A Moment

The day is cold and threatening snow and freezing rain as I sit in my car.

Just taking a moment.

Listening to Lake Michigan whisper harshly at the shore.

Hardly a wind and yet the waves sound their disruption.

Protesting their cold depths like the rest of us.

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The Trouble with Loving Yourself

Some of you may recall that I chose to get medicated for my depression a few months ago, and this is the not really obligatory but close to it, blog post describing my life thus far since making this life change.

 

It’s been hard, but still the best decision I have made for my own life.

 

It’s been hard mainly because there have been some unexpected snags. Side effect that the list they handed me when I was first prescribed the medication did not have on it. Ones I’m sure even doctors cannot predict.

The first change and trial I had with becoming medicated, was that I had to, and still am, learn who I am now. That seems really silly to say, and I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I find now more than ever I’m beginning to realize who I am and what was the depression talking. I find I am not as anxious as I was about most things in life. I’m finding that I really enjoy a lot of things in my life more than I once did, and I find that even though I can become tired out, I have more energy than I have had in a long while.

 

With these things can come a few interesting problems.

 

Discovering I like myself means I have discovered that I do have value, and with it comes a crisis of faith. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am struggling with my faith a little. I started to realize how so many people in my life I had once thought were spiritual leaders had a habit of being spiritually abusive towards me. While I recognize that this is not God’s fault, it is very difficult to trust much when you realize how much the Bible was taken out of context to control you. It has also made me very aware of how everyone is a little wrong, including myself, and makes me rethink a lot of what I have been taught as well as my perspective on it. God and I are in a state of healing our relationship from this, though I fear the journey will be long and full of many mistakes on my part. Still my trust in the Christian Church has made trust in God very difficult and getting back to speaking terms with God is something I have already struggled with for a long time.

Another issue that had been unforeseen, was my spending. As I have mentioned in past posts, I struggle with retail therapy. When I was depressed I shopped. Unfortunately I struggle with the same issue, but for the opposite reason. I like myself. I deserve nice things. So I shop. Something my husband and I are actively trying to curb, with small successes, but it is still hard when I am so good at wanting and feeling like the want is a need.

The last, and probably the weirdest result of learning to like myself, is how other people respond to it. Though, I understand very few people are not self critical. Most people have plenty they do not like about themselves and therefore find that they have a great deal of self loathing. I didn’t realize how much self loathing I had until it started waning away. Now that I like myself, I realize how full of myself I must seem. Even one of my coworkers has responded very badly towards me liking myself, and misinterpreted it as “making everything about me,” as he said only just aggressively towards me this morning (which I reported to HR because I love myself now and I don’t deserve to have my coworker talk to me like that). Yes, I talk about myself more now, because I like what I’m up to. I’m enjoying my friends and my life. I’m losing negativity and finding interesting and positive people to surround myself with and do life with. But of course, when someone talks about themselves a lot, it comes across as being full of yourself, when in actuality, I find that talking about me and my life, keeps me from talking shit about other people who are already full of their own negativity towards themselves and are just trying to figure out life like I am.

I’m allowed to be into myself. I’m allowed to love myself. I’m still learning what that looks like in a healthy way, because clearly shopping will only give me more stuff, and it’s just stuff and nothing more, but the fact of the matter is I’m putting efforts to learn it and heal from my wound. I have self worth now. I realize I am an asset. I am worthy. Of what? That’s still being figured out, but I know it is more than what was once the status quo.

Overall I find the benefits to my life out weigh the struggles. Some changes I’ve made in my life as a result of liking myself and having less anxiety are:

1) I got dread locks. I just always freaking wanted them and I bought myself some extensions and braided them in myself. I love them.

2) I’ve been doing more personal journaling which means keeping more of my life to myself than putting it out here in public. Which is probably healthier for me.

3) I’ve been pleasure reading more again.

4) I HAVE A SOCIAL LIFE. I joined a book club and hang with friends just about once a week instead of once a month like in the past.

5) I’ve been investing more of my efforts into my small business which has reaped some if not many benefits to my income.

6) I feel more productive at work. I’m making fewer mistakes than in the past.

7) I’ve added meditation a couple times a week to my schedule. I like how relaxing it is. I also realize I sucked at breathing and am better at it now.

8) I’m exercising again.

9) I’m getting my health back on track.

All of these things are worth investing my time in. I enjoy them. I enjoy myself. Life feels like it has a little more meaning and mystery again.

