i had a dream that i was walking along what was now (at almost midnight) an abandoned path. there wasn’t much to see other than the occasional tree and still dead grass from the awful winter. and in the distance i saw a girl, shadowed in the dark by one of the few trees. She was leaning forward, moving quickly, almost as digging, or trying to find something.
as i got close i realized she was digging at what looked like a mound. she was scraping from the top, but instead of throwing the pieces in one pile behind her, she was making multiple piles, piles that looked of different shapes and colors. as i came even closer, she looked up at me, and i saw my own eyes in hers. she was crying, she was exhausted, she was trying to hard to FIND something, i just knew it.
i saw another shovel on the opposite side of the mound and i thought to myself “that one is for you”, so i walked over and picked it up, wondering if i would even be of any help, seeing as how particular this girl was being about her sorting. she looked up with what i could have swore was a smirk, and said “once you start, you will understand”. by the time my shovel made contact with this mysterious mound i was overcome with a feeling of sadness, i felt heavy and rushed. “but don’t dismember the pieces of me”, i heard in my head. that’s when i knew, there was someone under there.
i began digging and sorting, as if i had been doing it for hours, days even. as the mound grew smaller the girl on the other side was becoming more and more visible to me, our similarities were undeniable, her expressions were being made on her face as well as my own. we were not only sharing this struggle for the unknown “girl under the mound”, we were sharing a body, a face, a mind. we continued digging.
by the time the mound was close to nonexistent, the sun began to rise. we were sweaty and tired. but we knew this was just the beginning. the dig into the surface was much different than that of the removal of the mound, here we began to share with each other bits of pieces of ourselves. though no words were muttered. we learned about each others lives, and saw that they, like our appearance were quite similar. we shared the same stories, but in different perspectives. by the time the sun had fully risen i went in for what i was hoping would be that last push into the earth, the girl from the path stopped me.
i looked down and saw her there, me there, us there. laying under what had been inches upon inches of dirt, sadness and filth. she was smiling, and reached for our hands. and as we helped her out of the layers of ground that had been her grave, we embraced her. i began sharing my feelings of hope and satisfaction, that we were able to help this girl and she stopped me. “you were only helping yourself”. they both looked at me and took me to the piles we had separated so perfectly.
the girl from the ground pointed to the first pile, this one dark blue and full of sharp edges, she explained as “the pile of your mistakes, your regrets” she pointed the pile full of red almost bubble shaped pieces and explained it as “the pile of missed opportunity”. as we made our away around the piles, the girl i met on the path began to fade, she was smiling and the girl from the ground squeezed my hand, as if to tell me that it was okay. the girl from the ground continued to introduce me to the piles that were explained as “guilt”, lost friendships”, “fears”, and on and on she went. she too, began to fade, into the morning sun it seemed. the rays of lights were bursting through her hair, her chest. i began to worry about her and the girl from the path.
she took my face in her hands and gave me that smirk, my smirk.. “you are free now” she whispered to me
“these piles are all pieces of you, they will never go away, but you are no longer buried underneath them, they no longer hold you down.”
“but who are you?”, i asked the now transparent girl from the ground.
“i am the piece of you that gave up, the girl from the path is the piece of you that finally decided to start fighting, and you, you are just your own mind, joining in on the journey.”
I think this may just be my time to share. My time to let things out and to open up about what I’ve experienced. I don’t normally write blogs completely about myself but I think it’s important to share. It may be a somewhat vague overview, but I still feel like someone, somewhere just needs to hear it.
I consider myself to be a “self-growth activist”. I use these words because “recovering depressed person” just doesn’t have that great of a ring to it. No matter what I choose to call it, the facts remain the same; I am a person who’s mind has drug me through hell and back.
Like so many other people I struggled with the weirdness of my own brain for years and years. There were a few times in my early teen years that I had been put on anti-anxiety meds for my “anger issues” (prescribed by my family physician). The first time I ever saw a counselor was in 8th grade when I made my own funeral invitations for two weeks later. A teacher found them in my notebook and the school recommended a clinic in a nearby town. My poor mom’s heart was broken and when the counselor sat me down and asked me if I ever wanted to “kill myself” , to which I responded with a quick…”no”
She then continued to belittle me and tell me how selfish I was. Needless to say, we never went back.
After that awful experience I never wanted to see anything close to a therapist again. I wasn’t very good at taking my medicine, and after a couple of months of my family asking “did you take your medicine today” after I would get upset about literally anything, I stopped taking it.
