New Year, New Me? No.

This is my last post of the year, and I don’t have much to say.  I already shared my writing accomplishments over the course of 2021, and I don’t have much to report on the personal front because let’s be real, it has not been a good year.  Really, it has been one smack in the face after another this year, and I am fine with 2021 being over.

What annoys me at the moment though is that this December there seem to be a lot of folks posting about how 2022 is going to be “their year,” and don’t get me wrong, I hope so, but c’mon.  We’re still in a pandemic.  It’s a lot more likely you’re going to have to go back to remote working/learning at some point, always have to wear a mask, and watch a bunch more people get sick and die.  So, I guess I’m not really feeling the positivity, y’know?

Don’t worry, I have an appointment with my therapist on Monday.

In the meantime, I just have to pull out the good ol’ Emotional Toolbox.  The ET is a concept I came up with many years back, essentially a mental list of my coping mechanisms.  It has little tricks for panic attacks, like sit in front of the fan, or pet your fuzzy blanket.  Then it has more complex plans for fighting anxiety and depression, like what I call the “Ross Method,” in which you break a task down into itty-bitty pieces so that it is accomplished easily.  One of my favorite tools in the ET is the “Silver Linings Search,” in which you find the good in the bad.  This always helps me out, and this is what I am using right now as I write this blog.

What good things happened in my garbage year?  Well, I had my surgery, which helped my tummy a little.  And my husband left a very toxic work environment.  My dad remains cancer-free.  My mother is getting her foot surgery.  My sister moved out on her own.  We got to have Christmas with my grandma.  We didn’t get sick. 

These are all good things.

Now, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, except for my annual declaration that I shall read more.  That might actually happen this year though, as I have both a brand-new Kindle and upcoming cataract surgery.  I don’t think I will make any huge accomplishments, except perhaps releasing my mini-chap, which could happen sooner than I think.  Though, lack of accomplishment might be my depression talking.  In the beginning of the pandemic, I was ok.  In fact, I was ok for a long time, watching as my healthy-brained friends lost their minds when faced with the sudden onset of anxiety and depression.  I was peachy. I was a pro.

Lately, though, it seems it’s starting to wear on me.  Like, I don’t know if it’s Christmas letdown or what, but I am just not in the mood.  I mean, I try to write an end of the year post, I wanted it to be uplifting, but here we are, discussing depression again.

Because that’s how she works, my friends.  I never get a day off.

Anyway, if you want to go make 2022 “your” year, more power to you.  I hope you succeed.  I will be cheering you on.  Me, my goal is both simple and infinitely more difficult: get out of bed in the morning, and carry on.  That’s my New Year’s resolution.

What’s yours?

Creating Flavors

Back before the world got sick, I forced myself to attend an open mic poetry reading at a local bookstore.  Then, that ended because of the pandemic, and I retreated back into my little anxiety shell and didn’t come out for a year and a half.  Then, last week I saw an ad in the paper for a writing workshop.  There were only a few slots available, but I figured what the heck and threw my name into the hat.  Two days later I received an email saying I was registered.  Turns out, it was also a free event, so I was even more pumped because in case you were wondering, poetry collections are not best sellers. 

But then, as it does, my stomach came out to play on Friday and sent me into a tizzy.  Saturday, the day of the workshop, I felt better physically, but terrible mentally.  Firstly, I did not take my meds the night before because I was fearful of throwing up again.  Secondly, they pumped me full of the strong stuff at the ER and it was still wearing away come Saturday afternoon.

At 3pm, I was near tears, scared to go, unprepared, rushed…all the feelings of anxiety that like to stop me in my tracks.  I was even a little sick to my stomach, which made me all the more worried.  Mark did what he always does, and that is get me through it.  He remined me how excited I as when I got the registration email.  He reminded me how badly I wanted to get out into the world again, and he reassured me of my talents, as he does every day.  So, I got dressed and drank some coffee and got in the car and went.

