Honor the Girl Inside

I used to push through things. Difficult things. Easy things. Dwelling on problems or negatives didn’t solve anything. I had to keep going.

After my stay in the hospital that all changed. In therapy, I was able to recognize that part of the reason I wanted to end it all was that I had pushed through things too many times. I was living a life that I didn’t want.

For most of the time since then, going on four years, my goal has been to listen to myself and honor the things I feel. For several years, this meant waking up to suicidal thoughts, sharing them with my husband and him staying home or calling a friend to stay with me. It hasn’t been an easy road.

These days, I don’t wake with suicidal thoughts very often. I believe a steady practice of listening to myself has helped me create a life I want to live.

Like (probably) many people, I still have days when I wake up without motivation, not wanting to do the things the day requires of me. Today was one of those days. It has me walking around sad, consuming caffeine to feel strong and equipped for the next thing. It hurts to push myself, but maybe sometimes that is okay?

Harder than pushing myself is discovering what I need, because it feels incredibly like something is missing. So I go through the motions and I try to listen to the sway of my feelings, while still keeping up with the day. I find this to be infinitely harder than the pushing onward.

Honoring the girl inside.

THAT is the real struggle in these days.

Small Hurts, Big Lessons

I scratched my eye.

It hurts and waters and, in general, makes life miserable. Who would have thought that something so small could make such big waves in my life?

This reminds me that even our smallest hurts, pains and fears must be recognized and felt. Like the splinter that is never removed, they can become infected and an even larger pain.

I think this is part of what happened with me. I never attended to the small hurts and pains in life. I think of the disappointment I’ve often felt in myself, how I didn’t want to feel it. Instead I became angry with myself as a way to mask the pain, but this only made the pain greater.

My therapist once described it as hurting myself, then taking out a hammer and hitting myself again.

Pain on top of pain.

I think disappointment with myself has been the most difficult small pain in my life. The hardest thing to sit with and feel.

I’m still learning, but I need these reminders. Reminders not to belittle myself, to feel the pain and let it guide me.

Because pain can be a guide.

Pointing us toward change, showing us our sensitivities, teaching us what works and doesn’t work.

Yes, the scratch may hurt, but I’ve learned not to wear my contacts for months on end. I’ve learned to give my eye a break so it can be healthy.

Maybe I can feel the scratches to my heart, but learn to take care of myself in a greater way.

Candidly,

Ash

Mysteries of Sadness

The sky is cloudy today and that is how my heart feels. Clouds of sadness come and go.

Why am I even sad?

I wonder if I am the only one who experiences mysterious sadness. I don’t even know where it comes from until I sit with it for like ten hours. Perhaps that is how badly I had boxed in my sadness. I used packing tape on all sides of that box.

I wonder if there will ever come a time when all of my past sadness stops bubbling to the surface.

As I sit with this sadness today, I know it is about being enough. I have seen other children grow so that their autism doesn’t affect things as dramatically as Evan. I have stood next to moms and hashed out the problems. I have done the things they have done.

But he isn’t cured. He isn’t healed.

And I can’t help wondering if it was me.

Maybe I didn’t push hard enough, try enough.

Maybe it’s me.

Maybe I don’t have to buy into those thoughts.

But what would that even look like?

I cannot say.

Candidly,

Ash

The Web of Self-Doubt

Raw. Fettered. Burgeoning.

I’m trying to find the right words for what I am lately, but I’m coming up empty.

Yesterday, I cried while listening to Charlotte’s Web during the afternoon kid shuttle. The day before that I cried while listening to Charlott’es Web too. And the day before…

We take many short trips. A single movie can last us an entire week. This week the movie has moved in me.

Perhaps I’m just sensitive, but certain things have just gotten to me. The latest?

Wilbur tells Charlotte the Spider, “I don’t know if the things you write about me are really true!” Things like terrific and humble and some pig.

I think I heard my soul cry those words along with Wilbur.

“God, I’m not sure I can believe the things you have said about me!”

Good things – how God chose me or wanted me or loved me. How God still does.

Why is it so hard to believe the good things people tell us about ourselves? Why do we look down and shrug or give a non-committal ‘thank you’.

Or is it just me or the mentally ill or the overly stressed moms who wonder? Did something go wrong to make me this way or, God forbid, do I make myself this way?

