A Letter to the Depressed

It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead.
If I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace
By which we live our lives with death over our shoulders*

*************

I am currently in the process of watching you spiral down. Again.

It’s hard and it sucks and it’s not the first time you have been down this road, but just like every time I hope it’s the last.

Depression sucks.

Depression tricks you into thinking you don’t matter and that nothing you say or do will work to get rid of it anyway. So you try things that make you feel good in the moment, make you forget that your brains sucks at being a brain.

You take risks because, why not? When you’re not risk-taking you feel like garbage, so you may as well try all the things that will make you fee–at least for a little while–like none of the trash in your head matters.

Depression is heaps and heaps of bags of rotting trash leaking all over your brain. Leaking into your thoughts and memories. Tainting every day activities and routines and making them unbearable.

You can’t get through even mundane tasks because it feels like such a heavy burden.

Depression dupes you into thinking that making the same old bad choices will somehow have a different outcome and that things will be better this time.

Instead you barrel towards the pit again, and you are surprised to find that all those things you did to try to hide the rubbish piles in your brain didn’t help…again.

You cycle.

You get just far enough out of the pit to tell yourself that this time will be different.

But you don’t follow through with finding a permanent solution to the trash removal.  You think, because depression tells you so, that you can handle all that refuse on your own because you feel better. You’ll haul it all out by yourself with your new-found energy.

Slowly you’re overwhelmed. You’ve gotten rid of a few of the bits of litter only to find that Depression has piled on a whole new truck load.

You cycle.

Depression tells you to do the things that felt good before.  The ones that put up the curtain, the screen. You can’t see the depression when you do those things…but that doesn’t mean it’s gone.

It’s never gone.

Life is fragile.

But you know that because, well, you just know. Depression even told you a few times that life was worthless. And you believe that.

You want it to go away…you want it all to go away.

But you don’t want to change.

Change is hard. It’s scary. You don’t know what you look like without all this.

What if…what if it’s not better?

But what if it is?

You can’t keep living life in a constant state of “barely” forever.

You can’t keep living life staring at the ground in front of you wishing it would change.

You need to look up–despite what Depression tells you about there being nothing there. There is. Something there, I mean. It’s a light.

But you need to look up to see it.  And probably squint really hard.

Ok so maybe from where you are, with all the garbage bags piling up, you can’t see it. But it’s there.

You can’t see the air, but you know it’s there because you are breathing it, and you are alive.

The light is there too.

You know because you are alive.

You can go to that light. You can be warmed by it’s energy-giving light.

But you have to want to.

You have to want to make a change. You have to decide to go against everything Depression is telling you.

It’s a lot of work. It’s hard. It’s scary.

Change seems way less secure than the dangerous things you’re doing now.

It’s scary to open your mouth and tell those around you, “I need to stop and change because I’m broken, and if I keep this up I will be dead.”

It’s hard to believe you matter, but you do. You are important. The hard work will be worth it.

I know. I’ve done it.

I am doing it.

Every day.

I hope this time you will join me.

We can do hard things…together.

We can claim the light for you too.

light

*lyrics from “Sirens” by Pearl Jam

filling space

I fell asleep on the couch Sunday afternoon after struggling with more GI bug issues. Apparently it’s a county-wide issue. I was blessed with it not once, but twice. Awesome.

Anyway, I fell asleep on the couch Sunday.

I always lie on my side with my legs bent at the knee.

Tucked in that space that my bent legs make, Eddie snuggles himself in and under my blanket to watch a movie quietly.

That is where he always fits, into the space I leave open.

If I am in the chair, he somehow finds his way up there too, even though he has long outgrown being two in that chair. But I can’t kick him out. This chair is where “we” began.

And so he fills any space that is left. His long legs sprawled over my lap, his head finding my shoulder.

When I put him to bed, we read a chapter book–right now it’s Winnie the Pooh. A chapter a night. Sometimes two if he asks really nice because I can’t say no to just one more chapter.

Once the light goes off, and our chatting stops, his breath becomes heavy and regular and he rolls into me, again filling the space.

When I am sitting on the couch, so is he…up against me so close there is no room for space. It’s instinctive to him to fill up any space between us.

