Dear Diary: Self-soothing my way through depression

Ho-hum. ; (

I’m a little bummed.

Sorry for the lame rhyme…

But I really am a little upset, maybe even more than a little- maybe a lot. I’m a lot upset! I’m mad and sad and frustrated and… I think, basically, I’m a little depressed. I’m sure lack of sleep has something to do with it, and a sinus headache…. But mostly it’s because I’m putting a lot into this blog and I’m not getting much in return. It’s very disappointing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah– I know I need to give it more time. It hasn’t even been a year. And I know there are other things I need to do in order to gain followers and readers. But I put a lot of hard work into “The Alice Coincidences” and “Ripple, the Water-Spirit”!
And for what!? I get zilch! Nothing! Nada!
And it isn’t fair. It’s good stuff- I know it is, and I think it deserves to be read by somebody. It may not be the best writing or blogging ever, it may not be award-winning, but it is good; and, like I said, I put a lot of hard work into it. And a lot of time! I deserve for it to be read, not ignored. (To be fair, I did get three likes on Ripple, the Water-Spirit.)

I’m sorry I’m whining about it but not talking about solutions, or even asking for them. What to do to make this blog more successful is not the point of this particular post, neither is wallowing in self-pity. Given my mental and emotional challenges (anxiety, depression) it’s best for me to not wallow in self-pity, it can snowball very quickly. Although “snow” isn’t really the best visual representation.

Wallowing in self-pity can get pretty dark pretty quickly. For example, all because I was a bit sleep deprived, had a headache, and was feeling disappointed about the lack of activity on my blog, I was ready to completely give up- just delete the whole thing and then cry about it. That’s probably not an entirely atypical reaction, I’m sure many bloggers have felt like giving up- especially when sleep deprived.
However, it got worse. From there I started to question my whole life! I started to become majorly dissatisfied with my house, with myself, with my position as a stay-at-home parent. I started to go down the path of thinking that I have no value at all, that I’m not good at anything, I’m pathetic, I don’t do anything “cool” or significant and I never will, my life is pathetic, I’m pathetic, everyone probably looks at me like I’m pathetic, why bother with anything- everything is pointless…

In other words, I was spiraling. I felt very, very sad and quite hopeless- that is depression. And it’s a problem. I shouldn’t start questioning and doubting myself so harshly just because a blog isn’t going the way I had hoped. It’s okay to be disappointed, but it’s only disappointment– a temporary emotional state. My perspective was obviously way off kilter. I had to remind myself that there were still plenty of reasons to be happy.

It was time for a little “self-soothing” and some left brain activities. So I made myself mentally list all of the little things that make me happy, and what activities I could do that would calm me down. I learned about self-soothing in one of Dr. Marsha Linehan’s books on Dialectical Behavior Therapy. I think it may have also been her book that talks about engaging the left brain when the emotional right brain gets too hyper. At any rate, they’re both about calming down when you feel yourself becoming emotionally overwhelmed.

So, like I said, I made myself think of what makes me happy.
What always makes me happy no matter what? What do I have that will always be there, solid and true, and can’t be taken away or denied?
Well, obviously my first thought was books– namely, Harry Potter and Jane Austen. Because, no matter what, I always have them.
At almost any time I can open a copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone and poor, abused, orphaned Harry will find out that he is actually a rich and famous wizard. Every time I open a copy of Jane Austen, her beautifully written words will be there on the page- chocolate for my brain- and the heroine will prevail.
Harry Potter and Jane Austen make me sooooo happy.
My list got easier from there. Next thing I know I’m thinking about how much I like the light-blue interior lights in my car. I decide to wear my red stripped shoes because they make me happy when I look at them. The shoes make me think of my current favorite nail polish, Cherries in the Snow- a bright and cheerful pinkish-red.
Color therapy.
Cherries in the snow reminded me of my snowflake-themed adult coloring book, which reminded me of other color infused left brain activities, like card making and cross-stitching. I think about the Christmas cards or cross-stitch project I could work on. Or I could make a thank you card for my mother-in-law.
I keep going with the Christmas theme. Christmas makes me so happy!  I think about lighting my Holiday Garland scented candle, or going to that one gift shop at the mall that smells like Christmas year round. Or I could go to Macy’s and sample the perfumes.
Aromatherapy.

