I did the thing

26 Aug

Here’s that tattoo I mentioned a few posts ago. I’m in love with it.

A southern moon is a sodden moon, and sultry. When it swamps the fields and the rustling sandy roads and the sticky honeysuckle hedges in its sweet stagnation, your fight to hold on to reality is like a protestation against a first waft of ether.

-Zelda Fitzgerald, Save Me the Waltz

What is Happening?

19 Jun

I posted this on Facebook today but wanted it here as well.

A good portion of my job is to be on Facebook and social media in general. Otherwise, I would find right now a good time to take a break, and I think it will serve me well to go ahead and limit the amount of time spent on my personal account going forward anyway.

I rarely speak out politically, but there comes a time when making your position known is necessary because your silence feels like acquiescence. I’m disheartened (to put it mildly…enraged and disgusted are the better descriptors) by so many things going on in the world right now. Atrocities supported and defended based on unsourced or twisted information, outright lies or misrepresentations, memes for Pete’s sake, or political party affiliations blindly followed into some sort of dogmatic effed up dystopian world that we are going to find difficult or impossible to return from. All of this is surreal. What is happening?

Before I head to the doctor for a refill on much-needed antidepressants (not sarcasm, that is seriously happening in about 2 hours) and crawl back under the covers to shun the world (also happening after the doctor), here are some links to educate, dispell a few prevalent myths, and maybe do some good in this hot mess of a society we find ourselves in these days.

  1. FACT CHECK: Was the ‘Law to Separate Families’ Passed in 1997 or ‘by Democrats’?
  2. MYTHS: 9 Myths About Trump’s ‘Zero-Tolerance’ Policy
  3. HELP: Here’s How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Border

Be a good human. We are so much better than this.

Photo by Roi Dimor on Unsplash

Sometimes I’m Sad Panda

16 Jun

This was originally published on Girl Go Glow, but I wanted it to live here, too. The timing is right to post it tonight. I let my meds lapse and have been trying to hold it together mentally for the past couple of weeks until I can get back to the doctor on Tuesday for a new prescription. I did what you should never do – took my meds all willy-nilly and let them lapse. I don’t know why I do this. I’m not ashamed of taking meds, I NEED them. But I think part of me feels some sense of failure that I have to have them at all to function properly. Like the real me is broken. This contradicts a bit of what I say below but that’s me, a walking contradiction.

On the worst days, I can’t get out of bed. The mattress becomes a magnet and my body morphs into a blob of iron. The bed is my safe haven, the darkness and blankets a shield. I’m surrounded by grayness and apathy. Zoloft. Therapy. Noting Triggers. Prozac. Negative vs. Positive Self-Talk. Mindfulness. Meditation. Wellbutrin. Breath Work. Affirmations. Citalopram. Visualization. Self-Help Books. Exercise. Sunshine. Worry Stones. Journaling. Lexapro. All of these are or have been in my arsenal. I won’t win, but I can maintain a truce sometimes.

I don’t purposely keep it a secret that I battle anxiety and depression. It is what it is, and it’s cool if it comes up in conversation. If I see a good resource, I’ll pass it along in hopes that others might benefit. It’s just not something I’ve spoken about in a public forum in a very long time. But as the co-author of a blog meant to empower others to live authentic and purposeful lives, if I can’t speak here about this huge part of who I am, then where and when can I? I SHOULD talk about it. Depression and mental illness are not talked about enough, as the stigma surrounding it makes evident. This stigma is real, and it bugs me that depression isn’t seen as a “valid” disease in the traditional sense. I mean, I can’t call off work and tell my boss that I can’t get out of bed because I’m consumed by sadness. It just doesn’t work that way and I’d prefer not to receive a call from HR. Yet for me and millions of others, depression is as debilitating as a migraine, the flu, or any other physical malady, but we have to pretend it isn’t and I’ve learned to hide it fairly well, except on the really bad days.

I don’t remember the day I was categorized or diagnosed as “depressed”. It seems to have been a gradual progression from childhood anxiety to bouts of depressed episodes in adulthood. I wasn’t what you’d call a troubled kid; quite the opposite. I did great in school, followed the rules, had friends, did the extracurriculars, all the normal stuff. I was shy and socially awkward except around close friends or family, but that’s pretty standard for introverts I’d say. I blame faulty genes for the most part and dumb luck for the rest. Research has shown that as many as 40% of people with depression can trace it to a genetic link and that those with parents or siblings who have depression are up to 3x more likely to also be depressed. Thanks, genetics, you’re a real pal.

So while the specifics of the beginning are foggy, I do recall the grayness getting worse as I entered the real world of career and full-fledged adulthood. Being an adult sucks y’all, no doubt. I remember coming home from the doctor one day in my 20s with a bottle of Prozac. Thus began my journey through the land of pharmaceutical wonders that I’d try for a while and then, due to side effects or tolerance or something, I’d switch to a new one. Make no mistake, I am not anti-medication. I am pro do-whatever-works-for-you. I’ll probably be on antidepressants for the rest of my life, and that is a-okay. For me, meds help with the surprise attacks of depression. Sometimes I can pinpoint triggers and other times there is no warning or obvious cause. One side-note – I do know that having a baby was one of the best and worst times of my life. Postpartum depression will knock you off your feet and is one of the many reasons hubs and I are one and done in the kid department (another post to come on this at some point). I can’t and won’t go through that again. Bottom line: Knowing your triggers is helpful for minimizing the damage but isn’t possible for me most of the time.

