Category Archives: Depression

How do you teach grief?

I am sad … and then I feel selfish, and helpless.  My Goddaughter lost her baby girl only a few weeks old due to contracting Group B Strep bacterial infection, GBS.  I had never heard of this insidious infection.  It has robbed my niece of her happy self.  Joy so quickly turned to sorrow.  And I don’t know how to help her through any of this.  I have dealt with my own grief so many times yet these days I am lost as to how to help my own Goddaughter.

I wish I could hug her and tell her things will get better, lighter with time.  But I know from my own personal experiences that is a lie.  Time doesn’t diminish grief.  Time doesn’t make it better.  Bad things happen to good people.  Things sometimes don’t happen for a good reason.

Logically, I understand and accept that grief is indeed an inevitable part of life; but knowing this doesn’t make getting through the day any easier.  Everyone grieves differently and I just wish I could spare my niece this unbearable pain.  I don’t know how to make her empty arms not ache to hold her baby girl.  I don’t know how to fill the wounded hole in her heart. I don’t know how to lessen the ache she must be feeling each and every minute.

How do I help her heal by letting her know that grieving is more than acceptable?  How can I begin to explain to her that loss has taught me to love more and appreciate life even more?  How do I show her that by writing, by sharing my own stories, reaching out to others has been my saving grace?  How do I teach her that love nor the pain goes away, it doesn’t diminish but when love grows I know there is life with loss, slow part of healing.  How do I let her know that she will always have a forever hole in her heart?

How do I show her my very own social face of grief?  I worry so much for her since I know how much grief can isolate one.  Depression and PTSD have isolated me too much in the past.  It has taken me a long time, and much effort to keep getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other … and now knowing what I deal with, I wish I could somehow spare my niece even the tiniest bit of this darkness.  I pray that she finds the strength to get up, move each day.  I know she will stumble and wonder how she can move when her spirits are so weighed down.

How do I let her know that my own grief still paralyzes me at times, that tears still surprise me?   How I do I let her know that choosing to live is a choice I make each and every day?  How do I express to her that although it has taken me a long time, and I still work at it every day, but I have learned how to live with loss.  I wish I could hug her and absorb some of her pain.  How do I tell her that it is okay to be happy and let joy in?  How do I show her that life changes and you grow from the deepest parts of your soul?  How can I show her how to claw from the bottom of despair and such unimaginable sorrow and pain over and over again?  How can I explain how grief teaches us to love more and reach deeper in our souls for acceptance for living?

I feel so much more deeply now because of my grief – its a cursing and a blessing.  I don’t know how to make things better for my Goddaughter.

I will never stop letting her know I am here … for whatever, whenever.  As I continue to work through my own grief, accepting that healing doesn’t mean I am never sad or that my memories fade … instead I try to relive certain memories, smiling through the tears, forever grateful for having those memories … learning how to embrace all of my feelings …. the love, the grief, the pain, the sorrow, the smiles, the joy … with grace in my step and hope in my heart.

 

 

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In Memory of Me …

I have just not been able to write as much as I would prefer lately.  So many thoughts, words, complete sentences in my head … but having a hard time expressing myself without crying at times.  Been so busy building walls so others can no longer hurt me, that I just can’t express myself in the only real way I know.   Sinking into depression … I know I am but I am not sure what I can do differently, right now. I feel lost, alone, insecure, idle, forgotten, bored … Emotional flu … yes that is what I have, lately.  Tired of feeling – especially sorry for myself.  So it’s taken me awhile to write this post.  Sometimes my hurt overwhelms me.

