“Remember, the two-legged and the four-legged are made by the same creator. We are relatives.” -Cloud Dancing (from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman)
“No creature is undeserving of love. God reminds us of that.” –Today’s Gift from Hazelden
It had been a long week. For various reasons, I was feeling especially lonely and disconnected. That’s kind of how the holidays have been for me. In and out of gratitude, comparison, joy, depression, back again to thankfulness, reflection, and back to hopelessness. Earlier in the week, I had spent time with my best friend, lost hope in what I thought was a promising romance, and learned of an upcoming publication success. The ups and downs of life. Nothing new. I came home Friday night, wanting to share my disappointments and successes with someone in my house. But there were more pressing issues that the people in my house had to share with me. I listened. I responded. I reacted. I worked: took out the garbage, started the car, brought water to my mom, washed the dishes, unstopped the toilet, swept the kitchen, fed the cat. I was needed. I started to wonder, if I didn’t come home, would anyone really miss me? Perhaps if the dishes started piling up. I don’t know. I wanted to run away. Perhaps starting over in another town would be good.
Okay, with the pity party over, I basically felt unappreciated, and codependently unable to ask for what I needed.
Of course the people who live with you are supposed to know what you need!
So Saturday, I slept. All day. My all day slumber was probably 50% depression, 30% exhaustion, 10% disappointment, and 10% guilt and shame for feeling the depression, exhaustion, and disappointment. Got up…ate…slept some more. I was checking out. Every time I felt a hint of emotional pain, I would turn over and sleep some more. It’s not the most evolved way of dealing with feelings, but it’s all I had yesterday. It was the best I could do. Toward the end of the evening, I emerged for a bit and spent time with my family…who were still quite self-focused. I watched a movie and then made a decision to not do this same thing again today. Sunday, I would get up, get dressed and go to church. Yes. Having somewhere to go will help.
That’s where the funny part comes in…
I woke up early this morning feeling the same sadness and hopelessness that I felt yesterday. I said, forget it. Maybe I need just one more day of slumber. It’s freezing outside anyway. I’m just going to turn over and go back to sleep.
The moment I turned over, there was my cat, Samson, on my bed, looking intently at something by his paw. He kept poking and poking at it. I thought it was a bug. But then, I saw the four legs…then the little tail…
It was a mouse!!
A dead mouse. The cold temperatures in Chicago have led those little mousey guys into our warm home. We have an old house and there are lots of cracks and crevices that those little guys sneak through. And my 10 year old cat, being the great mouser he is, caught that little guy, and brought him to his mama.
Disgusting yes. But two things happened here. Be careful what you wish for. Just a few days earlier, I had felt unappreciated. Here, my cat was showing me that not only did he appreciate me, that he loved me enough to bring me his prey to share.
The other thing that happened here was that I was so freaked out and disgusted by this dead mouse in my bed, that I was fully awake and no longer going to turn over and drown in my sorrows. If I was going to cry it out, I was going to cry it out among others. In church community. So I went to church, then took myself to breakfast. And then on to one of my favorite places…as I write this…I am at the library.
My problems unsolved, still feeling rather lonely, but among the living. Fulfilling my purpose through writing these words.
And it humbles me to think that God used two 4-legged creatures to communicate His message to me today:
You are Loved
Get your butt up and show that Love to others.
And so it is.
“Very often, healing is achieved through the act of expressing pain.” -Rokelle Lerner
Last weekend my best friend dragged me to a wedding. I say that she dragged me because when she first told me that she was coming into town, she wanted to know if I was available to go out for some free food and drinks. Thinking that the free food and drinks plus spending time with my BFF was an offer I could not refuse, I said yes. A few hours after she asked me if I wanted to go out, I get a text from her saying,
And oh by the way, did I mention that we are going to a wedding?
