My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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The Long and Winding Road


 

Follow the road home.

July 19, 2014

Dear Readers,

Although I have barely touched the surface in revealing what I consider to be my dark days, mental illness has been the subject in which I have received the most feedback.  All feedback has been positive and encouraging.  However, several of my Readers expressed disbelief that I had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness.

“You seem ok, now,” one Reader wrote.  “…but you look and act so normal,” was another response I received.  And my personal favorite, “[if you are doing so well, now] you couldn’t have been that bad.”

Unfortunately, many people believe that you can “tell” a person has a mental illness by the way s/he looks.  Additionally, many people also believe that there is no way back to normal (whatever that means) once you’ve been mentally ill.  That is a misconception.  Unfortunately, it is because of such misconceptions that people are reluctant to seek the help they need.  I am no professional, I merely speak from personal experience, and my experience has been better than some and worse than others.  I tell my story in the hopes that someone, somewhere may feel less alone and more willing to seek help.

The youngest of my children left home in 2011.  It was a very difficult transition for me, as I had come to depend on always having one or more of my children around to help me combat my craziness.  (Before I continue, I would like to apologize to those of you dear Readers who may be offended by use of the word crazy.  I am in no way making fun of or minimizing mental illness, I just happen to take creative license in my writing to include a different array of words.)  When I found myself alone for the first time in 14 years, I was lost.  However, the darkness enveloped me so slowly and silently, I never saw it coming.

During their senior year in high school, my daughter and her now husband spent almost all of their spare time at our house.  When they were not in school, they were at our house. We would watch movies together, go to the store together and eat meals together  I became more and more dependent on them, and without realizing it, they had become my lifeline.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had begun to lose my grip on reality. I was edgy, sulky, brooding, anxious and overbearing. I tried desperately to keep from turning to past bad habits.  I was successful for quite some time, thanks in big part to my two wonderful lifelines.  But all of that was about to change.

By May of 2011, my four children were grown, out on their own, or soon to be, and ready to start their own lives.  Meanwhile, I was stalled in mine.  I have suffered from depression several times in  my adult life, so I was certainly predisposed to having a breakdown.  However, I never thought I would take my children leaving home so hard.  It is the natural course of life that once we raise our children and they become adults, they leave home and lead their own lives.  At least that had always been my aim.  So what happened next took me completely by surprise.

I was battling my demons, and in my mind, what was left of it, irrationally discovered how I could keep them at bay.  I became obsessive and compulsive.  I just knew that if I could do everything the right way, I would be able to keep it together.  If I could walk right, sit right, climb the stairs right, I would be ok.  If I could focus my mind on doing things the right way, I was convinced that I would not fall victim to depression. Of course, I didn’t know what “right” was, and even so, it was that very thinking that was a sign of me slipping into darkness.

During those dark days when I was living alone, I rationalized that my routines would keep me safe, if only I could do them correctly.  Subsequently, I would climb the stairs in my home 10, 12, even 20 times before I was satisfied that I had gotten it right.  I would reach the first landing and turn around and go right back down because I hadn’t climbed the stairs the right way.  Some nights, it took me an hour or so of climbing the say seven steps before I finally convinced myself that I really didn’t want to go upstairs in the first place.  Besides, after an hour of concentrating so hard on the stairs, I would inevitably forget what I had needed to go upstairs to begin with.  Eventually, I gave up climbing the stairs altogether.  This did not bode well for me, as my washer and dryer were upstairs.  Thus, I began washing my laundry in the sink.

Washing my laundry made perfect sense to me, I couldn’t climb the stairs, so I did my laundry in the sink. Not exactly the thoughts of a sane, rational person, I get that. But at the time, it seemed perfectly logical.  I applied this same irrational thinking to almost everything, which of course, led to my irrational behavior.  For example, I would walk out my front door at 3:30 in the morning to be to work by 7:30am.  Although normally, the drive to work would take me 60 minutes at the most, I left 4 hours early because it would sometimes take me that long to get from my front door to my car door.  I oftentimes would stand outside my front door locking and unlocking the door until I locked it just right.  And sometimes I would have to go back into the house and start from the inside. Allowing myself 4 hours to get to work eventually became routine, natural to my irrational self.  Needless to say, I could not continue indefinitely in such a manner.  It was just a matter of time before I snapped.

