August 14, 2019

What is a friend?

Today I've been thinking about friendship.  I've been thinking about close friends and good friends and distant friends and best friends.  And I'm so grateful for all of mine.

When I was in high school, all of my middle school friends drifted away.  For one, I was the daughter of a prosecutor, so when they started drinking and partying, I was a bit too much of a square (and a risk) to have along.  For another, well... I don't honestly know.  I really don't know what happened (though I know my blossoming mental illness played a part), all I know is that I was mostly alone in high school.  In the early days of the internet, I made online friends, and I had people to sit with at lunch, but other than rehearsals and acting classes, I was alone most of the time.  As hard as it was, I don't fault my friends or wish things had been different.  It was rough, but I'm more than ok now.

A couple of years after high school, I met my first best friend.  When I walked into our dorm room for the first time, with my dad and grandpa who were in head-to-toe camo, she was worried I'd be a hick from the sticks and we wouldn't have anything in common.  And frankly, she was kind of right.  But somehow we just meshed, and we had a lot of other good friends on our floor, too.  She knew about my self-injury, and she loved me anyways.  She never made me feel like a freak.  And we danced around in our underwear to Mika and Pop! and laughed and cried and played together.  I'm so grateful for her.  She taught me what friendship was and how to have friends.  We live hundreds of miles apart now, and we both have very different lives, but I'll always love her.

My next really close friend started off as my rival.  Almost an enemy.  We were assigned to work (and study and eat and breathe and live) together when we were missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  When we first met, it was distrust at first sight.  We weren't sure we'd make it through the six-week assigned time together without one of us being sent home in a body bag.  But when we made it and were assigned to stay together for six more weeks, we decided it'd be fine.  Ish.  After that second six weeks, we decided six more together might be ok.  And at the end of week 18, we were crushed to be separated.  She's someone I can share my hopes and fears and dreams and frustrations and disappointments with.  She knows every detail of my life, and I know most of the details of hers.  I don't know what I'd do without her.  It's incredible to be understood and supported, even when things are crumbling and incomprehensible.

My husband is also a pretty good friend.  Six months after we got married, I broke and descended lower than I ever have before.  I ended up in the hospital undergoing Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), and he rode the train up to visit me all the time.  And he called me and wrote me letters.  And he ran things at home while finishing his bachelor's degree and getting into medical school.  He is my rock.  He is my support.  He is there for me no matter what happens.  I know he loves me, even though he knows all of the dark, scary things about me.  I love that.  Now that he is in medical school and I am healthier, things have changed.  They are not at all a bad different, it's just a new chapter and a new dynamic.  And so I'm learning how to help take care of him instead of being taken care of.  It's something I always planned to do, it's just that my life almost never goes according to plan, so I'm starting the learning a lot later than I expected.  I'm so grateful that he loves me the way I am, and I'm equally grateful that he makes me want to change for the better.

Over the years, I've had many friends that have come and gone, some of them painfully.  But I am so grateful for the months of friendship we shared, and I understand that sometimes things end and change.  And I know that every connection shapes who I am today.

I have many other friends now, too.  I have friends who reach out when they see me sinking.  I have friends I can share my obscure geeky interests with.  I have friends who I stalk on Facebook and never interact with but whose triumphs I celebrate and whose sorrows I lament.  I have friends from all over (especially from my mission) who feel like family.  I have friends who are so incredibly kind and giving that I feel like I could never deserve them, including one who flew me out to Disneyland when she saw Galaxy's Edge, the Star Wars land, because she wanted to see my face when I saw it.  And I was like a little kid.  I soaked in every moment of it.  And I was so humbled and in awe of her kindness, that it has taken me days to even start to put into words how grateful I am. 

