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Letting Go

I’m admittedly a bit of a pack rat. I’m not sure where this tendency ever came from, or why it’s still sticking around, but it’s been a part of my life now for forty-two (almost forty-three!) years. Every so often I decide that I’m finally going to do something about this pack-rattish-ness of mine. I go on a bit of an organizing and de-cluttering spree. I get rid of things. I purge. At least for a while. And then for whatever reason, I always run out of steam and not only stop, but return to my previous hoarder-like ways.

For example, last year I read the popular “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and decided very quickly that this was the The Answer to my problems. I pulled everything out of my closet and dresser and went through each piece, asking, “Does this bring me joy?” And guess what? I got rid of a lot of clothing.

And then, I stopped.

And not long later, I began buying more clothes. Always with the justification that this or that particular item “brought me joy”. What it also brought me an overflowing closet and a return of that “cluttered” feeling.

I’ve realized that when my physical space feels cluttered, then my mental and emotional state tends to match.

I don’t know if it’s inspiration from the start of a new year or what, but once again, I’m feeling the need to de-clutter and rid myself of all those physical things in my life that seem to be weighing me down. Maybe this feeling will pass again but for time being, I am feeling very at peace with the idea of letting go, paring down, focusing on the truly important things in my life. And guess what? My shoe collection isn’t it.

It will take time, and dedication to the cause, but once again I feel that the time is right to let go.

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.

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.

The Blob

blob

I’m in the middle of dealing with a big blob in my life right now. A blob – you know, a big, quivery mass of ugliness that you don’t quite know how to deal with.

This particular blob seems to be sitting smack-dab in the middle of my life’s path. Not moving. Giving me a bit of a stink-eye, daring me to try to do something about it.

At this point, I’m at a loss as to what to actually do about it. I’m honestly still trying to figure out what this unwieldy, ugly mass actually is.  I know it’s make up of a lot of frustration. There’s also a fairly sizeable dose of resentment in there, too. And you can’t have frustration and resentment without a generous smattering of anger to go along with it. And I’m pretty sure that this big ugly blob is wearing a big old cloak made of sadness, to go along with everything else. And who knows what else at this point.

Not a pretty picture, is it?

I think that before I figure out what to do about this stinking mass, I need to identify exactly what it is. What purpose its serving – the role that it has in my life. And once I have that all worked out, then I can maybe come up with a plan of action for getting it the hell out of my path. Because it’s ugly. And scary. And quite frankly, it’s stinking up the place. Most of all, it’s preventing me from moving forward with my life – to better places. Because right now, this place that I’m sitting, isn’t the place that I want to be. I’m not the person that I want to be. And that blob? Well, I think that has a lot to do with why I’m not moving forward.

It’s time to get this figured out.

The Familiarity of Fear

fearIt’s no secret that fear and I are old buddies. Well…’buddies’ may be a bit of a stretch. Perhaps ‘frenemies’ is a better word.

This past week or so I’ve had fear sitting squarely on my back, whispering ugly things in my ear. I’ve heard whisperings, rumblings in the past several months, but at some point this week, it climbed up on my back — a big, overgrown, smelly monkey and started chattering — loudly. Too loudly for me to ignore.

And instead of thinking of all the reasons why this big stupid, stinky monkey was wrong (or at least misinformed), I allowed myself to think, “Well…he DOES have a point.” And it all spiraled downhill from there, to the point where yesterday I’d reached the point of near panic. That monkey had a firm, cold grip around my throat — my throat that I’d willingly exposed to him.

I woke up this morning determined to pry myself loose and shake that monkey off my back. I need to take control of things — of myself, my life, and my decisions. I have allowed fear to rule my life too many times in the past. Fear kept me in unhappy relationships, unhappy jobs. It held me back from directions that I truly wanted to go. It prevented me from growth. It stood in the way of happiness.

It’s been the boss for far too long.

I’ve mistaken comfort with overcoming fear, when the truth is, it’s just been me allowing fear to make the decisions for me, without resisting it. Because the problems don’t come when I feel the fear; the problems actually arise when I resist it. And that’s what’s been happening this week — an all out battle of me vs. fear. And it’s been terribly uncomfortable.

I went out for my run this morning and somewhere along the way, I managed to knock that monkey off my back. There’s no chattering there for now. I’m certain that it will return at some point — likely sooner than I’d like. But in the meantime, the plan is to build up an arsenal of weapons to keep fighting against it.

Because frankly, I’m tired of Fear calling the shots, of steering the direction of my life. Enough is enough.

The Downside of Being Depressed at the Same Time As Your Spouse

We’re definitely in double trouble land these days when it comes to CBG and I. I wrote last week about how I’m basically in self-preservation mode, focusing on me and working hard to care for myself. I whined wrote about how much work self-care really is.

One of the benefits of marriage is that when one of you is feeling down, the other person can lift you back up. They can support the weight of life a for a little while, so you can steady yourself and get back on your feet. They can take care of you a bit, since you’re not so great at caring for yourself right now. And then, eventually, you will get your opportunity to return the help and support when they need it.

The tricky bit, of course, is when you’re both depressed at the same time. When that happens, you’re both far too focused on yourselves and your own feelings to be of much use to your spouse. And even worse — you’re actively dragging one another down in the process, like two desperate, drowning victims…trying so hard to catch a breath or two that you’re holding down the other person in the process without really realizing it.

It’s actually pretty ugly.

It’s usually at this point that the resentment sets in — resentment at your spouse for not helping more, not doing more. For not taking engaging in adequate self care. For not propping you up a bit, or themselves either…but merely allowing themselves to sink deeper into the emotional muck, pulling you down with them. For not waking up and seeing what’s happening right in front of them.

And as we’re all well aware, resentment does crappy things to a marriage….rotting it from the inside out…snaking its tendrils deep into the once joyful flesh. Soon, it gets hard to recognize the person that you’re sliding into bed beside each night, and the question becomes: who is the problem? Are they the one who is unrecognizable, or is your own judgment so clouded that you can’t see them (or the situation) clearly?

A little of both, I guess. Or a lot of both.

It’s terrifying. And worrying. And guilt-inducing. And even more resentment-making. Because even though you know that your spouse doesn’t have a whole lot to offer right now, you still resent the shit out of them for not finding the energy to dig deep and do a little bit more.

Because sometimes, it’s really nice to have someone take care of you, even just for a little while.