Awkward at first, as always, I was maybe the second person to arrive.  I settled in and we got a box full of goodies (photo below) with a notebook and a journal in it, along with supplies for making tea bags.  First, Julio (whom I met once before at that bookstore, so it was a little easing to see a face I knew in the room,) gave a talk about the histories of tea and the cultural and religious significances, and then discussed the tea flavors we had and what they symbolized, which was very interesting.  I jotted down my combinations I wanted to try: hibiscus mint for mom, lemongrass mint for Bernie, and lavender chamomile for me.

After our selections, we took to writing about our flavors.  I didn’t get anything very good, because I was writing longhand which is just TORTURE in my opinion.  But I of course typed it up and then cleaned it a little, so you can find it below.  Everyone else shared their pieces, and they were lovely.  I like open mic style things because everyone’s flow is so different.  You have free form, traditionalists, rhymers, alliteraters, slam poets…so much variety.

After the journaling and sharing, we put our tea in the bags and decorated tea boxes.  Then, Bianca, who seemed to be the one in charge, gave everyone a personalized cup (and you just know I love stuff with my name on it.)  We had a little open mic, where you could share whatever, and I read Sick Since Sixteen because it was the first poem that came up on my phone.  It was a good choice though, because I received both snaps and “mmmh’s” which is like a standing ovation in the poetry world. Then everything broke up and most people started heading over to The Gypsy Parlor across the street for an iced tea tasting, and that’s when my brain screamed “NO.  GO HOME.”

So, I gathered my things and thanked my hosts and left, dejected.

See, the mingling bit was the part I was looking forward to the most.  I barely know any local writers, and it is so hard for me to get out of my shell and find actual humans.  And my stupid brain said no, then triggered my stomach to agree with it, causing me to gag on the corner of Grant and Potomac.  Sometimes I feel like that stupid brain-gut connection is truly ruining everything good and exciting in my life.

Anyway, I went home.  I made my tea, and it was delicious.  Soothing chamomile and destressing lavender.  Very helpful.  Then I typed up what I wrote in my journal, and texted Sahar to tell her of my woes.  She suggested I try to network virtually, which I don’t know if I would be better at.  I decided to follow the hosts of the events fb pages.  Hopefully that will keep me on the radar for upcoming things.

Julio is having an ugly Christmas sweater open mic, which seems pretty cool, but who knows if anxiety will let me attend.  I will try, though.  I will always keep trying.  In the meantime, I shall sip my tea and write in my journal and hope to make a new friend that I can talk about the business of words with.  Someday…

4pm
Gram was British, 
so 4pm meant tea time.
Our cups, 
filled with cream and sugar, 
(honey and lemon if you were sick.) 
Biscuits were a necessity, 
though mother would say 
“It’s too close to dinnertime!”  
“She’s already overweight!”  
No mind paid by Gram, 
tea and cookies at 4pm.
Rose Red tea, 
so I could collect the porcelain figurines, 
and terrible shortbread 
from a blue metal tin,  
She would have been one-hundred on Saturday, 
but I lost her when I was eight, 
her body as cold 
as the cup of leftover tea 
on her nightstand.
my goodies.

OCD Awareness Week

October 10-16th is OCD Awareness Week, so let’s talk about that.

I started showing symptoms during puberty, around 11 years old.  I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 19, however, as child psychology was still a bit taboo in the 90s.  It started with Trichotillomania.

For those unaware, Trich is a compulsive hair-pulling syndrome.  I started pulling my hair out in 6th grade.  At first, I didn’t realize I was doing it because I would fall into a sort of a trance, only to come out of it and discover hair everywhere.  My doctor diagnosed me with alopecia, because she and many other medical professionals I encountered over the years had no idea what Trichotillomania even was. 

When I realized I was the one doing it, I researched the crap out of it, as I tend to do when something makes me nervous or scared.  Once I realized what I was dealing with, it took 8 more years and three psychologists before I found one who knew what I was talking about.  I had another flareup when I was 19, so I marched my bandana-covered head into my doctor and said “Listen…this is what I have.”  She agreed.  She knew what I was talking about.  It was instant relief.