Coming Out of the Woods

I finally took the plunge and got medicated in December. I wasn’t really thrilled about the decision, but as I filled out the mental health questionnaire that most doctors offices make you fill out every yearly checkup, it became more and more clear to me that I wasn’t doing as well as I thought I was.

I brought it up to my doctor again and since the last medication we had tried last year was giving me so much stomach and sleep trouble, I had weaned myself off of it shamelessly. I admitted this to her, and she prescribed me Prozac.

Isn’t that for the people who are really bad? I thought to myself trying to push away the guilt and shame I felt for needing help. I had to give something a chance to at least discover if it works. I was desperate, though I hadn’t known it before. I was desperate to not feel so anxious and depressed that thoughts of suicide were frequent. I was desperate to find out if this was really myself or if there was something working against who I really was.

I realize medication doesn’t work for everyone. I had low expectations of this experience, because I had been so failed for so long before. I know pills are not cures, but treatments. I know that some people are very discouraged and emotionally effected by their depression to the point that they often give up on meds before they even have a chance to start working, or they stay on meds that are hurting them because they desperately want it to work and hope if they just wait longer it will. Medications are never cures. They are helpers as well as hurters in some cases, and by no means was I willing to give up on myself now. But, I struggled with this decision for the first week. Because nothing seemed to change, and I wanted a quick fix like so many others.

Still, I had to try.

The third week into my medication my manager came into the office and addressed me.

“You’ve been quiet today. You okay?”

“Me? Yeah, I’m just really plugging away at these package designs today.”

“I see that, you’re usually not this quiet though.”

“Oh…well nothings wrong just really focused I guess.”

Wait…what? I’m focused? 

I have never been an organized or focused person. Most days at work I’m a busy anxious  bee buzzing around the office unable to focus on anything…and I’m super chatty. I started realizing after that encounter I was able to sit still. I was able to work through the whole day without having to get up and pace. I wasn’t anxious, I just was working. That was the first time in a long time.

In the lunch room a few days later a few snacks were laying out for the employees. Cookies and doughnuts as usual. I was refilling my water bottle when my coworker came in and made a comment about the snacks.

“Hey Em, are these good?” he said pointing to the cookies.

“I don’t know I haven’t had one.”

“What? You never pass up snacks.”

“Just had lunch dude, I’m not hungry.”

When I sat at my desk and began working again I thought about the scenario. I wasn’t hungry. I had never once in my life had a moment where I couldn’t eat. I never really felt full, and even if I was full, I never didn’t at least nibble on something little by little. I could usually eat anything at any time. In fact I’d say I was a constant over eater. How was I not hungry ?

What really sealed the deal for me was last week when we had a terribly icy rainy snow mixture. Since my car accident last May, I’ve struggled with weather, and as I pulled into a parking space at work I realized that there hadn’t been a moment of panic while I was driving in this weather. I wasn’t afraid of the weather. I didn’t even think of it until I was at my destination.

I was feeling normal.

It was still hard to adjust to the medication, not because I was experiencing symptoms, but because I began identifying what was a personality trait, and what was a symptom of my depression. That was hard to swallow for a little while, but the more I began to identify the changes I saw in myself, the more I realized how dysfunctional I really had been. I hadn’t had a stress cry in several weeks. I hadn’t had a suicidal thought in as long. I hadn’t had a panic attack or moment of feeling panicky either. My brain could actually reach a state of quiet…something I never thought I’d be able to do. I could read better. My memory was improving. My blood sugars were lower because I was no longer as anxious as I used to be and I wasn’t over eating. I was remembering to shower more frequently. I was able to get up in the mornings and not feel like I was hit by a truck. Social interactions didn’t feel so jarring or depleting, though they still were tiresome and I still felt like a nap would be very nice.

I was realizing I was becoming myself.

As of right now, I feel really encouraged. I’m starting to value myself more, and I’m better at setting boundaries. Self care is improving and my health is taking a turn for the better. I’m really encouraged by all of these things, but for the most part, I’m just so excited. I didn’t realize how crazy I had felt until I had it all calm to quiet and got rid of all the terrible anxiety that paired with my depression so violently.

As I said before, I understand not everyone has this kind of experience, and for those of you who were like me, I realize lots of people will be discouraged themselves over reading a success story. I had a lot of inner conflict about writing this post, mostly because I used to be really discouraged by people who were successful. Now that I feel like I’m getting better, I have so much empathy for those who are struggling and ready to give up.

