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Self-Help, My Butt!

About a year ago, a friend of mine recommended a book to me that really helped her with her anxiety. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll give it a read. I finally finished the damn thing last night. Due to the fact that it took me almost a year to finish, you can imagine how helpful I found it. Actually the only reason I finished it at all was because it was listed on my Goodreads “Currently Reading” shelf and I got sick of seeing it there. That’s why I finished it by skimming through the last couple of chapters.

Now I’m not saying that it was total crap from beginning to end. I’m sure it would actually be quite helpful for some people, like the friend that recommended it. However, this author’s entire program I did in therapy about a decade ago. I’ve been living/breathing/practicing his program for over ten years. And yet, I’m still depressed. I still have panic disorder – although knock on wood, that has abated quite a bit. As soon as I realized this, I decided that I would continue to read the book, as it could serve as a sort of refresher course for me. But the further into the book I got, the more he lost me.

His whole claim, is that if you do his program from start to finish and keep at it, your depression/anxiety will go away. That his program is the only thing keeping you from living symptom free. He even has little quizzes throughout the book that you can refer back to in order to gauge how you’re doing. Well guess what? I passed each of his quizzes with flying colors. I have eliminated by child-knee-jerk reactions (he has a name for these that I don’t remember) and replaced them with healthier, more positive reactions. I can find the silver-lining in almost any situation.

ray-of-sunshine

I haven’t been able to lose the sarcasm though. That’s here to stay. But, for the most part I agree that self-talk and re-framing your thought processes works wonders. Emotionally I am a totally different person than I was before I learned how to do this. So why don’t I like the book? Because I’ve done everything that he says to do, and I am still depressed. I understand the need to market and sell books – trust me, I understand that – but I have a huge problem with someone saying that X is a cure-all, and if it doesn’t work for you, then clearly you’re doing it wrong. I have a major problem with that. I have enough problems without someone telling me that my depression is still there because I’m not working hard enough.

WTF? Screw you, Mr. Psychologist guy. Maybe I am doing it right, and I still need assistance from pharmaceuticals. Maybe that’s a thing that exists. Wow, this blog took a turn. Clearly I am still more worked up over this then I thought. It just drives me nuts when somebody espouses that there is only one fix that will work. Whether that’s the ‘You have to be on drugs!’ camp, or it’s the ‘Only talk-therapy will help you!’ camp. None of us are the same, so our ‘fixes’ will likely vary and be a combination of things. Depression and anxiety are hard enough without someone implying that you aren’t diligent enough if it’s not working. So here’s my recommendation – the book has some very good tools, but his process is likely only one step in your therapy, not the whole cure.

I Don’t Wanna

I am a lover of lists. At the end of each year, I make a list of the things that I would like to accomplish the following year and then break them down into which month I will do that task. At the end of each month, I make a to-do list for the following month. This list includes everything from my year list, everything that didn’t get done from the previous month’s list and everything on my calendar. Then I break these tasks into weeks, then days. At the end of each week, I refine my to-do list for the following week. Finally, at the beginning of each day I gauge my energy and concentration level, see whether anything has been added to my calendar that day and adjust my to-dos as needed.

This is how I operate. How I’ve operated for years, and I really don’t understand how people can function and get things done without lists. For everybody who has ever asked me how I get so much done, or how I remember things, this is how. It’s all written down. And over the years, I have learned the gracious acceptance and forgiveness that has to happen when you hit the end of the day and you’re not done with your list. Because let’s be honest, 99% of the time the list isn’t done because there were too many things on the list to start with! It’s not a personal failing, it’s a failure of proper minions. If I had minions, those damn lists would be done every day by dinner. Well, except for the dinner dishes. Those have to happen after dinner, for obvious reasons.

minions

Despite the fact that I have found a Zen place in regards to unfinished to-do lists, I have found that lately my lists are being pared down to the bare minimum. If something doesn’t absolutely HAVE to happen on that particular day, it gets bumped to another day. There are no options of things that can be done that day, or contingencies like, do X, Y, and Z should your appointment be shorter than anticipated. None of that. Lately, my lists have been sparse, down to the point that three day’s worth can fit onto one typed page. For comparison’s sake, it’s not odd for a single day to take up an entire page.

