Reminders

I wrote the following post several weeks ago, shortly after moving to the Portland area.  I hesitated in posting it, mainly because of the reaction I was afraid it might get.  But after reading Charlotte’s brave post on her blog Momaste about her own depression, I figured I should go ahead and post, too, regardless of what others thought.

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It’s time to get up, Melissa.

…..what?

You need to get up now.

Not yet.  I don’t think I can.

Take off the covers, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up.

…O-Okay.

Now take some deep breaths.  One thing at a time.

I am doing my best to listen to the voice inside my head.  The good voice.  That voice who can see the other side.  That therapist voice who always knows that things are going to be ok, even when I seriously doubt it.

It’s so hard to take my own advice.  I can’t count how many times I have told clients to try and provide themselves with reminders about how it feels to climb out of a depression, or how it feels after you’ve just left an abusive partner, how it feels when you’re loving life and you actually have hope.

We need those reminders of what hope feels like, and now I am needing them, because depression lies to us.

Let me say that again: depression lies.

Some of my clients remind themselves by journaling.  When they feel themselves slipping, I’ll remind them to go back and read the entries they made when they felt good about themselves.

Some of my clients use artwork they’ve made as reminders.  Others use music.  Or dancing.  It’s about whatever works.

Step one is to get yourself to actually make the reminder.  Step two, which is the harder one, is to get yourself to pull out the reminder when you need it most.

I actually got this idea from one of my very first clients who used this technique naturally.  She recognized that the abuse in her relationship ran in cycles, that her manipulative ex changed his tactics from time to time, and that she needed a reminder as to why she left him, especially when he was beginning to turn the charm back on, or when things got particularly hard on her own.

She knew just how strong her denial could be, and so she knew that she needed a real, tangible reminder.  Something she couldn’t ignore or explain away.  So she cleared out a drawer in her house, and she filled it with things her ex had broken.  Picture frames, phones, even pieces of a dining room chair.  Every time she needed reminding, she would open that drawer and touch all the broken pieces of a life she had left behind.

I used her amazing example with many clients, and right now I’m needing to use it for myself.

Because sometimes I feel like my hope has leaked out of my drawer.

Now I need you to brush your teeth.

I don’t feel like it.

You’ll feel better afterwards.

…will I feel better, ever?

Yes.

How do you know?

