Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Put Your Faith in Yourself.

I've struggled with depression since my adolescence, but didn't have a word for it or have it dealt with professionally until I was in my early twenties. When I was first diagnosed and treated for depression, I was in a very unhealthy relationship. My emotional state had begun to effect my physical body, which lead me to needing to be hospitalized. From the hospital, I went to therapy and began taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. It took some time, but I got out of the bad relationship, moved into a new place, and changed much of my daily life. It was only 6 months before I ditched the meds and felt strong and confident again. I knocked that depression straight on its ass.

Over the next 7 years, I had small bouts with sadness, but the depression, I did a great job at keeping it at bay without any medication. The details of the onset of a fresh major depressive episode, those are in my previous post and you can refer to it for reference. But what you need to understand about those who struggle with depression is that it is MOTHER FUCKING EXHAUSTING. It is next to impossible to explain to someone who doesn't experience it in a way that they will understand. You don't snap out of it. You can't just smile through it. Just because you do all of the things professionals tell you you should be doing, does not mean you will feel better.

One thing you have to deal with when having depression is, doctors asking, every time you go in for a visit, if you are thinking of self harm. Almost always there is an impersonal questionnaire, that you are required to fill out.

"Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless"
Not at all.
Several days.
More than half the days.
Nearly every day.
Circle which one best applies.

"Thoughts that you would be better off dead, or or hurting yourself in some way"
Not at all.
Several days.
More than half the days.
Nearly every day.
Choose one.

Despite suffering from clinical depression my entire life, I was only suicidal once. That happened when I was 15. I had already taken up self harm. You know, cutting myself, burning myself, I would even bite myself as hard as I could to see how much pain I could manage. There were a lot of varying factors that lead to the afternoon I almost swallowed a bottle of pills. I could explain away all of the reasons for it. By the time I was 15, I already knew a handful of people who had killed themselves. I knew how it would all play out. But I talked myself out of it. After that day, I still thought about killing myself, but I didn't want to. That desire to cease to exist, well, ceased to exist.

When I was in my early twenties and ended up in the hospital, I still did not feel compelled to kill myself. A fucked up gift from the depression demons. I could crippled by life, to the point of not going to work and not showering and not brushing my hair for months, but the idea of killing myself, it didn't appeal to me. That is until this year.

In my previous post I explained, though not in excessive detail, how I ended up 32, back in Seattle, divorced and depressed. What I left out was how medicated I had become. Before my ex and I split up, things got quite bad. I was having anxiety attacks daily, I couldn't sleep, I cried, no, I sobbed, every single day, I was blacking out daily. My body began responding to the emotional pain I was experiencing. Multiple doctors did CT scans, EKGs and all kinds of blood tests because my physical symptoms had become so severe, that they were concerned there was something neurological happening. There wasn't. It was a physical manifestation of the stress I was experiencing.

How do you deal with that? Normally, lifestyle changes can go a long way. Especially for myself. There wasn't much room for life changes at the time, aside from leaving my husband, which I WAS NOT considering (joke was on me, big time. but hindsight is always so clear), so I went the direction of medication and teams of doctors.

The doctors: Primary Care Physician, psychiatrist, therapist, psychologist, physical therapist and a muscle manipulation therapist.

The medication: Paxil (anti-depressant), taken once daily. Xanax (anti-anxiety), taken as needed, prescribed 60 at a time. Ambien (sleep aide), taken as needed, prescribed 2 per night. 

In addition to seeing a doctor nearly every day, and taking meds constantly, I was in yoga, going multiple times a week, I was in school full-time and I had a part-time job. I was doing everything in my power to succeed. It was only two months after this cycle of wake up, take meds, go to the doctor, take meds, go to sleep, that my husband left me. I was able to physically leave when that happened, but that didn't change the nature of my pain, rather, it only added to it. I began getting vertigo, in addition to blacking out. More meds were added to my daily rotation of pharmaceutical numbing. 