I want to tell 15-year-old me that it's going to be ok.  I want to tell her that the right people will come into her life at the right time.  I want her to know that God is looking out for her, and His plans are way harder than anything she thinks she could ever handle, but they are WAY better, too.  And I want to tell all of you who are reading this how grateful I am that you are in my life, no matter what type of connection we have.  Social media lurkers, friends I haven't seen or talked to in decades, friends I see all the time, new friends, old friends, everyone.  I am so grateful to finally have you all.

June 17, 2019

On Boredom

On Saturday, I had yet another ECT treatment.  This isn't something I love, but it's something I'm finding necessary for my mental health.  I don't mind the going to sleep part, but the waking up groggy for hours with a dry mouth part is much less pleasant.  Usually, when I wake up, I get wheeled out to the car, sleep all the way home, and then sleep for five to seven more hours there.  This week was different.

This week, I slept home, but once I got there, I couldn't fall back asleep.  I tried all my usual standbys, but I couldn't get to sleep, and I was BORED.  It was driving me crazy!  Social media didn't help, reading didn't help, podcasts and audiobooks didn't help, I was incurably bored.  Finally, I tried socializing with other people, which is not one of my go-to boredom relievers, but it worked!  And I realized that it was working because I was feeling a way I hadn't felt in years: normal. 

So instead of wanting to waste all my time keeping my brain distracted from reality, what I wanted was to engage in life at a level I hadn't done in months, maybe even years.  So since then, I've talked to people and exercised and done all sorts of things.  I'm hoping it lasts!

March 3, 2019

A Perfect Day

There was a day some years ago when everything felt perfect.  The perfect blue sky was a friendly, perfect dome over a beautiful, perfect hilltop.  There were thousands of perfectly puffed white dandelion-heads, just begging to be perfectly picked, the seeds longing to blow in the perfect, northeasterly breeze and fly up to join the perfect, gentle, fluffy clouds that blew lazily and perfectly across the land.  And my tiny, precious, beyond perfect niece held my imperfect, scarred hand as we walked across that perfect world.  And the perfect dandelion puffs were the perfect height for her pudgy, perfect fists to grab, so we walked perfectly along, making perfect, fanciful wishes as we blew through the field.

And I know.  I know it wasn't actually perfect, but it was pretty damn close.  And tonight, I find myself longing for that perfect, simple day.

January 29, 2019

I was dying.

At the beginning of last September, I almost died.  I'm not being dramatic; I almost lost my life.  My mental health had been in a decline for almost two years, and I think my brain and body just gave up.  For reasons I'll explain a little later, I don't remember a lot of the details of what happened, but between my memories and what my husband has told me, I do know a few key things, and I want you to know them, too, so you can better understand psychiatric hospitalization.

For one, I decided it was no longer safe to have my guns in our apartment.  That has never happened to me before.  I grew up with guns; they've always been a part of my life.  They've always been in my house.  I used to keep my home-defense shotgun hidden behind my old prom dresses.  But for the first time, I was afraid of what might happen if I let the guns stick around.  I called my grandpa, who lives a couple of towns over, and I asked if my husband and I could stop by.  When we got there, I wish I could remember better what happened.  I'd imagine he was pretty alarmed.  He has already lost one grandchild to suicide.  I remember him locking the guns in one of his gun safes, I remember we didn't talk much, and then I know we left.

It's important to note that I didn't have a suicide plan.  I didn't have a specific reason to get rid of the guns; I just felt like it was a bad idea to keep them around.

A few days later, things were even worse.  Every hour dragged on and on and on and on and on and on and on.  I remember feeling like every hour felt like an entire day.  I knew I didn't really want to die, but all I could think, over and over, was, "I can't live like this any more."  My mental pain was seeping out my pores.  My will to live was growing dimmer and dimmer, like a firefly glowing its last as the winter frost sets in.  Nothing could distract me from the pain and exhaustion of just existing - not Netflix, not knitting, nothing.  I used every tool I had the energy to try, but nothing alleviated my suffering.  And I couldn't accomplish anything - not even brushing my hair. 

