A Different Life

Has anyone else had that feeling where everything you used to do seems to belong to a different person and a different life?

That’s what’s going on with me these days. Even writing and music seem to be part of another woman’s life, a part of a self I forgot. Sometimes I can recapture it for a moment, but it doesn’t last. I know this is depression, and really bad depression at that. It’s worse than it’s ever been, and that’s saying something.

I tried to get help last month, but the therapist I was placed with kept going on about how I wasn’t doing enough to change my circumstances…kept throwing all these advice things at me like I’m supposed to just magically have the energy to do it all now that someone else has told me what to do. Sorry, dude, that just ain’t flying. Also I don’t like being subtly blamed and guilted for having this numbness and nothingness in my head. Pardon my French, but fuck that. I got enough negative shit in my head without someone else adding to the pile. I tried being my own therapist for a few weeks after that, since I’m often called on to help others through their crises, and I’ve been told I’m pretty good at it. But alas, my words don’t work on me; they’re just hollow advice that reeks of desperation and clutching at straws. It was a long shot but at least I tried.

Even though I hate the thought of it, I think it might be time to try medication. I’ve tried modifying my behavior, but it never produces any long term change…I always end up numb and empty again no matter what I try, and I’ve tried a lot of stuff over the last three decades. If I have to take a daily pill to be functioning again, so be it–I already take a daily pill to keep from bleeding to death, so I guess it’s not that big a deal. (Part of me wants to feel shame at needing meds to survive, but I’m just too damned tired for shame anymore.). I just want my life back–maybe I don’t have to chase all the different lives I’ve led over the years, but I do want to finish my books, get them edited and published, and progress more in my vocal training. I also hope to be married sometime this year, but I have to survive that long first. (we’re waiting on some hopefully good news coming through soon, so I’m pretty sure the anxiety of waiting is making the depression temporarily worse. Doesn’t make it easier to slog through every day though.)

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A Pleaser’s Personal Hell

Pretty much everything I’ve ever done, everything I’ve ever achieved, has been because I did it for someone else. I really wish that was an understatement right now.

This covers a lot of things:

  • Getting good grades through school: please family & teachers, have good standing with authority figures
  • Doing kind things for others: please them so they won’t get angry/hurt me later
  • Attending church: please fiancé’s family, have good standing among members/community
  • Participate in exercise: please doctors so they’ll stop banging on about my excess weight
  • Allow ex boyfriends to push my personal boundaries (putting it delicately): please them, keep them from cheating/abandoning or hurting me
  • Engage in various hobbies: please cool other people who also do the hobby, make friends to feel less alone

About the only things I’ve ever firstly done for myself are writing and music, and even my joy in those has been ruined now because I found out I could please others with them. Now every time I write, every time I compose or sing, I’m haunted by the thought that “someone else might not like this,” or the opposite, somehow more devastating thought: “who even cares anyway? I’m the only one who’s seeing/hearing this.”

It seems stupid, maybe, but I have never really lived outside this pleaser mindset. I just flat don’t know what it looks or feels like to do something just because I’m committed to it for myself, just because I alone care enough to make it happen and I’m the only one it will affect. Even stuff like brushing my teeth is done because I was tired of costing my parents excess money at the dentist’s getting cavities fixed. (So I basically do it because I’m cheap…wow.)

When it comes to doing things for others, however, I push myself very hard to always come through. I often can do more than they asked for, even, because I want them to be happy (and because I don’t want them to be mad, to be honest). I’ve done some amazing things with motivation that comes from others’ expectations and hopes. But when it comes to doing things just for me, I cannot muster that same energy. The place where I usually reach inside myself for motivation is empty; I end up talking myself out of doing it, because “I’m the only one who cares anyway,” “I guess it doesn’t really matter,” “meh,” etc. Even writing for this blog has been like this. I go through times where I’m REALLY motivated to write, get a few posts out…and then I slip into days and weeks of inactivity because very few seem to care, and if they don’t care, how am I supposed to? Without the shrill, harrying call of “OTHER PEOPLE EXPECT THIS SO DO IT NOW DO IT NOW DO IT NOW”, all I’m left with is just…tired.

I am sick of giving up on personal projects because of this soul-tiredness. I’m sick of being exhausted of life itself, of having to fight just to exist. If this were my best friend going through this hell, I would be at her side counseling her, listening, encouraging her…but because it’s me, it just doesn’t take. I can hear the fakeness, the hollowness in any encouragement I try to give myself. My voice, my words, my music–all seems stifled by this feeling that if it’s not pleasing to others, it’s not worth a damn. (Maybe there’s also an element of “I don’t matter enough to take care of.”)

