Pressure is spreading like wildfire during this lockdown. There’s pressure to be more active, productive, and innovative, and to finish what we perhaps started long ago. If you’ve spouted a similar message, please shut your pie hole NOW. Stop the pressure!
Coronavirus terror and massive economic crisis is happening — so, telling us that we lack discipline if we’re not learning a new skill or getting shit done, is totally fucked up.
For most of us, our minds haven’t even come to terms with the fact that the world has already changed. Yet, we’re all feeling our own versions of grief, stress, loss, panic, numbness, boredom, rage, no energy, you name it…
Nobody was prepared to navigate this traumatic time. Let’s leave the guilt tripping to religion. If you ARE being more productive, cool, just be proud of your own damn self and try not to be a passive-aggressive-piece-of-shit bully.
To my friends struggling with mental health, I’m here with you. All we need to do is breathe and move from moment to moment. We don’t need to learn a new skill, rather we can learn how to better appreciate ourselves and the world by simply just being. Here’s to NOT getting shit done on the outside, and to going within, where we all deserve our own compassion.
One of the most terrifying aspects of living with depression is that it’s nearly impossible to share your darkness with the people most affected by it. It’s hard to accept our own thoughts and feelings sometimes, let alone burden people we love with a glimpse into our world of doom. I’ve had friends reach out to me recently, sharing their struggles with depression and asking for advice. So, I’m about to share what I go through and then hopefully you won’t feel so fucked up and alone. Why don’t I write something uplifting you say? Because this is real shit and it needs to be talked about.
We’ve all heard about the standard symptoms: fatigue, irritability, aching muscles, digestive problems, loss of interest, feeling hopeless, blah. But what does that look like in real-life? We need real life examples. Ready for it? Let’s go there…
In a nutshell
My day began like this: hit snooze on my alarm and thought, “fuck me.” Laid there in bed feeling paralyzed, desperate to keep my head on that pillow. Like so desperate, I could have bawled. I didn’t even mind that I was laying in a pool of sweat, a fun little side effect of my medication (I’ll talk a little about that later). Somehow I got my heavy, rundown ass out of bed and made it to the shower where I stood for an eternity, wondering how the hell I was going to make it through the day. Had to make myself get out by turning the water cold.
Got an eggnog Americano on the way to work, my morning hug in a cup. That was nice. Let some chick pull into my lane and she didn’t wave to thank me, so I raged, calling her a stupid bitch. Don’t worry, she’s fine, she had no idea. Made it to work, only to avoid eye contact in the halls, so I didn’t have to fake a smile over and over. Shut my door and blinds in my office and sat there wondering if today was the day they’d figure out that I don’t know shit (for the first time I actually feel like I belong and I do know shit, so this is particularly frustrating). Then the daydreams began – visions of going home where I could sit on the couch with a soft blanket, take a deep breath, and then have anxiety about all the shit that needs to get done and what a loser I am. Yep, the big black cloud is back.
A deeper look
Depression is much more than feeling sad. And feeling sad is not depression. It’s a body and mind thing.
My carcass is drained, heavy, and lethargic. Like I’m a thousand-pound sloth.
Weird aches and pains give me paranoia. My back hurts for seemingly no reason. I haven’t taken a satisfying shit in over a week. I’m always hungry, but then I binge on food and wallow in guilt afterward. Sometimes I pick the hell out of my face to the point that I cannot leave the house for hours. Someone might as well be sitting on my chest, it feels so tight and heavy. Often, I discover my jaw has been clenched for so long, I’ve given myself a headache.
Escaping the negativity is like trying to get out of quicksand. I feel like a failure because I can’t will myself into being more positive. There’s all this pressure to get positive – websites, apps, social media pages – all devoted to it. Positive affirmations make me feel like shit, putting the focus on how I really feel. When did it become a thing to try to avoid shit anyway? It doesn’t do any good to deny your shitty mood. I’m in a shitty mood. So be it.
My thoughts get stuck on stupid, icky, sometimes terrifying shit. So disturbing at times, that they conflict with my personality and values and make me feel like an imposter. Swirling around in my head like vultures. That’s when I’m really afraid of the dark. I’ve tried to think of an example that won’t have a psychiatrist or the cops land on my doorstep…I’ll just leave it at that.
