Thursday, March 15, 2018

Saying Goodbye to the Past

For the past 2.5 days, I've been sitting in front of my laptop skimming, clicking and sighing. I've been clearing out the "everything else" folder in my one gmail account. It's been a task that I've been putting off for far longer than any one task should be put off for. Why? Well, multiple reasons:

1) I knew it would be tedious. Just like I struggle with hoarding tendencies in my non-digital life, I do with things like email. I knew there was a lot of emails in there and clicking on each little checkbox was going to be boring and take a lifetime.

2) This is just one of about four that need to have this done and I felt like if I did one, the next step would have to be moving on to another one.

3) I was afraid of what I would find in there. My past hasn't always been stellar and this account goes back to about February of 2006.  That's a lot of life. That's before my divorce. That's before I moved to New York and back to Michigan. Since it seems I never deleted anything, this made me anxious.

Still, I needed to do it and for whatever reason, I decided on Tuesday to start hacking my way through the 41,000+ emails that were in there. I created some new "folders" and dragged and dropped things. I deleted things, first by clicking 25 little boxes and then by clicking the select all after I'd moved anything I wanted. I got through about 21,000 on Tuesday. It felt pretty good but I could feel my anxiety rising. By last night, each new group of emails was a struggle. I was starting to see emails from or about people who I had once considered good friends who turned their backs on me. I saw Facebook notifications about friends who had died and their posts. Still, I pressed on and today was the hardest. So many emails were like that. I came across an email with the funeral arrangements for a friend, emails from people I love who no longer have time for me, and more. Still, I pressed on and right now, unless an email has come in, the "everything else" section of my account is empty. I still have to go through the "All Mail" section to clean out some things that didn't show everything from before June 2009 which didn't show up. It can wait for another day. I finished the task that I had set for myself.

It was hard. It was harder than I thought it would be. There were times where I'd just stare at a name in my inbox and re-live losing that person. I dealt with the pain of losing friends to death and to losing others to life. I'm glad that I waited until the time felt right and didn't force myself to do this when perhaps I wasn't strong enough to handle it. Now, it's done and while I feel a bit wrung out, I can put all of this behind me and move forward in my life because if nothing else, we should always be moving forward even if it's one tiny baby step at a time.

If you feel like you're ready to tackle something like this, I'd love to tell you what worked or at least helped me. Hopefully it will help you and help you to say goodbye to some not so great pieces of your past so that you can start to take another step forward:

1. Don't open each email. You may be tempted. Don't do it. Don't relive things to that level. Acknowledge it and delete it.

2. Batch delete. Save yourself some serious time and find all of the emails from a sender and if you don't need them, delete them all at once. I deleted over 1,000 from Facebook with a couple of clicks.

3. Be gentle with yourself. If you start to get overwhelmed, it's okay to take a break. It's okay to walk away from it for as long as you need to. I had to multiple times. Remember that during this, you are what matters.

....And always, no matter what, remember that you're not alone, no matter how many icky emails there might be in any account, someone loves you and you always have a place in this world.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Feeling Invisible

I had an entirely different post planned for this evening, but sometimes something comes up and I feel drawn to write about it. I don't know why but I hope it's the universe telling me that someone else needs to hear it or to know that they're not alone in it happening to them.

Lately, things have been crazy busy for me. There has been a whole lot of juggling happening and I've been pretty okay with how things were going...or so I thought. Tonight, something happened that had me physically stop mid-step in the middle of a store.

I was walking down the main back aisle after picking up yet another new charger cord for my phone when I saw the display that's posted here. It was full of cute boots and my first thought was, "Wow, those are really nice, but I'm not pretty enough or cool enough to wear something like that."  It wasn't that I'd probably not find something that fit on a clearance rack since cute shoes are tough to find with my wide feet, but that I was too ugly to wear awesome looking boots. Woah.

Then, I finished my shopping, went to the car, and ate a king size Reece's Cup before I'd even driven all the way across the parking lot. I self medicated with food. I self medicated for a problem that I didn't even realize I was having. Then, I took the 20 minute drive home (yep, I live 20 minutes at least from the closest grocery store) to explore why it was that I was feeling that way.