Don’t give up, but please also don’t expect it to be immediate either. All you can do is be honest with your doctors and therapists as well as yourself and take life 5 min at a time if you have to. Celebrate small successes like actually eating breakfast or taking a shower and try hard not to be discouraged by all the things that feel like failures. If meds aren’t working, don’t settle for feeling like crap because you want it to work. If you can’t afford mediations, talk to your doctor about assistance programs. Do what you can and exhaust your options. It will suck. It will drain you. It will be a roller coaster. But there is a possibility of getting better, and it is worth trying for.

I know, it’s easy now that I feel like I’m getting to the other side of these problems to say things like that. I know that will make people who were like me before angry, and you know what? You’re so allowed to be angry. What is happening to you is not fair. Depression is mean. It’s violent. It’s so painful. It can turn on you in a moment. Even as I speak I know my body chemistry can change and suddenly these meds might not work. I could be back at square one. I just want to let people know that there is hope, and it’s allowed to be conflicting and complicated and make you upset because things feel so hopeless. Give yourself grace. Do what you can to keep trying.

 

 

Diabetes Awareness Month…is a joke.

So November has been diabetes awareness month, and I have to say I haven’t done much posting about it. Why? Because I fucking hate it.

I don’t want to be a diabetic. I hate this disease. I hate being obsessed with food and with counting carbs and needles and all the complications of everyday diabetic life.

I don’t want to make people aware of my disease…I want my disease gone. I want it eradicated like polio and small pox. I want it destroyed.

The problem is, I don’t think there will be a cure in my lifetime. Why? Because insulin is the sixth most expensive liquid in the world. The fifth most expensive is Chanel perfume. If that doesn’t tell you the priorities of common man, then I don’t know what does. Big Pharma makes money off my plight, and I for one am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

There. That’s the awareness I’m spreading. That diabetes awareness only educates people more on how to care for diabetics…care for….not cure. While I appreciate people being aware that I have a disease that causes me to need special attention…what I really would appreciate is a cure and making people aware of how much that probably isn’t going to happen.

Still I hope for it in my lifetime. Not for my sake, but the sake of so many others like me.

End rant.

Creative and Poor

I purchased a font this past weekend at the Wayzgoose, and I’m so discouraged by what a hard time I’m having with the poster I want to make using it. Either I over ink or under ink and my paper jumps and I just can’t get a good print out of it to save my life.

Normally I don’t get so discouraged, but this week, having spent so much time seeing what other people do with their own creativity, especially in the letterpress world, I’ve become quite discouraged by my lack of equipment, time, and creativity.

My talents usually lie in being a bit of a wordsmith. Yet, I haven’t found my knack for translating that into some kind of appropriate format with letterpress. Which is ultimately my goal. Usually it’s because I never feel like I have enough. Not enough images. Not enough type. Not enough talent. If only I could make my own type, but alas, it is another resource that I simply have no money for. Depleted and discouraged by the font purchase, I worry that perhaps I was not worthy to work with such a lovely font.

If only I were better at woodcuts or something. If only I had more time. More money. More original ideas when I needed them. A bigger and better press. A bigger and better shop. More lead slugs. Less distractions.

I keep trying to remind myself that I really don’t have to be more, but it still feels so discouraging when I feel like every time I make a gain in an artistic direction and I have an idea…I don’t have the resources to execute that idea.

It’s difficult being creative and poor.

Ultimately I know if I had the funds and the practice I could make some really awesome stuff. I’d just need to really be willing to dedicate myself to the design and put in more effort to make something really great. But between my day job, my life as a home owner and wife, and my lack of funds and resources… being able to work on my letterpress has been difficult, and though I try not to be discouraged, I find more often than not I’m comparing myself to those who have quit their day jobs and just work on their presses as a livelihood. They come up with amazing work. So much more beautiful than I have the capacity for right now.

Most days, I laugh at myself for having the audacity to call myself a printer. I’m hardly a designer most days. It’s like my creativity has left me. I’m all dried up and discouraged that this hobby is so expensive, and yet has captivated me so deeply.

I Voted

“My husband told me he doesn’t want me to get a job because we’ll lose our state health insurance.”

She poured out the sorrowful story I had once known all too well. People having to work a broken system to stay alive. In her case it was behavioral medications she and her family needed, with several members on the spectrum, and herself with severe mood disorders. All of them with suicidal tendencies, and the youngest of them 9 years-old.

It’s days like that that I feel so deeply we should have socialized healthcare, being chronically ill myself and knowing so many others who also are in situations like his, where woman can’t contribute to her own home an society by remaining unemployed to keep their public healthcare. It just breaks my heart.