And then she diagnosed me with obsessive compulsive disorder. 

Trich is a definite red flag and true cousin to OCD, so there was little surprise.  They asked me questions, such as do you ever have intrusive thoughts that you can’t control?  Um…yes, doesn’t everybody?

Apparently not.

I was never the neat-freak, handwashing kind of OCD, but my compulsions lie in Trich and my obsessions rest in my brain.  It’s a truthful diagnosis, and also my best controlled one.  I deal with my anxiety and depression all day every day, but my OCD is pretty well regulated.  The only thing that still bothers me is the incessant counting…i used to count everything, but these days it’s mostly just my steps.  Mark got me a Fitbit so that I can remind myself there’s no need to count because my watch is doing the work.  It’s helpful…sometimes.  Not all the time.

I don’t think much about my OCD because it is so well-controlled now.  I do however take great offense when folks who have “quirks” claim they have OCD.  Oh, you can’t go to sleep at night with dishes in the sink, so you don’t have to do them in the morning?  How quaint.  Sounds a lot more like a personal preference than something you have to do in order to keep you and your family alive, which is how an OCD brain can think.  OCD is not quirks; it’s patterns of behavior that disrupt your life.

Alas, my life is not disrupted by it at the moment, which makes me happy.  I do worry daily about another Trich relapse, though, and I am extremely particular about my hair since I lost so much of it in the past, and it is much thinner than it once was.  However, I know now that should that happen, I can immediately call my doc and we can figure out a game plan.  That wasn’t a luxury I felt I had in my early 20s.  And even when I count my steps, I remind myself that my Fitbit is on the job, and try to use coping mechanisms to draw my attention away from the counting.  I do the same with the intrusive thoughts.  Truthfully, I am making progress daily.  I hope others our there can say the same some day.

Here are a couple of links to resources about OCD:

International OCD Foundation

Symptoms of OCD

Help for OCD

Trichotillomania Learning Foundation

My Mental Mistresses

I got dumped last week, by my therapist. 

She got a job at the agency I’ve been badmouthing for two years, assuring me that things have changed now that said agency has changed from a zero-tolerance policy to a harm-reduction model for substance use.  That’s why I left.  They were going to put me in the drug program because I smoked a little pot.  They also yanked my Xanax out from under me and when I had a full-on panic attack in my doctor’s office, he slammed the door in my face.  No thanks, I’m out.

Anyway, I found a swell spot after that large Buffalo-based agency that may or may not have a rising sun as their logo and started seeing a woman named Jamie.  My prescribers have rotated a little over the past two years there, but that is to be expected anywhere.  You don’t need to bond with the person giving you your pills; that’s what your counselor is for. 

Jamie was fine.  She was very good at her job, and I liked her very much, but I didn’t feel the “click” I have felt with other counselors in the past.  These are the people you open your mind to, and it is important that you mesh well on every level.  Jamie did a fine job.  But she was no Carissa.

I don’t remember when I had Carissa.  I know it was at that aforementioned agency I went to for ten years, and I know it was at their Hertel branch and I think it was while I still lived in Kenmore.  The thing is, my meds weren’t right at the time, so all of that time period is a mishmash of memory.  When Carissa dumped me for a job in the Southern Tier, I was depressed.  I was devastated.  She was my favorite, and she was gone, and it was over.  It was then that I recognized a peculiar thing: these women have no last names.

My first counselor was named Sarah.  I saw her at D’Youville College because my friends dragged me there one afternoon.  I never knew her last name.  When I moved over to what I refer to as the “Fancy Suburban Drug Dealers” agency, I had three other counselors, whose first names I couldn’t even tell you.  Of course, they pumped me so full of meds based on a misdiagnosis that I was practically a zombie the whole time.  Then, The Rising Sun, where I ended up with Carissa, who left me with no last name and no forwarding information.

