Meet your mental illnessĀ 

On tonight’s edition of meet your mental illness, crippling depression and anxiety have come out to play their hand. Here’s the list of things my brain is doing right now: 

  1. It is hurting over what’s happening in Virginia right now. How does the alt-right/KKK/Nazi faction walk around so freely and feel so empowered to spread hate and fear in America? Because our president endorses that rhetoric, the hate, and the fear that they bring. Hell, he’s trying to start a war with North Korea on Twitter. I don’t understand how people can hate people just because they are different. Diversity is what makes us stronger and better. This is not a difficult concept! 
  2. My brain is worried that if I post something about what’s going on right now, it will ring empty. 
  3. I’m worried that my birthday is coming up and it’s been a wash of a year. 
  4. I’m worried about possibly having to have major knee surgery to straighten my leg out. I don’t want to be out of commission or off work for another month this year. Would my job still be there for me? On the other hand it would be free, so it might be the right time after all. Both directions are so strong I feel paralyzed about making a decision. 
  5. I’m sad that I’m a morning person and my friends are all not morning people. I want to have a breakfast party for my birthday but I doubt anyone would show up because I’m not important enough to wake up before 10:00. 
  6. I’m sad for my family. For my uncle who is dying in jail. For my dad who is dealing with illness and in discomfort.

I’m happy a lot of the time. But tonight I’m just sittin in my depression pit. And it’s ok. 

Are you religious or something?

I dread being asked this question. The majority of people who have asked me this recently have asked it uncomfortably after making some sort of joke about religious people or religion, only to see that I didn’t exactly find their joke amusing.

The reasons I don’t find jokes made at the expense of the religious community funny are many. I was raised in the Christian church with an education of and appreciation for other religions, especially Judaism. My experience growing up was, for the most part, positive. I had a lot of friends at church, I got to volunteer a lot, and I got to see a lot of people benefit from what was going on. I think this was healthy for me as a child, to learn compassion and kindness, to learn to put others before myself, and, of course, how to make the biggest splash in the lake at kids’ camps.

Jokes against people like the ones I grew up with hurt, because they are made against my family and friends. Don’t mess with my family, ya know?

But the other day, a friend just asked me, “are you religious?”, in sincerity and kindness. I was honestly at a loss for words.  I hadn’t thought about it in a while, and I didn’t know what to say.

Around the same time I moved to Chicago, I stopped going to church regularly. I didn’t know exactly why for a long time, but after some time and reflection, I think I know a couple reasons why.

I realized that I have been living in the “after” life. Not the afterlife many religions debate about, not any sort of heaven (though maybe a hell), just a different life after a traumatic event. The day after I moved into my apartment in Chicago, my roommate sexually assaulted me. This was it, the traumatic event that split my life in two. I had just moved to a new city to start a new life, I only knew one person in a city of over 3 million, I was trying to find a new job, I lived in an apartment with my attacker and another emotionally and mentally exhausting person, and I didn’t know who to talk to. Top that all off with having to have an interview for my current job 12 hours after being raped. I was embarrassed to tell anyone what had happened, and I was honestly terrified. It took me five months to tell anyone.

The “after” life has been filled with many things: fear, hate, depression, anxiety, sadness, but also love, happiness, and a lot of good experiences. One thing it hasn’t been filled with is church.

At first I made the excuse that I just didn’t want to go through the effort of finding a new church and all that entails, and to be honest that was true. Everything felt so difficult at the time, even the good changes. I had just met Jeb and started our life together, I had started my new job, I finally got a new apartment with Erik, and I felt a little more stable, even stable enough to go off my anti-depressant medication. But, it still felt like I couldn’t go to church. I felt like they would know I was “damaged”. Anyone who goes to church may be thinking (we’re all damaged, that’s why we go to church). But, my brain told me it wouldn’t be good, so I steered clear. Obviously there’s no way they would’ve known unless I had told them, but I felt vulnerable.

Since that time, I’ve experienced a lot of healing from the trauma. People have loved on me a lot, and honestly, time helps a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I still wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, unable to breathe, having dreamed that I am being attacked again. I still get sick to my stomach when people discount or joke about survivors of assault or abuse.

Another thing that’s made me question my beliefs in God and a religious system is having my dad misdiagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I honestly wanted a miracle, I wanted to pray for him to be ok, I wanted God to step in. But I didn’t know if I was allowed to come back to that party just to ask for a favor. Did I? Yes. Did I believe that it would work? I’m not sure. Was I elated and relieved when we got a for-sure diagnosis that it wasn’t cancer? Absolutely. The rollercoaster of loss is a whole other ball of wax that I’m not really ready to dive into, but it definitely made me question things and wonder if, if I did ask for that favor, did I have to go back and start living that life because I had believed for long enough to ask?

