Monday Musings on Writing and on Being

I have been writing since I was a child; I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a notebook next to my bed. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to record my dreams. I wrote plays and forced my friends to perform them (I was a very demanding director, I hear…). When I wanted to learn Spanish, I started writing short stories in Spanish. I learn by writing things down. I think in written words. Writing is who I am, or who I should be.

Why is it, then, that I stopped? I still have a notebook by my bed (albeit an empty one). I still think in words and revel at the sound of them, at the glorious way they are spelled: that two or three or four sounds come together in just such a way. I love imagining what different people understand as they hear words, and trying to fashion them in such a way as to create a replica of my image in their head, however difficult and futile an intention. When I meet new people, I create elaborate background stories about difficulties they might have faced or the unique lives they’ve led up until this point or imagine in depth characters and dream about the stories I could insert them into. Yet I never write them down anymore. I never go beyond the dreaming phase.

My father has always imagined me his child of action. He tells me I’m the business mind in our family, whereas my brother is the artist and the creative spirit (the latter is true). He tells me I’m strong and determined and can do anything I set my mind to. All of this may be true of my character, my real character, hidden deep inside. However, I haven’t actuated many of my true goals. I don’t commit 100% to anything that I do. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t even committed myself fully to my family and my life.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my children – and my husband – with the depth and breadth of my very being. I would (and do) live and die for them. But those are the easy things. They came out of my body, small, needing me, pure souls with eyes that could break right through me. The hard part is committing day to day to be there for them 100%. To get up in the morning the way (and at the time – meaning, early) that is best for them, to set my husband up for success in his day and to give all of them my full attention and being when we are together.

Of course in this modern world of mobile phones, iPads and constant news chatter, there are few that even think of being so mindful in their daily interactions. But this is where suffering comes from (at least, according to that Buddhist CD my mom gave me…). The days, even the small moments, I choose to give my all – to anything, even cleaning (without the TV on or the news or anything else), that’s where joy lives. That’s where I feel connected to my children, my husband, my friends, my neighbors and more importantly, to myself.

And in those moments, it flashes back to me. No matter what I’m doing, even if it has nothing to do with that moment, my soul whispers, “I want to write. I want to be a writer. I am a writer.”

Of course, that scares the crap out of my head and my heart and I instantly start to think about all the ways I’d do it wrong (as if that’s a thing – writing wrong?), all the ways I’d fail, all the ways people would judge what I wrote and all of the ways I’d be lacking, always lacking. Why is it that our consciousness believes that in order to protect our tender souls, it must push us away from being who we truly are? From what we truly desire?

It is a lie that one can fail. There is no such thing as failure, or success. There is only doing. There is only joy and fear.

I am always, constantly, daily tired of living in fear and I am always, constantly, daily afraid of letting go of my fear. Yet this too is because I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid I won’t let go of my fear properly. I’m afraid it will come back (it will) and that this will mean I can’t do it (it doesn’t). When in fact, I did do it, it just came back and I must do it again. Constantly. Every moment. I must do it again, until it too, just like living in fear is now, becomes habit.

“Yet,” my brain says, “how tiring it will be to be so vigilant, to constantly be aware and mindful of your thoughts. To have to stop yourself and reprogram your mind. Aren’t you tired already, just thinking about it?” However, I’m already doing that. My mind is so vigilant that even when I’m asleep, if I try to let go, it grasps ahold of me, sometimes even waking me up to make sure that I don’t let go of my anxiety and my fear. To ensure that I am always aware of it. That is tiring already. So, why does it matter if this would be tiring also? Exhausted with a purpose and all that jazz.

I have a home now. A beautiful home, surrounded by trees and covered in their fallen leaves. My children pick them up and excitedly show me the colors, in awe of what they’ve just created by their finding. In the morning, we wake up and gaze out the window to see deer wandering through the leaves, eating the grass underneath.