All very good ideas, but I ended up not doing any of these things. I didn’t need to. Just the thought of them, just simply knowing they were there as options, was enough. Reminding myself of what makes me happy saved the day!
I’m very thankful, and very lucky, to have been introduced to the work of Dr. Lineham and her concept of self-soothing .

What makes you feel better when you’re feeling low? What are your self-soothing activities or exercises? What’s on your Happy list?

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Dear Diary: Why I’m Jealous of My Husband

It’s weird to be jealous of your own husband, right? That’s not a good sign, is it?

This blog was supposed to be about my passion for words. A well organized, well researched, masterfully articulated blog showcasing masterful articulation. It’s supposed to be about books and quotes and song lyrics; a celebration of creative, intelligent, inspiring language- and lovely shit like that. But sometimes plans change, and this is one of those times, because I’ve got other things I need to say right now. 

You know what? That’s it. That. Is. It!!! I’ve HAD IT!

facepalm

Yeah, well, those are obviously empty threats. So I’ve had it. So I’m fed up. What am I really going to do about it? Apparently I’m going to blog about it, a.k.a. write about it. Because that’s what I do.
I turn to words- listening to them, singing them, reading them, or writing them. I always have. I once wrote an essay about my brother “Sem”. I was nine. I wrote the essay because I loathed him so much I seriously wanted to injure him. He used to make me so mad, and I needed to do something with that anger. Usually I just attacked him, but that day I somehow came up with a better, non-violent option. I had to get that anger out of me and, without questioning it, I went right to pen and paper to deal with those feelings.  That’s right- I wrote an essay when I was nine, not because it was homework, but because I actually wanted to. I needed to. It had an opening statement, an introductory paragraph, at least 2 body paragraphs consisting of 3 to 5 sentences each, and then a conclusion.

My mom found that essay last year, or something like that, and gave it to me. I had forgotten all about it, but as soon as I saw it the memory of writing it came back to me pretty vividly. When she presented it to me she was kind of laughing and smiling at me like, “Remember this? Oh, how cute!” I was embarrassed and pretty uncomfortable. I was hurt and sad, too. I’m not exactly sure why… Maybe because when I wrote that essay I was serious. I wasn’t trying to be cute. Those feelings described in that essay, the anger and frustration, were very real- then and now. That essay was nothing to laugh at. It was, in part, a cry for help. My brother acted the way he did because of how we were being raised. I suspected it even then, and now at the age of 36, I know I was right. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in that, but the memories and ramifications of my childhood are still hard to live with….

Okay, honestly, sometimes there is a lot of satisfaction in knowing that what I thought was fucked up when I was a child really was fucked up. Growing up I could never be sure of my assessment of the situation because my parents denied it. My dad pretty much just didn’t talk about it, or acknowledge it, in any way -unless it was about my mom being crazy. He was always drunk when he talked (ranted) about my mom’s behavior so… that doesn’t exactly count as validation.  My mom just out right denied it. She would verbally acknowledge certain things, but then she would follow that up with either down playing how bad it really was, or blaming her behavior on external factors- including me and my brothers. I don’t think she meant to make us feel blamed. I don’t think she realized what her words were conveying, but… that’s pretty much what she said. There was no other way to take it, especially for a child.

To some readers it might seem like I’m being too hard on my parents or unfair to them. Maybe that’s true. I have a lot of anger towards them and I give in to that anger, but I wasn’t always this way. For years I tried to forgive them. I forced myself to be around them even though they made me uncomfortable. For years I went along with the denial- either not talking about any of it, or telling myself, “It wasn’t that bad.” But several years ago I came across the book Toxic Parents. My parents are in that book. Not by name, of course, but by definition and description. That book did something for me that no other book or therapy had ever done- it gave me the freedom to be angry. Instead of trying to push forgiveness- which I had been trying to do- the author basically said Bullshit. You do not have to forgive people who abused you, especially people who have not taken responsibility or apologized for what they did. That book made me feel ok about being angry. It told me that I wasn’t a bad person for being angry with parents who were toxic to me as a child, and who continued to be toxic to me in adulthood. Like I said, it gave me the freedom to be angry. Do you have any idea what a relief that was? For there to be even just one person in the world who would allow me to feel that anger and not judge me for it… It was life changing. The freedom to be angry– I snatched that life line, clung to it, and still haven’t let it go. It has done wonders for my self confidence and empowerment.