Why the change? Lately, I have had an extreme case of the, “I don’t wanna’s.” Not in the sullen teenager sense of, “I don’t wanna do the dishes,” but in the clinical depression sense of, “I don’t wanna do anything. Not move, not eat, not socialize, not anything.” Okay, sleep. I totally want to sleep, but that’s it. I probably would spend all weekend in bed if it weren’t for my dogs who are rather insistent on peeing and eating on a regular basis. I probably would have been fired from my job by this point, if it weren’t for the Prozac. The thought of having to get up and go to work in the morning makes me want to cry, but with the Prozac I’m able to do it. I get out of bed, put on clothes, feed/walk my dogs and get in my car.*

To do list

Now logically, I know that all of this is in my head. I have nothing to be sad about, my life is actually going quite well at the moment. But that doesn’t matter, so instead of fighting against where I am right now, I’m trying really hard to work with what I’ve got. I know that if I had one of my typical to-do lists right now, I would shrink away and choose to do nothing at all. Then at the end of the day feel crappy because I didn’t get anything accomplished. So instead, my to-do lists include simple everyday things like shower and walk the dogs and then 2-3 action items to get done toward completing my goals. It’s much easier – even when exhausted with zero motivation – to look at a list of two things and say, “Yeah, okay. I guess I can do that,” then it is to say that while looking at a list of ten things.

My lists are paltry, and my progress has been painfully slow, but at least there’s been progress. If you’re wondering, yes, writing this blog post is on my list. And yes, it’s been like pulling teeth to get it done. Apologies if it reads like that as well, but you gotta do what you gotta do! What do you do to keep your progress moving forward, when all you want to do is stay in bed? I’m genuinely curious. Not that I’ll probably try anything new right now, but I will later when my gut response for everything is no longer, “I don’t wanna.”

Don't wanna

 

*For those who are confused, yes it is totally possible to be on Prozac and still be depressed. If I were to up my dose to a level that would eliminate all depression, I would be a zombie. Not worth it.

Find and Focus on Your Wins

I don’t know about anybody else, but when it comes to my mental health I rarely give myself credit for how well I’m doing. Or when I have a particularly good day, I don’t celebrate that. Instead, I find that my focus stays on the negative. Instead of acknowledging that I got a lot done because once I was up and about I had a lot of energy, I focus on the fact that I slept through my alarm and was late. I focus on what I didn’t get accomplished, because if I hadn’t slept in clearly I could have gotten that done too. There’s no way that I would have spent that extra time futzing around on Facebook or Pinterest. Nope, definitely not. That was missed productivity time, and therefore deserves self-flagellation.

Pinterest

Most of the time I don’t even realize that I’m doing this until someone points out how productive I am, or what a good mood I’m in and I take a moment to reflect. All in all, I have more good days now than bad. Not easy days necessarily, there’s always something to overcome, but at the end of a week more days fall into the good category than the bad. A friend got me thinking about this, when she shared this meme with me.

Anxiety

I have panic disorder, not generalized anxiety disorder, meaning that I skip over the whole racing thoughts thing and just jump straight to the physical symptoms of the panic attack. When I was at my worst, I would have 6-7 panic attacks a day. A good day meant I only had 2-3. Bad days would frustrate me almost to tears. Why couldn’t I get a grip? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I make them stop? Why couldn’t I just be normal? Why did everything have to be so hard?

As you can imagine, this did wonders for making them stop. Insert sarcastic font here. I was expressing this frustration to my therapist one day, and she stopped me. Because she couldn’t figure out how I had had 6 full-blown panic attacks in one day and not wound up in the ER. I replied, rather testily, that obviously I had stopped them. Duh! At this she laughed, I don’t think she could help herself. Apparently this thing that I completely took for granted – the ability to stop a panic attack – was “amazing.” The fact that I could do it over and over again all day long was “huge.” I was so busy focusing on the fact that the panic attacks started in the first place, that I was failing to give myself credit for stopping them.

