Thursday, July 26, 2012

Giving Grief Some Space

Hello Friends:

A question came up on a forum - what have you lost or missed out on in life because of your mental illness?  I usually avoid these questions, because I want to be 'positive' all the time.  Yet I know that some of that inclination stems from a dysfunctional need to avoid the past.  I do not like to allow myself to grieve.  I can't stand the sensation of loss, so I repress loss and grief mercilessly.  I know it would be a good idea to put down what I've lost to MI, and honor that grief.

So here are a few things.  Not all of them, but at least some that I can articulate at the moment:

-   I did not get to be a child.  I was scared every moment of my childhood that additional abuse would come my way.

-   I did not have parents.  There were ostensibly two people there, and they did give me a home and enough resources to survive.  But with my parents both having untreated MIs (esp my Mom) and addictions (esp my Dad) they were not really parents.  (And now, having fully estranged them, I certainly don't have parents.  But that's been a necessary part of setting boundaries.)

-   I missed out on having a good sense of self.  Other people don't hate themselves, and I do.

-   I missed out on more social events than I can count.  Weddings, parties, casual gatherings, everything.  So much.

-   I lost about five years of my life.  It wasn't all at once - it was about 3.5 years during one depressive episode and then another 1.5 in another.  During that time I did almost nothing at all.  Completely wasted time.  Five years, poof, gone.  I was so depressed that except for the pain I hardly even remember them at all.

-   I lost the career track I worked so hard to build.  It isn't impossible that I might get it back someday, but the loss stings.

I feel compelled, however, to mention what I didn't miss.  This might be me being dysfunctional again, already turning aside from the hurting place, but I can't help it.  I found a great spouse, and we've been married for almost 14 years.  I got my BS and then my PhD in the subject I really wanted.  I can't work in that field right now because of the MIs, but I do have the formal background to do it.  I've been able to do a lot of writing, and it's been very rewarding and fun.  I've gone on a lot of business trips to amazing places.  I have a small number of very good friends who are supportive when I need it.  I've been able to develop empathy and a deeper understanding for suffering than most of my peers.

Do you have something you feel you need to grieve, but that you haven't really given the space?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Girl Young Woman from

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Feeling Better, Getting my Butt Kicked, Still Going

Hello Friends:

So my anxieties kicked my butt royally this fourth of July.  I'm still upset about it.  I had really been doing pretty well.  Camping, going to the store, travel ... it was all looking pretty good.  I figured attending a fourth of July party wouldn't be too much to ask.


It doesn't seem like it should matter that much, but I was really upset.  I had been planning to go for two weeks.  I sent back a very enthusiastic 'yes' to the invitation.  I was even thinking about what I wanted to chat about with the hostess, what to bring, and that I would certainly have fun.  Their house isn't too far from the DC fireworks, so that was going to be an added bonus.

But it didn't happen.  For three nights leading up to the fourth, I didn't sleep.  I didn't know what was bothering me, which is crazy in retrospect.  I was obviously totally stressed out about this party.  Going into DC on the fourth is a bit nutso, anyway, what with the crowds, the Metro breaking down, no parking, hours in stop and go traffic, etc. etc.  That is on top of the usual party stresses, like not knowing anyone and not being able to eat any of the food because of OCD issues.  Still, I didn't realize I was totally freaking out until that morning.

I got up on the fourth and was terrified.  I couldn't beat the feeling.  I tried a bunch of my different coping mechanisms, but kept finding myself back up in bed, shivering.  Scared.  Feeling very trapped.  Took me a few hours to admit the situation and leave a message that I wouldn't be coming to the party after all.  It really, really hurt.  I spent the afternoon in tears.  It is so different from that depression thing, where you don't want to go anywhere.  My depression is under control right now.  I wanted to go.  It was all of the anxiety disorders that stopped me this time.  So frustrating.  I don't know how to describe it, but I'll bet you understand.

My spouse was very supportive, as always.  He was disappointed that we didn't go to the party, but he went out and got us some beer, hot dogs, chips, and ice cream so we could have our own little party.  Then we watched the fireworks online.  I love fireworks.  I hope I can see them in person next year.  Seeing them online when you'd rather be out is a little pathetic.

Still, I don't want to end on a downer, because a few days later I had a much more positive experience.  My spouse is a huge baseball fan, and does not get to go to as many games as he'd like because I have anxiety issues with the crowds, the food, the dirt and grime, and all the rest.  But a friend had invited us along with a small group to a box suite.  Wow.  Never been in one of those boxes before.  Wow.  The idea of being able to see a game in a sort of nice, isolated situation had a lot of appeal.

So we went out to the game.  Still had to deal with the crowds getting in, but once we were in the box.  Well.  Wow.  Air conditioning.  Our own area for concessions.  The place is carpeted.  Our own set of seats outside, with a railing to set them off.  Right behind home plate.  Our own bathroom!!  I'll say that again ... our own bathroom!!  It was truly awesome.

I am now spoiled for life.  I'll probably not get the chance again, and any other game I attend will just not compare.  I'd never imagined that going to a baseball game could be so low-anxiety.  It felt so good to be able to get out and see some friends after my disappointment two days earlier.  I wonder if I'll ever be able to make myself deal with being one of the normals again.  Wow.

Anyway, I hope your fourth, and this first part of July have been treating you well!

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Fireworks, bayassa, Flikr via Creative Commons CC 2.0

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