Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Self-Reflection

Recently, someone told me that I don’t seem to do as much reflecting on myself as I do criticizing others.  For those of you that have known me for several years, I’m guessing you are as surprised to hear that as I am.  I suppose I know a few individuals who interrogate themselves as much as I do, but I honestly don’t think I have ever met anyone who is harder on themselves than I am.

So how would an intelligent person make that observation?

You will find this shocking, but of course this has sent me on a deep dive into the inner recesses of myself in all of its glory and ugliness. It has caused a wide divide in my heart. Part of me wants to lash out angrily and say, “Stop it! You have spent years learning how to be confident in your intuitions. Your therapist (Scott) has literally spent over 16 years getting you to believe your judgements. And he has met many of my peeps personally. Dear Darren has spent the last couple of years convincing you that you are full of love and light, more than you had allowed yourself to believe. You are not perfect, but you do some things extremely well.”

The other side of the divide, is frankly the side that I have spent most of my life on. It’s much more familiar to me, and therefore much more comfortable. It is the part of me that I understand and yet is completely an unknown to me at the same time. It is the part that I mostly loathe. It is the part that makes me second guess every thought that comes into my head. It is a torturous part. And it is fully awakened now.

Even if it is true that I can be accurate often in my assessment of my self and others, what right does that give me to say any of it out loud? Just because I am capable of judging fairly, should I not be trying to curb the human urge to judge at all?

More troubling still, are the times that I find (always in hindsight) that I have overwhelmed someone or scared them with my intensity. I have no idea how I do it, which makes it almost impossible to control. I remember back in graduate school when a classmate sought me out to get me know me better and then I had to listen to her in group therapy talking about how I swallowed her up. All I had done was respond back to her letters she sent me. I don’t really understand it anymore now 20+ years later than I did back then. Seemed unfair to me, but nevertheless, that is how she felt.

There really isn’t any particular point to this blog. Just blabbing about what is going on in my cluttered, troubled head and heart. It’s not so pretty right now. I’m trying to fairly self-reflect without falling down the bitter rabbit hole of depression. It’s good for me to examine myself because I’m far from perfect. But cross your fingers and say some prayers that something positive and productive comes from it, rather than just useless self-loathing.

 


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Undercover Depression

I recently met a man at a party. He was very funny and outgoing. It was obvious that the people around him interacted often with him and were very fond of him. He certainly added to the level of fun that was happening. We spent a little one on one time together after that, and he ended up telling me that I would probably be surprised to know that he struggles with depression. I told him I was indeed surprised, but after some thought I wasn’t surprised at all. My response was also that he would probably be surprised to know that I struggle with depression as well. See, I was also pretty fun at that party. I have a decent sense of humor and can usually crack people up in a crowd.

Today I had lunch with one of my oldest friends. Ok, she is not old, but I have been friends with her for a long, long time. If you had to describe her, the word that pops into most people’s minds first is bubbly. She has an infectious laugh and usually has a crowd in stitches. I don’t get to see her very often, but over the years I have gathered some stories that have let me know that under the beautiful smile are also years of struggle and tears. Today, she talked about her struggle with depression.

At first glance, my thought was that people like the three of us can use our humor and outgoing personalities to mask our depression. I guess that is possible. But I decided I am rejecting that idea. Something about that sounds like our antics are not genuine somehow. It seems like a negative. I prefer to think we are “AND” people. We are fun-loving and witty AND we also struggle with depression. It isn’t necessarily some kind of cover-up. And I would also say, “thank God!” Can you imagine being depressed and not having the other side of you that can laugh and bring joy to others? That would really stink.

I’m about to start publishing a new book and I already told the author I would take the book on, but wanted him to know I disagreed with him philosophically. He is one of those extremely positive people who thinks that every person needs to choose how they view life. Period. I asked him if he had ever personally dealt with depression. He said no as I expected him to. I told him that anyone that truly has struggled with it, would never suggest that they could simply choose not to be. Trust me, if there was a way to choose it away, we would.

There isn’t a soul alive that knows anything about me that could say I haven’t tried to eliminate the depression. I have tried dozens of medications over the years. I have seen psychiatrists and therapists. I have gone to spiritual directors. I have done acupuncture treatment. I have tried doing nothing. I have recited positive affirmations til I’m blue in the face. I have kept gratitude journals. I have depression. It is what it is. AND I also can be a barrel of laughs. That is what it is too.

