Humanity is Hard

Butterflies are in my stomach frequently these days. It’s a new feeling, because my mind is aware of all that is happening around me…and it’s freaking out.

This could be called anxiety, but I’ve sat with it some and realized it’s simply my brain trying to cope with new information.

It started about a week ago when we increased the dose on a medication that has been working well for me.

The first thing that happened is that I started to find the games on my phone boring, which I admitted was probably a good thing. Then, I noticed that I couldn’t nap on command, my body was too aware and awake to zone out.

This is when I realized, “Holy crap! I’ve been zoning out A LOT!”

But now that I’m not zoning out, I’m also aware of things like boredom. My brain has a tendency to think boredom is actually bore-DOOM. It knows that if I’m bored then there is space for something to happen. Emotions can happen!

So I began busying myself, even when I didn’t want to be busy, because bore-doom needed to be avoided. Unfortunately, this, like my phone and napping, no longer kept those emotions nicely suppressed.

So now, I have this medicine that is helping me feel like a human being again…and the truth is, I’m not sure I want to be human being. It’s hard! I prefer zombie mode.

But I’m sitting with it, sticking with it, not running. Gently pressing into this wealth of feeling and trying not to be overcome. I wait for the shoe to drop with the next wave of unfamiliar emotions, the nerves in my stomach tightening with the sensation of butterflies.

The butterflies will pass. The pain/fear/anger/sadness or whatever emotion will come.

Then, it will pass. The feelings will pass. I will still be here.

Yes, I can handle this. I think…

Candidly,

Ash

I Have Made Peace with the Darkness

**The following is a piece I wrote almost a year-and-a-half ago. For today’s throwback Thursday, I’m remembering a time when it seemed depression was lifting. At the time, I felt a great deal of anxiety. These days, I would say that I am still making piece with darkness and the light is still blindingly garish. I suppose I’ve made peace with knowing that peace is an ongoing process. Hope you enjoy!**

I Have Made Peace with the Darkness.

It is the light I fear.

Lately, I have begun to see the light in the distance. Maybe its temporary. Mood swings have always been swift tides. At three o’clock in the morning, I might feel excitement, almost euphoria, at a new revelation brought on by lack of sleep and significant pondering. By seven o’clock in the morning, I want to die and can’t be alone or care for my children. That has been my life for a long time.

I did not want to meet the day.

I still have those moments. Recently, in fact. Yet, something is smoothing the turbid waters. A slowing of my spirit and soul. Consistency in the tides.

I dare not call it hope. It feels much different, as though I am exchanging one shadow for another. Depression and I have become friends. We’ve made peace. He’s here to stay and I am no longer surprised by his appearance. I am accustomed to this shadow, the darkness behind me.

It is the light on my face that is surprising, blinding. I am like Peter Pan looking for his shadow, confused at where it has gone, only to see it again momentarily on the wall in front of me…or is it behind me. Why is the light so bright? Where is my shadow friend? There he is! No wait, that’s something different.

I’ve come to know the name of my new friend. Now that I can feel his presence, I’ve asked his name.

{I am anxiety} He said.

We are not friends yet. He moves too fast. Coming and going, triggering and trapping. Where is he leading? Do I go there too?

I’ve read and re-read my notes from my therapy program. It seems depression has to do with the past, our darkest times. Anxiety is connected to our future, our light. He is the shadow when the light dawns.

My question then is whether High Noon will ever come. The moment when all the shadows are gone.

But perhaps that is only anxiety talking. Whether, what if’s.

Deep down, I know the truth in my soul.

High noon will come. {And pass.}

The sun always goes down. The shadows always reappear. The darkness always finds us. It is the ebb and flow of nature pointing to something archaic in my soul. Something that belongs to all mankind.

Growth happens in the darkness and the light. Some beings require more of one than the other. Shade plants, plants in Full Sun, etc. We know the only places plants do not grow – in full light, in full darkness, the nether regions – arctic and Antarctic.