I am unable to pinpoint just where I began slipping away from reality.  Heck, I can’t even tell you the month or the year the darkness began to take over.  And that has been my savior and my demon.  Not being able to remember when I began to lose myself, has made it easier to work my way back.  I am sure that my not remembering is my mind’s way of protecting me.  I mean really, if I can remember things like climbing my stairs 20 times and washing my laundry in the sink, can you just imagine what I can’t remember?  I shudder to think.  So for that, I am thankful; nothing like having to relive your most embarrassing moments over and over and over again.  On the other hand, because I cannot say for certain when and how it all began, this time, I am afraid that demon can manifest itself when I least expect it and I will not be able to recognize it.  However, I cannot focus on that.  I have done the hard work to get myself back to the land of the living.  No more having to relive the past and no more worrying about the what-ifs of the future.  I am finally living in the present and it feels good, it feels right.

Now that I am out of my dark days, I accept that I may never be what society considers normal.  I also accept the fact that some people will keep their distance from me, so as to not catch my illness.  That is the price I must pay for speaking out.  That is also the price I am willing to pay to let others know that they are not alone.  Trust me, dear Readers, someone, somewhere, and at sometime will read this and recognize themselves in these sentences.  Someone, somewhere, and at sometime will read this and know that there is hope.  I may not be able to save the world, but maybe, just maybe, I can save someone.  Peace, ~v.


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Appreciation Runs Deep


July 11, 2014

Dear Readers,

It is with the utmost humility that I write today’s post.  I began writing this morning about the keys to my inner peace, when I received an e-mail from a popular department store with which I had placed an order two weeks ago.  Long story short, my order had been sent back to them and blah, blah, blah.

“Seriously?” I thought to myself.  “What a bunch of idiots!”  Well, so much for my attempts at inner peace.  It wasn’t until I was about 40 minutes into my obsessive tracking of my order that I stopped and realized how far off-track my behavior was from where I want it to be.

In order to get where I am going, I can never forget where I came from.  And without the proper care and attention to my mental health, I face a very slippery slope.  For today, I am re-blogging a post from March 25, 2013.  It helps to keep in touch with some things in my past so that they do not end up in my future.

Dear Readers,

One year ago this week I had a nervous breakdown. To write this is no small task. To have lived through it was an even greater task. Fortunately, I am now a better person for having lived through it. And when I say I lived through it, it is with no exaggeration; there was a point when that just didn’t seem possible.

To be clear, I looked up the definition of a nervous breakdown on a reputable psychology website: a bout of mental illness that is so severe that it directly impacts the ability to function in everyday life. The mental illness can include, but is not limited to depression, anxiety and/or bipolar disorder. Well, dear readers, I hit the trifecta. I write about this not to garner sympathy, but to let others know that it is possible to have your whole life spin out of control and then regain your footing. I also write about this because I deserve an “Atta, girl!”

Imagine waking up in a hospital bed having absolutely no knowledge of how you arrived there. I was pretty sure I knew why I was there, I just didn’t know how I got there. After all this time, I’m still unclear about that. My memory of that day comes back in pieces. Suffice it to say, I was hospitalized for 5 days or so. When I was discharged, I still had a long row to hoe.

I divorced in 1997 and never remarried. I figure that my children needed me more than I needed a husband, so I put all of my energies into raising them. Although my husband was an absentee father, I had a tremendous amount of help raising my children. However, I was, and will continue to be a single parent. That is a tough gig, dear readers. I had put so much of myself into my children’s lives that when they were all grown and gone, the empty nest syndrome hit me severely. Thus, the depression.
My anxiety stemmed from the fact that, well, I was a single parent. That, and the fact that I had worked at a boys’ prison for the past 5 years culminated into an unbelievably high stress level. My job was, I suppose, no different than any other high stress job, so I am baffled as to why I suffered a breakdown while others do not. I saw it as a weakness. And truth be told, sometimes I still do. I mean, I am stronger than that. At least that is what I believe at times. Unstable, weak, unfit, loser, idiot, not allowed around my children were but a few things I was told as I was slipping into darkness. And these were family members. I’m not mad at them though. However, it will remain an eternal mystery as to why, when I needed my family the most, most of them found they didn’t need me. I guess that is the tough love we read about.

I struggled daily to just open my eyes and breathe. It was a chore. But life stops for no one, least of all those of us unwilling to work at grabbing ahold of the reins. It took some serious work to regain what I had lost. And certainly I did not do it alone. My mom, my sister and my brother-in-law were instrumental in my recovery. Their love and support never wavered. Other family members were key in helping me regain myself and others have bowed out of my life. I cannot change my past, but I can make amends to those I hurt. I must forgive others because there is much in which I need forgiveness. Although I believe that I could have done things differently, I do not believe that i could have stopped the train wreck I had become. However, I do and I did take full responsibility for my recovery. And baby, look at me now!

