How are you?
Me. Such a mess! A mess! Of note!
I can't contribute much to this world and that's a frustration, but transparency about my struggles is something I am committed to. For whatever it is worth. I hope it is indeed worth something to someone.
Life is great though. I mean it really is. I have no complaints. Everyone is healthy. I'm healthy. Everyone seems happy enough. Everyone seems to be doing what they are supposed to be doing. It's not Winter anymore. The sun shines from time to time. The dog is still alive. I have a family who are incomparable. I can't describe their wonders, their support. Living in my pretty little doll house is easy. It's small but it's chill. There's minimal conflict at any given time, the people who live here are all very awesome. It's a safe, happy fun place to be. Messy a good deal of the time, but nurturing. I have friends. They are kind and good and true. Generous, caring, selfless and loving beyond words. There are no real worries. No true problems. Cute white picket fence town. Everything is provided for. Couldn't be easier.
But my life does not seem valuable. It does not seem worthwhile. It does not seem helpful. It does not seem to be worth the pain of living it. The world in my head is often very dark and sad. My dreams are dreadful. Every night. The hardest part right now is that it's back. The darkness. C-PTSD is the name for what plagues me. Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Last May I was practically catatonic but it was to be expected. The things that I had been through in the months just prior to that were a culmination of many many many many years of suppressed trauma and had been cataclysmic in many ways It was really the first time I was addressing my trauma. This May is pretty chill. Nothing is going down other than the good stuff. Awesome handsome, cool fun, overachiever first kid graduating with honours and a full college scholarship. Four other awesome fun etc kids. Booyah. Mother's Day. (omigod Mother's Day can we please please please just dispense of the horror of mother's day trust me when I tell you it does more harm than good to more people than not. I'm just saying.) Actually, my own Mother's Day brought every reason for gratitude and oh grateful I was. It was delightful and I was Over the top grateful. Triggered? That too. The whole week leading up to it maybe a couple of weeks. So bad. All the bad, bad feelings.
Honestly, the last six months have been full of triggers. And some of the time I was a trooper through those triggers and faced them like a little champion and some of the time I did all the wrong things and pretended none of it was happening to me...lalalalalalallaaaaaaa.. After a while I "had to take a break" from therapy. I just couldn't keep digging. I felt the need for emotional independence. I just wanted to be normal, carefree, in the present. Apparently breaks are ok. They happen. I took way too long of a break. My bad. You don't quit therapy. That's a luxury that is not afforded to those who are in the early stages of dealing with unresolved C-PTSD.
You guys, I don't know much about freaking anything but one thing I have learned and I know and I live every day is that TRAUMA WILL OUT. You can't DIY yourself out of it, regardless of how smart and resilient you may think you are. That MOFO will insist on being heard and the way it can be heard if you don't know what is going on is confusing and weird and insidious and very damaging to the soul. So you won't necessarily act up in the way one might expect you to. You may go about your day and be the freaking life of the freaking party all the damn time. You might smile and hold down a job and laugh a lot and throw lovely parties for your lovely children. And show up and do the things you say you will do, and run and do yoga and seem like you have it all together. More than all together. But those observing closely will sense the cracks in the facade, they will see that you aren't ok and then one day one of them will show up at your workplace and ask you with a kind and worried face how you are because they are truly worried and then maybe the dam will break and you will sob and you will sob and you will sob. Openly. Just as you have been doing as you hide in your car, the storeroom at work, the bathroom before you wash your face and touch up your makeup and go back to being "on". And then you will realize that your cover is blown. And you will wonder why you bothered with the cover at all. And then the old question that you have fought against since you were 11 or 12 years old will rise to the surface again and will coldly, boldly ask you why you bother with life? You are so stupid and so weak and worthless, so ridiculous and generally just so very useless. You are taking up space, and air. And time and other people's worry. Wouldn't everyone just be so much better off not having to worry about you? What a burden you are.
It will tell you that in all likelihood you are much too broken to fix. The patch job that you've been doing all your life, the one that you used to reel in all these kind and unsuspecting people who unwittingly have grown to like or even love you...it's wearing off it's falling apart and there's no way to fix what has been revealed and soon they will ALL ABANDON YOU. Total abandonment is inevitable! Why wouldn't it be? Why would people stand by you while you muddle your way through this shit? To fix you will take resources, and time and concern. Which could be so much more easily channeled into so many more worthy causes. More worthy uncomplicated, undamaged people. Right? Quit while you are ahead. There's no hope. Do it to be kind. Do it to be kind to all the unwitting people who you cunningly made care about and now are saddled and burdened with you. Right?