Anyone who really takes the time to know me, understand my life – they would know I have never had a good relationship with my mother and her daughters.  My sister is having knee surgery and will be staying with my Mom, so whenever any one of my sisters visit, even for a few hours every few months, my mother tends to be even more cruel to me.  For some reason, this past Friday we were talking about someone we knew and how they died with no family.  My mother then proceeded to tell me that I should save money to make sure I can pay for my own burial since no one would help once I die and I shouldn’t think to burden anyone.  Now I know deep in my heart that my family couldn’t care less if I lived or died.  I have known this far too long.  And sadly, yet obviously prudently, I already took measures for my burial many years ago after my first bout of cancer.  I reassured my Mom very calmly that I already took care of things for when I die.  Then I just went upstairs to my safe place, my own apartment, and just cried for hours.  My mother will never know how much she has hurt me, how much her words hurt me.  Just when I think she can’t hurt me anymore, I learn that it’s just never going to stop.  My skin just isn’t thick enough sometimes.  My heart breaks a little more each day when I am around her.  I try so hard … try not to let her words bury me alive.

So many hours I find myself too weak, too sad to do much of anything which only makes me sadder. I try.  I am in pure survival mode.  Don’t need to be saved. I need to be found and appreciated for exactly who I am.  I need others for my voice right now.

Quotes that speak to me, for me …

“Sensitive suffer more, but they love more and dream more.”  – Augusto Cury

“A sensitive soul sees the world through the lens of love.” – Unknown

“Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness.” ― Katherine Henson

“You soak up others’ moods and desires like a sponge. You absorb sensation the way a paintbrush grasps each color it touches on a palette. The ethereal beauty of a dandelion, the shift of a season, the climax of a song, or a certain stirring scent can awaken such wonder they’ll become your very breath itself – moving through you as fuel does to fire and wind does to waves. ~ Victoria Erickson

I have to keep reminding myself to love myself first and foremost … I have been on my own longer than I have ever been with anyone, loner by nature, alone by choice.

I’m here – I’m a survivor – and you can, too!  Everyone has to deal with their own situation, but my method is ‘distraction’.  My pain, worry leads me to writing.  Peace, acceptance, quiet, serenity, empowerment … keep loving myself.  Keep striving to have a decent life.  I have to remember who I am – that is how I will get through this life … with grace in my step and hope in my heart.


Glimpse of a Genuine Smile

I am so tired of plastering a fake smile on my face, crying in the inside, keeping my tears at bay.  I just need a few hours with someone who I think understands me, my life, who cares enough to ask me about my day.  I am so lost most of the time, so alone … especially when surrounded by people.

But last night, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with some childhood, neighborhood friends and I found myself smiling, a genuine, sincere smile that starts at my heart and ends on my face.

Social media can be a good thing if used wisely.  I reconnected with a beautiful brother and sister who will forever be my step bother and sister.  Their Mom and my Dad dated while both were were separated.  Fast forward 30 years …we met for dinner, laughter, reminisced, laughed some more.  I went home with a genuine smile.  It felt so nice.  Even if fleeting.  I get lucky and appreciate those rare moments when I feel connected, loved, cared for and my smile makes an appearance.

I have always suffered from smiling depression.  Just put on a smile, brace myself, and get through the day.  It wears me out though.  Its exhausting.  Constantly hiding my sadness, my palpable misery behind a happy mask just keeps me at arms length from most people.  I get near but never fully close enough to someone. Always find myself on the periphery of their lives and even of my own.

The pain of getting close, of losing someone again, of struggling to get out of bed, the anxiety of learning how to breathe each minute of each day is too overwhelming most days.  So I smile, lean in, and pretend just about every day.

I go to work, to the doctors, out to dinner … I take tons of photos …of my food, desserts … I dress up, put make up on, get my hair, nails done, take selfies.  I am sure 90% of the time to the outside world, no one can see my struggle. How can they when I paint such a pretty picture?!  I hold down a part-time job, run a family, stay active but that frayed tethering line of rope just barely visible to me at times – somehow keeps me going – all the while I suffer for the most part in silence with panic attacks, insomnia, crushing low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts.  I do share my story more these days, not like 10 years ago when I was too depressed to get out of bed, too weak to allow anyone in, before social media, before my blog.  Now I vent, share, open myself up more.  I work hard each and every day on trying to put myself out there.  Even if depletes me by the end of the day.

I have learned to keep negative, self serving people at arm’s length and I find myself being more appreciative of the smaller, less tangible things.  Gratitude really changed my life.

