Message of Hope- After A While- Veronica A. Shoffstall — Go Dog Go Café

Hello Everyone– In these times of uncertainty and fear, I wanted to share a poem with you that I cut out of a newspaper 26 years ago. To give you a …

Message of Hope- After A While- Veronica A. Shoffstall — Go Dog Go Café

Message of Hope- After A While- Veronica A. Shoffstall — Go Dog Go Café

I just had to share this beautiful, encouraging poem originally posted by The World according to Redcat. A message worth keeping through the years.

The Egg Theory

By: Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.

 

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

 

And that’s when you met me.

 

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

 

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

 

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

 

“Yup,” I said.

 

“I… I died?”

 

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

 

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

 

“More or less,” I said.

 

“Are you god?” You asked.

 

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

 

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

 

“What about them?”

 

“Will they be all right?”

 

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

 

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

 

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

 

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

 

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

 

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

 

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

 

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

 

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

 

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

 

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

 

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

 

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

 

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

 

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

 

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

 

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

 

“Where you come from?” You said.

 

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

 

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

 

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

 

“So what’s the point of it all?”

 

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

 

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

 

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

 

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

 

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

 

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

 

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

 

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

 

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

 

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

 

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

 

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

 

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

 

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

 

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

 

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

 

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

 

“I’m Jesus?”

 

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

 

You fell silent.

 

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

 

You thought for a long time.

 

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

 

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

 

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

 

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

 

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

 

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

 

And I sent you on your way.

I Don’t Want to Die But I Hate Living

Sometimes I’ve thought about how others would react if I passed away. Everyone’s had that thought I’m sure. Wondering who would cry or who would attend the funeral. It’s hard not to imagine the church setting empty during your funeral. It was a long time before I felt people in my life would get upset if I died. I never thought of killing myself, but I never thought anyone cared if I was alive or dead. Finding the motivation to keep going every day with those thoughts can be difficult. I don’t know how I worked through that.

Now that I know people, I have people who would mourn my absence if I passed, I still struggle with motivation. I know those closest to me love me, but I’m not happy with my life. I’ve felt trapped in a hole for too long and there’s often no escape. I keep going somehow but I hate living. I hate that I can’t receive my basic needs. I don’t want to live in a world I can’t afford to live in. Will things turn around for me this Summer? At least I’m saving money but most of it will disappear if I don’t have a job in the fall.

I have many passions and many reasons to keep going. Pursuing those passions does not always sustain my finances. If anything, it costs more to be creative with little return. No appreciation. No support. It’s hard to continue doing what you love when no one loves you for doing it. I’m taking steps to change my situation. The future is still unclear, but I’m feeling positive. If I plan well enough, I can do what I love in a sustainable way. I can pay my bills with my passions.

It will be a long time before I’m 100% self-employed, but I can see the light at the end of tunnel. It’s years away, but I can see it. I don’t want to die because my goals are reachable. I don’t want to die because I never want to hurt my friends that much. I have many reasons to keep going. I’m holding on to all those reasons as long as I can. I’m forcing myself not to give up. My fear is what will cause me to give up. What will make me decide living is too much? I hope I never find out.

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You’re Not the Only One (And That’s a Good Thing)

Don’t you think that you need somebody?
Don’t you think that you need someone?
Everybody needs somebody
You’re not the only one

Guns N’ Roses – November Rain

Loneliness – the dreadful, gnawing sense of abandonment and despair that comes from knowing that no one in the world suffers as you do – can be devastating. Worse still, you often feel as though you deserve it, because you’re somehow less than other people – less capable, less valid, less … human.

I used to feel this way a lot. I still do, sometimes, although as I’ve gotten older and weathered the storms of depression I’ve learned that even despair passes with time, and that even the loneliest among us aren’t really alone. It doesn’t change the feeling itself – in the moment, when the black closes in around you, you know beyond any doubt that you are utterly, completely alone.

It isn’t true, though. Not really.

Humans, by nature, need companionship. We crave it. We want it with every fiber of our being, and yet … sometimes we reject it. Sometimes, even when a friend comes knocking, we fail to answer the door. When a hand reaches out in the dark, we see it – and turn the other way.