I have friends. I have kindred spirits who make my heart burst with happiness just to think of them. People that truly love me and want me in their lives because of the unique joy I bring.

I have a husband who loves me and chose to live his future with me, combining our lives into one family, one shared experience. Yet I doubt this. Constantly. I fight with him to make him prove how he loves me, as if our life isn’t daily proof. As if his going to work in a job he doesn’t like in order to support our family isn’t proof. As if his living in America and always making the best choices for our family isn’t proof. As if his care and love for his children isn’t somehow connected to me always and isn’t proof. I committed to him, yet I didn’t accept that commitment, either by him or by myself. I am still holding back in order not to get hurt. But were anything to happen to our relationship, to our family, to our love, I would be devastated. So it didn’t work; I haven’t protected myself at all.

Years ago, after I was hospitalized for an overdose, I made the tentative decision to choose life. I asked for help. I “got better”. Now, and ever since, I grow. I change. I better myself. I strive. I take my medication. I want to live. Yet, I never committed fully to that choice either. I chose to live, but I didn’t choose to live in joy. I didn’t chose to let go of everything that was holding me back. I’m striving and seeking to better myself blind, with my hands tied behind my back. Of course it feels hard. Of course it’s a daily struggle. If I just release my binds, my life would soar, I would soar.

A therapist I came to trust once told me it was like flipping a switch. I didn’t believe him at the time because if it were that easy, why wasn’t I already doing it? Why wasn’t everyone doing it? I don’t really know how to continue the metaphor, but I believe there is some truth to it being that easy in theory, it just must be done over and over again in every moment until it’s habit. Because my thinking now, my deliberately turning the switch off the moment any glimmer of hope creeps in, is a habit. One that is harder to break than the drugs, harder to quit than cigarettes.

“Live mindfully” has become as common an expression as any (at least in the circles I run in), but it’s rarely talked about what that actually means. Or how hard it actually is to start. Imagine how hard it is to quiet your mind the first time you try to meditate? That’s what living mindfully is like, except every second of the day. Every second you must silence the chatter that your brain is feeding you and calling your own voice. Yet you must do it without a struggle, or else it is just your brain fighting with itself, and that is not actually being mindful at all.

So, here I am. Sitting by my window with a cup of coffee on this cold, dreary, rainy Monday morning and I’m writing. I’m not thinking. I’m just writing. So, that’s a start.

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Postpartum

I really didn’t think postpartum depression would be an issue for me – mainly because I’m already depressed. How could you have two forms of depression? Well, it turns out, you can. Postpartum, it seems, is much more physical. Or perhaps that’s just because it’s anxiety? Really, I don’t even know how to write about this because I don’t even know how to feel about it. Frankly, I don’t understand how to even feel it, let alone analyze or describe it. It’s new, and different. And with my history of depression and anxiety, I wasn’t expecting that. I was completely sidelined.

People keep saying to me that I’m just being too hard on myself and expecting perfection and having two kids is supposed to be hard. I know that it is. But, even though the boy is in Kita, I still can’t seem to function. Even though the girl sleeps pretty well at night, I still don’t seem rested and up to the task of caring for them. My nerves are on edge. Just a little whine or cry sets me off and I am horrified to find myself thinking about shaking her or throwing her or punching him or just leaving them on the train platform and walking away. Now, scary as that may sound (and believe me, it scares me), I know that I’m still “together” enough not to actually do those things. But it is still pretty scary. And horrible. I look at their little faces and my heart breaks because I love them so much that I just can’t.

I wake up and try to prepare myself to have a good day. After all, I’m pretty lucky. My husband takes the wild child to school every morning so that I can sleep in with the baby. I have a cleaner that comes once a week. My husband will also pick up the slack in the evenings: he makes dinner, he cleans the kitchen, and takes over caring for the boy. Literally ALL I have to do is get out of the house around midday to pick up the boy, get home, put him down for a nap and put on a movie when he wakes up (or better yet, actually play with him, but that’s another level entirely). That’s it. I should be able to handle that. And some days I can. Occasionally I can even do it without breaking down and crying.