I realized just how tired and worn around the edges I really am. Absolutely I'm getting done what needs to get done. Bonus of being high-functioning, but when I don't have something that I *must* be doing, I'm having a tough time finding the motivation to keep going. Social media has become both a blessing and a curse. I long to reach out to people, but at least one of the people that I feel safe with has told me that they don't want me coming to them when I'm in a bad place because it's not good for them. Losing a safe place is incredibly hard.

On top of that, due to algorithms and various social media twerpishness, I feel invisible. I see other people doing the same things that I'm doing or have done and they're getting a ton of attention but I'm not. After a while, the intellectual side of me that says, "Hey, it's okay. Algorithm bullshit." gets shoved out of the way by the ugly brain stuff that says, "People love them but they don't care about you. Why do you even bother posting? Heck, why do you even bother writing stories and books? You've had almost no interaction on any posts about how you have a new book out tomorrow. Even your publisher isn't liking, commenting, or posting about it. You should just give up. Nobody cares about you or your life."

I realized that while I was proud of myself for the things that I had gotten done, I was silently beating myself up for what I hadn't. My house is a total disaster, like hoarder levels in some parts. I should be working on that, but I've been running around trying to do everything else and I can't seem to find the strength to push myself to tackle that giant project too. I'm part of a decluttering group and everyone is super supportive but I barely post to my thread there because I don't want them to know that I'm pretty much failing at the thing they've praised me for before. To add complication to that, I feel hurt that they're making a big fuss over another member...another member who totally deserves it...I guess seeing her progress and her strength (though she'd say she's no stronger than I am) reminds me more of what I'm not getting done. I feel as if I should be the wonder woman that people have claimed that I am. I've been tearing myself down and it's become so routine that I didn't even realize that I was doing it.

Somehow, while thinking about all of this, I got to thinking about how I have to be ready to move in just over a year and how I have no idea where I'll be. My kids will be off in college and living their own lives and I'll be more physically alone than ever. One single thought kept bouncing around in my head. "If something doesn't change, I'm not going to be able to handle that and I'll end up killing myself."  As soon as I thought it, I knew it to be the truth. There's a really good reason that I keep as busy as I do when I can. If I'm stagnant, bad things happen in my head.

So, what am I going to do? I don't 100% know yet. I'm going to restart my medication. I had to go off of it when I had the flu. Swallowing led to coughing fits that led to me throwing up. I'm better now so I can start them again. I'm going to keep posting here and being real with anyone who reads this. I'm going to take some time for me so I can figure out what's coming up with a clear head. I need a plan, a schedule, something to keep me on track. I'm going to look for safe places and safe people so when I need them, they're there.

I'm going to keep telling all of you that you're not alone and that if you need someone, I'm always checking comments and things like that. Why? Because none of us are truly alone.

Friday, February 16, 2018

"Silly" Anxieties..

This afternoon, I'm going to get a haircut. Big deal, right? Nope...well, yes, it kind of is to me and I don't know why. It took me a couple of hours to open up the website and to set the walk in time. Now, I have about two hours until I have to leave and I'm back and forth about keeping the appointment. Why? Because the idea of going in and having my hair cut for the first time in over two years is freaking me out.

"What if they cut it too short? What if I don't like it? What if "he" doesn't like it? He likes it long and I've kept it long for him."

That's all followed by:

"Hair grows back and it will probably grow back healthier. The he that you're thinking of just told you that he doesn't want to even see pictures of you so who cares what he thinks. It's your head, your hair, and you're the one who has to deal with it. Did he ask you before he got his cut? No and he didn't really care what you thought about it. You need to do this for you. You deserve a bit of pampering. He deserves a kick in the ass."

The one voice in my head is often pretty damned straight forward and I can always count on it to tell it how it is, even if it can be a bit on the mean side. In some ways, I'm very thankful that it's there. It helps to cut through the bullshit that the rest of my brain is creating sometimes.