Deeper still, growth is a cycle. The plant, the animal – they have no destination. Once gone, the ground of their resting place is made fertile.

New life begins again.

Day and night. Day and night. Day and night.

We return to the ground.

New life begins.

This is the rhythm my soul knows. My mind is learning it still. My new shadow has come.

Yes, I have made peace with the darkness. Now, I must make peace with the light.

Candidly,

Ash

Liberation isn’t a One Act Play

Last week, I took some time to schedule posts out into the future (this week). I’m trying to make this a real blog. Ha! You know, where things are posted daily (Monday thru Friday). It has me scared this morning. If I start trying to. post often and schedule things, then this becomes “real”.

In other words, I admit to myself that I want to do this. I want a certain amount of, for lack of a better word, success. I don’t know if other people experience this, but when I admit to wanting something – then I get really afraid.

Disappointment is the thing I fear most. Within disappointment, I usually discover that the error lies within my realm of responsibility. Whether I should have had lessened expectations or worked harder, I  find myself face-to-face with my flaws. In this, I know that I am not alone – facing my flaws does not rank high on my favorite list of activities.

Serial Quitter

I used to be vicious to myself. “Serial Quitter” was one of the nicer things I said to myself about nomadic quality. I’m a passionate and curious person. Ideas and activities seize me as though I am their possession. Literally, the compulsion to experience a new thing can often leave me running around like a chicken without a head.

Within months, I’ve tired of whatever situation or idea with which I’ve been enthralled. Continuing is like death to my spirit. My mom frequently tells me that just continuing on is necessary, despite how much I may dislike it. The end result will be worth it. The people I am “doing” the thing for? They are worth it. There is great wisdom in this.

**Today, I believe in God or that He/She at least made me. Just thought I’d put that out there.**

God didn’t give me the spirit and soul I have – for me to walk in death. There are people in the world who have more or less tolerance for displeasure in work. My husband is one of them. I’m often amazed at how he can tolerate the frustrations of being a case manager – a career field in which employees parish daily. (Seriously, someone needs to research the turnover in case management. It would change things. I am sure of it!)

I am not one of those people. I have tried (and failed) to do many, many things. If I were able to work a desk job or any other job, then I would be doing it. Trust me, the money alone is reason enough.

I’d rather be poor and sitting here writing these: words than anything else in the world. Most of the great writers were scraping by in their day-to-today too. I believe that is the way I made, the way I am built. Do I need to work on self-mastery, diligence and endurance? Absolutely!

Watch me do that with this blog and the other things I write in secret. I am capable of holding to something, sticking with it. It just happens to not make me money – yet. I am scared that I will disappointment myself in this journey and that the pain of it will be more than I can handle. 

It is the thing I fear the most.

Somehow, I always come back to these words of Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

The amazing thing about this poem is the idea of being liberated from fear. I used to think that  being liberated from fear meant having no fear at all. In actuality, it means not being mastered by fear.

Liberation isn’t a One Act Play

When I think of liberation, my mind often goes to the abolition of slavery in the United States. A war was waged for years and then finally freedom was decreed. Yet, it was years and years before the country steadied, over a century before civil rights were granted such as voting, the dissolution of segregation, etc. Even today, we see the remnants of slavery in things such as poverty, police violence and more. Liberated from slavery, the people would still contend with its aftermath.

Liberated from fear? I must contend with its aftermath. It does not own me. I do, however, still feel it, remember it. Right now, I’m in the process of creating a new economy, a new way of life, not ruled by fear. Even then, I will always be discovering the ways it has affected me and is affecting me. I guess, I want to say to myself and to anyone else out there –

Liberation, your freedom, is not instantaneous. It is a process. Daily, I will be walking out what that looks like. Today, it’s acknowledging that there is fear in my wanting, in my desires, in my dreams. Tomorrow, I will walk out my liberation by sitting down to write yet again.

See you then!

Candidly,

Ash

 

My Brain Off Drugs

I have an alarm set on my phone in two different apps to remind me to take my medication. I have routines to try and keep on track. Yet, my system failed me yesterday. Today, at 2:00 PM I discovered yesterdays pills in  my skirt pocket.