Fast forward to two months ago. I carried around a gallon sized ziploc bag full of a variety of pharmaceuticals in bottles of different sizes, each with my name printed on them. A year had passed and I had moved, traveled the entire country, adopted a dog and two cats, and took care of all of the small, mundane and annoying things you have to do when you move back home and have to explain to every person who knows you just why you've returned. Stress was mounting again, and winter was dark. I was sick of being medicated. I told my doctor. She recommended things within her realm of ability. They weren't realistic solutions for me, but I smiled and left. 

A day or two later, I woke up, I looked at the prospect of getting out of bed and for the first time in almost two decades, I thought about killing myself. No, not a "ugh, I'm gonna kill myself!" That isn't how true suicidal thoughts present themselves. The thought took over my entire body. It was hours of laying in bed, looking at the plastic bag full of orange prescription bottles, and figuring out all of the details of who would find me, how difficult it would be for people to get rid of my stuff, who would be the person to take my animals, should I leave a note and so on. 

Obviously, I did not follow through on that thought. In all raw honesty, I can say the only reason I didn't follow through that morning was because of my dog. Yes, you are reading that right, my DOG. It wasn't a person, a friend, a family member, it wasn't medication, it wasn't a helpline. It was my dog. In the midst of all of the chaos that has been my life and my heart and my mind, my damn dog has been right there. She laid next to me in the bed, completely unaware of her power, and she just loved me. She's a great dog, so I knew if I was out of the picture, she would be fine. She would be well taken care of. But I didn't want to leave her. There wasn't one thought of a single person that could have dissuaded me that morning. A couple of weeks later, I decided to quit all of my meds, cold turkey. Not what the doctor recommended, but it is a decision I feel good about. It's been almost 8 weeks and I can feel things changing. Things continue to change, and hopefully will continue to for some time to come.

I am here, two months later, alive. I'm not writing that to impress you or to make you sad or to suggest this is a cry for help. It is not. I'm writing it because it is my story this year, it would seem. I am treading water and I am doing ok. This is not a PSA about how you should reach out to someone or how you should consider your actions carefully. Is suicide a bad idea? Would it be easier? Do you just have to give things time and you will heal? I have no idea. I don't believe there is much black and white there, I think it is mostly grey. Some people can kill themselves and not cause many ripples or break too many hearts in the process. Others devastate friends and families. One thing I have confirmed, over and over again, is that humans will fail you. They will look past you, they will listen selectively, they will seek out what benefits themselves and weigh the pros and cons of what helping others will cost them. People are not selfless and they do not love unconditionally naturally. That is a trait that is developed and worked hard to achieve. Few people can claim to be the person we all believe ourselves to be. Put your faith in yourself. Believe in yourself. Help yourself. Encourage yourself. And get yourself a dog. It could save your life.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

expect sadness.

"If you're afraid to write it, that's a good sign. I suppose you know you're writing the truth when you're terrified." 

It's been a long time since I've written.
I have endless drafts of thoughts and experiences that I wanted to share through writing, but I have been quite afraid. The last few years I have been living a life that has changed me in so many ways. Almost 3 years ago I wrote very honestly and publicly about a man I had met and a love that I was taking a risk on. That was the last time I wrote honestly about my life. It's very difficult for me to write- it's been such a long time and my honesty has become hesitant. "Some people, when they hear your story. Contract. Others upon hearing your story, expand." Phew, that. is. truth. Let's see what comes flowing out if I just type.

My twenties were spent learning how to be true to my most authentic self. Due to my religion and blind faith, I spent the first 20 years of my life pushing down and/or ignoring who I was and how I truly felt. For the next 9 years I worked tirelessly to find my own truth. What did I love? What did I believe? What did I accept as truth? What did I reject? By doing this, I found a joy and a happiness previously unknown! And. I. LOVED. it. For better or worse, I was who I was. Living unapologetically gave me a freedom I had never known. Unfortunately that freedom became something I took for granted. It just became a part of my life. I lived in freedom. I reveled in my freedom. And with the best of intentions, I became enslaved to the thoughts of others. My life changed, and I changed. I did not change for myself, I changed for others.

