Tag Archives: Anxiety

Don’t Give Up: It’s a Wonderful Life

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post called “The Giving Up Disease,” which is about my struggle with depression and recent trouble finding the help I need. The response to that post was unbelievably immense and touching.

When I wrote “The Giving Up Disease,” I felt like I was almost at the end of my rope. The response I received made me feel like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. It brought me hope. It gave me joy. It helped me face the following days with courage.

It made me truly understand that no man is a failure who has friends.

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That line always makes me cry at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s funny, because my husband and I both have our moments in the movie that make us cry. He loses it when George’s brother arrives and deems George “the richest man in town.” I lose it when when George reads the note from Clarence.

That line, that no man is a failure who has friends, holds so much more meaning for me now.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to me with words of love and encouragement. You literally saved my life.

Below are some of the responses I received from friends and family members. For the sake of brevity, I am only sharing initial responses. Many of these responses led to in depth conversations about mental illness and personal struggles that were honestly some of the greatest conversations I’ve had in my life.

I will share these responses anonymously to protect everyone’s privacy. I share these responses to show that people really DO care and that you are not alone if you struggle with mental illness.

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Hey Lisa, I just read your blog and I just wanted to let you know that I care about you. I don’t know if it means much, but you and your husband are two of my favorite people. I know we don’t see each other enough, but every time I see you I am so excited to be near you and just hang with you because I truly think you are great. I don’t have any expertise or advice for you, but I am always around. And for what it’s worth, I am always glad to see you and/or hear from you. Take care!

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Lisa- even though we don’t know each other well- just know that people are rooting for you to find inner peace and solace.

Pat yourself on the back for having that kind of self awareness and hug yourself for being the kind of person who recognizes the unhealthy characteristics that don’t help you grow, and teaching yourself through baby steps how to develop into the person you want to be for yourself and for others.

It’s a huge transition, especially when muddling through this transformative time while depressed- I am not quite in the same boat, but I’m in a similarly reflective transition in my life and it’s fucking rough when my worst enemy is myself- so I understand on some level (although I respect and appreciate that your journey and struggles are your own!)

Just letting you know that you have cheerleaders giving you big high fives- on your good days and bad.

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Oh how I relate to The Giving Up Disease. So many years of battling with myself. I recently made a major life change and while so much is better, I found (surprise/no surprise?) that this shit still follows me, like its a part of me. I have been having such a hard time finding my self worth and recently conceded, after 31 years and with some help, that I need to seek medication to balance myself out. Each of us who deals with this obviously has a different story, but in the end that feeling of being alone is the same for everyone. So reading your words expressing so many of my own thoughts, while heartbreaking, brings a tiny ray of comfort that, in some way, we’re not alone in this. I won’t give up if you don’t. Much love to you.

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Lisa I just read your article. Wonderful writing. I cried because I deal with it too. Like you, I’ve tried lots of different meds. Sometimes it helps, sometimes not so much. At times I feel like I’m all alone and its gonna be that way forever… Hang in there my friend. And I will pray that you and your brother can work things out.

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Just read your blog on depression and giving up things. Also about your relationship with your brother. I’m so glad you finally were able to get in to someone about your depression! Hope they change your meds to help you with the weight gain as I know how that feels. I don’t know if I ever told you that I take Dexadrine for my depression and then clonazapam, trazadone, and restoril to sleep. This has worked for me for 5-6 years and I lost 25 pounds. Lost another 35 by swimming year round at the local gym’s indoor pool. Then my doc moved to California to be near her only child. I was stuck with another doctor who took me off all of this last year. I said this has worked for me for years, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! His reasoning was that someday they probably will quit working. I knew he was just temporary and in a few months I got a lady nurse practitioner who works under a psychiatrist. Long story short, I’m finally back on what I was on as I had gained 30 pounds in 11 months. So I have lost the 30 plus 25 more as I have been eating healthy, dieting and been more active over the summer. They can give you dexadrine for depression that’s not responsive to other antidepressants. It’s called off label use. I take 10mg of extended release once in the am when I get up. The meds to sleep are because fibromyalgia pain keeps me from getting to sleep and to stay asleep.

If I was in your shoes with your brother I would write him a real letter about being sorry for whatever you have said to him that broke you apart from him, that you want to have a relationship with him and his family. Keep it simple, don’t make excuses and don’t bring up whatever caused the rift even if you were right and he was wrong. That’s how I would handle it and I hope I don’t sound preachy as unfortunately I can be pretty blunt. Love you and keep blogging! I admire people that can write so eloquently. Hugs girl!!!