Alas!  One day, she found me on Myspace.  I was very happy but I still don’t know her last name.  And now, Myspace is dead and I can’t find her on Facebook without a surname.  After Carissa, came Katie.

Katie and I were together for years, and I actually got to know her last name.  However., The Rising Sun implemented their zero-tolerance policy, and one day she told me they would be tox screening everyone.  “But that’s not a problem for you…” she says.

I tell her, right away, that it is a problem, that not only will I test positive for cannabis but that I believe it is an infringement on my privacy.  She becomes shocked that I have never mentioned cannabis use before and our relationship starts to crumble.  Now, I have only good things to say about Katie, who from what I understand is running some things over there now, and I am hopeful that her experiences with me and other clients has opened her eyes to other possibilities.  The trust between us was broken, though; she felt I had kept something important from our sessions.  I felt it was none of her gotdamn business.

An impasse.  Fortunately, she was promoted up the ladder and I was thrown over to the Orchard Park location, where I met Ashley.

Ashley was great.  She totally agreed that it was nonsense, the whole bit about the cannabis, and did her best to keep me out of the drug program at The Rising Sun, always stating that I wasn’t abusing the substance.  Then she moved to Colorado and oh my heart!  But…I knew her last name.  In fact, we exchanged emails, and after she was settled she got in touch.   We still occasionally email, and yes, there are topics I am more comfortable sending in a letter to her than expressing via speech to my therapist. 

In many ways, she reminds me of the feeling I had with Carissa.

However, after her departure I was moved to a woman named Liz.  She was fine, in the way that Jamie was fine.  But she didn’t fight for me. 

When I became a number at The Rising Sun, I was furious.  They were making me into a statistic…showing me on graphs as someone with mental illness who also had a substance abuse problem.   They insisted I start drug counseling.  I told them to fuck right off.

Which brings me to now.  I found a little place that was like “oh, you smoke pot?  Well, let me put you in touch with a medical marijuana doctor,” and I was sold.  I feel like my doc actually listens to me, which is new in general, and I never feel like a number because it’s a small place.  AND, I’ve had two good counselors so far.  I mean, not great…but good.

Anyway, I’m seeing a new woman named Rachel next week, and I am hopeful.  I hope we “click.”  Jamie thinks we will.  I’m actually going into the office to meet her too, which is something I haven’t done in a year, so that’s kind of exciting.

I wonder, will I know her last name some day?  Will I be gifted that knowledge after a year or two of counseling, when the bond is formed?  Will I look back ten years from now and remember her fondly?

Or will I not remember her at all?

Pep Talk

Sometimes, I will be super hyped to do something and then my brain will be like “haha, no,” and then I end up sitting on the couch eating cereal straight out of the box and watching old episodes of Fringe.  Oh depression, you vicious mistress.

So, I drag myself into the office and check my email and socials and try to prepare myself for the day.  I open a word document to start writing and then suddenly there is a garbage truck outside my door, banging and clanging its way slowly down the street.  No hope for concentration, so I pop over to Submittable to check on my poetry submissions.  No change.  Ho-hum.

Then, to the blog!  Alas, no topic.  Nothing, because depression ate it, like a hungry teenager raiding the refrigerator in the middle of the night.

I can’t focus my thoughts.  I look at my yellow umbrella that hangs off the bookshelf to my left and think that I should have taken it to the beach with me on Saturday.  I look at the star on the wall that says “One Day at a Time,” and I think gee that’s great, now someone give me a cigarette!  I look at the ceiling.  There are cobwebs in the corner.  Perhaps I should sweep them?

Anything, anything, anything but write.

After this, whatever this is, I am going to attempt to put my chicken-scratch notes on my chappie into type,  Then, put those typed words into an email, and send it to my editor.  Real, actual, needs-to-be-done work.,,but my serotonin levels don’t give a crap.  I also want to work on new submissions since it is August now, but that seems like a faraway chore at the moment. 

