Straight Arrow Hits Bottom

This post is spinoff of  Nostalgia.  I mention a straight arrow guy who now is in the marijuana business in Colorado, where pot is legal.

I called him Juan, not his real name.  When I first met him, I felt as if he was a male version of myself.  We were both a bit socially awkward and shy.  Of course back then in my college student days I would never labeled myself as socially awkward.  Our parents expected us to travel a narrow path.  No room for errors.  Juan had much to compete against.

Juan was the youngest of five.  There was maybe 15 years between Juan and his older siblings. They’d graduated college. One was a dentist, another a doctor.  So starting college, he knew he’d better aim high.  In addition to getting a degree, he was in ROTC while in college, and after graduating became an officer in the military.

People can hit bottom at any time in their lives.  Just like many of my friends, Juan successfully transitioned from college life to adult life.  While my friends seemed to be having the time of their lives I was spinning my wheels, struggling to stay afloat.  I’d dropped out of college, was officially diagnosed with depression.  My parents would disown me for this or that.  It seems surreal now to think about it.  I would crawl myself out of the black hole and rebuild my life.

As I saw my friends, Juan, and my sister successfully navigate their lives, it didn’t occur to me that they would have their own versions of hitting bottom later.  I knew I wasn’t the only person to hit a speedbump in their young adult lives.

Hitting bottom….people often think of alcoholism when they hear that term.  My sister and other people I knew would blow up their lives in that way in their thirties and forties.

I never would have expected Juan to hit bottom.  He would have been the last person on the list of one thousand to mess up his life. Juan and I went on a few dates.  There was a spark there but it was never there at the same time.  Plus we were socially awkward and new in the world of dating.  Except for the fact that he was Presbyterian and not Catholic, he was as close to the perfect boy to my parents as I could possibly get.

Juan married a beautiful, smart woman.  I didn’t think much about him until years later.  I’d heard that he blew up his life, gotten kicked out of the military and was divorced.  Later I heard he was in the marijuana industry and remarried.  I saw some pics of him with his wife online.  He looks happy and appears to have rebuilt his life again.  It is a different path from where he started, I’m sure.

He’d be the last person I’d expect to be involved with marijuana, who knew.  Marijuana is not for me, in that regard I am a nerdy straight arrow.  If it works for him though, great.

As I’ve written about before, my sister has battled alcoholism for a long time.  What makes some people struggle at the bottom, and others rebuild their lives .  I wish I knew the answer.pexels-photo-726478.jpeg

Burden

In my internet travels I came across a couple women sharing just how incredibly burdensome it was to take care of their husbands with depression.

I just know what I read but something seemed off about their words.  They painted their husbands as a standalone source of dysfunction in the house.  But if you poked a little bit further you could see there were other problems.  One of the women was a recovered alcoholic.  Both put too much of the family’s dirty laundry out there.

I’ve been down that journey with my parents and even my sister in my younger years.  This was before my sister started drinking and was still the oh so perfect child.  But as I deduced later I just represented one portion of our family’s dysfunction which manifested itself in depression in my early twenties. During that period I was the one who needed to fix herself, not anyone else.  My family didn’t like me fixed though because I began to speak up and assert myself more often.

I wondered if I am burdensome to my family.  I try to be the best parent I can be, but I’ve had failures. This month was terrible workwise, but I generally miss very few days of work.  I shower, do the laundry, make home cooked meals try to attend to all that is needed of a wife and mother.  I cracked wide open this month, but then went back to trudging through everyday life, with the new challenge of attempting to help my aging mother.

