordinator that I work with.  They appreciate my help whenever I am there.

Hopefully the weather clears up soon.  I’m sure it isn’t helping my mood any.

Gross.

Dissociation

Really Real Mental Health Post

Most of my experiences with mental illness are just part of me.  I know they don’t fall within the realm of typical, but they don’t feel particularly abnormal or make me feel all that strange.  But occasionally, the racing thoughts get too out of control, or my speech is too sped up, or the suicidal thoughts are too strong and it makes me feel crazy.  It’s those things that truly makes me feel like I’m sick.

There’s another thing that happens that I don’t talk about, and until yesterday I wasn’t really sure what it was because I hadn’t pinpointed it enough to get a name for it, although I’ve suspected for awhile.

It doesn’t happen often, sometimes it doesn’t happen for a year, and sometimes it happens a few times in a week.  I remember the first time it happened, when I was in middle school, and I remember a few other significant times, like when I was driving and had to pull over because it became dangerous, or when I was in a job interview and had to act like nothing was wrong.

My depth perception will shift and suddenly everything looks a million miles away, even things within my reach, my hands will feel and look too big for my body, sometimes there’s a funny taste that goes along with it, and this strange mouth feel that is almost like biting on plastic, everyone including me sounds like they are talking in a tunnel and speech feels slowed down even though it doesn’t sound that way.

I’ve never really told a lot of people about it, except those that might be able to give me a name for it.  I would talk to people in my mental health circles because they understood.  Other people typically give me a strange look and think I’ve kind of lost my mind (I have, I’m certified crazy, thank you).

And it finally happened while i was sitting in my therapists office a few weeks ago, and I could explain it to her while it was happening.  And we were able to pin down the timing and the trigger for that time.  And she told me to explain it to the psych doctor, which I’ve done.

Yesterday I found out it’s called dissociation and it’s basically a detachment from reality due to a trigger of some sort.  My psych doc says it’s a way of questioning what’s even real, although I’m not sure I fully understand that yet.

It happens so infrequently that it’s hard to really work with.  When it happens I try to find something to ground myself to, which is instinctual, and is apparently exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.  Less important, but still something to look at, is figuring out what I’m thinking or talking about before it happens, so that maybe we can figure out the triggers.

I kept quiet about this for 25 years because I knew people would think this was nuts.  I’m writing about it because I’m glad to finally know it has a name and because I’m hoping if someone else has something that seems weird, they don’t wait 25 years to talk to their doctors about it and get a name for it.

Even though the label isn’t going to change anything, it makes me feel a little better to know it’s not just me that this happens to.

I’m not alone.