Fast forward about 4 years and I started to experience some extreme mood swings. I still had that “short fuse” of my early teenage years, and I just started piling on all the woes of high school. I was bullied quite terribly, and in reaction to that I decided I would become all of the horrible things people said I was. Probably not the best idea, and even now I see that I wasn’t nearly as “awful” as everyone said I was.
I graduated with a high school diploma and a massive sense of self-loathing. Once I turned 18 I started noticing a change in, well, everything. The downs were more down, I was tired all of the time, even the things that I loved in my life (Dance) I had no energy for. I started my first ever journal (other than diaries as a kid) and my saw my family physician again, thinking she would tell me I was bipolar. She didn’t, and I was put on anti-anxiety medication again. This time, the meds made me feel extremely drugged up and disconnected. It lasted about a week, until I couldn’t handle my “ears fluttering” all day long.
I enter into my 20’s and I follow the great path of jumping from terrible relationship to terrible relationship. If they were bad for me, I’d jump right in. Though I was never one to stay faithful, I tried giving these relationships everything I had, thinking that eventually, someone would make the thoughts go away. That is how it works, right?
After a verbally abusive relationship, a failed marriage and a miscarriage, followed by another verbally abusive relationship – I was lower than I had been in a long while.
I chose the path of least resistance – alcohol, and eventually moved away from the home town that haunted my every step.
It wasn’t until moving away from everything I’ve ever known did I learn what true loneliness was. Though most of the time I had some sort of “companion”, I spent time in some not so good for me relationships (notice a pattern here?), I was homeless at one point; sleeping on people’s couches, living in people’s basements. I finally started gaining some good friends, an apartment, and a steady job – and then the overwhelming stress of paying bills and keeping said job kicked in.
Mix that in with a great love triangle and I had myself a great recipe for disaster. I started a new journal, and began sharing the things I felt. Mostly things about my god awful love life, how I was worthless and all the ways I wish I could disappear. I hated my life, I hated myself and I thought I deserved no better.
Eventually my at the time “companion” told me I needed to see someone about this, again, thinking I was bipolar. I finally caved.
My counselor told me to meditate, he told me about all the thinking/reaction patterns like projection and overgeneralization. I liked Bob, he taught me a lot, but I didn’t really know it at the time. My first Psychologist however, so bad. My first visit he put me on anti-depressants (after diagnosing me with major depressive disorder), argued with me about what “bipolar” meant and sent me on my way. On my second visit we argued again, this time about the difference between “things being fuzzy” and “blacking out” – really this happened. I almost walked out of his office, but by this time I was obsessed with being medicated and knew that I was going to need my dosage raised in order to keep “handling” this whole thing. We made amends, and off I went with a higher script.
By the time this psych got fired from the clinic I was one appointment away from taking a full dose of Effexor each day. I was assigned a new psych and was prepared to tell them how I think I need more, things were getting rough again and I was ready for the full dosage.
This new psych was in a completely different state, geographically. I talked to him via Skype, which was interesting. When I sat down and told him how I’d been feeling, he politely let me finish, and then laid the smack down upon my depressed little soul.
He explained the actual science of anti-depressant medication. He explained how addictions work, how depression actually works, and how any good psych has the goal of seeing his patients “graduate”, not depending on them for a script for the rest of their life.
I loved this man. He was the first guy to make me seem like I could do it on my own. He walked me through the process, told me how awful tapering off of meds would be, but also gave me the hope to get through it.
And I did get through it. After four weeks of brain zaps, nausea and mood swings that were seriously out of this world I was officially tapered. He let me go with a prescription for yoga and chamomile tea. I made it my life’s mission to find out how to actually manage this on my own. If a trained professional, that gets paid by people like me, can tell me that there are better ways – then I was going to find them.
That was a year and a half ago, and here I am sharing my story, sharing what I’ve learned and hoping I can find others out there that want to do the same.
I’ve been so far down in life, I’ve had zero faith in myself, I’ve wanted to not exist – but I made it.
My life is much different now, and I’m very proud to say it. I have a steady and solid relationship, I don’t lash out about every small thing, and most importantly, I deeply and honestly care about myself.
I will of course, share more about my journey and my practice as the blog grows. But I wanted to get this out. It may not be the best piece I’ve ever written, and most might not even get through the whole thing, but I just felt a pull to share it.
And so it is.
– Kara Beth
One big conversation that has popped up with boyfriend is how he chooses not to “waste his energy” on people that make him mad. To me this just seemed like such nonsense.
Back Story: I’m a bit of a spit fire. I have a short fuse and I am quick to flip my switch/lose my mind on people that tick me off. I’ve been this way since I can remember. I can go from happy and hilarious to “I’m going to kill you” within seconds.