But most days, she doesn’t cooperate. Or he doesn’t. She would usually fall asleep on the way to pick him up – Great! Then, there is something about his school that wakes her up. Always. So I try to put his coat on and get him out the door as quickly as possible so that the movement of the stroller/carrier (I’m willing to try anything) will lull her back to sleep quickly so that I can give some attention to poor little boy who I love so much I start crying just thinking about it. However, said beautiful little boy rarely cooperated. He would lag. He would stop to look at sticks. He would try and run in puddles. It would be raining and of course he won’t carry his umbrella or keep his hood up. It would end in her screaming and then him screaming as well, seemingly trying to match her in volume, all to get my attention.

I bought a double stroller. That solved the problem with him, yet she still wakes up and cries and then he cries. And then I cry. On the train. In public. In the rain.

Often, she falls asleep again before we get home and I put him to bed fine and honestly, the rest of the day could proceed well. But it doesn’t. Because that in and of itself is enough to completely destroy me. I’m shattered for the rest of the day. So that when, during our movie (AKA my minimal parenting time), she wakes up and I have to feed her, I sob when he looks at her and moves slightly away. Then of course, he starts crying and saying, “Stop, mommy. Stop. It’s OK. Stop, mommy.”, which just makes me cry all the more.

Those are good days. When she sleeps. When it isn’t raining or snowing so much that taking her out isn’t just ridiculous.

I’m so tired. My body feels slack, like there is nothing holding my shoulders up above my back and head up on my neck. I have actually body aches like flu symptoms and searing headaches.The instant the baby cries, I start having a panic attack. Yet I try my best to smile at my boy and tell him it’ll be fine and that his baby sister just cries sometimes and that that is OK. And it is in that trying that I lose it. It is somehow that trying that is too much for my heart.

Apparently my husband, who doesn’t understand at all and who is getting more and more frustrated with me and with whom I have resorted to communicating with in either passive aggressive or defensive snaps and snarls, was worried enough to call my mom. So she flew out. Which helps, in that I now have time to sit here and drink tea and write this while someone else tries to put my two beautiful children to sleep. And I’m eating much better. But I’m still crying. And I the baby crying or fussing still makes me so anxious, my stomach hurts. And my little boy’s face still breaks my heart.

I have called my midwife and emailed a therapist. I am going to call my doctor tomorrow, but I don’t have a lot of hope that this will be cleared up. And I really worry about what it’s doing to my marriage.

But then, I worry about everything.

One Glorious Week

Those of you that suffer with depression, anxiety, or any of the various energy-sucking diseases that seem to be running rampant nowadays will understand me when I say that I’ve never felt “normal”. Those of you that don’t will quickly respond with: “There’s no such thing as normal”, which is particularly annoying because in this case, there truly is. And now I know for sure because I’ve felt it. For one wonderful week, I was normal.

It occurred around 2 or 3 weeks after I started taking my thyroid medication and took me completely by surprise. We were back home from over a month of holidays – most of that spent in California and the rest in England and as you can imagine, it took all of us, but mostly the boy, quite some time to recover.

Just before we left for our holiday, I had hit a low point. I realized that I’d been unhappy for far too long. That I’d held parts of myself back from my husband for far too long. That I’d been uncomfortable about sex and my past for far too long. That I was sick of constantly thinking about how fat I felt. That my negativity was adversely affecting me, my husband, our relationship and worst of all, my son. Of course, I’d had these moments before, where I’m fed up, or, as I always jokingly say, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”. It’s never very funny, though.

The good news was I was going home and home is where my therapists are. I don’t mean that I have multiple head doctors (though I have), I mean all my alternative therapy peeps, or my “hippie doctors”. I have my acupuncturist, my chiropractor, my cranial sacral therapist, my homeopath and many more. Best of all, my mother had made a few appointments for me with someone new – a musculo-skeletal therapist (basically, a glorified massage therapist). Apparently, this woman had some sort of psychic abilities. And despite the fact that I really dislike people with my name, I decided to give it a go.