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I just read your blog post and wanted to reach out with words of encouragement and prayer. I think I got a general sense from your post, but if you have specific prayer requests, please let me know. I don’t have any experience personally with depression, but I do know the challenges of family members, substance abuse, etc. I hope you can resolve the situation with your brother. It seems to be a major factor in your current state of mind. My experience is that God soften people’s hearts to hear your message when you’re ready to deliver it. For what it’s worth, I encourage you to reach out to him when you feel ready. Again, don’t want to be pushy/preachy. Only you know the details of the scenario. Will be praying for you! XOXO

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Good morning! I cried through most of your blog this morning. Don’t give up. I love you! This is the contact info. for the shrink my brother sees. I went to him myself and really liked him. I hope it helps!

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I wanted to let you know that I’m thinking about you and would love to get together if you are up to it. You can even just cry if you want to. The giving up disease sucks, but I don’t want you to give up.

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Hello old friend!

Although we haven’t spoken face to face in damn near 15 years, I’m glad we have been social media “friends”. It’s given me an opportunity to watch your life as you moved to the Midwest, got married, and made your triumphant return to the East Coast. I’m not a religious reader of Typical Broad, but when a headline grabs me, I do read them. I can relate to your recent posts over the past 8 or so months. I was having car problems at the same time you were and I shared in your anxiety as you drained your bank account to fix your car. I too struggle with my relationships with my family and friends. I also feel I live with depression, although I’ve never been clinically diagnosed or anything. The storm cloud that looms over my head is very real and can last weeks sometimes.

The reason I am reaching out to you now is because I found something that helps my depression and helps keep my weight in check (which at times is one of the contributing factors of said depression). Oh and it’s free and meets three times a week. It’s the work out group I go to. Every week I meet up with 300 plus other complete strangers to work out. The vibe and atmosphere of the whole thing is positive. You don’t slap five or shake hands, you hug people. It’s so fucking refreshing to have a complete stranger walk up, give you a big hug, look you in the eye and say, “I’m glad you’re here.” It’s positivity that I do not encounter in any other part of my life. The work out itself is very challenging, but at all times there are people rooting you on, for no other reason than because you showed up. There are people of all shapes and sizes present at the work out, so don’t feel like you’re to out of shape to attend this group. It’s for everyone. Most weeks this 40 minutes with complete strangers is the best part of my week, no lie. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving rain or shine. Please come with me tomorrow and check it out. Who knows, it could be the first step toward having a better handle on your feelings. I can pick you up at your home or we could meet somewhere first. Shoot me a text if you’re interested. I hope to see you tomorrow, and keep writing!!!

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I read your blog yesterday and didn’t really know how to reach out. I know you have a ton of support, but if you ever need me I’m here. I understand. I really do. I don’t talk to people a lot about how I’m feeling, but I go through a lot of the same. I’m so impressed and envious of your ability to reach out and be so open. Just know you have so many people in your life, and none of us will ever leave you high and dry. You’re one of my best friends and I love you like whoa.

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Please hold on, I know peace will come soon.

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I’ve struggled all my life with depression, anxiety, body dismorphism and eating disorders, but suicide has never been more than a fleeting thought. However, I had an uncle commit suicide 18 years ago, and 2 family members who have fought suicidal and homicidal thoughts more than once. Unless you’ve swam in those waters, you can’t begin to fathom the pain involved. It’s the only escape in sight. Of course, on the outside, it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but that’s on the outside. My uncle killed himself a week before his youngest daughter had her first child. Another farmer we knew hung himself in the family barn in the midst of a months long drought. It rained at his funeral. Do you remember Elizabeth (name changed)? Her 34 year old son recently shot himself. Impending divorce, left 2 small kids. Elizabeth knew of the marital discord, but not his suicidal ideations, though the wife and his pastor did. Don’t know where I’m going with all this, I guess it’s the “you’re not alone” theme. But please know I’m keeping you close at heart and on my mind.

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Don’t give up! After 5 years of ineffective meds I finally found someone to listen and and prescribe, and it was worth not to give up (not that I wasn’t tempted). We all love you and are here if you ever need a loving place to land.

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Thanks for sharing this, Lisa.

Even though it wasn’t a relationship as close as brother/sister, I have had to do the “reconciliation e-mail” a few times in recent years to people whom I’ve had fallings-out with (is that the correct way to say it?).

The version of myself 5 or 6 years ago would’ve been pretty haughty about tucking my tail between my legs and extending an olive branch; I know I justified it to myself as “Well, I’m right and they’re wrong, and that’s all there is to it.” But after a while I realized that I’m not as infallible or beyond reproach as I once thought I was; part of growing up and getting older for me meant that I had to start recognizing these times from the past where I’ve spectacularly failed people and acknowledge to myself that I could’ve handled the situation better. Then, telling the other person as much in an e-mail or a letter or however was the next step. I just said how I felt at that moment, without trying to make too many excuses for myself. “I know that I said things to you that were horribly hurtful. It came from a place of hurt and confusion inside me, but that’s no excuse – I was way out of line to say those things and I’m so sorry. I hope you can one day forgive me.” Obviously, that’s a very condensed and anonymized version of how I used it in my situations, but I think you get it.