I’m fighting through this to go to voice lessons, to pursue my interests, see my friends, to seek happiness wherever I can scrounge it up, but again and again I come up against this utter absence of motivation. I want my damn SUCCESS already, the reward I’m owed for what feels like decades of hard mental and emotional work for other people, but instead I’m 34 years old, pretty much unemployed, facing defeat or lack in every direction, now looking up at a sheer cliff face called life, and I have no climbing gear. And no one else sees this mountain but me. 💔

Dealing with Negative Opinions

Teachers, bosses, older family members, and other humans in positions of power over our lives are still just human beings, flawed and capable of bias. But it’s very easy to forget that when we are young or unsure of ourselves, and thus trust the opinion of someone seemingly “older and wiser.”

Sometimes, we hold on to these folks’ negative opinions much longer than we need to, especially when those negative opinions are about us. We hold on because we trusted them, or we may have even loved them. How could someone we love and trust lie to us about who we are, after all? Surely they spoke the truth when they told us we weren’t going to amount to anything, that we’d never be enough, that we were just bad and wrong, unfixable?

But this could not be further from the truth.

Truth is, those we trust and look up to can be cruel to us because they are jealous, intimidated by us, or just personally dislike us. There could be any number of reasons why they say and do these things, and none of them have to do with us. But especially when we are young and impressionable, it’s easy to believe these kinds of lies…which means we can find ourselves in a great deal of pain and suffering over it, even years later.

I’m currently trying to break away from similar false teachings about myself, and if you’re struggling with this same issue, I encourage you to remember this:

Others’ opinions are not fact.

It may have been a few days since “the incident,” a few months, or even a few years or decades, but I can imagine you still think about it, and it still hurts.

I’ve been there. And I want you to know you can be free of it today.

Ball that wad of opinion up and chunk it in your mental trash can, hard as you can. It means absolutely NOTHING. Not even if it came from a loved one. Not even if it came from someone who said you could trust them. If it’s hurting you, if it’s damaged how you think of yourself, if it’s holding you back, chuck it out like the rotten egg it is! Imagine that stinking opinion flying out your mental back door. Bye Felicia!!! LOL!

(It doesn’t even matter how long you’ve held on to that opinion. If you’ve never known you could be free of that garbage thought before this moment, there’s no shame in that. There’s only the impending joy of being free. Go ahead and fling it, and laugh as it flies away. ❤️)

3 Things List Challenge

As the holiday season ramps up, I have to complete a number of tasks around the house in order to get ready for get-togethers. But how do I do that when I’m running on low energy?

One possible answer: a to-do list. But not just any list…

A “3 things” list is not merely just a selection of 3 tasks that must be done, These are specially crafted listings that can be sections or even micro-sections of a single normal task. The key is to make each of the 3 things on the list completable in a very short amount of time. Why? Because simply put, if it takes more than 5 minutes, I’m probably not gonna bother. LOL 🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂

Here’s an example of a bad “3 things” list:

  • Clean living room
  • Clean bathroom
  • Clean bedroom

This might work fine for some folks, but to me, this is overwhelming. There are dozens of micro/tasks involved in each of those list items–I struggle to process it all, and you can forget about me actually selecting which to do first. In the end, with this to-do list, nothing will get done. Been there, done that, don’t even need the shirt. 😂😂😂

Here’s that “3 things” list, fixed for me:

  • Remove all items that don’t belong in living room
  • Dust top of TV
  • Pick up loose change

These are 3 specific, easy tasks that all fall under the heading “clean living room,” but when they’re broken down like this, they make sense to my low-energy brain. They all look really easy to do, and I know from past experience that if I get started on one of these micro-tasks, I’ll likely see other stuff I can do in the room, too. The brain momentum from getting one tiny thing done can potentially launch me into doing more, especially if I’m on a deadline (either perceived or real). It’s a weird brain hack, but it works!

If you’re already feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list this season, give this list format a try! (I’m going to today as I hide out from Black Friday by cleaning at home! LOL)

Where is All My Energy Going?

I used to be a hyperactive, very energetic person. I used to get excited easily, angry easily–my emotions were all over the place daily, and so was my energy level. For the things I loved (like writing and composing music), I could do them without tiring, it seemed; for the things I hated (like math and physical education), I could spare very little energy at all. But I still had a ton of energy.

That’s changed over the years, and I thought perhaps it was a result of growing up, or perhaps related to the chronic pain I now endure. I thought maybe it was my hormones, since they’re apparently out of whack, or the now-diagnosed and treated PTSD, or the anemia I suffer on and off.