Simply put, people set me off.
My time spent in the retail world did help with this a bit. I learned that not all people that project their anger on me are actually angry at me. In most of those situations, I didn’t have anything to do with their anger, however, I am the projectee, I get the butt end of their rage. It’s extremely hard, almost impossible for me to let a person offend me (even if they didn’t mean to) and not take it personally. Even harder, for me to not explode about it, and stay mad/hold a grudge for the next – 8 or so years. So when boyfriend responds to all of my rants with “I wouldn’t waste the energy on it”, I of course come back with – “um hello! did you hear what I said??! That person did THIS to me!!!”
If this sounds even remotely familiar to you, stay with me.
I have been learning/researching/writing quite a bit about making a conscious choice to feel the way I want to feel. What I didn’t understand (and didn’t realize I didn’t understand), is that I’ve had this choice throughout my entire life.
(Now before you start telling me that depression/anxiety/feeling terrible is not a choice, please understand that I know this, and would never say it was. I came to a point of clarity in my recovery where I was able to make the choice to be willing to experience things differently. I became willing to learn different methods and open my mind to new possibilities. I did not get here by myself, and it was not easy. It was a mixture of a few opinions, methods and sources; much more than one single “choice”.)
Disclaimers aside – I had these opportunities, these methods and sources available to me the entire time. I just didn’t know it. Same as my ability to make conscious choices; I was never lacking the power of choice, I just had no idea it was there or how to exercise it.
Fast forward to what I learned.
I recently started reading the book “The Desire Map” by the lovely Danielle LaPorte. This book is centered around making goals in order to feel the way you want to feel, instead of making goals to achieve certain things. Interesting enough concept, I dove right in.
Somewhere during my beautiful journey of learning what my actual desired feelings are, I kept hitting on the nerve of “wasting my energy”. If I could make the decision to feel a certain way, I can also make the decision to not feel a certain way. If I can make the decision to keep my mind focused on the things I actually want, I can also make the decision to not focus on the things I don’t want. When dumb things would pop up during the day, I would notice myself just saying “I don’t want to feel this way, I really don’t want to focus on it and waste my energy.” I would feel out the emotional/physical response and just let it go. I didn’t have to run myself ragged and feel like vomiting every time a random worry popped into my mind. I didn’t have to waste my energy.
Until someone stupid opened their mouth and struck the chord of rage
Why? Why? Why?
I asked myself a million times why does this bother me so much?! They are obviously just idiots and I shouldn’t care. But I did care, and it continued to fuel the fire; and eventually, finally, it hit me. I never knew that I was subconsciously making decisions to focus on the negative situations, to react with anger, to be spiteful. To expand on that, even if I did something to offend someone else, their choice to react has nothing to do with me. It has to do with their own decisions. It’s not their fault that they do not realize they have a choice. They may not know it, and even if they do they may not have the self-control to exercise it.
Whether a person is reacting on personal interest, self-defense or even just reflex/triggers – what they do has absolutely nothing to do with me. They are either subconsciously making the decision to dance on auto-pilot, letting their fight or flight senses take over, or they are making decisions to act as they are. That reaction, has nothing to do with the recipient and everything to do with how a person processes the world around them and what they choose to focus on.
So why would I waste my energy on someone that chooses to feel awful?
And whether they mean to or not, their choices do not affect me. They are not personal. They do not tell my #truth. All they do is surface their choices, their thoughts and their responses. Their.Their.Their. Not me. Not you.
I think you get it.
Make a choice to let yourself feel every great feeling you want. Don’t deny yourself of feeling bad, just deny yourself of focusing in on thoughts that are triggered by bad feelings. Most importantly, don’t let others’ negative choices affect you. That’s on them. Even when the situation is the most personal attack on you, it’s still their choice to react.
Choose to see it differently, choose to conserve your energy, and do it on purpose.
It’s hard not to feel lonely
One of the hardest parts about feeling down is that others just don’t understand it. Whether we try to explain or not, it is just one of those situations that are not understood unless they are experienced.
But it’s hard not to feel lonely when no one understands.
Nothing I’ll say here is more #true than this. There are people in my life that really do try to understand how I’m feeling, what I’m going through and how it affects my daily life. People want to help, especially at first. But when things continue to fall, despite their best effort they start to get a sense of failure. It can get quite exhausting.
And it’s hard not to feel lonely when people get weird.
You start getting treated differently. What was once long, in depth conversations are now you talking and the other person saying “I’m sorry” or “that sucks”. At this point, everything starts to feel weird, you start to feel like a burden. You notice how often you complain and how little people really listen to you anymore. Are they even listening? It seems like most of the time they just look at their phones or find something to keep them distracted.