99 Problems

Yes, it sucked that they existed at all, but I was kicking ass in taking care of myself so I could move on with my day. Once I started focusing on the positive aspect of the whole situation, it was easier to deal with. It wasn’t a magic pill or anything that made the panic attacks go away, but it definitely served to reduce the frustration in my life, which in turn probably reduced the attacks. I don’t know for sure, because I wasn’t paying that close of attention at the time, but my attacks have dwindled down to once in a great while instead of daily. So I feel like there has to be at least a small connection.

But what this meme did for me even more, was remind me to start giving myself a break in terms of my depression as well. Yes, I have felt more depressed than normal as of late and it has definitely interfered with my social life. I also haven’t gotten things done that I wanted done back in January. Which sucks, but I’ve also gotten a lot of other things done. And I have made time for friends where I was able. So not all is lost, and maybe I’ll be more likely to catch up to where I want to be if I stop beating myself up for not being there already.

Do What You Can, When You Can

Over the years I have gotten pretty good about accepting the limitations placed on me because of medical issues. My diet is extremely limited, so I’ve learned to eat before going to group gatherings, to carry food with me, and to cook just about anything using substitutes for the foods I can’t eat. I figure it out and despite limitation continue to enjoy food. I’ve learned to work around injuries when exercising. Tendonitis in my ankle flares up, I do Pilates instead. Costochondritis (rib inflammation) flares up, drop the Pilates and embrace long walks. Break the living shit out of my toe, let’s do some leg lifts. I adjust, I modify, I keep moving.

Okay

My mental illnesses are a bit trickier, because they can’t always be planned for. But where I can, I plan. If I have a day filled with crowded spaces and constant interactions with people, I make sure I have a nice quiet evening at my house planned for that night. I have a light on a timer in my bedroom that turns on every morning to help simulate the sunrise. I keep lavender on my night stand to take if dreams wake me in the night, and I have gaba in my purse to take if I’m out and about and start to feel panicky. I accept my limitations and I work around them.

At least on my good days I do. On my bad days, I feel like I’m being betrayed by my body. I feel like there is some sort of conspiracy to prevent me from doing anything useful, or anything at all for that matter. Then I spiral down into self-pity and resentment and my depression kicks in and all I want to do sleep all day. But if I sleep all day, then I wake up and feel even worse, because then I REALLY didn’t get anything done. It’s a vicious cycle, and can feel never ending. At least that’s how it’s felt lately. So I’m adopting a new mantra. Okay, it’s not new at all, it’s actually well-worn, but I’m pulling it out of the closet and dusting it off.

What you can

I’ve been repeating this to myself a lot lately. When I feel like I’m not writing enough, creating enough, or moving forward in my career. When my dogs are bouncing off the walls with energy and I just want to take them on a nice long walk, but have to remind myself to let my foot heal so I don’t have to have surgery. And especially when I look at everything the current administration is doing and I want to take action, protest and make my voice heard, but some days the thought of even making phone calls is overwhelming. It is on these days that I am now saying to myself – Do what I can, when I can. That is enough.

That is enough.

 

 

You Are Not Alone

Because of my mental illnesses, I have been subject to a plethora of misconceptions. My depression tells me that I am a burden and not worthy of the attention and love of those around me. My panic disorder tells me that I am in extreme peril and my PTSD tells me that I will never be safe again. Those last two like to work in tandem. As paralyzing and inconvenient as those things are, they aren’t as damaging as the misconception that I held for years – that I was all alone. That nobody understood how I was feeling, that nobody could relate or truly empathize, that there was no community where I could belong. I was too broken to reveal my true self to anyone.

Broken

I have since come to discover that I am not alone. That belief is a load of shit. I actually belong to a rather extensive community, but few know it exists. Because of the stigma of mental illness and the shame associated with being a victim, people don’t talk their mental illness or abuse. Those that do are often labeled as outliers, over-sharers, attention seekers at best and are shamed and ridiculed at worst. It is not a “polite” topic of conversation. However, I feel that it is an absolutely essential topic of conversation.