All of those are completely plausible. But I’ve always suspected there’s much deeper reason that I have no energy these days…and when it finally occurred to me what might be going on inside, it made an unsettling amount of sense.

I think the reason I have no energy is that I have been chaining up my emotions…yes, the ones that were once all over the place, the ones that were boundless and changed faster than the weather. And in so doing, it drains a lot of energy away every day, because it takes a lot of force of will to keep such powerful feelings in check. (Understanding that I might have ADHD and therefore have trouble with emotional regulation is part of the puzzle too, since this definitely does not come naturally and is much more difficult than it seems to be for “normal” loved ones.)

Now, why might I have chosen to chain part of myself up? There’s a long convoluted life pathway that explains it, but I’ll try my best to summarize:

  • I was constantly corrected and punished/threatened with punishment at school for being too emotional, getting overwhelmed, and having meltdowns as a child (the word meltdown was not in the national vocabulary yet, so I was just deemed a “bad kid”)
  • Other kids shunned me at school because I scared them or made them feel unsafe when I had these meltdowns…plus they bullied me for having them because it obviously wasn’t normal, so I had very few friends until I started chaining myself up
  • Adults in the house had wildly fluctuating emotions of their own, and I ended up often mediating their conflicts and counseling them as a tween and young teen
  • Adulthood is always associated with “self control,” and self controlled people apparently never feel rage/despair/exhilaration/terror/any of the other things I experience in a typical hour…so if I want to be an “adult” and get along in society, I have to appear like I don’t have these feelings (even though I very much do)
  • My emotions, especially my anger/rage, are apparently very scary to others, and I never want to make anyone feel the way I did when trying to deal with others’ messy emotions as a child

Okay, that took longer than I thought, LOL! But there are quite a few big reasons why I chain my emotions up, especially my anger. If I let every bit of rage out, I truly shudder to think what would happen. Would I have a stick of furniture left in my house? Would I self harm until I ended up in the hospital? Would others around me get physically or emotionally hurt by my selfish decision to vent? These are very real worries I have, and I don’t have the time, money, or effort to risk it.

But keeping emotions in check is a very difficult task when they are as big and monstrous as they have become after years of shoving them down. Folks already think I’m too emotional as it is, and they ain’t even SEEN the iceberg yet…they just saw a couple snowflakes! I allow joy or excitement out to play a lot more than anger or sadness, but even then I keep them on tight leashes because “adults aren’t supposed to act like children.” So even my smiles are restrained, my laughter truncated.

You can imagine how much energy this saps out of me–to pretend all the time just so I can be socially acceptable and tolerable to even the people who love me. I’m trying to get myself and my energy level back now, but that means letting these emotional monsters out of me, and that’s been frankly terrifying to think about. What will everybody think? How will I fit into society once I’m freed? Will I ever fit in or have friends again? How much is life going to change for the worse? Is it going to be worth the positive change?

I am going to hopefully get professional help tomorrow, to find out what exactly is going on and what I can do going forward…wish me luck, this is probably the scariest thing I’ve done in years!!

My (Ridiculous) Morning “Routine”

Saw a post over on Pointless Overthinking about morning routines and how important they are. I was instantly reminded of how messed up my morning routine is compared to most folks. I’m not even sure if it qualifies as an actual routine! LOL!!

(Important note: I am not officially diagnosed ADHD, but I have all the symptoms–one of which is very disturbed sleep and delayed sleep phases. I have been like this since infancy; I am a night owl, plus I have never, EVER slept through a single night without being aware/conscious of at least some of the minutes passing, unless I was very sick or physically exhausted. Sometimes I can just plain get bored of sleeping and wake up, no matter how badly I need the rest! This is probably why my morning “routine” is as crazy as it is!)

So let’s just jump right into this (tongue-in-cheek) picture of my usual morning:

Because I don’t work until later in the day, my morning usually begins whenever my body’s demand for the bathroom supersedes the desire for just 5 more minutes of sleep, because the bed suddenly becomes 400% more comfortable after 6am. (Is it just me? LOL) The time varies, but I typically stumble without glasses to the bathroom between 6 and 7. Because of the sleep deprivation explained above, at this point in the morning I feel like I’ve been repeatedly run over with either a bus, steamroller, or occasionally a military tank. Usually I’m also awakening from a bad or incredibly vivid dream, which makes it doubly hard to transition to wakefulness. I also am generally dealing with a sore jaw and teeth from all the grinding and clenching I do at night.

If I stay awake after this (which is about 20% of the time), I’ll play around on my tablet or phone, trying and usually failing to get the mental oomph to do anything of import. At this point in the morning, my brain’s wheels are spinning in thick mud. I don’t really have thoughts in words during this time–I feel too jetlagged for that. Sometimes, I even fall back asleep still holding my electronics. Not even social media or online games can beat the call of more slumber some mornings!

