Soft earth. On Being Alive.

You guys, I'm alive. I mean you knew that. But here's the thing. I'm ALIVE.  This is wonderful, this is exciting, this is painful, this is frightening, this is overwhelming, this is hard.

Being comfortably numb (with apologies to Pink Floyd) has its benefits. It is by its very definition, comfortable.  One only has to have dental work without full anesthesia to know that numbness can be a very desirable thing. It has its place.  But it is no way to live.

Life is really intense lately, it's been truly uncomfortable. Sometimes barely tolerable. But there have been some freaking excellent highs sprinkled in there on a consistent basis too.  Having experienced comfortably numb, uncomfortably numb and flat despair. I feel privileged to feel the burn of being alive.

Last night I was at a birthday party for an awesome friend. I was surrounded by wonderful friends. Life was good.  There was laughing and dancing and happiness. This morning the demons woke me up.  Problems seemed insurmountable and all consuming.  I felt trapped and overwhelmed. I felt the numbness creeping in. I pictured soft earth, burrowing myself into it, curling up fetal, shutting it all out. No decisions to make, no dilemmas to solve, no painful conversations to have, no uncertainty, no anger, no insecurity, no more questions, no more feelings. Appealing. Bury it. Shut it all down.

A run was in order. I knew it. The weather is impeccable. Had to happen. But I weighed 10,000 lbs and the weakness in my limbs was profound .  Extreme emotional exhaustion was my self diagnosis. It's more draining than the longest run I've ever done.  I sat at the entrance to the woods willing myself to get out of the car and run.  But I just felt heavier and heavier and more and more tired, the soft earth fantasy was more and more appealing.  I pictured myself going home, going up to my room. pulling the blankets over my head and falling asleep. But sleep is never really a great escape for me. I dream constantly and vividly.  So that kind of sucks.  I feel myself detaching watching myself slipping back into the place I have clawed my way out of.

Defeated, I put my car into reverse and started backing out.  I saw another car waiting to get out, so pulled forward again.  I caught sight of the driver.  It was a young guy, he smiled and gave me a friendly wave.  He looked alive and happy,  he had just been in the woods, in the fresh air and sunshine. I wanted to feel like that. I didn't want the soft earth to cover me.  I pulled back into my parking spot.  I made a playlist. I named it Kirsty Kicks Ass.

I dragged my 10,000 lb body out of the car, my weak limbs trailed along behind me. I cranked up my music. I told my legs to run.  I thought about the conversations I have had this weekend. I thought about the friends I have.

I thought of my beautiful brave friend who has endured more shit than anyone deserves to, who encourages me even as she struggles.  I thought of her echoing my question emphatically,  "why is it so hard to LIVE?". How validated I felt at that moment.   I thought of my friend who always reminds me that I'm in charge of my own life, who says, "I get it" and 100% does.  I thought of my friend who is going through the hardest time of her life and continues to be a rock. I thought of the friends who freely express confidence in me and love for me. I thought of my son who told me
"mom you are so awesome" as I left the house.   My pace increases. The limbs stop feeling weak. I think about how hard life is for every single person I know, how we are all connected in suffering. Health problems, money problems, kid problems, lonely marriages, unrequited love, insecurities, feelings we are not at liberty to express,  I think about how good it feels to laugh, I think about how lucky I am to have people in my life who make me laugh every day. As I run I feel the soft earth under my feet. It is springy, it launches me forward. It is good to be alive,

An Open Letter To My Formerly Depressed Self

So it’s been a while since I posted here and recently I’ve had several queries regarding getting back to it. I didn’t feel a pressing need for some reason, I didn’t feel I had a lot to say and thought maybe the blog had finally reached it’s natural and final resting place.  But over the weekend a friend of mine who has been valiantly fighting (and winning) a battle against depression mentioned to me that seeing my progress back into a happy and functional life as snippets on social media has been inspiring and comforting. 
I came back to the blog and saw where I left off and felt like it definitely warranted an addendum.  Time is of the essence and I’m trying to beat my “if I can’t do this perfectly I won’t do it at all” tendencies so this update won’t be a literary masterpiece but I’m hoping that it will be of some small glimmer of hope to anyone swirling around the hideous abyss right now.  Much love and strength being sent from me to you.