Some basic life tasks go undone and I judge myself hard. My house isn’t clean, the laundry isn’t folded, and my hair will continue to look like shit for months to come, as I spritz it with dry shampoo and twist it up into a bun. I’ll continue to wear jeans and a sweatshirt every day because it’s what’s comfortable and I don’t have the energy to do more. My car desperately needs a wash, but it’ll just get rained on again, so why bother?
I’m irritable as a mofo. Something as simple as my husband tossing a handful of cashews into his mouth. That sound the nuts make when they hit his teeth ignites an internal rage and I instantly loathe him. And when I get over it I feel like an evil hag who doesn’t deserve love.
And the real kicker – I can’t remember shit. I’ve taken a dementia test at my doctor’s office because I’ve fucked so much shit up due to my shitty memory.
Making it better
It’s important to mention that throughout all this bullshit, on the outside I probably look just fine. It’s also important to mention that I do have a happy life. Even the happiest of people can have depression. My depression says nothing about how grateful I am.
Meds can be your friend. The raging antidepressant debate continues and some people are real assholes about it. I’ve felt the pressure to get off them before and it has not gone well. Yes, they have side effects, some more than others. Patience is key. Meds are subtle. For me, they take away the scariest part of depression, where I tend to wonder what the hell the point is. I used to have this sudden onset of panic that would pull on my heart with an eerie hollowness that wanted to eat me alive. Meds took that away. For that I’m grateful.
Depression is one of the most common conditions in the world, yet it’s the least understood and most stigmatized. Please don’t be ashamed. Shame eats your soul. Too many people suffer alone because they’re ashamed to speak up or don’t want to burden anyone. Don’t be one of them.
I didn’t just share some of my deep dark bullshit for the hell of it – you must realize you’re not alone, you’re worthy, and you can do this. The more we deny that we have a dark side, the more power it has over us. There’s light all around and within you. “You can’t shine your light without darkness, my dear. You can’t be brave without the knowledge of fear.” Be as kind to yourself as you can. You’re doing just fine.
I’ve felt pretty defeated lately – can’t seem to get a handle on this depression and anxiety. My frustration is growing and I’m tired. I’m tired of being so wound up. I’m tired of being dragged down. I’m tired of making the same mistakes. I’m tired of disappointing myself. I’m tired of feeling like a shitty wife. I’m tired of missing out. I’m just really tired. All of my energy goes toward being a mom. It’s the only thing I feel like I do right these days. My heart soars with countless moments of joy as I get swept up – it makes me so grateful for the love in my life. I have it really goddamn good. But, those other moments are breaking me down and I wonder how much longer I can keep this up.
This is a scary place – I can’t imagine that many people manage to sustain their sobriety once they get here. I can see the potential for suicidal thoughts, too. Don’t get your panties in a wad, I’m not going to drink and the ONLY thing that is clear to me about suicide is that people don’t really want to DIE, they just want their PAIN TO END. I’ve always known that things will swing back up, but this time around has certainly been the most challenging.
Last week I found the mother of all sparks – things were definitely looking up. I’d found a glowing light in the form of a handsome 2-year-old malamute mix. We were gaining a new family member who was offering me a legit way out of my hell. I don’t mean to get all dramatic here, but in saving his life, he was truly saving mine. Dogs love us more than we love ourselves and they make our lives so much better. They make us better people. The week leading up to the adoption was full of excitement, planning, and a blossoming love. That sweet fuzzy boy owned my heart and I felt lighter and brighter already. Just hours after we got him shit hit the fan. Although he was an amazing dog, he clearly needed a family without kids and it wasn’t going to work. My heart broke into tiny pieces and I cried harder than I can ever remember. I’d lost my new love and I’d lost my way out. I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself and felt heavy with despair.
A few days later I went to a meeting and saw what appeared to be a broken man. After spending the past 5 years in a battle with relapse, his wife had decided to leave him. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him, she just couldn’t trust him and needed to move on. Prior to this five-year battle, he’d been sober for 21 years.
