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it’s been too long. i feel like there is too much to write and nothing to write at the same time.

it’s recently been coming to my attention how a lot of people in my life think i’ve gotten through this… thing. who cares what they think? but it does matter, because right now it feels like my identity. i know i need to shake that. hazy.. everything seems hazy.

my mom went on her first date since my dad last monday. last week she let it slip that there was someone interested.. i encouraged her. she was surprised and very emotional about it. “we just want you to be happy.”

life certainly is weird.

2010 is coming to an end… and i’m not going to be sad to see it go. 2010 has been the hardest year of my life. hands down. i remember last year when people were telling me happy new year i was just wondering if i’d live to see the end of it. sounds melodramatic, i know.. but i really didn’t know.

been struggling with my boyfriend. god i love him. i’ve been too dependent.

i’ve recently realized that there are two very separate things i need to work through. there’s the anxiety and flashbacks and depression and fear and all of that.. the memory of those 3 months last year… and then there’s also just the fact that i lost almost everything. school. friends. job. everything and everyone that inspired me… there was a lot. i lost myself. i threw it away. and i don’t say those things to beat myself down. it’s just the truth. i do believe i can come to be inspired again, i do have hope, but i also know it’s a long road. and there aren’t any guarantees…

if i don’t post again before, happy new year’s everyone. remember love.

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Two sides to every story… cliche right? Just the first title that came to mind, I guess.

I tend to see things in spectrum. I believe that black and white do exist, but most things fall in between.

I have made so much progress since the beginning of February. I can’t lose sight of that. Yet… the last couple weeks have been pretty rough.

I think a good part of it has to do with the added stress of having lost my job. Not only does that make the money situation ultra-stressful, but it was also just good for me to be working every day. Now it’s a mad rush to get another job.

Right after I lost my job, I went up to Michigan. I thought it would be really good for me, but I think that in a way it was the opposite. I used to sort of joke about having post traumatic stress disorder when I would try to explain how I feel sometimes (not that having PTSD is funny, but joke as in I didn’t think I actually had it.) My sister actually did have it and while I was talking to her about how I feel she said that it does sound a lot like it’s possible that I have it. My reason for saying that is that being up in Michigan was hard because everything there reminded me of those three horrible months when everything just slipped away from me. I kept having flashbacks and it really just offset me.

And since then I’ve just been feeling like I’ve been slightly regressing. It’s really hard because ever since I started being able to function (work, play music, leave the house at night,) it seems sort of like everyone thinks that I’m back to normal or that everything is better. Things will never be “back to normal” and everything is definitely not better yet. Things are a lot better than they were in February, but I have a long ways to go.

Yeah. Things have been harder the last couple of weeks. I’ve been crying a lot.

However… the other side of the story is that:

-I started writing music again.
-I have a lot of fun playing in the band.
-I played solo in a show tonight and it went really well. I had a lot of fun.
-Although I still don’t hang out with a lot of different people (which is really different for me,) I have met quite a few people and feel ready to start doing that a little more.
-I’m really looking forward to being back in school this fall.

It’s really hard to even compare now to when I first moved back here. At night I couldn’t even leave the house or be alone. I literally felt like a zombie. I still had no appetite or hunger and avoided everyone other than in my immediate family. I felt a lot of anxiety all day every day. Things were very, very bad.

So I have come a long way… a very long way. I really want to stay focused on that. I know that I simply won’t get better if I don’t believe that I will get better.

And.. I also realize that I’m very blessed with a lot of different things.

When I was in the hospital, my dad kept telling me about this metaphor of a bridge somewhere out east. Apparently the tunnel is a few miles long and has a curve somewhere in the middle. Until you go around the curve you literally can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel… but it’s there.

I lost my job. I’ll save the details of that for another post, but let me say that it was no fault of my own nor was it a layoff. I spoke up for myself and got fired for it. At first I wasn’t really upset about it because I felt good that I had said what I wanted to say (and what others are too afraid to say.) Then I left to go to the U.P. for a week and sort of forgot about it. Now that I’m back at home I’m realizing that not only is it the expected stress of financial burden and whatnot,  but it’s also really not good for me that I have now lost the sense of routine that was really helping me make progress.

Feeling the way I did in the U.P… it really made me sort of second-guess how far I’ve come. I know that’s stupid… but it just made me feel really weak. One of the hardest things for me to face is the fact that during high school I had struggled a LOT, but I felt I had overcome and gotten through that “tunnel.” I feel like I just lost all of that.

Which isn’t true. I still draw on things that I learned through that ordeal when I’m trying to pull myself out of this “thing.” And honestly without the things I learned then I don’t know if I could have gotten through this.

