Thursday, March 29, 2012


I realized today at work, while writing expiration dates on bottles of syrup, that it has been three months since my birthday. Not that significant, except that I've been marking that as the date when this downward spiral started. Or maybe the last day before the spiral. Whichever.

That day began so well. I felt good when I woke up. Happy, if tentatively so. For the greater part of that day, in fact, I felt like things were going to be ok, because I was starting to make them ok. I was moving on. I was doing well, and would do better.

Less than three weeks later things had deteriorated so far that I decided to move across the country in a last-ditch effort to salvage some part of my life. How the fuck did that happen? Something changed, practically overnight, and I don't even know what it was. Now it's three months later and when I have good days I'm too afraid to say that maybe I'm finally starting that ascent back into health and contentment, because look at how fast everything went to hell the last time I said that.

Three months. That's a quarter of an entire year. A long time. A short time. Long enough for life to change completely. Hell... one night is enough time for that. And once it changes, it doesn't go back. You can't erase things and pretend they never happened. You can't "go back to normal." You can't unlearn what the experience taught you, no matter how much you try to ignore it. You can't go back to believing things you don't believe in anymore.

That was my afternoon. Mostly a reality check, which I'm trying to use as fuel to keep going forward instead of letting it be weight keeping me where I am. I'm not sure what happened three months ago - not sure if there was one catalytic thought that totally changed my mindset and shot me down, or if it was a combination of many things I could readily identify, but won't right here. I'm also not sure what's going to happen tomorrow, except that I'm going to see a doctor and trying not to be too freaked out about it. Also not sure what I'm trying to write about here.

I guess the only thought to close with is that if the next three months bring changes as drastic as the last three, I hope they're improvements. There's no going back to three months ago, or even eight months ago. I think... I might need to redefine happiness, because the old definition doesn't seem attainable anymore. Then I can steer there, to the new version of being happy, and it won't be like anywhere I've been before, but it might be someplace worth being.

I should not blog at night. I don't think that made any sense at all.

Good night.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

another step in the long road

I believe in being genuine, especially when it comes to dealing with mental illness. This is mostly because reading about other people who have the courage to be open about their weaknesses has given me strength to deal with mine.

I also believe in guarding my own privacy... and I don’t always strike the best balance between openness and privacy, especially when it comes to being online. I know I’ve gone too far in each direction more than once, depending on my emotions at the time. That’s why I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to anyone when I say that I’m depressed, and struggling toward recovery.

At least, some days I struggle. Most days I just survive. Today I have struggled, though, at least a little bit. Let’s see if I can talk about it without skewing that line between genuine and private.

I went to a counseling appointment today. It took an absurd amount of time to find a good therapist once I arrived here in New Jersey, but that’s a different drama. I have one now, thanks to the timely intervention of a good friend.

I was late by a couple minutes, and lucky it wasn’t more, because in a moment of distraction while I thought about the upcoming session, I got on the highway going toward work instead of toward Route 1, and had to waste time turning around. Then I spent most of the drive being really annoyed with myself over that mistake and trying to gauge whether I could make up the time on the road, arguing with myself in my head: “Remember that time you made it from Livingston campus to the Pin Oak house in 21 minutes? This isn’t even as far.” “Do you know how fast I was going that time? Also it was night. Also the roads are wet, and there's the little fact that I spun the car out three weeks ago...”

Anyway, I got there, and a good thing I did. See… well, I wish I could adequately explain just how frustrating this has been. “Frustrating” isn’t even the right word. Events, or lack of them, more accurately, have contributed to this growing sense of despair, feeding from that into conviction that things will never be all right. So every day I tell myself, “Hold on a little bit longer. There’s something you haven’t tried yet, and you have to try everything. Wait to see a psychiatrist. Wait for a prescription. Wait for the effects to kick in, wait to see if it makes a difference… even though it doesn’t feel like it’s going to make a difference, wait and see if it does.” And I wait… but so many days in a row bring me no closer than I was before to any of those steps, and the weight gets a little heavier… the cloud gets a little denser… and I have to argue with people about whether what I’m waiting for is even necessary.

I want another word for despair, and I don’t even have the energy to stop and think of one.

Today, I hoped and expected to get a name from my therapist. A number I could call. Somebody I could say I was referred to, so at least I could have that much confidence that I was going to the right place.

I got the name, and more. My therapist started to ask if I was going to make the call, then stopped and asked if I would like her to call, right then. And then she dialed, got in touch with somebody right away, and made sure that I’ll have an appointment next Friday.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was, for so many reasons. Not just that I have an appointment now, although that’s a big one. I’m also relieved that somebody actively supports my choice to pursue this option; that someone agrees not only that I have the right to make that choice, but that it very well might be the right choice to make; that someone was willing and offered to take on such a simple task that nevertheless seemed so overwhelming and draining, just to ensure my wellbeing. Yes, it’s her job to help me in my recovery, but she didn’t have to do the specific thing that she did, and there was no one else who would have. (Except for me, of course… and yes, I would have made the call, but I don’t think everything would have been accomplished with the same speed. Besides, these little things help more than most people realize.) Perhaps most importantly, there’s someone reminding me that the fact that I show up at her office every week on my own initiative means something. That’s a victory every time it happens, because it means I haven’t given up yet.