I chuckled. Leave it to my BFF to leave out this important info. Now, I was actually going to have to do my hair and find something nice to wear. No problem. Besides, I hardly ever get to spend time with my best friend. I also like getting myself all prettied up. But there was one thing I could not deny:
I am not a big fan of weddings.
I usually get very sad at weddings. Now if I am working/playing the flute at a wedding, I am okay because I’m focused on my performance and doing a good job. But being a part of the celebration is tough. Why in the world would I experience sad feelings at such a joyous occasion such as a wedding? I will be vulnerable and tell you the reason why. Despite the internal work I have done and the satisfaction I have with being with myself, I still have an ache in my heart; an unfulfilled dream of finding a special guy to share my life with.
There are times that I put this pain on a shelf, only taking it down to talk about it with God, or my closest companions. But weddings have a tendency to force that pain off the shelf.
I went anyway. The wedding was lovely. The bride was beautiful, the couple very much in love. Dinner was delicious. Spending time with my BFF was a blast. I was okay.
Until the third glass of wine.
There is something about alcohol that either makes you way too happy, or sends you in the opposite direction. In my case, and on this evening, it sent me toward the unhappy direction. I could no longer hold in my sadness. I withdrew to a world inside of my head where I was the bride and my special guy stared lovingly into my eyes as we danced the night away. In the midst of all that wedding happiness and chatter, I felt so alone. So I disappeared to a bathroom stall and wept.
I felt so ashamed. Not only was I breaking one of the Ten Commandments by coveting, but I was crying in the midst of a celebration. There, in the bathroom stall, that critical inner voice began to speak:
What the hell is wrong with you? You are so pathetic. This is ridiculous. This is a happy occasion and you have no reason to be sad. You are acting like a loser. You should have stayed home if you were going to be this way. You always have these emotional problems. This is why no one likes to hang out with you. This is why you are alone. Seriously, get over it.
After listening to my inner critic, I got myself together and emerged from the bathroom in a foul mood. I was completely disgusted with myself and what I was feeling. I isolated and sat in a corner. My best friend tried to get me to participate in more of the festivities and I refused. I wanted to leave as soon as possible.
Here is the question: Was my problem that I was just an emotional basket case because I was at a wedding? Or could it have been that my eventual foul mood and isolation resulted from me allowing my inner critic to bring me to shame?
Of course the wine had a lot to do with it. But for those of you who have been with me through this journey, you probably know the answer. I was so ashamed about the pain that was triggered at this wedding, that I did not and would not allow myself to just sit with the pain. It was trying not to feel the pain that caused my suffering. It was judging my pain that made it worse.
“It’s our attraction to being free of pain that causes suffering.” -Charlotte Kasl (from If the Buddha Dated)
I never stopped to think that maybe a single, 37 year old, never married woman may have a right to have sad feelings at a wedding. So what. I wasn’t breaking any laws and I didn’t make a scene; my feelings were my own. Perhaps if I had just let them be, the pain would have eventually passed, and the healing would have began.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. -Marianne Williamson
In my last post, I talked about my feelings of inferiority and how they get very close to the core of many of my issues. But I was left with the question: Is there a cure or a resolution for my feelings of inferiority?
Of course there is always hope. But how do you unravel years of believing that you are “less than” most people? I know what the answer is not. The answer is not to deny these feelings, no matter how uncomfortable they are. So I have to figure out a way to work through them.
This is nothing new. I’ve talked about working “through” feelings before (as opposed to working around them, jumping over them, or completely avoiding them). This is a good first step. However, if I go a bit deeper, I believe these feelings are triggered by comparison.
Instead of simply noticing and observing; I am constantly comparing my own status to others. It goes something like this: I observe someone else’s status or a situation; make a judgment about their status or situation (i.e. the other person, situation is better or superior to mine); and then compare it to myself or my own situation.