Those of you that wrestle with depression will know exactly what I’m talking about. Those of you that love people who struggle with depression, need to know that depression isn’t a result of you not caring enough or loving enough. And those of you that just judge others, well, shame on you. Just thank your lucky stars that you don’t have it. And for those of you that look at others with envy because they seem so happy and free, just know that perhaps that person may also have very, very dark moments that make them wither.

Ok, off my soap box now.


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Medical Favorites: The Mammogram

It’s that time of year for me. The yearly ob/gyn appointment, which leads to the yearly mammogram. It’s a favorite day for women everywhere. A few years ago there was all this hype because they were recommending only getting them every two years. The biggest reason is that they just cause so much damn stress for women.

I went Monday and it started off the usual way. Pink top, open in front. Arms up. Smooshed breasts, etc. Nothing attractive. When you get a good tech it is not terribly painful. Very uncomfortable, but not actually painful. Then you go in the special waiting room with the other women in the pink tops. They bring you a carnation when they clear you to leave.

“Do you want the new 3D mammogram? It is $60 if your insurance won’t cover it.”

“No thanks. My insurance won’t cover it. I already know that.” That was my first mistake.

I watch several women get their flowers and leave. I always take a long time. I start the usual mental gymnastics of talking in my head. Don’t get nervous, that’s bad for you. You always wait and worry and you are always ok. It actually got explained to me this time, partly by the poster on the wall and partly by the tech. There are four levels of breast density, A through D. I am a level C. Dense breasts make for difficult readings.

That’s what the tech tells me when she pulls me out of the room to talk to me without bringing me a flower.

“Because you are a level C, your doctor now has a standing order for you for a follow-up ultrasound after your mammogram.”

“Ok. I know I’ve had them before.”

“You should know it costs $200 if your insurance won’t cover it.” Crap, they should’ve told me I was getting a bargain earlier with the 60 bucks.

“Ok. So will you call insurance before?”

“No. You have to call them. You can use this room.”

This is when I start to get infuriated. I go through this with my orthotics too. Since when is it the patient’s job to make medical calls? I happen to lecture in the medical field and know how to be a patient advocate, but the average person does not have that experience. And even with that under my belt, I still am lost with this one. My niece works in a medical office and she explained that there are thousands of insurance companies that all have different rules. I get it, but isn’t that why docs hire office staff?

So you know how this goes. On hold. On hold. Verify who you are a thousand times.

“I’m sorry, what is the technical term for the procedure?”

I ask the tech.

“Breast ultrasound.” She seems a little shocked by the question because it wasn’t a tricky answer.

On hold. On hold.

“I’m sorry, but we need to speak to a medical professional about this.”

“Gee, that’s what I suggested.”

I walk over to the tech and have to practically force her to take the phone. She gives the woman the medical code and hands me back the phone.

I feel like pickle in the middle and I think this entire scenario is ridiculous. I’m now on hold again and this time there are two confused techs standing in the doorway because they can’t believe I can’t get a straight answer from my insurance company. I can’t believe I’m the one trying to get the straight answer.

“Good news. Your insurance will cover the ultrasound, but only if your doctor has pre-authorized it.”

I repeat it to the two techs in the doorway like a parrot who look at each other and shrug their shoulders. They have never heard of such a thing. Is that the same thing as a standing order? Back and forth, back and forth.

Finally I have enough.

“I WANT TO GO HOME. CAN I PLEASE JUST GO HOME? I’VE HAD ENOUGH.” I am now crying at this point. The techs feel terrible and say of course I can go home. I hang up the phone and I go take off the hated pink shirt.

On my way out, the techs try to nicely tell me the test can be done anytime. I just need to straighten out the insurance thing and reschedule. I ask her if anything in the regular mammogram came back questionable. She said no. I told her I wasn’t straightening anything out through my tears. I tell her I’m not coming back. And because my depression level has been super bad for 24 hours before I ever walked in the door, I tell her I don’t even care if I have cancer.

(Now right now, I apologize deeply to my dear, dear brave friends who have survived breast cancer. Several of you amazing powerhouses read my blog, so please know I mean no disrespect. All I can say is that depression makes you think terrible thoughts. That day I was sure that a mistake had been made and I was the one who was supposed to have cancer and die instead of Tim. Frankie desperately needs his father. At the time, I meant it, but I know it’s depressed thinking. Forgive me?)

Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder what has happened to the world. When did it get all mixed up? Why the hell was I even on the phone trying to get medical codes? Aren’t I the patient? I got the flower because they didn’t find cancer, but I admit I came home and threw it out. I was just angry. And I spent almost two hours in that office.

