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Sometimes

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Oct 15, 2018 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

Sometimes I just feel alone. Alone in my struggles, alone in my dreams, alone in my fears, alone in my desires, alone in my needs and wants and thoughts and experiences and my life. Sometimes I feel powerless. Like it doesn’t matter what I do, nothing is going to change. Sometimes I feel invisible, like no one really sees me or hears my voice or thinks that I matter. Insignificant. Like I could be easily replaced. Sometimes I feel dull and devoid of any creative force. Sometimes I feel incompetent. I have lots of ideas and good intentions, but no ability to carry them out successfully. Sometimes there are too many demands and components and moving parts. Sometimes I’m tired of balancing and delaying and denying and I just want what I want now. Sometimes I just don’t want to do this anymore.

 
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Look at Me

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Oct 15, 2017 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

I’m proud of myself. You know why? First of all, I’m here. There have been at least two periods of a week or longer in the last year in which my brain thought its job was to convince me not to go on. I had to fight with everything inside me to keep going. It was painful, excruciating, agonizing, exhausting. And I made it through somehow.

I am also proud of me because I am taking care of myself. I started doing yoga and my love for it is beyond description. It has benefitted me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And I have stuck with it! Through having substitute instructors, one instructor I loved moving away, breaks due to travel and the rec center being closed for maintenance and sick kids… I’m still showing up and loving it. I also am starting to be active in other ways that feel good. And I have been trying to nourish my body, instead of using food as a coping mechanism. I feel like some real healing and progress is happening.

I am also feeling proud of my persisting in seeking help for my mental health, even when it is challenging and confusing and trial and error and jumping through hoops, and filling out so much paperwork, and telling the same stories over and over to so many people, and going down dead ends, and waiting forever. I’m still trying.

 
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It’s Suicide Prevention Week and I’m Fighting for my Life

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Sep 15, 2017 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

They say the path to strength is through vulnerability.  This is hard.  Why is it so damn hard to talk about?  My brain doesn’t work properly.  I have everything to live for, and yet I keep thinking of dying.  I have no significant reasons to be suffering in my life, and yet anguish is what I feel.  I have so many advantages, luxuries, sources of joy and pleasure; and yet I struggle so much.  It’s not my choices that have brought me here.  It is sure as hell not lack of trying.  It isn’t because of ingratitude.  Something in my brain is not functioning correctly.  If I could fix it I would.

They say ask for help.  How?  I’ve seen therapists, doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and kept going back.  I’ve done structured therapy/skills programs with a duration of almost two years.  I’ve done individual therapy and group therapy.  I’ve sought out different providers when it was clear I needed different help.  I’ve used apps on my iPhone, kept mood data charts, tried more than a handful of meds, adjusted doses, changed the time of day I take them, tried different combinations, read blogs, read scholarly articles, read books, adjusted my diet, tried exercise, attempted to be more structured.

I’ve been in crisis and reached out for help and failed to hear any compassion or humanity on the other end of the line, just bureaucracy and logistics, been told I would have to wait days to weeks to months to indefinite amounts of time for an appointment, been led on a wild goose chase, jumping through flaming hoop after hoop.

It’s like telling someone who has broken legs they must walk to the hospital.  Hopelessness, meaninglessness, challenges with communication and social interaction, impairment in executive functioning, lack of energy and motivation to complete even simple tasks.  These are key traits of my experience of being mentally unwell.  And the process of seeking help exploits all of these.  When someone is fighting for her life and uses every shred of her remaining abilities to ask for help, someone should help her.

I want to do something to fix this.

 
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Is this normal?

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 5, 2016 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

My clothes dryer broke this weekend.  Not out of the blue.  Actually it has been declining for a while.  But when it stopped functioning altogether, it was clear there was a problem that we had to address.   And when I say we, I mean my husband cause he’s the one who knows how to troubleshoot and fix modern contraptions.  After he replaced the heating element, it works like new.  It is unbelievable how fast one can do laundry with a properly functioning drying machine.  No, seriously, it’s incredible.  Now I see how ridiculous it was to accept my dryer’s previous performance, to think it was normal, to not expect more, to suppose that I must not be so great at keeping up with the laundry, to spend all weekend trying to catch up and only have a few loads to show for my efforts, to feel inadequate and disorganized as every morning was a scramble to piece together complete, properly fitting, weather appropriate, dress code compliant attire for everyone, to consider spending a day at the laundromat to make some headway.  But, it happened so insidiously.  It was so incremental.  I honestly don’t even know when its performance started slipping.

