Life Has to Kick Me Down a Few Times Before I’ll Succeed

Life has thrown me more curve balls lately. I have four jobs; 2 are part-time, 2 are on-call. The on-call jobs don’t always have work. I say what days I can work, and they choose all the people they need. I get work once a month if I’m lucky. The part-time jobs only offer so many hours each week. What this boils down to, I barely make enough money to survive. Adding insult to injury, the state and federal governments kept my tax refund this year.

They kept the money for student loans. While unemployed for almost half the year, I had a deferment but that finished last month. First payments are due in March, but they kept my refunds anyway. The number they tell you to call, just an automated system that never lets you talk to a person. Literally, it told me I had four debts, nothing else, and the call ended. I filed for a forbearance, but I doubt I’ll get my refunds. Why does any of this matter?

The money from my tax refund would pay my psychiatry bill and dental bills. Until I figure things out, I canceled all my appointments because I’ll have enough to pay rent but nothing else. I’m waiting on approval for nutrition assistance. My car battery died. I’ll wait a week before someone can give me a jump because of scheduling issues. I don’t use my car much so I’m not worried. When I told my sister about some of my struggles and she offered this statement, “You’ll figure it out.” Super supportive.

I know I’ll figure things out, but I feel stuck in a pattern I can’t break. I thought seeing a doctor would help, but I can’t afford one. Over the last 11 years my annual income averaged about $18,000. I attended college during some of that time, but even after college I feel stuck in the same hole. Every attempt to climb out has failed or brought more obstacles; too many to overcome.

I’m stuck between finding a crap full-time job and trying to continue building my writing career. There are few jobs in my city for writers and fewer remote jobs for writing. I’ve applied to many and never get responses. I’ll keep applying. When will I make enough money to survive? I struggle with meeting new people and building relationships, but I can’t work on that until I’m not stressed about where my next meal comes form or if I can pay rent. Welcome to the great America with an expensive existence.

Let’s Bloom Together

I’ve been doing well to keep up with reading most of the posts on this fantastic collaborative blog and I’ve noticed that a lot of us are really struggling right now.

For me, I know that I can post on here to find at least one person who says they have experienced or are experiencing the same thing I am. It makes me feel so much less alone!

We all struggle with our mental illnesses therefore we should all try to lift each other up!

I empower anyone reading this to take a moment to leave a comment below with words of encouragement, a song that lifts your spirits or whatever the f*ck you want that is positive.

Maybe you have a routine that helps you overcome anxious thoughts, leave it below!

Tell us your favorite comfort food you indulge in when you’re struggling! Mine is usually ice cream, a chocolate chip cookie or an expensive smoothie.

Share with us what you appreciate most about this mental health community!

I can’t wait to read your responses!

My Mind Still Thinks I’m in Danger

When you grow up with an anxiety disorder, you don’t realize what kind of skills you’re developing. At an early age, I learned how to distinguish if someone was a bad person or not. Are they friend or foe? Growing up on the south side of almost any city will cause you to learn these skills willingly or otherwise. It was easy to see if someone was drunk, on drugs, or a mugger. I now avoid homeless beggars with a practiced indifference because I learned how to present myself in a way that projected, “I’m meaner than you. Fuck off!” It didn’t matter if I was meaner or not as long as they thought I was.

What happens when you integrate into everyday normal life where you have fewer threats? I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. No one around me went through similar struggles or battles. They lived a happy childhood with parents who didn’t verbally or physically abuse them. They have issues they are dealing with, but they have a support system to help them get by. They aren’t sitting at home alone rocking back and forth in an attempt to comfort themselves. They can make a new friend at the snap of a finger and not question someone’s trust. They can walk into a crowded room and thrive while I’m looking for exits, avoiding everyone, and trying not to hear and see every little detail in the room.

I can talk to anyone. I can jump into a crowd and find someone to chat with. I’ll know after a few minutes if I can get along with someone or not. I can make a new acquaintance. I rarely have the desire or energy for this. And close friendships? That part is hard. It takes so long for me to trust someone enough to let them in. Most people don’t stick around that long. I think most don’t want to. Some people, I see them as they are. They’re not bad people but they’re not good people either. I don’t want those people in my life. Other people drift away on their own.