I’d also like to point out that the public service announcement from the ’80s is true: “Parents Who Use Drugs Have Kids Who Use Drugs.”  My dad is an alcoholic and drug abuser. My brother Daniel is also an alcoholic and drug abuser. He is currently pretty much homeless. He’s been addicted to heroin for 3 years now… I think. Maybe longer. Before heroin it was pills- all kinds of pills. I heard rumors about Oxycontin and methadone, just to name two. I don’t know the names of the other drugs he crushed and snorted. Before the pills I had heard rumors of crack and cocaine. These rumors came via other family members. I have never actually witnessed my brother’s addiction. I’ve always avoided being around him. It wasn’t hard to do; as soon as he was 18 my mom helped him get an apartment and a job, and he was out. O-U-T, out!
Anyway, where was I…. Before the crack and cocaine it was marijuana and alcohol- lots and lots of marijuana and alcohol. This I know first hand, either because I heard him talk about it, or because I could hear him throwing up in the bathroom when he got home. He was 17. He had his first drink and smoked his first joint at the age of only 13, maybe 12. We grew up watching our dad roll and smoke joints and get drunk on a regular basis. Is it really any wonder that his son followed in his footsteps?

My mom did not do drugs or drink, but her father was an alcoholic. I don’t know half the details (not even close) of what went down in the home she grew up in, but I know there was a lot of anger and a lot violence. I am positive she has PTSD, and would also likely be diagnosed with a personality disorder if she would go to therapy like I have. With her father being an alcoholic she, of course, married an alcoholic. A very common pattern. And even though I’m not an alcoholic (and my husband isn’t an alcoholic), I’ve had a great deal of emotional issues to work through so my kids have still been effected by it. This is why alcoholism is called “a family disease.” Not only is there the genetic component, but there is also chaos, insanity, and dysfunctional behaviors that get passed down to the next generation.

Lucky for me I turn to books and writing rather than drugs and alcohol when I need help or comfort. It’s always been a natural instinct. For the past 15 years my focus has mostly been books, not as much writing. But recently that has started to change. I’ll start writing- a blog, a story- but then I stop. I abandon it. Yet here I am, trying it again because I need something. I need something that is mine and mine alone. Not something that I’m connected to because I’m someone’s wife or mother.
However, on the other hand, it truly is absurd for me to complain about anything. I have a good life, a really good life- especially considering where I started. I have been able to accomplish some incredible goals- a bachelor’s degree, an amazing husband, a good life for my kids. And I have the luxury, the choice, of being a stay-at-home parent, which is exactly what I said I wanted about 8 years ago. I don’t want a full-time job right now but… I don’t know how to explain it… I feel so pathetic because I don’t feel like I do anything important.

When all you really have in your life is yourself, your family, and your home- you will hyper focus on those things, and that can cause problems for all involved. Small things will seem a lot more important then they really are.  I hyper focus on myself, I’ve been doing it for years- my hair, my weight, my skin, my clothes. Am I  pretty? Am I sexy? Am I ugly? I am unattractive? Oh, god, I’m repulsive. Then there’s the house- we need to repaint, we need new carpet, new closet doors, new windows- we need a whole new house! We can’t actually afford to move, and we don’t need to- our house is just fine. We’re working on minor cosmetic things a little at a time, but, like I said, sometimes I hyper focus on insignificant details because my world is too small.

So let’s say I get the house, the hair, and the body I want. Then what? I’ll still feel like I’m lacking purpose. I’ll still feel insignificant. I still won’t have a career. I don’t even have a hobby! I still won’t have anywhere to be, nothing to accomplish beyond dishes, laundry, and dinner. I’ll still be lonely all day long. I’ll still feel unimportant and, frankly, a little pathetic. I mean, this shit is getting bad. My children are my main source of companionship! That is not ok. When our dishwasher broke I wasn’t in a hurry to get a new one because washing the dishes by hand gave me something to do! At the end of the last school year I started taking the long way to the grocery store because there’s more traffic- which meant I’d be around people… sort of.
So I’m not exactly thrilled about the kids going back to school. I mean, it will be nice to have some peace and quiet, and to get the house back in order, but…. Mostly I’m terrified by the emptiness and loneliness that I’m afraid will bear down on me.