Without further ado (actually I’m coming back to this more than a week later so I guess there was indeed further ado…oh well!)
Hey K
So it’s a few months in the future and I’m writing this from the very spot where you lie now.  Omigosh, NO! Sorry! Sorry!  Didn’t mean to alarm! No, no, don’t end it all. JUST KEEP READING goshdammit!  I have the best news!
Here it is.
It’s late March 2016 and I’m not the hollow eyed staring blankly at the wall shell of the person you feel like now. I haven’t been for quite some time now. Like months and months!  It gets better you poor little thing. I promise.  Promise.  No, no, I’m not being condescending. I truly feel so, so tender toward you, you are going through hell right now and you have been there and back countless times before but this time is different I think we both know. This time was a watershed hellacious event for you.   And…drumroll please….I’m so excited and proud to tell you that even though you don’t feel remotely like a trooper, you totally are, and you are closer than you know to digging yourself out of that awful dark place you have every right to be in. You should know that. You have earned this breakdown that you are having.  Every bit of it. Feel not one ounce of shame about it. It’s not your fault. You don’t deserve it at all but the fact that you have shut everything down for a season is hundreds.  It’s a good thing you have done. Coming from a brain and a body that is wiser than you know and finally decided that enough was enough. And it is totally necessary to the process of putting you back together again.

 And darling, when that happens? It’s going to be fabulous. Read on, read on.
So here’s the scenario since you like to be able to picture future events with solid clarity:
I’m dressed in my running clothes. I just dropped Ella at school. On the way there we sang at the top of our voices and laughed and laughed.  Every morning I let her pick a song for us to sing on the way to school. Do you remember when it just used to summon every ounce of strength you had to get her there. It’s totally no big deal now. We dance and laugh through the morning routine. She even dresses herself now! You totally aren’t stressed about stuff like socks matching and this just so and that so. You’re almost normal now in fact. And good news is she’s knocking it out of the park. Mostly. When we got there we raced to her locker and giggled.  On the way out of the door to the car, we stopped and gasped in delight at the little blue flowers that are making their way up through the flower beds on our pretty front path.  I felt giddy joy at the warmth of the air and the daffodils just beginning to sprout. Spring. It eventually comes every time. (And then of course it bloody well snows on the daffodils but let’s not dwell on that right now…moving on)

Look baby shoes, I know you feel like you have no future. That you will never have the strength to do anything but lie in that bed, ever again but it’s not true!  I do all kinds of things now. I went for a long run in the rain yesterday. It was fun and easy.  I love running again. I love yoga, my body feels like mine again. (I’m sorry to inform you that we’re even training for a marathon, I know. I know. But we must.  It’s good for us to have challenges. Ok we will talk more about that later. Shhhhhhh….shhhhhh….just keep reading.)
I know you feel like you will never be able to do anything meaningful or productive again, that you have no stamina, no staying power, there is no way for you to know how you will feel from one moment to the next so you can’t commit to anything. You can’t be relied upon. You have nothing to contribute.  It’s totally okay that you feel like that right now because this is the time for you to just heal and focus on you. You are right. You absolutely don’t have anything to contribute to the rest of the world at this moment  in time because the job that you are doing is immense and mammoth and incredibly hard. But you are actually nailing it, just lying there in bed, dragging yourself to stupid freaking therapy which feels like the biggest waste of time and money ever (it’s not by the way, just keep going, therapy is going to change everything for you).
Ok so I know this is totally going to be hard to swallow but it’s just a few months later, and we are firing on all cylinders.  I  have a job that is fun and meaningful to me . I get out of bed and I go to it just like normal people do.  Even when I don’t particularly feel like it.  You have bad days and good days, let’s keep it real here. There have been a couple of seriously triggering events that have unraveled me for a few hours but not rendered me dysfunctional for days. I have had plenty of flashes of huge rage,  innumerable moments of crushing grief, thoughts of “what if and if only” pangs of regret,  and just..pure sadness but they don’t envelop me anymore, I  don’t spiral down into them when they arrive. I acknowledge them and think about them, often I talk about them to  trusted loved ones, and then I get on with my day and focus on my life now and in the future.
Oh honey. I know. Your sweet kids, thinking about them right now fills you with a sense of shame and guilt. You feel like a terrible, terrible mother! What are you doing to them? They are going to be so scarred and damaged seeing you like this.  You are so useless and so empty. You love them with everything in your broken self, but you can’t bear to be with their high energy for more than a few minutes at time. They are like a bright light shining directly in your eyes in the middle of the night. It’s too much. You physically can’t deal with the demands of motherhood that used to come completely naturally and without thought. The job you were born to do feels like it has been taken away from you and there’s nothing you can do to stop it happening.  But none of that is true. Oh  I know you are so, so sad. You believe that things will never be the same between you and them. It’s just not true.