Sincerity, honesty, acceptance, sharing all have changed my life … so with tears in my eyes, smile on my face, hope in my heart, grace in my step … I move forward.  Looking forward to reconnecting, finding my genuine smile.

 

 


PTSD … still …

Its been two years since I got hit by a car. And my anxiety, especially during the winter months, has not diminished. Lately, its at an all time high!! I am so afraid of slipping on the ice, breaking more bones. So much anxiety. I have definitely noticed how being hit by a car has changed the way I experience the city. Every time I see a taxi cab coming down the street, an almost daily sight, my thoughts rebound to my accident. Some changes, like never stepping off the curb until the light has actually changed, or looking both ways before crossing (sometimes twice), are probably good in a way. But all these inane thought race through my head in seconds – I am never again sure that a car will stop, and now my carefree walking in the city has come to and – abruptly and forever.

Although I recovered, for the most part, physically, I still walk around the city with a sense of permanent vulnerability. I still cannot cross many streets without looking both ways about four times and looking over my shoulder a dozen times while crossing. If a car gets too close, or if I think a driver turning my way doesn’t see me, I panic, break out in a sweat, and sometimes literally freeze. Sometimes, on crowded walkways, people stare, get frustrated with me, bump into me … all which just adds more anxiety.

Physically, I have been certainly recovering. But the last two years, I have became seriously depressed. Drugs did not help all that much. I was referred to a post-traumatic stress disorder therapist and during non-winter months, I think I am ok. But now my PTSD is at the forefront of my life. Waiting for the winter blues literally to leave so some of my depression can gradually lift.

For a long time, though, my life was defined by my accident. And I guess it still is -0 just when I thought I could put things behind me. So much is how much of my energy and time is spent on all the medical procedures, tests, rehabs, doctors’ visits etc., building anxiety, not to mention all that time I missed from work before they laid me off. And now looking to go back to work, I see how much I have really lost.

And the experience lingers, both mentally and physically. I have regained about 80 percent of my mobility and 70 percent of my strength, but it is just not the same. So many things I still can’t do, and this only leaves me more frustrated and disappointed. In my mind, I’ll never be the same and that’s heartbreaking to some extent.

And the fear and the vulnerability stay with me. I wasn’t paralyzed or killed, so I felt fortunate. Being hit by a car did, however, damage my sense of security and safety. I am still working my head around all of this.

I have become an exceedingly careful pedestrian. *sigh* I guess that is a good thing. I never got my driver’s license, I never quite liked cars nor traffic, but these days I am even more against them. I just pray to return to some form of stability — both on a professional and personal level as well as emotionally and physically.

I desperately seek and need the feeling of responsibility and accomplishment. I want my life back. But am keeping my true appreciation for why I am still here.


Some days….

I rarely sleep but today of all days, why did I have to recall a dream? I miss my forever heart, Michael, each and every day. But some days, like today that loss is unbearable. Its been 13 years since I lost Michael. People always say time heals all wounds, loss gets less – lies! With every passing year, with every mistake I make in love, with every wrong person I allow in my life – the loss of my heart becomes greater. The memory of him, of us together is forever embedded in my thoughts and heart.

I don’t think I will ever get used to missing him, wanting to see him one more time. Sometimes, I feel myself falling in love with someone else, but a part of me never fully commits. A part of me, I forever don’t share. At times, think I have come to a good place to allow true love to find me, enter my life, accept someone else – I am reminded that they aren’t Michael. They can never measure up to him. It just hits me all over again. Its such a strong bruise to my heart. Its overwhelming how much I miss him, especially now, today.

It was so easy to be happy with him. It was so easy to just be.
I will always miss him, long for him. My desire for him and my life with him is still strong.

Its so hard lately. Going through so much. Not trusting my instincts.

I understand all too well, how forever can end in an hour, or years from now. I truly appreciate this. I try to make every day count and make every person feel special. Some days, I am taken for granted, and this can be seen as a curse. But I am not changing for anyone. Some people keep knocking me down … and I keep getting up, out of bed, putting one foot in front of the other. Some days, like today, a little sadder, a little harder. But I let my words out, my voice be heard, slowly healing my heart.