He stood before a room full of his peers with slumped shoulders and defeated tone, and announced his 23rd day of sobriety. He went on to tell us more about how his life had fallen apart and I couldn’t help but notice the attention he commanded. The room was his. I don’t know how else to describe it – the confusion, embarrassment, agony, and support – we were all in it with him. The compassion surrounding him was palpable as we all became one beating heart.
This shattered man then declared how grateful he was to be in the room with us. I suddenly realized that even though his life may be broken, he in fact, was not. Although he was practically breathless with pain, there was something that brought him to us that night, into his 23rd day of sobriety, and to a place of gratitude. He wasn’t broken at all. He had found a spark – hope. And in that moment we all had hope.
Until then, I’d felt quite conflicted with the term, hope. I’d always thought hope was for religious people – hoping to escape eternal damnation by being just righteous enough – but that’s not hope, that’s fear. And I’m not saying that’s how all religious people are, so just chill. I thought of hope as a form of denial, clinging to something unsubstantial, or an excuse for not taking action. You know, like when dreams die because they turn into wishes instead of goals. Hope is what turns into change IF/WHEN you act on it. If you don’t act on hope, it also turns into a wish and then you turn into a pussy. I ain’t no pussy. Hope is the spark in a tunnel of darkness. Hope is exactly what I needed.
SO, I decided that this guy is pretty amazing – and if he can do it, I can too. I found hope and now I can set it on fire! The only thing that gets in the way is me. The only limitations set upon me are the ones I entertain in my freaky little brain. I can change how I feel inside and out. I can turn the voices around. I don’t need an excuse to get off my ass, I can just do it. And I’ve already begun.
THIS must be what people in the rooms refer to as spiritual awakenings. I never wanted or expected to have one. I look back in awe – I was hard when I walked in and soft when I walked out. I was overflowing with hope and felt that glow from within.
So there it is. A new chapter, now that there’s a fire under my ass. I will find my peace, I know it. With hard work I will turn my life around for the better. Depression and anxiety are gonna suck it. If something else tries to knock me down (and dude, that’s life) it will get bitch slapped. There’s no more time left for weak bullshit; it’s time to wake up and ACT. I am responsible for my life. I’m going to rediscover my badass.
My wish for all of my friends out there is for more peaceful and joyful moments in 2014. Only in sobriety can we genuinely experience these moments. Be proud of YOU and remember that with each sober breath you take, you are giving yourself the most precious gift.
An added bonus: remembering last night and starting the new year without a hangover!!!
My intentions are to judge less, look at the positive, take more deep breaths, trust my gut and STAY SOBER! Yeah baby!
My biggest fear in life is that my kids will become alcoholics. This potential strikes me to the core and nags at me constantly. I recall a “talk” my dad had with me and my brother one day in the backyard – I was in high school. He was crying, telling us how he didn’t want us to end up like him. It was a pretty intense moment that left a huge gouge on my heart. I remember thinking how bad I felt for him, that he was so worried, but was impervious to his degree of fear. I was pretty damn sure we could handle ourselves and weren’t going to follow in his footsteps.
I can now relate to him in a fierce way and it scares the hell out of me. I’m desperate to control this outcome, however I realize I have NO CONTROL over much of anything in this world – except for one thing for sure – my sobriety. What I must focus on is staying sober, and then positively influencing my kids without being a freak about it. I have to somehow let go of this paralyzing fear and change gears. Having a plan certainly won’t erode my fears, but maybe it’ll decrease some of my anxiety about it all and better prepare us as parents for the road ahead. How depressing is it that I have to do this? It’s also infuriating, but a reality I just have to accept.
Are my kids destined to become alcoholics? Not necessarily, but their genetic risk is increased considerably, according to research. I have some close friends and family who have somehow managed to break that chain, even though it’s “in their blood” and has been a part of their lives since childhood. Research hasn’t given us solid answers, but alcoholism “experts” are agreeing that genes are responsible for about half of the potential alcoholic equation*. So, as I understand it, genes influence how a person metabolizes alcohol, as well as their temperament – which can make them more vulnerable toward alcoholism. How one’s brain reacts to alcohol and their personality traits aren’t really things we can change, anyway. Alcoholism has been known to run in families and children of alcoholics could very well be genetically pre-disposed, more vulnerable. BUT all of this genetic talk is about RISK, not impending doom. (I must repeat this over and over and over…)
In my opinion, at least half of the RISK equation of addiction exists because of poor coping skills and learned behavior – and is where I can make a difference as a parent.