Because you’re still listening to me.

~~~

Tell me, what do you use as a reminder of hope?

Two poems, one story

Every once in a while I try my hand at some fancyass prose just to see what happens.

Occasionally I come up with something with which I am fairly satisfied, and two of those recent examples are here and here.

For the first poem, Bending Slightly in the Breeze, I didn’t set out to write a poem initially.  I drive past several sunflower fields on the way to work each day, and I think, when they are in full bloom, they are one of the most beautiful sights on earth.  After several trips back and forth, I realized that almost every single flower faced east.  I still don’t know why that’s the case (anyone know?), and I found it very interesting.  Also, the entire field on a small hillside just makes it look like the country is on fire with joy, especially as the sun dips low in the sky at the end of the day.

I tried taking a picture of the fields with my phone as I drove by (not the safest thing, I know), and the pictures just didn’t do them justice.  Not even close.  It was then that I grabbed my phone one morning and recorded a voice memo of what it was like to drive past the flowers, and that eventually morphed into the poem.

I wondered what it would be like to be one of those flowers.  They looked like they were all patiently waiting for something…but what?  Anyone see the movie City of Angels?  It reminded me of when the angels would gather on the beach every single morning to watch the sun rise and hear the glorious music that came with it.  Perhaps these sunflowers were echos of those angels.  What would it be like to be among them?  I wanted to see what they saw.

Links to source

For the second poem, This Was Where She Belonged, I again thought of the sunflowers since they remind me of the hills being on fire, but it was also inspired by some real, scary flames.  Recently, my partner’s place of business was threatened by a grass fire.  It’s a remote area with only one road as an entrance/exit and he and his coworkers were not allowed to evacuate for fear they’d clog the route for emergency vehicles needing to get in.  After a very tense hour or so, the fire was put out about 100 feet from his building, after his office had begun to fill up with smoke.  Needless to say, I was very happy to see him after work that day.

Back to the poem, I imagined my human/sunflower (notice her feet were still rooted in the soil) from the first poem threatened by a fast-moving, evil, destructive grass fire.  The last part of the poem was about…acceptance, I suppose.  She couldn’t outrun the fire (indeed, I was trained in such matters as a summer camp counselor), and so she accepted…her fate, whatever that may be.

Maybe the fire would spare her.  Maybe she’d get burned and rise from the ashes.  And maybe the fire would get put out in the nick of time, just 100 feet away.

This was where she belonged

The hillsides came alive as flaming horses streaked across the horizon.

Galloping, galloping with an urgent passion.

The frantic roar grew, amplified by an unseen power.

Instinctively, she knew she could not outrun them, even though the voices in her mind were screaming to be heard over the din.

Instead, she was rooted in place, captivated and unable to escape.

With wide eyes, she allowed her body to lie down and sink into the soil.

The glow illuminated her face and played with the stinging hot tears mixing with the earth.

Her hands dug into the soil, trapping dirt beneath her fingernails.

She waited.

This was where she belonged.

Transitional periods are hard

Hello there, Psychos.

I’ve missed you.  Well, I have and I haven’t.  It [my honeymoon] was actually a very nice break from blogging, from wedding crap, from my job, from the world.

I was able [read: forced] to completely unplug whilst on a giant ass boat in the middle of the Mediterranean, and it felt good.  Wireless was crazy expensive on the boat, and the only things I used my phone for was as an alarm clock and to stitch together amazing panoramas of European villages I want to retire to (in like 5 years).

But it’s interesting, because now that I am back, I want to write, I feel the need to write, but I don’t know what to write about.  I also want to put a post between me and my last one…so here you go.  I just started typing to see what comes out.

So I started this post several days ago, and just last night I got a surprising email – my Post Wedding Blues post is going to be Freshly Pressed, and my first reaction was not excitement.  I think my first worry was that I’ll get all this unsolicited advice about how I need to look on the bright side and how I shouldn’t dwell on the wedding, it’s the marriage that’s important.  (A side note about advice like this – I find it very interesting that many people in our Western culture have a hard time tolerating sadness, whether it’s their own or someone else’s.  We’re taught very early to act like everything’s fine or to cheer people up rather than just accept and deal with what is.  Perhaps this is a post for another day…) I’m wondering if dealing with all the FP-ness is going to hinder or help my fragile mood as of late.  Being FPed is an honor and a part of me is excited – maybe it’ll give me that push to start really writing again – but it’s also a vulnerable place to be.  I’ll get a lot of exposure from all different kinds of people and that can be awesome but it brings about just that – the feeling of being exposed.