I’m thrilled to inform you that the kids are fine! Better than fine.  The kids are actually fantastic (right now that is, you know how I feel about jinxing these things.) But seriously girl, you totally need to give them more credit. Those kids have coping mad coping skillz ! Consider your own!  (Trust me, I know this is virtually impossible to believe, but in time you’re actually going to realize that you have been pretty amazing in the coping skills department all your life, why shouldn’t they be too?)  And as you know, they’ve got some solid stuff from their dad too.  They are pretty resilient kids. It’s all good. Once I started getting better I had lots of frank talks with them. They each told me in their own way and without mincing words how much it sucked when I was sick. How worried they were.  I  felt so honoured that they would share that pain with me. So relieved. I said I was really sorry about how it made them feel. That I had been worried about them too.  I told them that it wasn’t their fault. I told them that it wasn’t my/your fault either. I told them what I had learned. I asked them what they had learned.  I realized that all of us had come away with an increase in compassion and a decrease in judgment.  Now they come to me when they are concerned about their friends. They ask me to help them.  They know the signs of depression, they know how scary it is, they know it can be beaten. When they are anxious or sad I feel so much better equipped to help them.  You thought you were aces at that before.  Not to be mean sweetie, but actually you kind of sucked. You/I am much better at it now though.  Still far from perfect. I screw up all the time. But there’s a hugely improved sense of gauging how much to intervene, what to say, when to insist they push themselves harder, when to be a soft place to land when to just shut the hell up for a change.  I’m a much more confident mother than I was before.  A much less controlling mother. I trust and respect them to be able to handle their lives because I trust myself so much more. Everyone is a lot happier with the dynamics.  Being with my kids is mostly just about having fun again.  We have our moments but they are few and far between. It’s easy. We’re in another one of those Golden Ages you love so much. Lots of laughing, joking, loud music, dancing.  Being with them and their friends is a blast. I love every moment of it.  It’s still like the bright sun but you won’t have to shield your eyes from that anymore, you’ll be shining too.

(I love you Gracie I just can't get the pic of you and me to post ;) 

Speaking of trust. I know that right now the world seems like a dark and terrifying place. That almost nobody cares about you, only a tiny percentage of the people you know can be trusted and you are pretty sure they are going to let you down and abandon you at any moment. You don’t want to be with people, you don’t want to interact. For one thing, everybody sucks. Also, it all seems so pointless. Such a sham. Friendships are shallow and meaningless. When the chips are down people will ditch you.
But here we are and they are still there for you.  And they were all along. Some of the people you expected to step up, didn’t.  Maybe they were scared, maybe it was too close for home for them, maybe they were just overwhelmed with their own shit. Life is hard sometimes for everyone.  Maybe they were really agonizing for you but had no idea what to say and were frightened of making it worse. Maybe they really didn’t give you a passing thought. None of that matters much to you now. But in a good way.  I’m learning to manage my expectations of other people. To realize that not everything is about me.  I know that sounds harsh but I mean it is in the kindest way. Truly. It’s made you me infinitely happier and quite a bit more chill.  It’s true what you always tell your kids. People really aren’t as interested in you as you seem to think they are.  But they do care, they  have good intentions. Sometimes people are just busy or insensitive, just like you are. We’re all doing our best. It’s cool. It’s all good. 
Here’s what you are never going to believe.  You will love people again! Soon!  (Ok, let’s be real..I love most of them.  Ok let’s be more real. I love plenty of them. Some of them I just can’t figure the hell out as hard as I try and others are Donald Trump, bless his disturbed heart.   Our whole zen and compassion for all mankind thing is still very much a work in progress. But mostly? I can’t get enough of people. We give parties, we go to parties, we go out all the time. In the last several months we have made plenty of new friends and reconnected with old ones. You will cherish and enjoy your existing friends more than you ever did.  I don’t have time to worry or invest energy agonizing about the relationships that aren’t healthy or satisfying. Life is full and and busy and some days are just crap. Plenty of moments are total effing crap.  But overall it’s fun. And often when  it’s not fun  I successfully find ways to make it more fun.  Remember? You are actually really good at figuring out how to have fun, bringing a sense of occasion to the mix, helping others to have fun.  That’s one of your best things, your defining traits,  and it’s alive and kicking again for the first time in…wow….quite a long, long while! You are going to love it when you see that part of you again.
 I still enjoy being alone and gain strength and energy from that time but it’s not like a 99% alone to 1% interactive critical need anymore. Maybe an 80/20 in favour of  actually being with people. Can  you even imagine that? I know. Hard to fathom. It’s true though.
Oh and speaking of fun you’re going to love this one.
You spend an inordinate amount of time laughing again.  Laughing! Your favourite! Wait, do you even remember what laughing feels like? No? Oh honey. I’m so sorry. Well I’ll remind you…because that’s coming back again soon and it’s so great.  It comes bubbling up through your whole body and comes bursting out through your mouth and makes you feel warm and tingly and happy.  Genuine laughter feels like the sun rising deep inside of you and its rays spreading out to surround every part of you inside and out. Laughing along with other people? Now there’s pure magic! There are so many things to laugh about.  I mean like a never-ending supply of funny things.  You have incredibly funny friends and family.  You are so lucky.  In fact,  you spend a lot of time trying not to laugh at inappropriate moments as you remember some of those funny things.  Your brain is no longer wired to ruminate on frightening or traumatic events.  It’s not in a constant state of fight or flight anymore. It’s freed up to enjoy life a lot more. It’s rediscovering it’s natural wiring for love and generosity and music and fun, connections with others, humour and pleasure.  Doesn’t that sound kind of fabulous?  It is.  It so is. Life is actually beautiful. (And ugly and hard but also beautiful, always. You’ll see.)
Thanks for hanging in there girl, it’s almost over. I owe you big.

