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Watering the grass

4 Jul

Last night I went to urgent care, not because my need for care was overly urgent but because I’d been dealing with a health issue for nearly two weeks and the medication my doctor prescribed was not effective. And it was a Monday at 8 p.m. and today is July the 4th (all offices closed) so I needed some urgent care.

The nurse asked me the questions they have to ask: is anyone hurting you, do you feel safe at home, have you had thoughts of self harm? I said no (no one is hurting me), yes (I feel safe, except when Melvin is bitchy), and no. The last one was a lie. At the time I hesitated because I was there to get help for something else, but later as I lie in bed my answer came back to me. I have, in fact, had thoughts of self harm the last few days.

I have said before that this thing — affliction, dis-ease — is one I’ve lived with for most of my life. It’s like your arthritis or gastrointestinal problem. Under normal conditions, when I am sleeping and eating and exercising and spending time with people who love me and experiencing life on life’s terms, I do not have an issue with this thing. But at other times, when I am stressed or worried or not caring for myself, it flares up.

Today, and yesterday, and the day before, this thing is on my mind, and it isn’t because I feel sorry for myself or want you to feel sorry for me. In this case, it’s because I feel overwhelmed and trapped and powerless in a situation. I tried to talk about it, but I still cannot let it go.

It’s important for me to write about this because I know other people feel the same and suffer in silence, hoping the thoughts will just go away. We need to be able to share these feelings without fear that we will be shunned or mocked or locked away. We need to share so that we can get help if we need it.

Today I choose not to feed the fear that makes me believe the world would be a better place without me, or that I am powerless, or that no one loves me. I choose to water the grass on my side of the fence. I welcome your help if you can share some of your healing, heavenly water with me.

grass

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Giving thanks

10 May

It’s Grati-Tuesday. I am in a Facebook group of women (there may be men, or people who identify in other ways, but I’m not sure) who support and encourage each other. I used to see posts from Mona, the group’s leader, almost every day, but I have missed many of them of late. Today, however, I saw her post suggesting that we make a list of 15 things we are grateful for — and 20 if we didn’t feel like it. I don’t feel like it, so here’s 20:

  1. I am grateful for my sister, Megan, and her family. I moved here to be closer to them (and my other family members). I cannot express how grateful I am to be able to see them frequently.
  2. I am grateful for the opportunity to play games with and read stories to my nephew and nieces.
  3. I am grateful for hugs and kisses when I leave their house.
  4. I am grateful for my coworker who gave me a hug and told me she loved me today. She even said I was on her top 5 list of favorite people, and I know she meant it.
  5. I am grateful for another coworker who gives me a daily double fist bump.
  6. I am grateful for Charles, my Caribou bourista boyfriend, who makes delicious drinks for me.
  7. I am grateful for bacon. Let’s be real here.
  8. I am grateful for depression and the intense and frightening feelings I’ve been having lately because they allow me to reach out to and truly understand other people who are feeling suicidal.
  9. I am grateful for the friends who know what this feels like.
  10. I am grateful for the Facebook mental health support page.
  11. I am grateful for coffee. That should have been #2.
  12. I am grateful for Melvin.
  13. I am grateful for Instagram because it makes me feel popular, and yesterday a woman I follow commented on my post when I made her turkey kale appel meatballs and said my idea to add cider vinegar and sauteed apples to the sauce was amazing! Squeeee!
  14. I am grateful for my health.
  15. I am grateful that I can run.
  16. I am grateful for all of the teachers I’ve had and especially for my friends who are teachers today.
  17. I am grateful for the YouTube video I watched this morning. It was a powerful message from the father of the young man  who died of suicide last week in the town where my mother lives.
  18. I am grateful for surprises.
  19. I am grateful for laughter.
  20. I am grateful for Mona, who encouraged me to ponder gratitude today.

Taking life seriously

3 May

Life is too important to be taken so seriously, I was thinking as I angrily ripped cilantro leaves from the stems so I could finish making this guacamole to eat with the plantain chips that just came out of the oven. That was the actual phrase running through my mind.

I was fuming about something that happened on a Facebook support group in which I was a member — until the thing happened and I promptly left that stupid group. Serves them right. See how they fare without me and my years of therapy-produced wisdom.

Cliff’s Notes version: In a group about Whole30 Reintroduction (where you begin to systematically add back into your diet foods that you had stopped eating during your Whole30) I posted a question about chocolate. My post was deleted because chocolate is a trigger for some people…who are learning to deal with their food-related issues and searching for the happy destiny known as “food freedom.”

What the ever-living you-know-what?

So I was in my kitchen, tearing cilantro with a bit more gusto than is required to remove the leaves from the stems, writing in my head the diatribe I wished to post on Facebook, and chuckling to myself about adding to the post a picture of a candy bar or a bag of kettle cooked potato chips. And of course the irony of the situation was not lost on me.

I keep going back to the quote I can’t find, the one that was maybe a Facebook post written by one of my friends and not an actual famous person. It was about what we choose to get angry about or the weight of the thing that brings us down and what that reveals about us.

I have a friend who is preparing for another round of chemo. I have another friend who is recovering from a surgery. On Saturday, a family I know will have a service of remembrance for their family member who died last weekend of suicide. And I was upset that my post about chocolate was deleted in a group (of strangers on a social media site) where I was asking for support.

I knew, the whole time this was happening today, that I was taking it all way too personally. Have you read don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements? Don’t take anything personally is one of the agreements. “When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering,” he writes.

You guys, some days it takes so little to upset me, while on other days I fly through life without having to take my frustrations out on a cilantro plant.

I will be better tomorrow, and the guacamole will be better tomorrow, too. That’s how it is with guacamole.