In my personal experience, it’s worked probably 75% of the time, at least to open up dialogue again and get things back to civil. For that 25% where it didn’t quite go as expected, I at least knew that I did all I could possibly do to make amends, and that it’s in the other person’s hands at that point.

So the point of all that is that with regards to “how” to approach your brother again, just remember that it’s totally true that “time heals all wounds,” but that’s only half of the story – you have to do some of the healing too, both for yourself and your brother as well. Please don’t take this as disrespectful, because I can’t figure a different way to say this – but if you’re looking for a sign, you’ll look forever; there might not ever be one. Sometimes you’ve gotta make your own way.

Good luck, you can do it for sure, and you have the strength to do it too.

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I have been reading your blog and you should be confident that you are a wonderful person. Identify yourself as a beautiful person, Christian, hard working, sincere, intelligent, and friendly. Those stand out about you to others. Focus on all your positive attributes. Don’t examine everything you do. When I think too hard about things that upset me, it can get my thoughts twisted. Power of positive thinking. Know that I have you in my prayers and you were always a person that kept me strong with your loving way of helping others. Remember your health is first and don’t too much on yourself. Sleep and keep stress to a minimum, because that is key. I love who you are.

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Thanks for writing the stuff you do. It helps knowing I’m not the only one who struggles and puts up a front to save face with people I don’t even give a crap about. I feel like life would have been so much easier before TV, movies, plays, and Facebook. Those happy people? They’re a lie. I don’t think anyone gets together with their whole family or all of their friends and truly laughs like they do in movies on holidays. I don’t think that level of happiness exists. It’s all fabricated. Hope you’re doing well.

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This last one is from my Mum. It’s hard to keep her anonymous for obvious reasons when you read this.  I’m sure she wouldn’t care if I shared what she wrote to me, so here it is.~

Lisa:

I just finished reading your latest post on Typical Broad.  I can’t even tell you how incredibly sad this makes me.  I know this relationship thing with Paul has really hurt you.  It hurts me as well.  You two were so close.  I think you should try putting some of this post in a letter and send it to Paul.  I’m sure he misses your relationship as well.

I am sorry I didn’t get to talk to you this week.  I think I have phone phobia.  Don’t know why.  Maybe Dad & I should come up there some night this week or maybe you can come here for the weekend so we can talk about this.

What kind of insurance do you have?  (Family member) may be able to help.  She is a psychologist. She has also suffered from depression herself.

Please don’t give up.  Let me know what we can do to help you.  We could come up some day and clean your house if it would make you feel better.  If we left here at 5am we could be there by 7 before you would leave for work.

Dad hasn’t read this yet.  He is still sleeping but I’m sure he wants to help too.  We love you so much ♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️

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Dad came up to meet me for dinner one evening after I posted my blog. We had a long talk that was very encouraging. He urged me to look into a better health insurance option for 2016. He said even if it’s more expensive, it will be worth it in the long run and I wouldn’t have to deal with the run around that my current insurance company has forced me to go through (I found out from a friend in the industry that many places don’t take my current health insurance).

He also told me to take things one step at a time and not to stress myself out. Get plenty of sleep. Don’t worry about getting to the gym for the time being (I lamented to him that I hadn’t been to the gym in quite a while). Focus on your inner self. That’s what is important. Your exterior doesn’t matter.  What’s in your heart is what matters. You’re a beautiful person because you have a beautiful SOUL.

Also, put yourself first for a while. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Also, just because you’re not getting along with Paul now doesn’t mean it will be that way forever. A lot of siblings have disagreements, but then things are eventually resolved. Don’t worry about it. Focus on getting better first, then focus on making amends.

We’re here for you. We love you.

This is the basic gist of what Dad told me. As we left the restaurant he put his arm around me and reiterated that he and Mum were here to help me with anything. Even if it means going through and comparing insurance plans together for the next year. Whatever I need. He and Mum would be there.

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If I missed anyone, I sincerely apologize. Some people talked to me in person, on the phone, or via my husband, so I don’t have a record of what they actually said. But I am so grateful for everyone’s support and love.

I feel like the richest woman in town.

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Giving Up Alcohol

“Now for seventeen years I’ve been throwing them back
Seventeen more will bury me
Can somebody please just tie me down
Or somebody give me a goddamn drink”
-Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats

“Alcohol can trigger episodes,” the nurse practitioner said. “You need to avoid it.”

As she says it, all I can think of is that half empty 1.5 liter bottle of Pinor Noir sitting on my kitchen counter.

“Okay,” I think. “I’ll finish that first. THEN I’ll give up alcohol.”

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I guess.