I don’t know the answers to those questions or how to overcome any of it – the downtrodden selfie viewpoint, the self-doubt…

I think maybe, just maybe, listening when my heart squeezes to the sound of Charlotte’s Web might be a beginning. Perhaps the first step in healing anything is simply acknowledging there is pain.

Candidly,

Ash

 

Real Life

Phew. It’s anxiety today. Man, it’s anxiety a lot of days.

I’m tired of anxiety. I think I’m starting to have anxiety about whether my anxiety will ever pass.

Why does anxiety feel like running around in circles? It feels like I’m running around putting out fires constantly, except there are no actual fires. I’m putting out imaginary fires. THAT is frustrating.

And futile.

Lately, I’ve been longing to have a job besides mom. You know, something to consume my time. The idea of going somewhere, working and having my focus be work is really appealing. I think I’m desiring a way to take my mind off of my family things.

The family things are heavy.

I’m homeschooling our oldest. She had a terrible year of bullying and just needs some recovery time. But, god damn, its a lot of responsibility to parent someone AND make sure they learn algebra.

The toddler toddles and whines and is currently attempting to roll up the 8′ x 10′ rug onto himself. He’ll probably get stuck soon…

I get a call, text, email about Evan every day. It’s okay, nothing too catastrophic, but I feel like I’m the teacher’s personal OnStar representative. Like she can just hit the button and I’m there. I suppose I should implement boundaries. I tried that last year…that’s when he got suspended. Sigh…

I think this just might be life.

Yesterday, Tess asked me “Why can’t things be less stressful?” She was referring to her dance class where she is learning something new every single week. It’s stressful for her. In my sage wisdom,  I responded that she wouldn’t become a better dancer without the stress. Someday, once she knows this whole dance, it will go back to being just fun and free. Until then, its stressful.

Maybe life feels so stressful to me, because I’m learning something new. My new medicine has my mood swings controlled and so I’m finally feeling what I’m told is “normal”. Except it feels damn stressful, because I can feel all the things and numbing doesn’t work like it once did.

But maybe, if I take my own advice and learn to handle this anxiety and stress? Maybe then there will come a time when I can dance the routine of life with fun and freedom.

Until then, I’m just learning how to cope.

Candidly,

Ash

Accept & Adapt

I’m not much of a sports person. I’ve confessed my lack of understanding when it comes to the running fad. It’s not that I wasn’t introduced to sports when I was young or that I was completely awful at them (I wasn’t completely good at them either). I just find them lacking meaning. Or I struggle to find the meaning. One of the two.

I’m an introvert (will I ever stop writing that sentence?). I’d rather do things on my own to be quite honest. Doing things with other people is exhausting. Maybe this is why I like writing? Sure, someone can critique or edit things, but the actual act of writing? Solo mission.

Sports tend to be a team effort. Sure, there are exceptions – golf, bowling, etc. Some people argue those aren’t even sports at all. Regardless, one of the things I don’t like about sports are the variables. When I played basketball, we would practice plays every single day. Then, we would play in a game and everything would be chucked out the window, because the defense would do something that made our play ineffective. The coach (usually my dad) would call us into a huddle and come up with something completely new. And so our team would adapt.

Here is where it gets tricky for me. I’m not a good adapter. Sure, in my youth, I would go along with things and try my best to adjust. I’d run the play as it was drawn on the little white board and then, suddenly, I’d have the ball and be clueless. Truly, if I could have yelled “Ahhh!”, dropped the ball and run out the room, then I would have.

In the game of life, I have similar issues. Routine is really beneficial to me most of the time. Actually, I like to call it rhythm, because that is a more creative word for something pretty mundane. Yet, things happen. Sick people, depression, behavior problems, job impositions, etc. Maintaining a rhythm is akin to playing a flute in the midst of a heavy metal rock band. Sure, I might be playing to the beat, but nobody is hearing me and my work feels futile. Maintaining rhythm is an inglorious feat.

Just Adapt

I love the people who think rhythm is easy. It is for them. They flow with the fluctuations of life, letting go of what is not serving them. Such beautiful, fortunate people. I’m not one of them. Typically, when I talk to these people about my inability to adapt, then they will say something like “You just have to make yourself do it.” I stare at them like they have a third eye. In fact, I’m fairly certain they do have a third eye. How else can their resilience be explained? Surely, they are super humans.

I am not a super human.

Usually, when something throws me off my game, then I internally have a meltdown. My inner persona is screaming “What is happening here?!?!” while clutching her head and turning in circles. On the exterior? Smile. Smile. Smile. No one knows you are freaking out. Smile. Smile. Smile.