I have no support system. I’ve never been close with anyone in my family. If I manage to find someone I can talk with more than once, they become my best friend for maybe a year or two and then life pushes us in different directions. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason certain people talk to me as often as they do is only because I always start the conversations. If I didn’t contact them, would they eventually contact me or not at all? Most of the time, the answer is not at all.

Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I only meet selfish people so caught up in their own bullshit they can’t see me. Sometimes it feels like they see everyone except me. I want to be seen and heard. I want to feel close to someone, but I can’t be close to just anyone. I can’t let someone in fast enough. All I can do is sit back and hope someone eventually wants to make the effort. I’ve made the effort multiple times for multiple people. I feel I’ve always gone above and beyond and get nothing in return. I don’t do it for praise or status. I do it in the hopes that someone will do it for me. Karma. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I want to be treated with kindness.

Idle Hands, Busy Work and Fighting Off Depression

As a writer, the most important thing I can do every day is, well, write. After all, they say a writer is someone who wrote today, and by that measure I’m more of an ass-sitter than a writer.

Most days.

It isn’t to say I don’t write; even if it takes months – or in the case of 22 Scars, years – I will eventually get things out. But on a day-to-day basis, I more often sleep and procrastinate. I’ll often lie in bed, daydreaming about where I want my writing to go, or thinking of what to write for the evening’s blog, but in the end nothing gets done.

Depression’s a bitch.

The thing is, the less I do, the more I feel depressed, and the more I feel depressed, the less I do. It’s a cycle I’m sure many of you are familiar with. And that cycle, for me, breaks when my bipolar upswing takes effect, and I write feverishly for perhaps a week or two, before sliding back into a period of low mood that might last for another four months.

I wrote 22 Scars – as in, time spent daily writing words for the story – in about two months. Yet I spent the previous twelve years pretending I was going to write it. A bit of planning here, half a chapter there … but nothing ever really happened.

And herein lies the biggest problem. If I aim to use writing as a method of working through depression – after all, the whole point of 22 Scars was to be an ode to my teenage despair – then I need to actually write, because otherwise I know I’ll just fall into despair.

It takes a great deal of personal and emotional effort to make yourself do anything – never mind something creative, like writing – when you don’t feel like doing anything at all. When you hate yourself, and hate your work, and want to just lie in bed all day. I love sleep, because it’s an escape from the drear of the everyday.

And most days, the energy to break through that wall just isn’t there. I just can’t see past the dark veil that clouds my mind, my judgement, and my desires.

Around this time every year I make plans and commitments to better myself, to keep writing more and more frequently, and to actually make something of myself. And in around a month or so, I’ll give up on those plans, because fuck that shit.

But I can’t say it’s all for nought; two years ago I decided I would finally sit down and make my young adult novel come to life, and lo and behold – I did it. It took a few months of very, very hard work – during which time I nearly imploded with the weight of the depression that the story brought out of me – but I made it happen. I published it in late 2017.

Last year, I made the same commitment for my fantasy work, and got my third novel out there a few months ago.

So what does 2019 hold?

I have plans for a new novel, one that takes on mental illness again, but in a slightly different tone. It focuses on several characters, and their journey through a life of music, misery and angst. I really, really want to make it happen this year – as in, write it in the early months, publish it in the later months.

But it’ll take more than just a commitment to writing the novel. If I want to keep myself well, if I want to vainly prevent the dark slide into the abyss, I’ll need to write here, too.

Because writing, ultimately, is about communicating. And whilst writing a novel is one way of doing so, it’s a lonely, solitary process. And if I can reach out to a community of people who believe in and support what I do on a regular basis, it might just provide me with the motivation I would otherwise be missing.

So here’s to 2019, and here’s to all of you – because without you, I would be nothing.

You Aren’t Struggling Because You Suck

Hey, you. Yes -YOU! -The one with your head hanging down, sitting in the corner with your vice at hand.

I’m here to give you a pep talk.