Progress. Significant progress. The cloud is still there, but that was a step, and every step is a real battle.

It’s not to say that the rest of the day was easy. I spent the rest of the session avoiding talking about one loss by talking about another one instead, which I had also been avoiding in past sessions.

I relived the month of November in halting words, unsure how to express the truth. The session went long. I burst into tears as soon as I walked out the door (they had only been leaking before), and they kept up for most of the 45 minute drive to my store where I needed to make sure my work schedule would be compatible with my new appointment. My face was dry when I walked in, but I noticed a little too late that the pooling tears had soaked and stained a sizable patch around the neckline of my shirt. (No one mentioned it. They never mention my red eyes when I come back from breaks, either. A kind and tactful bunch. I’m grateful for them.)

I went to a chiropractor who annoyed the hell out of me. (“There, don’t you feel your head clearing out now?” “Um. No. No, I really don’t.” Pretty sure it’s going to take more than a chiropractic adjustment to get that effect... although I think he meant a different kind of clear than I do.) I also realized when I got home at nearly 7:30 that I had hardly eaten anything all day. Then I realized that eating hasn't been such a struggle lately for the simple reason that I've been forgetting to struggle over it, which is just another problem itself.

Still. Today counts as a victory. Not the most important one… but then, I guess at this point all of them are important.

Friday, February 17, 2012

some random thoughts that mean something to me

The conversation over dinner tonight turned, randomly, to my parents' marriage.

Trying to remember how that happened now.

There was talk of relationships in general. My brother mentioned that while his girlfriend sometimes complains about how much he's like our dad, she secretly hopes that the two of them will turn out like my parents.

"Not a bad goal," I had to say, and my brother agreed.

I guess this is actually a belated Valentine's Day post, because my brother's comments touched on my own reflections on that day, and I think now that they were important enough to write down. After all, observing my parents was the reason that day was not as difficult as I expected.

It's not that I hate Valentine's Day. It's more that the day is so meaningless to me. This year, I did a little counting backwards, because I'm self-destructively analytical like that. So, the count:

One year ago, I was reeling a little bit (and feeling more than a little naive) from hearing the "I just don't have room for a girlfriend in my life right now" speech, which put an abrupt end to the first real connection I'd felt after a long and drawn-out breakup several months previously.

Two years ago, Sigh complained about feeling obligated to do something for Valentine's Day, went on a bit about society's expectations, and then bought me some cheap candy. It tasted kind of gross.

Three years ago, I was single. The same for every year before that.

This year Valentine's Day is the last thing in the world that matters in any practical way. I've got a world of other troubles on my mind, thanks very much.

Still, you can't really avoid thinking about it, at least a little bit. It's everywhere. I decided the best thing for myself would be to stay away from the internet for the day, and I mostly did that... but as my thoughts wandered, they fixed on that one year that I had somebody to share the day with, and how utterly ridiculous the day turned out to be. Here's the candy, given out of obligation - and not any obligation or pressure I had put forward, I might add; I stopped expecting gifts or gestures of any kind from Sigh quite awhile before that day - which I then felt obligated to appreciate and enjoy... and, really... is two years too much later to be irritated by the whole situation? A lot of people like to complain about Valentine's Day, and how it's a Hallmark holiday, just there to get us to spend money on cards and chocolate, and all this pressure to do something nice for the person you love... and, I'm sorry, but if it takes a sense of obligation to get you to do something nice for your significant other, then your relationship is already in trouble, if not failing altogether and only surviving out of habit. Mine certainly was. True, I'm not everybody... but I still think there's something messed up about needing a holiday to force you into a gesture of affection. If you're only doing it because it's expected, you have a problem. It might not manifest more seriously for some time yet, but you have a problem.

So, these are my thoughts, on my internet-free day, and at some point in the evening I'm sitting at the kitchen counter, inches away from the roses my dad brought home for my mom. They're still there tonight, and they're lovely. Not blood-red, and not sickly-pink, but this soft hue that's almost a peach color, which suits my mom more or less perfectly.

I looked at these roses, and I wasn't thinking about Valentine's Day. I was thinking about every other time over the past 30+ years that my dad has sent flowers to my mom. I thought about how he surprises her by making a celebration not just out of their wedding anniversary, but the anniversary of their engagement. I thought about him showing all of his kids the jewelry he'd gotten for her in secret, and asking us our advice on the most romantic way to give it to her.

I was a kid in Indiana again in my mind, looking out the living room window one morning and seeing my dad pull into the driveway. He'd been living in New Jersey without us for months because of a new job, only able to make it home every other weekend, but he'd just driven all night long to surprise my mom on their anniversary.

Mostly, I thought about how excited he gets over finding new ways and opportunities to make my mom feel special, all the time, after nearly 35 years of marriage. So I looked at those roses, and I thought that my mom and dad make Valentine's Day not seem cheap anymore.

I don't know that anything else needs to be said about that. Except, perhaps, that when you're not sure you believe in anything anymore, it's nice to find something to believe in so close to home.