Observation + Judgment = Feelings of inferiority
Understanding the process helps me to find a resolution. The observation isn’t the problem. We are constantly observing the world around us. I think the issue is the judgment. Can I find a way to subtract the judgment from this formula? Perhaps if I found something to replace the “judgment” part of this equation with, I would be okay. There are a few options I thought about:
Observation + gratitude = Acceptance
Observation + self-compassion = Connection
These are both good options. I just have to continue to be mindful of when the comparison thing is happening. Mindfulness and awareness are wonderful tools in this healing and recovery journey.
I had to put this into practice recently when I attended an educational conference. The conference was attended by scholars and doctoral students that are studying the human-animal bond. I’m working on my own dissertation about this topic and was looking forward to learning and networking. However, prior to the start of the conference I kept thinking to myself, what am I doing going to this conference? I am going to feel really stupid compared to all of these people who have been doing research in this area for years. Oh and the doctoral students…they are all probably from “important” schools. I study online. I won’t be able to measure up.
As the day of the conference got closer, those feelings of inferiority were blaring loudly in my ear. But I knew they were there. I talked it over with my therapist, and she encouraged me to connect with the other people at the conference based on our shared experience…animals. The likelihood that people who study the human-animal bond actually love animals…well, I’m thinking it’s quite high.
So that’s what I focused on. Animals. The first night of the conference came, and as I was walking into the venue those inferior feelings came up. I didn’t deny them, but I was determined not to let them overpower me. I acknowledged them, and then said quietly to myself,
I belong here.
I kept saying “I belong here” over and over again to myself as I walked to the venue. Long story short, I wasn’t a social butterfly, but over the course of the time at the conference, I connected with some wonderful scholars and doctoral students without feeling “less than” any of them. I truly felt these people were my colleagues.
Is there a cure for my feelings of inferiority? Perhaps not. Like everything else, this awareness just gives me an opportunity to feel what I’m feeling, acknowledge it and let it go. And maybe through this process, I will wake up one day, and truly feel that my life is just as important as everyone else.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” John 8: 4-8 NLT
One of my favorite visual interpretations of Jesus is in a scene from the movie The Passion of the Christ. The scene is in flashback and it is representative of the story in the Bible where people are going to stone a woman who has been caught in the act of adultery (John 8: 8-11). In the story, once Jesus tells the crowd of people ready to stone the woman, “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (v. 7), they all begin to walk away. The Passion movie interprets this story in the Bible as the “woman” being Mary Magdelene. As the crowd ready to stone her begins to walk away, you see them in the background all dropping their stones. The woman, is face down on the ground with a look of shame and defeat, reaching for the feet of Jesus. As Jesus reaches his hand down to her to help her up and she reaches out to him and looks up to him as if to say, really? I’m not worthy of your compassion. Jesus reaches out lovingly and compassionately to this woman who is filled with guilt and shame for what she has done, and faced with condemnation by the people that surrounded her. Whether or not you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, there was a man who once walked this earth named Jesus and his life was all about love, peace, and compassion.
Last Friday night I was riding home on the train when this a man got on at one of the stops and began to speak. He said,
Excuse me everybody…
Usually when a person gets on the train and says that, I know what’s coming next. Living in Chicago you become used to the countless “homeless people marketing campaigns.” It’s hard to decipher who is really in need and who is trying to scam you. As soon as the young man began to speak, I grabbed a tighter hold to my purse and stared intensely out the window. I shrunk down in my seat. I was in a bad mood and I didn’t want to listen to this person begging for money. The man went on to say…
I know you all don’t wanna hear what I have to say, but I’m just tired of being homeless and I know you all don’t want to listen to me, but I’m just trying to do better for myself right now.
At this point, I was still not trying not to listen…besides, its usually the same old story anyway. He went on to say…
My father is an alcoholic and he beat me and threw me out the house. I’ve been living on the street since then. He told me I was nothing. I just need some help. Any help you can give me so I can get something to eat. I’m not gonna use it for crack or liquor. I stayed in a shelter and you don’t know what goes on there. I’m just asking for some help, anything.
