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“All I have for the moment is a song to pass the time,
A melody to keep me from worrying
Yeah, some simple progression to keep my
Fingers busy
And words that are sure to come back to me…”

I’ve always been a really good sleeper. I’d read for a while and fall asleep… and I’d do my best to get seven or eight hours a night.

These days I don’t sleep well at all. Sometimes I wake up and feel like I didn’t sleep at all. A lot of times I just plain can’t sleep.

“So there still is hope,
Yes I can be healed
There is someone looking for what I’ve concealed
In my secret drawers, in my pockets deep,
You will find the reasons that I can’t sleep
And you will still want me…
Will you still want me?”

I’ve been doing a lot better since I wrote my last post. I still need to get my life in order and work to make more and more progress… but I’m going in the right direction.

It’s so important to look at your life, figure out what you can and can’t control, and try to make good decisions.

Good decisions…

I’ve been doing okay with that the last few months. I did make a lot of horrible decisions before I came back here though… with effects that I still feel every day.

I’m adjusting to this new way of life… learning to live again. Learning a lot about love.

It’s hard…

but still so worth it. Love.

The way you think… the way you feel… it controls so many things. I know that if I don’t BELIEVE I can get better, I won’t. I know that if I don’t fight the anxiety, the thoughts… they’ll beat me every time. Sometimes they’ll beat me even when I do fight… but I’ll keep fighting anyway.

“So hold up your fist
To the flame in the sky
To block out the light
That’s reaching for our eyes
Cause it would blind us…”

-Bright Eyes

I went to open mic night again last night. There is this guy- who I’ll call Travis- who hangs out around the cafe a lot.

Most performers at open mic get up with an acoustic guitar and sing songs. It’s always sort of refreshing when someone does something different.

Travis got up with a notebook and began to read a poem. Before he even started, I grimaced a little because I could only imagine what it could contain. Travis isn’t especially well-liked around this cafe. He hits on all the girls, acts pretty obnoxiously, and offends many people up and down.

I have to admit that his poem was pretty good- but very inappropriate for the setting. This cafe is a family establishment and he’s been banned before.

His poem was basically a hate and anger letter to God and the Christian religion. Although  the words themselves were well written and the questions reflected thoughts of men and women throughout the ages, they also showed his misunderstanding of much of Christianity. The worst part about it was the arrogance in which he delivered his words with, as if he were smarter than those who believe in Christianity. I respected him for putting these questions out there, but he did it in the wrong place and with the completely wrong attitude. Although many of the things he said sounded good and convincing at first, if you really thought about it on a much deeper level what he was saying didn’t make sense. For example, he kept calling God a fool. By definition, God simply can’t be a fool. He said if God is loving and omnipotent (which he pronounced wrong,) why is there pain in the world? Yet he went on to criticize that God punished his supposed son who lived perfectly.

My response is not a defense of Christianity. It is just a criticism of what he was saying, as well as where and how he was saying it.

This young man was full of such anger and hate! I feel a lot of compassion for him… as well as frustration because of him.

What I’m also getting at is that there are two types of non-Christians. There are those that harbor a lot of anger and resentment towards the God they don’t believe in and the people who do, and then there are those who are at peace with what they believe (and don’t believe) in. I’ve been burned by churches. I’ve been burned by Christians. I’ve been angry at God. I do not call myself a Christian, but I do not harbor such huge amounts of anger and hate at God or Christians in general. I believe in the things I believe in because of logic, reason, experience, and simply what my heart says, NOT because I am angry at the “God I don’t believe in.”  I find such freedom in that.

Dear WordPress, it’s been too long! Last time I was absent for a while it was because I was cycling through a more difficult time, but this time it’s honestly because I’ve been a little more busy (a good thing) and now I’m in South Dakota again.

I believe I was here about six weeks ago. My grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousins live here, so we come out to visit a couple times a year. Unfortunately, a couple weeks after we got back last time my grandma had a bit of a fall and although she was relatively uninjured, her doctor finally told her that it was time for her to not live alone anymore. Sad, but in all honestly a good thing.

So I’m out here again helping my mom sort through my grandma’s apartment. It isn’t too bad because about ten years ago my grandparents moved here from their house in Iowa, so we had sorted and got rid of a lot of stuff back then.

It’s been interesting going through all of this stuff. Listening to my mom, grandma and aunt talk about old memories and relatives that I’ve never met- it reminds me how I’m a part of something bigger that I never really even think about… and that I come from people and places I’ve never really known or seen. Even within one generation there is so much unknown. I often wonder how much about my mom’s life I don’t really know. As much as she’s told me about her memories of growing up, those are all from her point of view… and I’m sure things would seem different even just hearing those stories from my aunt’s point of view.