When he was an infant, there was a lot of space between us, so much so that I sought help.

That was four years ago.

He was almost a year old.

I spent his whole first year putting distance between us because I was sick. But I didn’t have GI issues. Nope, I had brain issues.

Medication and therapy helped but it was a long road.

Now each time I noticed him right by my side, I smile because he doesn’t remember. He has no recollection of our hard start. What he knows is that his mom is his safe place–his protection from bears in his nightmares, as he says.

What he also doesn’t know is that he is my safe place too.

Every time I look at him I think of how far I have come and how I am so SO lucky to have him as my boy.

noise

There is so much noise lately.

It comes from every direction.

No one told me being an adult is so hard on the senses.

I’ve found myself complaining of headaches and backaches and neck aches a lot lately.

I think it’s from the noise.

Even when I turn everything off, it’s still in my head. So loud.

The noise is loudest when it’s quiet, I find.

During the school day when teenagers are being teenagery and in the evening when a preschooler is being preschoolery and a toddler is being toddlery, the noise isn’t so loud. It’s drowned out by immediacy of life.

But in the quiet of my planner period, my commute, my quiet time lying with Eddie while he falls asleep, my head fills with it.

Noise.

Static.

Yelling and shouting and vying for attention.

Anger and frustration and joy and excitement and overwhelm and worry and pride and anticipation and grief.

Oh the grief.

Memories are loud.

They scream in your heart and make you feel all over again the things you thought were past and gone and not coming back.

The pain, the writhing, the labor for…empty arms, empty heart.

Grief is the loudest of the noise.

Scratching and tearing demanding to be the center and then just sitting there in the middle of it all like dead weight.

Resurfacing to drown me.

The noise is so so loud when you’re an adult.

I want to go back to that warm place of being a child where the noise of the adult world is so far above me, it doesn’t make it to my ears or heart.

That place with dinner waiting on the table, two parents tucking me in, and no note of death or pain or worry in my ear.

I want the safety and silence of childhood back.

Because being an adult is too loud.

It hurts too much.

In honor of Infant Loss and Remembrance Day, I lit my candle for the two I have in heaven (snuggled there next to a picture of their little brother, Eddie) and for my niece, Bella. Who went home too this past week.

In honor of Infant Loss and Remembrance Day, I lit my candle for the two I have in heaven (snuggled there next to a picture of their little brother, Eddie) and for my niece, Bella. Who went home too this past week to be held in the arms of her Papa Steve in Heaven.

***Updated (9:21am 10/16/13)*** I just got word that Arabella Elizabeth Sluiter was delivered at 2:20am this morning weighing 1 lb, 3oz. She will always be loved and remembered.

freeing containment

Yesterday I had my monthly therapy appointment.

Yup, I’m down to monthly.  This is a BIG DEAL for me since for a while I was going weekly. Truthfully there were times when I felt I could go every day.

My therapist has said I could just be “done” until I feel I need it again, but I didn’t feel comfortable with that.  The monthly visits make me feel like there is an accountability for me. It helps me know there is a check-in to make sure I am maintaining and managing my anxiety, depression, and OCD.

In fact, yesterday the first thing Dr. M asked me was “So how has going back to school gone for you?”

I have been seeing Dr. M for about two years now. She is awesome at her job and knows when my yearly meltdowns typically occur.  This is the first time in years that I haven’t had weekly appointments during this time of year to help me manage the big shift in schedule.

And it was fine.

I told Dr. M that it was going great.  And I wasn’t lying or sugar-coating anything.

Yes, I have had a couple slips, but Cortney and I recognized them quickly and we worked to “contain” (that is what Dr. M calls it) my anxiety.

In fact, this fall is busier than ever for me, but I am doing well with it all.  Dr. M says that this is because I have set up a containment strategy for myself.

I know that working three jobs (teaching high school, teaching college, and freelancing) plus taking two classes, PLUS wanting to be a quality parent and wife AND help keep my house from being condemned would have been way too much for me in the past.

