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Self Care

I work hard at maintaining good self-care habits. I run every day. I make a concerted effort (most of the time, anyhow) to eat healthy food. I try to get to bed at a decent hour most nights. These are all things that I know work together to make me a happier, healthier person. I’m not perfect when it comes to self-care; some days are a greater struggle than others.

I’ve written before about my yearly struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I do what I can every year – exercise, vitamins, a SAD lamp, early bedtimes. These things are always a struggle, and I still always end up feeling pretty rotten by about March. By the time spring arrives, I feel like I’ve survived something.

This past year I didn’t feel like I bounced back 100% from the winter. I struggled through the spring and well into summer before I started feeling like my old self; even at that, I still didn’t get to where I wanted to be. Fall was pretty good, as far as fall goes but now that it’s winding down and I see winter looming on the horizon, a big part of me was absolutely dreading those cold dark days and the low mood and exhaustion that go along with it.

I saw my doctor last week and together we made the decision to put me on a low dose anti-depressant. I’m not normally one to take medication; I was on anti-depressants years ago when I was going through a particularly tough time, and I didn’t find them to be all that helpful for me. Of course, the problem back then was more the situation that I was in, and once the situation changed, my mood dramatically improved. Go figure.

This year I decided that I didn’t want to drag myself through the next three or four months, feeling terrible all the time, holding my breath until the weather got warmer and sunnier. I recognize that meds aren’t the cure, but my hope is that they will help me feel good enough to keep up with all the other self-care stuff that will definitely help – the exercise, the vitamins, the positive attitude…blah blah blah.

I know that medication isn’t the right answer for everyone. And hell, it might not even be the right answer for me, but at this point, I’ve tried everything else outside of eye of newt and tongue of bat, so I figure that it might be time to finally explore this as an option. It’s not a decision that I came to lightly, but hell, if I can make it through the coming winter without feeling like I’ve fought a hard battle, then I’d call it a win.  Time will tell.

The Shift

The other night as I prepared to drift off to sleep, I felt the wetness of my tear-stained pillow against my cheek. A bit earlier, as CBG and I had laid in the dark talking, a few stealthy tears crept out of the corner of my eye, ran down my cheek, and made landfall. I took a deep breath and relished in the feel of the warm, damp fabric on my face.

Happy tears feel so different against my skin.

I snuggled in next to him closer, listening to his slow, steady breathing, basking in the love that had grown just a little bit stronger over the previous few days.

Just like that…it feels like us again.

 

The Hardest Thing About Step-momming

In the interests of being brutally honest, I’ll admit straight up that I’m not the best stepmom in the world. While I am proud of my mothering skills and abilities, I don’t feel the same way about the stepmother I am to Ankle Biter and Rugrat. There are a lot of excuses reasons for it. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really like other people’s kids all that much. I don’t see either one of my step kids very often. My step kids are parented in very different ways than I parent my own kids. I am not put into a parenting-type role with either one of them, as they both have involved moms in their lives. When we’re all together, I’m mostly there as CBG’s “back up” when he needs it.

It’s not like I dislike either one of them, far from it. I feel a genuine fondness for them both, but admittedly I don’t feel like a parent to either one of them. I’m more of a family friend that spends time with them every now and again.

So while I am largely not involved in parenting decisions for either child, I still have lots of thoughts and opinions about how they are being raised, and how they would be raised, were I in a position to have a greater role in this area of their lives. And while I’m not proud of it, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m kind of a judgmental parent. I don’t mean to imply that I think I’m perfect and do everything right all the time, but I’d like to think that I’m a pretty good parent. So when I see other parents doing things that I disagree with – hooboy – it can be tough to keep quiet.

However, for the most part, I do keep quiet. Sure, there are days when CBG gets an earful when something happens that I have particularly strong feelings about, but that’s as far as it goes. There have been times when it’s been extremely tempting to spout off and share my opinion with the mothers of my step kids — oh so very tempting, in fact — but I remain quiet. For the sake of peace. Because I know that no good will come of me being a bitchy stepmom, overstepping her boundaries. Because I can’t be a largely uninvolved step mother on most parenting decisions, but stick my nose in when I feel like it. And most of all, because it’s better for these kids to have all their parents get along – full stop.

But some days, it’s not easy. And on those not-so-easy days I remind myself that I would much rather be happy, than be right.