By staying silent I felt alienated and that made all of my symptoms worse. Then one day I summoned up the courage and I wrote a blog post about my depression. In this post, I poured out my unique experience and the feelings that only I was feeling while out there all alone in my abyss. You can imagine my surprise when I got comments, both public and private, from people agreeing with me and saying that they feel exactly the same way. That they go through the exact same cycles and emotions. That I had put into words something they had been trying to say for years.

Truth

What? How could these people understand my inner most feelings when society had been telling me for years that I was an aberration? Simple. Society was wrong. I was not/am not an aberration. The things that I was going through, the thoughts that I was thinking were common place. In fact, I would hazard to guess that they run rampant throughout our society. This revelation that I was not alone and that people understood me, did more good than several months of therapy. It was like a burden had been lifted. I didn’t have to carry the weight of my illness by myself anymore.

For me this discovery was years ago. I bring it up now because I have been receiving messages from people who share their stories with me – either in part or in full – and a recurring theme that is coming through is that my blog helped them feel like they were not alone. I’m so glad that they got that message and I hope it sinks in. But for those who haven’t received that message, it occurred to me that it bore stating publicly. Because as I discovered years ago, with all of my other dark thoughts, the feeling of being all alone is not unique. You are not alone.

Not Alone

PTSD and Trump

I have made no secret of the fact that I, like many in our country, think that Trump is an abomination and ruinous to the progress that we have been able to eke out toward a goal of equal rights for all in this country. His election literally makes me ill. Since his election, many of the PTSD symptoms that I had worked for over a year to overcome, have come flooding back. The panic attacks are back. The bad dreams are back. The abject feeling of helplessness is back. I am not alone in this. I personally know several people experiencing this same phenomenon, and I would wager that therapists across this country have noted an uptick in patients with a resurgence of PTSD symptoms.

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Trump is a self-confessed sexual predator. His election to the highest office in this country sent a crystal clear message to survivors of sexual assault and abuse that that behavior is totally acceptable. As two of the predominant symptoms of survivors of sexual abuse are shame and a belief that the abuse was their fault, I have a feeling that November 8th undid years of therapy for many people. The inauguration on the 20th probably undid more years. As my abuser was a woman, this was not the cause of my relapse. For me, it was the bullying and the gas-lighting.

I honestly didn’t even realize that I had relapsed as badly as I had, until my therapist pointed out that my despair after the election went far beyond the election itself. I had moments where I was paralyzed by panic, followed by rage, then denial, then I would just give up. Meanwhile, I had a never-ending loop playing in my head of every time I was ever bullied in my entire childhood. There was a lot more there then I remembered. It’s amazing what the brain can repress in order to protect itself. But it was all back, playing in Technicolor 24/7. The mistreatment. The lying about it afterwards. The carte blanche acceptance of the aggressor’s story.

Gas Lighting

What shocked me though, is that the bullies weren’t the stars of this film. Instead, the focus was on those who should have protected me. Those who should have stood up for me. Those who should have listened to me. Except for very rare occasions, ever single memory involved these “protectors” doing one of three things:

  1. Ignoring the maltreatment entirely.
  2. Participating in the maltreatment.
  3. Leading the maltreatment.

The first one I can understand to some extent. A very small extent. The second two caused the psychological damage. The fact that nobody had my back. That nobody felt the need to stop or even acknowledge the maltreatment. The subsequent belief, that I didn’t deserve anything better. That I wasn’t worthy of better. I can tell you right now that I spent many of my adult years letting people treat me like crap and letting them take advantage of me, because I thought I deserved it. And it took many hours of therapy to break those beliefs and patterns. Clearly, it’s work I’m still doing.

So to say that my distress comes from Trump himself is a gross misrepresentation that gives that man way more credit than he deserves. My distress comes from the feeling of betrayal, and the feeling of helplessness that I have been transported back to my childhood, by all of those who voted him into office. We, as an enlightened people, are supposed to look out for our fellow man. Common decency dictates that those who are stronger, more able, look out for those who are weaker. On November 8th, millions of people in this country voted for a man who revels in abusing those he deems weaker. And with those votes, those millions of people said in one unified voice to every survivor of abuse, “You deserved it.”