When people say get over it – really?! They have never experienced true loss. They can’t nor shouldn’t compare the depth of my despair.

I know I am strong. I am working around my loss, my grief. Many believe I just can’t move on, you know, mourn and cry and be done with it. Why should I have to?! My loss is mine. I own it. I live it. I accept it. I don’t need to forget it. It wasn’t something that was broken. My love was pure. It is pure. It’s something that happened to me. The hole in my heart, will always be there. And each and every second, I try really hard, on finding small ways, of working around it. Loving, respecting and remembering and getting on all at the same time. With grace in my step, tears in my eyes, smile on my face and hope in my heart.


Break

Need a break from myself. I am my own worst enemy. I am too sensitive. I feel to much. I try too hard. I am exhausted. I know all too well, if someone keeps hurting you time and time again, they will never change as long as you keep letting them – I need to change myself, and stop allowing them to hurt … but sounds so simple in theory. I am tired from being just a passing time person for many people. I know all the lines, motto, etc. If people don’t make an effort to be in your life, don’t try so hard to be in theirs, it’s not worth it. Don’t make someone a priority who makes you an option.

Many say don’t be too nice, you will be taken for granted. But why should I change?! I just have to get wiser, stronger – not stop being too nice. But there are times when you have to show people that you cannot be taken for granted. You cannot be considered weak and your opinions must be considered. This is what I need to work on.

I have just been so emotionally drained – let down by people, in general. Family, so-called friends, dating – all have left me feeling unsure about myself. I feel like I am the one always trying – trying to make time, ask them out, follow-up, texting to check in – but I am not getting much in return. I think many feel that I am strong and a loner, and just don’t need them somehow – I need to believe this somehow – otherwise, I must accept that people suck and are just mean, selfish people. I can’t live my life this way.

I am sure all have watched the movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You” – well it rings true and the book is even more full of wise advice. SO many quotes, so much sage advice – I have heard all before – just have to truly find a way to listen, learn, let go and live by it.

“If he’s not calling you, it’s because you are not on his mind. If he creates expectations for you, and then doesn’t follow through on little things, he will do same for big things. Be aware of this and realize that he’s okay with disappointing you. Don’t be with someone who doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do. If he’s choosing not to make a simple effort that would put you at ease and bring harmony to a recurring fight, then he doesn’t respect your feelings and needs. “Busy” is another word for “asshole.” “Asshole” is another word for the guy you’re dating. You deserve a fucking phone call.”
― Greg Behrendt

“You picked a lemon, throw it away lemonade is overrated. Freaks should remain at the circus, not in your apartment. You already have one asshole. You don’t need another. Make a space in your life for the glorious things you deserve. Have faith.”
― Greg Behrendt, He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys

“When someone tells you they are too ‘busy’… It’s not a reflection of their schedule; it’s a reflection of YOUR spot on their schedule.”
― Steve Maraboli


Energy Fading…

Another week passed, few days closer to the holidays. I am tired of the person I see in the mirror. My health has become stagnant, so has my life. I find myself pushing good people away, and wanting the bad people to want me. I make no sense these days. My emotions are forever on a see-saw. Loneliness is not when you don’t have anyone with you – its when you have many people around you, but not the one you so desperately want. God, can I miss the men in my life anymore than I already do?? I want my brother, my father and my forever heart Michael just for one more day. Other times, I think wow, how easy would it be to just succumb to the pain of my life and the tumors raging inside my body and just be with them. I try so hard not to pray for death but for life. Most days I fail, especially lately. I am broken. My heart, my spirit, broken. I am lost. This time of year is just so hard. I let so very few people see the real pain behind my smile. Am I just too quiet for the world? A doormat?

I know I am a smart person, my IQ says so…but for the past ten years, I have made so many stupid mistakes. I know deep in my smart mind, that I should never allow myself to get attached to anyone unless they also feel the same towards you, because one sided expectations can mentally destroy us. Yes, they can. Lately the worst feeling is being used by someone who I thought actually, genuinely cared for me. I know I love with all I have, I give all that I have. When I love, I see no limitations. But I have to keep reminding myself, if someone hurts me, betrays me, I must love myself more, enough to let go.