Speaking plainly about suicide

2 May

Trigger warning: In the post, I am going to write about my personal experience with suicide and depression. I understand that this is a sensitive and painful topic. Please know that it is not my intention to hurt or offend anyone. I am writing because I believe this is an important issue that won’t get better if we refuse to speak about it.

***

Yesterday a young man in the town where my mother lives (pop. less than 3,000) died of suicide. I did not know him. I don’t know what happened or why, but I understand that his death was a shock to those close to him. No one saw it coming.

This news has hit me hard. These last few days I have been feeling down. Not very down, but especially blue. Particularly low. Depressingly…depressed. What is the modifier that explains I am not simply “sad” and about to feel a hundred percent better as soon as you tell me a good joke or hug me tight enough? I don’t know the best descriptor. I’ve been in the hole, and the news of this young person’s death is more meaningful to me today than it might be on any other day.

The other day, as I was turning into the parking lot behind my apartment building, I had the fleeting thought: Maybe the world would be better if I were dead. It came and went and I didn’t give it much weight, but a little piece of it lingered, waiting for today.

I have always thought of this thought as a symptom of an illness that I will probably have forever. It’s a chronic illness–sometimes I’m in remission for long periods of time, and then I have a flare-up. There is no warning. It doesn’t come on because someone made a mad face at me or because I don’t have a boyfriend or because it snowed. Before I realize what is happening, I’m in a black hole.

Depression is a sneaky, relentless bitch. It brings to the fore (in the middle of the night) every single mistake I have made in my lifetime and helps me imagine (in full detail) mistakes I have yet to make. It highlights all the people who dislike me and downplays the hundreds of people who love me. It points out my faults and weaknesses. It tells me that “someone is always listening” is complete bullshit, even though I know someone is, or will. It finds the one thing that will hurt me the most and says it over and over and over again. It convinces me that the world truly would be better if I had never been born.

I cannot be sure, but I imagine it is this way–and worse, yet–for others. Some of us live with this day after day until we can’t take it anymore. We don’t tell anyone because depression tells us that no one gives a good goddamn about us. We don’t want to bother anyone. We don’t want to make a big deal of it. We don’t want anyone (who hasn’t got a clue what this feels like) to offer advice. We just want it to go the fuck away.

Today was a hard day, but I am not in danger. I do not need to go to the hospital or call a hotline. I am remembering. I am mourning. I am worried. I am grateful. I am a little bit scared, but I will be ok.

I don’t want to say I am special because I know what it feels like to want to die and to try to die only to come out of it on the happy, shiny side, because that’s ridiculous. But for years, I have hoped that my ability to feel so deeply would one day become a gift, like a superpower that would allow me to literally feel another person’s pain and take it from them. Maybe it really is a gift. Maybe I already have that power.

I do want to say, “I am fucking listening.” Call me. Text me. Instant message me. Tell me exactly what you feel, the raw and real feelings, and I will not tell you to take a walk or a bath or a pill. I don’t know what I’ll say, but I just don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Remembering bits and pieces

26 Apr

I’m trying to lose weight. Fifteen pounds (as of today) to be exact. Usually I weigh myself on Thursdays. I use the scale at my gym, and I go there in the morning after I’ve used the bathroom (TMI) and before I’ve eaten breakfast. Today is Wednesday. I needed to weigh today because I can’t do it tomorrow.

Something has been off in my body and spirit for a week or so. I’ve had tummy troubles, and this morning I woke up with a terrible headache. Not that there are good headaches. Funny that I always feel the need to qualify my headaches so you know they are bad.

Anyway, headache. Didn’t want to get out of bed. Didn’t feel hungry or even want coffee, which is a sure sign that I’m in bad shape. Been feeling so, so, so very sad, and I don’t know why. Nothing has changed in my diet or my routine. I am not experiencing more stress. Yes, the weather has been rainy and cold and windy, but I live in North Dakota and it’s March.

So I was running late and I went to the gym, stripped off my coat and shoes, and stepped on the scale. I gained more than a pound this week. Last week I stayed exactly the same as the week before. Previously, I had been losing close to one pound per week.

I threw my coat and shoes back on and got in my car to drive to work, and I cried. Lip quivering tears with little whimpering sounds like kittens make. Over a weight gain. Really there has to be something more going on, because I’ve fallen into a funk and I can’t get out.

When I got to work and stepped out of my car, I was thinking, I wonder what would happen if I didn’t eat anything today.

Since I started feeling so low, I’ve had bits and pieces of a quote I believe I once read floating around in my head. It has to do with what gets us down — like you can tell a lot about a person by the things that get them down, or make them upset. I have been Googling the bits and pieces and can’t find it.

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This isn’t the one, but it’s good. And Einstein.

The quote itself doesn’t matter. What matters is that when I start crying about gaining (or not losing) weight and start thinking maybe I shouldn’t eat, it really makes me say, Geez, Wendi. Is that all it takes to get you down? Aren’t there more important matters in the world?

There are more important matters, and I have a lot to be grateful for, but at this very moment I know something is going on that needs my attention. There is a dis-ease in my body or spirit. Yesterday I thought about suicide — not making plans but just the thought that flies into and out of your head. It happens sometimes, and I know it’s important.

Instead of not eating, which I honestly don’t think I could EVER do, I decided to let go of two things today: the scale and tracking my food. It will be hard for me to do that, but ultimately I think it will help.

Thank you for reading this far. Please understand that I don’t want any advice about weight loss or mental health. I would, however, appreciate your support and understanding. Like, “I understand this feeling, Wendi. Is there anything I can do to help? Would you like a latte or a million dollars?” Like that.