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This Is What Depression Looks Like

I’ve found a sitter for my kids and left the house to keep my big feelings away from them. Flipping through my phone contacts…I don’t see anyone I haven’t bothered with my drama in the last few days so I give up. Who needs to talk anyway?  They don’t really want me to call; they just put up with me and my need to process everything out loud.

I need to stop blocking this out; I’m going to explode if I keep shoving this down.

I find my Rage Music Playlist – a lot of Disturbed, KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, some Slipknot and Linkin Park. I get inside my head. I let go and allow myself to cry, hating every second of the pathetic sound and hating more how stupid I feel when I let it go. I shut back down when all of the thoughts whisper…worthlessguiltysinneruglybadmotherbadwifebadchristian…too wrapped up in my own drama to be useful to anyone.

Too self-centered and overwhelmed to be a good mom.  Too angry and bitter and cold and hard-hearted to save my relationship.

I drive fast and scream out the lyrics. The bass hitting my body is therapeutic. The guitar chords resonate deep inside…my mind wanders and the self-loathing thoughts kick-up again:  I am not worth fighting for.  Who I am is not good enough.

I hate where I am. I hate who I have turned into. I hate how barricaded I have been for so long. I hate the choices I have had to make.

I hate feeling so alone.


The End in the Beginning

cancer love storyAs the song goes, when I first met her she was 17. I was 20. It wasn’t the best idea to be dating someone so young (once you hit 20 it should only be women in their 20s; everyone else is just a teenager) but there was something about her. We had a lot of young, awkward fun together, and for about 2 years thought we were in love. When I met another girl who was even cooler and have even larger breasts (cause that’s very important to guys in their 20s… and 30s, and 40s, and…), I broke up with her.

It broke her heart, but that’s what happens when you’re young and in love. Love at that age isn’t anything close to what it’s like at my current age (44); it can be intense and hyper-sexual and full of drama, and ours was no exception. Once it was over (side note, the girl I broke up with her for actually dumped me 3 weeks later, which broke my heart… karma’s a bitch), it wasn’t like we were done with one another. Over the years we’d hook up and mess around, but it was never a case of wanting to be back together, it was just revisiting that old thrill.

Eventually I moved to another state to be with a girl who would eventually become my wife (and even more eventually my ex-wife…). I would fly back to my home state for holidays back then, and inevitably we would continue to hook up when I was there, something I’m not terribly proud of upon reflection. But the girl I had moved to another state for was still important to me, so it was never because I wasn’t happy with her. It was, I’m ashamed to say, opportunity. It presented itself, we took advantage of it, then we moved on with our lives.

Shortly after our last encounter, she met someone and they fell madly in love, so this thing where we would randomly hook up when we saw one another came to an end. Many years went by and we lost contact with one another, which is just what happens as you grow older and live elsewhere and are no longer interested in occasional hook ups. Flash forward nearly 10 years later; the guy she fell in love with couldn’t stand where his life was going and had to leave her to move to LA to make something of himself. My wife and I were in the beginning stages of a divorce (which i have to say ultimately went surprisingly smooth), and we were both lonely as hell. So I emailed her, ostensibly to catch up with an old friend, and soon it turned into something else.

We both had gaping holes in our lives/hearts, so it was somewhat inevitable we would get back together. That was no easy feat, however, as I live on one side of the country, and she on the other. But we talked a lot (A LOT, thank the GODS long distance calling is a thing of the past…), and found we had stuff in common, aside from just liking how the other looked naked. Enough to build a relationship? Well, I was convinced there was, and even more so that this long-lost love reconnection was obviously fate and something that shouldn’t be ignored. So I went all in.

I went to see her early on, and told her then that I loved her. Did not get the reaction I had hoped for (namely, her saying it back…), and if there was ever a theme of our relationship it was that; it was not what I had hoped for. See, I’m a romantic, wear my heart on my sleeve (which makes trips to the cardiologist a breeze! *rimshot*), and so I was able to look past the many very obvious red flags because I was convinced this was meant to be. I compromised on things I never thought i would both because I thought it was what you were supposed to do when in love, and because I thought she would be willing to do the same for me. Word of advice (also from a song); there ain’t much that’s dumber than pinning your hopes on the change of another.

Eventually my divorce finalized, my house sold, and I had the means and opportunity to move to her side of the country. Things were bad almost from the start, but I remained convinced that if I just kept being patient, kept owning the foolish things I was doing that would piss her off, eventually she would recognize my true worth and finally fall in love with me. Then we’d be happy and have lots of sex and all would be right with the world. I just needed to hang in a little… bit… longer…

The problem was that was my exact mindset for most of my marriage. If I just kept doing this thing, or not doing this other thing, eventually my wife would see my worth and we’d be happy again. Amazing how you can repeat almost the exact same behavior with wildly different people. It’s almost like the problem is me, not them…

So things continued to get worse, but luckily for me I had found a job and my own place and was no longer as reliant on her. Yeah, we would fight or argue almost every time we were together, but I had my own place i could retreat to, we could both cool off and apologize, then start all over again. Also, those fights weren’t anything compared to  how my ex-wife and I used to fight, so obviously I had taken a step up. Right?