Hey! Put that bottle back down. It’s not that kind of talk.

rafki-altoberi-1085995-unsplash

I’m not going to tell you that you can do great things; that you ought to feel better; that you need to buck up because tomorrow will be a better day. You and that negative voice in your head know that’s all lies. Tomorrow will be just like today, but you’ll be older.

I’m here to tell you a few truths.

First, you don’t suck. You have just as much right to be around as that guy over there laughing at a funny joke his friend told him. You are just as worthwhile as that woman walking her dog. You deserve the same life as that cute little toddler chasing his sister at the park nearby.

Why? Because you are as much human as they are.

Number two: Everyone has problems. Sure; rich and healthy people have fewer problems -BUT wait- they actually just have different ones. It’s kind of like how superheroes have powers but also weaknesses.

joey-nicotra-510944-unsplash

Your superpower is having an incredible depth of character and thought. Not that you can change your origin story, but wouldn’t you rather have that than Rich Man dickishness?

Thirdly, you do not have a mental illness because of your sins. If extremely difficult trials came about because of behavior, more rotten people would be falling apart Voodoo Doll-style. I am not even joking. Historically, really terrible people have lived decent lives. Look them up and you’ll see.

You have a mental illness because of things like genetics, learned negative behaviors, possible parental substance abuse, etc. In short, because of things you could not control and cannot change at this point in history anyway.

The fourth thing I’d like to point out is that, if God is your thing, He has promised to help you. He has not promised to keep smashing you into the pile of your discarded cigarette butts -well, unless you’re living in Old Testament times and have insulted one of His prophets. Most of those stories have likely suffered the effects of a really long game of Telephone and shouldn’t be taken at face value anyway…

Point is that God didn’t smite you, but does want to bless you.

milada-vigerova-8290-unsplash.jpg

Fifth, for EVERYONE is that there are people out there who want to love you. The world wide web creates much too big of an environment for us to deal with in terms of seeking universal popularity, but it does provide the means to get in contact with like-minded people.

Just look at this blog: nearly ten thousand followers. Thousands of comments saying how nice it is to find others who relate.

Don’t go hugging random street bums and getting mugged. Do try connecting with people you can trust.

Last but not least, your inner voice is not right. It’s speaking through layers of skewed perspective, self-protection, and real and assumed hurt. Operating from that far in, it says unkind and untrue things.

Your negative thoughtspeak is one side of a lever permanently stuck in the mud. If you really want to reach a level view, you need to accept the positive side of situations as well.

Accepting, at the very least, my six truths will help you achieve that balance.

markus-winkler-804106-unsplash

Now, I don’t want you to ‘get out there and show the world what you’re made of,’ but I do need you to come out of the corner. Thing is, the world probably isn’t quite ready for your superpowers yet -but it needs them.

So, who’s with me?

Photo credits:
Rafki Altoberi
Joey Nicotra
Milada Vigerova
Markus Winkler

Honor Your Story

This was my first post after my last failed attempt at blogging. I post it as a reminder that we all have a story, we all have our struggles and we can overcome. Stay true to yourself and don’t ever give up, you are not alone.

It’s funny how things happen. How sometimes, a seamlessly, insignificant trip to the store can turn into an eye-opening event. It’s been a while since I’ve posted, well, it’s been almost a year, and it saddens me to think of all the time I’ve lost, but also makes me smile as I sit here understanding that the reason it’s been so long is the same reason I feel the need to begin again.

Your StoryWhen I started this blog back in August of last year I was on a path I knew was mine. I felt as if I was moving with the current of my life and that things were falling into place so effortlessly. I was back where I was meant to be, and there was nothing that would get in my way. What I wasn’t expecting was the same darkness that kept me from this path in the past would creep up once again. You see, not long after I began this most recent journey I had unexpected health issues that involved surgery, which put me out of commission for approximately six weeks. While surgery went smoothly, and physically, I fully recovered, I was completely unaware of what it would do to me mentally.

When I was younger, and in different times in my adulthood, I suffered from bouts of anxiety and depression. Back then, if you would have asked me, I would have said I was fine and that there was nothing wrong with how I acted, reacted, or led my life. I would say this because I truly and deeply felt that was the truth. I didn’t feel there was anything wrong with never smiling, hating the world, screaming my side of a story, crying for no reason, and having no energy to even lift a cigarette to my mouth. The panic attacks would make me nervous, but because they happened even on a good day, I believed it was just who I was. When confronted about the possibility that this was not normal, I would blame my situation or everyone around me. Never did I stop to think that something may actually be off with me.