So.. I guess my tunnel has more than one curve. Because right now it’s hard for me to see the light at the end of it again. I know it’s there.. but sometimes it’s hard to feel it.

OK, quick life update:

-Lost my job
-Been playing more and more music
-I still play music with those guys where we do a lot of folk.. we have a gig every Thursday before this music festival that happens every Thursday here in the summer. That’s been going really well.

I miss all of you from the WordPress world and really want to make an effort to post more. It’s helped me a lot throughout my time here and I really appreciate you all for your support and advice!!

I’m a rambler. If you get me talking and I’m comfortable, I can go on and on. I do it all the time to my boyfriend. I joke with him that he must be so sick of my stories, but he always laughs and says he likes them. I just laugh.

But then he remembers a small detail of something I told him weeks ago and he’ll bring it up… as if he really is listening the whole time. It feels good to feel that he is really listening to what I’m saying, even when it isn’t on a really important subject. I love him for that.

Sometimes it’s those little things…

Work has been stressful, but overall good. The program I worked at in Milwaukee was much higher quality, so I can get easily frustrated at the daycare I work at now. The kids really do make it worth it though. Some days, though, I’m just itching to get out of there because it’s so crazy and I’m so bothered by some of the things that go on. The other day I felt like that.. and this little two-year-old said the word “bubble” and suddenly I was so refreshed. See, he’s been really delayed in speech. Lately I had been getting him to say some words like “hey” and “no” and such, but he said “bubble” and I just felt so proud of him. Those moments remind me why I love kids so much. Again, the little things…

I’ve been struggling lately. I sort of just stopped seeing the psychologist I was seeing a few weeks ago. I felt like he wasn’t the right fit for me, and he ended up canceling an appointment because he was sick, and I just never called back to make another appointment. I really need to be in therapy… intensive therapy. Things aren’t nearly as bad as they a few months ago, but even as I start feeling better it almost makes me feel worse to understand how long the road in front of me is.

There’s a lot to look forward to though as well.

What little things mean a lot to you?

Five AM

I’ll be up in two hours

I think… I think that in general I’m making progress. I hesitate to say that because I fear that it won’t last… and because although I’ve been feeling more like myself- and for longer periods of time- I still don’t feel quite… right. Like.. right now I should be asleep…. but I seem to have this endless energy and sort of.. restlessness.. while at other parts of the day I’m just plain exhausted. Right now I just feel wired. It’s like there’s no middle ground. I’m either low, fighting off low, super happy, or “wired.”

I’m not complaining though because when I think about where I was at even just a couple of weeks ago I know that I am in a much better place.

But even as my moods stabilize, I’m still left with memories- both good and bad- that haunt me.

Well, the good memories make me sad… and happy in a way, I guess. You have to understand that it’s not like this was a slow process that eventually led to me hitting bottom- like I was unhappy for several months and everyone knew it but me. It all happened quickly. It especially seems quickly to me because those few months that led me here all just seem sort of like a haze now. Prior to those, maybe, three months things were pretty good. Yes, I had stress, but it was mostly positive stress- wanting to work hard because I was passionate about what I was doing- my job, my major.. I had amazing friends and people in my life- most of whom are still very bewildered that I just sort of disappeared.

So when I think about my life in Milwaukee pre-November, I have to deal with the fact that things will never be like that again. It’s a very harsh truth to accept. Honestly,  I feel like a part of me has died.

Yet… with every death there is birth. But it’s all a painful, yet beautiful process.

Then there are the bad memories that haunt me. Sometimes they flood my mind. It’s like recalling a nightmare that you had but then realizing that it actually happened. It’s scary to even acknowledge that I was in the place I was. Yet at the same time, a month ago I couldn’t even really listen to a song from that time and I am definitely beyond that (well, there are still some songs I can’t listen to…)

I had to go to Milwaukee last weekend to take care of some business at my bank. It was a warm day.. sunny.. and when I first got there I remembered what I loved so much about Milwaukee. As I climbed the front steps of my old apartment, I saw reminders of the fact that I once lived there– my old bike, an empty cigarette box, some old mail… it already almost seemed like a lifetime ago.. it was almost as if my key just might not fit the lock…

But it did. And memories that I had repressed popped into my head.. things that happened that I would almost rather forget.

Yet.. the fact that those memories even surfaced reminded me that I have made progress. Yet as the moods continue to stabilize (knock on wood) I know that I still face a long journey of sorting through and processing everything that happened… of reevaluating the way I see the world around me.. of learning to live again.

There is this tree here in my hometown…

it’s just your average looking tree… I don’t even know what kind it is- not too big, not too small..