No, not right. Eventually we had a Final Blowout and I had to tell her that I couldn’t be with her anymore. Which is a messed up thing to happen when you’ve moved across the country to be with someone, but was never entirely unexpected. Things weren’t terribly smooth even when we had a country between us to keep us from getting too mad at one another, but once we were in the same zip code all bets were off. I thought she was supposed to love me just because I treated her well and moved to be closer to her and always told her she was beautiful, but that’s just not how it works. You can’t flatter someone into loving you, not in any kind of real way, it’s just unfortunate I had to go through so much pain to verify that.

DoI regret it? No, not a single second, no. Regret is not something I tend to dwell on for too long if I can avoid it, and I have to look at where my life is now and ask myself if I think I’d still be here if none of it went down like it did. It’s nothing more than a glorified thought experiment because it’s impossible to know, but I’m comfortable that I did everything in my ability to make her & I work, and it ended because it was time for it to end.

I got used to being alone, got okay with who I was and what i had to offer, and eventually knew  I was not going to ever compromise myself for the sake of another girl again. I started to realize who I really was and what i had to bring to a relationship, and even started to believe I was a catch. Well, I still do, because I do have a lot going for me and had to suppress a lot once i was in close quarters with her and realized there were aspects of me she absolutely hated. No more!

I vowed not to compromise and not to put up with anyone who made me feel bad about myself. I had spent almost 20 years doing that with my ex-wife, an additional two with my now ex-girlfriend, and I was done. I deserved to be treated better, and she deserved someone she could be genuinely happy with, though i know she has to be better with herself before that’s possible with someone else. But I am better with myself and know I do deserve to be truly, completely and honestly happy, and if I had to stay single, that was fine with me.

Okay, well, I didn’t mean for this to be so long, so to sum up, remember that you are your own worst enemy if you don’t confront and come to terms with the things you hate about yourself. Bad relationships are rarely the cause of just one of the people in it; they both share equal blame for reacting the way they do with their partner, and usually they don’t look internally to examine what needs they have that aren’t being met, then communicate that information, honestly, to their partner.

It’s paid off in spades for me so far, folks, I am very, very happy to say…



Fear, A Poem About My Eating Disorder

I hate the way I look when I’m in front of the mirror.

Its a constant battle, always running on my greatest fear.

Who is going to love these rolls and cellulite?

Can’t wear this or that because it feels too tight.

Baggy sweats and sleeping alone at night.

Have to restrict or live with guilt after a meal.

Food is the go to, to change the way I feel.

Eating until my stomach is going to burst.

Punishing myself after, my choices are the worst.

Tomorrow I’ll do better, I won’t do it again.

Hop on the scale and I’ve gained another ten.

Shame and self loathing begin to spiral,

I get on my knees on the bathroom tile.

I have to purge this feeling, immediate relief

Now the enamel is wearing off of my teeth.

Run the water so no one can hear.

That being unlovable is my biggest fear.

I Am Complicated

I am neglected.

I’m the product of parents who didn’t know how to fulfill my emotional needs. I have an eating disorder,

I alternate between believing both that “my parents gave me everything; I had a happy childhood; I don’t have any reason to be this messed up,” and “my parents emotionally neglected me; I had an awful childhood; no wonder I am this messed up.“

I fantasize about being in the hospital because that seems like the ultimate (and only) way that people might finally see me and care about me. Logically, I know that it’s not true, but my emotional brain is convinced that being sick or hurt is the way to get the love, attention, and care that is not present in my daily life.

I am ashamed.

I’m a 22-year old who is still desperately attached to my mangled childhood stuffed animal, Lambie.

I surreptitiously, but uncontrollably, pull out my own hair. I know have trichotillomania (and dermotillomania while we’re at it), but it’s one of my most shameful “secrets.”

I eat spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar, and sometimes that will be the only thing I eat for the majority of the day.

I am depressed.

I am pained getting out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to relate to people who casually say, “Yeah, I didn’t want to get up this morning,” but may not understand the gravity of depression. It hurts to the bone.

I have trouble taking my daily antidepressants because a hidden part of me doesn’t believe I’m worthy of feeling better.

I am obsessed with filling my brain with as much information about mental illness as possible.

And yet, no matter how much I read books, articles, and studies about eating disorders, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, or impulse-control disorders, I struggle to control my own mental health.

I have a hard time with “I’m depressed.” Maybe because I don’t believe that the real me is just buried under mental illness. It’s more like “I’m a person living with depression.” It has taken so much of my personality and soul out of me, but without depression, I am a lively, joyful girl.

I am taking care of myself (or I’m learning to).

I practically begged my parents to see a therapist, nutritionist, and psychiatrist, when I was only 15 years old. It certainly wasn’t easy, especially because we didn’t talk about anything “emotionally charged,” but I knew that it was a step I had to take in order to alleviate my pain.

I reach out to others when I need it most. Even though I isolate, too, I also know that in moments of desperation, I do instinctively ask for help and support from those I trust.