It’s hard not to feel lonely when you’re sitting right next to someone and you still feel alone
The misunderstanding of these feelings turns into a misunderstood friendship. The #truth is, some things aren’t meant to be shared with others. Even when it feels “right”, even when they say they want to help. Certain things should be saved for yourself, your journal, or even a therapist/coach.
When people don’t understand, and you keep coming at them with information they don’t know how to process, it will eventually break you both down.
And that’s when it’s time to look into yourself.
When you’re feeling the most lonely, the most misunderstood; those are the times to start digging deeper. This is a loneliness that lies somewhere deep down in our minds, no person will ever fill it. It’s a void that is meant to be filled with compassion for ourselves.
And once you find it you realize that this loneliness isn’t so lonely after all.
What was once normal becomes extremely uncomfortable. Thoughts begin to rush in, paranoia begins to surface, and the next thing you know you are standing in the middle of a crowd – and you’re the only one that doesn’t fit in. It’s like a wave sometimes. Like a wave of misinformation, misunderstanding. It’s as if no one else could possibly get it.
Only I feel it, everyone else is normal, they don’t have these feelings; these thoughts.
Being thrown out into the unknown, watching people change, wishing things were the way they used to be. You never know how good you had it until it’s gone. Once it’s gone it’s all you can think about. Why couldn’t I focus on that good while it was here? All I saw was the negative, the bad, the annoying. But now that I’m here, those times look so priceless, like I could remember them forever.
Why does my brain decide to pull back those memories that make me wish things were different? How is it possible that I actually want my life to be where it was before?
It’s not possible.
When I close my eyes and think about where I am I see a bit of emptiness where these tidal waves of thoughts used to be. I try filling them with self-love, positive thoughts and good food but I still sometimes end up feeling empty. Because I can’t forget about the past.
So stay present, right?
I wish I could. But the present moment seems so boring, and my past had so much going on. So much more to think about, more to regret, more to be ashamed of. But even then I wish things were different, I wish the past was different. I wish that I could morph the past into what I want it to be. Almost like if I think about it enough, my memories will change and I can create my own past.
It doesn’t work that way.
But that’s what minds do.
Just sitting alone and wondering what to do is enough to let my mind go out on a tangent. It’s ultimately up to me to make the decision whether I want to jump out into “what if” land, or try to be present in my seemingly boring life.
Whatever to do to keep the thoughts away. Those thoughts take me to a place that I once knew far too well. As for my boring life, at least I get to take some peaceful naps and play with cats.
Here’s the boring part
Long story short I’ve been really sick since February of this year. Everytime I would eat, horrible things would happen in muh belly. Last Tuesday, I had my gallbladder removed. This is an extremely common surgery and recovery time is about a week or two. My surgeon said I was a good candidate to have the surgery done robotically, which would require a “single site” incision. I was told I would spend less time in the hospital and would have less scarring. Sweet, I signed up that day.
What they didn’t tell me, is that the pain after this surgery is much worse than the regular route (with 4 small incisions spread out about your abdomen). I am not good with pain, I am bad with medication and I just was not expecting what hit me when I came out of the anesthesia.
So awful. I went home to suffer through this pain, and to experience just about every side effect of the medication (at a very intense level). Needless to say my week was terrible.
Here’s where things get interesting
I really thought I was going to spend my week off of work watching Friends, blogging and whining to everyone I know about how bad my little incision hurts. Well, it didn’t happen that way. Instead I could barely concentrate on anything but the pain, the sick, the…everything else. (Trust me, you do NOT want to know the extent of the terrible) I ended up feeling a little less human.
Yesterday was the first day since my surgery that I was able to just kind of sit, nap and watch tv. It felt, weird almost. Everything just felt so different, I felt different but I didn’t really know why.
But it was time to go back to work.
I laid down to go to bed and my mind started racing. (Don’t you just love that) For the first time in a week I was wide awake and ready to have in depth conversation with boyfriend about everything that I had experienced. I started to think about how terrible it all was, and how I just didn’t feel…human.
This explanation was confusing to both me and boyfriend but as I rambled on I started to realize that I hadn’t had much room for feelings, other than the physical pain of course. I spent a week of my life forgetting who I had spoken to, forgetting what was talked about, not being able to do anything for myself, and only having focus on what was happening to my body.
It felt, empty.
I soon became fixated on the difference between existing and living.
I compared it to an elderly person who is sick and in a nursing home. People come to visit you, but when they are around they don’t really know what to do or say, and most of the conversation is either about you being sick or stuff you won’t even remember. You are literally there for the sake of existence. You’re not contributing anything to the world, you may have family that love and adore you but in this state, you’re just…existing.