But how long do I need to give it up for? I know I should probably give it up forever, but Christ. I haven’t even been to Ireland yet. How am I going to visit Ireland and NOT order a Guinness? How am I going to visit Ireland without making a stop at the Jameson distillery? How am I going to visit Ireland and not get jubilantly faced in honor of my Irish ancestors?

Fuck.

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The last time I tried giving up alcohol I fell into a deep depression, which forced me to seek mental help three years ago.

It’s hard for me to acknowledge, but alcohol is a big part of my life. I often wish a pharmaceutical company would create a depression medication that would make me feel like I do after a few beers or a couple glasses of wine. I feel so much more relaxed and inclined to have fun. The best part is that I love everyone. When I’m drinking, I feel more spiritually connected to every human being. I see people who might typically annoy me in a new light. Just another one of God’s children. Imperfect and beautifully made. Like me.

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I met with the nurse practitioner last Monday. I finished the bottle of wine last Wednesday. Greg and I were watching Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and I was giggling at Sam Rockwell channeling his best George W. Bush impression as Zaphod Beeblebrox, former President of the Galaxy. For a moment I thought, “Man, I miss Dubya. He was awful, but so damn funny.” I nostalgically recalled all of those State of the Union addresses I drank through during the aughts. Take a sip when he mispronounces nuclear. Take a sip when he says terrorism. Take a sip when he mentions homeland security. Take a sip when he says weapons of mass destruction. Finish your drink when one side of the room gives him a standing ovation.

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Later that evening I tried telling Greg a story about something funny I saw online and couldn’t properly explain it.

“Are you drunk?’ he asked.

“I don’t know.” I put my nearly full third glass down. I felt embarrassed. It kind of snuck up on me, like it always does.

I just wanted to finish the wine and not waste the money I spent on it. I just wanted to feel good.

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Alcohol is such a large part of the mostly Irish and Italian American Catholic culture I grew up in and live in. My parents weren’t big drinkers (my Dad gave up drinking years ago) but Mum sometimes had a glass or two of beer in the evenings. My Italian American friends grew up with wine at the supper table and were allowed to drink long before they turned 21. I can’t help but smile ironically when Christian friends tell me they avoid alcohol because of their faith. In the house I grew up in, we always kept a bottle of scotch on hand for one of the priests in our family who would often visit us for Sunday dinner. Mum also knew that some Catholic nuns, like the ones who taught her in school, drank too.

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Nearly everyone drinks. It’s just a part of life in the Boston area. It seems like something is always being celebrated, and there is always a reason to say “Slainte,” clink glasses, and imbibe. Even if it’s for something silly.  My friends and I once got smashed during a get together we deemed “A Very Good Friday.” Instead of avoiding meat and reflecting on Jesus’ sacrifice with reverence, we decided to eat Easter-themed goodies, drink, and celebrate!

Even though it made me forget sometimes, alcohol gave me some of my greatest memories.

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I ended up pouring that third glass of wine down the sink. I winced as I did it, but knew I was already too drunk for a Wednesday.

Last Friday I thought to myself, “Man, I haven’t had a drink in a while! Check me out. Maybe I should have some hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps tonight to celebrate! I mean, it’s Friday, right?”

Then I realized I had only been sober for one full day.

Not drinking means I can’t celebrate like I normally do. I have to watch everyone around me get tipsy and happy while I feel jealous and annoyed with my drunk, sometimes loud friends.

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Do I need AA? I’m not a real alcoholic. Am I? I’m functional. I don’t have a DUI. I have a job.

Avoid alcohol, stressors, and get enough sleep. Not doing these things can trigger an episode. Not doing these things can affect your life in a big way.

If I had my way, I would celebrate giving up drinking by drinking.

This is going to be rough.

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Depression: The Giving Up Disease

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8/21/2015.

Greg is concerned. I’ve been more depressed than I have ever been, according to him.

He says I have been slowly giving up everything, and he’s right.

I struggle with depression, The Giving Up Disease.

I’ve given up trying to find a therapist and someone who can prescribe psychiatric medication. Calling places and learning that they either don’t prescribe meds, have an 8 month wait, don’t take new patients, or don’t take my insurance has been incredibly discouraging and has only made me more depressed.

I’ve given up working out. No motivation.

I’ve given up caring about what I eat and have gained weight due to this.

I’ve given up staying in touch with many people.

I’ve given up being outside as much as I used to be outside. I used to try to get outside every day (at least on my lunch break) to walk. Now I don’t.

I’ve given up on doing household chores. I only do the dishes and laundry now because they’re necessary. I despise doing both.

I’ve given up showering daily. I shower every other day now. I have also started to despise showering.

I’ve given up wearing makeup, drying my hair, and trying to look halfway decent.

I’ve given up cooking and learning to cook healthy meals.

I’ve given up on having a relationship with my brother Paul.

I’ve been tempted to give up my relationship with my husband Greg, because I don’t want to drag him down with me.