Swimming to the other side. A brief update on surviving PTSD and an invitation to hear me ramble.

IMG_7758 IMG_7769   

Friends! I promised the “I’m not suicidal anymore” update quite some time ago. In fact I promised it by days end of that very day in September. And I dutifully and feverishly wrote it that very day in September. And then I presented it to my husband with a flourish, and he got that expression he gets when he desperately wants to be supportive but he has reservations. His expression and his carefully weighed words basically said to me, “honey you may feel better but you are coming across as pretty whack right now and your tome is confusing as hell”.

So I decided to sleep on it…for like a month. I reread it today and I still think there’s some good stuff but it’s just so jolly LONG. I need to edit. Edit I must. But that takes time and I’m chronically short of that stuff!

However! HOWEVER. Here’s something! This Thursday I will be talking about it online for anyone who wants to listen. One of my oldest and dearest friends, the famous and esteemed Heather Madder has invited me to chat a bit about my story, about how I got from there to here. (Here is really good. I’m liking here.  Life is definitely worth living at this juncture.)  Heather reached out to me in a big way during the very depths of my darkness. She understood it from first hand experience and shared such wise and tender advice. She helped me more than she will ever know.

When I was emerging from the darkness I commented on how much I had learned from this experience to which she responded:

“You learn a lot about life from the dark underbelly of it, pain is the price but it’s high-quality learning.”

Aint that the truth baby, ‘aint that the truth.

Anyway this Thursday at 2pm EST we will be chatting about my journey and the vast arsenal of tools I have been using to get through it.  I want to chat a bit about my experience with how trauma was affecting my day to day life for decades (without me having a clue), those insidious emotional triggers which mess everything up until you figure out what they are, and how I’m learning to leave the past behind and live my happy life now. (Hooray!)


As well as being one of the wisest and kindest and bravest survivors ever, Heather is the queen of essential oils, (like she’s a bona fide oil celeb) and since using essential oils has been a large (and psychiatrist encouraged) part of my recovery, she is going to be throwing in some freebies to listeners. She’s incredibly generous and genuine this friend of mine, so if listening to my dulcet tones (with more South African accent than usual thanks to my sister’s recent visit) and Heather’s infectious laugh (it’s like aural prozac) isn’t enough of an incentive, I invite you to join us for the freebies, she’ll even tailor them for your particular issues.  

Please note though: This chat won’t be an informational session re: essential oils but if you are interested in them she can give you all the info and help you with all you could possibly need afterwards.

Click on the link below to register to join us. I have a feeling it’s going to be fairly hilarious despite the heavy subject matter.

* The title of this post alludes to a song I heard this Spring which is very meaningful to me.

** The pictures refer to the song and were taken in Cape Town, South Africa, my all time happy place and they feature some of my all time fav people swimming to the other side, and helping each other along the way.  I was just looking through my files for a pretty uplifting pic and came upon these almost immediately. Could it be more perfect?! I think not.

***Now I’ve ruined it by being all obvious about it and explaining stuff. I just can’t help myself.

See (hear?) you soon I hope! Kisses..