I’m currently reading a book in which the characters are asked to answer an incredibly tough question in order to complete an important task. When answering honestly about if something will work or not, they dive deep and come up with the only answer that gets them through the task: “I don’t know.”

So, when you ask me if I’m religious or not, I’ll answer the only way I can.

I don’t know.

Pain series: Part 7

Yesterday, I was six weeks out from surgery.  The time has really flown, and I’m getting so close to feeling normal. I still have a bit of pain in my legs and back, but I’m down to only taking one Tramadol a day for the last week or so. I’m so happy to be off the narcotics. They were killing my stomach, my digestion, and my appetite. I’ve lost 15 pounds so far since last year’s knee surgery. That’s helping the pain in my knee go away, which is great. Ideally I won’t have to have surgery again on it, but they did say it was more a matter of when rather than if, that they’d have to straighten my leg out. I’m terrified of that.

More than anything though, I just want my dad to be healthy right now. We surprised him for Father’s Day this last weekend, and it was so fun to see the look on his face. It was pretty clear though, that he’s in a lot of pain. He has a PET scan Friday to see if they can find what is causing the nodules. I’m hoping they find something so they can start treatment. I am having a hard time with it all, because I can’t imagine life without my dad being there. Every moment this weekend was precious with him, as every day is. 

My pain today isn’t my back or knee. Today my heart hurts for my dad. 

Dad

Imagine everything you know in your life grinding to a halt. Cancer. We don’t actually know, but all the signs point to that, and because it’s taken this long to find out, it’s likely to be stage four. They still don’t know where the actual cancer is coming from or what is causing all the nodules on the lungs, liver, and kidneys, but dad has a scan yesterday and should know tomorrow, probably when he’s on the road to my cousin Charlotte’s wedding in MA. I feel incredibly lost right now. My dad has always been a calming and wise presence in my life. And now there’s a possibility he might not be here for more than five years. Every moment is precious, even as it always was, but even moreso now.  I wish I could be home to hug my dad, to help him when he’s uncomfortable, or just to sit and hold his hand. Trying to love from afar, and let him know every day that I love him.

Lonely

It’s easy to get lonely after having surgery and being laid up for weeks on end. Normally I have a lot of people to talk to and occupy my brain space. My mom and dad have done a great job keeping me company, but I miss my friends and my coworkers. I miss walking around and talking to people. I miss having quiet time for the sake of getting away from the noise, not just because that’s all that’s available. Everyone’s lives have gone on without me, mine just standing still.  

Post surgery: One week out

So I’m laying here on my bed, after going to Target with mom, and I am EXHAUSTED. I have successfully tired myself out by doing approximately a tenth of the physical activity I normally do during a day. I am also incredibly constipated, I know, TMI. But seriously, I may have set a record… haven’t pooped in a week. Normally 5 hours is a long time for me to go between poops, but 7 days, that’s pushing it. I’m getting to the point where eating or drinking feels like stuffing one last container of leftovers in the fridge after thanksgiving: it may pop at any moment. In my case, I’m hoping it pops out the bottom, not the top or (in this rare case) out my back. I drank a jar of Magnesium Citrate to help things along. Tasted like a Sprite that’s been out in the sun since 1997. 

So, thoughts on being one week out from surgery. 

  • I am significantly less hopeless than I felt before having surgery. Now that my back’s been cut open, sucked out, and plate-and-screwed together, I’m feeling much more hopeful that I’ll have a regular life. Yes, I am still having problems after the surgery but mostly it feels like muscle pain from the slice. Yes, I’m having to ask for help doing most things right now, but I’m not having desperate thoughts about never leading a semi normal adult life. Whatever normal is…
  • Surgery was painful AF. I won’t sugar coat anything. I woke up from surgery thinking I had died, or was about to die. My BP and pulse were very low the entire time I was in the hospital, I woke up with a bloody throat from being intubated, and by back hurt so bad I couldn’t move, even if I had wanted to. This was not fun. It was not a vacation. Would still recommend. 
  • Day 1 after surgery was the WORST DAY EVER. I was in more pain than I thought possible, and they wanted me to WALK AROUND. I felt like they were asking me to run a marathon at that point. Turning onto my side in bed was incredibly painful. Standing up, sitting down, walking, standing, laying down, etc. it all hurt. All of it. And they had taken away my morphine pump. Those bitches. I liked that pump. 
  • Generally, I had the most wonderful nursing staff I could have asked for. Danny was my day nurse, and Brandi was my night nurse. They listened to me, were gentle when I needed someone to be gentle, and pushed me when I needed to push. I plan on taking them both a thank you card and a gift card when I go back for my 2 week out appointment. 

That’s all I can think of for now. I’m incredibly grateful for my family and friends who have gathered around me and helped me get well. Everything from helping me sit down on the toilet to helping me roll over in bed to holding my hand or me when I got dizzy. I’m a lucky gal to have such a great family. šŸ‘«