I’ve been tempted to give up my job.

I’ve been tempted to give up the medication that keeps me somewhat sane because it makes me “fat” and  is “not working anyway.”

I’ve been tempted to give up on friends who frustrate me with their hypocrisy and narcissism, but don’t want to tear the social fabric I’m comfortable in.

I’ve been tempted to give up on God. I’ve been angry with Him and wonder why he cursed me with chronic depression and what the fucking point of it is.

I’ve been tempted to give up writing.

I’ve given up most things I used to like to do.

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I would have given up on my dreams too, but I don’t know if I have dreams anymore. I don’t even know what I like anymore. I remember that dream about becoming an actress, and tell myself I’m too old and beat-up looking to pursue that now. Then that one about becoming a travel writer. How will I ever afford that? Then that book I wanted to write. No one will want to read it.

Depression is The Giving Up Disease. It makes you slowly give up everything until there is nothing left to give up but your life.

Then, sometimes, you give up your life.

I don’t want it to reach that point.

If I’m to be honest, the reason my depression has increased lately is that I am still suffering from a broken heart.

My brother Paul broke my heart back in April. I deserved it. I said terrible things to him, hoping he would change. But instead he told me that I was in no place to judge him and to “have a nice life.”

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I’m 32 and I’ve never had my heart broken before.

That may seem odd, but I’ve always possessed a defense mechanism that caused me to abandon people before they abandoned me.

And maybe that’s what I was trying to do when I sent that awful message to my brother. I sensed for a long time that we were becoming distant. And I told him I couldn’t have a relationship with him unless he changed. Perhaps that was my defense mechanism cropping up.

Because I knew that, eventually, he would abandon me.

I said things that were slowly boiling inside of me for the past eight years. He consistently pissed me off with his actions, but I never said anything because I always want to keep the peace.

The water boiled and overflowed onto the stove when his actions made my mother upset. I hate seeing my mother upset. Mum wouldn’t say anything to him about why she was upset, because she wanted to see her grandchildren.

I said horrible things. I could have approached it differently. I recognize that now.

Sometimes depression makes you view people in the worst light, and it ends up affecting your relationships.  You focus on someone’s bad qualities or past wrongdoings almost obsessively until you start resenting them and wishing they were out of your life. Then you might end your relationship with them or drive them away.

I miss my nephew and niece. I miss my brother.

But I don’t know what to do. I figure any communication I attempt would just piss Paul off. I don’t want to piss him off or cause him any unhappiness. I truly want him to be happy.

I keep asking God what to do and haven’t received an answer. All I’ve received are two separate dreams where I reconciled with Paul. Both times I woke up so relieved and happy until I realized it wasn’t true.

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I recently finished Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was a wonderful and insightful memoir. It begins with Gilbert going through a terrible divorce. After her divorce, she travels to Italy, India and Indonesia to explore the pursuits of pleasure, devotion and balance.

While in India, Gilbert receives “Instructions for Freedom” from a friend at an ashram where she is practicing meditation. Going through the instructions on the roof of the ashram, Gilbert is able to invite her ex-husband, whom she knows she will never see again, into prayer/meditation with her so she can attempt to find closure.

The Instructions for Freedom are as follows:

  1. Life’s metaphors are God’s instructions.
  2. You have just climbed up and above the roof. There is nothing between you and the Infinite. Now, let go.
  3. The day is ending. It’s time for something that was beautiful to turn into something else that is beautiful. Now, let go.
  4. Your wish for resolution was a prayer. You being here is God’s response. Let go, and watch the stars come out–on the outside and on the inside.
  5. With all your heart, ask for grace, and let go.
  6. With all your heart, forgive him, FORGIVE YOURSELF, and let him go.
  7. Let your intention be freedom from useless suffering. Then, let go.
  8. Watch the heat of day pass into the cool night. Let go.
  9. When the karma of a relationship is done, only love remains. It’s safe. Let go.
  10. When the past has passed from you at last, let go. Then climb down and begin the rest of your life. With great joy.

I had to stop the book right there because I was crying my eyes out.

It made me think of Paul.

Recently I invited (or tried to invite) Paul into prayer with me so I could tell him I love him and I forgive him. And to ask him to forgive me.

I can’t forgive myself.

I told Greg that if I die, I want Paul to know that I am deeply sorry and that I will always love him.

What I wish I could say to Paul:

I am so sorry I acted hurtful toward you. You deserved better than that. My anger had more to do with me than with you. I haven’t resolved certain things within myself and it has made me an unhappy person who is capable of hurting others. I didn’t mean to drive you away. It was a defense mechanism because I thought you were abandoning me already.

I am working on becoming a better, happier person. And when that happens, I would be honored if you would consider allowing me back into your life.

But for now, I know I have work to do. Maybe that is why God hasn’t really answered me yet on how I should try to reestablish a relationship with you.