They tell me wrong. They tell me I'm wrong. They keep saying I'm wrong. There's a part of me that believes them.
All my life I have been motivated by being kind. I recognize that about myself. I am kind. I like that about myself. I value kindness above any other quality. Being kind is good. I'm not always kind, not by any stretch of the imagination, but ultimately, I try very hard to be. I really do. I want everyone around me, whether they love or like or even know me to be ok. I want the world to be ok. I don't want other people to feel pain or suffering. If you make kindness your primary motivation in life you can live to have a very valuable life. See Mother Theresa. You can also become very neurotic and allow yourself to become very hurt. See me. I know that. I've lived that. I've been somewhat successful in my kindness I think. I believe I have raised kind children.. But I haven't successfully extended the kindness to myself on any consistent basis.
The same friend who showed up at my workplace and watched me cry and cry and cry later sent me a text with a link to a song. It had been a horrific day. Horrific.Worst of the worst. I was out of options. I was in the lowest of low places. I didn't want to listen to it. I knew that she has a very simple and very profound faith in a God that I do not have a simple faith in. I do not have good connotations with that God and I really didn't want to have anything to do with anything that would remind me of Him at that time. But! If a friend takes enough time out of their day to think of me, and send me a kind wish and then goes so far as to look up a link and send it to me in an effort to help me, well then dammit the least I can do is listen. That's just good manners. Suicidal depression aside. Good manners trumps all. I lay in my bed under my covers and listened. The song was short, it was tender and the message was simple. There was an oblique reference to God but I inserted my kind friend's face in there instead. Actually the faces of many kind people in my life flashed before me one by one.
And then one line broke through the stoic ice cold numbness I had summoned to protect my fragile heart and broke it:
....you can't expect to be perfect, it's a fight you have to forfeit so
lay down your weapon,
darling take a deep breath and believe that I love you.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself.
You've got to learn to love your enemies too.
My breath caught. The tender nurturing simplicity of the injunction broke through my cold self loathing determination and I sobbed again. Just for a moment. I'm sorry to say that crying doesn't come easily to me because I think it can be very cathartic. I wish I cried more easily. But it was enough. Enough to break the cold clinical devastating spell of what I thought I should do and had to find the courage to do to make everything ok for everyone else.
Later by some miracle, I managed to go for a run, the song rolled around on my playlist and again that same line emerged, I felt my step quicken so that I could keep my composure but again it broke me. As I ran I sobbed and sobbed. I felt humanity. I felt a tiny shred of kindness toward myself, the self that was also the enemy. Maybe not something not quite as powerful as kindness but an acknowledgment at least, that the light within me deserved to you know...not be snuffed out..... I'm not sure, to be honest how to explain how I felt. But it was something. Enough to get me through the day.
Since then, I'm getting through the day. Sometimes one minute at a time, sometimes hours flow fairly effortlessly by. Generally it's a minute by minute thing.
You guys I wish I had a happy spin or pretty bow for this story. I do. It seems like that would be the kind way to end this. But another line from the song, the title of this blog post which asks, "how does it end?" This war in my head. Just me against me against me?
And I can't tell you. I just can't.
I can tell you that:
I've overcome a lot to be where I am, however tenuous that place might be I've had a part in bringing about some truly nice people into the world. And I do remember even as a young child experiencing trauma confidently innately believing that all would be well, if it had to happen to someone I was glad it was me because I'd be ok. I knew I was strong and I knew I could make bad things turn out to be good lessons. I knew it would make me kind and more compassionate.
But it would appear that I forgot about myself. Compassion is supposed to be turned inwards too. I talk a pretty good game about that. But when it comes to me, I don't feel it. I don't see the point in it. I don't see much value in me. Keeping it real. Right now I see myself as infinitely disposal and dispensable, completely replaceable. But I also tell myself that while I may be dispensable, first do no harm. First be kind. Be kind where you can and give what you have. Right now, I don't have much to give. But I do know that sharing my pain in the past has been kind. People have told me it has helped them. And so I hope it does.
If you can; be kind to yourself today. If you can take a deep breath darling, and lay down your weapon and just be kind to yourself today. I hope you will.
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,
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!)
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.
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.