The next day my doctor’s office called. I assumed they were going to talk to me about the debacle of the day before. Nope. Just wanted me to know my pap came back positive for HPV virus. She explained it’s something you can get the first time you ever have sex, it just doesn’t show up. Nothing to worry much about though, just make sure you come every year to your check ups so we can keep on eye on you.

I always go to my appointments but I ask her what they are keeping an eye on? Oh. Higher risk of cervical cancer.

Perfect. I figured that’s just the universe being pissed off at me for saying the day before that I didn’t care if I got cancer.

I love being a woman.


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Ally McBeal

I absolutely love Netflix. Since the summer, I have really been working at being more comfortable being alone. Truth be told, the magic answer was in putting Netflix on my phone. I can lay in my bed for hours and hours and watch stuff on my phone. I watch series that start with the very first season and watch until I’ve completed it.

First, I watched Breaking Bad. I loved and hated it. I was so disturbed by it, I can’t even watch that actor in another movie now. No amount of reality talking in my head about how he was a real human just playing a fictional character will do it. I hate that Walter dude, no matter where I see him.

I decided in order to avoid a psychotic break, I needed to switch gears. I watched Friends. Ten freaking sessions. And you remember the old days. A season was actually 26 episodes, not seven like they do now.

Currently, I am switching back and forth between two series – Criminal Minds and Ally McBeal. I am convinced now that I am in season eight of Criminal Minds, that I am an excellent profiler. Put me on a serial killer case and I could figure it out. Of course, I’m no Spencer Reid, but he is one of a kind.

Then there is Ally McBeal. I used to watch her after I was divorced and had moved back to the Buffalo area. I loved her. Now that I am re-watching her, I know why. I swear, I AM Ally McBeal. The description of her show describes her as “unlucky in love.” I can certainly wear that label proudly.

She is incredibly quirky, which makes me giggle out loud when I watch. She is also terribly klutzy, which I unfortunately am also quite good at.  I asked a friend today what I should blog about, and he said thankfulness. It reminded me of an episode that I watched recently.

It was Thanksgiving, and Ally’s roommate walked into the living room to find her kicking their expensive couch cushions across the room. Ally was on a roll, being “thankful” for all the blessings in her life. It is hard to explain, but she was clearly being sarcastic. And yet she wasn’t. Overall, she is grateful and positive, but when you are “supposed” to be thankful, and then thankfulness is supposed to be the secret key to finding happiness, you can get pretty sarcastic.

So she went on with her list of items she was grateful for, and concluded with how especially grateful she was that Christmas was around the corner. She said the word Christmas with such disdain, it sounded like a curse word.

Only people who have experienced loneliness – I mean true, gut-wrenching loneliness – will understand that disdain. Holidays completely suck when you are lonely. Christmas is one of the worst.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in being thankful. I believe thankfulness is a powerful, powerful force in our lives. But I also know that there should never been an assumption that if you are sad, lonely, or in a depression, that the anecdote is necessarily learning to be grateful for your blessings. I believe with all my heart that I have recognized many, many blessings and amazing human beings that I am heartily grateful for (pun intended) and yet still experience profound sadness, loneliness, or depression. In fact, when you know all these things, you just add guilt to your list of negative affects because you know there are plenty of people out there who have less than you do. What right do I have to feel depressed?

Anyhow, even though it’s not Thanksgiving, try to revisit Ally McBeal. You will laugh your buns off, and you will probably also understand me on a different level. By the way, I’m currently NOT experiencing a lot of loneliness or depression, which I am VERY grateful for! 🙂


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Day Late, Dollar Short

I know, I’m a day late blogging. Sorry. I was trying to get camping for a night, but really the reason was that my mind was blank. I promised those of you that called me out that I would blog today. Only problem is, my mind is still blank. When I have things to write about, I am usually writing about them in my head for a while. When I sit down, it is just a matter of how fast I can type. When I don’t have something on my heart, I stare at the screen.

It’s all about broken records. Every time someone asks me (sincerely) how I am doing, I never know what to say. I’m the same. It’s always the same. I guess I’m fine. I mean, I am healthy. I get up every day and function. My family is healthy. There is rarely anything new. The same topics are there with a slight update, but overall, nothing is new. I’m fine.

Except if you know me, you know I’m anything but fine.