I understand the theory of letting go all too well. Just tired of it. Tired of living it. I know….how we need to walk away sometimes, not to make someone else realize how worthy I am, but for me to fully understand and accept my own self worth. I know every heart has a story to tell – I just wish mine would be more about life than death; about light, than darkness.

I know today I look extra sad…mirrors don’t lie. I am actually sad every day, but today, well I just don’t have any more energy left.


Every second, everything changes…

They say cats have nine lives…well, I am beginning to believe so do I. I know I have had many health scares. And it has changed me in a way I am still fully learning to understand and accept. But today, once again, I got some positive news from my doctors. For months, I feel like I have given up. I just don’t have the best support system. Easy to give up – when you feel so alone. Picking out headstones, finalizing my living will, giving away my clothes, furniture. But today, doc told me the cancer stopped spreading. And although I am far from out of the woods, I may, just may, once again outlive my prognosis. I sit here, outside in NYC at Central Park crying as I try to write this. I don’t think many can understand how I feel. I almost completely gave up. I know I did. But I am over the moon happy that this stupid smiling depression of mine didn’t get the best of me. I was born a preemie and I will always be a fighter. I know this deep down inside. I just lost sight of it for awhile. I was barely hanging on. But I am finding the strength somehow to keep moving forward. Living with a death sentence hovering is, was, will be – my own prison. Few things in life, can forever change a person. Getting a diagnosis of cancer just puts things in perspective but then pain can make us lose that just as easily. Focus shifts. Goals change. Desires lost. Seconds turn into years. Cramming a lifetime into days. I have been doing this all my adult life. Pushing people away. Begging them to stay. Cursing. Praying. Hoping. Letting go. Learning. Crying. Screaming. Accepting.

Many don’t understand that tomorrow is not a given. I lost my way for a bit, as I always do. But I remain hopeful that tomorrow will come. …that many tomorrows are still here for me. I feel like I am cheating death. And maybe I am just living life…to the fullest. Not looking backwards. Time. Timing. Timeless. Who knew the aggressive cancer would respond so much better than expected to my last course of treatment? I didn’t. I would have bet all I had – oh wait, I did. I am still in shock I think, as I write. Not sure why, I have been here before. This should be home for me. Being sick has been my stability. Sounds crazy but that has been my label for too many years. Immune system shot. I get sick at the mere mention of a cold. But today’s news, and the way I have been feeling the last couple of weeks, has me happier than I dare to believe. Do I dare hope? One minute I am fighting to literally breathe, the next I just give up, resign myself to dying, and now I can’t stop smiling. Life. This is my life…the pain, loss of strength, nausea, weight fluctuations, exhaustion, and shortness of breath are beginning to gradually fade. I know my body is healing…I can go up and down the stairs without gasping, less pressure from the tumors in my chest, weight stable, can enjoy food again, more positive outlook is evolving. Weeks have turned into months, and I pray against all that my next scan will show that the cancer is in remission. A girl can dream. Yes. Now I just have to figure out my life. For months, my life meant dying. I have been preparing for death. I am ruined financially. I am fragile. I am happy but shocked. I don’t know what to do now. I wasn’t expecting to be brought back from the edge of death. Learning how to live. *sigh* That is always my dilemma. Do I allow myself the luxury?

So I will never stop thinking or asking my doctors, “Am I dying?” I’m just not quite sure where I am and what I should be doing. I understand that the cancer will at some point take my life but not today. Sometimes doctors don’t have all the answers. Only God does. And He spared me once again. I guess my job here on earth is not completed. And for that I am grateful. A huge part of me apprehensive. So I am going to go out there and continue to live my life. Trying. It’s almost like I have been living in reverse somehow.

On a logical level, we all know life is short. We say this all of the time. But few of us actually live accordingly.