What a kind and merciful God we have. I am blessed and divinely favored. I praise God each and every day that I am where I am today. One year ago, no one, not me, not my mom, not my family, not even my therapist would have believed I would be where I am today. It is simply amazing that one year ago I was in the depths of solitude and now I am reaching new heights. God is good and I intend on living my life in praise of Him. To whom much is given, much is expected.  Peace, ~v.


1 Comment

Edgy


August 19, 2013

Dear Readers,

I am perplexed by Today’s Daily Prompt:  On the Edge.  What do you do to keep on an even keel?  What do I what?  An even keel?  I’m not sure I understand the question.

Edgy, that’s me.  I cannot remember a time in my life when I wasn’t at least a little bit on edge, so to speak.  Which is ironic because I have always sought balance in my life.  I’m not quite sure what I mean when I say, “Balance in my life.”  However, I doubt it means balancing edgy and anxious with tense and nervous, which has been my balancing act thus far.  Geez!  Talk about uptight.

But seriously dear Readers, I have had balance in my life.  For instance, being a single parent throughout much of my children’s lives, I had to balance the time I spent at work with the time I devoted to my family.  That was a no brainer, the scales would always tip toward my children; a fact that I hope, was not lost on my children.

But as far as truly keeping myself on an even keel, I compartmentalize.  Every emotion, every thought, every personality (and believe me, I have several) has its own little box, tightly wrapped, on a shelf, in the far corners of my mind.  I have written about this before, dear Readers, so I do not wish to sound redundant.  However, I think this is one of those things that bears repeating, if only to help me gain a little insight.  For those of you who were around to read it, I posted the original on April 18 of this year.

As I stated before, I have several personalities.  I don’t mean I have a split personality, I mean I am a different person to different people and in different situations. “Everybody does this,” you might say. Well, I am not quite Sybill but I am certainly more than most. I remember when I was in high school, my senior year to be exact, I created a speech  with props, to introduce myself. The way I chose to set-up my props demonstrated this compartmentalization thing. I sectioned off a table with tape. I taped off four sections and they were labeled: DAUGHTER, SCHOOL, CHURCH, SELF.  In each section, I included something that represented that part of me, or that Vickie. Daughter Vickie included a picture of my family, all ten of us, a rolling pin because I used to have to make tortillas on a regular, and a Miss Piggy doll my mom and dad bought me. School Vickie contained a mat maid uniform, the novel Watership Down, and a copy of my application to NAU. Church Vickie held a copy of a Glory and Praise song book, a rosary, and a crucifix.

Now, you are probably thinking, “Right, and just how do you remember that?” Well dear readers, as I stated before, I compartmentalize and have been doing so all of my life. I put pieces of my life in little boxes in my mind. I wrap these boxes in pretty little ribbons and bows. In my solitude, I gently unwrap them and examine what is inside. Exercise complete, I re-wrap them with care and precision and put them back on the shelf in my mind.  I would examine these gifts of my life to evoke pleasure, sorrow, pain, joy whatever I thought I needed at the time to make me feel complete, whole. Sadly, they never did.

I have always thought this drill to be futile, until now.  Now, I realize that it has been this incessant compartmentalization that has kept me balanced, on an even keel.  I’m not saying the whole thing has been healthy, mind you.  But that wasn’t the question.  The question was, “What do you do to keep on an even keel?”  And my answer is, “I compartmentalize.”

When I first posted this blog, I wrote something to the effect that I know I am beset with insanity because I have done the same thing over and over throughout my life and expected different results.  However, today I see my neurotic behavior throughout my life as a necessary evil.  It served to keep me balanced.  And although I am learning to let go of unhealthy past behavior, some of it still sticks.

By the way, I didn’t tell you what was in the last section of my demonstration speech from high school, the SELF section. Nothing. That’s right, there was nothing in that section. In my 17 year-old wisdom, I believed the nothingness represented that I did not know who I was, yet. However, my wise 48 year-old brain knows differently. There was nothing in that section because I thought I was nothing when I was being myself.  I valued myself so much more as Daughter Vickie or School Vickie.  I am finally coming to believe that my Self has value, which has given way to my compartmentalizing less and less.  I won’t say that I am now laid back.  However, I can say that I am certainly less uptight, less edgy.  And that has to be a good thing, right dear Readers?  Right.  Peace, ~v

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/daily-prompt-activity/

 


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“I’m never doing that again!”