I treat myself to occasional manicures, special purchases (a dress, a pillow, some art supplies), and a lazy Sunday.

As much as my brain tries to trick me into thinking that I am worthless and unlovable, I try to actively do things for myself that remind myself that I deserve care.

I am brave.

I share my story with very few people, but when I do, it is the most rewarding experience. Sharing real experiences and thoughts is how I create deep connections with people.

little ballet dancer

I moved to Denmark for my first job out of college. I don’t speak the language, I’ve never been away from home for more than four months, and I left my entire support network at home.

I am working full-force in therapy at facing the demons and insecurities I have hidden for years. I am taking charge of my life by learning to be vulnerable, accept my flaws, and love myself in spite of them, and find happiness for the first time in my life.


Ask The Band: Depression and Writing

Dear The Band,

ask band depression writing

I’m a writer.

Or, at least, I think I am. I’d like to think I am. I think about writing all the time – and then I feel ashamed of myself because I’m not writing. I think about all of the stories I could be writing – I think about the text file of ideas for stories on my desktop – and then I get even more depressed because I’m not writing.

The great thing is that I’m not writing because I’m depressed, because I have no job, no friends, am 1300 miles away from all support systems, except for my wonderful soon-to-be husband, and I spend most of my time in an insecure, anxious ball feeling sorry for myself.

Self-loathing much?

I keep seeing over and over again, on Twitter and Facebook and in my MFA program’s forum this statement: “if you don’t write, you aren’t a writer, and you probably shouldn’t be. To be a writer, you must need to write like it’s the way you breathe.” So I second-guess myself; I don’t need that. But I need to need that, if that makes sense.

I miss the feeling of excitement when I pull off a great scene. I miss feeling proud of myself. I miss the sense of self-esteem writing gives me. But right now, depression is taking it away.

I just don’t know how to push through the overwhelming apathy and shame to start writing again. And everyone who tells me to shit or get off the pot – to just start writing regardless – really isn’t helping.

How do I get through this loneliness, depression, anxiety and shame to find myself again?

I’m not sure where I went, but it’d be damn good to see myself again.

How Borderline Personality Disorder Affects My Life

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be a challenge for those who experience it and their loved ones. 

This is their story.

I can only write this from my perspective, of course. I can’t tell you what my family goes through. I don’t know what my friends experience. I could guess, but that would be it: a guess. But here is what I go through, living with Borderline Personality Disorder.

First is the rage. I can literally see the switch in my head flip from peaceful to ready to explode; I only wish there was a visual clue to those around me. I fill with rage in an instant, and it just explodes out. I’m not violent with it, though that is an impulse I fight every second. My only real hope of it never getting that far is to find the right combination of medications.

borderline personality disorder

From there, impulses. Everyone has basic impulses. Gut reactions. Instincts, even.

The thing about my impulses is that they can be very less than helpful: the impulse to quit a job because of a hard day; the impulse to hurt myself because of a rough week.

I am very lucky that I’m through the job-quitting phase. Every one I’ve left has been for a solid reason. But each time, it was the final straw-impulse that put me there. I’m just lucky my love of current job is stronger than my impulse for self-defense that leads to the “I quit.”

As for the impulse to hurt myself, that started right before I was in the hospital for the first time, and it ended before I got pregnant with my second baby. It lasted less than 6 months, and I don’t plan to do it again. Another impulse that isn’t worth it.

Not all impulses I have with Borderline Personality Disorder are that extreme.

Most of them are standard – not thinking before I speak or act. A lot of it can be brushed away as minor. But words and actions do hurt, and not everyone is so quick to forgive. Worse yet, years of verbal impulses can chip away what patience there is. And I see what I’m doing – I know the pain – but I’m powerless to stop it. I honestly don’t know what I’m saying until it’s out of my mouth.

I know, I know… think before you speak. I’m getting better. I wouldn’t be married otherwise. Here’s the kicker: I can usually convince myself something is harmless or can be explained to be harmless in the two seconds it takes to think before I speak. I’m not usually right, though.

I think splitting is one of the worse parts. Imagine your entire world is black or white, where black is evil and white is godly. Everything is one of the two, no half and half, and NO gray.

That’s splitting. It mostly pertains to people who have Borderline Personality Disorder, but does not have to.

My husband, Pat, has been flip-flopping between the two for years now. He can flip ten times in one day, or he can go days or months before a flip. It has a lot to do with how we are treating each other.

One minute he can be making me dinner and he is white as hell.

The next minute he used instant mac and cheese, not the regular, and he’s suddenly evil. True story. My defense? He knew I wouldn’t eat the instant shit, so why did he bother making it?

Not everyone is one or the other, but this doesn’t mean they are gray. We’ll call them transparent. I don’t think there is a better way to describe it. They are the random people in the world you come upon who leave little impact beyond the few minutes in their presence. A cashier who wasn’t bad or good, just transparent.

And my kids, we’ll call rainbow. It’s like a whole different way of thinking.

As for myself, I’m usually black or transparent.

That’s just how life with Borderline Personality Disorder works.