Does this mean that I won't be anxious as all get out driving there, parking, walking in, and telling the girl, "I have no idea what I want, just wash it and make it look pretty." I've been assured that it's okay to do that and that they'll be excited to just be able to do their thing.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because we all have these "silly" anxieties and it helps to know that you're not alone and I'm not alone. This week has been an especially hard one for me with a lot of things breaking or breaking down in my world. I know that's part of the problem. Still, I can take a lot of deep breaths and get through it. I remind myself that each moment is a chance to start the day over.

So, if you're having an anxiety attack over something that seems silly to you, don't let that negativity build into the anxiety. It's okay to feel anxious over some little thing. Just know that you'll get through it and come out the other side.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Self-Care Is Not Selfish Care

Wow...the best laid plans of mice and men... Just as I got on a little roll writing posts that meant a lot to me, I got sick. For those who have followed along here or know me, you know that I have mediocre health it seems. My youngest child has informed me that I have the worst immune system of anyone he knows. I thought he was being silly until I started noticing on my "On This Day" Facebook thing how often I mentioned being sick. Geez, my body needs to get its act together!

So, anyway, I got sick and not just a little sick. I caught this year's influenza bug and it laid me out for two solid weeks. The coughing got so bad that I was having to use a rescue inhaler and couldn't talk without ending up gasping for air. Thank goodness, I'm better now. I still have zero stamina but I'm not coughing myself straight through the couch anymore!

Oddly enough, that's almost the perfect introduction to this post. Being sick is hard. Being sick when you're the person that takes care of others and who is constantly busy. Just because I'm sick doesn't meant that my boys no longer need/want their mom around. That's what my mom brain tells me. "They have a game tonight. I have to be there. That's my job as mom." Well, it turns out that they a) think I'm more important than a basketball game and b) don't want to catch my disease. (Those are both courtesy of my oldest.)

I felt really bad about missing things until he reminded me that it's important for me to get healthy. All of my time on the couch got me thinking about how important self-care really is. If I don't take care of myself, I get rundown and then I get sick (again) and I can't take care of the boys or do any of the things that I enjoy doing. If I don't have downtime now and again, I get wound so tight that I become unfocused and useless.

The problem, or one of them, is that I'm not really good at self-care. I get so busy with the boys' schedules and with all of the things I'm sure I *have* to do that I just let taking care of me slide. Heck, "the man" used to tell me all the time that I suck at taking care of myself. Luckily, he agrees that I've gotten better. I had to get more "me-centric". I had to stop worrying so much about the rest of the world and say, "Hey, what do I need today?" It's not easy. It's been a challenge and sometimes I still really suck at it.

The other challenge? What is self-care? Is it taking a shower? Putting clean sheets on the bed? Doing my nails? Reading a book? Coloring? Brushing out and braiding my hair so it isn't a tangled mess? It turns out that it's all of the above. While searching the internet, I came across these graphics which I found incredibly helpful and want to share with you guys!
Aren't those great? I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to be referencing them on the days where I just feel stuck. I hope that they help some of you, as well! I'm also considering bringing back a segment that I used to do over on Life With Katie called Time For Me Thursday. It was a weekly post (duh, right?) where I talked about different things that you could do or that I was doing to take care of yourself/myself. It certainly can't hurt to nudge me to take care of me or to remind you that you too are important.

For now, I'm off for a late lunch and then to go see my youngest perform in his first jazz concert of the season! Take care, everyone!

Friday, January 19, 2018

PTSD and Me

When most people think of PTSD, they think of soldiers coming back from war or war torn areas. While this is very much a real thing, there are so many more of us who deal with it. In fact, according to the Nebraska Department of Veterans' Affairs, 5.2 million Americans suffer from it in any given year. That's a lot of folks, folks!

As always, I'm not really here though to talk about anyone else's experiences. I can only speak to mine and since I had something trigger recently, I thought that maybe it might be a good time to tell all of you about it.