But this year, because I really love all of the things I have taken on and I want to be successful, I devised a schedule for myself.  One that I have shared with Cortney and that is printed and on my desk and school and taped into my blog/freelance planner at home.  It looks like this:

KatiesSchedule

To some people this might look like I am putting myself in a box, and I guess I sort of am. I mean, the schedule is shaped like a box.

But for me it’s incredibly freeing.

Because I have so many things I have to work on at any given moment, I can get overwhelmed and shut down and forget how to prioritize. I also have the tendency to prioritize certain things right out of my life like family time or sleep.  This is problematic for my mental health since lack of down time (and sleep) are major triggers for my anxiety and depression.

If I don’t have set times when things get done, I also tend to procrastinate which further exacerbates my anxiety.

I realized a couple weeks ago that in order to feel free, I needed to box myself in.

So I created the above schedule.  Not only does it keep me focused, but it tells me what to do in each “work time” slot. For instance in the “school planning” areas I ONLY do school planning.  No blogging or freelancing.  That is what the evenings are for.

It also helps me to realize that if I am sent a possible freelance assignment, but because of the date assigned and the date due, I won’t be able to write on a Sunday? I won’t take that assignment.

This schedule makes us go device-free for time every. single. day.  It makes sure I am being present for my husband and kids each day.

Because of all the open family time on the weekends, we are flexible for putting fun things on the calendar or for tackling house tasks.

I also have the opportunity to look forward and say, “I didn’t get all the essays graded I needed to, but I have time tomorrow to do it again.”

I realize at first glance it’s easy to say, “but you have ever single minute of your life SCHEDULED!” But if you look closely, you will see that I have scheduled the unscheduled as well.

The other benefits to this is that it puts our whole family into a sort of predictable routine which has been wonderful for Eddie and Charlie and has made communication between Cortney and myself much better.  We share bedtime duty with Eddie so it’s not a same-day decision.  It’s expected that I will be gone during nap on Sundays to go work at Starbucks on my writing, so no one is being resentful of that time.

Our weekends have been much more fulfilling and happy since we started this schedule, as have our evenings.

I don’t think this sort of box-style scheduling is for everyone, but it is definitely what is working for me and my famly right now.

falling into darkness: what depression feels like

I was miles away from home, my email, all the lists of To Do’s for the upcoming school year.  I was sitting on a beach under a lovely shade tree. There was just the right amount of breeze to keep us from sweating, but not to keep us out of the lake.  Both boys were happily splashing and digging holes with their daddy.

I was on a towel with my Diet Coke and a book I was ignoring.

And I could feel my head slipping. My world was starting to do that thing when you throw water on a painted canvas. The picture that was once realistic and lovely starts to look like it’s melting and distorting.

Everything started running together.

It came out of nowhere.

I mean, I knew I had been stressed out with thinking about school starting, taking on an adjunct position at the local community college last minute, and all the loose ends I had to tie up with social media campaigns and freelancing before I headed back to work full time. I knew that going on this vacation a week before all the madness started up was cutting it a little close.

But I also knew I was very much looking forward to it.

Cortney and I had been saying to each other repeatedly for a couple weeks, “Soon we will be on a break with no internet or lists. Soon it will be just family and fun.”

We arrived two days before. I didn’t feel the usual release of stress that happens after getting the car unloaded, grabbing a beer, and plopping down in a bag chair.  But I chalked that up to having one more mobile kid this year, having a LOT on my mind, and needing a night to just chill out.

I’m not sure what happened between arriving and sitting on that towel on the beach.

I wish I could pinpoint these things because then maybe I wouldn’t find myself in a delightful situation getting slammed in the face with the load of bricks that is depression.

My reality went wonky.

I didn’t want to do any of the fun things people suggested, but I did want to cry.

I didn’t want to be around anyone, but we were on vacation with my parents and both brothers and their families.

I started finding fault with everyone and everything they said and did.  The more I tried to just hurry up and get over it and “be happy,” the worse it got.

I tried to be positive and it made me more negative.

I tried to see that they were just jokes and humor people were using, but I ended up taking offense even quicker.

I tried to tell myself all the questions were because my family was interested in me and wanted to make conversation, but I couldn’t help feel like I was being judged and eye-rolled.