But First, Acceptance.

I am slowly discovering that problem probably isn’t so much about adaptation. The problem is my inability to accept change. Calling it a problem feels icky. Let’s find a new word.  Juxtaposition? Challenge? Opportunity.

My opportunity is trying to accept change. Remember inner persona girl screaming and clutching her head. She needs a moment. She also needs a steady hand, a comforter. Because I’m smiling on the outside, my inner persona gets ignored almost all the time. I’m the only one who can see her. I’m her only hero.

I’ve got options. I can tell someone what she’s doing, letting them know that the smile is just a mask. I’m getting better at this. The number of creepy conversations my husband has had with smiley, crazy girl should earn him a medal. Other options include listening to her, metaphorically stroking her back with deep breathing, encouraging her, reminding her of her strengths. Also, holding up a giant sign in front of her that says…

Everything’s not lost.

Once she has accepted what is happening, she’s actually quite resourceful. More resourceful than I anticipated she could be. Her adaptability is stellar. She just needs to accept things first. I wonder why that is so hard for her? Oh, that’s right!

I’ve been ignoring her for decades.

Well, I’m guessing it will take some time to help her learn the path of acceptance.

Here’s to the journey!

Candidly,

Ash

Deep Rest

aI heart me some Jim Carey. Honestly, I was not allowed to see a lot of his movies while I was growing up in our religious household. As an adult, I haven’t exactly made up for lost time. I have never seen Ace Ventura or The Mask. Honestly, until I saw The Truman Show, I was not a fan of Jim Carey. Then, there was Bruce Almighty, which I also liked. Somewhere in there was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. My opinion had improved.

Then, recently, I watched “I Need Color” on YouTube and I sort of fell in love with Jim Carey. I think if we met, then I would probably say something stupid like, “I need color too!” Then, I stumbled across this video where he is talking about depression and I loved what he said. Summing it up…

Depression is Deep Rest.

Depressed people have stopped the charade, dismantled the façade. They are weary from being the person they thought they were. He also said some great things about identity. Knowing ourselves is impossible. In trying to know ourselves, we create the façade instead of letting it go.

These things he said remind me of Thomas Moore’s approach to depression. Moore equates depression to the astrological Saturn, which is the slowest moving planet, taking thirty years to transit through all the signs of the zodiac. It’s rings represent the limitations of human kind, offering restrictions and delay. For a long time Saturn was viewed as a sign of loss with fear and loathing. Slowly, over time it became a centering symbol, bringing balance. Other astrological interpretations of Saturn point to great sensitivity and narcissism (great self-interest).

I love these descriptions, because I have come to know each of those facets of depression. It doesn’t just improve one day and I’m instantly  feeling better. With a major depressive disorder diagnosis, depression is a fluctuating entity throughout my life. It moves slowly, coming in and out of play.

Depression has also taught me that I have limits and boundaries. I have learned that there are many, many things of which I am not capable. It has also brought delay and hesitancy to my life. It is the cautioning alarm for my soul. “Do not go there!” It warns me not to compromise my entity and desires, bringing balance to the self-sacrificing mantra I was preached from my youth.

I, too, thought of depression with fear, angst and even hatred. I fought its intentions as though they were an assault on my person. Yet, I have learned this “nemesis” is actually more of a friend – teaching, guiding, equalizing. I am sensitive to its fluctuations and perhaps too often absorbed by my inner state.

This last sentiment ‘absorbed by my inner state’ reminds me of the teachings I heard growing up and even into young adulthood. The consensus tended to be “Get out of your mind and into your life”. I’m pretty sure that is a book title somewhere. I can understand the need to let go of anxiety as it is a vacuum sucking away at life. But what if that is not a possibility? What if anxiety is hardwired into your system by trauma and experiences?

I’ve found in life, through depression and anxiety, that going deeper has been a far more fulfilling answer. I spent years ignoring my mind and my body until the cacophony of my spirit became too clamorous to ignore.    Here, I come full circle to Jim Carey’s idea of Deep Rest. In stillness I have found the path which my soul knows. It is not a path to enlightenment or my identity, but rather a resounding sound which I follow.

What if, instead of whispers such as “Did you hear she is depressed?”, people simply said, “She is in Deep Rest”? How would that change the conversation? Would the stigma dissolve? Or would the words become tainted?

Candidly,

Ash