Many of us … struggle with feeling valid. [But] it’s possible to be wrong.

I used to wonder about this. I used to think that loneliness could be a kind of strength, a measure of how deep my depression ran. That, somehow, being alone meant I was validated in my despair, that it was … okay, I guess, to feel so miserable. And I would see overtures from friends and family, and I would actively push them away, driving them off like rats with a stick.

I used to wonder why I was like this. Why on earth did I reject others’ attempts to help me? Why did I want to be alone?

The answer, I believe, lies in the belief of self-worth. Many of us, especially here on this blog, struggle with feeling valid, with believing that we’re worth something. Something deep inside triggers us into feeling that, no matter what, we don’t deserve the love of friends, family, colleagues … that, simply put, we aren’t worth the effort.

I know this feeling all too well. It once was bad enough that I remember thinking that I was punishing the world simply by being alive – that the air I was breathing would be better suited to someone else. I wanted to die, not only because of the depth of my misery, but because it somehow felt that it would be fairer to those around me to just not have to worry about me anymore.

But here’s what I’ve learned over the years. What you feel doesn’t change how others feel. Your beliefs don’t affect those of the people around you. And it’s possible to be wrong.

You see, from the moment you’re born to the moment you die, there are people who care about you. And the don’t care because they must – they care because they want to. There are, of course, varying levels of care, based on the feelings of sadness and hurt when you suffer, but there are so many, many more people in the world that care about you than you know.

Because every single word you utter, every sentence you type, every glance you give, affects the people you know – and sometimes the people you don’t. I don’t know you – we’ve never met – but I care. James here at The Bipolar Writer cares – for crying out loud, he’s even offered his phone number publicly! And believe me that the people who do know you care even more.

I attended a funeral last year for a friend of mine. If I’m honest (I hope he forgives me), he was no one special. He didn’t write books; he didn’t make movies. He wasn’t famous. Sometimes he was depressed; sometimes he didn’t want to carry on, especially towards the end. But he did; he powered through his cancer until the bitter end, because he wasn’t alone. And nowhere was this more evident than at the outpouring of love at his funeral. Yes, there were tears – but more than that, there were laughs, and good memories, and a sense of companionship between the rest of us who live: brought together by one person.

So what I’m trying to say here is simple: you’re not the only one to suffer. And you aren’t alone in your suffering. Every one of us here at The Bipolar Writer has, in one fashion or another, been in your shoes; we know what it’s like. We care. So do many. And the community James has built here should help you understand this simple idea:

You aren’t alone.

The Ups & Downs of Being Mentally Ill

I have not written on here for a while because of how up and down my mental health has been. Especially over the past week, I have had some really low days. On Saturday I couldn’t get out of bed,  shower or muster the energy to open Netflix to watch a movie to calm my anxiety.

My first post on here was about how my mental health was in a good place. For months I felt really good! I didn’t have any suicidal thoughts or urges to hurt myself in any way. I had energy, I felt that things were finally going my way.

Sure I still had my depression and anxiety but I felt that I was in control instead of them controlling me.

Then all of a sudden the tables turned (or the turn tables, if you’re a fan of The Office).

My brain decided to tell me all sorts of horrible things it knows will make me fall to my knees. It went from whispering to shouting in the last few days that the world would be better without me in it. That nobody at all would miss me but rather breathe a sigh of relief.

Writing that out makes me cringe but from reading the posts on here, I know I’m not the only person who is feeling or has felt this way.

When I’ve been doing well and then my mental illness tackles me to the ground without warning, I’m taken off guard. I have to remember how to handle these situations. How do I calm myself down when I’m shaking with anxiety? How do I stop these negative thoughts from drowning me? Why don’t I have a drop of energy?

I have my eyes looking forward to therapy today where I hope I can get myself situated again.

I hope that if you’re going through these ups and downs too, you can find peace and make it through this challenging time.

Stay strong, everyone!

Mental Illness, Escapism, and Addiction

I have been on medication for my bipolar disorder – and depression before it – for a great number of years. The most recent cocktail of drugs has been the same since late 2015, when I nearly ended my own life, and it’s been keeping me pretty steady, as these things go. I’m not perfect, but the extremes of mood, the violent anger, and the crushing depressions are lessened, if not gone entirely.