Oh, and I want to clean my house, because I had my four kiddos plus G this weekend and the joint is wrecked.

First, I guess, I will drink some coffee.  I will be grateful that the street is now fairly quiet, and I can write and work in peace.  I will sit here in this office chair until all my tasks are done, because while my brain and hormone levels and all that garbage may be telling me one thing, my heart is telling me another: you can do it.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Today is Friday, not Thursday., when I usually update, because I have been living in a fog all week, trying to adapt to my new schedule.  The day got away from me yesterday, and almost did today, as well.  I have a few moments now, though, so here we are.

May is Mental Health Awareness month.  Since we are smack dab in the middle of it, I thought I would take this time to discuss my own personal journey with mental health…but then the illness piece kicked in and blanked out my brain. 

See, I first came down with depression when I was about 9 years old.  Anxiety shortly followed, then trichotillomania, further manifesting into some vicious obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I went untreated until I was eighteen.  Throw a pile of PTSD on that, and you have yourself a whopping case of mental illness.

Since my adolescence, I have also had diabetes.  But I tell you what, I have yet to have someone tell me to “get over” being diabetic, or that if I “think positive,” or “try yoga,” or “get some more sleep,” then my Hemoglobin A1C will go down.  Yet all these things have fallen from the mouths of those who were trying to “help” me with my mental health.  It’s just further proof of the stigma.

So many people hide their mental illness because they are afraid of what others will think of it, and I want you to know that anyone who doesn’t treat your mental health on the same playing field as your physical health is an idiot.  Yes, I can absolutely die from diabetes.  And yes, I can absolutely die from depression, as well.

Every year I walk in the Out of the Darkness walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I do this so I don’t die, guys.  I do this so that every year I can celebrate the fact that I made it ANOTHER YEAR.  It’s not unlike other walks, where you have supporters, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are still fighting.  I am one of those people still fighting, and I’m always going to be, because Major Depressive Disorder is a bitch.

People are a lot more open today then they were 20 years ago when I first started therapy.  At least this much is true, but still I feel that we as a society judge mental illness far more harshly than physical illnesses.  It’s almost like we are blamed for it, as if we have done something to deserve it, or we are seen as “less-than.”  You’ll notice that no one ever feels that way about a cancer patient.  No one says they must’ve brought that cancer on themselves, or it’s in their power to control that cancer.  Listen, if I knew how to control my serotonin levels on my own with some superpower, don’t you think I’d be doing it?

I’ve been depressed this week, because I haven’t been very active since surgery and also, it’s been a little lonely without Mark around…our schedule is still not meshing.  I am, of course, looking for my silver linings, which come in the form of the ability to start hiking again next week with Kevin, and…drumroll…SAHAR IS HERE!!  My nearest and dearest drove up from Ohio to see me and I am thrilled.  In fact, I’m going to wrap this up now because she is on her way over.  But my point here is that despite being depressed, I am finding things to look forward to, thus making myself happier.  It’s one of the many items in the emotional toolbox that I have been constructing for the past 20 years.

Also, break a stigma!  Don’t let anyone tell you you’re lesser because you have a mental illness!  You are a strong and special warrior and you should be treated as such!

Collector’s Edition

When I was a small child, I collected rocks.  I liked all rocks, but ones with pretty colors and shapes were my favorite, and would immediately end up in my pocket to come home to the tin can I kept them in.  I would lay them out on the floor and count and sort them, by color, by size, by type…I liked learning about different rocks.  When we went on vacations or day trips, I would buy precious rocks from stores as souvenirs.  I know I had my collection for a very long time, well into my 20s, but I have no idea now what happened to it…must’ve been lost in a move.

In middle school, I started collecting stickers.  I had a blue and purple photo album that I would stick them in.  I would then spend an hour counting them, and double checking, to see how many I had: which is a big fat OCD red flag.  I remember one in particular that was a bag of Doritos and a scratch-and-sniff, so it smelled like nacho cheese.  I don’t know what happened to them, either.

