Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

Posts tagged “fighting depression

The Unbearable Weight of Things

sad

sad

When you’re down, everything seems hard. I know this sounds like whining, but it’s something deeper. My silence usually means one thing. SAD.

It’s a bit more than sadness, however, that pulls me under. It was a bit more than sadness that changed the marriage to my kid’s mom as well. And before I get the push back about depression just being a weakness of character, or laziness, let me clarify what I’m talking about.

Negative predictions. Catastrophic terminations of everything from my job, to my love life, to my life in general.

You know the sinking feeling in your body as you can tell the flu has entered your system? Depression is kind of like that feeling, except you don’t have any outward signs of illness beyond your refusal to do things that bring you pleasure and avoid everything that’s hard. But it’s not like a hiding that’s going on when your depressed. It’s more like a death that’s happening right inside you. There is simply no pleasure to be had. It’s as if the hope molecules have been completely depleted from your body. My self assessment comes in the form of ice cream and my craving or lack of interest in it. If I can’t get excited about Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Toffee Crunch, then something is seriously out of whack with my system.

The minute I feel it coming on, if I’m that self-aware, I begin taking action to delay or avoid the storm. I try to exercise regardless of the ballast that’s beginning to weigh down on my back. I do my best to get enough sleep and good food. I try to keep talking to my loved ones. But sometimes, despite my best efforts, I fail and fall in to a period of silence.

The silence is only in what I’m willing to share. My brain is not quiet at all, if fact, it’s on fire with bad ideas. Negative predictions. Catastrophic terminations of everything from my job, to my love life, to my life in general. And again, I want to stress this (especially now that I’m on the other side of this “episode”): depression is an illness like no other. The flu-like symptoms are mainly in your mind. And when I try to tough it out, it’s usually the sadness that wins.

And it’s not that I’m giving up, either. I’m fighting like hell to maintain my outward appearance of normalcy, but it rarely works. In normal times I’m fairly loud and flamboyant. When I go quiet, everybody notices.

Today I’m moderating my joy. I’m trying to take simple steps back into the routine.

On this side of the darkness I can look back, examine, plan, and talk about ideas that might help next time. When I’m IN it, there are almost no words that help. Here are a few that did make a difference. My significant other did her part to remind me that she was here for the long haul, that she loved me, and that she was not leaving. And even when she couldn’t quite understand what had happened to me, she stayed close, cuddly, and supportive. That’s the best you can do. Stand beside me. Don’t try to make it better, that’s my job. But do tell me you’re not leaving. And then stick around.

Depression is exhausting for everyone. If you, as my partner, can stay out of the tractor beam of my darkness, you can take time for yourself, and let me know it’s hard. And primarily, take care of your heart and your emotions. Mine are shot. I will try to get you to save me, primarily by replaying my helplessness. But don’t give in. I’m not helpless, that’s the depression. And it’s my fight against my own feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that is my path back to normal times. Happy times. Even ecstatic times. (Oh, but be careful about those, the term bipolar is bandied about too easily these days, but it must be taken into account.) Those of us with the deepest lows often spring back into hyper highs. And without meaning to, we can rebound off the happy ceiling and blast right back into the sadness. It’s a vicious cycle, this cycling. Something must be done.

Today I’m moderating my joy. I’m trying to take simple steps back into the routine. I’m introducing my “big projects” back into my activity stream, but I’ve got to be watchful that I don’t blast off. Finally released of the flu-like hopelessness, you can only imagine how much I want to soar, and zoom back into my ultra-productive hyper times. My thinking today is that it’s the small steps that I can take to come back online. It’s also the tiny victories I will log as I reject my avoidance habits and step back into full responsibility for my actions.

It’s when I try to disappear that I realize I’m avoiding. Avoiding even my own life. That’s a bad sign.

It’s not like depression is a release from those responsibilities, but it’s as if I no longer see myself as being capable. And when you begin imagining yourself absent from the future consequences, because you simply won’t be alive, you can see how this too (suicidal ideation, they call it, thinking about suicide rather than acting on the idea) is an avoidance. We learned avoidance when we were really young. And as a defense mechanism it occasionally serves it’s purpose. But as an adult coping mechanism, avoidance is the worst. I can’t say it’s the reason I fall off the wagon, but it’s one of the harbingers of my decline.

