Snowballing Thoughts

I’ve written a lot about going to therapy. I spent two years seeing a therapist that kept me from going to jail, rehab or both.

Those posts are: Going to Therapy: Setting Goals and Smashing Them

How Can Therapy be Beneficial for You?

Well, it’s time for another round.

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block because I’ve been depressed and anxious. It’s hard to write when you don’t feel like it’s any good.

Motivation is probably my biggest issue- I’d stay in bed all day reading or watching TV if I had the chance. Instead, I drag myself to work for 5 hours. Those hours crawl by. I’m not happy at all with my job and I’d quit tomorrow if I could.

This leads me to my career in general- I don’t know what’s next and that just creates more anxiety. I worry about the kids and my marriage.

These thoughts snowball and are hard to stop.

Facing Reality

I really struggled with the idea. I felt like I failed. I decided on a different therapist because I couldn’t face my former one. It just wouldn’t be the same.

I even got into a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She’s great and I started an anti-depressant. I can’t say yet if it’s helping but I sure hope it does.

She asked me if I had cravings for a drink.

Until then, I hadn’t even thought about it.

Sometimes when I’m stressed, sad or both, I’ll think “I could really use a drink.” I guess I wasn’t paying attention. Part of why I went back to therapy is because I don’t want to relapse. I’m not sure how I’d come back from it.

One of the promises I made to myself when Jake died was to finish the work he started. Even thinking I didn’t do so broke me. As Sara put it, sometimes you need a boost. Plus Jake would be angry at me for not going back because he wanted me to be happy.

As usual, Sara was right.

I felt like I was letting everyone down because for the most part, I’m okay. I got myself back together. Going back means I wobbled on my path.

I talked to Matthew and my closest friends about it and all of them were supportive. If you don’t have friends like these, you need new ones. Matthew hopes it helps because he noticed me pulling away from him.

I cried. I cried a lot. My friends’ support means a lot more to me than they realize. They really do care. I’m not the burden that I thought I was.

That’s the depression talking. It tells me that I should be doing more professionally and that I’m a terrible mom and wife.

If you’ve been depressed, you know what I mean. There’s that voice in the back of your mind telling you things that are hard to process.

I went to my first therapy session with my new therapist last week and she’s very nice. I’ll be there once a week for a while and that’s okay. I have to remind myself of this when I start thinking the bad things.

One day at a time, right?

2020 Post-Holiday Check-In

I entirely forgot to do one of these before the holidays so here goes:

Physically: I spent a week in a flare that required steroids. That’s the first time I’ve had to get them, but have had a different kind for migraines. The steroids helped and I’m good.

I went in for labs- my liver and kidneys are good. Yay for my liver cooperating. I’m on Vitamin D now but otherwise my other meds stay the same.

Sobriety:

I have three years as of 1/1/2020. This is and has not been easy. I struggled a lot with wanting a drink but it isn’t worth it. Plus, I gotta keep my liver in good shape so it can tolerate these meds.

Emotional:

Ugh. I’ve been a huge mess off and on for the last couple months. I’ve decided to go back to therapy, but this time with someone who can prescribe meds. I think it’s time.

I had a really hard time accepting that I need to go back to therapy. I felt like I failed at my promise to finish Jake’s work. As a friend told me, I did fulfill that promise, and it’s okay to need a bit of extra help.

She’s right.

I also struggled with telling Matthew and my close friends. I felt (and sometimes still do) feel like I should have myself together and that I’ve bothered everyone plenty over the last few years.

I did tell them and I cried for a while because they support me. Good thing I wear waterproof mascara because that day’s would have been ruined.

I’m not even sure what happened. I’ve tried to figure it out, but I can’t live my best life if I’m constantly anxious, sad and not wanting to get out of bed. I have been a lot happier so I know what it feels like.

My first session is on 1/8/2020.

What’s Next?

I couldn’t begin to tell you. I’m not sure about the job I’m at right now for numerous reasons. I got an email for an interview for a position that I’ve previously applied for twice and never got a response.

It starts with a phone interview, which I definitely prefer. Cross your fingers and toes.

Today is Matthew’s 37th birthday. Cameron will be 15 on 1/7/2020. Yuck. Where did the last 15 years go? My little 7 lb, 5 oz baby is now 5’7″ and weighs as much as I do.

There will be a book review this month.

Stay tuned to find out what comes next.

Intimacy Is Not a Bad Word

Merriam-Webster defines the word intimacy as:

“something of a private or personal nature” and/or “familiarity”.