By voting for him, you condoned his actions, his words and his beliefs, telling everyone in the world that those actions/words/beliefs are perfectly acceptable and further more will help you succeed. I am disheartened by Trump’s policies and horrified at the actions that he is already taking in office. But I am crippled with grief by how many people in this country consider my abuse acceptable behavior. To others who are feeling this too, please know that you are not alone. Now is the time for us to stand together, and have each other’s backs.

Marchers

 

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A Confession Without Shame

I have a confession to make. I’m not really a Star Wars fan. I know this sounds like no big deal, but when all of your friends are huge fandom geeks, them are fighin’ words. My saving grace is that I don’t dislike the movies, I just don’t seek them out. I bring this up because for the past week my Facebook feed has been filled with tributes and remembrances of Carrie Fisher. In scanning through these, I learned something new about her. She not only suffered from mental illness, but she openly spoke about it and fought to diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. This made me take a second look at this woman, and I gained a whole new respect for her.

For three-quarters of my life I have suffered from multiple forms of mental illness – depression, OCD, panic disorder and PTSD – and for a large part of my struggle my biggest fight was against the stigma. I didn’t want to be mentally ill, because that made me weird/different/crazy/unbalanced etc. So instead of seeking out the help I needed, I specifically denied myself that help because I was “stronger” than my mental illness. Even after I sought out therapy, I refused to take medication because, again, I was “stronger” than my disease. Looking back at that mindset now, I have to laugh if only to keep myself from crying. How much of my life was frittered away fighting a fight that didn’t need to exist?

heads

I was in my thirties before I finally accepted my mental illnesses and began to actively treat them for what they were, illnesses. Not a defect in my character, but an illness. What finally helped me turn that corner, was talking to a friend who had just been diagnosed with diabetes. This friend had tried to control her diabetes through diet, exercise, and every other bit of advice she could find. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t working and she had a choice to make. She could either be sick every day of her life, or she could go on insulin and only be sick every once in a while. Of course, she went on insulin. It was a no-brainer. Let me repeat that, the choice of being sick every day or going on medication was a no-brainer.

The lightbulb turned on. I had tried every conceivable treatment I could find for my depression – exercise, therapy, supplements, dogs, somato-emotional-release, more therapy, sun lamps, acupuncture, nature, etc – and after decades of trying things, I was still sick every day and quite frankly getting worse. Life was a constant fight. Getting up in the morning was a battle. Focusing on tasks was a battle. Motivating myself to leave the house was a battle. I fought every day all day and I was exhausted. Yet, I refused to medicate myself for my illness because that would mean admitting that something was wrong with me, and what would people say? What the actual fuck?

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I decided then and there that I no longer gave a crap what other people thought. I also decided that nothing was wrong/weird/different/crazy about me, I simply had a disease that could be treated. So I treated it. Now I’m not saying that medication is right for everyone, I only medicate my depression. I use alternate treatments for everything else because it can be a bitch figuring out what medications and what dosages work. Especially when I discovered that medication for the panic disorder made my depression worse, even while on medication for the depression. When this trial and error doesn’t go well, it’s not pretty and I wouldn’t wish that process on my worst enemy. Finding medications for everything wasn’t worth it. However, I learned that if I medicate my depression I can deal with everything else going on. But when the depression isn’t in check, everything else runs rampant.

So I medicate the depression, and most days I can function with only slight battles. Yes, some days the panic disorder wins the battle. Some days the OCD wins the battle. Some days they all gang up on me at once and I spend the day curled up with my dogs. But most days I am a fully-functioning, active member of society and many people are surprised when I tell them of my diagnoses. They’re even more surprised that I talk about it openly and have no qualms answering questions. Because all of my therapies aside, openly speaking about my mental illness has been a better balm than anything else. There is no shame in mental illness, and the more we talk about it the more we kill that stigma. So I’m here to talk.

fight-stigma

Finding My Words

The first thing my therapist said to me after I expressed how upset I was, was that I was clearly upset about something more than the election. She was right. Without realizing it, I had been going around with the belief that people are generally good, that we have evolved to a point that as a whole, as a majority we reject hatred and ostracism. I realize now, how horribly naive was. The election of Donald Trump brought all of those beliefs crashing down and brought back every memory of being bullied from my past. It brought back every memory of my loved ones standing by and watching, or worse yet joining in on the bullying. It has made for super pleasant dreams.