My grandparents were never super close to us. They just weren’t the type to show a lot of  affection. Birthday cards would come on time every year, and I saw them several times a year even though we lived in separate states, but they weren’t all that interested in really getting to know me. I’m not complaining; that’s just sort of how it was.

So they’ve always seemed sort of… rigid to me. My grandpa was a pastor too. I have enormous respect for who he was- he went through a lot as a pastor and as a man, and his faith never seemed to falter. He was a great man.

While my aunt was going through my grandpa’s desk, she came across some letters that my grandma wrote to my grandpa. Some were from before they were married, and others after, while he would be away at church conferences or other things. I haven’t read them yet, but I am really looking forward to it.

People always talk about how the divorce rate has gone up so much. Although the institution of marriage has probably really suffered in the last few decades, I doubt that it has honestly gotten that much worse. I think that a lot of people just stayed in very unhappy marriages their whole lives.

It gives me such joy and hope when I see an older couple strolling down the street with their fingers entwined. To hear about these love letters does the same…

I don’t think it’s about finding your one true love; I think it’s about finding a true love and keeping it true.

Working thousands of hours in the daycare field has granted me a pretty inside view into a lot of different types of marriages- marriages of the wealthy, the older, the younger, the poorer, those on state aid…. I’ve even spent time in a lot of their houses, babysitting their children. Many of them have turned to me for help on raising their kids.

In viewing these relationships/marriages, I’ve noticed a lot.

1. Having a lot of money doesn’t make you a better parent.
2. Having a lot of money doesn’t make your marriage better. (duh!)
3. Being on federal or state aid doesn’t make you a bad parent.
4. Although maybe if you’re on government aid, have five kids who never get baths and are pregnant with another… you should learn how to use birth control.

Okay, sorry to get political. Back to the relationship thing.

5. I’ve seen the couples who put their child before their own marriage. I am a product of this type of upbringing. Trust me, this will not benefit you, your spouse, or your child(ren.)
6. I’ve seen couples who “stay together for the kids.” Again, this benefits no one in the long run…
7. I’ve seen couples who are very good at functioning. They make a pretty good team in terms of who’s picking the kids up, who’s taking them to soccer/gymnastics etc., who’s picking up/making dinner, so on and so forth… but I sense that it’s more of a business arrangement than anything else. This type of couple is the most mysterious to me.
8. Finally, I’ve seen the couples that really do seem close. Not that they don’t fight.. or disagree… or do things as parents that I wouldn’t do as a parent, but… I can’t really put my finger on it.
9. Finally, I’ve seen couples who I’ve made observations about only to realize that I was way off. A sort of disclaimer I guess.

I don’t ever just want to have a functioning/business type of relationship/marriage. I know it’s easy for me to say that now. I’m working part time and I’m not even in school. I have so much time to spend with Cody. Whoever I end up marrying (if I do marry,) I’m not saying that I know how we’ll manage to get the time in, how to find the right ways to communicate and all of that, but I’m just saying I realize how important it is.

See, I want to be writing love letters like my grandmother, long after we’ve gotten married and had kids. Not necessarily “How do I love thee?” type love letters, but letters that may just say, “I got my haircut today and I really hope you like it. I miss you. I love you.”

I have a twin brother named Nathan. He’s… pretty much the coolest guy I know.

Nathan was born over two hours after me. No one is sure exactly why, but he has several disabilities. His vision and coordination are limited, and his brain just doesn’t work the way ours do. He can’t tie his own shoes but he has experienced things that a lot of people never will. In ways he’s more mature and smarter than a lot of other people his age.

Normally, Nathan is a really happy, light-hearted guy. He’s had some really great teachers and they have all really loved him. In fact, I don’t think anyone that’s ever met him has not liked him. He’s fun… and considerate, and enjoys doing nice things for people. He gets spoiled rotten by the people who work with him, but he takes it all really well.

When Nathan and I hit the puberty age, he started having psychological problems. Delusions filled his mind… depression, anxiety. There was just this look on his face. He’s been in the hospital a few times, and the doctors seem to have found the right mix of meds to really keep him stable. And he is… almost all of the time. When these episodes start coming on, we increase the meds for a while and then put them back to normal. It’s manageable.

Yet… it’s hard to watch him suffer. I remember thinking I’d do anything just to take away his pain, his hurt.