I love you. Always.

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Greg says I can’t give up. I’m reading Elizabeth Warren’s book A Fighting Chance right now. He says Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t give up, and neither should I.

I don’t want to reach the point where I give up my life.

So I keep repeating to myself:

Don’t give up.
Don’t give up.
Don’t give up.

And when I don’t know how to pray about what’s going on, I don’t have the right words, I just say:

Lord, Lord.

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The Giving Up Disease is powerful.  It’s so powerful that I don’t even like talking about the future, because I’m not sure if I really have a future. That makes it hard to be motivated and to dream.

9/26/2015.

I haven’t given up yet.

This week I called about 30 places to try to get appointments for therapy and medication.

I’ve heard back from about three places who may be able to provide what I need without having a ridiculous wait time.

Of course, I looked up online reviews for these three places and they are horrible. One place recently had a complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau. Wonderful. I’m going there on Monday, because a Nurse Practitioner who can prescribe meds had an opening. There is a 2-3 month wait for a therapy appointment with this place.

Even though I told all 30 places I’ve been having suicidal thoughts when I left voice mails for them (a slightly white lie I’ve been telling to get their attention because it’s become necessary), I’ve only heard back from a third. And only about a third of that third have said they could help me in a timely fashion. Mostly, they recommend that I visit the ER or try a place other than them.

“Have you contacted this place?” Yes, I have. That place and about 30 other places in this area.

“Have you tried going to the ER?” No, I can’t afford it.

“Have you tried going through your PCP?” Yes, I have. He wants me to get in with someone who specializes in psych meds.

“Have you tried this intensive outpatient program?” No, I can’t afford it and I work during the day.

“Have you tried this crisis hotline?” No, I’m beyond that point. They can’t help me schedule an appointment.

You start to feel like it’s your fault for not “trying” hard enough.

I am busting my ass trying to get in with someone who can provide the services I need, and I keep getting to the point where I want to scream at whomever asks if I’ve tried this or that. Like I’m new to this process and haven’t been in and out of therapy for the past 16 years.

I haven’t given up yet. But the odds are stacked against me. I stand with so many other mentally ill people who resort to drugs and drinking because the system is so overloaded and broken.

I understand why they live this way. And why they die this way.

The help they need simply isn’t there when they need it the most. They get discouraged.

And understandably, they give up.

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Why I Don’t Miss Facebook

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I gave up Facebook a few weeks ago during one of the more stressful months in my life. I don’t miss it at all. After some reflection, I think being off Facebook has been good for me and has helped decrease my overall anxiety level. I have been moved by an outpouring of support from friends, many of whom expressed that they also think Facebook can be detrimental to the psyche.

The problem with Facebook, one of my friends told me, is that it’s a highlight reel of people’s lives. It only shows the positive aspects instead of the daily struggles. Why? Because people are only compelled to share uplifting or funny things on Facebook. That’s the content that gets the most likes and comments, after all.

Being off of Facebook, I have come closer to an understanding of my own narcissistic nature. I’m not a complete narcissist (not the kind of self-absorbed jerk people hate), but I now recognize that I have narcissistic tendencies.

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I grew up in a somewhat political household. Many of my relatives have served in public office and were absolutely wonderful people that you could depend on. I was raised with the idea that perception is everything. Perception is reality. You don’t reveal the less than pretty parts of yourself ever, because it affects people’s positive perception of you. Positive perception = votes (or likes!).

It  really matters to me what people think of me. That is why it took me so many years to reveal to people, even close loved ones, that I am diagnosed with anxiety and depression and I struggle with it daily. In the Irish Catholic household I grew up in, you simply didn’t talk about those things.

I suppose it’s no wonder I pursued public relations and marketing as a career. Because I worry so much about perception, I have a knack for knowing what people think about a particular thing and how best to adjust that thinking (if needed).

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Anyway, on Facebook, I think my narcissistic nature took over. I began obsessing over how many likes or comments I got on posts. Getting likes made me feel, well, liked. I like it when people like me! It satisfies my narcissistic nature.

I learned that most people don’t like serious and/or depressing posts. After all, they are driven to social media to escape. Many people are on social media during work hours for that very reason. People are on social media to be entertained. If you’re not entertaining and positive, you unliked, unfollowed, and sometimes unfriended.

We all hear the same complaints. “Ugh… I’m so tired of Tim’s depressing posts. Why can’t he just lighten up?” or, “I unfollowed Jill today. Her political posts are so annoying!”

And I totally understand. I’ve done it myself.

But then that sort of attitude forces people to make their lives appear to be all sunshine and roses. And due to how Facebook organizes your news feed now, most of the things your friends see are the sunshine and roses of your life. Those posts get bumped up in the news feed because they get more likes, comments, and shares.