Bingo. I was at full attention now. The guy got my attention (or perhaps it was God who got my attention) when he expressed our level of connection…my father is an alcoholic. I began to think…my father was an alcoholic…but he never told me I was nothing, he never beat me, and he never threw me out the house. I’m so blessed. Then the man, (who although I hadn’t yet seen his face, I was convinced he was most likely a young man from the sound of his voice), went on to say…
My father told me I was nothing. And I am nothing, I know I’m nothing, I’m nobody. I’m nothing.
He kept repeating I’m nothing over and over again. I was almost in tears. No one else said anything. They probably thought he was lying. And maybe he was. But if he was lying, that was not about me. I was being prompted to show this man compassion.
I had just got paid that day and just so happened to have some cash on me. I took a chance and took a 5 dollar bill out of my wallet and walked toward the man, who, as I looked at him now, I realized he couldn’t have been more than 18 years old, if that. His face was pale and dirty. He looked like he had been through a lot, but his eyes were young and innocent. I looked him in the eyes and I told him,
First of all I want to tell you that you are someone. You are someone because God loves you.
I had no idea where these words were coming from. I’m not the type of person that goes up to people I don’t know telling them about God’s love. I can write it, but evangelism is just not my thing. He looked at me with eyes filled with pain, as if he were saying, really? I’m not worthy of your compassion. The words he actually spoke broke my heart,
Thank you ma’am, but sometimes I feel like God hates me.
Again, not knowing where the words were coming from, I told him,
No matter what has happened, what you have done, God loves you because He created you.
He looked at me with this puzzled look, as if he was about to cry. I gave him the 5 dollars and told him to take care of himself. When the train got to the next stop, he looked at me and said thank you ma’am and got off. Probably on to the next hustle…
Now could the guy have been lying? Sure. Was I putting myself in danger by opening my wallet on the train? You bet. Did the guy take my money and use it for drugs or alcohol? Probably. I have given money to people on the street before. But this was different. I couldn’t ignore this prompting from God. There was a level of connection to his story and the grace I have been given, I couldn’t deny this man compassion. I realized that it wasn’t about him, it was about my connection to his story and the ability to share in the human experience.
I’m not telling this story to give myself a pat on the back for giving, but only to demonstrate that everyone is deserving of compassion, even those who fall face down on the ground.
Greetings fellow bloggers, writing fans, and readers!
(That made me feel important)
It’s the 7th day of August, and I haven’t even checked in with a topic for this month. That’s because I don’t have one! I have a couple of ideas, but I have been super busy in these first few days of August. Last Sunday I participated in an event that I will never forget. I decided to get baptized as an adult. Fully submerged in water. I wanted the chance to outwardly express my love for my Higher Power (as I define Him through Jesus Christ) as an adult because when we are baptized as children, we don’t get to make that choice. It was an amazing experience that I will write an essay about very soon. It was freeing and symbolic of washing away the shame of the mistakes from the past, and the promise of forgiveness in the future. I was very blessed to be able to take part in it.
Last Saturday I celebrated my 36th birthday, which if you read my essay about last year’s birthday, you know that my birthday is always a bit emotional for me. I had planned to spend the day alone, but was lucky enough to have my BFF (best friend forever) in town and I spent time with her and her family. It was nice. The birthday emotions were still there. But I tried to feel all of the emotions, the good and the not so good. There were tears and laughter, joy and pain, and I tried to be present for it all.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to be another year older (although I think I may start fibbing about my age…did I already tell you I was 36? Oooops, I meant 31, haha), but I still feel so “in-between.” As I reflected on being another year older, I began to have those famous “conflicting feelings” moments that I am prone to have, when I read a Melody Beattie affirmation (what would I do without that woman?):
“Sometimes, to get from where we are to where we are going, we have to be willing to be in-between. One of the hardest parts of recovery is the concept of letting go of what is old and familiar, of what we don’t want, and being willing to stand with our hands empty while we wait for God to fill them.”