Finally, between 8 to 9, I usually get up for real, because my body suddenly remembers it needs food. Since I live with my dad, he is usually in the kitchen by then, so I join him and help prepare the morning breakfast (a sausage biscuit, water, and two chocolate chip waffles for me, a sausage biscuit, a cup of coffee, and a piece of fruit for him). We watch a favorite TV show together on Netflix and have a little conversation–right now we are working through Frasier, but we’ve previously watched The Crown, Turn: Washington’s Spies, Call the Midwife, and Unsolved Mysteries.

After breakfast, I usually feel a little better physically and mentally, though I still don’t feel capable of thinking about or doing anything too difficult or lengthy. I usually spend a bit of time wishing I was one of those cool inspiring people who actually likes to journal/exercise/do important adulty things early in the morning. But barring special trips or doctor’s appointments, I’m usually back in bed after breakfast, watching or half-watching some thought-provoking YouTube videos while simultaneously scrolling through my tablet and phone. This is basically me checking various social media, email, and internet sites for real now that my brain has some blood sugar fuel to operate with. I hate to waste time checking things one at a time, so I do all of it at once–it works for me, surprisingly. And it’s about this time in the morning when I start feeling more like a thinking human being and less like a glob of mindless goo that just happens to look human shaped. LOL

Around 11, all the cylinders in my brain are now firing! I feel awake!! I’m going to do AMAZING THINGS TODAY!!! …If I can be bothered!!!! Usually this is when I start puttering around the house and end up doing small pieces of different tasks…it goes something like this:

  • start cleaning the bathroom counters
  • wait, this item doesn’t belong in the bathroom, take it to bedroom
  • wait, those clothes on the floor need to be in the hamper
  • wait, need to vacuum up all those crumbs on the floor
  • oh no where’s the vacuum? I think it’s downstairs
  • need to clean the stairs too
  • WAIT A MINUTE WASN’T I CLEANING THE BATHROOM COUNTERS?? 🤣🤣🤣

Eventually one of these myriad tasks gets done–on a typical day. If I happen to get my brain into hyperfocus mode, then probably a whole lot more gets done, possibly even earlier than this! But hyperfocus is unpredictable and I haven’t figured out how to turn it on and off yet.

So yes, that’s my morning “routine,” such as it is! Is this a hot mess or what??

“No Complaints”

When I was teaching Sunday school, one of my class members was an older lady who always greeted my sincere question of “How are you?” with the sentiment, “Oh, no complaints. Doesn’t do us any good to complain anyhow!”

I would always laugh it off, pretending that I took it as the breezy #positivevibesonly thing she was going for, but it admittedly bothered me, and I find myself reflecting on that this evening. For me, even though I taught that class for 7 years, I never got to know this lady much better than this. It was like her “no complaints” statement was a wall between her and the rest of the world. I never really knew what was going on in her world, what I could pray about for her, what I could do to help, because she put up this whole “positive/got it all together” front. It was frustrating and sad as her Sunday School teacher to feel like she didn’t trust anybody enough to be real.

Now, I get that lots of people are more private about their feelings and thoughts than I am. I’ve always lived my life with my personal volume kicked up to at least 8 out of 10, putting it mildly! And I really don’t want to or mean to intrude on others’ privacy. But I also hate knowing that somebody is being fake to me. It seems to me that in the quest to be #positivevibesonly and complaint-less, we’ve forgotten about the beauty of being real with each other, even if that realness means discussing problems or negative emotions.

I for one feel much more closely bonded with someone when they have talked honestly with me and I with them. I don’t see it as “venting” or complaining, and it’s not a burden to hear someone else’s problems, nor is it shameful to share my own. I love deep conversations like that, where you swim in the shared experience of each other’s lives. I wish more conversations were like that, where one didn’t feel the pressure to be positive all the time, and didn’t feel the need for a false smile.

Now, I admit, some have shamed me about discussing my problems as openly as I do, about sharing as much of my life as I do. Some have said I’m doing it merely for attention or to crowd others out, and some have suggested I am spending too much time on negative thoughts. None of those, in my estimation, are true. This is my way of trying to connect with others, to find kindred spirits, and I’ve already found my tribe of folks who understand and emotionally communicate in the same way. I am not alone, and I am not wrong, even though many through the years have tried to convince me that my ways are aberrant and problematic.