I guess the only slightly new paragraph to add to a very old chapter, is that I’m taking a break from dating. I had session with Scott last week and talked about it. He said it’s a big paradox for me. I have everything to offer a relationship, and I am clearly wired to interact and be with others. But he had to agree, that dating- or attempting to- has brought far more misery than it has brought happiness. So why even bother?

The latest disaster never even got to a first date. It was a match guy I spoke with in February. We never met but couldn’t remember why. He reached out to me again and asked if I would like to meet. He was kind of gruff on the phone, but my friend always tells me you have to have at least one face to face encounter. Some people are just different in person than they come across by text or phone. To be fair, you have to meet at least once.

Far be it from me to not give someone a chance. What I had was a week of aggravating phone calls and text messages that went something like this.

“Yeah, I’m off match. It was a waste. All the women on there want is attention. They don’t want relationships. And the women with kids don’t have time to date. If you don’t have time to date, then you should just get off match.” I give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe he met some real winners and is trying not to be too jaded. He immediately though, demands to know my schedule. I have plenty of time to date, but I need a little notice. When you juggle five jobs and are a full-time single parent, you have to schedule things in advance. I will be more than happy to make time for someone special, but in my mind you have to earn that kind of importance. I thought it incredulous that he expected to call me on Tuesday and be able to meet me within three days.

I offer to meet for breakfast on Sunday. “Well, what about Friday and Saturday?” I swallow the lump in my throat and explain sadly that one of my dear friends lost her son last week. The funeral arrangements were for Friday and Saturday. I committed my time to the family. I wasn’t sure if they would need me, but if they did, I would be there. If they didn’t need me, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be in the mood to go out and socialize after such a heart breaking service.

His response? “Oh, ok.” Hmmm. I know not all guys are sensitive and know what to say, but not even an I’m sorry to hear that? Or that’s too bad? Or anything at all that indicates you aren’t a total dick?

It only got better. As the day approached, it became clear that he didn’t have a vehicle. I refrained from saying what I was thinking: “Well, if a guy doesn’t even have a car to meet a woman on a date, then maybe he just shouldn’t be on match.” So he expected me to drive near his house to accommodate him. So the single guy with grown kids that live out-of-state, is being catered to by the busy single mom. Lovely.

It only got better.

He expected me to just come to his house. I politely and extremely firmly explained that as a woman, there was no way in hell I would ever ever ever meet a man for the first time anywhere but in a public place.

“That’s ok. We will sit in my backyard.”

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Then he insisted I at least pick him up at his house and drive him to the public restaurant.

Forget it. Sorry my friend. I don’t care what your advice is. I’m not meeting this guy face to face. I text him and tell him I don’t want to meet. I got back a nasty text saying it was obvious I didn’t have time to date anyway.

Sigh. Confirmation. It’s time for a break.

I had a special someone for quite a while. We both knew we didn’t want a serious or permanent relationship. We were both very clear about that. And it worked for quite a while. Even though it was less than ideal, I have to admit that it made the dating scene much more tolerable. While I was regularly meeting guys like the winner I just described, at least he and I would enjoy some companionship once in a while. Now that has stopped too. It was inevitable. But it is still sad. It stopped working because he just couldn’t believe that I didn’t want more. He knew he didn’t, but he just couldn’t wrap around that I didn’t either. I love him to death, but he has a tremendously huge ego that cost us our friendship. It’s a shame because I miss him.

At any rate, like I said, it’s a broken record. This song has been playing for over four years now. I’m fine. I really am. And I’m anything but fine.


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A River of Goodness

Remember when I told you that Summer gave me a pack of gratitude cards to use for blog day? Well, I’m using one today and it was labeled “A River of Goodness.”

It talks about how when you are feeling lonely and overwhelmed, you should remember there is a loving universe. You can listen for any sort of sign that soothes your soul, which then allows you to act wisely.

Hmmmm… I didn’t thumb through the cards, I just took the next one in the pack, trusting it would contain the message I needed. And in turn, I trust that there will be a reader or two that need the message as well. Last week’s blog garnered several comments and texts. Many of you tried the quieting exercises and sent me your results. The “winner” was a brilliant young lady I know who said she had 52 thoughts in two minutes!

Anyhow, back to the card. I am very, very happy to say that I have NOT been feeling lonely lately. I think that is a miraculous statement coming from me, and I think it’s based on a number of factors. First, my acupuncture doc actually said she thinks I’m ready to go down to one treatment a week. She reminded me of the first appointment I had with her and said I couldn’t even smile. Not only am I less depressed, I have actually been off the depression medicine for almost three weeks. HOLY COW!