There is comfort in knowing you are not alone. I recently started listening to a podcast, The Hilarious World of Depression. John Moe talks to comedians about their struggles with depression. Sarcasm and humor, self-deprecating and otherwise, are coping mechanisms for many of us. The latest episode featured Hannah Hart and a lot of talk about not feeling worthy; of having achieved fantastic things but not feeling like you did it or deserved it; never feeling good enough. If I recall correctly, Hannah said she might get 10 days out of the month where she felt normal and ok. That gave me pause and I thought about what my number might be; how many days do I feel NOT depressed? It’s hard to say, but I’d estimate that on average, I feel “good” about 15-20 days out of the month. That’s a lot of leftover days as Sad Panda Jenn. Yikes.

What’s a typical day in the life of Sad Panda Jenn you ask? I sleep a LOT. Can’t get out of bed and if I do, it’s a massive mental undertaking. I may or may not shower. I’m irritable or silent. Prone to tears. Withdrawn. Unmotivated and apathetic. Feelings of failure about everything. If I make it out into public, I don’t want to interact with people (actually, that’s kind of just Regular Jenn but it’s much more pronounced on bad days). I eat my emotions, so bring on the junk food. I feel like absolute shit about myself. Worthless. I sit in my car in random parking lots as long as possible. I become very internally focused. Voices in my head bully me and I believe them. I question every past decision I’ve ever made and fear future ones. I don’t understand how I can feel this way when I am so fortunate in life and there are multitudes suffering so much worse than I. It doesn’t make sense and brings a sense of guilt on top of the rest. I crave darkness and small spaces that wrap themselves around me (like my car or bed. I want one of those weighted blankets, but am afraid I’d never come out from under it.) I hate everything. I’m not nice to myself. A sometimes-helpful tip from my therapist in regards to this last one is that if it’s not something I would say to my daughter or a friend, don’t say it to myself. Treat yourself with the same kindness. Easy to say, harder to do. But I digress. All of this lasts in varying degrees anywhere from a couple of days to weeks. My method of coping is to use whatever I can muster from my above-mentioned arsenal and just wait it out. I will rebound eventually and then the cycle will start over. I do my best.

Doesn’t all this make you wanna hang out with me? I’m a real peach, eh? I know this post isn’t particularly positive or uplifting, but newsflash – neither is real life all of the time. Real life is hard and ugly and well, depressing. But it’s also lovely and beautiful and fun. What’s that saying?  Stars can’t shine without darkness.

Thanks for reading and please know that if you’re having mental health struggles, that you are in good company; I mean, I’m here, right?!?!? Know that it is ok to build a pillow fort and stay there all day if you need to. Take advantage of resources available to you and don’t feel any shame! Take meds, see a doctor or therapist if you can, meditate, volunteer to help others, journal. Develop your own customized arsenal. Reach out to people who get it, reach out to me, someone, anyone.

Just a few of the many resources out there:

That said, I don’t want to make it sound as if all you have to do is ask for help and the cavalry will come to save you. I know that depression can “mute your ability to reach out” as someone else put it after the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. This article, Stop Telling Us To Ask For Help. Depression Doesn’t Work Like That speaks to that better than I can. And that makes mental illness all the more tragic.

tattoo talk

15 Jun

So, here’s some news. Mom, brace yourself. I decided to get another tattoo! I went by the shop yesterday after work and got it scheduled for his next available appointment in July. This will be my third piece and will be done by the same artist who did my first one several years ago.

Why do people get permanent art on their bodies and why did I decide to get another? I think the reason is different for everyone. I find tattoos to be the ultimate in self-expression. Each tattoo has a story, even if that story is simply “I love dinosaurs.” They are visual narratives that we carry with us every day; constant reminders of things that are important to us. I’m not sure why some people view this as a negative thing because to me, it’s beautiful. I do accept that it’s not for everyone and people express themselves in different ways. Don’t like broccoli? Don’t eat it. Don’t like tattoos? Don’t get one. Don’t make life harder than it has to be folks.

I did meet some resistance from someone close to me, primarily about the placement of this new piece. My other tattoos are in places that I don’t see when fully clothed – between my shoulder blades and on my thigh. This new art will live prominently on my inner forearm. The reasoning behind the resistance was based on potential future employers who may not allow visible tattoos in the workplace. I get that in more conservative fields, this is a common policy, although I think it is falling gradually out of favor as time goes on. My thought on this, especially as I get older, is that I don’t want to work in a place that feels the need to stifle creativity and self-expression in this way. I don’t want to conform to someone else’s ideals or expectations of and for me. Life’s too short and I’m too old. Also, tattoos don’t suck out brain cells and make me perform my job poorly or in a less effective manner.