And now I think that in a sense I really know what it’s like. To feel that intense pain and sadness… with no reason. Feeling trapped, a prisoner.. thinking irrational thoughts.

Nathan seemed to be heading for one of his episodes a few weeks ago so they increased the meds. It seemed to help, but last night was a rough one for him. He was just sobbing.

And then today again… He yelled at my mom and sister a lot, treated them pretty poorly… not normal behavior for him. When I got home from work he was sobbing.

We had a really good talk. On some levels.. it’s almost as if  Nathan is just a little kid. He’s used to really being taken care of for his daily needs, and those always will be taken care of by somebody else. His understanding of a lot of events is probably comparable to a child’s perspective. So as we talked about what and how he was feeling, he expressed his frustration that “this will never go away. I’ll have it until I die.” I told him I understood… and I reminded him that most of the time he doesn’t feel that way. He said he knew I understood.. and then, through his tears, said that he thought I was going to be the lucky one and not have to suffer from mental illness. He was so upset about it.

He may not always be able to express himself very well so it’s easy to overlook what he really does understand. It’s like when a kid says something to you that’s so insightful that it blows you away.

It breaks my heart to see him hurting… but at the same time it felt really good to be able to talk to him and calm him down. I love him so much.

I write a lot about love.

It’s just that… I think it really is the most important thing. It’s what makes us human… it’s what kept me going at my lowest point. It’s because of love that I am… learning to live again. There’s not a lot that I’m sure about anymore, and I think you could say that I’m somewhat jaded because of these last few months. Every day memories flash into my mind that fill my heart with such intense sadness and pain… and I feel I’ve lost a lot. But… Love is real. And it’s what makes this life so beautiful.

And yet…

Love isn’t perfect. Well, maybe in theory it is. Maybe by definition it is. Somehow though, no matter how much we love each other, we still mess up and treat those that we love in the wrong way.

The other morning I woke up to my sister’s yelling to my mom. I know that she was yelling so that I would hear her. My mom kept asking her to quiet down, that I was just in the other room, that I would wake up and hear her. And I did. And I know her frustrations were related to me, and the things she was saying were… well, they were mean. Her words were hurtful. I know that me being here isn’t ideal for any of them… yet all day I kept thinking to myself that I wanted to say so much to her.. to tell her how for so many years I acted like the older sister (although I’m younger.) I was there for her when I was really too young to deal with the things that faced her.. and us, our whole family. Yet I bore the things she was dealing with and never complained. I let the focus be on the rest of the family and bottled up my own hurt for years and somehow managed to get past it. And now that she’s in a better place, and I’m in the worst place I’ve ever been in, she wants to complain because of some inconveniences of me living here? I wanted to tell her that she has absolutely no idea what I’ve been going through.

Well, I talked to my mom about it that day, and before I even saw my sister she must have talked to her. I got a text from her saying that she doesn’t want me to think that she doesn’t like having me here. And later that night she talked to me and said the same thing.. told me how bad of a morning she was having. I wanted to still say all those things to her.. but once she said she was sorry  and saw that I wasn’t visibly angry (which I wasn’t angry by that point,) she changed the subject so we could move on. That’s sort of how things have always worked in my family… say the minimum of what you have to and stop talking about it.

I’ve based a lot of my “recovery” on the support of my family. The words she said that morning stung… yet they didn’t make me question how much she loves me.

The night I hit bottom… well, I couldn’t even drive back here. My sister made the two hour drive to pick me up, and then she listened to me cry the whole two hours back. And she let me sleep next to her that night.

I certainly know that the way I love isn’t perfect.

I caught my mom in a lie to me as well. That almost bothers me even more, because when I was in the hospital I told her how important it was to me that we would be honest with each other. I think I’m still going to talk to her about that.

But even her lie doesn’t make me question the fact that she loves me. Not at all.

Part of growing up is realizing that love isn’t perfect. We make mistakes… and those mistakes always hurt the most when they are from the people we love most.

But… that’s part of what makes love such a beautiful thing. On the right hand of love is joy, and the left hand is hurt. Love means being vulnerable… it’s this choice to empower someone else to have the possibility to hurt you, but also to give you so much joy.

And I believe that in order to have healthy relationships with those that you love, you must understand that love isn’t perfect. In a loving relationship.. forgiveness is always going to be there.

It’s amazing really… love is worth the hurt that can come with it. I really believe that. Love makes it all worth it.

“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.