August 7, 2013

Dear Readers,

Although I have shared the bulk of this post via my previous blog dated 3/25/2013, I could not resist the urge to look at its contents from a healthier perspective.  And by healthier I mean humorous.  And by humorous I mean I may be the only one who thinks I am funny.

One year ago this past March, I had a nervous breakdown.  Nope, nothing funny about that.  So, let me just preface today’s post with a caveat or caveat emptor, if you will.  Mental illness sucks.  “Oh sure,” you think, “It’s fashionable and everybody’s doing it.  Maybe I should try that.”  But don’t.

Okay dear Readers, that was my public service announcement.  But seriously, I’ve re-hashed and re-examined my [in]sanity and my    [in]stability from so many angles, that humor is all I’ve got left.  Be assured, writing this is no small task. To have lived through it was an even greater task. Fortunately, I am now a better person for having lived through it. And when I say I lived through it, it is with no exaggeration; there was a point when that just didn’t seem possible.

To be clear, I looked up the definition of a nervous breakdown on a reputable psychology website: a bout of mental illness that is so severe that it directly impacts the ability to function in everyday life. The mental illness can include, but is not limited to depression, anxiety and/or bipolar disorder. Well, dear readers, I hit the trifecta. I write about this not to garner sympathy, but to let others know that it is possible to have your whole life spin out of control and then regain your footing.  And yes, to garner sympathy.

Imagine waking up in a hospital bed having no knowledge of how you arrived there.

“Wow, I’m pretty sure I didn’t drive myself here.  So how in the heck -”

“Your brother’s here,” the ER nurse interrupts my thoughts.  “Do you still want me to give him your car keys?”

Ah hell, I did drive myself.  Quick, check to see if you’re handcuffed to the bed.  No?  Whew, luc-ky!    Although it is kind of sad when the only thing you have going for you is that you haven’t been arrested…yet.

So, why now, why the breakdown?  Let’s line up the usual suspects…

I divorced in 1997 and never remarried.  Having no Boo to distract me, I was able to focus all (most) of my energy on my kids.  Boy, lucky them, right?  Being a single parent is a tough gig. I had put so much of myself into my children’s lives that when they were all grown and gone, the empty nest syndrome hit me severely. Thus, the depression.

My anxiety stemmed from the fact that, well, I was a single parent. That, and the fact that I had worked at a boys’ prison for the past 5 years culminated into an unbelievably high stress level. My job was, I suppose, no different than any other high stress job, so I am baffled as to why I suffered a breakdown while others do not. I saw it as a weakness. And truth be told, sometimes I still do.  But whatever I thought about myself, paled in comparison to what others thought about me.

“She’s unstable and weak.”  and “What a loser.  You’re not allowed around my children.”  Harsh but true.  And I needed to hear these things.  So what if it came from family?  They love me, really, they do   Family, I’m not mad at them.  However, it will remain an eternal mystery as to why, when I needed my family the most, most of them found they didn’t need me. I guess that’s the tough love we read about.

Yea, tough love, it worked!

Seriously, dear Readers, I struggled daily to just open my eyes and breathe. It was a chore. But life stops for no one, least of all those of us unwilling to work at grabbing ahold of the reins. It took some serious work to regain what I had lost. And certainly I did not do it alone. My mom, my sister and my brother-in-law were instrumental in my recovery. Their love and support never wavered. Other family members were key in helping me regain myself and others have bowed out of my life. I cannot change my past, but I can make amends to those I hurt. I must forgive others because there is much in which I need forgiveness. Although I believe that I could have done things differently, I do not believe that I could have stopped the train wreck I had become. However, I do and I did take full responsibility for my recovery.

During my aforementioned hospital stay, I was known as “Nervous Breakdown.”  Because mental patients have such gallows humor, everyone gets a nickname.  But really, we used nicknames because sometimes even knowing just the first name of your fellow compatriots is too invasive     So I was christened Nervous Breakdown.  Some of the other names were Depression (I tried to call him Depress Mode but no one got the joke), Cutter (“Shredder” behind her back), and Bi-Polar Bear.  May I never see any of them for as long as I live.  Nervous breakdown?  I’m never doing that again!  Peace, ~v.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/daily-prompt-never-2/