We were running all over the place for Evan. He had a neurology appointment and a pre-op appointment for his dental surgery. My regular schedule was scratched. Systems fail. Safeguards go off duty. It happens.

I use a journal to track trends in my mood, behavior and thoughts. It helps me to refer back to other times when I’ve missed medication. I’m able to prepare for what is coming or at least able to tell myself it will pass in approximately 72 Hours.

The Last Time I Missed My Meds…

One of my particular medications is quite dose-dependent. I’m not sure that is an official  way of describing it or anything. I just mean that when I miss even one dose, then everything goes to shit.

Late Afternoon on Day Missed – I start having enormous, incapacitating anxiety. I literally have to distract myself from reality in order to cope. Usually, I immerse myself in a book, while also playing games on my phone. I do the two things at once. The multi-tasking helps to keep my brain from catastrophizing everything in existence.

Day After Missed Medication – I’m hypomanic. Everything is wonderful. I accomplish all of the things. I consider starting a new career, business or non-profit (I’ve learned NOT to do this the hard way). I call people just because I want to talk to them. I decide to clean the house top to bottom at 11:30 that night. I go full steam until 4:00 AM, when suddenly I feel like I’m completely alone in the world, everything is awful. Suicidal thoughts come to mind so frequently that now I HAVE to sleep in order to not harm myself.

Two Days After Missed Medication – I am now completely catatonic. I awake to thoughts of self-harm. I don’t want to eat. I go back to sleep. I sleep 14 hours that day, because I cannot cope with the vicious thoughts bursting through my mind.

Three Days After Missed Medication – I only missed one day so things start to even out here. The last two days I took my medication on time so I’m stabilizing. I still can’t do much of anything. And this is why….

Thinking of Hurting Yourself…..Hurts

Maybe it is just me. Maybe I respond to thoughts of hurting myself more dramatically than others. Actually, I’m willing to strike maybe from those sentences. I’m super sensitive to my internal state. I’ve read that this is part of my personality (INFP). I’m willing to venture a therapist would have some recommendations on how to cope better. Right now, I’m still sans therapist (though I have an appointment in two weeks).

For me, thinking of harming myself, contemplating suicide – these are just thoughts. I don’t have to believe them. I don’t. I know they are lying to me or at the very least false notions. When these thoughts come a couple of times a day, I’m able to use this strategy/idea to calm my emotional reaction to the thoughts.

When I’m off my meds? There is no time. Literally, thoughts, images of cutting myself and other awfulness are so frequent that I can’t focus on anything else. Sleep is my only reprieve. I’ve learned HOW to go to sleep by deep breathing and repeating one phrase over and over.

{Breathe in.} All I have to do is sleep. {Breathe out.} All I have to do is sleep.

So I sleep.

When I wake if the thoughts are still galloping like a warhorse, then I put myself back to sleep. Eventually, I wake up and the thoughts are slow and I’m able to say to myself, “These are just thoughts. I don’t have to believe them.” Then, I go and reward myself for staying alive by drinking mountain dew or eating a donut. Honestly, its the only thing that can motivate me to get out of bed.

This is my brain off drugs.

I wonder if other people experience this too.

Candidly,

Ash

 

Let the Pain Move through You

I didn’t know adulthood would be this way.  I didn’t know there would be so much pain, so much less for which to live. Sure, there ARE so many beauties to behold, so many paths to walk, so many dreams to dream. Yet, there are just so many bills and crying children and lots of holding the space for people, for myself.

It’s a challenge – the holding of space. When I dreamed of homeschooling, I followed a lovely mother who had so much knowledge about “teach-moming”. She talked about holding the space like it was a sacred thing. Her idea appealed to me so much that I bought every printable, curriculum, book thingy she could possibly create.