This is a very new feeling for me. I’ve been a stay-at-home parent for 8 years, and it wasn’t until the end of this past school year that I started to feel this way. I have no idea what I’m going to do. The thought of being alone all day, day after day…. I just want to cry. In fact, I’m sure I will break down crying at some point within the first week of school. But even having them at home isn’t as fulfilling as…. I don’t know what. When the kids are there I’m not lonely, but I still don’t feel as important or significant as I perceive my husband to be at his job.  I know it means a lot to him that I’m at home with the kids. I’m sure it means a lot to the kids too that I’m here for them and do things with them, and it might hurt them if they knew that I sometimes feel this way. I like being home with them and there for them, but, like I said, I need something else. I need to expand my world.

My husband’s world is huge. My husband’s world is the world. Literally. He works for a large financial corporation that flies him to various cities around the country and pays for nice dinners. He talks to people in Manila and Mumbai. He’s even had the opportunity to go to  the Philippines or India. I’m sure he will one day. He has more than just a job, he has a full blown career. A career he loves! And a very successful one. He is about to get another promotion. He doesn’t even have to apply for promotions anymore, they give them to him. He’s at a six figure salary, and that doesn’t include bonus. He deserves it, of course. He’s very smart, he works really hard, and I know he does it for us. I’m very proud of him and grateful for how well he provides for us. And he’s a great guy! He’s thoughtful and generous and treats me very well. He’s my best friend. And he’s a great father.

But I have to admit I’m very jealous of his career. I’m sure it feels really good to be worth $100,000! I’m sure it must feel amazing to be around important, intelligent people and be treated like an equal. I’m sure if feels really good to be respected, to feel needed and valued, and rewarded for something you’re good at. I don’t have any of this.

My husband also has a really great hobby. He loves cars, so one day a few years ago he did a little research about how a person might go about becoming involved in the racing world. Lo and behold, he found out that in some race circuits the people who are behind the scenes- in pit row or doing the flags- are actually volunteers. He then discovered that not even 2 hours form our house is Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course  where could volunteer for SCCA- Sports Car Club of America. All he had to do was send an email, pay a small membership due, and attend a one day training course. Even that was cool. He learned how to put out different types of fires and all kinds of things. He has sense been given an award for New Race Volunteer of the year, been offered a position as a pit crew chief, and he’s been trained on flags. When he arrives at Mid-Ohio people are happy to see him- not only because he’s a nice guy, but because they need him there! Even his hobby has him out in the world, being valued. And on days when the SCCA volunteers aren’t busy because the larger race circuits (Nascar, Indy car) bring there own crews, he still gets to be there behind the scenes, checking out the cars, meeting cool (sometimes even famous) people.

Between his job and his hobby he meets all kinds of people. And he knows how to do it too. He has the knowledge and the confidence it takes to make the type of first impression that makes people remember you and want to know you. I don’t have that kind of confidence. I think I almost did, once upon a time. I know I had more confidence at one point, but that was before I was pregnant with my son 15 years ago. Still, even then, I didn’t have the confidence that my husband does. Yet, he’s humble. He would tell you that all he does is “try.” Okay, yes, it’s true- he has the guts to try new things. However, I have told him that it’s more than just that. Lots of people try but end up with zilch or only mild success. For my husband though, things just seem to have a way of always working out for him. He’s blessed. I don’t mean blessed as in “we are blessed with good health, a roof over our heads, and food on our table.” I mean blessed, as in you are The Golden Boy, The Chosen One. “GOOD FORTUNE IS BESTOWED UPON YOU MY SON.” He had to agree. The evidence is irrefutable.

So, let’s see…. successful career, provider for family, awesome hobby…. Oh, yeah. He also has a really great group of friends. The last time he got a group of guys together I think there were at least 12 of them. Umm, I don’t have 12 friends. I might have 6….

And then there’s his family. My husband has a great family. He has a lot of family. And they’re all really amazing people- not barely functioning people, not crazy people, not people who are incapable of having a healthy relationship- but amazing, happy, caring, successful people. Meanwhile, my family is dysfunctional and I’m not in contact with 99% of the people I’m related to.  My dad is always intoxicated. He gets drunk- completely drunk- every other day. So even on the days he doesn’t drink he still isn’t actually sober. The only time he calls me is when he’s had a few- or several- beers. Shit, he might also be high for all I know. He lives in a sketchy neighborhood and…. he has no teeth. That’s right. My dad has no teeth. They all had to be pulled because they were black and rotting away right before your eyes. He didn’t tolerate the dentures very well, got frustrated, threw them, and broke them. He can’t afford another pair, his 90 year-old father paid for the ones he broke!
I’ve never really had a relationship with my dad’s family. It’s a large family, but not a close family. He has 6 successful (older) brothers and sisters, but I hardly know them, or my cousins, or even my grandparents. I think it’s awkward for them too. My brothers and I never really felt like we fit in.