Taking the responsibility for all of my life again, requires some ramping up. From things like, making a dentist appointment, getting the car into a service appointment, and even showing up at my daughter’s basketball games, is part of my responsibility to SHOW UP. It’s when I try to disappear that I realize I’m avoiding. Avoiding even my own life. That’s a bad sign.

We all need defense mechanisms. I’m looking to build some healthier ways of coping with stress and complications of being a parent and recently engaged partner. If I can just say the things that are worrying me, write them down, share them, I can find a way to own up to getting them done. I believe for me, those are the baby steps back towards making the unbearable actually joyful again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: into the blue, arindam bhattacharya, creative commons usage


Happy Mom Chat About How I Got Here: What I Figured Out

Exes Into Plusses - The Off ParentI took lunch to my mom’s house today, just to stop by and say hi. We talked about this blog for a bit.

See my ex-y left some sort of message about something I was doing that was damaging my family. My mom wanted to know what it was. I showed her The Off Parent and explained how it was anonymous.

“But it’s on Facebook,” she said.

“Yes, but it’s not connected to me in any way. I don’t even LIKE my own page.”

She was happy with my explanation. And she said something next that brought the conversation to a different place.

“I’m glad to see you taking a different path than your father.”

She went on to tell me about how he once told her that she was the reason he drank. “So, I told him I wouldn’t be that reason any more.”

We talked about my dad and how he went on to marry another drinker and eventually drank himself and her to death. And I told her, that her survival after the divorce had colored a lot of my childhood, and probably formed a good portion of my personality. She was always quoted as saying, “I’m turning X’s into plusses.” And that’s kind of a maxim that I have learned to live by.

Even as things got hard for us, back in my elementary through high school years, she would keep us pointed at the good side of the situation. A lot of the time I thought it was bullshit. Just a way of escaping some of the pain of the moment. But eventually I heard myself using the exact same phrase when talking to myself about bad situations.

I told my mom about how this blog had given me a voice, a place to process the anger and frustration at the divorce. And how eventually those parts of the blog began to subside and a new part of the story began to emerge. As I transitioned out of anger, depression, and divorce mechanics, I started moving into how to turn this major X into a major WIN.

The divorce is the biggest thing that’s ever happened in my life, and I’m 50 years old. What ripped through my safety and joy has now become the fire that has burned away the bullshit and brought me down to WHAT’S IMPORTANT.

Here’s what I figured out about the positive side of this blog, and the positive part of the divorce, for me.

1. Self-care. Physical and mental health are a full-time process for me. While I’ve never had a substance problem, I have used the 12-step program for various parts of my recovery. What I am working on is EMOTIONAL SOBRIETY.

2. Kids First. There is nothing in my life more important than the love and support of my children. Keeping them safe from the bitterness and anger that could’ve erupted in my divorce was always part of my agreement with their mom.

3. 100% Positive. While there are plenty of times I’m angry with their mom, there is NEVER any reason to voice those complaints to my kids. I remember how horrible my dad was at speaking about my mom. And of course, she was doing only a little better at voicing the victim side of the horror. And it was pretty bad. Eventually, in high school my dad began taking it out on me, saying that the divorce was my fault and saying that I didn’t love him. These will never be words that my kids hear from me. And I believe the ex-y has the same intention.

4. Lead With Love. I may not be in love with their mother, but I will never stop loving her. It’s often that love that turns to bitterness and hate when it’s flipped around. But I won’t ever go there. She is gone. She is someone else’s. And I can do better each day remembering the relationship of the divorce is about my kids. And if she’s happier, they will benefit.

I don’t always get it right, but I keep trying to return to these principles. And as my ex-y has now turned me over to the Attorney General’s office I guess we will see what it’s like trying to abide by these principles while she is suing me. I imagine that she is doing the best she knows how. At least, I suppose, she will know with the bankruptcy that I’m filing, that I’m not secretly stashing money away, or trying to keep her from child support payments.

Even in cutting off most of the conversation between us, I think she must be doing that for some personal, self-preservational reasons, rather than hate at me. We’ve got these great kids. And we do everything we can to support and encourage them. If she no longer wants to sit face-to-face to map out some plans with me, that’s okay. I guess we go back to emailing each other. That worked some while we were married.

And I’ll keep mapping my own path along this journey here. Turning my ex into a plus.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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After Divorce Strengthening Your Core Happiness Becomes Even More Important

OFF-openheart

The first “girlfriend” I had after divorce asked me early on in our dating experience, “What do you look like when you are happy?” She saw me struggling a bit with depression and sadness around my divorce and she genuinely wanted to know what my joy looked like. Perhaps so she could recognize it if it showed up, or to make sure she would still be in the mix when my happiness kicked off.