In high school, I collected cows.  Of course, not actual cows, but figurines and such.  Things with cows on them.  I liked cows-I thought of them as big dogs and they are my favorite farm animal.   People would buy me cow stuff as gifts.  When I went to Girl Scout camp, my mother made me a little cubby out of a crate, and covered it in cow print fabric.  I don’t know how many cows I had, and I am sure I counted them, but over the years many things broke or got lost, and now I have no cows, except a cow kitchen timer I got from my friend Chelsea and the cow-shaped creamer I got for Christmas from…mom?

In my 20s, I collected nothing but bad decisions.  Ha, not really.  Purses-I was big on purses, particularly Kate Spade’s. I couldn’t afford the real thing though, so I had several knockoffs.  One day I gave them away to my friend’s daughter.  I kind of wish I kept one, though, now that she is gone.  Even if it was a knockoff.  (I do have a genuine wallet, though.  That’s gonna stay with me forever.)

In my 30s I got married, and I got this curio cabinet, and had nothing to put in it.  Until one day, I received a wedding gift from my best friend from elementary school. This chick sent me all the crystal in Ireland!  A butter dish, a creamer dish, a sugar bowl, and two sets of glasses-all Irish crystal.  And, better to me than all of that, a Belleek platter.

My mother loves Belleek.  We don’t have a whole lot in common when it comes to style, but we definitely agree on this beautiful Irish china with tiny shamrocks on it.  After I got the platter, she got me a Belleek St. Brigid’s cross ornament for Christmas.  It hangs prominently on the tree every year.  Its only two pieces, but this is no rocks or stickers, mind you.  Can’t just find these for under a buck at the corner store, or under your feet on the way to school.  This is more of a lifetime collection for me, something I intend to add to a little through the years.

On the cheaper side of things, though, I have started collecting Rae Dunn pieces.  She does pottery that I like.  I never really cared about things like that, but one day Mark bought me a mug that said “Feminist” on it, by her, and I loved it.  I loved how simple it was; how imperfect it was.  I only have a few pieces, but at least with this collection I can justify the cost because pretty much everything has a purpose.  My favorite piece I have is below, my boss lady nameplate.  Boss Lady became my nickname when I went on the cruise with my sister, and since I started publishing, I have taken strength from that title.  Also pictured are my newest additions, and let me tell ya, that little honey pot might actually be beating out boss lady for favorite piece now.

Anyway.

It occurred to me the other day that I have always been a collector of things, and if I had the time and money I would collect A LOT more things.  I watch shows like American Pickers and think “now those people have the right idea.”  And yes, I am referring both to the pickers AND the hoarders.

So, I gotta watch myself so I don’t go picking up every rock I see.

It also occurred to me that collecting was a total and terrible sign of OCD for me.  Counting is and was my biggest obstacle with my disorder-I count everything.  Steps, especially, and I even got myself a Fitbit solely so that when I started counting my head, I can tell myself that I don’t have to because my watch is taking care of it.  It works, for a while.  But every time, eventually, I start counting again.  It is the one lingering symptom of my OCD that no pill can seem to fix.

However, it brings me joy.  I mean, I woke this morning and saw that little honey pot and thought “gee, that’s adorable” and it brought a smile to my face.  So, yeah, I’m going to collect things by the artist I like and let them bring me a little happiness.  And on particularly special occasions, I might even add to my Belleek collection. 

Sometimes, when we are out fishing, I will find a particularly cool rock.  I will pick it up and put it in my pocket.  Often, it disappears, but sometimes I reach into that pocket a few days later, and feel the little stone in my hand, and smile.

Also, some stickers lol.

Hibernation

Hi!

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been out for a week and a half.  Usually when I miss a day in my blog it’s because I am in the hospital, but this was not the case this week.  I was home, and my stomach was calm.  My brain was not.  It’s still not great.  It’s kind of like when you have the flu, and you start to feel a little better each day.  I’m on day three of feeling a little bit better. 