But life isn’t all sunshine and roses. I feel that we really need to address that in social media. Lately there have been more news stories about people who have committed suicide and left family and friends wondering, “Why? She seemed just fine.” The most troubling story I saw was about star athlete Madison Holleran, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania who took a running leap off a parking garage in Philadelphia. Her Instagram documented a happy, healthy, and successful college student. Hardly anyone had a clue how much this girl was struggling, and therefore couldn’t help her.

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A photo from Madison Holleran’s Instagram account.

In the past few weeks, I’ve thought of what I’m going to call “social media truth posts” (hashtag #socialmediatruth) that tell people what’s been really going on in my life:

  1. My husband and I have absolutely no savings right now (due to the recent drama with our Jeep that I detailed in another post).
  2. I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my entire life, and I’m really embarrassed about it. It has to do with a number of factors, but mostly because I’ve been doing a lot of stress eating lately and I’m on medication that increases my hunger and slows my metabolism.
  3. I can’t fit into most of my clothes anymore and can’t really afford to purchase more clothing, so I’m wearing essentially the same outfits to work every week.
  4. My face has exploded with mini, pus-filled volcanoes (acne) that are also due to stress. It is so humiliating that I can barely look at people I work with and hope they don’t interact with me.
  5. I am probably more depressed than I’ve ever been in my life (more on this in a future post).

However, there have been some positives:

  1. We purchased a 2013 Nissan Versa to replace the Jeep. It’s a very nice car, and has been very reliable so far. We are already saving a lot of money on gas.
  2. My husband has been incredibly supportive as we’ve gone through this rough patch.
  3. I feel like I’m connecting with family and friends on a more real level (outside Facebook).
  4. My anxiety has gone down significantly.
  5. I’ve been reading more! In the past couple of weeks, I’ve finished Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren.

Just for fun, I’m sharing this picture with you. It’s what I would post to Facebook with the #socialmediatruth hashtag. It’s me after applying a Proactiv mask to the areas of my face where I have acne right now.  #nofilter #soglamorous

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And here’s a picture to go with my positive statements: our new car in front of our favorite liquor store, Lincoln Liquors. It’s Baby Nissan’s first trip to the packie!

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So there you have it: my real life with all of its ups and downs. Maybe you can relate. If so, I’m glad. And I invite you to share your ups and downs with me too. Feel free to comment or message me (just don’t message me on Facebook, because I’m not checking it at all).

I might come back to Facebook someday, but not for the time being. When/if I do, it will be my goal to be as honest as possible with my posts, and show my world outside of the one that is seen with rose-colored glasses (Hashtag #KeepingItReal).

Day 5: I Got Help for Depression When I Needed It

This is Day 5 of my 30 Days Proud Project. In the above video, I share some very personal things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing with you years ago. But after what I’ve experienced, I feel the message is incredibly important.

There continues to be a huge stigma about mental illness in the United States and around the world, and I believe talking about it honestly and openly is important so other people who are struggling understand that they are not alone are are encouraged to get the help they need.

I am re-sharing a blog I wrote about a year ago. In it, I share what life changes helped me get better in addition to undergoing therapy. I’m really proud of how far I’ve come in my recovery by continuing to implement these steps.

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  • Practicing Gratitude Daily. This has made a HUGE difference in my life. I highly recommend One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by the amazing Ann Voskamp. In 2013 I made it a point to count my blessings daily and to be joyous for others’ successes. I didn’t realize how blessed I was until I made time to document life’s large and small blessings and thank God for them.
  • Trusting God. Even when I stopped believing He was present, He was still there. While God didn’t magically appear in front of me Old Testament-style, He showed up through my husband, my friends, my therapists, my family, and more. God put the right people in my life at the right time. He also taught me important lessons when I was ready to receive them.
  • Exercising and Eating Right. This has been so important to my overall happiness. At the beginning of 2013, I had to force myself to go to the gym and work out. Now, my day is not complete without exercise. I’ve also noticed how much eating right contributes to my happiness. Whenever I eat fast food or other unhealthy options now, I notice how depressed and lethargic that food can make me. Energy-inducing food like proteins, fruits, vegetables, and “good” carbs are important to one’s overall well-being.
  • Changing Location and Environment. For various reasons, where I was and what I was doing at this time last year was not making me happy. My daily environment had the tendency to be negative, and it greatly contributed to my unhappiness without my realizing it. While it was already part of our plans to do so, moving and changing jobs this year were the best things my husband and I could have done. We are much happier in our new environment and the future feels bright.
  • Recognizing Triggers and Avoiding Them When Possible. People who struggle with depression and anxiety often have “triggers” that can jump-start negative feelings. I’ve learned to recognize my triggers and avoid them when possible. Sometimes that means doing something really hard, like cutting people out of your life that you recognize as toxic, or keeping those people at arm’s length. I’ve done this. It’s been hard, but worth it.
  • Getting Enough Sleep. I joke with my friends now that 9 p.m. is past my bedtime because I’m “old.” But I’m serious! Not getting enough sleep makes me really moody, and I recognize that. It is so important to get enough sleep. I understand this isn’t an option for everyone, but try to sleep more if you can. It will bring out the best in you.
  • Forgiving Myself and Others. I am not naturally a forgiving person, but I’m trying. I’ve learned forgiveness is the hardest thing a person can do, and sometimes the person you need to forgive the most is yourself. I’ve found forgiveness to be fluid, but that’s probably because I’m not smart enough yet to really get it. One day I forgive everything and love everybody, and the next day I don’t. This is something I continue to work on and attempt to fully understand in God’s time.
  • Living Presently. Living presently means you focus on today. You aren’t depressed about the past or anxious about the future. You recognize that what you did in the past doesn’t matter very much, because you were doing the best you could do with the knowledge you had at that time. This has helped me forgive myself for making stupid mistakes in my past. Each day, I try to do better with the knowledge I have.