I have no doubt that having a depressed spouse can be challenging.  Describing your depressed spouse as a burden helps no one though

Tears

I’ve been overwhelmed by life in general, but particularly how to care for my aging mom.  I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I seem to be failing, and it is just all out there for the world to see.  I cracked wide open today and could not hide it.  Tears.  Weariness. Failure.  Someone told me, we don’t see you as you see yourself.  Were they being honest?  The suspicious side of me says that they just said it so we could all move past the awkwardness of a woman falling apart complete with her red, puffy tearstained face. Maybe I needed to crack.  It takes a whole lot of energy to keep it all in.  Maybe hitting bottom leaves me at a place where I can rebuild what is broken. My younger self tells my older self that I should be past falling apart.  If these words were on paper they would be tearstained with an irregularity to my handwriting that would suggest a sort of desperation.  Life is spinning around me at a pace too fast for me to keep up with.  I could use a nap of several days or even a week but I don’t have the time to hide under the covers and escape the cruel world.

Never Ending Dysfunction

My sister has been staying at my mom’s house for a visit.  These visits are tremendously stressful for her because she will harbor the ideas of guilt of what she should be doing for her mom, but her ideas of what she could be doing rarely turn into action because she becomes quickly overwhelmed.  My sister and my mom can’t get along but they have this relationship where they can’t leave each other alone and I often play odd man out.

I went to visit, a bit of a drive from where I live.  I thought we would have some lunch and that would be it.  As soon as I get there, I can see my mother is struggling to keep up with being able to live alone.  I don’t know that she takes her meds appropriately.  Any suggestions of what could be done to make her life easier are instantly shot down.

At this point my mother is angry that we have confronted some of the issues that she struggles with.  She takes her anger out on my sister who has been drinking during her stay with my mom.  Now I more than anyone understand the anger and frustration with my sister’s drinking.   The things my mom says though are unspeakably cruel.  She calls her a slut multiple times, she says she wants nothing to do with her and that she(my sister) is not her daughter any more.

At this time my sister’s normal reaction is to bolt.  She usually ends up in a bar somewhere.  This time she tells me she can’t take her life anymore, she is depressed and wants to get help.

So we go to the emergency room and work our way through the system to see what can be done.  Her blood alcohol level is sky high.  The staff asks her lots of questions and her answers sometimes vary.  A physician asks her about the quantity she drinks each day.  On this occasion she says her drink of choice is wine(she drinks anything).  Once she tells him she drinks two glasses of wine.  Another time she tells him she drinks a box of wine a day.  “A box?” he says, puzzled, but then moves on.  I’m not sure the physician knew boxed wine was an actual thing.

My sister is directed to a treatment center eventually where she currently withdrawing from alcohol.  I hope it works.  Earlier in the week she had attended an AA meeting where she met a man who gave her more alcohol and tried to assault her.

I’m not sure what the answers are.  I pray that this time she can gain peace and sobriety.

Energy

I’ve been thinking lately about what kind of energy I give off and whether or not it is influenced by my episodes of depression.  I think in some way I’ve always been aware of this but it has lately bubbled up to the surface in a more concrete way.

Often I think about the outward face of my depression as a battle between doing something and not doing something.  It is pretty much on autopilot to shower, go to work, make supper, the basics of life.  Other times there might be a lot of self talk in my head before I go out for a walk in the sunshine.  This is a much bigger struggle for me in the winter when it gets cold and snowy than it is in the summer.

Often, to elevate myself I have to think of things I can do to feed my soul..finding a really good book, going to an art museum or listening to live music are good choices.  Being out in the garden is another good choice. I feel at one, inside and outside.

People don’t see the gears turning(or not) in my head. My husband might have an inkling of my thought processes, and there is some frustration I think when I am in a half empty instead of a half full sort of mode.

But besides doing or not doing, I wonder about the energy I am giving off to the world, and try to think about it more consciously.  Of course long ago I made the decision not to vomit out every possible bit of my misery to the outside world, as my mother likes to do.  I don’t know if she ever realizes how soul sucking that is.

I know I have given the impression of being cross or angry at work when I haven’t intended to.  Perhaps I need to cultivate more awareness of what is spinning through my head and how I might be projecting it to the world.  If I am projecting negative energy out into the world and it comes back to me, am I aware of what I have created?