“When you’re young… everything that happens is a thing all by itself. It’s a lonely thing. I know, I ‘member… They’s a time of change, an’ when that comes, dyin; is a piece of all dyin’, and bearin’ is a piece of all bearin’, an’ bearin’ an’ dyin’ is two pieces of the same thing. I wisht I could tell you so you’d know, but I can’t.”

-John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath

I know, I know… Steinbeck again? Sorry, but I love him.

I’ve been thinking about this quote. A woman is talking to her daughter. The grandmother just passed away and the daughter is pregnant.

I think there’s such wisdom in this quote. It’s so easy to only see the small picture… unconnected from anything else.

When I was a Christian, I always felt uneasy when people consoled me or others with that whole “God has a plan” spiel or “everything happens for a reason.” I figured that God could make the best of any situation, but to say that something horrible was part of his plan, well, I just couldn’t believe that.

I don’t really think that everything happens for a reason. I do believe, however, that good can come out of any situation… as hard as it may seem at the time. And that good may not directly make up for the bad, but it is what you choose to rest your eyes on- the good or the bad- that will ease or increase your suffering.

I believe that there is beauty in sadness. A friend once told me, “Two things can bring you to your knees: beauty and pain.” There’s wisdom in that.

Where I’m at right now… it’s hard to focus on the good coming out of all of this. I do see a few things already though. I feel really at peace with my family. My heart has really opened up to love. I know that I will come out of this thing much stronger than when I entered it. I’m learning a lot…

But in no way have I pulled through it yet. I still suffer daily from bouts of despair, hopelessness, terror, panic… times when I don’t see the good at all. Other times during the day I just feel like I’m sort of teetering on the edge but not quite there. And yet other times I feel on top of the world. Every day I go through this range of emotions, and it does get quite exhausting. And to make things even more complicated, even when I’m feeling like myself, sometimes I will think about the good part of my life that I left behind and of course I naturally grow very, very sad. I think about the beautiful children I worked with, the amazing organization I worked for, my friends, my consistent passion for life and learning…the path I was on, it was exciting and I was very content with it. I try to tell myself to be happy that I got to experience those things, know those people, and that helps. Sometime in April or May I’m going to go to Milwaukee for the day and visit the kids, get some closure. I think that will help too.

Yeah, it’s pretty hard to see the big picture sometimes. It seems, like the mother from Grapes of Wrath said, that “ever’thing that happens is a thing all by itself.” There is a bigger picture, though, and many different levels at which things are connected. There is peace in that…

On a coffee shop napkin during open mic:

Josh: what have you been doing with your life?

Me: Wandering. You?

J: Stuck.

M: Why?

J: It’s the way the world spins I guess.

M: I understand. If you want it enough, you’ll get out…

J Circles the ellipsis and draws an arrow pointing at it. I smile and nod.

J: Where do you want to go?

M: I don’t know. I think I’m okay with that for now.

J: You have wondering eyes. You look like you’re thinking.

M: Maybe I think too much. Why are you really stuck?

J: When you want to go but you have no means.

I’ve been making even more progress. The last couple of days the lows haven’t been nearly as low… or if they are, they don’t last quite as long. It’s such a huge relief, a breath of fresh air.

But although I’m feeling a little bit more “like myself,” I still feel that I’m in a unique position. I think a lot of people expect me to sort of just snap out of it, to just wait for the meds to kick in and then get back to my old life.

But that’s not going to happen. There are elements of my “old life” that I certainly still want to have, but I honestly feel like a different person. I look at a lot of things differently. The past few months have changed everything.

I’m still looking to rebuild my foundation. And that’s hard to do when you’re going to school full time and working 30+ hours a week.  I loved that while I did it, but as I was sitting in that coffee shop last night, I realized how good it feels to simply wander… to feel things out… to not rush myself.

And there’s a lot of healing to be done. I’ve distanced myself from a lot of things that happened during that three month period. I’ve had to distance myself in order to get a little solid ground beneath my feet. Once in a while a memory will come back from those three months and my heart will be wrenched with sadness, grief, pain just thinking about it. Or my friends that I miss, or the kids from my work that I miss… those are things I need to heal from. There are things I need to forgive myself for. And little by little… I’m going to work at that.

But for right now… it feels good to wander.

I have an interesting history with religion.

I grew up Lutheran- Wisconsin Synod- which is the most conservative synod of all the Lutherans.

My dad was a pastor, and my mom is a pastor’s daughter. I grew up walking next door to church every Sunday, going to Sunday School, and attending a parochial school. Along with that, I went to almost all of the church functions.

I remember being a kid, listening to the pastor (or teacher,) and actually thinking about what he was saying. I remember it making me happy.