I was kicking myself this time last week, mad that I hadn’t updated the previous Monday and had nothing to write about then.  I gave myself that Monday “off,” because I felt pretty down, and I wanted to take some time for myself.  So I watched some movies and made soup for lunch and snuggled with my blanket on the couch.  I thought I would feel better Tuesday.  I didn’t.

So last Thursday, I came back to the blog, feeling even lower, because it had been four days and I hadn’t written A THING.  Not my blog, not my WIP, not a poem.  Not so much as a sentence.

I felt slightly better while the kids were here this past weekend, but that all fell apart again Monday morning.  I felt worse than I had the previous Monday.  Blogging was out of the question.

So for the past week and a half, I have pretty much been hibernating in my living room, watching Pretty Little Liars and eating cereal.

I don’t know what my problem was.  It felt almost like I wasn’t taking my meds, even though I was.  And it left as quickly as it came, too.  I told my therapist and she told me not to worry about it unless it happens again, so I won’t.  But I always try to solve the little puzzles and figure out why my brain does what it does, so I tried to solve this mystery.  The best I can come up with is stress.  I handle stress so poorly…it just builds up and then drowns me.  I have been very stressed the past few weeks, and it is compounded stress; months of worries toppling down on me.  I wasn’t taking care of my stress levels like I’m supposed to, and I think it caused me to spiral a little.

After a week or so of self-care, I feel better.  I feel normal.  Maybe even positive, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  What I need to remember is to take the time for self-care regularly, and not have my stress get so bad that I implode.

Anyway, I’m here and I’m alive and well.  I still haven’t gotten to my WIP, but I just updated my blog, so that’s something.

The Love Remains

I’ve only really personally known one person that killed themselves.

(That’s a harsh way to start a post, huh?)

I’m not going to share his name, because we were only friends for a short time and because of that I somehow feel that his death is not really mine to mourn.  Still, when I logged onto Facebook one day and saw all our mutuals posting tributes on his wall, I cried.  I thought, as I’m sure everyone did, that if he had just reached out…maybe I could have done something.  But we weren’t close.  We worked together for a while, and I was his Secret Santa one year.  Hung out a couple times.  What could I have possibly done, except point him to a suicide hotline?  But maybe that would have been enough.  Who knows? 

(That was, completely coincidentally, the year I started doing the AFSP Out of Darkness Walk.  They read a list of names, and his was on it…I felt my heart drop to my shoe.) 

Last summer, I saw a guy in a crowd that looked like him.  For a second, I thought it was a ghost, that’s how close the resemblance was.  I remembered how I felt when he died…that I lost someone I once called “friend,” and felt powerless.  I don’t feel as powerless now.  I do the walk every year and raise funds to save lives, lives like his.  Lives like mine. 

That helps.

Anyway, after I saw this ghost it got me thinking of people in my life that I have lost contact with.  It’s a lot.  Like…a hell of a lot.  And it is all depression’s fault.  It went and convinced me these people didn’t really care about me in the way I cared about them and kept me from reaching out to maintain friendships that were important to me.  I thought to myself, that if one of these people committed suicide, I would be heartbroken.  I wanted people to know that despite my mental health keeping me from being present, the people I love will always be with me, and can always call on me when they need to.  So, I started sending messages.  About one a month, to people I loved and missed.  When I would see a meme or something that reminded me of someone, instead of just thinking “Gee, I miss so-and-so,” I would send it to them with a message. 

And so, I talked to my college buddies.  I had coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen for three years.  I reconnected with one of my besties from high school.  At Christmas, I sent messages to people I did Xmas shows with when I was in my teens.  I just so happened to message my middle school best friend the night before she got engaged.  Yesterday, I messaged a friend I haven’t seen in at least a decade AND my former therapist.  My point is that I tried to reach out, and good things came of it.