I also drink. Not a lot – not every day – but when I drink, I usually drink too much. It’s contraindicated with my medications, but that doesn’t really mean much to me. I drink anyway. I drink, very specifically, to get drunk. I drink beer, I drink wine, I drink rum and scotch, and I drink quite deliberately, pacing myself over minutes and hours until I fall into a stupor in bed and sleep it off through the night.

I think, deep down, I’m somewhat of a hedonist. I don’t know if this comes from the depression or some other innate personality trait, but I am, for lack of a better phrase, a pleasure-seeker. I very much enjoy physical pleasure, and the sensation of drunkenness falls into this category for me. It’s a form of escapism that requires very little concentration or effort, and when it hits, I can just lie back and let it wash over me.

With medications keeping me level, why do I need escapism, you might ask. Why do I need a vehicle for altering my state of mind, when the whole point of the ‘official’ drugs is to keep my mind from entering that altered state in the first place?

I think a part of it is that I have conditioned myself over decades to avoid misery. I have been so miserable for so long that I instinctively gravitate to anything that feels good, happy or pleasurable. I have very little self-control in this regard; I don’t set rules for myself, like ‘you can have a drink after you do the dishes’; I just drink, and fuck the dishes.

Another part is, almost certainly, a dangerous level of chemical dependency. As I mentioned above, I don’t drink every day – but I do go through phases where I might drink daily for several weeks straight. I usually drink until I’m out of alcohol. It rapidly becomes habit. The same is true of other vices; I recently acquired a small amount of pot from a friend, and against my original intention of maybe once a weekend, I’ve been smoking three or four times a week.

This all leads me to question my behaviors, and the more fundamental motivations behind them. Do I smoke and drink because I’m miserable, because I’m addicted, or because I really kind of just … like it? Like all behavior affected by mental illness, it’s a difficult question to answer, because the very nature of mental illness is changed behaviors … but there comes a point where illness ends and addiction takes over.

I’m not an alcoholic; I know people who are, and I don’t ‘need’ booze to function. I’m not a drug addict; I don’t blow hundreds on weed, and I don’t smoke before, during and after work (for example). But I am dangerously close to this level of functional need, and I recognize it when the thing I look forward to at the end of the day is getting high and watching Family Guy reruns.

That’s usually when I stop – when I see the signs of tipping into the abyss, and take steps to right myself. So far I’ve always been able to come back from the brink, but I worry about one day …

Yet I continue anyway. I refuse to stop permanently. I refuse to relinquish the physical pleasures of drink and drugs. I don’t ‘need’ them, but I want them. Like, a lot.

And sometimes, I wonder if it’s really so bad. I’m aware of the long-term physical and mental changes and harm caused by alcohol and drug use, but I still can’t help believing that the immediate reward is worth it. Intellectually I know that liver damage, lung cancer and mental deterioration are some of the absolute worst ways to die, but emotionally … I kind of just don’t care. I’ve had people tell me that my health is all I have; I’ve heard the arguments before. But when your mental health fails you, you couldn’t care less about your physical health. And whilst the two are most definitely related, it’s difficult to have the second without the first.

That’s when I wonder if the escapism of physical pleasure isn’t worth it after all. The mental toll each day takes, whilst variable, is still a harsh one, and the ability to use a substance – of one kind or another – to forget it is dreadfully tempting. And I recognize this as a controversial perspective – why, you ask, don’t I deal with my problems instead of avoiding them – but I truly believe life is for living, and should be enjoyed daily, if at all possible.

What do you do, when your brain refuses to let you do just that? What do you do, when your own mind is a battleground of misery and despair? What happens when you wake up and simply can’t get out of bed? What is there to look forward to?

And in those trying times, is self-medication justifiable? Is it even self-medication at all – or just an excuse to escape from reality?

And is such escapism really so wrong?