This is not a rant about the bad and ugly. This is not pointing fingers or placing blame. This is a one-sided account. MY one-sided account of my heart and mind being thrown in a proverbial fire. This is the truth I have feared writing.

Three years ago I changed my life drastically in order to pursue and maintain a relationship. I knew the risk with my heart was real, and I believed I was ready to take that risk. Within weeks of choosing each other, we were faced with a series of VERY unfortunate events. Death came quickly and took a hold of our precious new life together. Our tender new love took a very serious and continuous beating. As we adjusted to our new life, I allowed the Racheal I had become to slowly slip away. I quieted myself. It became apparent that woman I had worked so hard to become was not the woman that people in my new life wanted to see. My past was treated like a contagious disease that we avoided. I was labeled as "liberal" "feminist" "bitch" - to name a few - and not in love or jest. I was labeled as such by others who could not or did not want to, figure me out.

It's very easy to be who you want to be when you are supported and loved. It is not easy to be who you want to be when you are being told that who you are is not what the world wants. I had removed myself from my support system and surrounded myself with those who wanted to extinguish my light. It became very difficult to stand alone and defend myself. Making excuses for others behavior does such a disservice to both yourself and the people you're making excuses for. Some people will contract, others will expand, this is how you know. Instead of standing up for myself, I began shutting down.

The love my heart ached for slipped away a little each day. Traces of who I once was slipped away a little each day as well. I have never lived a particularly easy life. Tragedy and struggle was nothing new to me, so I fought through them. I was so deep in love that I was willing to fight whomever or whatever came at us. If something isn't working, try something new, right? I tried new things. I tried. I tried to meet conflicting expectations and failed. Everyday I woke up, married to someone who always looked past me, instead of directly at me.  I became sad. mad. hurt. scared. unsure. angry. insecure. and medicated. so. heavily. medicated.

And then he left me. Oof. That hurts. I remember where I was standing. I remember that his hair was wet. I remember hearing his words, and knowing that they were changing us forever as they fell out of his mouth. He didn't want to try anymore. I wasn't worth the work. I wasn't worth effort. A year and a half earlier he asked me to choose him. Two months earlier he looked me in the eyes and told me that he was committed to us- that he would be there, that he would fight. But words are simply that, words. And when he spoke the words "I'm leaving" I didn't need an explanation, his eyes were more honest in that moment than they had ever been.

"someone can be madly in love with you. and still not be ready. they can love you in a way you have never been loved. and still not join you on the bridge. and whatever their reasons you must leave. because you never ever have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge. you never ever have to convince someone to do the work to be ready."

Reconciliation was attempted, but I knew... "if someone does not want me it not the end of the world. but if i do not want me. the world is nothing but endings." I didn't just not want me, I despised myself. The woman I had worked so tirelessly to become was all but a shadow. I was weak and full of cowardice. I may have been called a lot of things in my life, but "coward" had never been one of them. Until now. And now, my life depended on my courage. Bravery stood before me, summoning me. My best friends (figuratively) stood around me and whispered of their love for me. Bravery summoned me. As time passed, I learned that"love doesn't always mean you should stay." Courage was required, and I finally leaned into it. Leaving our broken marriage was my first act of bravery in far too long.

A permanent damage had been caused within me. Every breath hurt. Every sunrise was a reminder of what I had lost. Every sunset was a relief, as no one questions why you're still in bed when it is dark out.

I am not on the other side of things. yet. I have not concluded anything inspirational or life changing. I have been struggling with a depression so suffocating, that sometimes I am afraid of myself. I still grieve. I grieve so that I can be free to feel something else. I am seeking my own truth again. I am tending to myself. It is slow, but I am remembering my power.

Where I am is not who I am.

I am writing again. That is a start.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A New Start, Again - Part 1

Over the course of the last two years, I have made numerous new starts. When I moved from Seattle almost exactly two years ago, I went in search of having my faith restored in humanity and a bit more sanity in my own mind. That search took me many places. I traveled the most of the US and popped into a couple of foreign countries. I traveled by plane, train, boat, car, bus, bike and my own legs. I slept on couches, beds, sidewalks, beaches and in cars. I met people from every single walk of life. My quest for hope restored was rewarded quite early on. It was restored primarily in small towns. These towns are without a doubt the backbone of our wonderful country.

