Just Getting By

I have been struggling lately.

Actually, that sentence seems to be true about many moments in my life.

Like the strong stubborn person I am, I just keep doing what I do. I just keep plowing forward.

I keep myself overly busy.

School full time. A 15/week (unpaid) internship. Homework. Transporting kids to dance lessons, soccer, girl scouts, playdates, therapy appointments… Cooking. Cleaning. Shopping. Projects with the kids. Bathing. Pets. You know, all the day to day necessities.

When I do have a “down” moment, I fill it. With craft projects (my current project is making almost all of my holiday presents this year). With research articles and theories that expand my realm of knowledge. With television shows that provide me with escapism.

And, when everyone else goes to sleep, I stay awake. Writing poems. Organizing rooms. Folding laundry. Talking to my cats. Anything to prolong having to end the day. Because the start of a new day is exhausting.

I hold it together quite well. I get excellent grades. I’m a good mother. My house is clean.

By all standards, I’m doing well.

Only, I have no idea how I’m holding it all together.

I just keep getting by.

Maybe it’s the time of year (how I loathe snow and the cold). Maybe daylight savings time is messing with me (why is it SO dark now??) Maybe I need a break (and who doesn’t?)

Maybe, maybe I’m doing the best I can. And, after a while, the best I can just doesn’t seem quite as “best” as it used to.

Whatever the case, I’m still here (in both a literal and figurative sense). I’ve been quiet but I’m still working. On myself. On my family. On being able to help whomever I can (which I hope is many).

I won’t give up, even though I’m struggling. And you shouldn’t either.

Because some day we will do better than just getting by.

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The Art of Letting Go

I can’t seem to get P!nk’s new song “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” out of my head and I think it’s for good reason. The lyrics are incredibly pertinent to my life-long struggle of knowing when to hold on and when to let go.

White knuckles and sweaty palms from hanging on too tight
Clench of jaw, I’ve got another headache again tonight
Eyes on fire, eyes on fire, and they burn from all the tears
I’ve been crying, I’ve been crying, I’ve been dying over you
Tie a knot in the rope, trying to hold, trying to hold,
But there’s nothing to grab so I let go

Letting go is certainly an art form. Maybe one of these days I’ll finally perfect it. Or, at least, learn when I’ve finally had enough

National Suicide Prevention Day

Today, September 10, 2012, is National Suicide Prevention Day. In 2007, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death for all ages. In 25-34 year olds suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and among 15-24 year olds it’s the 3rd leading cause of death (CDC).

1 of over 200 signs created in response to why you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Click on this picture to view the others.

Risk factors for suicide (characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide) include:

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Warning signs of suicide (may mean that someone is at risk for suicide) include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

If you, or someone you care about is struggling, feeling stuck, hopeless or disconnected, there are ways to get help and support. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has also created a partnership with Facebook to make crisis services more easily assessable to those in need. If a Facebook friend posts something that causes you to worry that they may harm themselves, you can now report suicidal content on Facebook. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.

The purple and turquoise Suicide Prevention Ribbon symbolizes suicide awareness and prevention and serves as a reminder that suicide is an issue we need to talk about. Download a ribbon avatar and make it your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 9-15).  Awareness ribbons can be found HERE.

Even in the darkest, most desolate moments, YOU matter. Please, please know that there is always help and support.

The Importance of Routine

It’s the last day of August and my oldest daughter has been back to school since Wednesday. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem “right” to be going back to school when it’s still August! August is a designated Summer month. And school and Summer shouldn’t really intersect in my opinion!

None the less, it is what it is and we are very much attempting to get back into some semblance of a routine. Getting my oldest daughter to the bus on time, my youngest to daycare and (starting on the 4th) myself to school in the morning is a challenge.

We aren’t “morning people” (do those really exist??). On school days my children would likely sleep until noon if I didn’t drag them out of bed (why isn’t this true for weekends?!). If I don’t plan my mornings I wouldn’t have any chance of ever getting out the door remotely on time. Even with planning, there are mornings when the alarm clock somehow doesn’t go off and everyone ends up frantically getting ready, rushing to be late (such as the 2nd day of this school year! Oops!)