We’ve got a lot of programs to help strengthen your core abdominals, and therapy and philosophy to help us lift our hearts out of depression, but we are just learning about happiness. What makes people happy verses miserable. Guess what? It’s INSIDE YOU. It is not the other person. It’s not even your circumstances.

I know this sounds all woo woo, and looks a bit like a bumper sticker, but let me share a moment from an amazing book I’m reading. In this book a woman has recently been told by her husband that he no longer loves her. It throws her world into a tailspin, BUT… She decides, has decided before it happens, NOT to let other’s or circumstances dictate her inner joy. She has just come back from a vacation retracing her college year abroad in Italy, where this moment happened for her. (She travelled with her daughter. Her husband and son stayed back in Montana.)

I was lying in bed that last day in Florence, looking at my daughter sleeping with her mouth open, listening to a dog bark on a balcony above the streets of Florence–the Vespas whizzing by, the polite exchanges of Buongiorno, the smell of coffee, and yes, exhaust, and something very old.

But I didn’t feel the panic I’d thought I would, knowing I had to leave all of it behind. The desperate need to go out in that world beyond the thick wooden shutters and our own tiny balcony just one more time alone–to feel twenty and charged. The frenzy to contact my old footprints, in a state of ravenous adventure. I didn’t need to be anywhere other than in my bed watching my daughter sleep.

In not quite a twenty-year-old’s voice, but not quite a forty-year-old’s either, I hear, quiet and with morning breath, It’s all here. It always was. — Laura Munson

Wow. For me, what that meant, that epiphany she had, was letting go of the need to jump up and accomplish, or jump up and adventure ahead into the world of the exciting, and instead to merely BE PRESENT. BE AWARE OF THE JOY. LISTEN. BREATHE.

When you have kids, one of the most magical experiences is watching them sleep. There, just out of reach is your flesh and blood set off on a new mystical trajectory.

I know it sounds kind of simple and zen, but the reality is quite simple. And I too have been studying how to get there, to achieve inner peace, even under extenuating and challenging circumstances. And while I am often NOT there, on occasion, when I can take the time to notice the simple joy of things, I CAN BE HAPPY. And it’s not about anyone else. Or the money in my bank account, or if my king-size bed is filled with two cats and a dog rather than a lover. MY INNER PEACE comes from stopping the rush to be/do/accomplish.

When you have kids, one of the most magical experiences is watching them sleep. There, just out of reach is your flesh and blood set off on a new mystical trajectory. And if things seemed hard or frightening, you could return to that quiet, that calm of their secure and loved slumber, and imagine the same nurturing for yourself. By loving them deeply, you learn to love yourself.

I want to give the ex-y this book. But why? Do I hope to fix her? To help her? Do I still wish her happiness? Or do I want to show her what an actualized woman did in the face of her husband’s struggles?

I won’t. I’ve learned that extending energy to others, when it has not been invited, is simply a waste of energy. I gave her a CD a year ago. (Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong) I had hoped to speak to her through some of the words of this music. Three weeks later, the CD was right where she had put it on the kitchen counter. I took it back. I could use it in my car.

She was not interested in hearing or feeling into what happened between us. What failed. She’s moved on, a bit too quickly, in my opinion, but that’s her struggle and her happiness that I can no longer take any part in.

The song, Time Spent In Los Angeles, talks about seeing “that special kind of sadness, that tragic set of charms.” And the moment that I was trying to capture and share was something about when I left my rock star dreams (during a pop rock festival in Los Angeles) behind to become a more realistic husband.

But in my CORE HAPPINESS I am playing music. And the man she met was fully actualized. I was playing in a band, playing live, and writing music. That’s the man she fell in love with. And then something changed. Kids. Money. Work. 9-11. But it changed in her, not in me.

I remained, remain, a musician and happy artist. And I am MOST happy when I’m creating music and poetry. Maybe the music and poetry can bring on the happiness, I don’t know. But I have not lost my joy at playing and writing, even if it’s for my kids and me alone.

From time to time we lose sight of what makes us most happy. But we must keep listening. We must keep stopping in the moment, when the happiness is strongest, and firming it in.