 

The Good Stuff

I realize that my last post was a bit…negative.

Well, not negative exactly, but more focused on the negative aspects of life right now. We all feel it from time to time — weighed down by the burden of crap that we’re forced to deal with. Some days that burden seems heavier than others.

Some people have expressed concern about CBG and I, and the state of things. And sure, while we have a lot of stuff that’s been happening, and a lot of “stuff” to deal with, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all the good stuff. Because it sure as hell isn’t all bad. Life never is. And I firmly believe that it is the ability to see the positives, despite everything else, that makes the difference between generally positive people, and generally negative ones.

As I mentioned before, things haven’t been great with CBG and I. Some days there are disagreements and hurtful words. There have been days without any words at all. Nights when I have laid in bed and wondered what was going to happen with us. But despite everything – those bad days, those hurtful words and expression of ugly emotion – one thing hasn’t changed. I love him fiercely. It’s that love that’s worn me down and worn me out, as I’ve tried so hard to help him this past while. It’s that love that has caused me to give and give and give until I’ve been emptied out.

But now, it’s that same love that is giving me reason to focus more on me right now. Because I know that if I want that love to remain, and to grow and become strong again, then I need to make sure that I am a strong, whole, and healthy person on my own. A person free of resentment. The best me that I can be. Because that’s the person that is going to do the best job of loving him — not this hollow shell of a woman that I’ve been feeling like lately.

I remember clearly the Sunshine and CBG when things are good. We are unstoppable. We are joyful and inspired and fun and free, bringing out the best in one another. They’re still there – I see glimpses of them – a little more lately, in fact. A little more as we both make the conscious effort to be our best selves. I am encouraged by this forward momentum.

I see CBG with my girls. I see how they are positively impacted by having him in their lives. I see how much they love him, and how much he loves them back. There are nights – like last night, in fact – when I see one of my girls snuggled up next to him on the couch and it makes my heart swell. I know how far they’ve come. I know the challenges that are there to bond with someone else’s children. I know how hard he works to be a good stepfather to them.

Another thing that I have seen lately is CBG making the effort. I know that it’s not easy for him right now, and that he’s been feeling a little overwhelmed. But he’s pushing back against it, taking steps forward, and trying. That counts for something. Because the thing is – I know that he loves me right back. I know there are days when it’s more of a challenge than others, but it’s still there. I see it clearly in his eyes on the good days. And that’s what I comfort myself with on the bad ones.

Good stuff? Yeah. We’ve got it.

 

Dealing with Depression (When it’s Not Yours)

It’s been almost two years now since CBG was diagnosed with, and began treatment for, major depressive disorder.

I was the one who urged him to see his doctor to begin with. It can be easy to miss the signs of depression, particularly in yourself. And especially since we all have an idea of what depression is “supposed” to look like, and when it doesn’t, it can be easy to pass it off as something else. Or even worse – as nothing at all.

I’d like to say that since beginning treatment, things have gotten back to normal. The truth is that they haven’t. Yes, there has been a big improvement, but in the last two years we’ve faced a lot of extra challenges. We’ve dealt with CBG being additionally diagnosed with ADHD, then losing his job and going through an extended period of unemployment, before beginning a new job back in late spring. We’ve dealt with me changing jobs not once, but twice in the last year. So to say that we’ve dealt with our share of challenges recently would be a bit of an understatement.

In the interests of honesty, I’ll admit that it’s been a tough go these past two years. CBG and I haven’t exactly been our best selves. We haven’t always been putting the effort into our marriage that we should. Some days, some weeks, some months have been worse than others. But still — we are trying.