There are a number of reasons that we can be afraid of intimacy. Two examples:

  • Childhood issues, as in inability to attach to a caregiver, having been abandoned, etc.
  • Past negative events of being intimate with others- abusive relationships, sexual assault, etc.

Either of these issues can set someone on a path of trying to keep themselves “safe”. This can be both good and bad- it’s good to protect yourself from those who may have bad intentions, but may not be so great when someone means well and just wants to get closer to you.

The fear of intimacy can keep you from getting close to others. It can also cause behaviors like:

  • Purposefully pushing others away
  • Keeping friendships and/or relationships superficial so the person can’t see who you really are
  • Coming off as “cold” or “closed off” to others around you.
  • Fear of abandonment and/or rejection.

“Some People Are Worth Melting For”- ” Frozen”

I can’t believe I used a “Frozen” quote but…it fits.

There was a point in my life in which I had become cold. I didn’t even realize it, which is very common. I’d been dealing with anxiety and depression due to my marriage issues. Things were so bad that I felt the need to protect myself emotionally so that I could keep going. I was basically on my own planet.

When your husband is emotionally and verbally abusive, it hurts. It changes you and your marriage permanently.

I was quiet, had lost some of my humor and kept to myself for the most part. I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t notice the tall, gorgeous man that kept trying to approach me at work.

That man was Jake.

I am forever grateful that I met him. He had a quiet, gentle spirit that helped me open up and heal. I was scared that I would get hurt (and I did) but somehow, I realized he was worth that risk.

He told me once that he didn’t know what to do because I kept brushing him off. I would literally walk away from him because I didn’t want to be bothered, but he kept trying- not in a mean or harassing way.

I apologized to him for seeming so cold- that’s not me at all, even then. I realized that I didn’t want to come off that way to others, so I tried my best to open up and let Jake in. It was one of my best ideas in years.

After his death, I had to address my marriage and where it was going. If we were going to stay together, I would have to work on my fear of being close to Matthew again.

I cried my way through lots of therapy sessions before I could decide to let myself take that risk again. Matthew had changed, so I needed to do the same.

I talked a lot about my fears and realized that I was the only one that could truly fix them. Over time, I’ve been able to be fully intimate, meaning emotionally and physically, with Matthew again. It’s helped our marriage a lot.

Thinking

How Can I Make Changes?

Changes are definitely possible, but they may not be fun.

Coming to terms with this fear can be difficult, depending on individual circumstances. Some may require therapy. Some can work through this fear on their own.

Either way is okay. Everyone’s different and heals in their own way.

A few steps for facing the fear of intimacy:

  • Think about it- what is it exactly that makes you fear intimacy so much?
  • Write it out- this can help sort out your thoughts.
  • Talk. Then talk some more. Rachel, my former therapist, once told me “If it’s on your mind and bothering you, you should probably say it.” I admit this was a big struggle for me, and it’s still an issue sometimes, but it is worth it.
  • Get informed. This is a deep fear for many and there’s information all over the Internet. The information for this post is from Psych Mind
  • Take small steps. Don’t rush into something because you’re trying to get past a fear. It may take years for intimacy to feel okay for you. Examples: Try opening up to someone you have wanted to but only about one topic. Let someone take care of you.
  • Seek a therapist if this fear is keeping you from living your best life.

Forming a sense of intimacy with others can be tough. Facing this fear can create personal growth that you may not have expected.

Has intimacy been a problem for you? What has helped you face the fear OR what keeps you from facing it?

The Place I Don’t Like to Be

There is a cemetery in Southern Indiana that holds a grave I never thought I would see.

I know exactly where Jake’s grave is and every time I walk towards it, my heart breaks.

I’m not supposed to be here.

He’s not supposed to be here.

It took three years before I could come to his grave and not cry until my eyes swelled.

This is not where I want to be, but it’s where he is.

The Day We Didn’t See Coming

Nobody saw the events of September 1, 2015 coming. Even if any of us had consulted a crystal ball, this wouldn’t have been in it. I’ve looked back so often- even though Jake was quiet the last couple days before his death, this wasn’t on my radar.

I thought he had a lot on his mind, maybe a depressive episode.

If it had been, I would have done anything to stop him. All of us would have.

There are no words to fully explain how I got through hearing of Jake’s death. I’ve tried to describe it to those close to me, including my former therapist. Shattered is the only word that can even come close.

The Day After describes how I began the process of crawling forward with my life and how it is possible if you have had this sort of loss.

I didn’t attend anything after the funeral service because I was far too broken. I simply walked out to my car and drove home.

