First Paycheck!

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I got my first paycheck.

My first paycheck since I went on disability.

This is a really big deal.

A really big deal.

I feel like a contributing member of society again, even though others (my therapist, Wonder Woman) point out that I was a contributing member of society even when I wasn’t working. Just in different ways.

It didn’t feel like it.

I’ve written before about that question everyone asks when you first meet them,

“What do you do?”

I have an answer for that now. I have a thing that I do. It gives me an identity other than disabled. Even “student” didn’t make me feel that great because after 20 years and countless dropped classes, countless failed classes, countless incomplete classes, countless changes of my major, I’m still working on my two year degree.

But now I’m doing the thing.

I’m finally a real person.

Which implies I wasn’t a real person before. And that was how I felt. I wasn’t really an adult. I wasn’t a kid anymore either.  Which left me in some void.

Not really anything.

Not real.

And I spent the day in therapy yesterday trying to break apart where that message came from, and how it came to be so much a part of my identity. It isn’t the first time I’ve asked those questions, but new therapist, new perspective, revisiting old topics.

But now I have a new identity. I have a thing that I do.

I’m a contributing member of society.

I get a paycheck.

And I’m afraid of fucking it up.

Working isn’t easy for me, there’s a reason I’ve spent the last bunch of years on disability. I want, so very much, to work each day. But finding the focus to start is hard, getting past myself and my anxiety is hard, getting out of bed in the morning when depression wants to hold me there, is hard.

I’m doing the thing, but I’m afraid of letting everyone down. I’m afraid of proving everyone right or proving everyone wrong, depending on their faith in me.

And I’m trying not to let that fear cause its own problems. I’m trying to let myself be afraid and keep pushing forward. I’m trying to prove to myself that I can do this, and also that it’s okay if I find out that I can’t, that trying is the most important part of all of this.

Trying is more than I would have done a year ago.

Six months ago.

And now look at me.

I got my first paycheck.

But it is

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

I’ve been watching the clock all day.

“It isn’t really bothering me this year.”

Watching as the hours tick closer to my wedding anniversary with my late wife.

“I barely even remembered.”

My stomach is in knots.

“Grief really is getting easier, these dates aren’t a big deal at all.”

I keep glancing at the clock.

“I’m doing so much better than I did last year.”

I feel like “better” is supposed to be the goal.

I spend so much time telling people that you never get over something like this, but I still expect myself to get over it.

And it does consume less of my time. It consumes less of my thoughts. I have gotten better. I have moved forward.

But sometimes, like on the eve of my wedding anniversary, it’s still hard.

And I’m not even quite sure what’s hard about it. I’m happy. I’m not missing her any more than the normal amount (which is always a lot). I’m “living my best life.” I’m oh so happily engaged. In the grand scheme of things, this is just another day.

Just another day that she’s not here.

Just like yesterday.

Just like tomorrow.

I don’t know why these kind of days hit me so hard, at a gut level, even when I don’t feel sad about them.  It just grabs me, from somewhere deep inside.

It’s that reminder, that no matter what other titles I take on, I will always carry the title of widow.

It’s Dark

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

It’s dark.

And not just the room I’m sitting in, the one only illuminated by the light of my screen.

It’s dark in my brain. Someone turned the lights out and I can’t see.

I just want to take something and go to sleep.

Disappear for a little while.

It hurts to hold myself upright in my computer chair.

I climb in bed, it’s safe there.

it’s warm there.

it’s dark there too.

I can’t tell if I fall asleep or just lay there in a mindless haze.

It’s raining, it’s cold, I can’t go for a walk.

I’m not sure that I would if I could.

It’s dark.

I just want to curl up on the floor where I don’t have to use the energy to hold myself up.

At least then I won’t be in my bed.

Is that really any better?

I wish I could find the reason for this. I wish I could find the switch and turn the lights back on. I wish the light from my screen didn’t hurt my eyes so much. I wish it wasn’t so uncomfortable in my own skin.

I wish I was me.

This isn’t me.

This is nothing, no one, no thing, no where. This is a lack of existence.

It’s dark.

It’s dark.

It’s so so very dark.

Even when

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I know this is like, the third time I’ve written in 2 days, but writers block is finally gone so I need to get it all out.  Is this euthymia, or is this the beginning of hypomania . . that is the question.

Anyway.

Even when I’m doing poorly, I’m better than I was before.

I rode the bus today.

I didn’t really give it a second thought.  My therapist had an earlier cancellation, so I looked up the most direct route, and got on the bus.

I didn’t worry about how crowded it would be, even though it was close to rush hour.

I just rode the bus.

That wasn’t something I could do alone a few years ago. Something I had trouble doing even with other people.

And I’ve posted about this before, how amazing it is that I’ve come so far. But tonight I realized, even when I was at my most suicidal, in fact, the same night I ended up in the hospital, I rode the bus.

Even when I’m doing poorly, I’m better than I was before.

I’ve come so so far, and I’m still growing.

Six months ago when I flew to see my dad, I took so many anxiety meds to get through the 2 flights each way.  Probably too many. I still nearly shook on the plane and had a really hard time with my anxiety over flying while fat.

A few years before that, I wouldn’t have been able to make the trip alone at all.

And this past weekend, I realized on the last few minutes of the last flight, that I had gotten through the entire day without a single PRN anxiety medication.  I was more anxious about the actual act of flying than I was about people looking at me because of my size.  And even that anxiety wasn’t all that major.

I just, did the things.

“Be afraid, but do it anyway.”  That’s what I keep doing.

I start a part time job tomorrow.

I haven’t worked since 2011.

I seriously haven’t worked since 2011.

I had to go back and look at my SSA information to see if I was remembering that correctly.