I arrived in a picturesque small harbor town in Maine just a few weeks after I left Seattle. That marvelous little corner of the world is where the majority of my hope was restored (see 2012 blog entries). It didn't take me long to find friends who opened their arms and homes to me without any reservations. Well, if they had reservations, they never showed them. I spent six months with the most genuine, kind and generous folks anyone could hope to encounter. Most nights were spent as a group laughing, drinking and listening to our favorite musicians on vinyl. Life was slow paced, conversations were never rushed and as days passed, I aspired to return the endless kindness I received to each new person I met. However, as the days did pass, I realized Maine wasn't the end for me (though I would love to go back and live there someday). There was more waiting for me and I knew it.

Life is more than curious and from Maine I went on a series of adventures. On one of these adventures I was riding my bike from Washington, down the West Coast with no actual destination, aside from somewhere warm. One day, as I rode down highway 101 through the vast redwoods forest, with the waves of the salty ocean crashing on the beaches next to me, the thought of Austin, Texas and farming came to mind. As soon as I began considering, I made the decision that that was where I wanted to go and somehow needed to be. And soon enough, after a few more adventures, I found myself on the most spectacular farm just outside of Austin.

The Simmons family (who owned and operated the farm) were honestly some of the purest souls I have met to date. Their kindness and generosity is unmatched. I was fortunate to see a family exist in true love, even in the midst of very different views on life. The one thing they all did agree on was that love is reserved for all, joy is essential, food should be both delicious and plentiful and life is valuable. As I write this, I am remised because I feel my writing skills lack, as I don’t think I can convey in words the love I saw (and experienced) and the wisdom that was shared with me by these magnanimous folks.

The wisdom shared was not just wisdom about how to effectively grow healthy, organic foods (though there was plenty of that!), but I gleaned much wisdom about life and love. It wasn't something they ever preached, as they are far too humble to do such things, rather it was in day to day interactions. Interactions they had with me, interactions they had with each other and interactions they had with those they sold their delicious food to. If someone failed around them, they didn't rub it in their face; they didn't gossip behind their back; they didn't hold it against them in the future. They took it in stride, acknowledged the failure and taught with grace how to move forward. 

I received this grace when I spent a part of a morning harvesting radishes that were overripe.  Of course this is a simple example, but the response was powerful. I had wasted valuable time on harvest day (our busiest day where time efficiency is key). I could have been mocked for it (as I've been mocked for far less mistakes) or made an example of, but instead it was just brushed over, required no penance and I was showed, plainly, what my mistake was. Again, a simple example, but even in that, grace abounded. It was the daily reactions to things like that that made an overarching impact on me (and I've no doubt, others). When you live a life where you let the little things go and teach with grace how to move forward, it translates into all of the bigger things in life. For me, when I am gifted with this kindness, I recognize that that is how I should be living. It's a valuable lesson that I can be too quick to forget.

In our culture we've gained more anonymity than we know what to do with. It is all too easy to treat people as less than they are. We are lacking a social accountability. I believe this is because of technology and massive populations. The mean, snide or judgmental comment you leave is easy to do when you don’t have to say it aloud to the person and then watch how it affects them the rest of the day or week or month, or in some cases, the rest of their life. Each person is living a life you know nothing about, and you know nothing about it because you haven’t made the effort to know what’s going on in a persons life. Of course I don’t think one needs to know the inter-workings of every individual they cross paths with. My point is, if you don’t know the inter-workings, you don’t have right to negative commentary. And if you did know the details, you would (one would hope) prefer not to say negative things because you’re more empathetic than that.

The virtue is old: treat others as you would want to be treated. Yet this is a virtue that seems to be getting lost more and more in our world as each day passes. Not all is lost though, because I've seen the kindness and compassion in action, it still exists in pockets and I believe those pockets of people are what will be our proverbial saving grace. So long as we're willing to emulate these extraordinary people who teach freely without knowing it, we can gain back our integrity and pass it on to the following generations.