I feel like mental/emotional/psychological health can be like that.  Sometimes it takes something pretty significantly going wrong to realize that there is a legitimate issue that needs addressed.  Then when things have been righted and are moving in a positive direction, looking back it is crazy to see what you accepted as status quo.  But in the middle of it all, it somehow seems that maybe I just need to try a little harder, life is not all fun and games, maybe I am just not good at life, life is pretty serious business, maybe we are not meant to take it lightly.  And we trudge on, running like a hamster on a wheel, thinking if only we can stick it out, put in more effort, maybe someday things might get better but mostly this is all there is and all we deserve and what we just have to keep doing.

But then things get a whole lot better.  Brighter.  Deeper.  Hopeful.  Meaningful.  Enjoyable.  Attainable.  Joyful. Beautiful. Peaceful. And suddenly it seems ludicrous that you settled for quiet desperation and tried to make a life out of it.  Life is crazy and hard and horrible.  But it is also full of wonderful possibility.  You deserve to see that wonderful possibility and have a chance to embrace and embody it.

 
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Then and Now

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Mar 16, 2014 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl

Now

I am able to

be patient, persistent, logical, motivated, engaged, experience positive and negative feelings, productive

relax, focus, keep things in perspective, make note of things I need to work on without becoming obsessed by them and feeling frustrated overwhelmed annoyed defeated and worthless because of them

I feel

calm, peaceful, even, in control, resilient, hopeful, capable, worthy, significant, creative, joy, fun, meaning, like things are ok even if they aren’t perfect or are complex or require hard work

I know this won’t last.  I know I will wake up one day and as suddenly as something switched inside me and brought on this way of being without my input or control, I will be in a funk of anxiety and depression.  The physical feeling I have inside my core of being bolstered and held up and strengthened and able to withstand whatever is happening will be gone.  I will feel pummeled and waif like, as if anything can topple me, flatten me, hold me down.  I will feel hollow and flat and empty.  Unequal to every task.  Unable to focus.  My head will be filled with a jumble of whirling thoughts jumping from one to the next unable to follow one to its end.  Like my brain is one of those chambers with dollar bills being blown violently around and I desperately try to catch the thoughts and pull them in and contain them and even know what they all are, but they are all blowing around in the universe, floating like nebula, unable to be lassoed.  I am overwhelmed by all the possibilities in the world.  I don’t understand anything.  I can’t understand what life means, what anything means.  Everything irritates me.  I find those I care for repugnant and think of how I can disentangle myself from them because none of these relationships are working and I don’t know how to do them.  I don’t fit anywhere.  I am ruining everything.  I need to start over from scratch.  Build my life one element at a time, layer upon layer.  Everything is too complex.  I need simplicity and clarity.  I need everything organized and structured.  All I long for is sleep.  I am exhausted and feel like doing nothing.  Sleep is a sweet escape from the unease.  It is agonizing and debilitating.  I feel desperate.  I feel helpless.  I don’t know how to communicate what is happening inside me.  I don’t even understand it.   Everything I attempt to do will make me feel inside like someone is running their fingernails down a chalkboard.  It feels like my being is stuck in wet cement, weighted down.  Everything is so hard to do.  It takes such concerted effort.  There is no sense of satisfaction with anything I do accomplish.  I am only thinking of what is still to do.  I prefer to be alone.  Being with others is draining and unpleasant.  Being in the moment is difficult.  It seems unlikely that things will ever be different.  I am a failure.  I don’t want to try.  I feel alone and forgotten and worthless.  I will be in a fog.  Sad or hard things that have happened in the past or are happening currently will dominate my thinking.  Everything will seem poignant.

The exact circumstances experienced in these two distinct ways of being elicit completely different feelings, responses, outcomes.