My depressed mood hasn’t all been about wedding stuff.  I had a lot of fun on my honeymoon, and I was able to just be in the present for the vast majority of it, but we came home to a hurricane of an apartment and it’s driving me crazy.  We registered for crap for a house we don’t yet have, and that crap is now piled and shoved into our tiny two bedroom apartment.  Right now I feel like I am drowning in stuff – the walls are closing in.  More importantly, B and I both came home to jobs from which we’ve learned all we can, and we both feel that it’s time to move on – professionally and personally.  At this point, before we’re able to actually make these major changes, I am not sure how I am supposed to keep this feeling of unrest from eating me alive.

The only answer so far has been for me to clean, organize, pile, and give shit away like a maniac on speed.  I obsess over what I can give away next, or how I can maximize my closet space beyond what I’ve already done.  In my calmer moments, I am also able to reassure myself that this period of my life is transitional, it’s temporary, and I will get through it.  Plus, now I have an amazing husband to get through shit with, and that’s the best part.

Post wedding blues

I’m really sad about the way my wedding went.

It wasn’t what I wanted.  It wasn’t what we had planned for over a year, and what I have anticipated for years, and I desperately want a do-over.

So many things went wrong that I don’t really know where to start.  But I do know that I’m having to grieve the loss of the biggest, most important party of my life, and that I’m having to grieve the violation of my expectations, which has always been a tough one for me.

We had issues with a lot of vendors.  The bartender showed up late, our ceremony started late, the on site coordinator was shit and was often nowhere to be found.  The DJ introduced us with the wrong fucking name.  Staff started cleaning the wedding up before it was even over, and someone moved my evening bag from the sweetheart table, delaying our planned exit.  The town car was late picking us up at the end of the night, and then they even drove us to the wrong hotel.  The worst part, though, was that I suffered late stage heat exhaustion and eventually went to the ER in the wee hours of the morning after the wedding.

I’m pretty devastated.  I feel like I have postpartum, but for weddings.

A lot of things went right, and I did manage to have a good time, and I am so thankful that I was physically able to finish the wedding.  The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and went better than both Brian and I anticipated.  We wrote our own vows and they were absolutely perfect.  We made each other laugh and cry…. I got to marry my best friend in the whole world.

After the gorgeous ceremony and before I fell ill

After the gorgeous ceremony and before I fell ill

But there was so much I didn’t get to do that I really wanted to.  Brian and I didn’t get to do our planned first dance.  We didn’t get to do the father/daughter and mother/son dances.  I wasn’t able to wear my gorgeous dress for the whole night.  I barely tasted the food and I didn’t even get to try the ice cream sundae bar that I was just so, so excited about.  We didn’t get to go up on the hilltop and have the sunset pictures taken of us under the oak tree.  I was really looking forward to that.

So, as you can tell, I have a lot of mixed feelings.  They come and go depending on my mood and energy level.

I felt like I needed to write about this….but even as I read back what I just wrote, there’s just nothing I can put down that will accurately capture the sorrow and disappointment I feel.

I’m really working on honoring my feelings and allowing myself to feel sad about the bad parts, and happy about the good parts.  And I know it’s going to take a while before the happy outweighs the sad.

It makes me sadder still when I realized I was dreading being asked by friends and coworkers (and fellow bloggers) about how the wedding went.  It’s really hard to talk about when 1) the person asking is expecting a glowing report, and 2) I don’t feel like bursting into tears at work or in public or to someone I don’t know very well.

One thing that helps is when others don’t try to cheer me up, and instead allow me to feel sad about it.  Yes, I did get married, and yes, I have much to be thankful for.  But had Brian and I just wanted to be married, we would have gone to the courthouse a long time ago.  We wanted a celebration.  We wanted a wedding just like most others, and I feel robbed of that experience.  Of course I didn’t expect things to go perfectly, but I didn’t expect such a chaotic let down.

We leave for our honeymoon on Wednesday and my fear is that our sadness will get in the way of us having fun.  At times it probably will, and we’re anticipating needing to take some time to grieve together.  We also plan to have fun, and we know that having fun will be unavoidable because we’ll be on a boat in the Mediterranean and I’ll be stuffing my face with gelato and pizza.  And we’ll be with each other, because in the end, that’s all that matters.