It’s next to some other trees on my favorite road in this town, on the curve where you can see the lake the best.

Every spring, white flowers bloom on all the branches of this tree.

It happens at a different time every year… and the flowers don’t last very long. They soon fall off and are replaces by green leaves, leaving this tree to be unnoticeable again.

A few days ago I was driving on that road and notices that some of the flowers had already bloomed. It made me smile… it gave me hope. It’s so early for the flowers to bloom… it’s a good year for an early spring. It really is.

In other news… lots of stuff has been happening the last couple of weeks. Sometimes I really feel like I’m making huge strides, and other times I feel that it’s worse. It’s so hard to say. Saw the doctor on Monday and he just increased the dose of the antidepressant I’m on (again.) We’ll see.

“Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now”

-Bob Dylan (My Back Pages)

I’m only 22 years old, but the older I get… the less I judge… the less I realize I understand.

I was in a bookstore last week and I saw a book in the psychology section called “Depression is a Choice.”

Depression is not a choice. It’s just not.

But there are choices involved in dealing with it.. just as there are choices in any illness. A person with diabetes can choose to watch their diet closely, to check their blood-sugar levels regularly. Likewise, a person with depression can choose to do things that will help- working out, going to therapy, surrounding him or herself with supportive people, etc. Yet.. it’s harder to make those decisions when your dealing with an illness that affects your decision making… that when it’s bad enough, you just don’t believe that it can get better.

Mental illness runs rampant through my family. I haven’t been a stranger to it. When I was fourteen it became very apparent that both of my brothers suffered from mental illness- pretty severely. I visited both of them when they were in the hospital.. many times throughout the the last.. almost ten years. I read up on what they were suffering from.. the medications they were prescribed. I talked to them about it. I advocated for them.

Yet until my bout with it in the last few months, I can honestly say that I really had no idea. No idea at all. See, I was really depressed during many stages of my high school years. When I left my hometown and started building my own life away from the things that had weighed me down, and when I succeeded in being content and passionate about what I was doing, feeling happy and looking forward to the future, I concluded that I had been depressed because of my circumstances, my situation.. which seemed very alterable to me. In a way I really did think that depression was sort of a choice.. that if you chose to change your circumstance, you could pull yourself out of it.I had a roommate who seemed to be struggling with depression, and although I hate to admit it, I thought that she just wasn’t trying hard enough, that she had dug her own hole and jumped into it.

Depression certainly can be situational; there certainly are choices involved, but… I was a stable, independent, confident, and generally happy and hopeful person, and in a manner of just a couple months I completely fell from my high horse. I didn’t choose to have this mental illness- whatever it is- and I really don’t think I made any situational choices that led to it (although I did make a lot of bad choices after it started.)

I’ve been making really good choices for the last couple of months, doing everything I could think of to feel better.. and it has still gotten worse. I mean, I am further along than I was right before and after I was in the hospital, but a couple of weeks ago things started taking a turn for the worse. That’s part of the reason I was absent from the wordpress world. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is. Last week I had a breakdown that felt very similar to the one where I initially hit bottom. My low lasted almost the whole day.. and the things that usually helped just didn’t. I can’t describe it other than that it’s just excruciating emotional pain. The good thing is that I was here, close to my family who offers me so much support.

I feel like Doctor Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I am trying so hard. I do believe that it will (and has) gotten better.

We all know someone that suffers from depression… yet there is still this huge misunderstanding of it, of all mental illness. Why is that? How could I misunderstand it so much even though I witnessed it so closely?

I’ve become a lot more private about most things in my life. I used to be a lot more open. Once I make more sense of all this, though, I want to be more open about it. There is such a huge negative stigma attached to mental illness. People who suffer from it are almost shunned. People with depression are labeled as lazy… others think, “why can’t they just be happy with what they have? Look at the bright side?” It’s just not that simple.

The older I get, the more I realize that although black and white DO exist, most things in life fall in between. It’s just not that simple.

“Happiness is only real when shared.”

-Christopher McCandless

One of my favorite movies is Into the Wild. There’s also a book that tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a man who leaves behind the norms and demands of current society to rough it in the wild. Part of what fuels him is his resentment of his family and how he feels that what he believed in growing up isn’t the truth. At the end of all of his solo journey he concludes that happiness is only real when shared.

Love really does make the world go around.

When I finally hit the bottom after three months of rejecting and pushing away the help that people who loved me were trying to give me, the only thing that helped me to pick up my phone for help was love.

I was the lowest I had ever been. I really cannot explain what it was like, but I can tell you that it was the most pain that I’ve ever been in in my life. I believed that I would never be well again, that happiness wasn’t real… that nothing was real. I wished I hadn’t ever been born; I did not want to live. I lay on my bed crying, feeling utterly trapped. Suicide did seem like a way out- it felt like the only way out. Yet I couldn’t consider it, because I didn’t want to hurt all the people that loved me. Then I figured that if nothing else was real, love was. And with that thought, I picked up the phone and dialed the number for the person who I knew loved me most unconditionally- my mom.

Love is real. When nothing else makes sense, when all else fails, love is real.

It doesn’t always make sense. Love will make you do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do. It is the only motivation behind selflessness. And when there’s no other way out, love is there. It is real.

I’ve felt like Christopher McCandless many times. I’ve felt that my family was based on lies.. that what I was taught growing up was a lie. And it drove me from my family. I let the anger and resentment grow just as Christopher McCandless did. When all this started happening in November, I pushed away my family’s help more forcefully than anyone else’s. You want to love me now? You want to be there for me now? I thought.

Yet when I hit bottom, there they were… waiting for me.

Accepting their love didn’t make all the issues go away, but it was the best decision I made during all those months.

I keep talking about this foundation that I lost… and that I’m trying to rebuild again. Well, one thing I know that needs to be plastered down into that foundation is love. That is the first block that I choose to lay down.

I’m still lost. The last week or so has been really rough. I went to the doctor yesterday and he increased the dosage of both the mood stabilizer and the anti-depressant. I’m really hoping that will do the trick. Starting a new and different medication would be a lot more complicated. I was making progress with what I’m on, so hopefully just increasing the dosage will work.

I had a good talk with my mom last night. I cried… I told her I felt like a prisoner in this. She hugged me and said, “You know I would do anything to help you.” She was crying too. I was too choked up to say it, but she already is doing more than I can even ask.. loving me unconditionally. It’s ironic- my family used to be the reason behind my sadness, but now my family is the solid ground beneath my feet, enabling me to find my way on this scary journey.

Yeah… love is real.

O ME! O life!… of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; 5
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer.
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

-Walt Whitman

Sometimes when I read Walt Whitman, I am happy just to exist. What freedom there is in that!

The past couple of days have been pretty hard. It’s up and down.. but in general, the lows have been lower than they had been for a while. I really don’t know what it is. I had to reschedule my appointment with the psychiatrist (because of my new job) and they couldn’t get me in until the beginning of April. I called back today and told them I really needed to be squeezed in as soon as possible… so I get to go in tomorrow. I’m very relieved about that.

I really wish I could explain it better. I got pretty scared though today and yesterday, because for a few moments, it felt like nothing was real. That’s the best way I can describe it. It then becomes this thing where if nothing is real, than nothing matters… and everything just sort of tumbles down. That’s what convinced me to call the doctor back and ask for an appointment that would be sooner. I just… I want my life back. I feel like this thing has robbed me of my identity.

Those thoughts that I have like that, that’s not me. The real Sarah sees beauty in the little things. The real Sarah knows that as hard as life can be sometimes, it’s still beautiful- and the greatest gift. The real Sarah is inspired by things all throughout the day. The real.. me, knows that this all does matter.

I believe that Walt Whitman left out something in his answer: To love.

Baby steps.

That has been something I have told myself over and over about lots of things since I came home from the hospital. It’s like my mantra.

I got hired at a daycare working just a few hours a week. I love spending time with kids, and it’s really good for me to be working just a little. Plus it’s a heavy weight off of my shoulders as far as finances are considered.

Yesterday was my first day. Before I went in I wasn’t having a very good day as far as my moods go. Starting any new job is really difficult… meeting all the new people, learning all the new things, wanting to make a good impression and do a good job. The first hour I was there I was counting the minutes until I would get done. I was put in the one and a half year old room, and I really don’t have experience with kids younger than three or four. By the second hour, however, I was no longer thinking about the time. I was just having fun with the kids, feeling good about being productive and remembering why I love working with kids so much.

It’s a small victory, but I am celebrating nonetheless. It’s been frustrating lately, because as I progress, I get even more anxious to start feeling truly stable again. Also, in the last week I sort of feel like I’ve run into a brick wall as far as progress goes. I’m doing a lot better than before, but this last week I didn’t really feel like I kept making improvement (again, as far as moods go.) I see the psychiatrist this week and we’ll have to talk about adjusting meds. When I left the daycare yesterday I was feeling so good about it, but within ten minutes I felt like my heart was just wrenched with anxiety and fear… again, of what? Nothing. I don’t know. I had plans for later that night and I almost canceled them. I forced myself not to though, and a couple hours later I made myself go. Another small victory.

But I’m celebrating nonetheless.