I’m like, well what do you know?! That’s my issue with this year’s birthday. I feel so “in-between.” And it’s not one of those in-betweens that’s a block away. I feel like I’m in the in-between that goes on for infinity!
There is so much that is undone, so much that has yet to be accomplished. And of course, being a codependent, I focus on that instead of what has been done and what has been accomplished.
So I’ve decided for this month to be “in-between” for a topic. I will post random stuff. Well, maybe not random, but I will not focus on a particular topic, unless that’s the way my mind takes me. Perhaps I will even talk about being “in-between.” Or perhaps not. Whatever I talk about, I know that it’s all on the path to somewhere…somewhere good.
My latest essay, “The Shrink Who Killed Gazoo,” has just been published! Please visit r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal to read my piece as well as to read the pieces of other authors on the site. It is truly an awesome journal. Anyway, the link to my essay is below.
“Sometimes we hurt the people we love the most, and that’s more than words to a song.” -Melody Beattie (Codependent No More Workbook)
Side note: For some reason I’ve been in a Melody Beattie mood lately. I truly love this woman’s insight.
Step 9 of 12 step recovery suggests that we make amends. Specifically, the step says,
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
In step 8, we make a list of the people we have harmed from whatever issue we are facing, whether it be alcoholism, codependency, etc. In step 9, we take action to make amends. It’s clear that making amends to anyone that we have harmed or done wrong in the past is for the “amender” and not the “amendee.” It allows us to begin again with a clean slate. It enables us to release the guilt and shame from past behaviors. It allows us to be free to live in the future.
That all sounds really beautiful. But for me, I stayed stuck on step 9 for a long time. I had made the list of people to make amends to. Then I learned about the different ways to make amends. There’s a living amends where we change our negative behavior into positive behavior in response to the harm we’ve done. We can write a letter, or if we feel safe and our intentions are pure, we can sit down with the person and make direct amends to the person we have harmed…face to face.
After I made my amends list, I decided as of right now, the only person I wanted to make a direct amends to was my mom. I won’t go into detail about what I was making amends for, but after months and months of being stagnant about making the amends, I labeled myself as a coward. But in reality, I was just waiting until the time was right.
About a week ago over coffee and brunch one afternoon, I made the direct amends to my mom. Surprisingly, for the most part, her response was very affirming. But even if it wasn’t, that would not be about me. I was making the amends so that I could be free.
And it was very freeing…
I began to think about another person on my amends list. My Dad. Especially with Father’s Day approaching, I have been thinking about him a lot. My dad died about 9 years ago, so I’m obviously unable to make a direct amends to him. But I chose to write a letter. And I felt like sharing it here:
I miss you. A lot. You would probably find it interesting to know that I am currently working several 12 step programs to recover from various emotional issues. I sometimes think of my own recovery as an extension of the recovery from alcoholism that you never got a chance to experience. A part of my recovery program requires me to make amends to those that I have harmed. You are on my list. As well as mom. I already made amends to mom (which you know how difficult that must have been for me!) and I want to make amends to you. I have no doubt that you loved me. But I’m not sure if you knew how much I loved you, specifically when I became an adult. I was so busy running away from my childhood, that I distanced myself from you. I blamed you for a lot of my own unhappiness. As a child and as an adult, I didn’t fully comprehend that you had a disease. Until now.
I felt being close to you in adulthood would be too painful. I felt your sickness (both alcoholism and what you went through before you died) was too much of a bother. After all, I had a life to live. There were times when I would come by the house and all you wanted from me was a pop or a glass of iced tea, and I would ignore you or say no. Sometimes you may have even wanted to talk, but I didn’t want to talk to you. I don’t even know why I did those things. Perhaps I was angry at you for being an alcoholic. Perhaps I was angry at you then for becoming sick from years of drinking. But regardless, I am very sorry for my behavior and any harm that I may have caused.