That’s the thing about depression, when you’re in it, you don’t even know it, and when do know it, you have no idea how to get out of it, and sometimes no desire to. It can feel like the most comfortable place in the world to be, but also as if something has a hold of your insides and just won’t let go. This is teamed with intense anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts that overcome you even when you try your hardest to be rational, making even the most sane person feel crazy.

After years of not knowing where these feelings came from I now believe that hormones are my way. When I was younger, keeping busy helped, and as an adult I learned to recognize these bouts and would attempt to fight back, winning most battles, but it wasn’t until I was on medication did I get any true reprieve. Not saying this is the answer for everyone, it has been a very long time since I had these feelings. However, unfortunately, even at a peak of positivity in my life, to my dismay, I found myself back in this place after surgery. I stopped writing, running, engaging and even wanting to get out of bed. At first, I didn’t recognize this familiar darkness because it had been so long, but once I did, I realized I had to fight back, and started to make changes, and the first one was to talk about it. It’s taken months, but I can finally say, I’m feeling myself once more, and I’m ready to begin this journey once again.

I tell this story, not for pity, but for hope. Depression and anxiety are real, they are not made-up feelings to get attention. You may not suffer from it yourself, but I guarantee you know someone who does. If you met me, you may never have thought, and to many, this will come as a complete surprise. We have been taught to be ashamed of it, told to deal with it, or just plain get over it. If only it were that simple. I was able to overcome because someone listened when I recognized it in myself, someone was there when I made myself ask for help, and someone encouraged me to allow myself to be helped. I wasn’t always able to do this, and not everyone can, so they need support. Listen, don’t judge, and don’t assume you understand or have the answers, just be there. For those who do suffer, talk, don’t assume we know, ask for help, and you may be surprised how many are listening. There is light after the darkness and there is a path there, but sometimes it takes more than the will to overcome, you may need a strong soul or an army to have your back, but it is possible, I know.

After several months MIA, I wasn’t sure if I would be led back to writing again, and even if I was, I really didn’t know how I would pick back up. Thoughts of what I would say or if I should even attempt it, ran over and over in my head. It wasn’t until a seemingly, insignificant trip to the store did I realize that it was time to find my voice again. The pictured quote was written on a wooden plaque as I passed through looking for a card, and at first glance I continued to walk by, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. Before I left the store that day I bought it and hung it over my desk. Nothing spoke more truth to me at that moment. I needed to tell my story, and my story involved struggles, my story involved depression and anxiety, my story involved hope, my story involved real happiness, and my story mattered, and if I do nothing else, I’m going to honor it. So I’m back, and I’m looking forward to many more chapters.

Honor your story, whatever it may be, because you never know, one word, one moment or one seemingly insignificant trip, can change your course or even the course for someone else.

Lots of Love,

Lisa

Find Your Tribe

“Surround yourself with the dreamers, and the doers, the believers, and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” -Edmund Lee

My favorite thing about writing this time around is not trying to figure out what to write about, but it is deciding which idea out of the endless ideas I have scribbled down speaks to me that day. The difference is absolutely stemmed from me, but I also give a massive amount of credit to those who surround me. I am constantly inspired, supported and loved, and because of that, my creative soul is nourished, and my fears are calmed. The day I chose to go out and seek my tribe was the day my life was altered. When I chose to open myself up to new experiences and new people, and trust the positive energy I encountered, my path, my life and my purpose shifted.

Before I embarked on my journey to find happy, I was closed off, unsure how people would see me, judge me or if they would even understand me. I was afraid to trust, and because I barely knew myself, I was afraid to allow myself to be known. It took time, change of perspective, change of heart and a new way of thinking, but for the first time in my life, I can truly show those around me who I am, the real me, the me that I’m finally able to be, and in turn be the partner, mother, daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend I’ve longed to be, without fear and without walls. I choose to surround myself with those who are like-minded, like-spirited and encourage and embody love. Most importantly I surround myself with those who love me, flaws and all, unconditionally. I am becoming who I am meant to be because I have found my tribe, my soul nourishing “spiritual” tribe, and my heart is always full because this tribe that allows me to find me, just continues to grow.