And then I will be impulsive, impatient, feeling that I must take action now, everything must happen now.  I am tired of waiting.  I cannot remain calm and carry on.  I will make things happen.  I will push them even if the outcome is not what I am hoping for.  It is better than nothing happening like it always does in my life.  I’m tired of stagnating and waiting in limbo for all the right stars to align.  I’m weary of being patient, delaying gratification, being cautious.  Throw caution to the wind!  Do something, damn it, anything!  In fact the wilder and less advisable and predictable and safe and responsible and status quo the better.  Do something crazy and unexpected and pointless and fun and thrilling and unthought out and spontaneous.  Live in the moment.  Who cares about what happens next?  Just live for once, and enjoy it.

 
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Metaphorically Speaking

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Feb 4, 2013 in Inner Workings, Musings of a Green-Eyed Girl, Parenthood

There is a scene in the Disney animated movie, Monsters, Inc., in which the lizard-like  villain monster Randall attacks the furry, lovable hero monster Sully.  Randall is strangling  Sully.  Sully is struggling and helpless and running out of time.  Sully’s best friend Mike, a goofy little round monster with one large eye, is standing right there with Sully.  But Mike doesn’t know what’s going on because Randall can blend into his surroundings like a chameleon, rendering himself  invisible.  So all Mike sees is Sully dancing around like a crazy person, shrieking and making strange faces.  Mike keeps talking, trying to have a serious conversation.  Sully is in trouble.  He is trying to fight, but he is losing.  He attempts to get Mike’s attention.  He calls for help.  But, Mike is focused on what he’s trying to say, and he  still can’t see what’s happening.  Mike starts getting frustrated with Sully, because he is trying to reach out and he’s in the middle of something important and Sully isn’t cooperating or paying attention or trying to do his part.  Sully is acting very strangely, but Mike just doesn’t get what’s going on.  Then finally Randall’s skin changes patterns and becomes visible and everyone grasps the reality of the situation.  And Mike comes to his aid.  And they  fight off the monster together.

It’s like that.  Depression and anxiety are like that.  I fight an invisible enemy.  So you think I’m fine.  You don’t see the monster threatening to squeeze the life out of me.  You miss the panic that is just underneath the surface.  The emptiness that fills me up.  You don’t know that when I drop my sweet boy off in your classroom I hug him tighter  because the thoughts I’m having of harming myself make me wonder if this is the last time I will see him.   That my heart is breaking because I can’t bear that thought, but I don’t know what to do with this desperation I feel.  That getting him to school late again, without the book he was supposed to return four days ago, wearing a sweatshirt and two jackets we found in the car because we left his coat at home, with signs of  lunch still on his handsome face,  and a backpack empty of the change of clothes it should be carrying, took every bit of the planning, timing, and energy resources I have and is a monumental accomplishment for me.

Or you wonder why I’m acting so strangely.  Why I’m so forgetful.  Why I can’t complete a simple task like making dinner.  Why I am impatient or irritable.  Why I always want to sleep.  Why I can’t keep my kids under control.  Why I don’t return your calls.  Why I can’t get off the couch.  Why I call my husband at work, wondering when he will be home.  Why I miss appointments.  Why I’m not making conversation.  Why I am gaining weight.  Why my appearance is disheveled.  Why I’m angry.  Why I am so needy.  Why I’m no fun.

Or you think because you don’t see it, it’s not there.  It’s in my head.  It’s an excuse.  Everyone has bad days.  Life is hard.  Stop whining and feeling sorry for yourself, buck up, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and deal with it.  Be grateful for what you have.  Count your blessings.  Think positively.  Be more optimistic.  Change your attitude.  Get up and do something.  If you don’t like your life, change it.  Happiness is a choice.   Put your head down and move forward.  Nobody’s perfect.  Don’t dwell on the negative.

If I were physically ill, in a way that is visible and understood, you might offer to take over child care for the day.  You would not question my need to stay in bed to get the rest I need.  Perhaps you would make meals for my family. You would urge me to see a doctor, take medication, go to the hospital if necessary, undergo therapy.  You would offer words of encouragement and hope.  You would help me complete tasks too great for me.  You would provide companionship and support.

But although my agony is palpable and very real to me, it is not visible or widely understood.  It is undetected, questioned, stigmatized, ignored, misunderstood, dismissed as a personal deficiency.  And so I push on in silence.  I fight my battle singlehandedly.  I daydream of having some obvious illness or injury so that someone might notice and take care of me. That the camouflage that hides this villain beating the life out of me might fail for just  a moment and  someone might come to my aid and we could fight off this monster together.

 

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