I think about you and dream about you a lot. I feel your presence more frequently, especially now that I am living in the house that you worked so hard to provide for us.
I hope you have seen my grandma (your mom) and I hope that your spirit is free…
I love you, always…
Happy Father’s Day
“Practice having fun until fun becomes fun.” – Melody Beattie
For some reason, I had been struggling with what to write on the topic of fun. Perhaps it’s because I often struggle with letting go and having fun in my own life. So this post will be as much for me as it will be for those who read it. For awhile, I couldn’t figure out what angle to take with the “fun” topic. That is until my Higher Power led me to the Melody Beattie affirmation above:
Practice having fun until it becomes fun.
I realize that having fun (just like with joy and happiness) means different things to different people. Our interests differ as much as our personalities differ. What’s “fun” to me may seem strange to you. But the important thing is that we identify our interests and hobbies and that we define what fun means to us. Once we identify “our fun,” it is then important to put it into practice.
In 12 step recovery, the 4th step tells us to “make a fearless and moral inventory of ourselves.” In summary, it is a written exercise that tells the story of our lives based upon the challenge we face. I think that for those of us that are “fun challenged,” this may be a good idea to put into practice specifically for the topic of fun. Let’s all take a “fun inventory.” It may be helpful to write down the things you enjoy doing, things you have enjoyed in the past, things you feel shame about having fun doing, and things you want to do for fun in the future. Once you complete your fun inventory, don’t be afraid to share it with others.
I think doing something like this and sharing it with others will accomplish two things. First, it lets people know more about your interests. And second, if a person knows your interests, this may uncover a connection and encourage another to take part in your fun as well.
I have slowly been transitioning into sharing the things that I find fun with others. In my early adult life, I spent much of my time doing “fun things” alone because I thought (or assumed) the fun things I liked were bizarre and weird to others. Specifically others in my peer and cultural group.
But of course we all know what happens when we assume.
Last year around this time, I wanted to go see the Disney Nature movie, African Cats. I had saw its predecessor, Oceans in the theater by myself. I took a chance and asked a friend of mine if she wanted to come with me and bring along her two kids. She said yes. We had a lovely time.
I’m a fan of all kinds of music. I specifically love rock, and am a fan of several rock bands. A few years ago, there was one of my favorite rock groups coming into town. I figured no one would want to go with me. A black girl going to a rock concert? I took a chance and asked a friend of mine to go (she is also black). She said yes. Ever since then, we try and go to at least one rock concert a year. And we never coward down even though we’re normally the only “brown people” in the crowd.
I happened to see that the musical Cats was coming to Chicago last month. I had always wanted to see it. I know that you have to be a special kind of person to sit through a musical. I had planned to go by myself. But before I bought the ticket, I decided to put it out there to others that I was going, and would anyone like to go with me? I didn’t expect to get a response. But I did. One of my recovery friends said she would love to go. We went and had an amazing time.
These are my own personal examples of “fun and connection.” This may not seem difficult to those who are naturally social, are extroverts, or who often “fit in” to social norms. But for those of us that are loners and have spent a lot of time in emotional isolation, this kind of connection is huge.
So now that we have inventoried our fun things and shared them with others, it’s time to put it all in to practice.
But why should I have to practice having fun? Shouldn’t that come naturally? Shouldn’t I automatically want to have fun?
Have you ever been in the midst of a “fun” activity where your mind is so full of anxiety that your focus is only on your problems?
Do you feel guilt when you’re having fun?
When you go on vacation, do you bring your work with you, either mentally or physically?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, my personal opinion is that you are fun challenged. You need to practice having fun.