Kids subconsciously model their parents’ and adults’ behavior. If their parents or close adults are frequent drinkers/partiers, they learn to model that lifestyle. Simple as that. It’s what they know. My parents and their family and friends were always drinking at every occasion, so it was the norm to me.
I got to taste my dad’s beer a lot when I was little. I really liked it. Some say that the age alcoholics get exposed to booze is a cause. I don’t know if that’s true, but either way I am uncomfortable with my kids tasting it at this point. My son has no business trying Daddy’s beer at 2 ½ (the other kid is a bun in the oven). When I’m faced with that possibility, the alcohol takes on even more of a personality and taunts me like a poison. I don’t know what age would seem right to let them try a sip. I certainly don’t want to forbid it forever, that doesn’t seem like a healthy approach. Plus, if I take my emotion out of it, realistically a taste won’t kill them. But that’s impossible to take the emotion away when my relationship with alcohol has altered my world in such a way. Obviously my husband and I need to further discuss this and figure out our approach, since he does have a few beers or a glass of wine regularly at home. Currently, it’s off limits to the kid and my husband completely supports my wishes. See – I’m already protecting my children with a different environment to grow up in…
The relationship between my mom and dad growing up was not always loving and harmonious. At times our home life presented us with underlying tension, anger and sadness – you can bet we picked up on it. Don’t get me wrong, we were pretty happy kids – it wasn’t THAT bad and we knew our parents loved us to the moon and back. But for many years my dad hid his alcohol, which was even worse because we all knew about it, but didn’t say anything – the shit that goes on with an alcoholic isn’t easily hidden – it’s like a silent scream. I know I’ll screw my kids up in some way, but I rest easier at night knowing they won’t be at greater risk for emotional and coping problems because I am no longer a “practicing” alcoholic. Our home environment is positive, supportive and nurturing (most of the time, we ARE real people!). Self-esteem, self-reliance, communication and trust are what we practice. We are providing a secure and stable home where our kids will hopefully be more selective about the choices they make and who they invite into their lives as they grow. They will know that their opinions and decisions matter to us all.
At some point, all kids get exposed to drinking – as pre-teens or even earlier. If not at home, they’ll see it in commercials, movies, Web sites, phone apps, Facebook (half the shit on there is about partying) and hear about it in songs and at school, etc. – social media and entertainment are clearly targeting young people and doing a great job at it. So, how does one figure what’s real and what isn‘t – especially a kid? Is everyone really doing it? In elementary school, I somehow was under the impression that D.A.R.E wasn’t “cool” – WTF? This is where parenting steps in with consistent, positive, open communication. I don’t want to bad mouth alcohol, but I do want my kids to know their risks and to grow up knowing that what you see isn’t always what you get or what you should want.
PLEASE NOTE: I want to make it clear that my parents did the best with what they knew back then and I am grateful every day for my mom and dad. I don’t carry resentment toward either one of them for a damn thing – I have learned from some of their mistakes and will surely make my own.
Is drinking fun? Hell yeah, it is! Why do you think so many people do it? Alcohol is amazing – it’s so easy to instantly bond with people, like you’re part of a cool club. It helps you relax and it takes you to a silly, warm place where inhibitions are low and the fun factor is high. What I wouldn’t give for a day of mental shut-down, sitting in a lawn chair in a river with the heat of the sun, a case of ice-cold beer and a bottle of my grandpa’s home-made “apple pie” (Everclear – like liquid apple pie – dangerous and oh, so delish). I get why it’s such a focal point, but I think that needs to change a bit – somehow. Along with the fun alcohol brings, there’s an even bigger dark side. The darkest of which is alcoholism, the number one drug problem in America with more than 20 million alcoholics**. It’s a HUGE issue in our society. We need more awareness and education out there so we can change the stigma and shame associated with it and be better able to recognize whether we are on that path – to make changes before things get a lot worse.