According to one doctor, I've had PTSD since I was approximately 3 years old. Yep, you read that right. Three years old. That comes out to about 38 years of PTSD and for me, while that one traumatic incident started it, others just added to it over the years. Let's start at the beginning though...

When I was about three, I was sent to my father's house for some sort of visitation. He left me alone with his girlfriend while he went to work. As the tale goes, this girlfriend had her own children taken away by the courts and was a very jealous type. For whatever reason, she beat me. That sounds ...somehow more than a description and yet not enough of one... She returned me to my grandparent's house covered in bruises, including perfectly circular ones that went up my spine. I had to be taken after hours to see my pediatrician where, at the age of about three, I had to be examined to make sure I hadn't been raped. Imagine your child having to go through all of that and having no idea what they'd done.

I can tell you now what it is that I think I did. I existed. That's all that it took. For years, I had nightmares and after a lot of time, I can tell you what I think happened to me. At some point, I was locked in a closet because she didn't want to see me. I was almost potty trained and at some point, I had an accident and peed my pants. I was slapped or hit repeatedly across my vagina. I was given a scalding hot bath and held under the water while she screamed at me. Then, I was dropped on my grandparents' porch and she drove away. My father lost all but supervised visitation after that.

That's when the nightmares started. I should say nightmare because it was always the same one. I once asked my grandmother about it and her response was, "Oh god, we'd hoped you wouldn't remember." I was an adult with children of my own by this time and she'd had no idea about the nightmares because I'd never told anyone.

That's where the PTSD started and if I were to write out full descriptions of what added to it, we'd be here all day, so I'm just going to do a list:
1. Parental Abandonment
2. Emotional and sometimes physical abuse by my mother
3. Loss of a child (17 weeks pregnant) followed by emotional abuse by his father
4. Divorce
5. Rape

There may be other things, but honestly, how many do we need, right? I mean, that's a lot for any person.

Over the years, I've struggled to move past some of these things but I know that they've molded me. How my parents treated me has directly affected how I treat my own children. I won't thank them, but they were a very good example of how not to parent. Perhaps, in some sadly ironic way, they've made me into a better parent than I may have been otherwise.

There have been other consequences, of course. I don't trust easily and while I'm an open book if asked, I don't open up easily otherwise. It's very hard sometimes for me to believe that anyone really likes me and if people don't make those first moves, I automatically assume it's because they don't like me. It doesn't occur to me that maybe they're waiting just like I am.

Relationships....all I can say is ouch. I left my divorce having no idea who I am and eleven years later, I'm just at the point where I can say, "Yeah, I'm finding parts of myself and it's good." I've had a couple of pretty intense relationships in that time and the problem was that at least one of them was a case of two broken people which never goes well. My last relationship left me damaged in other ways
and added to the PTSD. My current relationship? We've been together for about 2.5 years and I'm lucky that he honestly believes that I'm not hard to love. As for me, he's forced me to grow and get stronger. He doesn't believe in rewarding my insecure behavior and more than once I've been left with the decision of leaving the relationship or dealing with whatever issue is buzzing in my head.

Why am I sharing this with all of you? As with everything that I write about here, I want you to realize that if this is something that you deal with, you're not alone. For those who don't, I want you to realize that others around you may be dealing with things that you have no idea about. PTSD can be one of those silent illnesses that you don't even know is there unless someone tells you.

For example, when something triggers me, I don't get violent (the stereotype with this disorder). In fact, about the opposite happens. I'm more likely to curl into myself. I'm more likely to sit and stare into space. Someone once told me that I was the stillest person they had ever seen. I had fled to their house to get away from the world after someone that I trusted and loved essentially stabbed me through the heart and then turned their back on me. The friend didn't really have furniture in their living room so I spent the weekend sitting on his hard wood floor and just surviving. Every person handles things differently and their survival mode may be different.

Up above, I posted some of the symptoms of PTSD. Short of one or two, I've probably dealt with all of them. I'm happy to say that the recurring nightmare from childhood is a rare occurrence these days but I'm still hyper alert to certain behaviors. It's for this reason, I've had to walk away from some friendships and some people. Their behavior is a trigger for me and while they may realize it, they don't feel the need to change it. See? I told you that on some level, all of these posts were interconnected!