I do not believe that the 62 million plus people who voted for Trump are all misogynistic-racist-xenophobes. I believe that some of them are, probably a higher number than I want to think about, but not all of them. However, I now believe that there are 62 million people in the US who are either okay with those behaviors, and/or willing to join in if someone else starts. There are over 62 million people in this country who put down their vote for all time, to elect a bully to the highest office in this land.

That was enough to break me. I had no words. I did not want to live in that world. I don’t want to live in a world where bullies feel that their behavior is not only acceptable but sanctioned. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to spit in my friend’s face and tell her to enjoy her free trip back to Mexico. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to call another friend of mine a ch*nk and tell him that he wasn’t welcome here anymore. These are not anecdotes off the internet, these are things that happened to people that I know and hold dear. I repeat, I don’t want to live in that world.*

But I’m also starting to see something that is renewing some of my faith. People aren’t putting up with it.

I am a member of two different groups on Facebook. At first, these groups were all about action. Numbers to call, petitions to sign, rallies to attend. That still exists, but something more has developed. They have both become a safe place where people can come and express their fears, their humiliations, and their tears from hateful experiences. The love and support that they get in return are a balm for anyone hurting. Better yet, it has become a place to share victories. Stories of people standing up to bullies, some with broken voices and shaking hands, but standing up anyway. People refusing to listen to hate without saying something in return. Stories of people straight up asking the strangers around them for support in confronting this hate, and getting the support. Stories of solidarity that declare in no uncertain terms that xenophobia/racism/hate are not currencies that are accepted here.

And nowhere in any of these stories is there name-calling or yelling at the bully. (I’m sure confrontations like that exist, they just aren’t being shared.) Instead these stories are of people asking for tolerance to be shown to those who are different. They are stories of strangers banding together to cover up racist and anti-Semitic graffiti so no one else has to see it. They are stories of kindness being used to smother hurt. They are stories of people no longer willing to look the other way. Maybe that is our victory. We aren’t seeing anything in this country that didn’t already exist, and quite frankly minorities have been trying to tell the white population about it for years. Maybe our victory is the clarity and unity to stand up against those who derive their power from putting other people down. That gives me hope.

I also applied to volunteer for the ACLU, because you can’t sustain hope without action.

 

 

*Not in a “suicide-put-me-in-a-48-hour-watch” sort of way, but in a “denial-fingers-in-your-ears-say-it-ain’t-so” sort of way.

Stop Feeling Ashamed

Since I started blogging I have devoted more than a handful of blogs to mental illness. I’ve been clinically depressed since I was 11 so I have plenty of firsthand experience to bring to the table. It is also through that experience that I whole heartedly believe that the stigma that surrounds mental illness has to go. It’s misleading and detrimental. I have a chemical imbalance, I treat it and I feel no shame about that. I’m perfectly comfortable taking about depression and answering people’s questions.

But lately I have been feeling ashamed. Not about my depression, but about something else. My grandmother was a nurse during WWII and during the Battle of the Bulge she cut her hand. It wasn’t a big deal. She wrapped a bandage around it and kept on working. However, because she was injured while deployed in a war zone, she was awarded the Purple Heart. She hated that medal so much, she gave it away at her first opportunity. The reason, she thought that it was absolutely asinine that she had been given the same award as boys she sent home with missing limbs. With burns over 50 percent of their bodies. In other words, her cut hand warranted the same award as a grievously injured soldier. She was ashamed of it.

appletree

I guess this apple didn’t fall far from that tree, because my shame has been coming from very much the same source. I’ve been struggling all year, but it was only recently that a doctor put two and two together and diagnosed me with PTSD. My first reaction was that was ridiculous. I’ve never been to war, I’ve never been in a life threatening situation, so how in the world could I possibly have PTSD? In my mind, I hadn’t been through enough to warrant that diagnosis. I felt ashamed that I had usurped the condition of Veterans and survivors. I felt like a fake.