I had my husband come with me to therapy that evening.  We were only there for a few minutes before my therapist told us that if ever there was a time for hospitalization, this was it.  I thought he meant at the end of the session, but he didn't.  He meant now.  And he told us which area hospital was the best.  Since it was an hour away, we headed home to pack a bag for me before driving up there.  We didn't know how long it would be before my husband would be able to visit and bring the things I would need.  Clothes, books, a hairbrush, and the lightsaber travel toothbrush he got me on our honeymoon.  And with that, we were off to the ER.

This post is long enough as it is, and I don't have the energy at the moment to write the rest of the story.  But I will.  Soon.

January 25, 2019

The Loonies in the Bin

Usually when I write, the idea gestates for a while until it feels like it is fully formed.  Only then do I get out my laptop and push the thing out.  It's not something I can control; the ideas won't come from my fingertips until they're fully formed.  Well, I've been promising posts on my hospitalization and ECT experience for months, but they just won't come.  They don't feel ready.  I've tried to force them, and the snippets I've written were laughable.  So I'm going to try a different tack today.  I'm going to try to write around the topic.  Maybe if I can get out some of the less important details, the water will break and the real posts can be born.  Please bear with me; this is not my best writing.  It can't even really be called good writing, but I have to get it out.

One thing that kind of surprised me about my hospitalizations is how normal all of my fellow inmates were.  Every single person in Four North, the ward I spent most of my time in, was someone you would meet on the street and never suspect.  You'd never know we were all nuts.

Rebecca  (Don't worry, I'm changing everyone's name.  The only loony you need to be able to identify by name is me.) was a mom right around my age who had the most adorable little black baby with curly blond hair.  She never ate lunch with the rest of us because her family always came to eat with her.  It was fun to see the baby every day.

Annie was also doing ECT.  She seemed like a slightly more jaded, grown-up version of me.  She had awesome hair (how? I have no idea- it's not like they let us have curling irons) and a snarky sense of humor.

Adam had driven in from out of state to stay there with us.  He was there for the ECT, too.  I swear he was just like every other dude.  He was into cars and had great cowboy boots.  He also had a wicked sense of humor.

Adrian was my best friend in there.  He was a guy who made me feel valued and understood.  Whenever I was down, he would talk to me and make me laugh.  He had a quiet strength.  I accidentally misgendered him once, and I felt SO bad, but he was SO cool about it.  (If you read this, dude, just know I still feel bad, and I'm so grateful for your understanding!)  Making friends with Adrian was a new experience for me - I'd never met anyone trans before - and I'm so grateful we met!  My husband and I even got to go to his wedding a few weeks after I left the bin.  A very cool guy.

Were you hoping I'd be telling you stories of people who talked to themselves in imaginary languages or wore their underwear outside their straight jackets?  Sorry.  Everyone there was just like me - someone who needed a little help to get back on their feet, but who was otherwise normal.  ECT has stolen the memories of nearly everyone else from my mind, but I assure you: they were all normal.  Perhaps next I'll tell you the story of how little old normal me ended up there in the first place.  Thank you for your patience!

August 20, 2018

And still I was broken...

I'm nervous about writing this blog post for a few reasons.  For one thing, I don't want my family, especially the family mentioned in the story, to be hurt or to worry.  For another thing, I don't talk much about suicidality or self-injury urges.  There are a lot of reasons for that; one reason is that I manage both issues pretty well, and I don't want anyone to call the cops on me and have me committed.  It's a really scary thought, and once something like this is out there, it can't be taken back.  But the thought of this post has been rolling around in my brain for over a week.  I can't make it go away any other way than by putting it out there.  So here it is:  let me tell you about our fabulous SoCal vacation!  My husband's parents flew us down for a week for his brother's wedding.  The weather was hot, but we had so much fun!

The first night we were there, my husband played in a softball game and helped the team to a healthy victory.  I love watching him play, and he played well.  And I wished over and over that the game would end so I could go back to the house and go to bed.  I wasn't that sleepy, I just couldn't abide the thought of existing while conscious any more for that day.