I tried to “get over it” or “not worry about it” as was suggested when I would mention my stresses, but instead I felt unheard and more anxious.

Within 48 hours of being home (which included some good sleep), I was pretty much passed it.

My falls into the depression pits aren’t as far of a fall or as frequent as they used to be before I started managing them with therapy, diet, exercise, and meds, but they are still disconcerting and exhausting when they do happen.

No matter how long I live with depression, I never see it coming. Sometimes I will have all the triggers, but the depression never shows up.  Sometimes I will have one tiny trigger and BOOM! Like a sack of bricks to the face.

But every time it starts to push me, it feels the same way and it starts with the feeling of falling and of my whole world melting and distorting.

I have copy of the Salvador Dali painting The Persistence of Memory in my classroom. Since I frequently lack words to describe what my brain does when depression hits, I think of this painting. It’s like my life slows down–but not in a good way. In the way that things start to bleed together out of slow motion in dreams. Images melt and droop. I become an almost unrecognizable lump of a grey creature in the middle of it all.  I can see myself from the outside, but I can’t help myself.

If I don’t allow myself to vanish…if I keep awake and don’t melt away…I come out of it.

At least I have every time so far.

And on the other side is always this:

2013-08-30 08.02.39And I promise myself that I will always fight to stay.

Always.

Do you have a story?  Natalie from Mommy of a Monster and I are sharing our stories. She is talking about crawling out of the pit of depression while I told what it’s like to fall into it. If you want to share with us, please join the link up below and let’s all support each other.

 

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glitches

I haven’t talked much about anxiety or depression lately.

From time to time people will ask me how it’s going, and I know they mean my Mental Issues. To be honest, I am usually caught off guard. Not that they would ask about that; in fact, I feel glad people feel comfortable enough with me to ask about that stuff. I’m usually thrown off because I’m not sure if they really want to know, or if they are looking for an “Ok” or a “Great!” type of answer.

Usually if people are asking me about how It is going, they read this blog and know about the Mental Issues already. Again, it’s touching that they care about me to want to keep up on These Things. It’s also means I am not sure how much they want me to go into it. Maybe it’s more comfortable for them to read about it rather than have me talk about it out loud.

But I haven’t said much here about it lately.

It’s not that I haven’t had any anxiety attacks or episodes, but by the time I get around to it, I have worked it out and it’s passed and I don’t have any need to write about it.

I get through each episode as it comes, which means when people ask me how it’s going I say, “really quite well.”

That is not to say that I don’t work at my Mental Issues daily.

Daily.

Still with the daily.

Every day I have to fight my urge to go to sleep all day.

Some days the urge is barely there.  I hear one of the boys wake up and my body eases out of bed fairly easily.  Coffee is poured, the day proceeds.

Other days the minute I hear a child I want to cry, and I have to fight with myself not to introvert on the spot and to interact meaningfully (and not just dutifully) with my kids.

I have to be conscious of everyone’s temperaments and know that when the natives get restless, we need a change of scenery…regardless if that is what actually want.  If I ignore the signs from Eddie and Charlie, the restlessness will turn into fighting which will turn into disobeying which will turn into screaming and crying.

And then I am triggered.

Even the days when I am tired and feel like I am just a hair away from a trigger and I just want to sit and drink my coffee and be all in my own head…I can’t. I can’t fall into that.

Every single day is still a challenge.

It’s not bad though.  Not like it sounds.

Well, some days are.

Some days are just hard.

Some days the ugly falls like a heavy fog on this house and I cannot see the good a joyful and beautiful even with my fog lights on.

But I have to keep going.

Sometimes I make bad choices that leave me feeling guilty and awful and mad because I feel like I should have been able to control that outburst. I shouldn’t have yelled at Eddie that way or redirected Charlie with such force.

Sometimes I sit in my bag chair in the garage staring at my phone while the boys play during that last 30 minutes before Cortney gets home because I can’t STAND to be the sole parent for one second longer and staring at my phone is all that is keeping my head from exploding.

Sometimes during Charlie’s afternoon nap, I take a nap on the couch even though Eddie doesn’t nap anymore. I just put in a movie for him and tell him that Mommy needs a rest.  I turn my back to him, face the back of the couch, and silently cry myself to sleep.