I spent days in bed, crying and drinking. I even spent my tenth wedding anniversary in bed- it was only 9 days after Jake’s death. Matthew let me be.

What?

Stay with me.

He knew that he had essentially broken me. Verbal and emotional abuse is no joke, and it will put you in a place that nobody should ever be in. Matthew is a bright man, but this wasn’t one of his better ideas.

He had changed.

I had changed.

That’s no excuse for what occurred.

He eventually realized that even though I had cheated on him and ran our marriage even further into the ground, Jake put me back together. Anyone who knows me well knows this.

There were days that I couldn’t see a way out of the darkness that I was living in. I ate and drank my way through my feelings. I gained weight and didn’t care.

I still don’t. I currently sit at 170. I don’t weigh myself unless I’m at a doctors appointment.

At one point, I became angry and mean. I’m not like that. I will become that way if pushed and even at this point, I still should have handled things better.

The Breaking Point

I began talking to Jake’s brother’s girlfriend, *Lauren. One discussion went terribly and to this day, we aren’t on speaking terms. I’m okay with this.

I am not, however, okay, with the fact, that it destroyed my friendship with Jordan. We are barely back on speaking terms. This took a lot of time, work on my end, and a bit of help from Sara.

I realized that I needed a bit more help to get past my grief. Raging, crying and eating clearly weren’t working.

I found a wonderful therapist and slowly began to see a bit of light. I worked on processing my grief in healthier ways- this blog is one result. I also worked my way through trust issues (I’m still picky about who I like), issues in my marriage, with my kids and some other personal things.

I highly recommend therapy in any form.

I even got sober while I was in therapy and my therapist was thrilled. When I started, she was almost ready to send me inpatient based on my drinking.

Seeing the Light Ahead

There are days that hurt- Jake’s birthday and today, September 1. I think it always will. This is okay. I refer to it as “The Day the World Went Away”, which is the title of a Nine Inch Nails song. He loved that band.

As four years have gone by, I try to remember what I’ve been able to accomplish. I remember that Jake would be so proud of me, or so I hope.

I’ve become a volunteer for the AFSP Out of the Darkness Community Walks. I’ve also done a couple of the college campus walks at the University of Louisville. In a way, it helps me carry on Jake’s (and my) love of helping others.

I figure if I can live through this, I can help others somehow. I cannot explain what a suicide loss is like. I just know that this is something that nobody should have to live through.

I have been outrageously lucky- support isn’t something that everyone has. Matthew didn’t have to be there, but he was. My best friends and family have been there since day one.

Josh, Jake’s other brother, has been one of the best supports I could ask for. I couldn’t have made it through the first two years without my former therapist. I may have ended up in jail and/or rehab.

I have a really bad mouth and back then, unchecked anger issues. The mouth hasn’t changed at all, but I’ve learned to manage my anger. My kids have noticed.

I may have kept drinking had my doctor not called with the fateful lab results.

Grief is one of the hardest emotions for a person to manage. One day can be great and you don’t think about the loss at all- the next, you’re sobbing over a memory.

” Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you”- “New Year’s Eve”, Taylor Swift

My short term memory is trashed, thanks to a mini-stroke shortly before meeting Jake. My long-term memory is intact, and I am grateful. This helps me hold on to the two years of memories.

Thanks to those memories, I’ve created two hashtags: #ForMySuperman and #SpeakNow

They are seen with many of my mental health/suicide related posts on social media. I’ve often referred to Jake as my Superman. Even though he wasn’t perfect and our situation definitely wasn’t, my life was better with him in it.

He saved me from myself sometimes, but even more, the world I was living in. For two years, he was always there for me. I could be myself again, I was able to breathe. I could be happy and not pushed into a corner.

Those memories have gotten ne through the last four years, the good and bad days. I don’t have any pictures of the two of us together, but Josh and Sara have helped me with a collection of pictures of Jake and even a few of his kids. His daughter looks just like him. Of course, she’s taller than me.

All of the pictures have been carefully saved- they’re all I have.

The last week of August and the first couple of days of September are hard for me. I try to do things for others during this time- it helps. I also try to take care of myself so that I don’t fall into a pile of tears.

Growth, Change and Happiness

Before I met Jake, there was another Jacob in my life, my grandfather. He died in May 2016, and it broke my heart. He was the first man in my life who really believed in me.

I called my Granddad “the sunshine of my life”. He gave great advice and had a great sense of humor.

It took over a year to finally feel like I was living again. This doesn’t mean I was fully healed and living my best life. It means I felt like I wasn’t stuck in a daily grief pattern.