So what’s my point?
When you’re numbed out, going through the motions, not letting yourself feel, you’re denying yourself from living.
My favorite moments from the week were when I could take a shower. Something about being able to just, take care of myself, wash off and feel clean afterwards – it was the closest thing to self-love I could get. I wanted so bad to paint my toenails (yea, I know…), one day I even put on mascara after my shower, even though I had no visitors coming that day. I was feeling a pull to take care of myself, to show myself a little bit of love.
Because love makes the world go round.
But really, the thought of being able to get out into the world and just contribute to society was enough to make me actually want to go back to work today. The thought of communicating with other human beings, and the possibility of actually helping someone during my day was making me feel a bit more human. And it all started coming together.
Even when we don’t want to, our contribution into society (our lives, families, self) is more than making a paycheck, paying bills and eating. That being said, even when we are just going to work to pay bills, we are contributing to someone else, in some way. Think on the smallest of levels.
Maybe you made that person’s day by saying hello. Or maybe you were the first customer to not yell at the cashier in the busy grocery store. Even the smallest of things can make a difference in someone’s day. But even more so, if you choose to concentrate on the little things, the tiniest contributions you can take yourself from a place of existing – to a state of living.
– Kara Beth
Ever since I could remember, I have always been a writer. I loved writing stories in school (though they were a bit morbid for my teacher’s taste), I couldn’t get enough of writing multiple page notes to my middle school bf’s, and when MySpace became a “thing” I wrote little blogs like crazy. Even throughout all this time, I never thought that writing would save my life.
We have been through a lot together, myself and writing. People have come along and mocked us, laughed at us, even degraded us. One person even had the audacity to tell us to stop. He said it was “generic” that is was what I did “for everyone”. So sadly, there were a few years where writing and I took a little break.
And then the storm of all storms hit
I was certain I had never felt so down in my life. Which was really something to say, considering everything I had been through prior to this moment. This was when the thoughts really started coming, really really bad thoughts. Thoughts centered around not being welcome in my own life, and wishing I could simply “disappear”. I don’t even remember how it happened, but somewhere somehow, I purchased a journal.
I began to write everything I felt, thought and saw
As you can probably imagine, this journal was quite scary. I talked a lot about how awful I am. “Why would anyone love me? look at me I’m a horrible human being”. “There’s a reason you’re alone and its because no one gives two shits about you, Kara”.
But something was happening, something was happening and I didn’t even realize until years later.
By journaling my thoughts, I was getting a bit of release. Through journaling, I was releasing all of my frustration, my fears, my thoughts – without the need to disappear.
It actually did the opposite
I started to want to open up about the way I felt. There were a few friends that knew that I had some “issues”, but none truly knew the extent. Journaling all of these thoughts, letting them out into the universe was making me want them to be read by someone.
I really don’t know what my intentions were, probably a bit sadistic, like “looked how screwed up I am”. Regardless, I took my book of awful thoughts and let a few trusted people dive in.
A few pages in and they were terrified.
A few months later I was seeing a counselor.
I continued to journal throughout my journey through counseling, seeing the doc and going down the not so lovely anti-depressant road. It wasn’t until meeting my new doctor and tapering off my meds, did my journal become my safe haven. To be completely honest, I was so terrified. Excited, but terrified. And I wrote it ALL down. Every bad thought, every good one. How I felt, how I wished I felt. What had before been a terrifying display of depression was turning into a haven of self-reflection.
I was learning
I was learning things about myself that I never knew before. I was watching myself change, day by day, right in front of my eyes. I was researching, reading and finding bloggers and coaches online to give me tips and guidance. I would write down their words and see how I could apply them to my own practice.
In today’s world: I still write down everything. (In fact I’ve filled 3 journals cover to cover in about a years time – now on my fourth) My journal is my best friend. It’s where I go when I’m frustrated, it’s where I go when I’m sad, when I feel like I’m not enough, when I’m scared. It’s where I go when I’m bored, when I’m happy. I’m there at least 6 days out of the week, and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
There are some skeptics
Some feel that writing out your negative thoughts will do nothing but spark your subconscious to further believe them. All people are different, and maybe this happens. But if I would have never picked up a pen, and started writing down how much I hated myself, I don’t know where I would be; if here at all.
It may not be for everyone, but I suggest that whether you are depressed, anxious or just plain unhappy – find a way to uncover the #truth.
It lies deep down somewhere, we just have to find a way to peel back the layers.
– Kara Beth