Then there’s my mom. Growing up she was very, very angry and unpredictable. Living with her was extremely difficult. To illustrate just how difficult it was I’ll share that I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, among other things. My dad was the alcoholic, but he was a lot easier to tolerate than my mom. He was even easier to be around. But as the years have gone by my mom has slowly calmed down. She has more self-control now, but she can still be difficult to be around. She is, however, a really good grandparent. My relationship with her currently revolves around my kids and that’s about it. As for my mom’s family….Wow. Crazy, crazy, weird, unhealthy people. Once I started going to Al-Anon and therapy I stopped forcing myself to spend time with them. I was never comfortable around them, but I thought I had to be around them because we’re related. Well, I know better now. I will not tolerate people who do not speak to me with respect, who make fun of me, call me names, and de-pants my child! They are not healthy people. I just stay away from them.
I was, however, very close to my grandma- my mom’s mom. In fact, my mom became very jealous of the relationship my grandma and I had. But she was nice to me! My grandma was nice to me; she made me feel loved and special, which probably saved my life. But Grandma died several years ago….
That brings me to “Nos”, my youngest brother. He’s in school working towards a degree in electrical engineering. He’s getting good grades too. I’m proud of him. He did a few years in the Navy so that’s paying for school. Smartest thing he ever did. He and I were close when we were growing up, but we haven’t been close for a very long time. He doesn’t avoid our parents or my mom’s family the way I do, but, then again, he also drinks a lot. It’s possible he’s an alcoholic. However, I do give him kudos and admire that he is loyal to his family- even if they’re a mess. I just can’t do it.
So the closest thing I have to family right now is actually my husband’s family. They are very, very good to me- but it’s not the same. I still kind of feel like an orphan sometimes.

I had always planned to get as far away from my childhood as possible, and I have with my husband’s help. He has helped me grow emotionally, he’s taught me maturity and responsibility, how to be a more patient parent.

It’s hard not to feel like I owe him. So, I feel like I owe him and I’m jealous of him. And I love him- all at the same time. It’s hard to feel like his equal. It doesn’t come up often, but I’m starting to feel embarrassed to meet or spend time with the people in all of his many circles. He does so much and I do so little. People always want to know what you do. What can I say? I don’t have much to say. It’s all about what he (my husband) does, and what the kids are up to. But I don’t actually do anything. Certainly not anything that’s conversation worthy. I feel like I’m in his shadow, like I’m important only by extension.
He certainly doesn’t see me this way. And I know that, in reality, no one else does either.
But I still feel like he has everything, and I have nothing. (I know I have a lot more than nothing. I just want to wallow in self pity, okay!?)

It doesn’t seem fair. I’ve worked really hard too, and I continue to work hard to be the best I can for my kids. I’m terrified that I’m going to screw them up the way my parents screwed up with me and my brothers.
So I work hard to be sane and healthy for them, but you do not get bonuses or a fancy title for being a good parent. You do not graduate from therapy with a degree, there is no “most improved patient of the year” award, and self-improvement is not a paying career. It goes largely unacknowledged. Overcoming generations of alcoholism, overcoming poverty- these are necessary for a healthy life, and they are major achievements, but there’s not going to be any formal record of these accomplishments. And none of this is appropriate dinner conversation.

I said I have nothing…. But I have a lot more than nothing, I know. Still, I’m jealous of everything my husband has. I try to be happy for him when all these good things come his way, and most of the time I am genuinely happy for him. I try not to resent him. I love him. We have a great relationship. He’s my best friend. I adore him and I’m so proud of him! I’m proud to be his wife!
But I do need more. I need something of my own. I need to expand my world. It’s a good thing I’ve read The Feminine Mystique, otherwise I wouldn’t understand what the hell is going on with me. Because of that book I know that what I’m struggling with (loneliness, insignificance, lack of purpose) is not uncommon for a stay-at-home-parent. But I have to do something about it before depression really takes over. I have a few ideas. We’ll see…..