Continuing with the theme of full disclosure, I’ll also admit that it’s been tough for me, dealing with CBG’s depression. I know it makes me a bit of a selfish arsehole to say it, but those of you who have lived through a spouse’s depression know what I’m talking about. This is particularly true for those of us (like me) who struggle with their own mood. As I’ve written about before, winter is always a tough time for me, mentally and emotionally. Add to that a depressed spouse and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years, about having a depressed spouse. I’ve learned how easy it can be to empty your own emotional tank while trying to carry the load for two people. And how once that tank gets emptied, it’s often filled back up with anger and resentment, with a good-sized chunk of guilt thrown in for good measure. I’ve learned that self-care is more important than ever, but can very easily fall by the wayside. I’ve learned that it can be very easy to blame oneself for how your spouse is feeling, even though logically you know that its just stupid brain chemistry to blame. I’ve learned that (for me, at least) it can be very easy to get sucked into the vortex of negative feelings along with your spouse. And when that happens, instead of being able to lift one another up, all you do is pull each other down deeper. Like two drowning people with no life preserver in sight.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As part of closing the gap and being the person that I want to be, I know that I have to take greater responsibility for me and my own self care. That means taking a step backwards, away from CBG, in order to give both of us the space that we need to figure out our own individual stuff and do something about it. For me it’s about taking responsibility for myself – my thoughts, my mood, my actions – and doing something about them. It’s about encouraging CBG from the sidelines, from a loving distance. I can’t be responsible for the two of us. I’ve tried that route and it hasn’t been good for either one of us. And frankly, that’s not the person that I want to be. And I’m pretty sure that’s not the wife that CBG wants, either.

So (for right now at least) I am focusing a bit more on me. On my own health. My own self care. My own actions and attitudes. My hope is that CBG will be inspired to do the same, but the truth is that if he isn’t, I can’t be the one to wear it. I love him and I love myself too much to allow that to happen.

Closing the Gap

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching lately. This is a good thing, as I’ve realized that I’ve gotten a bit lazy about this. A few years ago it was like I was in a state of almost constant introspection; it kept me in touch with myself and really helped me to grow and be a better person. Lately I’ve gotten kind of complacent, just going through life with blinders on. I would like to say that I’ve been mostly happy and satisfied with life as it is. While that’s true in some areas, in others, the exact opposite is true. I’ve been feeling a lot of frustration and dissatisfaction with certain parts of life. I’ve been feeling stuck. And while it is certainly tempting blame it on any number of outside factors that have been affecting my life, particularly this past year or so, the hard truth is that I’m feeling stuck and frustrated and dissatisfied mainly because of me.

I have in my mind an image of the person that I want to be. I don’t think that realistically I will ever attain that ultimate goal, but there were certainly times in my life that I was a lot closer to being that person than I am right now. The gap between my ideal self and my actual self has widened. Some days its widened to the point that I don’t recognize or even like the person that I see in the mirror.

I’m not looking to be perfect. I may have an “ideal self” in mind, but I’m also a realist. All I really want at the moment is to go to bed at night knowing that I did the best I could on that particular day. Some days that’s going to mean being absolutely awesome. Other days, it might just mean surviving. But for a long time now I’ve been coasting along, satisfied with “survival”, waiting for better days to come. Perhaps even magically appear somehow. What I’ve realized (or re-realized, I guess, since I’ve always known this deep down) is that every day can be a better day. I just have to be willing to work for it.

When I’m 100% honest with myself, I know that I haven’t been doing the work that I need to be doing. The truth is that I’ve been slipping in all aspects of my life. I haven’t been the wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, employee, co-worker, runner, writer, or human being that I want to be. I’ve been making excuses for myself. I’ve been blaming outside forces. I’ve been blaming other people. And sure, my situation, the situation of others, and the people in my life definitely have an effect on me. But I am the person behind the wheel. And while the vehicle stays the same, I can certainly choose which road I take, and the passengers that I take along for the ride.

It’s time to work on closing the gap between the person that I know I ideally can be, and the person that I am right now. The two need to be a lot closer than they have been. I can make that change.

Dissecting The Blob

I wrote recently about how I’ve been dealing with an ugly blob in my life right now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blob. What it is made of. How it grew to be so big and ugly. How best to combat it.

I’d like to be able to report that I’m full of lots of good thoughts, good ideas, and even a solid plan. Hell, I’d settle for a shaky plan at the moment. The truth is, I’ve got none of that right now. I’ve been standing here so long looking at this damned thing that it’s grown bigger, uglier, hairier. Right now it feels almost a little too big to battle. The thing is, though, I know that if I choose not to battle it, that it will grow to an epic size and swallow me whole.

And well….ain’t nobody got time for that. 

I’ve gotten a little closer in the last few days to getting it figured out. Baby steps. The problem that I’m left with, is that I really don’t like the answers. I don’t fully trust my own assessment right now of what might possibly be going on. I want it to be something else. I want the answers, the solution to be different.

Stupid blob.