This has been really hard to write, so thanks for reading this far.

Personal meets Professional meets the Internet

If y’all enjoyed reading my guest post on Black Box Warnings on what it’s like to be a therapist, then I can also recommend a fabulous piece by Ally at Dream Electric!

Ally is a mental health professional in the UK, and she interviewed me and another psych blogger on how we manage and present our professional and personal selves in the online world.

Check out the post here!

Bending slightly in the breeze

A woman found herself passing by an entire field of sunflowers.

Equally spaced, their columns and rows stretched out for acres, all lined up as if they were trained and ready.

Their dark faces, framed by flaming licks of yellows and oranges, all faced east.

They stood at attention, silent and patient, bending only slightly in the breeze.

The woman entered the field and nudged carefully, slowly between the bright-faced soldiers, quickly disappearing into the tall shadows.

Down the columns and across the rows.

She paused.

She turned east to follow their gaze and wiggled her feet into the soil, rooting them in place.

She took a deep breath; her chest rose and fell.

She stood at attention, silent and patient, bending only slightly in the breeze.

An unbearable feeling

Ok.  So this whole Boston thing has been weighing on me this week and I feel so pent up today that I just need to word vomit and vent…

So I imagine this post will be really raw, unorganized, and frenzied….kinda like how I feel.

I’ve felt particularly numb ever since Monday when I saw my Boston friends on Facebook start posting about bombs instead of about running and celebration.  For a bit, I honestly didn’t understand why I felt this way…but I think it just had to settle in.

This is the first time for me that a tragedy of this magnitude has felt so close to home.  Sure, I live in Northern California now, and I was born and raised here.  But I lived for 2 years, from 2006-2008, in Brighton, Mass while I earned my Master’s degree at Boston College.  I lived on Comm Ave., a few blocks away from BC and directly on the marathon route, just after Heartbreak Hill.  Right now, all those areas are locked down.

I was a spectator at the marathon, cheering on the runners, in awe that humans actually put themselves through such peril so they can say they’ve accomplished something awesome.

That place on Boylston where the bombs went off?  I’ve been there, I’ve walked that street before, where blood now stains the pavement.  It’s really hard for me to wrap my mind around this.

I have a lot of former classmates still living in the area, several of which who were at the marathon that day.  One of my bridesmaids doesn’t live very far away.  My dad went to MIT, where an officer was killed last night.  My parents first lived together as a married couple in Cambridge, which is now shut down.  I have an aunt, uncle, and cousins living in Cambridge right now.  My aunt and uncle are journalists and my aunt still went to work today to cover the story.

I spent time processing all that is going on with a client this morning who also has ties to the area, when I can barely process this myself.

I am worried.  I am so sad.  I am also so angry.  My client this morning made a comment that the tragedy isn’t about her or me personally, so why would we make it about us, about the fact that we feel close to Boston?  I see the point, but you know what?  This may not be about me, but it involves me.  It involves everyone.  I am involved because my loved ones shouldn’t have to lock themselves in.  They shouldn’t have to be afraid.  People should be able to be a part of a public gathering and be safe.

It pisses me off so much that these two young men (maybe more?), younger than myself, can wreak so much havoc and cause so much physical and emotional destruction.  That they took from us….took power?  A sense of safety?  Took life.  All of the above.

Shame on you.

I also hate feeling so paralyzed.  Because I feel such a personal connection to this crisis, I either want to help or I almost want to be a part of it, experiencing it along with the people I am worried about.  Because then, if I was there, at least my paralysis would feel justified.  Here, I was just able to take my Friday walk to go get lunch, and I almost felt guilty for doing so, because I know people in Boston can’t do that right now.

I can handle feeling mad, and even feeling deep sorrow.  But feeling helpless, powerless?

That’s such an unbearable feeling.

Eerie Images From An Empty Boston and Cambridge

UPDATE: a friend just sent me this piece, and it very much describes how I feel.

A Walk in the Cold

On Fridays I usually take a walk from my office to the local grocery store a few blocks away to buy a sandwich for lunch, or a coffee, or both.  Today I was feeling particularly antsy and restless, so the walk felt really good.  Invigorating.

It’s been particularly cold here the last week or so (meaning that I’ve had to scrape ice off my car at 8:45am more mornings than not…which is cold for not-the-mountains-in-NorCal) and I packed one of my mom’s hand-knitted slouchy hats into my bag and it came in handy for the walk today.