When our lives have been mostly serious…
When a chunk of our life has been about addiction, recovery, and emotional or physical pain…
When we become workaholics or compulsive debtors, and all we do is work to feel self worth or make enough money to cover our debts, or debt to feel important…
When all we know how to do is take care of others, as opposed to ourselves…
When we have gone through many of the things I have listed above and more…we don’t always know how to have fun. So we need practice.
Practice makes perfect. This is just a saying, and considering I don’t believe in perfectionism, let’s revise…
Practice makes “better.”
Practicing having fun makes us much better at it.
Having fun and connecting with others at the same time is an essential part of living a joyful life.
A side note. It takes courage to reach out and share your interests with others. It takes super-courage to ask others to share in those interests with you. Sometimes people will say no….for whatever reason. They’re busy, not interested, or there’s a better offer. Whatever.
I’m not going to tell you not to take it personally because that is advice that I can hardly take myself. But I will say, if someone turns you down to share in your fun…do it anyway, even if you have to do it alone.
After all, having fun by yourself is better than having no fun at all…
It’s good practice.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy (Proverbs 13:12 NLT).
A heart without hope is ripe for depression. Hope lifts us up; depression drags us down (Touch Points of Hope, 2003, p. 97).
In my last post, I mentioned how on Christmas Eve 2010, I had hit one of the worst emotional bottoms of my life. I made it through the night, only to have to take my mom to the hospital the next day and spend Christmas Day in the hospital with her. My mom spent about two weeks in the hospital and then another several weeks in a rehabilitation center for intense physical therapy. In total, my mom spent about a month away from home. In the meantime, I was all over the place. I was caring for her, going back and forth to the hospital and rehab center, talking with doctors, social workers, trying to maintain things in the house, etc. I had to get the house ready for my mom to return home. I also was working a part time job and trying to do school work. I got into a horrible fight during this time with one of my nieces. For some reason during this time, I was getting sick every other month. I had a sinus infection and cough that would go away and then come right back. My body and mind had no time to deal with the emotional rock bottom I had hit on Christmas Eve. There was too much to do. Too many things to take care of.
Little did I know, my own body and mind were “shutting down.”
At the end of January 2011, my mom returned home. In the beginning, there were a lot of things I had to do for her because she had to get herself used to being back home after being gone for so long. But once I got her home and got her settled, the adrenaline that had built up for the past month, that had most likely been saving my life began to wear off. I was walking around like a zombie. Finally, one morning, I woke up and literally felt nothing. I felt numb. I felt as if nothing in the world would make me happy. I thought about the things I usually enjoyed, reading a book, laughter, petting my Samson kitty, watching the fish in the fish tank, and none of it sounded appealing. I couldn’t even feel God with me. Tears fell from my eyes as I literally felt like I was null and void.
Little did I know that I was being transformed. I was being forced to face my pain. And I knew something needed to change that would allow me to do it.
I had to get my brain back on the right track, so that I could face my demons. My counselor suggested I talk to my primary care physician. My primary care prescribed an antidepressant medication that wasn’t working and suggested I see a psychiatrist. I couldn’t afford to see a psychiatrist. But I had an idea. Maybe there was a depression research study somewhere that I could be a part of. I would look into that later. First I had to do something for mom. The day of my “numb, null and void” moment, I went to pick up a prescription for my mom, and when I returned home there was a commercial playing on television about a depression research study.
I was taking care of my mom. God was taking care of me.
It had an easy number to remember. I immediately called and made an appointment. The problem with research studies when they are testing medications is that they are usually double blind studies, so I could be a person that gets a placebo. I didn’t care. It was worth the risk.
Several days later I went to the research center. I had to answer a bunch of intake questions and then I met with the doctor who was leading the study. He was very nice. But it turns out that I didn’t qualify for the study because I was still seeing a counselor. Participants in this particular study could not be going through psychotherapy. I was devastated. I was done. I was never going to feel better. They gave me $20 for my time and I walked out of the office feeling hopeless and feeling that I would never get better.