And…

I hope these people know.  I hope all the people I have ever met in my life know…that I am here.  If I loved you before, I have not stopped.  I wrote a play once, and the premise was that love, in all its forms, does not dissipate.  Take a relationship…you may break up, it may be awful, but you loved them once, and that love lives on in your subconscious whether you acknowledge it or not.  Or, someone you’ve had a falling out with…for instance, there is a woman that I’m pretty sure doesn’t like me.  And that’s fine.  She doesn’t have to.  We had a falling out many years ago, and I personally don’t think she’s ever forgiven me.  Again, that’s fine, it’s her prerogative.  Still, if she called me in a panic, I’d summon the part of me that used to be friends with her and run to her aid.  It’s just the kind of person I am, and why I believe that the love remains.

I do not give up on people.  It may seem that way at times, because I fall into depressive episodes that can last anywhere from an hour to five years.  I hate losing my people, be it to distance, time, or circumstance.  I will always, always be here.  Do not hesitate.  I don’t want to hear them read your name at the suicide walk, guys.

And also…maybe I just miss you.

My point is to reconnect.  To try to do something to maintain the relationships that mattered to you, even though the world seems to have gotten in the way.  And if you’re in a really dark place, all the more reason to reach out.  And if you need me, I’m here.

Good Days and Bad Days

Yesterday, I was on the phone with my therapist and she was commending me on how well I deal with my illness.  Every time I’m in the ER, she gets an email, so she has been worried about me these past few weeks.  I told her that the way I see it, I have good days and bad days.  And because I have so many bad days, I strive to make those good days into very good days, which is helping fight my depression in turn.  She was quite proud of this, and told me I was doing great work with my coping skills.

Afterwards, I hung out with Bernie, then Kevin showed up and we made brownies and watched drone footage of abandoned asylums.  After Mark got home, I made pizza and we hung out for a while and watched TV.  I took a nice long shower and went to sleep.  It was a good day.  Maybe even a very good one.

Today I woke up with a stomachache and immediately went full panic attack.  This caused me to throw up, which caused me to panic more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  I took my Xanax and my Zofran and wrapped up in my blanket and begged God for just one more good day.

I fell asleep sitting on the couch, and when I woke up again, I still felt crappy, but I wasn’t vomiting.  I took Mark to work.  I took a drive to the reservation.  I drank a cup of coffee, and when that didn’t come back up, I thanked God for one more good day.

Very good day has yet to be seen.  I still feel a little under the weather, and will likely just stick around the house and do some writing.  Still, a very good day is possible…I will likely work on my outline for NaNo, and maybe my final proof for my chapbook will arrive so I can look that over.  I can send out a few submissions, or if inspiration strikes, write a new poem.

I can open the door to my office, finally, blessedly, and let the sunshine in.  I can play my music as loud as I want because my downstairs neighbors are out for the day.  I can light my new candle, and maybe watch something on tv if I get bored.

Every day that I can do these simple things is a win.  So many days of my life are spent in a hospital, or recovering in my bed.  Sometimes it feels like those bad days outnumber the good ones, and that is, at times, unbearable.  But I don’t have a choice, see.  If I’m going to quit something, I have to be pushed to my absolute limit…but there is no limit on your life.  It can go anywhere, so you can’t quit, because what if something great is around the next corner?  And I will tell you, oh so many times in my life, there has been a great thing waiting. 

It’s the first really nice day here in Buffalo.  This Saturday is supposed to be gorgeous, and part of my plan for today is choosing a hiking spot for me and Hubs to hit up this weekend.  I am sitting in my office pecking out this blog, but I am distracted, because I want to be outside.  I think I will clean up the porch and maybe pull a few weeds.  Those are the kind of chores that make me happy, so I will do them as one of those coping mechanisms that my therapist appreciates so much.  The little tasks I give myself keep the depression at bay, and make my day feel worthwhile.  I appreciate each good day, and I strive to make them all into very good days, so I try to accomplish as much as I can, write as much as I can, and love as much as I can.

Someday, all I will have are good days.

That will be the best day of them all.