The moment I walked into her room, I could tell she wanted to say something and was holding back, unsure of what my reaction would be, as we’d never met. It took her about 5 minutes to say it. Basically, she told me that my whole body was so stressed out trying to protect my soft little innards, that she wasn’t sure she’d even be able to work on me. Then she asked me what the sex thing was about, if I’d been molested, abused, what. I admit I was taken aback. In all my years (and years and years) of therapy (both “real” and with all my various hippie doctors), I’ve never talked about my issues with sex. In fact, until I met my husband, I’d never really even let my mind go there. But as we talked, I realized that yes, I do have major issues… but more on that later. I’m talking about the good stuff now.

Anyway, suffice it to say, I was impressed. Not only did we talk about the sex thing, but she confronted me about my negativity. She told me that if I treated my child the way that I treat myself, he would be taken away from me. She said that if I don’t make a change, it is going to destroy my marriage. I knew she was right. I was sobbing: scared and yet somehow lighter from the realization.

I haven’t really dealt with that yet. I’m still pretty negative. I still think about how fat I am practically every second of every day. I still am far too judgmental of myself and my husband (the poor man). BUT, another important thing that she said was that if I get on a proper dose of thyroid medication, most of this stuff will sort of take care of itself, or at least be that much easier for me to deal with. That was the biggest thing she told me, that I have Hashimoto’s Disease – I’m still figuring out what that means. Worst thing? I should go gluten free. Best thing? It’s an answer. An answer to everything.

I started taking the medication after being properly diagnosed by a “real” doctor. Of course, I started on the lowest dosage and then waited until I got home to Germany to deal with all the testing and figuring out my proper dosage with my doctor here (mostly because it’s free). I didn’t notice anything for about three weeks, though it was hard to say because I was on holiday, then we were traveling, then I had jetlag (and the boy will grab at ANY excuse not to sleep), etc etc. So basically, I had no clue how I felt. Then it hit me. One day, I woke up early, having already been woken up about three times in the night by a crying baby who just wants to play, and felt fine. Even in my best days, I’ve never just felt okay in the morning. Even if I sleep for 10 hours. Even if I wake up to no alarm. Even if I’m brought french toast in bed. I despise mornings (and judging from my experience of them, they feel the same way about me).

Imagine my shock when I wake up at 6:30 and just pop out of bed. Oh what a beautiful morning, and all that jazz. But it doesn’t stop there. I go for a run. In the rain. I eat healthy all day – without even thinking about it! Just because it feels good. This continues all week. I run three times. I do my 30 Day Shred video three times. I am gluten and sugar free all week. I am on my phone less and playing with my son more. I happily ignore little comments my husband makes that mean nothing, but would normally make me cry and cause a fight. On Saturday morning, after going out the night before and drinking a bit, I wake up and a single negative thought flits into my head, the guilty one that I always have when I sleep in, or go out, or drink… Or do anything, really (guilt and I are real close). And here’s where it gets real – I ignore it. I acknowledge that I’ve had the thought. I accept it. I sigh. I let it go. AND I STILL FEEL HAPPY.

This is something therapists, my mom, my friends, everyone has been telling me to do my entire life. When therapists say “just look at the thought and let it go”, I always nodded my head, thinking, what the hell are they talking about? I just didn’t understand how. I couldn’t fathom having any sort of control over thoughts like that. And then it just happened. All by itself.

Glorious.

But, like anything too good to be true, the week came to an end and, it turns out, I am not on the proper dosage of my thyroid medication because I came down again. And it hasn’t been good since. But now I have a goal. And even better, I know it’s doable. I know I can be normal.

Boy am I grateful for that glorified massage therapist.