As I walked toward the parking garage of the facility, my phone rang. I usually have my phone on silent, but for some reason it was on vibrate, so I knew it was ringing. It was the intake lady from the research center. She said,
“Michele, are you still here? If so, the doctor would like to see you.”
I’m thinking did I forget to sign something? I turned around, went back to the office and sat down with the doctor. He told me there was something about me that he just wanted to help. He told me,
“You are too smart of a person to think there is no hope for depression.”
The doctor prescribed me with a new medicine in a completely different class that I’ve never taken before. He told me that he would treat me for free for 3 months and then continue to treat me based on whatever I could pay.
“But your level of treatment will not change based on what you can or cannot pay.”
In this I knew that I was truly blessed and that God is real.
I was completely shocked at this doctor’s kindness. I began taking the new meds and I eventually began to notice a difference. This is how I came to the acceptance that depression is an illness. Before taking the medication, I wanted to kill myself. After taking the medication, I wanted to live. This is not something that can show up on an X-ray or lab test. It’s just something that is.
I want to point out something very important. In my case, medication is only a part of the process. But it was the medication that was able to help me get myself to a better place in order to be able to receive the other types of healing, such as my psychotherapy and 12-step recovery work, inner child work, spiritual work, etc. In my experience, the brain has to be capable of receiving affirmations, positive thinking, and all that other good stuff. If your brain is sick, no amount of self improvement, self-help stuff will work. In my case, the medication gave my brain the stability it needed that allowed me to believe and hope again.
This is not a post about the benefits of antidepressants. It is a post for hope. Your way may be through yoga and meditation, natural healing, talk therapy, or something else. Your way may not involve meds. The key is to find a treatment that works for you and your beliefs, your body and your mind. But I want to let everyone know that there is hope through depression. I don’t have it all figured out and it’s still a daily battle for me. But I am more equipped now than ever before to face that battle with courage, clarity, and hope. I hope that you can do the same.
Blessings in your journey…
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. These posts are stories of my own experiences and battle with clinical depression. If you feel that you may be suffering from clinical depression, please contact your physician. Click here for resources that can help you. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, please call 911 immediately.
It is relatively impossible for me to talk about hope without talking about spirituality. Because in my opinion, if there is no faith source, how can there be genuine hope? What is there to have hope in?
If everything that surrounds me that I can experience with my five senses has failed me, it is natural to lose hope. If a lover leaves, a friend betrays, my job bullies me, or my finances don’t show up, I may lose hope in those things. Those things are “of this world.” But if my hope is in something greater than myself, I can maintain that hope even when everything else has failed…even when maintaining hope doesn’t make any sense. As I am writing this, a Bible verse that I have often tried to understand comes to mind:
New International Version (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I used to wonder how in the world could hope “put us to shame?” But now I understand. When we have been rejected or failed over and over again and still keep trying…when everyone is saying to face “reality” and we continue to believe in miracles…and when all the critics tell us to give up hope…but we don’t…
And we stand up for our hope and proclaim it loudly…
IT WILL HAPPEN FOR ME!
There could be shame in this because some people may think we’re crazy.
The night before my father passed away, a nice young doctor came in to his hospital room to check on his vitals, etc. My mom and I were visiting my dad, who had been in the hospital for about a week after having had heart failure. We really hadn’t understood what was going on with him, until this doctor, after examining my dad, turned to us and began to have an honest conversation with us about his condition.
As my mom touched my dad’s hand she said,
“He’s so cold. Why does he feel so cold?”
The doctor replied,
“His body is shutting down. There is not much else we can do for him now.”
There was no hope for him to live. My dad died the next evening.
I think when we lose hope…when we get disappointment after disappointment, rejection after rejection, failure after failure…
We get cold…
And we shut down…
Our challenge is to stay warm and to stay open. As long as we’re alive, we not only have a second chance, but a nine hundred and thirty second chance and beyond. Because if we stop hoping, all that we hope for may soon pass away.