Snap

Tears for no reason, or as an overreaction to something.  Lack of control over my emotions.  Felt deeply disrespected at work.  Tears in my eyes at work, had to bite my tongue for half the day to keep the desire to cry away.  If I don’t bite my tongue I’ll dig my nails into my palms to distract myself.

Have no idea what is going on.  The husband doesn’t quite know what to do when these episodes happen.  In the past we would start to fight when these moods would start to creep in.  He doesn’t get the emotions.  I don’t get that he doesn’t get the emotions.

Now I usually keep these emotions under control, and can do some self talk to get through a difficult time.

For the most part antidepressants have helped me immensely with this aspect of my depression.  Not this week though.  Maybe my antidepressants aren’t as effective any more.  Maybe it is the winter blues.  Maybe I am having a breakdown in advance at the thought of spending time over the holidays with dysfunctional family members.

Tears sometimes bring sense of catharsis for me.  Now I just feel hollow.

One more speed bump on the road of depression.

My Cold, Cold Heart

The dark is beginning to squeeze out the light.  It is pitch dark as I get ready for work.  October rains bring a cold dampness indoors.

I love fall, but then there is the looming threat of winter.  Winter, where the urge to close the curtains, and take a mental health day(or 4 or 5) is ever so strong.  The bed calls my name.  I probably would take a mental health day off, but the health care industry isn’t super compassionate about people missing work…..or at least all the jobs I have ever had.

Just a couple months ago I’d thought about talking to my doctor about decreasing my antidepressants, partly because of the expense.  I feel like that would be a huge mistake. It feels like a switch has been flipped, how I can feel my mood plummeting.

If I were stronger, or more self disciplined, maybe I could handle this better.  I know the dip in my mood is coming, surely there is some way I could be better prepared.

It is probably time to turn off the TV and stay away from the more controversial parts of the internet, that would be helpful.

If this is October what will I do when it gets really cold and that hellish thing called snow comes calling.

Rule Book

When I was a child I remember having very strict notions about what was FAIR.  I think I also had some strict notions about what was just, even if I couldn’t have articulated the concept.  Of course fair as a child might center on trivial issues like each child at the birthday party getting the EXACT same sized piece of cake.

When I was a child I had the notion of an invisible rule book everyone followed, because that would be FAIR. One person would receive the same penalty for a crime as another.  The teacher would step in when she saw someone bullied.

Going to Catholic schools growing up I believed our leaders tried their best to ensure the public school system ensured equality of opportunity for all who passed through its doors.  When my own kids started public school, I saw that wasn’t quite so.

I believed my Catholic public school neighbor would stand up for me when his friend shouted “Dirty Catholic” across the street, when he saw me walking home in my Catholic school uniform.  I believed my parents would intervene somehow in the situation.

I believed that people wouldn’t selectively turn their heads away at the injustices of the world.

Of course little by little I realized my rule book was an imaginary work of fiction in my own brain.  If I got myself in a tizzy every time someone didn’t follow my rule book, I’d go crazy.

Recent events in the US from Charlottesville to the Las Vegas shootings to Harvey Weinstein make me sad.  That rule book in my head just won’t stay quiet.  No answers, just sadness.

I remember after 9/11, crying all the time when I watched the news.  Eventually I had to stop watching TV for a while.  Turning off the TV might be okay, but someday we need to pay enough attention to get our problems figured out.

Summer Snippets…The Graveyard of Old Hurts

Circumstances have dictated that I must spend more time with my sister and my mom. Being around family means that old disagreements and painful memories come back to the surface.

It is okay to examine these old hurts for a time.  It gets dangerous for me though when they start to consume my thoughts.  Memories I thought were long dead come back to life to haunt me.

When those old memories haunt me, it is easy for my depression to sneak in and cast a dark cloud over everything.

I know for now I must say goodbye to the graveyard.  Time to get back amongst the living.