We were taught that what we believed was the most important thing in the world, and that it was the literal truth. It wasn’t just some tradition to keep going.

I remember being thirteen years old and losing a friend in a car accident. I remember relying on my faith to get me through that.

I remember a year later questioning everything I had been taught.

I remember asking my dad, a pastor, “Dad, how do we know that the whole bible is actually the word of God and that it wasn’t changed or something?”

His reply: “Well… see, it’s complicated. We just have to sort of trust that the church did the right thing in passing it down and that God wouldn’t have let his Word get changed.”

“Oh…” And I remember thinking how that wasn’t a sufficient answer for me. (In hindsight, I realize that my dad was simplifying the answer quite a bit.)

I remember my confirmation day. I was fourteen years old. I felt tremendous guilt for having such strong doubts, but I refused to verbalize them. Instead, I had to swear that I knew that the Lutheran Creed I was saying was the truth in front of a large group of people. At least I got a cake and presents.

When I was sixteen, my dad was asked to resign as pastor. My dad was in his 50’s with no job, no money, and we had three months to find a new place to live.

That year I started going to a non-denominational church. My faith was inspired again. I started attending church every week, reading my bible daily, and at one point I even helped start a prayer group at my public high school.

My freshman year of college in  Milwaukee I even helped to start a church.

But the whole time… I had these nagging doubts… doubts about the accuracy of the bible, the teachings of the Bible, the Christian Church, and a lot of doubts about the theology behind what I said that I believed. I was still attending church regularly (a church that I loved,) participating in a small group, and attending other church events. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people really admired me for my “faith.”

Then one day… I just stopped going. I had usually looked forward to church, but one Sunday I just decided not to go. And I never went back. Throughout the course of the next few months I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t know, and that I had never really allowed myself to question my beliefs without feeling guilty… that guilt was instilled in my since I had been a child. It was such a liberating feeling- not because I thought I could morally do whatever that I wanted, but because I was allowing myself the freedom to really THINK without guilt, to acknowledge a lot of things that I had buried within myself so deeply for such a long time.

And don’t get me wrong… when I was in the hospital last month, at the lowest point in my life, I wanted terribly to choose to have that faith again. My whole family would come to visit me, giving me hugs and telling me how much Jesus loves me, how God has a plan through all of this. It made me so sad… being a Christian would have given me so much comfort at a time that I had needed comfort more than any time in my life.

But I couldn’t just force myself to believe something because it was convenient at that point in time.

Last night I went with my sister to her church. Mostly, I just wanted to hear someone talk that would make me think (not being in school is really getting to me!) Also, I wanted to spend time with my sister. And… I knew it would make my sister and mom really happy if I went.

The sermon was called “Just Do It.” The pastor basically talked about how we should just obey God and not question Him. He said that if we were stumbling in believing things in the Bible, we should stop questioning them and just take them as God’s Word (he had a much more convincing way of saying it.)

It reminded me of this John Steinbeck quote from East of Eden:

“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most important thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.”

It seems wrong to me to tell someone not to question what they believe. In fact, some of the “strongest” Christians I know seem to ask themselves the really tough questions. It also seems pretty convenient to teach people to not question it.

And… maybe most importantly, it really takes away from the value of individuality, of the ability to reason- two things that I believe are some of the best traits of humanity.

I could go on and on about religion- it is such a huge part of what shaped me. But I’ll stop here. This stuff is enough to chew on.

I’m not going to lie.

It gets exhausting… to the point where I get angry sometimes.

Angry at everything that’s happened in the last four months,

and angry at the place I’m at now.

But sometimes I think the anger is a good sign… it’s a sign of life in me. See, I didn’t feel anger once until I really started trying to get better.

But like I said, it gets really exhausting sometimes… never knowing how I’m going to feel the next moment. I can feel completely fine, motivated, inspired, even ambitious one moment and completely depressed the next for really no reason at all. When I’m low, I can tell myself that the thoughts I’m having are irrational, that the feeling is going to pass, that everything is going to be okay, that I’m strong, but it doesn’t matter. I literally begin to believe that it’s not going to be okay, that I shouldn’t have hope, that I should just give up.

But I continue to fight anyway. And I will keep fighting. And this will get better.

Maybe real hope is when you really don’t feel like things will get better, but you keep fighting anyway.

And at the same time, I can feel completely depressed one moment and then great the next. And it comes like sweet relief, and I realize all the many blessings I still have. I try to store up these moments because I’m never sure how long they will last.

But I’m not giving up hope. I’m not.