Anywho, I’m not going to stay on the soapbox about this, but that’s the gist. I just wanted to share the news about my upcoming new ink! And no, I’m not telling what it is until its done!

Photo by Julia Giacomini on Unsplash

Therapy: On Feeling Better

25 May

My latest therapy session was a good one. We spent a lot of time talking about simply wanting to feel better and using that as motivation rather than relying on a number on the scale or the size of my pants to dictate my mood.

I’m feeling all of my 42 years plus about 10 more these days. I shouldn’t struggle so much to get up off my kid’s floor, be winded after climbing a few stairs, or be so stiff that I have to literally roll off the bed and hobble to the bathroom because my joints haven’t “warmed up” yet.

Realistically, the goal of having a taut, lean body are long gone. I’ve lowered my standards and they are twofold.

1. Feel better physically overall.

2. Belly less protruding than boobs.

That’s legit it, and I really don’t think this is unachievable. Until I actually try to do it. I sounds like the cliched broken record here but, do you know what I had for dinner tonight? Leftover pizza and raw cookie dough. I KNOW that is not going to make me feel better physically and yet I do it again and again and again. Which tells me that this is more of a mental struggle than anything. Conquer the mind and you conquer the body, right? So how does one do that? I have zero clue and thus the cycle continues.

Dr. B and I talked about just focusing on doing fun things that I enjoy and that are active. Indoor rock climbing and cycling came to mind. I’ve done both and enjoy them, as much as I’m going to enjoy any physical activity. A further stretch is getting back into a dance class – maybe belly dancing even. I mean, I already have the belly so I figure I have a head start on that one.

I dunno. I tend to think that I should have this figured out by now and I feel really dumb for still struggling with this stuff at my age. I’m trying to ward off an impending funk but all I can think about as I stuff junk food in my face is how I’m getting fatter and fatter. Which carries over into my confidence in other areas and down the rabbit hole we go. Maybe there will be pie at the bottom.

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

breaking

20 May

I have seen my father break. Crushed under the weight of the illness and death of his own father when I was a teenager. Then again when cancer took his mother and only brother within mere weeks of each other. I know what it looks like when my father breaks. And there is no shame or weakness in the breaking.

Now I watch my mother. I watch her carefully and in awe as she cares for her dying mother knowing that this will be their last Mother’s Day together in this life. I see my forlorn grandfather lean on his oldest daughter for support as he watches his partner of 63 years slip away from him. I watch my mother as she processes the loss of another family member who took their own life this very week.

Outwardly, my mother shows no signs of breaking. But I wonder when the cracks will show. My father and I wait until she leaves her brief respite to return to care for grandmother. Then dad and I cry together for her. We all break differently. And there is no shame in the breaking.

June 30, 1937 – May 15, 2018

Since You’ve Been Gone

20 Apr

aaron-burden-363695-unsplash


I can breathe for the first time…Just kidding.

After about a year’s absence I kinda just have to start over here. Here are the major highlights:

  • I started a new job! 🙂
  • Our dog died. 😦
  • I restarted and then quit grad school. Again. 😦
  • I’ve gained about 20 pounds. 😦

One out of four is not great, I realize. But the steady stream of good stuff that has continued through 2017 and into this year serves to even it out I think. We’re calling it break even anyway.

First, the job. Y’all know I have complained ad nauseam about Cubicle Nation for-freakin’-ever. I have been at the new gig for over six months now and I’ll be honest, barring being a kept woman or a travel writer, this is about the ideal job for me at this time and place in my life. I’m doing fun social media, communication, writing things at a non-profit. The commute is still outrageous, but I do get to work one day a week from home. The other negative was that I took a god-awful huge pay cut, but the trade-off was worth it to do worthwhile, fulfilling, and creative work. So yay happiness!

Second, the dog. Our chocolate lab, Cooper was ten and a half, and after a couple of weeks of obvious illness, we found out he had cancer throughout his liver. We had to put him peacefully to sleep. I’ve never had to experience that before and it was heartbreaking. But there was no way I was going to see him not be able to get around and in pain. This was the right choice. One day (if I can convince hubs) maybe we’ll get another dog. For now, we’re adjusting to life without our Big Brown.

Third, grad school. I continued work on a graduate degree in Liberal Arts, did a few classes, then a major bout of depression hit me, and I quit. Plain and simple. It sucked, and I kind of hate myself for it. But then the new job came along and it doesn’t have the tuition benefit anyway, so I suppose it was meant to be – if you believe in all that Fate crap. Anyway, maybe anything past a Bachelor’s degree just isn’t for me. Or maybe I’ll go back someday. Time will tell.

Lastly, weight gain. What’s there to really say about that? I still struggle mightily with depression and all the food issues that go along with that. And I like my sweets and junk food, sue me. Living healthier is constantly on my mind; it’s the doing it that hinders me.

So there you have it. A year’s absence caught up in a few paragraphs. Here’s to reviving Finnspace.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
%d bloggers like this: