Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Jungle or the Cliff?

I had this moment this morning, a thought that kept me smiling through my whole commute.

I feel good today.

And I thought about my state of mind and being last week, last month; when I was struggling to just survive. I had no goals, long or short term; wasn't looking forward to anything; and everything felt horribly pointless. It felt like I had been dragging myself through a jungle full of paralyzing objects, when suddenly I found that the jungle ended in a cliff. I could either go forward off the cliff, or turn around and go back through the jungle and HOPE that maybe things would get better some day. And lemme tell ya, after that jungle, continuing off the cliff didn't seem like that bad of an idea. Almost a relief. But I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. So I stayed at that point, in between the cliff and the poisonous jungle, desperately trying to figure out which way to go.

As you might imagine, it's really difficult to do anything worthwhile with your life when you've been seriously considering ending it for any length of time. I had to decide which way to go - and I had to be totally committed if I was going to trudge back through that jungle. Because I had no idea how long I would be in there as I tried to find a way out. If I turned away from the cliff, I had to be determined that I wasn't going to go back that way again.

I can't say for sure at what point I decided to turn back into the jungle. All I know was that I did it without hope of anything getting better for me. I figured that if it was meant to be, life itself would find it's own way of pushing me off the cliff. I didn't need to give it any help. So I kept going, almost in a daze, in no particular direction except away from that cliff.

And I watched the movie 'Warrior' for some reason. I hadn't seen it in years and all of a sudden I HAD to watch it.

Naturally, I started thinking about the few years I spent training in MMA.  Muay Tai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specifically.  And how I stopped because of my divorce. Most of all, I remembered how I felt when I was training: Confident, self assured, beautiful, and mentally and physically strong.

And suddenly a rush of great memories popped up. And I mean great memories. When I was training in MMA I was going through hell. Working 90 hour weeks, my marriage was falling apart, and I fantasized about sleeping more than 6 hours a night.  But when I was training, none of that mattered. I trained hard and was proud of what I was doing. I was considered one of the guys and treated with respect by all of my teammates. My Sensei took pride in training me. And I met one of my best friends on those mats who to this day is an inspiration to me.

And I wanted back in. Desperately. I decided that I have to start treating myself better if I ever wanted to get that comradery again.  I put together a modest workout schedule and forced myself to make healthy decisions.  It's been less than a week since, and already I am a thousand times better.

And I'm so fucking grateful, because at the moment, even if it's only for a short while, I'm out of the jungle, and also not at the edge of a cliff.  I'm in some sort of weird place that makes me happy.  And that's something to celebrate.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Some days, it's good enough.

Yesterday was acceptable. Not perfect, but also far from worthless.

I like making lists. I make lists for just about everything. Mostly to-do lists. I don't know what my obsession is, but I know it used to be much worse. I used to write them on my hand. I had a very complicated shorthand system so others couldn't read what I wrote and they just thought it was gibberish.

I read somewhere once that people with depression should try to do something, even if it's small, on days when you feel like all you can do is lay on the couch and let your thoughts take you to horrible places. Wash the dishes. If you can't wash all the dishes, wash a dish. Cook a healthy meal. If you can't do that, defreeze the chicken so you can cook tomorrow. That kind of thinking has helped me a lot, because I can accept that I'm feeling horrible, and it's a valid feeling, but I can also do something small to help me out of it.  If I can do more than wash a dish or defreeze the chicken, great. But I'm not pressuring myself to do more than I can possibly do.

I made my to-do list sort of ambitious, even as I was making it I knew all these things weren't likely to get accomplished. But I did accomplish a lot.  I made guacamole and lunches for the next few days. I prepped the chicken for the curry I'm going to make tonight. I did the dishes and folded the laundry. I didn't run though. So I brought my clothes with me today and I won't leave to go home until I at least walk 2 miles.  I know exercise is difficult with depression, (especially when you're just starting) because it's hard enough to get out the door and go to work. Or carry groceries home, or just walking a lot. And even though I know how I'm going to feel even after a few days of running, it is still so hard to get my feet out the door. It's hard to get your feet out the door to run even if you don't have depression. Just type in 'running motivation' to Google and you'll get millions of reasons to run. It's really, really hard some days, especially when your anxiety tries to do this every morning:

Art by Claire Jarvis

Depression can physically hurt. It's not a symptom I think about often, but when I was carrying two grocery bags home yesterday. and I couldn't get a seat on the train because it was too crowded.  And I was miserable and in a lot of pain. These bags weren't that heavy, but the entire ride home was miserable. That's probably why I didn't go out for my run as soon as I got home. I decided to sit down and read for a few hours on my cozy recliner instead.

So, some days you don't get everything done. Most days you're not going to be perfect. But guess what? It's good enough.  And so am I.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of good things. And no good thing ever dies.

Phew, that was a rotten couple of weeks.  Not only because I couldn't do any real physical activity because of the stitches; but also because something triggered some terrible memories I had tried very hard to forget. I also had to survive for 2 weeks with almost no money.

Whoever said 'money doesn't buy happiness' has obviously never lived off of ramen noodles because you were too poor to buy real food. That stuff is toxic for your body. I never even liked it all that much in college. I ate it more for the novelty of it...then again, I didn't eat much in college anyway.  So for about two weeks, I attempted to save money by not buying any new food. I have to say, I got super creative with whatever was left in my kitchen, but none of it was healthy by any means.

As you can imagine:

no physical activity + unhealthy/no food + unwelcome bad memories =
survival mode, and survival mode takes a lot to come back from

I also spent the last 2 weeks trying to get a waitressing/bartending job.  I must have applied to at least 20 places. I got one call back and I didn't get that job. Deciding to get a second job was a really difficult decision to make, and I had kinda hoped I could just get one and get on with the misery (I do really enjoy working in the hospitality business and I do miss bartending; but I know myself. Once I get a job, I'm going to be working my ass off, working all hours, probably going full time again. I won't have a social life, I won't have the free time to do what I enjoy doing, and I won't stop until my body physically gives out on me. So, while getting a second job is a financial solution, I know I don't have the boundaries to keep it as a part time job if I know I could be making more money). But apparently it's harder to get a waitressing job than I thought.  Fabulous.

And today started off no different. On my way to the office, at 8am, I was crying, stressing about my debts, my credit score, how I depleted my savings while I was trying to survive, among a ton of other worries.

And then I paid some bills. Since I had just gotten paid, there was a nice buffer of money to pay off some bills that were 2 months old (oops-what was I saying about having a shitty credit score?). And I felt a little better.

And then I canceled my cable subscription, and made a to do list- filled with things that I knew I didn't want to do, but they would make me feel better.

Then I went to pinterest and typed in 'running.' The reason I love pinterest is because I can always find something that makes me laugh. And also, there's a ton of people out there who are just as nerdy about the things you're passionate about. And then I saw these two gems:

And I remembered how I felt before I got cancer, and how a run was the only thing that could get me out of bed without hitting the snooze button 10 times. And I remembered how happy I was then.

It sparked a little hope.

When you haven't had anything resembling hope in a long time, you forget how powerful just a little bit can be. Like when you've been in complete darkness, and the tiniest bit of light dilates your eyes and can seem brighter than anything else you've ever seen. That's how it feels now.

I hope that I will enjoy my first run in over a month.
I hope that the food I make will be delicious as well as healthy, and it will make me feel better.
I hope I can feel strong again one day.

I hope I can accept that today I am good enough.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Unusual summer clothes

So, if there's something I'm going to need this summer, especially since I've been losing weight and fitting into 'summer' clothes again (201.5...almost out of the 200's), is a whole bunch of lightweight arm warmers.

Yes, arm warmers. And not for the typical reason you'd wear arm warmers.

See, I've got more scars than I like to count up and down both my arms. While I've come to terms with them and don't feel as ugly as I used to, I can always tell when someone sees them and for a split second their face is dark, as they determine whether or not to ask me about them. Usually people are polite enough not to ask, but that split second moment when their face changes is enough to trigger my anxiety and put me in 'fight or flight' mode; as I determine if I need to lie to this person, what lie I should use: 'I work at an animal shelter,' or 'You should see the other guy...haha,' and what not. I know no one is judging me, but I've had strangers (and some friends) who really wanted to know, and just kept pushing me until I had to walk away or tell them very sternly to drop the subject.

Needless to say, I don't want to have to deal with that all summer.  So my solution is arm warmers.  I can make these, by hand, no problem, and as a bonus put on a geek flair to most of them. That way most people will think I'm just a weirdo, and not someone who self injures.

For the most part, these arm warmers are going to have to be opera length (almost up to my shoulder) because my scars are EVERYWHERE. But that's ok, I can modify the ideas I've found pretty easily.  I even have a tutorial. The whole point of this project is that I'll just become someone who wears arm warmers all the time, it'll be weird, but it will be like my superhero costume or something.

Some ideas(in addition to a bunch of single color ones I'm going to make):
X-men inspired

Dr Who - Tardis

This is far too busy - but a Portal theme

Legend of zelda - Link
Dr Who - 4th Doctor

Obviously, I'm not going to be making a heavy knit arm covering, but here's the ideas. This might seem like the WEIRDEST idea I've had in awhile...certainly unconventional. But hey, let's give it a try.