When you surround yourself with people who see you, really see you, for everything you are, without restraint or judgment, you find a light inside yourself you may never have allowed yourself to see before. When you have people to laugh with, cry with, share ideas with, run with, veg with, collaborate with and share your honest life with, conquering the world seems more possible than ever. When supported and guided by those who see you for you, the person behind the shy, insecure, shameful, sad and unhappy person you used to be, shines bright to show the world the beautiful, kind, talented, fun, loving confident human you are meant to be.

Find your tribe. Seek out those who cheer your successes, teach you that your failures are just lessons towards greatness, love you through the hard times, and are a big part of the great times. Surround yourself with those who see you for every part of you, every crack, every smile, every insecurity, every crazy idea, and love you still. Share your life with those who lift you up, feed your soul and embody the spirit of who you are, and who you strive to be.

Much Love,

Lisa

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoPerry Grone

Judged

Desolate

Undermined

Lost

Confused

Misused

Berated

Segregated

Stigmatized

In Society’s Eye

Chastized

Minimized

Categorized

Broken Ties

Ostracized

Penalized

Compromised

Systematically

Demoralized

Better off Dead

Thoughts in this Head

Regretfully

Ever Said

Made to lie

In this Painful Bed

Night, I dread

Light, I seek

Judged

Instead

Friendship, Reignited

To those of us who’ve spent the majority of our lives struggling with anxiety and depression, one of the biggest obstacles to overcome is isolation. For me personally, this wasn’t actually an issue until I became a parent, because as someone with very little family, I always felt as though I needed a barrier of friends around me for protection. Fortunate as I was to have found those people when I was younger, I came to find, after entering adulthood, that friendship wasn’t quite what it seemed before.

What was once a crutch for my fear of loneliness, has now become an a burden of sorts, for I cannot seem to get back to being the kind of person who can actually maintain friendships. I was the type of friend that was always there when you needed them, but was also the one who failed to get invitations to parties and such. I’m the person who will tell you what you need to hear, no matter how badly it’s not wanted, and while I’m conscious of it as a flaw, I still tend to categorize it as a strength.

Recently I reconnected with an old friend, someone who’s been through some of the worst moments of my life with me, someone I’ve known for 16 years. There was a time when we were inseparable, never going days let alone years without talking, but we haven’t seen each other in about a year and a half. We’re both nearing our thirties yet we live completely opposite lives – mine revolving around my husband and daughter, and her still being single and living at home with her family. While it’s difficult to relate to her now in some ways, it’s also refreshing to talk to someone with a little bit of outside perspective, because sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

The moment that I basically gave up on everyone in my life was shortly after my daughter was born, nearly no one I’ve ever called a friend has even met her, and I got tired of always hearing the same old line, “Let’s make plans soon!” or “We’ll have to get together soon!”. Eventually you just stop believing it, seeing it for what it really is, a formality to lessen their guilt over not even remotely being there for me in any way at all. I began pushing everyone away, and I can’t honestly say that I regret it very much. It seemed like the mature thing to do, just accept it was all talk, let everyone off the hook, and focus on my daughter, since no one else was interested in being part of her life.

Back to now though, I’m relieved to have someone I can talk to outside of my husband, because while he’s my best friend, sometimes a woman just needs the ear of another woman to feel heard and understood. And let’s be honest, there’s just some things that men don’t want to talk or hear about, and I try not to overburden him with all of my anxieties and stresses, as he’s carrying enough on his shoulder trying to keep food on our plates and a roof over our heads.

This time around, I’m going to try to force myself to stay in touch with her, because at least she knows the true me and has been there through some of the defining moments of my life, good and bad, and doesn’t need explanation for my feelings and thoughts. We have plans for tomorrow and I have to admit, I’m more excited than I’ve been in years. She’s genuinely thrilled to spend time with my daughter, and what could warm a mother’s heart more than an old friend bonding with your child? Right now, it feels priceless.