And I won’t pass judgement on her at this point. Her core happiness is up to her to discover. And maybe it’s found with another relationship. Maybe there’s someone out there who “always” completes us. But I don’t think that’s where it’s found.

My joy is up to me. My core happiness comes from my own commitment to dig into it. And more importantly to give up on the outcome of the product and simply enjoy the process. Sure, I’d like everyone to enjoy one of my songs, someday. But the joy I experience at catching a moment just right (in song, poem, or even her in this confession) is mine alone. No amount of praise, fame, or money, or lack of those things can affect my inner satisfaction.

This is not an easy place to find in yourself. And from time to time we lose sight of what makes us most happy. But we must keep listening. We must keep stopping in the moment, when the happiness is strongest, and firming it in. Affirming, as Laura Munson did in Italy.

THIS RIGHT HERE. THIS IS MY JOY. BREATHE. AND REMEMBER THIS, no matter what.

REMEMBER YOUR INNER JOY IS YOURS ALONE.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: open heart, sebastian schrimpf, creative commons usage


i could be back here in an hour

shaking off depression

 [from The Black Pages – poetry]

i am down but i was up just a little bit ago
feelin high singin songs smiling through the light in the hotel room window
but now i’m down, can’t find what’s on the ground in my mind
i’m underneath, in-between, i’ll be right back with who i really wanted to be tonight

if you’ll excuse me please, it won’t take but a day or two or a week

sometimes
when i hit it just right
i could be back here in an hour
swimming in the pool
i could

but nothing is cool about this foolishness today
nothing is colder than the grip of icy fingers across the back of my neck
i won’t be down for long, cause i don’t play this way
but when i can, i let the time and the rest and the touching lead the way

just wanna be with me, wanna be talky or play a game?
ya wanna go fishing?
go somewhere different
we can have coffee in a new cafe, everyday, don’t ya think?

cause there’s nothing to be done for it that ain’t already be done
there ain’t no vibe that a kicking rock song can’t find an edge
something so pretty, something of sparkling bliss
that can pick me up, take me out of this state

i’m a bout half as tired as when i went to sleep last night
all the words and projects and figuring it out
never gave my gentle thoughts equal time
i’ve been like this before, and if i can move beyond the bum
i can sometimes find my way into fascination

fascination and creativity are doors out of this hole i’m in
singing connects all of my arts with word, soul, resonance, breathing…
performing for people sets me free, shows all of my parts

9-7-09

a poem, written fragment of hope before the demise…

This is a list of todos to help with my emergence out of depression was ahead of this love letter to myself:

MUSIC
TENNIS
SEX
PLAYING WITH KIDS   and FAMILY
swimming
seeing live music 
performing music
writing music 
writing 
poetry 
publishing

The blue dots represent parts of my life currently reactivated today 5-27-13. With a little bit of effort and good fortune I could light up the other tasks shortly.


Loneliness. Fessing Up When Things Hurt for No Apparent Reason

a nice walk at sunsetToday was one of those days. Nothing really happened to make me sad, but dropping the happy bubbling kids off at the ex-y’s house today I felt the depth of pain again. And maybe I have to come clean, maybe I need to look at my loneliness for a minute rather than skate over it in the name of exhaustion, too much work, apathy, and entertainment.

I don’t want to write about missing my kids. I want to go off and queue up a Game of Thrones episode and relax and forget about it.

I felt the pang of anxiety for the first time in months last week. I was dialing in some financial details and realized the bulk of the work that was materializing two months ago, had still failed to produce the steady income I needed. So I’m back against the wall, it’s the new month, and I still owe half of last month’s child support payment.

It is hard to share that. I’d rather curl up and be depressed. Maybe this is too raw, unedited… I can feel the emptiness and hopelessness that comes as part of this new planet I have landed upon. At the moment, I’m blogging, not writing the story. But perhaps the voice can come through and punch me back into gear.

At the moment it is exactly TWO WEEKS since I started this post. And the anger, vibrancy, and passion has veered off course into self-doubt and sadness.

Check list:

1. Exercise. YES

2. Eating well. MARGINAL

3. Sleeping well. YES

4. Keeping up with work. MARGINAL

5. Loneliness quotient: VERY HIGH

Dammit. I do not want to be here. I’ve called my support team. I am looking at what is going on with attention to ACTION rather than RUMINATION. And now as the sun is going down, I’m gonna have the 2nd walk of the day. A short one, an appreciation.

I’ve fallen down, but I am also in the process of getting up. Again. We get up again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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