Bitter…party of one…
Whenever I hear people reminiscing together about their drunken moments or hangovers from hell, I become enraged inside. It no longer entertains or makes me laugh. There’s nothing funny about passing out on a germ-infested, pube-ridden bathroom floor after you’ve heaved for hours. There’s nothing funny about getting goofy, slurring, saying stupid shit or falling down in public, nor do I want to hear people brag about blacking out. Also, those Facebook and Instagram pictures showing friends taking shots, playing their 100th game of beer pong and getting shit-faced in general are really getting old – get over it and get back to freaking life, you idiots. I’m justified to feel that way now because I was one of them – my goal sometimes would actually be to blackout – and I thought I was cool because of it! My, how I’ve grown – still bitter, but I’ve grown. The general population of America is ignorant about the dangers of alcohol and alcoholism. I think a lot of it is because recovering alcoholics aren’t living out loud. By living out loud, I’m not necessarily telling people they can’t be “anonymous,” I’m just meaning to highlight that anyone can reach out, connect, learn, get sober and/or be effective on any level. And that’s my mission. I’m not claiming to know everything, but I’m dedicated to challenging the stigma, increasing awareness, and as always, connecting with people so I don’t feel so isolated all the time.
This country’s legislation approaches alcohol with fear, and the most destructive law in my opinion, seems to be the age requirement of 21. A man can defend and potentially die for his country, but we’ll go right ahead and arrest him for an MIP?! Woo! ‘merica! Something isn’t quite matching up there. Forbidding it isn’t the answer. I don’t know anyone that drinks, who didn’t drink before they turned 21. In fact, most of them drank well before I did around 13 or so! Yet, the 21-run is a major coming-of-age celebration. I remember the beginning of my 21-run…I spilled a shot on the table and sucked it up with a straw. Made it to 21 drinks, too. Only 3 were beers. That shit just isn’t necessary – where did we get the idea that it is? I know so many “problem drinkers” who are likely on alcoholism’s path and all I can do is watch. I think. They are as I was, programmed to believe that they don’t have a problem because they still have their jobs, family, friends – life is “normal.” Plus, everybody else is doing the same thing. This is where awareness about early stages of alcoholism needs to happen. And realistically, every person has the chance to become an alcoholic.
My husband insists that our kids partake in his “English heritage” and go to a pub for dinner, where they can have a beer when they’re 16 or so if they want. English pubs do feel completely different from American bars – families with kids and the general attitude give it a much more relaxed vibe. We went to the Matador (in America) the other night for some decent food and a beer for my husband, but they wouldn’t let our toddler in because technically the entire place was a bar. I don’t get it. Are we not trusted? Maybe we should pass a few more laws to control our people since they obviously can’t make decisions for themselves. Anyway, I get where my husband is coming from. I’m more concerned about my kids seeing either of our families drinking in excess and celebrating it – but I think we’ll be ok. I don’t think his family really “focusses” on drinking when they let loose, nor does mine (although I’ve had to decrease my exposure to much of my extended family to make that a possibility). We just can’t escape that societal push toward drinking to have fun. And it’s a myth that starting younger encourages moderation with alcohol. That said, a young person in a pub is exposed to that comfortable type of environment with a positive and healthy approach, I suppose. I’m curious about the “place” I’ll be in by the time that opportunity rolls around.
My plan is to continuously communicate with my husband and come up with some rules for early childhood that we both feel comfortable with. We can graze over the pre-teen and teen years, but who knows how much that will change within the next 10-15 years within society, as well as research. The point is that we are both on the same page and focused on being better parents every day.
In the future I do intend to connect with my children’s friends and their friends’ parents and decide who I “trust,” never allow them to go to an unsupervised home or party and get them involved in extracurricular stuff – sports/music/whatever they want to do. It’s amazingly fulfilling being a parent, but it’s hard and I can bet it won’t get any easier.
I guess for now I’m ok. This cloud still follows me around, but I’ve got some great tools, a fab husband and a bright future in store for all of us. Day by day we shall go.
Thanks for your support, friends. I’m grateful to have this outlet and your ears.