The idea of “holding the space” was that sometimes the small people simply need people to be quiet. They need adults to be calm. They need others to pause. The instinct, when the shrill screaming of a small one rents the atmosphere, is to rush to them and say words, to instruct. I am instantly in their face and fixing/breaking things. I mean to fix things, but most of the time I break things instead. I break small spirits. I crush opportunities for growth and decimate plains of open feeling.

I found this principle, combined with assertiveness and observation, to be the most altering of any parenting technique. When I stopped and held the space, the small people could do all that they needed to do and so could I. The pause, the observance, the stillness allowed them to calm themselves. Sometimes they didn’t, but the holding of space also allowed me to calm myself. I always responded better when I was calm and still do today.

I found the idea of holding space to be similar to holding the note at the end of a song. In choir or band, we would look to the conductor and just hold the note, waiting for her to signal the stop. Similarly, in parenting a climax or crescendo might erupt from the small people and I would be the conductor to whom they were looking. If I cut the note short, then everyone was less satisfied. If I let it resonate, echo and dissipate, then the satisfaction of an ending could occur.

Pain is like a small child too. It needs me to hold the space – to pause, observe, resonate and diminish. It needs the process, the movement, the freedom to be the place where time and meaning great each other. The problem is that I didn’t have enough people holding the space for me while I was growing up. The eruption of pain was a geyser of uncontrollable proportions.

IMG_5388

Like a geyser with hot steaming water shooting into the air, my pain shot into the atmosphere spreading its deluge of scalding energy. It makes me imagine the person who discovered geysers. Frantically, they must have sought cover, desperately trying to reshape a world where water poured endlessly from the ground. Water from the ground – mind boggling.

This is the way I viewed pain my whole life, because the space was so rarely held for me. I needed someone to pause and watch, noticing the diminishing of the onslaught of scalding water from the ground. To show me that the geyser would come and go. Pausing to watch the magnificent spectacle was all that I needed. Watching it rise higher and higher, then temper to a small spray easing itself into a trickle that I could touch without being harmed.

This is the process of pain.

I need only let it move through me. Maybe through deep breaths or tears, perhaps pounding pillows or squeezing them tight, stepping into the heat or the cold and closing my eyes, walking the path in a nearby park, standing or dancing in the rain, listening to the music or holding the pregnant pause – these are things pain needs from me. These are the things I need from myself

“Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Allow it to be there. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace.” Eckhart Tolle

 

Revisiting Neck Lumps

After a round of antibiotics, the lumps in my daughter’s neck were still their humongous size. I waited and waited, just hoping they would disappear. Then she woke up cranky as hell and complaining that she was too tired for anything.

Helicopter parent descending.

We found ourselves at the urgent care this time, because my daytime vehicle is down for the count so an evening doctor visit was in order. The really kind doctor lady with great makeup and blond hair said that she really didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about. She then offered to run a CBC to rule anything out, speaking in code so the child would not panic. To my horror, I said, “Yeah, I think if we are here, then we should just rule anything out.”

The really kind doctor lady nodded and said she would let me break the news to the small one. Thanks, really kind doctor lady. Thanks…

I then told my daughter that she would be stuck with needles. She responded with the appropriate level of screaming and crying, “Why, God?!?! Why?!?!”

I said that we just needed to be sure that everything was okay. In my mind, I felt insanely guilty. The truth was that the CBC was for mommy, to alleviate all worry and concern.

What kind of horrible, terrible, no good, very bad mothering is this?

I mean, what kind of parent subjects their child to needles simply to relieve niggling anxiety? God, that is f***ed up.

The whole thing is over now. On the way home she wisely said, “I’m just going to remember the frosted lemonade and not the blood drewing.”

Yes, forget the blood drewing. Please.

In recounting the story to her older sister, she said it was “no bid deal” and “not that bad”. Older sister, God love her, had the appropriate amount of awe and respect, offering her a piece of candy out of deference. She was proclaimed a superhero and donned her band aid like it was a cape and mask, smiling with pride.