But in the grand scheme of things these moments are but glitches.

There are way more good moments that bad, and there are very few whole days that I would put in the trash pile.

I guess that is why I don’t really talk about it.

I don’t have any HUGE EPISODES that require me to “write it out”.

I’m aware that sometimes, things just suck because that is the way life is. I am also aware that sometimes things suck because that is just how my brain is.  It’s hard to tell the difference, but it doesn’t matter.

Every day I take my meds.  Every day I thank God for my family, my husband, modern medicine, and my faith.

Every day I start again.

living with depression

Did you see that my blog is now SIX YEARS OLD? I threw a party yesterday with giveaways for YOU!  Go enter!

my walls

There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself-
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

People describe me as energetic and fun and easy to talk to and laugh with.

My students are surprised when I tell them I am in my mid-30′s; they expected mid-20′s.

Sometimes, on casual Fridays, my ponytail/hoodie combo paired with my grin and the pep in my step get me mistaken for a student.

I love fiercely.

Most people don’t notice the wall that closes in on me.

On the days when that smile fades as I climb into my car.  As I wish for an early bedtime.  As I dread going home to more people.

On days when I want the world to go away because I just can’t care about your problems anymore. I can’t care about your mundane, whiny facebook updates or your cheery coffee-induced tweets.

I don’t care about feeding the family or doing the dishes.

I don’t care about grading or lesson planning.

I just want to sleep the world away.

The wall moves quickly.

I suffer from Depression.

A grey wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?
Steps at my back spiral into a well.
There are no trees or birds in this world,
There is only sourness.

I post a million happy pictures of me and my sons and my husband.

There is so much love in this family it is overflowing.

Hugs and kisses and flowers and snuggles and drawings of “macaroni and cheese machines”.

But there are also those thoughts that zap in out of nowhere.

My son hit by a rouge car, his body crushed and broken.

My baby floating lifeless in the tub.

Like in the movies, there is a flash, the image, a flash, and back to reality.

I shudder.

But sometimes, there is a flash, the image, and then…it doesn’t stop.  The scenario plays out.  I can’t turn it off as horrified as I am.  I am feeling the horribleness of the reality that is not real.

I do not want this.

I do not want to see this.

I have had intrusive thoughts.**

I want to get over, around, under, away from this wall that is closing in.

I have suffered from Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and OCD.

This red wall winces continually:
A red fist, opening and closing,
Two grey, papery bags-
This is what i am made of, this, and a terror
Of being wheeled off under crosses and rain of pietas.

I am confident and laid back.

People ask me how I keep it all together.  All the schedules and the achievements.  How do we do it all?

We have gotten degrees while working and having children.

We have great times and throw wonderful parties.

We love each other forever and always.

But there is also the terror that it will crumble.

There is a wall of fear that closes in.

There is the fear that something will happen to take my joy away from me.  That it’s all “too good to be true.”

That is a cliché for a reason, after all.

Other shoe dropping and all.

Where are those shoes?  Are they heavy? Do they look like terminal illness?  Death?  Divorce? Destruction?

A crushing wall.

I suffer from Anxiety.

On a black wall, unidentifiable birds
Swivel their heads and cry.
There is no talk of immorality among these!
Cold blanks approach us: 
They move in a hurry.*

The walls closed in before I even noticed.

They always do.

Thankfully, I am surrounded by people who keep an eye on my walls.

Because when the walls move, they move quickly.  And if no one is watching, they will crush me.

I’ve been squeezed, but those walls have yet to finish me off.

And I am confident that they never will.

*************

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

*From the poem “Apprehensions” by Sylvia Plath

**I have never acted on these intrusive thoughts.  Intrusive thoughts do not always mean feeling like you want to harm your loved ones, but in my case it was the playing out the scenarios if they did get hurt.

Moving Forward

“You seem to be in a place where you can now decide if you are done,” she started to say as I started to shake my head, “or if you want to cut way back on our visits.”

I started picking at the seam of my pants with uncertainty.

Three years ago I finally told my doctor something wasn’t right and got help. Two years ago I started talk therapy with Dr. Melissa.

