I don’t do resolutions. I have never been able to keep promises I made to myself, so I quit trying. However, I can’t say no to Aunt Becky, so I’ve been trying to figure out what “I will…” do this year.
I was coming up blank until my conversation with my mom this afternoon, and it hit me.
I will be OKAY.
That doesn’t sound like much, and yet it’s huge. There was a time when being okay seemed an impossibility. I recall it vividly.
It was April 2, 2005. I was two days out of treatment for addiction, and I was annihilated. That night, I reached the point of perfect misery. I didn’t want to live and could not die. I finally knew that I could not live that way anymore, and I took the first step. I surrendered, and the next day, I began attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings like my life depended on it.
When I first got clean, I didn’t think I’d still be clean 14 years later. I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be okay. But I kept coming back. I got a sponsor. I started working steps.
The idea that I might someday be okay never really occurred to me. There were other N.A. members who I thought would be okay. Some of them are. Some of them relapsed. Of those who relapsed, some made it back. Some didn’t. I never really thought about which category I’d fall into; I couldn’t think that far ahead. Getting through each day, each moment, was too much of a struggle.
Even when I found that each day wasn’t a struggle, I didn’t really think about whether or not I’d be okay.
Until today, when I was laughing with my mom about something that happened today. The event is irrelevant. The awareness it brought me today is what’s relevant. I realized that I just might be okay.
I don’t mean I am cured. I just finally understand that if I keep doing what I’ve been doing to recover from the
disease of addiction, well, I just might be OK.
For somebody who didn’t think she was worth saving when she reached out for help, that shit is huge.
So for 2019, I think that “I will…” be okay.
Today is a tough day. All the terror and hatred in the news is weighing me down. I must remember…
There are those who choose to define themselves with hate, so I will choose to define myself with compassion and understanding. I will not “hate” someone because of what or who they believe in, even if I disagree. I will try to understand their ideals and offer them a chance to understand mine. I will continue to teach my children that who someone loves, how they define themselves, where they are from, or how they worship does not negate their humanity.
I may not have the ability to change the world, but I have the ability to change me.
I guess my backstory isn’t much different from others’:
Being the nerd outside the group of cool kids in school – but I did have some friends, outsiders like me, and a few regular people.
Married, had children, and divorced (he attacked me once, and I drew the line. I suppose it wasn’t messier than other people’s divorces after all).
Worked too hard at times, and went off sick to recover, came back and at it again.
But lately, it’s mostly good:
I am allowing myself as many naps as I want.
I enjoy my job.
I am involved in a local organization for Jewish culture, etc. (not primarily religious, but it happens).
My son will play his double bass in a concert on Friday, and I’ll go to that.
My daughter will get her bachelor’s in biology, and I will be at the ceremony.
I have a great man in my life, who cooks lovely food, and feeds me and tucks my in when I’m tired.
I have the time and money to travel more than before, and even have a trip lined up.
Sure, there are some clouds now and then, but it really got better.
Life is worth living, and enjoying, and it can get better for everyone I think.
It’s taken so long to realize some things about myself – things I thought were normal. There are certain emotions, thoughts, and feelings that I am just so used to thinking and feeling that they’ve become part of me.
My self-esteem is being whittled away, piece by piece – the marks invisible to an untrained eye.
“You’re stupid.” Slice.
“Look at everyone else, they’re way ahead of you.” Nick.
“Ugh, why do you even bother looking in the mirror?” Cut.
“Cripes woman, why the hell are you even trying? It’s not like it’s gonna get you anywhere.” Slash.
It’s just a small sample of the things I’ve told myself over the years. In twenty-three years of life, I have never once seriously congratulated myself for anything I’ve done.
Doesn’t matter that I was in the gifted program or was constantly told what big, pretty eyes I had or if someone told me I was cute: I still felt black, inky, sticky, dirty, utterly filthy, and undeserving of anything even remotely complimentary.
I am my own biggest critic.
It’s never been a fair critic; it’s always been like this wave of self-loathing and mental self-injury being thrown at me like arrows to blot out the sun.
So why do I do this? How did I learn it? Did I learn it from someone?
To those questions, I have no answer.
Two days ago, I had a panic attack so severe it left me passed out for several hours. I literally blacked out from my own fears and anxieties.
The next morning (yesterday) when I woke up, I knew something had to change. I started making a list of all the positives and negatives about myself. To my surprise, the positives outweighed the negatives. I was happy about that; it made me cry, but it felt good.
This morning, I was attacked – beaten and bitten. My brother and our parents saved me; they chased away the fucker. If it hadn’t been for them, I probably wouldn’t be here. More than likely, I’d still be baking in an unusually warm winter sun, waiting for a fridge in the morgue.
It makes me think, “If I’m so horrible, why did these wonderful people come riding in like the white knights to slay the dragon”?
The answer: They love me more than I love myself.
And that was a hard pill to swallow. I accept so much, yet give myself so little. When you hate yourself, you starve yourself of love, and a human cannot be without love – not a thing on this Earth can be without love.
So here I sit, beaten, battered, bitten, and bloody, telling each and every one of you who cares to read this, do NOT hate yourself.
Do not wake up and realize that someone loves you more than you love yourself because all you’re doing is killing yourself. It’s not the same as taking a bottle of pills or loading up a gun, but the effect is much slower and so much more painful.
It’s a battle, learning to love anyone. It’s so much harder to love yourself: you know each and every aspect of yourself (God willing), strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices.
Please don’t let a near-death experience be your wake up call. Please don’t let it get so bad that you think it might not be too bad, because it is.
Learn to love yourself, because you are the only person that can’t leave or be taken away. Have the faith in yourself to love and be loved.