So I got a second opinion and the same diagnosis. That’s when I started to look at my symptoms and had to admit to myself that despite the lack of something horrifically traumatic in my life recently, I have PTSD. The horrible anxiety and weekly if not daily panic attacks should have been a clue. The crippling nightmares that I wake up from thrashing and crying, should have been a clue. The insanely vivid and realistic dreams that I can’t escape from and wake up in the morning sore from tensing my muscles all night, should have been a clue. The constant debilitating exhaustion, yet fear of falling asleep should have been a clue. The waves of feeling like an empty broken shell that hit me out of nowhere, should have been a clue.

PTSD

But I felt ashamed that I was breaking down like this because of the death of my aunt. That didn’t seem like a good enough reason. People experience death all the time. Yes, it was tragic and it was sudden, but I got to say goodbye. I got to give her one last hug and tell her that I love her, will always love her. That’s more than I got with any other family member I’ve lost. And that my friends, is where my trauma comes from. Amongst other things, between the ages of eight and twenty, I lost seven family members. The seventh being my mother. Needless to say the majority of the emotions associated with all of that loss was buried instead of dealt with. So when my aunt died, the dam broke and in essence so did I.

I am not a veteran and I have never been in a war zone, but I have PTSD. They say the first step to recovery is admitting what’s wrong. So I admit it, and I’m not going to feel ashamed about it anymore.

Beware of Those Who Do Not Clap

Everybody says that you find out who your true friends are when you’re down. I definitely have to agree with that. When I hit rock bottom there were people who were there for me, people who ignored me and people who handed me a shovel. It was eye opening. Recently I heard a saying that covers the flip side of that. Pay attention to those who do not clap when you succeed.

I’d never thought of that before, but I have to admit that it’s true. I think we all have, or have had, at least one friend who never seems to be happy if we’re doing well. It is almost as if they prefer, are happier, when your life is a mess. These are the people who do not clap when you succeed. These are the people who do not deserve your time.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the people you surround yourself with plays a huge part in the happiness and success of your life. Obviously, you play the biggest role, and at the end of the day make the decisions about what you do and don’t do in your own life. But I feel that if you spend all of your time with people who are content wasting their gifts and subsisting from day to day, then your life is likely to fall along the same lines. If you spend all your time with people who are constantly working at their gifts and striving for more, you will be more likely to do the same.

Office Space

By the same token, if you surround yourself with pessimistic people who complain all the time, your mood is going to be pretty shitty compared to if you spend all of your time with people who are happy, find the good in life and laugh a lot. Just a simple shift from focusing on everything that is bad, to focusing on everything that is good – no matter how slight – can make a huge difference.

I had a rough year last year, so for Christmas my roommate bought me a gratitude journal. It has cute pictures, some quotes and spaces for you to write three things that you’re grateful for every day. Being the Type-A person that I am, I immediately counted the pages and realized that there weren’t enough for an entire year, and worse yet, the number didn’t break down into an even denomination like 5 or 6 months. If you used one page per day, like you were supposed to, you would wind up at the end of the book somewhere in the middle of a month, in the middle of a week. *twitch*

Clearly, the hippy-dippy person that created this journal is lacking even a shred of Type-A personality. That being said, it was a really sweet gift, especially since almost all of the drawings were of elephants, my favorite animal. Despite this, I still couldn’t quite get over the loosey-goosey lay out that had a complete disregard for standard delineations of time.

No

So it has been sitting on my nightstand. Well intentioned, but unused. Until last week. I crashed, have been in a funk, depressed as all hell, whatever you want to call it, and I decided that maybe I could use a little bit of focus on the positive. I started writing in my gratitude journal last week. Let me tell you, there have been a couple of nights where it was hard to get to three things I was grateful for that day. But I did it. I got to three every night. And it has been slowly getting easier. Easier to come up with three things that I’m grateful for, easier to focus on the things that are good and easier to see which people support me on the path to positive vs preferring me to stick around and wallow.

That’s when I realized that the wallowers are the same ones who do not clap when you succeed. I think it’s time to be done with them. I’m in no mood to wallow.