I wouldn’t mind helping others stay alive and healthy given the opportunity. I pay for sidewalks I’ve never walked on, and parks I’ve never visited with my tax dollars, how much more important is the person who HAS walked on those sidewalks and visited those parks, clearly we give enough to help them enjoy those perks of our tax dollars, so why not help keep them alive and healthy?

It’s all I could think of when I voted yesterday.

While some have reason why they’d rather not have socialized healthcare, my heart only broke as I recalled listening to my friend talk on her situation. I too know that fear. I too hated the idea of having to abuse a system to stay medicated and alive with insulin costs only on the rise. I too was tired of paying high copays and deductibles, having more than half my paycheck going to keep me alive and very little else. I recall giving up food, internet, showers, and heat at different points in my life as I lived alone, just to make sure I could get my insulin. How much better would it have been if I could get more help and have reasonable payments on insulin? That would be nice.

Alas, while only time will tell, there is so much resistance to fight.

Therapy

“My first therapy appointment is Nov. 6th.”

“I’m so proud of you!”

I was too. I was so proud of her for finally taking a step towards dealing with her issues and setting goals. It was about time she started seeking more professional help in her situations, instead of coming to me for advice all the time.

My thoughts turned to myself then, and wondering why I don’t just buck up and go? I’ve been wanting to for a long time, and since getting married and navigating my relationship, I began feeling the depression worsen slightly, but not enough to alarm me.

Overall, my real issue is I’m too depressed to go.

Building another professional relationship with a therapist feels overwhelming. Becoming a better person takes a lot of time and investment, and I’ve invested a lot of my time in other things, like my friendships, hobbies, and work. You know, those things every human needs to survive and feel functional.

Most days I hardly feel functional at all, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look it.

I find any free time I do have is spent wishing for other things. I used to be such a content person, but since getting married I find I spend more time wishing things in my life could be different. Wishing that I had better things, prettier things, better health, better home, better everything. I’ve spent most days having the “I wants” instead of focusing on the “I needs” in my life. Really, I’d rather put my money to retailer than to my own health, because I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and the fewer specialists I have to see, the better. I’d rather have my money go to things I want instead of my needs. Thus, I retail therapy. A lot.

I feel terribly guilty after making purchases though, which makes me wonder why I enjoy buying things so much. Heaven knows how it got his way. The things I buy don’t make me a better person. They don’t make me feel better. They don’t really do much for me when it comes to self gratification.

Still the cycle continues, and I wonder why I don’t just do the right thing and go to therapy?

Because, I guess I really don’t want to.

Cluttered Brain

As I stared at the papers strewn on my desk, carelessly threatening to thrust themselves violently to the office floor, I began to realize how bad I was getting again. Lost in my own sad thoughts as I felt the coffee go cold in my hands, I listened to the hum of quiet voices. My manager, and one of our newest IT employees attempting to figure out why I had been constantly kicked out of the server over the last year and a half with no solid connection.

Their language was their own as my thoughts were mine.

The depression had worsened again, and I hadn’t realized the true nature of the beast until I observed my spaces. My desk was more untidy than it had ever been, strewn with printouts of projects long since over, pens found homelessness in the wide open of that rough and cluttered cityscape of papers, or found themselves makeshift homes between curls of white. They seemed oddly arranged, as if you could follow the trail of my indecision and anxiety. Each pen had been lost between thoughts and revisions, and in my unfocused stupor, replaced only to be displaced. My own basket stood empty, naked, and ironic amidst the battlefield of fallen soldiers. A lonely survivor of a brainstorm gone wrong and wild.

Wrong and wild. Like all my thoughts and actions had become.

When I arrived home and collapsed into bed, I noticed a similar scene on my dresser. Copious amounts of makeup was strewn across the black surface of my dresser. Vitamin and pill bottles accompanied it. All stood motionless and telling. The story of a young woman, struggling to wake up in the mornings, take her pills and vitamins, and look presentable at work with only five minutes left to spare. Eye shadows and glitters piled and overlapped like bodies in trenches after a melee between my face and my brain. Diet pills littered between the brushes told the rest of the tale. The war was tiresome between my perception of self and societies perception of beauty. It was never ending. Hopeless.

Never enough.

The clutter was only the physical sign of my depression. The sleepless nights and tired days were more of a silent and unseen / unnoticed battle. I would often lay awake watching my husband sleep and wonder if he would even care or notice if I went into another room for the rest of the night and tried harder to rest without distraction.

If only my brain wouldn’t betray me.

Lost

No one warned me that I would become less. Less creative, less beautiful, less emotive. Somehow in the hustle and bustle of life I felt like I started losing myself, but I couldn’t even begin to tell you when or how.