So, one blog post later, I don't know if anything I've written here has helped anyone but perhaps it's a reminder to be kind to one another because we never know what someone else is dealing with in their lives. A bit of kindness costs nothing  but can be worth all the gold in the world to someone who needs it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye...

Welcome to day 2 of things stuck in my head. I don't know if all of you have read my last few posts, but if you haven't, I encourage you to go back to them. All of these are interconnected, as you will hopefully find as you read through them.

Today's topic is one that's been on my heart for a while now. I'm seeing a lot of people having to deal with others that are so toxic that it's making them either physically sick or emotionally so. I want to tell you my story.

About nearly six years ago now, I publicly declared myself an orphan which confused a lot of people. Both of my parents are alive and well. From the outside, I had always had a great family life. That was from the outside though. From the inside, things weren't so pretty. My parents abandoned me (and my sister) with my grandparents when I was very young. My father had left me with his girlfriend when I was a toddler and I was horribly physically (and emotionally) abused. My parents weren't parents. They were sperm and egg donors. Once that part was done, they wanted nothing to do with the actual raising and effort it takes to raise a child.

Fast forward a lot of years and my grandfather had died and my grandmother was very sick and in the hospital. I was called by my mother to rush up there because she may not make it. I did and that's when the guilt laying started. She wanted me to somehow fix everything but there was no way that I could. My grandmother did get better and was sent to a home to rehab. During this time, it was discovered that her house was filled with bugs and that she was a semi-hoarder. My mother and my uncles turned to me and expected me to drop everything to clear the house. The problem? I had two small children at the time and it was summer break. My uncle would guilt me into helping by throwing out how she'd raised me and done everything for me and yet wouldn't allow my children into the house and would tell me how if the police stopped by, I would lose my children. I couldn't afford daycare and their father (who I was divorced from) worked all day. I couldn't win. My one uncle, the one I thought was reasonable, wouldn't stand up for me and bowed to whatever his younger brother wanted. I couldn't win. So, I did the house...and once she got home, I visited whenever I could.

Fast forward from July when she came home to March when she soon as she died, it fell on me to start going through the hundreds of boxes that we had stacked in the garage when we cleared out the house. It was my job to be there every weekend...oh, and I had to create piles. Trash, donate, and if there was any chance it was worth anything, it had to be set aside because my "family" was selling off anything of value, even if my grandmother had wanted someone to have it. They tried to sell me an antique desk until they realized they'd have to do repairs to sell it. After that, I could just have it.

I lasted until that point, I walked away. I walked away from that entire family and other than twice when I had to, I haven't spoken to any of them since. Was it an easy decision? No. I had every social standard whispering in my ear that family is forever, that you only get one set of parents, and everything else we've ever been taught about family. Was it the right decision? Yes. I discovered a couple of years later that I have PTSD that began when I was a toddler and was only added to by my "family".

It's not just family though. Sometimes you have to walk away from others that you care about and that you love because they've just become toxic in your life. I have one friend that I have to do this with. We were once very close but in the past year or so, he's turned into someone that I no longer recognize other than a brief glimpse now and then. When I comment on a post of his on Facebook, he almost always belittles my comment or turns it somehow so I look like a bad person. It's gotten to the point where I question myself and that isn't acceptable.

I'm going to say this and I want everyone to listen....A friend is not someone who makes you feel bad about yourself or who makes you constantly question who you are as a person. That isn't a friend. Get away from it. Run. Don't walk. These people are hazardous to your health. It's going to be hard. It's going to suck. There may be tears. I know I've shed a lot of tears as I've hit the unfriend button and cut people out of my life. It's not easy. Heck, even with my parents, even though I know just how toxic they are (and what I put here was just a small taste), even though I have no idea where they live, how they are, etc ....the fantasy of having proper grandparents for my children lures me in and every so often I reconsider. Then, I remember that my own children asked if they had to have them as friends on Facebook or talk to them. They will never be the grandparents that I wanted for my children and if I want to be a grandparent to my future grandchildren, I can't expose my own children to that.