One year ago I had a relapse with my postpartum depression.

But I have been feeling really good the past month or so.  Like really good.  Like…dare I say…”normal”?

My last visit to my psychiatrist was approximately 3 minutes long.  There was nothing to discuss other than he didn’t need to see me again for 12 weeks and here are the refills on your prescriptions until that time. Have a great summer.

And then there was the therapy visit.  We talked about being in a good place.  We talked about putting my care back to my GP and away from the psychiatrist. And then she said that thing. About being possibly done.

That can’t be right. I can’t be done. Not yet.  Not with so much uncertainty out there.  I mean…what if I have another break down?  What if the day after we decide I am done, I need her?  I need therapy?  I need…to not be done?

Last week, eight days after that therapist appointment, I read a post by a blogger that encouraged her readers to come here…to this place…to Sluiter Nation…to learn “how to move forward” after having a postpartum mood disorder.

Me?  Showing how to move forward?  How to pick up the pieces and go on with your life?  That is a big responsibility.  That is a big compliment that I could possibly be well enough now to be a role model for Life After PPD.

Is that me?

Am I now in a place that is Beyond PPD?

I still take my medication.  I still have anxiety attacks, but I know how to spot them coming and what to do about them before I am throwing potato chip bags at my poor, confused husband.

However I can’t remember the last time I had a depressed episode.  I’ve had funks that I have been in, but nothing that I would say qualified as actually being depressed.

I have never thought of myself as being “past” that phase until this weekend. For one, I realized Charlie is almost 14 months old–I am not considered “postpartum” anymore.  I know that seems like a mundane thing…like a “who cares” kind of label that was just shed, but it’s sort of a big deal to me.  I’m out of that “first year” phase.  Any of my mood stuff is not associated with “postpartum” anymore.

And I do still have mood stuff.

Friday night after Cort’s graduation ceremony we were herding the kids home waaaay past their bedtimes and I was struggling with some breathing exercises because I could feel the panic of a full weekend ahead of us rising in my chest.  Instead of giving in to it I just informed Cort that I was struggling, but that things would be Ok.

He tried to tell Eddie to stop talking so it wouldn’t bother me, but I recognized that while his incessant constant chatter was bothering me, he was just being a three-almost-four-year-old who hadn’t seen his parents in over 12 hours.  I said, “it’s ok. He can talk,” and I closed my eyes, leaned my face against the cool window, and breathed in through my nose and out through my mouth.

When we got home, I went right to the bathroom to collect myself.  I put my jammies on and heard Cort insisting Eddie go downstairs and wait for him while he put Charlie to bed.  Eddie was not having it (you know, because he was over-tired and missed his parents).  I weakly called out, “I’ll put him to bed.”

Cort was insistent, “you don’t feel good. I can do it. Really.”

(Side note:  That guy takes SUCH good care of me.  I am a lucky lady.)

I pulled myself together and went downstairs to where Cort was helping Eddie with brushing his teeth.  “Really, babe.  I want to.  It’s just laying by him.  That is what I should do if I feel bad anyway.”

So Eddie finished up and we hopped into bed 90 minutes past his bedtime.  We chatted quietly for about 5 minutes, he announced he couldn’t sleep and within 2 more minutes he was sawing logs with an open mouth breathing heavily into my face.

I smiled.

I pulled his blankets up a bit further, kissed his smooshy cheek, and told him I loved him.

And then I was fine.  The anxiety attack had passed.  I could handle the busy weekend.

It was just one weekend.

And the busy was good busy.  We would have such awesome experiences.

It’s Monday morning during my planning hour.  I am tired.  Over-tired.  Normally this would be the first step to depressed, but I don’t feel it this time.

I just feel tired.

So I will go to bed on time tonight–probably not post anything here tomorrow–and get a good night sleep.

And I will be myself again tomorrow.

I still have anxiety.  I still deal with OCD. I will still have depressive episodes.

But I am beyond PPD.  I am more myself now than I have been in four years.

Am I ready to be done with talk therapy?  No.

But I am willing to cut down to once a month and move my prescriptive care back to my GP from my psychiatrist.  And even though that might sound like a boring little tidbit, it’s sort of a big deal to me.