I am aware not everyone will agree that being fully honest about life is the best way to communicate, especially when doing so is painted as “complaining” or “venting.” But perhaps, maybe, don’t knock it till you try it? ❤️

A DIY Journal for a Disorganized Girl

I’ve been putting together a sort-of bullet journal/sort-of planner thing for about a week, and I thought I’d share about how I set mine up for some journal inspiration. It’s definitely not the typical journal format, but then again I’m not the typical journal user!

This is the small looseleaf binder I got–I found it at Walmart for about USD $2.50. I like it because it’s smaller than the average binder, so it’s easier to pack and take with me to work, etc. Plus, I just love miniature versions of things anyway, so it’s cuter to use. (I can also change the front and back cover out at any time–yay personalization!)

I also bought a pack of five dividers and 2 special-sized paper packs for it (they were a few bucks each). Total cost for putting this together was between USD $8-$10.

This is where the magic of this journal begins for me. My number one complaint about nicely bound journals is that I can’t reorganize pages if I need more room in a section, and I can’t really rip out pages when I’m done with them or if I’ve messed up on them. This binder being looseleaf and openly organized means that this system is not only customizable, but changeable with my needs. MUCH less journal anxiety! (That is a thing, by the way–I’ve suffered from the fear of messing up a pretty journal all my life for whatever reason.)

I also did a fairly hasty Table of Contents (forgive my terrible handwriting, I have no patience or skill for “pretty” lettering). This page can receive on-the-fly edits and changes very nicely, or can even be completely replaced if I have to. As you can see, I don’t know quite what to do with two of the five sections, but I feel certain I’ll have something to put there in the future. (Wedding planning, perhaps? Lol!). All I did know at the time was that I wanted my favorite color blue to represent the Creative Projects area, so that’s why I left the big space in the middle.

I also like that this “journal” has two pockets (pictured is the front pocket), because I’m always writing important stuff down on little slips of paper and then promptly losing said slips. At least if I have this with me, I’ll be able to stick the papers somewhere relatively safe until I can file the info away officially. LOL

And lastly, this journal is just the right size and style to hold a pen in it without bumping out the spine weirdly or having to clip it on the front awkwardly! It’s a small hurdle to remove, but it’s an important one for me–if I’m always having to hunt for a pen before I use my journal, I’m just not gonna bother. Been there, done that, over it. Lol

All in all, I’m excited about using this new system of thought organization, and I’m hoping it helps me feel less scattered than I have been all my life the last few weeks. I’m hopeful that with the considerations I’ve made on how I actually use paper and pen, I can make a journal work this time!

Being A REAL Encourager

These days, I am focusing on how I can be a better encourager by detailing what kind of support I like to receive. In compiling the following list, I’ve recognized a lot of bad conversational habits of mine! Check out the list and see what you think:

  • I must remember that I am in this person’s space right now to soothe away fear, guilt, and shame. Anything else would be counterproductive.
  • I must avoid making broad character judgments about them solely based on their temporary emotional state. (Especially negative judgments!). Instead, I must let their emotions flow on by and listen for the truths and beliefs hidden in them.
  • I must remember that what makes me feel happy and positive may not necessarily do the same for them.
  • I must avoid giving advice until they ask for it. (!!!)
  • I must realize that they have a lifetime of experiences I know nothing about, and so I won’t automatically understand everything they are thinking, feeling, and saying. Instead of asking for clarification and explanation, I must simply listen.
  • I must not mock or belittle their suffering, or try to one-up them by sharing something worse I’ve been through. My personal experiences are not important in this moment–listening is.
  • I must not shame them for any bad choices they have made. Instead, when asked, I may offer solutions for how to move forward from them–for instance, not just suggesting that they change their thoughts, but showing them how their thoughts can change. (This is where personal experiences, book recommendations, etc., can come into play.)
  • I must keep everything they say in confidence unless they are threatening self-harm.
  • I must not let this listening and encouragement be a one-time thing.
  • I must advise them to seek professional help if this seems like more than just a down mood or temporary setback.
  • What would you add to this list? Does this cover the bases pretty well? Let me know in the comments!
  • How to Make Someone’s Day Better

    This is something I’m trying to work on since my emotional setback a couple of months ago, because it’s been modeled to me so wonderfully:

    • Treating every person I interact with as if they need to know they are worthy of love. (Recently it’s been too easy for me to forget that other human beings need the same kind of boost I have been needing!)
    • Showing compassion, encouragement, respect, and forgiveness through everything I say, do, and write to them. (This means cutting out stuff like gossip and constant venting, the latter of which is a real challenge for me!)
    • Giving this same treatment to myself once I have helped someone else, because the “worthy of love” tank needs refueling after helping. (As I’ve found out, when you help others and forget to help yourself, pretty soon the tank runs dry!)