My Romance With Death

Death is such a strange yet familiar concept to me. It is strange because I don’t understand why people fear death. I know that it is simply natural to fear your life coming to an end; but I don’t understand it one bit. I seem to have a very romanticized view of death, that it is an end to the life that I don’t really want. Yet, I know that feeling is simply my depression talking, but since I’ve been depressed for so long, it’s become difficult to tell the difference between my true feelings and what my depression tells me. I have a feeling that I’m not alone in that respect. That many of you who suffer the same way I do have had the lines between your depression and your self blurred. It’s a very strange feeling to have these thoughts in my head that I don’t even know are mine. No, I don’t, and never have, heard voices telling me to do things, but its almost as if there are two sides to my personality. One being the overwhelming force of my depression, and the other being the meek side of me that wants to live. It is a constant battle between these two opposing forces, yet there doesn’t seem to be a clear victor. My romance with death almost makes me feel like Deadpool in a way. I love the thought of death, well at least the peaceful kind. Still, I have these fantasies in which I die a violent and heroic death all the time. For example, I would imagine myself being mugged at knifepoint or gunpoint, and refusing to give the mugger anything and just generally being a badass. Getting shot or stabbed because of my blatant disregard for the situation’s severity, yet still managing to subdue to suspect, and then later dying from my wounds. It has always been a dream of mine to go out in a spectacular fashion, to which people would be telling stories about how amazing I was. I know that I am strange for having these thoughts about death, especially when most people are terrified of it. Again, I’ve been depressed for so long, that I can’t even tell if this is how I truly feel, or its just my depression.

The good news however, is that my new meds seem to be working. I haven’t really had a suicidal ideation in quite a long time. What is really nice is that it doesn’t even feel different anymore to not have suicidal ideations. When I first went on medication, that worked, and I lost my suicidal ideations I almost felt lost without them. Now, I feel like a sort of weight has been lifted in a most amazing way. I mean to be honest, I can do without the side effects, like getting the shakes when I don’t eat anything for 8 hours, but I mean what can you do. All medications these days have such drastic side effects that you just hope the end result is worth whatever troubles you have to go through. However, still hate my job…so that is going to be weighing me down for a while. Not to mention I’m in debt up to my eyes. Although, every step I take forward, I have to look back to remind myself how far I’ve actually come. To make sure that when I take a step back, it doesn’t feel like the end of the world, when its actually just a minor setback in my perpetual progress. Anyways, thanks for listening to me rant for a hot minute, hopefully you can take something away from this article to help yourself, or at least feel not so alone.

Man it feels good to be back!!!

Yours,

Wolfgang

Music and the Memories of Depression

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the baroque era to black metal, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening to some kind of music, first on a little cassette player, then on CDs, and now of course through online streaming. In fact, the world of streaming music has opened my library up to hundreds of thousands of songs that I would never have thought to listen to before.

According to my iTunes library, I’ve listened to the 10,000 songs in my library over 300,000 times. Some I’ve listened to only once or twice, of course, but the top ten percent of plays – 30,000 or so – are of just sixty songs – by just ten artists.

From Coma White by Marilyn Manson, at 450 plays, to Brief is the Light by Sentenced, at nearly 500, these sixty songs are an unintentional reflection of my mental state over the years. On average, I’ve listened to these sixty songs at least once a week for the past fifteen years (since I first built an iTunes library), although of course there’ve been days when I’ve listened to some on repeat for hours at a time.

You see, music is my memory. I don’t have the sharpest recollection for things, people or events, but listening to a particular song will invariably revisit the feelings I was experiencing when I first came to know and love it. For me, music is feeling, it is emotion, and frequently, it is depression.

When I listen to My Hope, the Destroyer by My Dying Bride, I am returned to the gloriously dark, gothic days of my teenage depression, candles and vodka late at night, wondering if I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life. When I hear Join Me In Death by HIM, I remember the blood running down my arms as I cut myself repeatedly, wishing I had the strength to cut deeper, harder, more finally.

These aren’t necessarily pleasant memories, but they are the foundation of who I am today – the essence of my soul. It would be a disservice to forget who I used to be, and how it led to who I am today. There are still days when I simply can’t cope, when I want to sleep all day and forget the world; there are days when I just want to cease existing. This last week has been especially hard, coping with the death of a dear friend and being asked to read his eulogy.