When I am less depressed, I think I am able to appreciate the people in my life on an emotional level. I always maintain an intellectual gratitude for all the amazing folks in my life, but often times it just doesn’t affect the level of sadness I feel. When I am less depressed, I can appreciate it emotionally as well. I have all my family and friends who have always been there through some of the darkest things I’ve ever had to face in my life. Then there are friends I have discovered in the last four years since Tim’s passing. And now there are new faces in my life just in the last month or two who I am very grateful for. Isn’t that a lovely thing?

Back to the card. So yeah for not feeling so lonely. But the overwhelmed part still stings. My color-coded schedule has been out of control. The responsibilities have been relentless and I have been exhausted as a result. I am working very hard (no surprise there!) to figure out how to shift that. It’s hard because all the things I do are worthwhile and mostly necessary. But going from 7 am to 10 pm every day is a bit ridiculous. One sign from the universe was the announcement that I could go down to once a week with the acupuncturist. I don’t know what the answers are just yet, but I am going to keep chipping away at making my life more manageable. Last night I went to bed by 10:30 pm. My kitchen was a mess, but I valued not feeling like a zombie today more than a clean kitchen. The great thing is, I woke up refreshed and it was no problem to get the kitchen back in order. Priorities!

Overall, I’d say that is good news. I still have my share of critics out there who have voiced how negative my blogs have been. Well, HA! This one is positive 🙂


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Don’t Just Do Something… Sit There!

I went to see Bill (my spiritual director) today. We were discussing the lifting of my depression, but the trade-off being more angst-filled. Stuff like, what the heck is this all for anyway? Keeping it together so that you can keep it together for another day so you can keep it together for another day kind of thing. We talked about how I have never avoided pain in my life, always dealt with it head-on. Without realizing it, I think I assumed there would be some sort of pay-off eventually. So far, it’s just been another helping of tough stuff to deal with. At 48, I’m ready to move on to something new.

Anyhow, we didn’t solve the problems of the world, but we decided to start doing some meditation/prayer type stuff in session. I don’t do so well with it on my own, so if we do it together, I can probably practice it more easily at home. It was simple, interesting stuff, so I thought I would pass it along to you. Each of them were only one to two minutes long.

Exercise One:
Just sit there. Sit there quietly and just see what happens. Not for a long period, but just see what happens. I close my eyes when I do these kinds of things because it’s just easier for me. So I sat there and I was surprised that I was actually blank for a few minutes before the train left the station. Then it was, “Oh, I have to blog today. Maybe I should blog about sitting here.” And then my mind just goes from there.

Exercise Two:
Similar to the first exercise, you sit quietly but this time you actually count how many thoughts you have. I had six. I thought that was a lot, but Bill had six too. I don’t remember all of his, but his were:
1- Here. I’m just here.
2- Darcy. She’s here too.
6- Here. Here I am.

Mine were:
1- Nothing to start.
2- Have to call my friend as soon as I leave to confirm plans.
3- It’s blog day and I don’t know what to blog about.
4- I’m really hungry.
5- I wonder if that new guy I’ve been texting will contact me or not.
6- Nothing again. Can I count that twice?

Exercise Three:
Counting breaths. I had eight. Bill had three.

Does it all sound kinda goofy and pointless to you? It sounds funny to me as I write it. But when I was there, it was really cool. The object is to diminish your numbers. The goal is to be able to sit with blankness. For cripe’s sake, it was only a minute but it seemed like forever. The goal is to get your thoughts down to one or zero and be able to be empty. And the goal is to get your breaths down to three or less. Bill says the practiced monks can get down to one. That’s crazy.

Anyhow, I’m actually gonna try this the next few days. I asked him if the goal was also to increase the time you do it and he kind of chuckled. Typical question from someone like me. He said the goal is for time to be meaningless.

He doesn’t know a whole lot about acupuncture, and neither do I for that matter. But I told him it’s interesting that the big goal of those treatments is to relax. She puts a thousand needles in my body, then turns the lights off and tells me to take a nap. The more nothing I feel, the better. Hmmm… do you ever have the universe send you consistent messages?

So another paradox. Finding meaning in my life apparently requires me to conquer being empty. And yet the ultimate goal is to feel less empty. Weird. Maybe I’m just a quack that is hanging out with a bunch of quacks. But I’m liking it.

If you attempt any of these exercises, please feel free to share your stories. I’m fascinated! Really folks, it’s safe to try it at home. Just sit and try to be empty.

Crazy.