The next day, we woke up early and went to the beach.  The waves were small and the water was warm.  And I needed a nap right away after only an hour at the beach.  It wasn't a bodily exhaustion as much as it was an exhaustion of the soul.  Next we went for pedicures and acai bowls.  And I needed another nap.  Then we went to the San Diego Zoo.  We saw baby animals and my favorite elephants, and there was a zebra braying like a donkey that had me laughing so hard I was almost in tears.  And I thought about ways I could die there.  It was an idle thought, not a plan, but that's not something normal for your brain to dwell on over and over and over when you're having fun.

The day of the wedding itself was long, but it was a super neat day!  The ceremony was incredible, and it happened to have been performed by someone I hadn't seen in years but who is very important to me.  We went from the ceremony to a delicious Chinese restaurant.  And I was so tired I could barely hold a conversation.  All I wanted to do was come home and nap before the reception.  We ended up having to leave the luncheon early so I could rest. The reception was one of the loveliest I've ever been to.  There was live music, a photo booth, crepes, and an entire table of different gourmet cakes!  And I had thoughts of harming myself over and over throughout the evening.  They came unbidden like robbers to steal the magic of the moment.

All in all, there were no moments of drama, no moments where plans went wrong.  We did a lot of fun family activities and rested a lot, too.  There were a million awesome moments.  And still I was in pain.  Still I had moments where I longed for the pain to stop.  I almost couldn't wait to go home to where my boring reality more accurately matches the inner turmoil and pain and exhaustion.  But I had so much fun there!  I am so grateful for in-laws who are patient with my limitations and let me rest, but who also provide incredibly fun diversions to keep me out of my own head.  But it didn't fix me.  It didn't make me somehow whole.

The reason this post is important is that it's important to me that you know that getting out and having fun, being in the sun, doing things you love, none of that cures depression.  Depression requires treatment.  I'm not depressed because I'm not trying hard enough.  I'm not depressed because I'm not getting out enough.  I'm doing absolutely everything I can.  And still it seems like almost all I think about is dying or hurting myself or sleeping half the day away.  The world is so overwhelming that I can hardly stand it.  But still I fight.  I have another doctor's appointment tomorrow, and I head back to therapy next week.  And as soon as I get the insurance kinks worked out, I start ECT.  I think life is worth fighting for, even when I can barely do just that.  I hope you'll get the help you need or help someone else get the help they need, because this battle is EXHAUSTING.

August 4, 2018

Depression is...

Depression is sobbing to your husband because you have a toothache but no energy to make a dentist's appointment.

Depression is sitting at home watching Netflix all day, bored out of your mind, but knowing that you don't have the ability to focus on anything else.

Depression is showering once a week because the exhaustion brought on by the thought of all of the steps it takes to shower outweighs your disgust with yourself.

Depression is 71 unanswered texts and 20 unanswered voicemails.

Depression is overdrawing your bank account because you don't have the energy to make sure that your bills get paid.

Depression is not talking to your friends because you're sick of saying, "No, it's worse again, not better."

Depression is gaining tons of weight because you don't have the energy or motivation to exercise and cook healthy food.

Depression is only brushing your hair when you actually have to leave the house (and not always then) because you don't care what people think anymore.

Depression is not leaving your house unless you absolutely have to.

Depression is constantly checking the clock during an activity you should enjoy because you're out of energy and you wish it was over already.

Depression is eating uncooked macaroni out of the box because you know you need to eat something, but you don't have the energy to actually make anything.

Depression is dreading going to the zoo, an activity you've looked forward to for months, because you're afraid there won't be enough places to sit and rest.

Depression is all this and so much more, this is just how I've been feeling lately.
Thank you for coming. I hope you get something out of this. I hope you learn about yourself. I hope you get help if you need it or give it if you can.