I’ve volunteered on and off for the past 2 years but this will be my first, regular, paid employment in 9 years.

I’m afraid.

What if I fail. What if I can’t do this. What if it all falls apart.

What if I fall apart.

“Be afraid, but do it anyway.”

What if it goes well? What if it’s all okay?

 

This year, this decade.

This is a Really Real “Life in Review” Post.

It’s the end of a year.

I figured, just like so many people do, I’d reflect on the past year of my life.  Think about my accomplishments and what I’d like to take with me into next year.

This year I started giving myself permission to take up space.  Physically, verbally, emotionally. I realized that I was allowed the space that I need. Some of the time I was able to hold the mindset that everyone who thinks otherwise can fuck off. I want to get better at that mindset next year and stop trying to shrink myself to suit others.

This year I survived one of my more intense series of suicidal thoughts. I got myself help. I saw that I have a huge community of people who support me, both virtually and locally. I want to be better connected with that community.

I learned that even though I feel like I’m outside of a group, it doesn’t mean I actually am.

I found joy in sending snail mail. Making well over 100 cards in the past 3 months has been so wonderful, and even better was knowing that it put a smile on someone’s face. I want to keep going, and maybe start selling my work.

I think one of the biggest things I learned this year is that it’s okay for things to be stable. It’s not the calm before the storm, it’s just the calm, and life can really be this way without worrying about what comes next. I want to carry comfort with stability going forward.

I learned to live in the moment. That fully accepting what is happening is the first step to finding solutions. Fighting against a problem only takes energy away from solving it. I learned that not being okay, is perfectly okay. That as long as you don’t make a problem worse, you’re doing the right things – you can always build from there.  I learned that it’s okay to ask for what I need, that it doesn’t always mean fighting.

It’s the end of a year.  One of the better years of my life.

It’s the end of a decade.

It’s hard to wrap up the past decade because there’s a giant split down the middle.  The before and the after.

In the before, there was a lot of love, and a lot of trauma, and a lot of resilience, and a lot of struggle.

In the after there’s a lot of growth, a lot of falling (metaphorically and physically), a lot of healing, and a lot of pain.

It’s the end of a decade. The hardest in my life.

I wrote a big long thing trying to list out the good and the bad of the last decade, but honestly, that’s not all that helpful.  The past decade (and the ones before that) got me to where I am now, and now is what matters.

Now is where I want to spend my time.

Wayback machine.

This is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Lots of things have been taking me back lately.

A friend who recently lost her husband. Someone else who is facing homelessness and looking at their options. Spotify giving me a list of music from the last 10 years. Even raising a kitten takes me back to a time in my life before.

My life is split into before and after in so many ways.  Not only did Parker die on that day in 2016, but the person I was died at the same time. It seems like my life has done a radical 180 since she died.  No more traumas, no major crisis (except the internal, mental health kind), no more catastrophes.

It seems unfair that she missed this. But I’m not sure this would have happened if she hadn’t died. And it’s not like I can change any of it anyway.

But things have been taking me back.

I’ve been reliving the emotions, with some distance put between me and the pain. I can view yesterdays tragedies with today’s knowledge. At times I feel like I’m stuck in my history again, except I know I’ll make it out alive.

I smell smoke and feel like I’m running out of a house on fire.

A sleeping pet or person doesn’t react to a sound and I feel like I’m going to face death again.

I pay a bill late and remember the stress of shut off notices month after month, struggling to stay one step ahead of a dark house.

Earlier this month I went to a Christmas Party thrown by Healthcare for the Homeless. It was held in the same building as the homeless shelter. Lots of the residents attended. It was the same shelter I spent months in, however they’re in a new building now (which made it a bit easier).

I remember being there. I remember being that person.

So many things that are reminding me of where I’ve been.

What I’ve survived.

What I’ve overcome.

But feeling that fear again, deep into my bones, is one of the harder things about trauma. I never get to fully escape it I never get to lock it up and put it away.

It’s as much a part of me as widowhood is.

It really is this good.

This is a Really Real Relationship post.

I’m all about radical vulnerability. Being wide open, and raw, and honest.

And I realized that while I’m showing all of the sides of mental illness and widowhood, it feels like I’m offering a Facebook version of my relationship.

And that’s not who I am.

It’s not what I’ve ever meant to do.

And honestly, I want people to know that things CAN be good, even with shitty mental health and a shitty traumatic past, and even with a relationship that’s just, almost, perfect.  I deserve good things, and things don’t have to be perfect to be good.

Wonder Woman and I have a really great relationship.

Over two years in and we haven’t had a single fight. We haven’t raised our voices at each other or said harsh words to each other even once. We apologize almost immediately if anything has even seemed passive aggressive. We even apologize if we’re grumpy or in a bad mood.

We really are sickeningly sweet.

But.

We have hard talks about hard things. We have some areas of our lives and our relationship that are really hard to work through. We are polar opposites in a few areas.

We are gentle with each other about those areas. We are respectful. We are understanding.

And, we get help with navigating those areas from a couples therapist, because the view from the outside is much clearer than the view from within.

It helps, and we always come out of our sessions with ideas about how to move forward, together.

I think there’s this view that couples therapy is for couples that are falling apart.

That it’s a last resort.

It was one of the first things we went for when we realized we were hitting road blocks in some areas of communication.

Don’t get me wrong. We have GREAT communication. But some areas are just HARD when we are so different. Different histories, different traumas, different preferences.

Different ways of communicating.

So I’m writing this post for two reasons.  One, is because I realized I was offering this “facebook reality” of my relationship, and I just don’t like that. And two, is to help with normalizing couples therapy, because really, what’s wrong with getting an unbiased outside perspective?