My God Kept His Scars

Lately my self image has been really really bad. After certain comments my doctor made to me my last visit I’ve been trying to lose about 10 pounds of weight…and I’ve managed to gain five since then. This has caused a lot of mirror looking. A lot of watching what I eat. And a lot of eating bad things out of rebellion because I have a lot of inner conflict about my image and what self-care really looks like. Because cookies feel like self care even if their 400 calories for two Girl Scout cookies. Pissed.

So I’ve spent a lot of time being self-critical of my physical image. Wondering if this meat bag is really worth taking care of. I noticed my stretch marks and scars from my insertion sites for my insulin pump. I wonder if it’s really worth trying to look and feel better. It’s not like the scars are going away for the stretch marks. it’s not like the weight is shedding like I had hoped it would, and as I’ve spoken of in previous blog post, the more insulin you take the fatter you tend to get. And as an insulin-dependent diabetic I can’t just stop taking insulin (a habit I got into in college when I realized I could just shed weight if I did) and expect to get better too.

Last night I felt particularly distraught over the state of my physical being. Which of course that’s silly because I’m not really fat whilst I am getting bigger, but my doctor’s very poor phrasing, when talking to me about my weight gain upset me deeply, and because I’m an introvert and I fear shallowness you can imagine I had a great deal of inner conflict while I sat there crying on the couch alone in the dark wondering if I was ever actually going to get healthier and thinner.

It has taken me so long to finally determined I wanted to do it the right way and here I was struggling with all these conflicts within my heart and my mind and asking God why.

While I sat in the dark and my cat curled up on my stomach purring loudly as if she knew that this was a problem I was having and my stomach was the cause, a thought occurred to me that felt very outside of my own actual thoughts. I’ve only ever had this happen to me once in my whole life where I had a thought occur to me that I’m pretty sure I could not have thought of on my own. But this particular thought was a quiet whisper to my heart:

“You have a God who kept his scars.”

For those of you who are not religious this probably doesn’t have a ton of meaning to you, but to me this means everything. I grew up in a Christian worldview, which I still hold to this day and while people call it “religious” I call it faithful. Granted I realize I really do suck at being a Christian. While I am a child of God and I have that assurance, most days I don’t feel like a child of God. And I know it’s not a feeling it’s simply a truth that is not dictated by my emotions, but emotions are so real. So very real. That they feel like the truth.

So on this night, while I laid in the dark and had this sudden thought occur to me, I broke into tears as it really penetrated my soul. My God really kept his scars. Those things I condemn on my own body I had a God who showed up in a room full of hundreds of his believers after he had passed and risen again with his body completely mutilated as a symbol of him truly passing and truly rising again, a task no mere human could ever accomplish and yet is the basis for my faith and my redemption. Did I not find those scars beautiful when I first came to faith, and do I not still find them beautiful now for what they represent? How have I gotten so far from my faith that I became so wrapped up in myself and my own body image that I would condemn the things that prove that I have survived as well? Furthermore, when my soul is what matters, why did I get so caught up in what this meat bag of a body was doing?

This is not to say I shouldn’t keep trying to get healthier. In fact, I still do want to get healthier and lose weight, and I still want to do it the right way despite how discouraged I am. But all the self-conscious feelings I had about my body image had suddenly melted away on this realization that I had a God who kept all those human imperfections even in his divinity.

Christ came back with scars. And he’s coming back again and I don’t know if the scars will be there or not or what that means, but at one point he showed up and kept his scars as proof of his love. Perhaps this means that I need to own my scars and respect them for proof of my self love?

As my husband once lovingly pointed out to me loving your neighbor as yourself does require you to love yourself… despite how selfish we feel like that statement can be. There’s a lot of humility that has to go into loving yourself. There’s a lot of grace you have to give yourself. And half the time we are our own worst critics, so we don’t. We either take responsibility for everything and feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, like everything is our fault, or we want to ignore the things that we’re supposed to take responsibility for. Either way, we become dissatisfied, self-critical, and harmful to ourselves. To the point where we can become so emotionally and spiritually distraught over something that we cannot change or undo. Why? Because were trying to play God when our brains and spirits were not meant to fathom the vastness of our own imperfection. If we were to suddenly become aware of everything we’ve done wrong and everything wrong with us physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually… we would be crushed and suicidal like most of us already are.

That is the whole reason we need God in the first place. For hope. Because to have hope in humanity is to know you will be failed. Even by ourselves.