It's incredibly hard to say goodbye to yesterday, to the happy memories, to any of that, but what you have to remember is that if that person isn't the person in those memories, you're not saying goodbye to your friend, but to someone who has, by choice, become toxic and a stranger. I'm not always great at following my own advice, but you have to take care of you first. Just like on an airplane with a child, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first in case of an emergency. Take with you the happy memories but leave the ugly in the past.

Just remember:
1. It's okay to feel sad that you're having to let go of either what was or what you were hoping it would be.
2. You're not melodramatic or an attention whore because you want people to invest the way you have.
3. People who are happy to have you as their friend, to do for them, aren't the people you want to have around if they're not acting like your friend or there for you when you need them.
4. Broken people are broken and it's not your job to fix them. (This one is a reminder for myself because I sometimes seem to collect these people...dang big heart!)
5. It's okay to walk away if a relationship is no longer healthy and a good thing for both people.

And most of all...remember that you're not alone. There are those who do love you and who are your friends and even your family, even if you weren't born into it.

PS I'm not going to lie. As I've typed this entire post, I've had one song in my head...and I bet you can guess which one.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Being Brave is Hard

Last week, I wrote a post about where I am right now. In it, I mentioned that it was almost a summary of a few posts that would be coming. This is the first of those posts.

Most of you probably didn't see my 2018 goals post over on Life With Katie. In it, I put Be Brave as one of my goals. That may seem silly. Brave is something you are, not something you do, right? Wrong. This isn't the soldier on the battlefield kind of wait, it kind of is. Every day is a battle for some people. So, let me try that again. This isn't "accidental" or subconscious bravery. This isn't the kind where you just do it. I'm talking about the kind of brave that is a conscious decision...and that, my friends, is the kind of brave that is hard and exhausting.

Let me give you an example:
Things between me and the man are a bit odd right now. I have my suspicions as to why and I'm not going to share them here. The problem is that when things go a bit wonky in this relationship, it's insanely hard for me. My PTSD kicks in and it's incredibly easy for me to start to spiral to a very bad
place. I spent a day in a very bad place. Then, I decided that I had to get brave. I had chosen it for a goal and now was the perfect time to practice that. After all, if you practice something enough, it becomes habit and wouldn't life be easier if decisions became second nature and not always such a conscious thing?

So, the next morning, I took a lot of deep breathes, cried some more tears, and then I made a list of what I wanted to get done by the end of the month. Then, I started with the little things...I ordered my son's birthday gift, I sent out things that needed to be sent... at the end of the day, I had a decent sized list of things that I had gotten myself to do.

And then I slept for two days...

Yep. For the following two days, all I did was sleep. Forcing myself to be productive instead of curling up in a ball took every bit of energy that I had. Then, I had to convince myself that it was okay and that I didn't need to beat myself up that the list wasn't progressing and that instead, I was thinking of more things to add to it. I had to remind myself that if I pushed too hard, too fast, I'd be useless and useless isn't something you can be when you have children who need you. So, I slept when my body said sleep and I did when I had to do. Now, it's a new week and I'm making that same be brave, even though I know what it might lead to.

If I'm not brave, if I just give into the anxiety and the fears, I won't be who I want to be. I have to fight, even if it's through choosing my battles and even if things take longer than a month. I didn't get to where I'm at overnight and I won't get away from it overnight either.

So, to all of you who are struggling right's okay. You're not alone. Try to find a way to be a little bit brave each day. Maybe that's just putting on pants, or eating breakfast, or sending out that email that you know that you should. It doesn't have to be huge, it just has to be something. I know what it will tire you out. That's okay too. Take the time that you need to recover. Be kind to yourself. I know just how easy it is to beat yourself up until you're curled up in a ball. Life is hard, but somewhere, deep down inside all of us is a little bit of brave.

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