And in those times, I fire up my Depression playlist, and I remember. I remember what it feels like to be alone; what it’s like to be numb, and miserable, and to want to die. These are powerful memories, and they’re important.

Sometimes people ask me why, if I’m already depressed, I choose to listen to music that reinforces the feeling. They wonder why I don’t listen to happy music to cheer myself up. The answer is that I don’t use music to change my mood; I choose my music to reflect my mood. When I’m at my darkest, I need strength; when I’m at my lowest, I need reassurance. And the memories of past sadness is, in a way, just that: a reminder that I’ve felt this way before, and that I’m still here.

Music, in the end, is timeless and eternal. And in this, it serves as a reminder that all things pass, for better or for worse. I too will die one day, and I don’t want that day to come having wasted what’s left of my life.

That doesn’t mean I want to write a book, or cross off a bucket list; to me, that’s not the measure of a life well spent. To me, it’s about feeling. And feeling, be it happy or sad, alive or numb, is the essence of life. For some, they get their feelings from movies, or books; some get it from food, or family.

I get it from music. I am eternally grateful for the music in my life, and I will continue to rack up the plays on those top sixty songs for the rest of my life. Every time I need to remember, every time I need to feel, those songs will be there for me.

So remember to listen, and remember to feel: we aren’t long for this world.

Don’t Feed the Reaper

Right off the top: I am absolutely thrilled to be here. To be in the company of such strong and inspiring people is truly a gift. I  hope I can live up to the high content standards that have already been set.

Me: perpetually-single, dry-humoured, sometimes inappropriate, over-sharing, adjective-loving female. I love to write. Have struggled with anxiety and depression since I was a kid. Recently went off my meds.

Let’s dive in.

Note: this is a repost of a piece I wrote for my own blog. I figured it was a good starting point. From this point on, however, everything I post on here will be original.

I used to think about dying a lot. I could say, “more than most people,” but I have no idea how often most people think about dying. “How often do you think about dying?” is not typically one of my go-to “get to know you” questions. I did ask it once at a speed dating event. Just kidding. It’s pretty much a given that the only thing people are thinking about at speed dating events is, “How on earth did I get to this place in my life?”

But, I digress.

One of the results of always thinking out dying, about me dying and my friends dying and my family dying—and working myself into a giant, weepy, anxious, insomnia-inducing mess—was that I was constantly telling myself that I “shouldn’t take life for granted” and I should “live in the moment” and “life is short” so I should “live it to its fullest.”

I’ve always had a hard time doing all those things. Ever since I was a kid I struggled with enjoying what was happening because I was always trying so hard to ENJOY WHAT WAS HAPPENING. If I hadn’t slept the night before, all I could focus on during a brief visit with an aunt and cousin who I rarely see was how I’d ruined this potentially magical day by being tired. Every time my grandparents came to visit, my thoughts would be focused on the fact that this might be the last time I see them before they die. Every time I went home for Christmas, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t enjoy our fun, family traditions because, in the back of my mind, I was always wondering if it would be our last one together.

Not only did I ruin every moment by thinking about the crappy things that could happen or how it could be better, but I also extra ruined it by constantly telling myself to stop thinking those thoughts, and then beating myself up when I couldn’t. By the time the moment was over, I was exhausted.

The good news is, I rarely think about death like that anymore and, when I do, I have enough tricks in my toolbox to divert my thoughts elsewhere. Most of the time. Looking back on when I was a kid, I can now see that self-sabotaging in times when I should have been enjoying things came from anxiety and depression, both of which I am starting to learn how to manage. I mean, I’m no Eckhart Tolle, but I am learning to, for the most part, really experience happy times for what they are.  Mostly because I’m not thinking, “THIS IS A HAPPY TIME! WHY AREN’T YOU ENJOYING IT?” over and over again. Who knew?

My desperate need to constantly LIVE LIFE TO ITS FULLEST, however, took a bit longer to figure out. It took finally realizing what living life to its fullest actually means. To ME. And understanding that what it does mean and what I thought it should mean are different things. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t mean being in my forties and binge drinking and partying until 3am.

Except sometimes it still does.

I’m working on it.