Wherever that faith may take you.
I was in kindergarten and kissed a pudgy little boy beside me on the playground. My little friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I was in the fifth grade and my classmates noticed I had boobs. My friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I was in high school and suffered through the angst of a breakup. His friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I had a huge fight with my parents and disappointed them. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
The choice? Tomorrow would be a better day if I lived.
My husband of twelve years stuck a gun in his mouth and made a different choice. He left behind three daughters under five years of age. He died because, to him, there was no other choice.
We were finally ending a long divorce – a divorce spawned from years of domestic abuse due to his mental illness. For almost 12 years – 365 days and nights of tears, I woke up and thought tomorrow would be a better day if I lived.
Often times, I felt it was his “grace” that allowed me to live. Every now and then, in the grips of pain from a fist or a kick, I wanted to die. Still, I always made a choice to live.
For weeks after he left this earth, I asked, “Why?”
I needed an explanation – a resolution – for his choice.
Most of us have had those moments in which we think we don’t want to live through the day. We think for a split-second, “What would it matter if I was gone?”
We think we don’t matter. We wonder if we’d be missed. I wish that, before he ended his life, I could’ve answered these questions for him.
Since I cannot, I will do it here:
“What would it matter if I was gone?”
Regardless of our marital state, you helped me create three daughters.
Before the first one goes to school, I will have to explain that her father is dead. Before she learns to write her name, she will understand what a grave is.
The two youngest daughters will not have a decent memory of their father to carry through their adult lives. They will look back and only know your face because there is a picture. They will only know stories – not through their own recollection – but because I will fill in the blanks.
They will never be able to take their father to a “Daddy/Daughter” dance. They will not have the man who helped give them life give them away on their wedding days. Father’s Day will always leave their hearts heavy. They will, one day, know that you didn’t consider living for them, loving them, that they were not enough for you.
“Would I be missed?”
A few days after your death, I had to sit down on the bed and explain to the children that their father would never come back. Ever. The day has not come yet that they haven’t cried for you in some fashion. The oldest has a picture of you in her room on her nightstand. She talks to you when she has something important to say. She tells you about her birthday, her missing tooth, her new puppy, and when Mommy has made her mad. When she is frightened, she screams for you to help her, because Daddies are big and strong.
The man who didn’t feel like he had a choice went into a rage that day. He broke things, he screamed, and he broke down. He walked into the room filled with all the children’s things and did not see any of them. All he saw was that he didn’t have another choice, that he didn’t matter, that he wouldn’t be missed.
In front of a rack of his children’s clothes, ranging from size 18 months to 5T, standing before a toddler bed and dozens of smiling stuffed animals on the floor, he thought that the only thing that mattered was taking himself out of everyone’s life.
Ceasing to exist.
Becoming a memory and nothing more.
Later, I stood in a funeral home to pick out a casket for my husband. I wanted to die. I did not.
I made a choice to live. Sitting in the living room looking at the Christmas tree, stockings lined up bearing the children’s names and a dozen smiling stuffed animals on the floor, I see the only thing that matters: making memories and so much more.
Tomorrow will be a better day because I live.
I make that choice.
Over 1 million women each year experience postpartum mood disorders.
This is her postpartum depression story.
I know a lot of people don’t talk about postpartum depression. And a hell of a lot less talk about needing medication to treat PPD. But, hey, I’ve already told the internets that (at one point) my vag looked like Mickey Rourke and that I poop with my feet on a stool, so why stop the self-humiliation there?
When I had my daughter, my postpartum experience was a shitstorm I never wanted to repeat. Not only was I extremely depressed (baby blues, my ass!), but I also had a cancer scare, developed a thyroid problem, got two bacterial infections, and found out my mom has Parkinson’s Disease.
Needless to say, I went down and went down hard. I never really recovered.
Queue the after-effects of having a baby in an already-depressed person, throw in the obstacles thrown in my path, take away all things that resemble sleep, and add an infant who cried from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day, and you had me: one hot mess of a mama. Let’s just say it was not pretty.
I lost friends, alienated the ones I loved, lost all sense of self-worth. The only thing I managed to do right was to be a good mom. But that’s ALL that I was. Outside of being a mom, I was a shadow of my former self.
I started therapy right before I got pregnant again. I didn’t want to start medication since we were planning another baby and the jury is still out on the effects of being on anti-depressants while pregnant. Therapy helped and things evened up a bit when I actually got pregnant, but I was never really there. I participated in my life, but didn’t have an active role in it. I didn’t realize it then, but I hadn’t experienced true happiness in years.
I decided to take control before The Crazy Train of postpartum depression even left the station. I started anti-depressants in the hospital right after I had my son and had a prescription filled for when I got home.
So far? Best. Decision. I. Have. Ever. Made.
Now that I am actually receiving effective treatment, I feel something I haven’t felt in a long time: happiness. I didn’t know how far out of control my depression had gotten until I actually did something to address it. Now, not only does the medication not sap me of all emotion, but it has actually helped me feel real emotion again. I actually feel like I AM someone again. I feel joy, sadness, relief, anxiety, love. I feel everything. I’m not just a passenger on the back of the bus of my life. I’m actually driving again and it feels fantastic.
Now, are medications an easier choice for me because I am a formula mama? Sure as hell are. Is there something you can do even if you are not? Yep – talk to someone: a friend, your doctor, your priest, your mom.
Hell, talk to me!
Having a baby is hard. Having a baby while struggling with depression feels impossible. It’s not your fault and you are no less of a mom for having it. Just get help. I did this time and I feel real again. I feel whole. I feel strong.
I feel like me.