On Change

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I resist change.

I crave change.

Like most parts of my personality, I always deal in extremes. I'm constantly wanting things to be different and new and exciting and then jumping ship the moment it seems that my comfortable lifeboat will be rocked in any way. 

Mostly, I just get thrown overboard and then work on treading water and getting back to dry land. 

(Why am I making so many nautical references here?! This has really gotten away from me.)

I've spent a lot of my life staying in situations that are just comfortable "enough". The job that I don't love but gets me by. The relationship that's no longer working right, but my head still rests comfortably in the crook of his arm so I let it linger.

I recently went away for a month. I'd like to tell you it was for some noble cause, but the truth is that I was running away. Mostly, I was running away from feeling comfortable. I needed to feel unsettled and disoriented for a while. I needed to get lost. I needed to carry my belongings on my back while struggling to communicate. I needed to feel lonely when I was actually alone (and not surrounded by people). 

I'd like to tell you it worked, but I think the one thing it succeeded in is making running away itself feel more comfortable. I've been back 10 days and am already looking at other trips, different moves, and 6 months stays in foreign cities. I'm not necessarily saying any of those things will happen, but I"m restless right now. 

I want to keep running. 


On Depression

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Depression is a complex beast.

I was writing extensively when I was first diagnosed a few years ago. My heart had just been broken. I was on my own for the first time in my adult life. I felt very scared and very alone. I was a jumble of emotions and tried to tap them all down with a nightly bottle of wine and a shot or two of liquor. I’d sit at my desk and cry and write and drink and lay down on the floor and listen to sad songs when the room was spinning too much for me to keep upright.

I’d publish what I wrote in a flurry of emotion, always feeling shame for it the next day. My words, at that time, were written to an audience of one. I kept telling myself it was cathartic and I was being creative, but the reality is that I was hurting deeply and vacillating wildly between showing how badly I had been hurt and trying to prove that I wasn’t hurt at all. 

Swinging between extremes. Another story for another day.

Looking back, with several years of perspective behind me, it’s so obvious I was struggling far more than I let on. The moment I knew I needed real and professional help was when I started feeling like my entire life would be mired in a swampy fog of sadness and I’d prefer not to go on. I was cutting vegetables one night and suddenly had a very intense fear of holding that knife because I didn’t trust myself with it. I didn’t know quite what I was feeling, but I intrinsically knew I was no longer safe with myself.

I made an appointment to speak to someone the next day.

I’ll save you the story and the platitudes about coming back from depression. I came back, but to someone different than who I was before. 

I mostly like her. I enjoy the newfound sharpness and wit that replaced the person who was too scared to speak up. I like the woman who isn’t afraid to mix her love of high-brow and low-brow art in a way I was always far too ashamed to admit. I love the feistyness that replaced the meek.

But there are things I miss. I miss being the person who threw her whole self into the possibility. I miss the way I wasn’t so scared to be vulnerable. I’m now so closed off and partitioned that it makes it near impossible for for anyone to get close to me romantically. I set up unreasonably difficult hoops to for men to jump through and then abandon them completely before they can even try.

 I make sure to walk away first. I make sure to always have one foot out the door.

And the worst part is, I make sure anyone who is interested KNOWS it.

And I don’t need a therapist to tell me I do it because I’m petrified of getting hurt again., but that’s a rabbit hole for another time.

I’ve realized that depression takes so many forms. When I lost my parents I was hit with another wave; one I didn’t recognize because it didn’t stand over me and scream into my face at night. 

It was quiet. 
It was calm.

It was days that all felt overcast and as though I was running on 3 hours sleep. I felt bleak and exhausted. Instead of drinking, I wrapped myself up in a blanket and squirreled away, an emotional hibernation. I didn’t cry. I didn’t drink to forget. I didn’t have sadness-fueled one-night stands. None of my previous depression triggers were true for this round.

I missed so many of the signs because I kept thinking that surely this wasn’t depression. I was just having “the blues”. But I learned that not only does depression take different forms with different people, it can also take on many lives within the same person, I don’t know how I didn’t know.

These days, I think I’m pretty well in tune with myself. I’m gentler with myself, sometimes to the point of coddling. I still don’t know how to be vulnerable. I don’t know if writing these things out and putting them into the void is a step towards that vulnerability or simply a way to avoid having to open up to people face-to-face.

Like everything else about me…it’s probably a little bit of both.

On Grieving

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The day my mother died, I hadn’t spoken to her in over two and a half months.

The reason is benign and indicative of our overall relationship. I felt overly criticized. She felt wronged. Both of our feelings were hurt. We were both far too stubborn of people to wave the white flag first.

Neither of us knew there wouldn’t be more time.

I was at her bedside and talked to her as she was slipping away, but by the time I’d gotten there she’d long moved past any point of showing signs she could communicate. Even so, I talked to her like she could hear me, although I’ve never been quite sure whether I hoped she could hear me, or whether she was mercifully unaware of everything going on around her.

Most days, I really, really hope she heard me apologize.

A year and a half later I was in that same room, staring down the same fate, only this time I was holding my dad’s hand. The only stroke of good “luck” in this situation was that we had both learned from what happened before and as soon as his illness was found, I moved in with him and our relationship flipped from Parent-Child to Caregiver-Patient, and then finally to Child (as parent) and Parent (as child).

It was not a role I fell into naturally, nor did I enter gracefully. I am not a natural caregiver. I am brash and loud and selfish and do poorly with interrupted sleep. I do not always give affection freely, and years of working in a hospital made me cold with medical facts.

But I tried.

And he and I stumbled and fought and cried together. We somehow managed to give each other space while becoming closer. As he struggled to find things that he had an appetite for there were days I spent driving all over town buying up anything  I thought he might be interested in.

There was also the day my meat-and-potatoes loving father suggested I hide vegetables in his food and I snapped at him that I wasn’t going to treat him like a toddler, and if he knew he needed a vegetable he should eat one.

He was being ridiculous, and I was being cold. We were imperfect people doing our best and we both knew it.

I don’t quite know why I’m writing all this out now. The process of losing my parents and the grief that ensued is so complex. I’m fairly stoic with my emotions and never really had that “break down” moment after my dad died. Six months later when John McCain died I was inconsolable for days. I knew at the time I was likely sublimating my own repressed sadness for my dad into my grief for him. I’ve never had any real fondness for McCain. He isn’t even someone I politically agreed with,  but I have never cried so much for another human beings death than I did for McCain.

Now I’m past the point where the grief is a thick cloud of smoke, choking me every time I try and fill my lungs and begin again. Now the grief is more like a tiny electrical buzz in the background. Mostly always there and almost always unnoticeable. But occasionally, with the prime conditions, that low buzzing deafens you for a brief moment,  and you wonder if it will ever quieten or how you will ever be able to unhear it again.

But it does and you do.

Here is the part of the story where, if I were a better writer or a better person, I’d tell you the secret to overcoming grief. I’d have a magical elixir or a soothing mantra. I have neither. Some days I feel better and others I feel caught in the thick of it.

I’m finally able to write about it, so I’m assuming the worst is behind me.