I still feel guilty, but mostly I feel relieved. Relieved, because the blood work came back normal, but also because the child is clearly not scarred for life by the experience. Will she still need therapy later on in life? Absolutely. Will this incident be the worst thing she recounts to her therapist? Probably not.

And then, the familiar anxiety besets me again.

“Hello, old frenemy.” I say to her. “What do you have for me today?”

“Someday, your precious daughter will need therapy or, at the very least, a monumentally awesome friend. Someday, bad things will happen to her. In fact, maybe they already have. Maybe those bad things are you. Maybe they are your family….”

I let the anxiety drone on for awhile, but then I remind it of something.

“Maybe pain isn’t the enemy. Maybe it’s a teacher, a mentor, a guide, a shepherd.”

Maybe, the best word in existence.

 

5 Imaginary Lives

One of my (new-to-me) writers shares that she plays a game when she’s lacking inspiration. She images 5 alternate lives for herself. Then, she goes and does one thing in each of those areas and helps her feel more like herself. How is it that pretending to be someone else makes her feel more at home in herself?

I have no idea. It makes no sense to me, but I am almost certain that she is smarter than me; if not smarter, then she is definitely wiser. She has *published* work.

I’m taking a stab at this and I wonder how amusing my 5 imaginary lives are going to be. So here we go.

In one of my imaginary lives, I am a great writer of literary fantasy with multiple published series. Additionally, I am single and hot, because that makes sense, right? I mean, this is a fantasy, right?

Dude, do I fantasize about being single? Hmm. Yes, but not in the usual sense. To me singleness represents a world where alone time is mine anytime I want it. As a mom, a wife too, that is my real fantasy. *Please, God, let me pee in peace. I swear I won’t curse while changing diapers!*

Imaginary life number two. I’m Josh Groban’s long lost love. We meet, date, get engaged and start touring together, because in this imaginary life I am DEFINITELY as good a singer as Joshy.

Imaginary life number three, I live in Africa and have a home where I raise tons of orphans. There is no struggle, because all medical care and financial needs are met by my various generous donors. I am single in this experience as well.

I’m starting to be scared by my secret desire to either be single or engaged to Josh Groban. Also, I have no interest in being married to Joshy. Not sure why, really. Apparently, my imaginary self is commitment phobic.

Imaginary Life number four. I am Oprah’s REAL best friend. Enough said. I am not afraid of this commitment.

Imaginary Life number five is an interesting one. I am a pastor’s wife. Dude, even my imaginary self is inhibited by gender roles. Damn her! I have many children and am revered church-wide for my awesome mothering, wife-ing. Maybe I am even in charge of the women’s ministry and I make it so awesome that I become famous in all the best church circles.

Eww. I don’t like that last one. Rather, I judge that last one, but seriously, it sounds awesome to be lauded for just being a woman. Interestingly, I feel that there is very little that is laud-worthy in my mothering, wife-ing right now.

Alas, this silly exercise has relieved some of the anxiousness I am feeling pre-period. It also shows me the things that deep down I am wanting, craving. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Imaginary Life 1 – I want to write. I want to write fiction. Hmmm, interesting. I don’t do much of that. Maybe I’ll try after I post this.
  2. Imaginary Life 2 – I want to sing. I even want to sing with people. How astounding! Normally, I don’t like people that much. Ha! Yet, I know this is true.
  3. Imaginary Life 3 – My mothering/parenting isn’t constricted by finances or medical needs.
  4. Imaginary Life 4 – Obviously, Oprah can make imaginary lives 1-4 happen. Oprah is like the scapegoat for dreaming. Don’t know what to dream? Dream that Oprah is your best friend and then anything you want subsequently will be handed to you. Because I’m sure Oprah is that enabling. **Massive eye roll** Even Gayle has worked for her spot in the light.
  5. Imaginary Life 5 – I want someone to notice, to see – me. To see all of the little things and actually think they are freaking amazing. Wouldn’t it be nice to be extolled for sweeping, scrubbing dishes and pee stains, human or otherwise? Yes, yes I think so.

So what’s your imaginary life and what does it *mean*?