I walk fairly fast compared to most people I know.  My family was raised with German common sense and efficiency – you just gotta get there fast.  Dilly-dallying is for the weak.  I am The Short One at 5’6″ in a family of basketball players and giraffe lasso-ers, so I learned to pump my legs at twice the speed or be left behind to eat their dust.

Needless to say, I found myself at the grocery store in a very short amount of time.  As I walked back with my delicious white chocolate mocha, I had the realization that I’ll be 30 soon.  Thirty.  This is the first time in my life where my age is starting to sound old, and that’s kinda scary.

This, of course, brings up a lot of existential issues, one of them being regret.  I worry a lot about wasting time.  Too often I find myself waiting for things, and that takes me out of the present.  I wait for the weekend.  I wait to get married, buy a house, have kids.  Hell, some days I’m looking forward to coming home from work and I haven’t even left my apartment yet.  I don’t want to live like this, and I worry about looking back on periods of my life and regretting that I didn’t do more, whatever that means.

But I suppose I really do need to figure out what that means.  I’ve asked myself what it is I really want to spend my time on, and right now, I think the answer is wrapped up in three themes: I want to spend time creating, I want to spend time (and money) seeing the world, and I want to spend time cultivating relationships with people I love.

1. Creating

I want to invest more time and energy into writing.  Could this really go somewhere?  I feel like I need to give it a fair chance.

I want to set aside a place and more time to paint.  I think I’ve only done two major paintings in the past 4 years or so, and that makes me sad.  I have oil paints that I haven’t even learned how to use yet.

2. Travel

There are few places on this earth that I don’t want to see and experience.  I’m pretty thrifty with my money, but I have no problem spending it on plane tickets, museum tickets, and amazing food half a world away.

3. Relationships

The time I spend at work with clients who come to me at their lowest and in the most need has really highlighted how important friends and family are to me.  There is nothing like spending time with healthy, supportive people to recharge my batteries and remind me that not everyone in the world is either a victim or a perpetrator.  I’m also reminded that life doesn’t feel worth it if it’s not shared.

I also can’t wait to create a family of my own and have a relationship with little people who are half me and don’t even exist yet.  This part overlaps with the first theme of creation, although I hope my future kids aren’t offended by being lumped in with blogs and watercolors.  I’m sure they’ll be too screwed up to notice, at any rate.

So.  Are there ways to begin working on these things now and stop waiting for them to magically happen?  Absolutely.

Are there ways to stay in the present and stop waiting?  Yes…This is the part where I should actually practice what I preach to my clients.

I didn’t really start out to write a new years resolutions-ish post, but I suppose I just did.

Sometimes just taking a walk in the cold can do a person a whole lot of good.

I. Have. Arrived.

Holy shitsnacks and crapnuggets, you guys!!

I HAVE BEEN FRESHLY PRESSED!!!

Incredulous with joy!Notice I had to black out the porn sites I was visiting.

Incredulous with joy!
Notice I had to black out the porn sites I was visiting.

I am surfacing briefly from the orgy of likes, page views, comments, and follows that is currently blowing up on my phone and browser…and let me tell you, this shit is satisfying.

I feel validated beyond any ego-stroking therapy session, so thank you to everyone who stroked my furry walls!

I got The Email on Wednesday and was then left to alternate between manically refreshing WordPress.com and stuffing chocolate in my mouth while pacing my hallway in anticipation for about a day and a half.

As soon as I read the email, I immediately felt this rush of excitement and pure joy…which quickly melted away into intense, crippling anxiety.  Holy frick!  People are actually going to read the word vomit that I splash onto my very small corner of the internets.  I quickly went back to reread the post I had written to ascertain just how humiliated I should plan to be.  Did my post contain any typos?  Was it funny?  Was I going to get any snotty comments?  As I read, I remembered that I had written this post all in one sitting while I was still suffering from the tail end of a 3 day long migraine (what possessed me to do that, I have no idea.  On second thought, maybe it was the meth).  I also realized that I was actually proud of this particular migraine-stupor-induced post.  Feeling oddly content and allowing some of the excitement to return, I sat back and awaited the orgy that I woke up to this morning.

Funny, I started this blog not considering myself a writer; I was just a therapist with an anal Freudian complex who wanted to dick around on the internet and see what happened.  And now…I guess I’m kinda a writer.  And that feels kindof awesome.

So far today, I have gotten more than 4 times the page views I got on my previously best day of blogging, which is also probably 10 times the views I get on an average day…and counting.

I hope I have plenty of lube.