Hmm… I began this entry to tell the tale of how I’m living in Georgia with the man I plan to spend the rest of my life with, but it seems I took a different direction once I hit on my galvanizing farming friends in Texas. It would seem my fingers wander with my mind as I write. Alas, I shall save the rest of that story for my next entry.

Until then…

Saturday, May 3, 2014

When a Serial Dater Chooses Monogamy

It's no secret, I haven't been one to seek or prefer monogamy for ... well, a long while. The few actual relationships I have had I more fell into than chose. That being said, when I was in relationships I was always monogamous and gave, for better or worse, all that I had. When the last relationship I was in ended badly, it left me with something similar to the taste of bleach in my mouth (and much fear in my heart). I went from R the girlfriend, to R the wild card. This was neither good or bad, it was simply a thing. Something I chose to do and just as I gave my everything to the relationships I had been in, I gave my everything to singledom.

The shenanigans that ensued from this lifestyle choice resulted in many a tellable tale. I knew how to have a very good time and my friends and anyone within eye or earshot was well aware of this. One of my more favorite games (if you will) was to walk into a bar and point to the most appealing suitor and go for it. Without fail, it worked every time. Every. Time. You can imagine what that does to a persons confidence. And when you walk with confidence, you can accomplish pretty much anything (or anyone) you set your sights on. New town, city or bar, same town, city or bar, no problem. I would gladly jump into any new situation and thrive in it. Scale the bar to explore the rooftop in dress boots and a tutu, hell yes! Dress up in costumes for no reason and razor scoot around town at all hours of the day and night, why the heck not?! Walk into (or out of) a bar and get strangers to come back to the resort, party or campgrounds to party with us, I'm on it! Dole out special goodies to friends and strangers and watch what unfolds, oh yeah, most definitely! Climb a tree in a party dress, hell yeah! Dress up and dance for 12 hours on rooftops, count me in! Take whatever someone put in my hand and consume it, done.

Needless to say, I created a very distinct persona. It pleased me that those around me knew and expected me to be up for quite literally anything. To be someone whom people always expected the unexpected from was a blast and I loved every minute of it. In the midst of all of this mayhem, as you can imagine, I met and dated many a fellow. I don't mean I had relationships with many a fellow, I mean I dated. I loved going on a different date multiple times a week. And the dates I went on! They ranged from comically horrifying to movie montage perfection. I was a very lucky lady and though I may not have wanted any future with any of these fellows, I appreciated each encounter, no matter how vapid or worthwhile. Because every date meant another story and I collect stories like a hoarder collects garbage.

Enter monogamy.

This has thrown many people for a rather unexpected loop. Which, for me is rather comical because if you know me, you know by now to expect the unexpected. But this is not the unexpected people want from the wild card. About a year ago I wrote about how I'd been wondering if "my hobby (serial dating) had become my vocation?" Not a "plaguing thought", but certainly something I had begun to wonder about as I spent long days and nights alone working on a rural farm in Texas. I wondered "Could I exist in a happy, healthy, long term relationship if I tried? If after I share those first moments and someone asks me to stay and not go, would I? Could I? Could I open that door back up and walk through it? If I could, would boredom and cynicism boil up quickly and destroy the potential of anything of true substance?" At the time the answer was most definitely NO! But as someone who loves growing, evolving and learning, it was in the back of my mind on each date I went on. The desire for short term began fading one day and soon it was less and less, though I continued to date around.

Then it happened. Someone asked me for more. Someone said "choose me". And with a great deal of consideration, weighing the pros and cons and being logical (or maybe wholly illogical), I chose him. I acknowledged that I had been allowing fear to rule that portion of my life. Yes, I had been having fun. Yes, I had enjoyed every non-committal date. I had no fear to jump into any new situation, but only so long as that situation was brief and came with a quick exit. Fear fueled every short term romance. Protecting my heart had become my full time job. When I acknowledge that and the choice was directly in front of me, well, choosing monogamy was easy. When you say "screw fear!" the choice for personal happiness and love is easy. When someone looks you in the eye and without a word you know that they know you are more than you have become, well, swoon. When someone who has heard of the aforementioned tales on an almost daily basis and loves you because in the midst of all of those tales, they have seen your true self and love you more with each passing day, you have to take a chance on that.