I struggled to move past the anger that eventually came, sadness, and other emotions. I never went through the bargaining stage. I knew Jake wasn’t coming back.

I’m at the best I’ve been so far. I’m past 2 1/2 years sober, and every day still remains a challenge. If someone tells you that sobriety is a breeze, it’s a lie. I don’t sit in meetings or read the Big Book every day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do the work.

Happy? Am I happy? Probably. I’m living the life that Jake made me strong enough to live. As long as I keep that promise to myself, I’ll be okay.

My kids are growing up and I’m attempting to figure out where I want to go next. A few years ago, they were smaller and I had all the plans in the world. I know what it’s like to have that ruined in a minute. I don’t like making long term plans.

I do know that I’m going to be okay no matter where life takes me. I’ve got three people watching out for me- my grandparents and of course, my Superman.

Pics courtesy of pinterest

Mental Health and Aging: Tips for Helping Through the Hard Times

Aging can be difficult for an entire family- adult children, grandchildren, spouse, and especially on the aging person. He or she may not be the person that they used to be and that can be upsetting to those around them.

It can be even more upsetting to them, because they may not like those changes. These changes aren’t something they asked for. It’s due to changes in the brain caused by aging, medications, medical conditions and possibly other factors.

Bench

Learning from Scratch

The very first job I had out of college was at a large mental health facility. I was assigned to the geriatric unit. This unit also served pregnant and medically fragile patients, even though it was rare to see patients of either category.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t thrilled with this assignment because I had no experience in this area, plus I wanted to work with a younger population. I wanted to transfer but had recently discovered that I was pregnant with Lily. The best option was for me to stay where I was.

This was a small unit- less than 25 beds. Many of the patients had conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and even a few with Parkinson’s, but combined with mental illness. When those combine, things get a bit challenging.

I’ll never forget the 93-year-old woman that came in after physically attacking the director of her nursing home. She was so tiny that the entire staff wondered how she was able to do so.

I did learn quite a bit while I was there- the unit shut down due to budget cuts while I was on light duty. (Lily and I did not get along very well towards the end of my pregnancy. When I came back to work after her birth, I went to a different unit.)

  • Empathy goes a long way.
  • Take the time to really listen to what the person wants/needs.
  • Remember that this isn’t a personal attack against you.
  • The person you love is still inside, you might have to search a little deeper.
  • Take breaks from caregiving when you can.

The Facts and Why Mental Health Issues Aren’t Easy to Spot

The triggers and symptoms of mental illness in the elderly aren’t much different from younger adults. The following information is from A Place for Mom

Triggers include:

  • Alcohol/Substance Abuse
  • Change of environment, like moving from their longtime home into assisted living or a nursing home
  • Illness/physical disability
  • Changes in diet
  • Medication interaction (this can be a big one)
  • Illnesses that cause dementia (ex: Alzheimer’s)

Symptoms can show as:

  • Changes in appearance
  • Confusion, problems in decision making or concentration
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Memory issues
  • Social withdrawal
  • Trouble handling finances
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, suicidal thoughts, etc.
  • Depressed thoughts/mood lasting longer than two weeks

Mental illness can be hard to spot in senior citizens because it can be masked with other conditions. Many simply don’t feel the need to see their primary care provider (or other providers) for mental health issues. They also may see depression as “normal” with aging.

Some of the symptoms that are seen with depression- sleep and appetite changes, memory and concentration problems- are seen as a part of getting older. Some medications can cause these changes or even make them worse but are not always mentioned.

This information is courtesy of US News

Dance

What Can You Do?

Resistance may be a roadblock to getting your loved one to receive treatment. It’s best to have a plan for that before approaching them. There may be some shame involved in getting help, which is common. If you run into resistance, you can try focusing on the symptoms versus the disorder itself. Of course, it’s a good idea to get support for yourself.

If the situation has progressed to a point in which you need to discuss care outside the home, it may be time for a more in-depth talk.

  • Choose a time when everyone involved is calm.
  • Don’t take resistance personally. The resistance is likely from fear of the unknown.
  • If the discussion doesn’t go well the first time, try again.
  • If needed, get paperwork completed to properly care for your loved one. Adult children can get a power of attorney for their parent to make medical decisions as needed.

This information also found at A Place for Mom

If your loved one does agree to treatment, cheer them on and help them as much as possible. It is possible for anyone with a mental illness to live a full life, no matter what their age. Some need more help and encouragement than others and this is entirely okay. Having a plan will help everyone involved.

Pics courtesy of unsplash