“We are all dying, every moment that passes of every day. That is the inescapable truth of this existence. It is a truth that can paralyze us with fear, or one that can energize us with impatience, with the desire to explore and experience, with the hope- nay, the iron-will!- to find a memory in every action. To be alive, under sunshine, or starlight, in weather fair or stormy. To dance with every step, be they through gardens of flowers or through deep snows.” ― R.A. Salvatore

Truer words have not been expressed … LIVE your life TODAY! Don’t ignore death, but don’t be afraid of it either. Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action. Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you’re still alive. Be bold. Be courageous. Be scared to death, and then take the next step anyway.

I remain forever hopeful, crying through my tears with grace in my step …make that dance steps.

Today…everything changed.


The Year of Betrayal

This year has brought to light many betrayals. My body has betrayed me. Some girlfriends double crossed me. Another friend disclosed some information in the hopes of exposing some little known facts about me. Some friends I want to believe unintentionally revealed little things. But the biggest betrayal was from a person I considered a best friend, the one who knew all my secrets, fears. I have never felt so disillusioned and vulnerable. Mind you, I have family members who are mentally ill and re-write history all of the time. So I am used to betrayal but not to this magnitude, not from the one person I considered sane, in control.

I go to Mass and want to light a candle for all that are lost. But then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror – and I am the one that is lost. “It is not an enemy who taunts me – I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me – I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you – my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.” – Psalm 55:12-15

Of all experiences in life, betrayal by a trusted friend is one of the most difficult to understand, accept, move on from. I find it difficult to breathe some times. My self-esteem was already at a low from my accident, losing my job, dealing with a new cancer, feeling dependent. Betrayals from friends only further produced feelings of worthlessness for having trusted an untrustworthy person. I feel like anger and depression are my only recourse. It raises questions about my judgment. Because of the intimate friend’s knowledge of my situation, such betrayal has great potential for further damage. And I am just not equipped right now, in this singular frame of mind to effectively deal with all of it.

I just quietly pray. Help me, Lord God, to let go of the hurts that have come my way. Amen.

Igniting my own true light out of this darkness.


Mental Health

Today is National Depression Screening Day, ‪Bipolar Awareness Day, and ‪‎World Mental Health Day. I have lived all my life with family members who are manic, depressed, alcoholic dependent, and have extreme personality mood swings, and are most times than not in complete denial. I myself suffer from depression and all too aware. I know sometimes when I look back, I am completely lost. We all need to work together to work on increasing our awareness, acceptance and be more patient. Help eliminate the stigma.

This quote by Spike Milligan resonates with me: ‘It’s a gift and a curse. You get the pain much worse than anybody else, but you see a sunrise much more beautiful than anybody else!’

This is how I feel so many times…You start to wonder if maybe something has come over her and she’s finally coming around. Maybe this is the start of something better, more peace, less tension. You even get a little upset wondering, “Well why can’t she just be like this?” And that’s the part that keeps you sucked in, thinking she can someday rehabilitate her attitude and behaviors toward you after all this time. My expectations were always off track. I felt that I just held onto just hope. But I learned that sometimes it’s that very hope – false hope – that keeps us inappropriately connected. You want what you can’t have – a mom who’s proud of you, a grandma who doesn’t pit people against each other, a sister you can trust. When you can accept the face value of your painful situation instead of the fantasy, it gets easier to live with.

Now that doesn’t mean you alienate yourself from the very people you love but drag you so deep down. Sometimes we just have to be inwardly and outwardly strong, brave, patient. Breathe. Count to ten. Limit the contact. Call once in a while, be around for two hours at Christmas, or have dinner once a month. You may need to set some strong boundaries when they start to treat you poorly. That might mean getting up and leaving their house, hanging up the phone, carefully choose what gatherings you attend, etc. And truthfully, it means setting your expectations pretty low. Casual activity that doesn’t get emotional is ideal, unless they are so destructive you should cut them off completely. Lucky for me I have not had to cut any family member out completely.

Sometimes you can stay around and take it, hoping they would get into a better mood; other times you just have to leave and wait. Pray. Hope. There is always hope. If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it….truer words have not been shared.

“Every day may not be good…but there’s something good in every day”
-Alice Morse Earle

I choose to live my life with awareness, hope, faith, patience, and grace in my step.


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