Not just monogamy, but partnership feels good. It feels damn good. Life should always be about growth. Stagnation is death. Fear of change is weak. And I am not weak. I am mighty. I love long, deep and hard. Monogamy is not the death of me, staying the same and not taking a risk on love would be. My behaviors have changed and this is a hard pill for some to swallow, but I don't make life decisions for others, I make them for myself. I am who I am, but I want to be more, do more and am crazy out of my mind excited to partner with someone who wants me to be and do more. Shit's getting real, are you scared? I'm not! Screw fear!

Monday, March 17, 2014


About two years ago, I deleted my Facebook account. I had grown weary of watching drama unfold via a computer screen. Reading the opinions and statements of people that I could guarantee would never be spoken by these people in face to face interactions and constantly denying friend requests from people I would not consider friends. After deleting my account, I never once regretted it. And I think that says a lot. It was really more of a relief to be outside of it all. How and why had a website taken over so much of my life? Why did I believe my online presence was so important? In my mind I thought "Oh, people far away will want to see what I'm doing." "There is no other way I'd stay in contact with such and such." "The pictures, what will I do without the pictures!?" 

The reality was, when I deleted my Facebook life, some close friends cared, but the rest of the world? No fucks did they give. The world kept turning. My social life suffered naught. The important people used phone calls, Skype, emails and text messages to keep in touch. And that was awesome. It forced certain friendships to develop in different ways and other friendships to fall away. No regrets. Last month I got a writing gig for an online magazine (check it out!) and the editor asked if I would open a new Facebook account. She would use Facebook as a forum to communicate with all of the writers at the same time. Also, an online presence is important for aspiring writers, artists, etc.

I agreed. At first I was going to use it solely for magazine communications, but then I thought "...all or nothing!" and I went for it. I began clicking every friend suggestion that was put before me. In a few days over 300 people from every life I have lived reappeared. There was a bit of shell shock. People whom I hadn't been "friends" with before I deleted my account, I now allowed. Ha. All or nothing! Lives spilling onto the internets for all to see. Terrifying. I was excited though. So much to catch up on - so many people to rediscover! 

And yet, I was fairly disappointed. Sure, there were some it was fun to find that have done/are doing exciting and adventurous things. But the majority were the saddest carbon copies of each other. Oh look, I got married! Oh look, I had a kid! Oh look, I had another kid! Here's a picture of my kid! And another one! And another one! ... Don't get me wrong, I love a cute kid, but people, nature designed kids to be cute. I'll be impressed when they're 20, aren't fuck ups and are contributing to society. Until then, one picture a month is more than enough. Also, get a hobby! Stop aspiring to be the exact same as all of the other terribly lame people and do something awesome! Take all those spare moments you use your damn Facebook and that adorable kid and show them what being a great person looks like. Volunteer somewhere. Visit old people and let them love on your child. Spend a few bucks and buy a coffee for a stranger or give it to someone buying gas. 

But I digress, and give you my conclusion about Facebook after a month of being back: 
1- It is fun to be back in contact with a handful of people I otherwise wouldn't be.
2 - It is not fun to watch stay at home moms use it to circle jerk each other "omg! Your kids are so cute!" "Omg! Thax! So are yours!" - again I say, get a hobby.
3 - Teenagers are vile and need some serious parenting and social network monitoring.
4 - The majority of those whom I am actually curious about and/or are doing anything noteworthy, well, they're rarely posting on Facebook.
5 - The cool kids all got fat or weird or boring or the wonderful trifecta of all three. And that pleases me and reaffirms every move I've made in life that has brought me to where I am today.

Cheers, Facebook! You are keeping me entertained and I'm okay with it.