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In the Spirit of Robin Williams, I Will Try to Bring More Joy Into the World

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I’ve been feeling angry lately. Some of it has to do with getting over a chronic cold and not being able to abide by my normal routine of working out, cooking food that isn’t crap, and being social.

But a lot of it also has to do with the fact that I’ve been spending too much time on Facebook. I scroll through my phone and sigh at depressing news headlines, read hateful comments with disgust, and sometimes offer my own color commentary. Commentary which typically reads like a mathematical equation of why I think so-and-so is an idiot.

There is so much hatred and divisiveness in our world. And I know I’m part of the problem.

This week, Robin Williams’ death was officially deemed a suicide.

When Robin died in August, it really affected me. I knew about Robin’s history with mental illness and addiction. And I always sympathized with him, because I also struggle with mental illness. Coincidentally, I am on the same depression medication that Robin was taking before he died.

When Robin died, I couldn’t help thinking, “Is there still hope for me? Will I eventually end up in the same boat? Despite all the medication and the various treatments, will it one day just be too much to take?”

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According to reports, it seems that Williams’ suicide could have been due to several factors: a combination of mental illness and a form of dementia that could cause hallucinations. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system. Just normal levels of anti-depressant medication and caffeine.

But that evening in August, I sat in our home office and sobbed uncontrollably, wondering if it was all hopeless. I watched the clip of Robin’s brilliant, Oscar-winning performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting and how expertly he cut Matt Damon’s character to the core with his character’s brutal honesty and life experiences. I could see Williams channel both the dark and light side of himself into that unforgettable character.

Then I saw someone share a clip from the movie Hook. It was the scene where one of the lost boys takes Robin’s face in his hands, examines it, pushes it into a smile, and declares, “Oh there you are, Peter!” The person who shared it said, “This scene kind of depicts what people like him suffering from mental illness need. Someone who sees who they really are and will stand on their side… no matter what.”

Oh man. That one really got me.

Tuesday was Veterans Day and my husband watched Black Hawk Down. After watching it, he said, “Man, that was sad. I could really use a happier Veterans Day movie.”

“What about Good Morning Vietnam? That’s kind of happy,” I offered.

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So we put it on. And as Robin belted his famous, “GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM!!!” and hammered through that brilliant first monologue, I became teary-eyed from both laughter and sadness. There he was, being Robin, dishing joke after joke and doing what he did best: making people smile and laugh. I know the movie is a work of fiction loosely based on a real person. But to think of it… his character’s antics boosted morale in what was the worst place on earth.

And that’s what Robin Williams did throughout his career. He boosted our morale through good times and bad. He took his pain and instead of letting it destroy him, he breathed joy and happiness into the world. He encouraged us to not take life so seriously. He inspired us to be kinder to each other.

I think that was part of Robin’s personal regimen for keeping his mental illness at bay. I know I’ve used humor myself to cope with depression and anxiety. Humor helps me forget. And if I can make someone else laugh in the process, that brings me joy. And it makes me feel like I have a purpose.

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But I know I haven’t been that person lately. And due to that, I’ve questioned my purpose.

Glenn Beck also made the news this week, with the revelation that he has suffered and undergone treatment for a neurological disorder.

While I feel sorry for Mr. Beck, I think he is an example of someone who has used his gifts to inspire more hatred and division in this world. I hope that changes. Maybe it will now that he is well. But time can only tell.

Robin suffered as well, but he used his gifts to bring people joy. And that’s not what killed him. I think that’s what kept him alive for 63 years.

This week I decided that I want to be more like Robin was. I want to try to bring people more joy instead of bringing them down. I want to stop arguing with people so much and dismissing them for ridiculous reasons. Instead, I want to make them laugh. I want to encourage them. I want that to be my legacy.

It’s worth it to at least try to leave the world a happier place than it was when you entered it. I’m going to try.

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