It means that I haven’t just shed the label of postpartum, I have also gained more of myself back.

And that is a big deal.

*************

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the green-eyed monster

If my hair would just style as well as hers I would be so much happier.

If I could lose 30 pounds, I could wear cute clothes like she does and I would be so much happier.

If I could get a paid writing gig, I would be so joyful, just like her.

If we could go on a REAL vacation, we  would be happier.

If we had more money to spend I could do that and that and that to our house and be happy like she is.

If we had a bigger house I would totally be happier.

If I would make a Top Whatever list or Follow this mom on blah blah list I would be so much happier.

If I had a workspace that was cheerful and comfy I would be much happier.

If more people read/commented/shared my blog I would be happier.

If Cortney and I went out every Saturday night like that couple, we would be happier.

If we had more friends we would be happier.

If I had clearer skin, cuter clothes, less weight, longer hair, better shoes, more money, more crafting time, more stay at home time, more work time, better writing skills, more contacts…like her and her and her and her…I would be happier.

Oh the toxic thoughts that spin around in my brain.

ENVY.

I spent a good hour this morning just thinking and meditating and letting myself be quiet and I realized that so much of my sadness stems from envy.

Last Friday, I was picking Eddie up from my parents’ house and on their counter they had two cut-outs of their hands with a paper heart glued to the palms.  On each heart was writing.

At first I thought it was something for Valentine’s Day.  But when I got closer I saw one said, “Road Rage” and the other said, “Envy”.

My mom explained they were from something they were doing at church.  I chuckled because I knew my dad’s was the road rage one…and not just from the slanty, messy left-handed penmanship.  My own road rage is very much inherited from his.

But my mom’s…the one that said “envy”…surprised me.

I don’t ever think of my mom as wishing she had what someone else had.   But then again, I know growing up, she wished our family was maybe more “perfect” like other families at their church.  I know she wished that we had all maybe followed the “Go to College, Get a Job, Get Married, Have Babies, Go to Church Every Week” model that their friends’ kids did.

But we didn’t all follow that route.  Some of us took a LONG time to find a job after college graduation. Some had kids before marriage.  Some dropped out of the first college to return home and go somewhere else.

Life is messy, ya know?

I know she loves all of us anyway..maybe even more so because we all turned out great despite not following that model.  But you know…there’s always that…”maybe if…” thought.

So anyway, since then I have been thinking a lot about envy.

I realized that a lot of my sadness and stress comes from me coveting what other people have.

I mean, I know that I am blessed.  I am beyond blessed.

But there is always that nagging thought when I see someone get sponsored by a sweet company or another blogger get a writing gig I think I would be awesome at or I look at how beautiful my friends are and wish I looked like that too.

Or I see new parents that seem so damn happy all the time…no stress…no anxiety about who they are now that they are parents.  No going to an “ugly place” like I did/do.

I watch people embrace snow and play with their children and think maybe I am not trying hard enough.  Why do I hate snow?  Why do I suck at “playing” with Eddie.  I mean, is it that hard to pick up a dinosaur and make it have a conversation with his Pooh Bear?

I get crabby that I can’t live on Starbucks and wine and burritos and oreos and still weigh only 150 pounds and have clear skin.  I mean, isn’t that what all these beautiful people in my newsfeeds and reader do?  It seems like it.

Why can’t I love to run?  I want to run 5Ks and blog about my new healthy life.  Why can’t I love eating celery?

As happy as I am with my life {which I truly am} these thoughts still invade my brain in my most tired, vulnerable moments.

I am lucky beyond words, so why does envy still creep in?

Why can’t I appreciate beauty and talent and fortune of others and not have that twinge that I wish I had it too.

Because I do. I have my own beauty. My own talent. My own fortune.

I have just to look up from my computer and see it in the smiling eyes of the three guys that live in this house with me.

So why does my brain tell me that is not good enough?

Even though my heart knows it’s more than enough?

2013-02-19 14.07.25

Syndicated on BlogHer.com

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functional family

Every other week I sit in a surprisingly uncomfortable chair in my therapist’s office.

Rarely do I feel like going.  If I am crabby and busy I think, “man, I don’t want to waste and hour sitting in that chair just talking,” and if I am having a great day I think, “I don’t want to go and have a big old Debbie Downer discussion.”

The weird thing is that I never walk away thinking, “see? Waste of time.”

A couple weeks ago we were talking about family.  My family and Cort’s family and how we communicate with our families.  I told Dr. Melissa,

“I never have to wonder if someone in my family is mad at me or if there is an issue or what.  If someone asks like an ass, the other people tell that person.  There is no silent treatment or passive aggressive jabs.”

Then I told her about something super disappointing my mom shared with me recently.  After my mom had told me, she asked me if I was mad at her and I said yes.

I festered about it for a few hours, then started to cry.

Eventually I called my mom and said, “I’m not mad at you guys, mom.  I’m just super disappointed.”  We talked about it for a bit and I told her I wasn’t going to dwell on it. I just needed to tell her that it bothered and disappointed me.

My mom agreed and we were Ok.

I told all of this to Dr. Melissa.

She looked at me for a minute and then said something I wasn’t expecting.

“You know, Katie, many many people would not be able to talk about that as openly as you did with your mom.  And they most certainly wouldn’t be able to stay disappointed, but let the anger go.”

I was sort of baffled.

“Really,” I responded,  “because in the entirety of life, it’s not that big of a deal.  It’s not worth losing my mom and dad over or anything.  It sucks.  It’s really sad and disappointing…and I’ll probably be disappointed about it for a LONG time…but it’s not worth having a feud over or anything.”

“That’s the thing,” she told me.  “This is exactly the kind of thing most families do have feuds and harboring resentments about.  It’s amazing that you have this kind of communication with your family.”

I have been thinking about that conversation for the past two weeks.

This past week, Eddie has been very sick.  Cort and I each took two days off from work to stay home with him, but both of us really needed to be at work on Friday.

Thursday night my mom, knowing about our struggles, called and said that my dad had Friday off and would be cool with hanging out with Eddie in the morning.  Then she would take the afternoon off from work, and stay with him.

It was a lifesaver.

She didn’t do it because she felt guilty for disappointing me weeks ago.  She did it because this is what our family does for each other.

I can’t imagine holding anything against my parents or my brothers.

I tried to think of a time before this that anyone did something that was truly disappointing or that angered me that I didn’t say something.  I couldn’t.

I couldn’t even think of something that I would have gotten mad about…other than crap we did/said to each other when we were kids.  And even then we just yelled at each other and got over it.

What’s funny is back when I was in high school, friends of mine and friends of my brother, Chris would come over for dinner and refer to our family dinners as “having dinner with the Yelling Match.”

Everyone in my family talks over everyone else.  There are only five of us (parents, me, my two younger brothers), but it gets loud.  Then the talking over turns to disagreeing about topics or calling each other names.  Things get louder and louder.  My parents try to intervene, but it never works.

By the end of the meal, everyone leaves full and happy.

Yelling Match Completed.

I know my parents used to worry about how much my brothers and I argued and name-called.  I think they still worry sometimes since we are all adults (34, 32, & 27) and maybe shouldn’t be calling each other “buttface” at the dinner table.

But we all have a close, happy relationship.  We love doing stuff together and spending time together.

We miss each other and give our mom grief when we haven’t had a Sunday dinner together in a while.

We enjoy each other’s company even when we disagree.

If someone falls short of someone else’s expectations they are told, but a real beef is never held onto for long.  Oh we don’t let the person forget about it, but we don’t seriously harbor ill-feelings toward each other.

We let it go.

Apparently this is not something all families do.

So I guess what I am trying to say is this:

Hey mom and dad, you done good.  All those times you worried about us being so mean…at least we were being mean and not holding it in.  Because had we held it in, we wouldn’t be able to be the communicators we are now.  And we wouldn’t want to come over and have you feed us.  And we wouldn’t want to spend a week all together in the summer at the cottage.

Yup, my family lets me down sometimes, but rather than shoving that down into my heart and muttering, “that’s ok.”  We say our feelings and we let it go.

I’m so thankful for this.

Also, mom? Really. I’m not mad.

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