I’ve discussed how I deal with keeping my family on schedule as stress-free as possible before. I continue to schedule everything, prep the night before and meal plan. As my children have gotten older I’ve included them more in my routine making.

This school year I gave them both checklists for their morning and evening routines. I found some magnetic dry erase boards in the dollar section of Target (LOVE Target) and modified them by putting the markers on attached strings, so they wouldn’t get lost. I had each child help me come up with their list of tasks, which we separated into morning and evening. Since they take medicine in the morning and evening, we put that task in the middle so it only had to be written down once.

By the way… the checklist on the right… the task in the middle is “take your medicine”. I know. It’s really hard to decipher and I’m not so good at drawing a medicine spoon or bottle.

For my oldest daughter, Z, (8 years old) I wrote out her tasks. For my youngest daughter, E, (4 years old) I drew pictures to represent her tasks since she cannot yet read and I wanted both my children to independently be able to read and complete their tasks. Their checklists are hung on the side of our refrigerator (a central area in our house) at their height levels so they are easily assessable to them.

Being able to check off a completed task honestly feels pretty awesome and it helps guide them in what they need to get done without me having to constantly tell them. Instead, they can look at their checklist and see what needs to be completed. If they get distracted (which happens with children, especially those with ADHD) I can redirect them by reminding them that they need to look to see what needs to be checked off.

So far, this has worked quite well and has given them some responsibility over their morning and evening routines. It also doubles as a reminder to me what they need to be doing!

That hot pink marker will jolt you awake in the morning! Or make you add “change marker color” to your list…

Of course, I decided to run with the checklist idea and made myself one as well. My checklist is hung on the opposite side of the fridge and is something I see every time I walk into the kitchen. Having tasks written down really helps keep me organized. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, I can clearly see my tasks and focus on completing them rather than figuring out what they are.

Also, checking off tasks really does feel AH-MAZING!

This is only the beginning. Of my organization, planning, scheduling and routines. Of the school year. Of the rest of my life. So if this morning doesn’t go well, I can take a deep breath and realize I can try to have it go better tomorrow.

Fear, Success & Getting Out of Your Own Way

It’s very easy for me to lose motivation. To lose sight of my goals and aspirations. To over focus on others and false beliefs that I can change them, despite knowing only they can change themselves. To get caught up in negativity. To doubt myself and my abilities. To have many amazing ideas and, instead of focusing on one or two, half-completing or never starting any of them.

I don’t want to lose this moment and the clarity I have.

I’ve been working very hard on my education. Working to bring my GPA up so I can be eligible for Phi Theta Kappa and the potential scholarships it brings. Working to make sure the classes I take at my community college are the correct ones and will transfer to the private, four year college I want to attend after obtaining my (second) associates degree.

I’ve been planning ahead. Making appointments with advisors, program heads, financial aid counselors, transfer counselors and people at both the school I currently attend and the one I wish to transfer to. I’ve been making sure my “ducks are in a row”.

Last week I visited the private four year college I hope to attend. I had never been there before and it’s over an hours drive away. As I exited the freeway my car collided with the car in front of me. I instantly panicked. I instantly cried.

I felt that perhaps this was a “bad omen” that I shouldn’t attend this college. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion that I wanted to just turn around and go home. Thankfully, all parties were uninjured and there were minor damages to the vehicles. As many pointed out to me later, cars can be replaced. People cannot.

If I had let my emotions and fear control me in that moment, I would have gone home despite being five minutes away from the college. Instead, I was able to contain myself and keep my appointment.

I’m glad that I did. I very much liked the campus and the program I would enter. In talking with the program head, it appears that I can even complete my bachelors degree in three semesters instead of four, thanks to my ability to transfer in additional credits to the school.

Today I met with the transfer counselor at my community college and he told me I was well prepared. He stated that I had talked to all the correct people and taken the necessary steps to be set to transfer next fall. I left feeling amazing. Capable. Strong.

am capable and strong. I have been through so much in my life but when I focus I can accomplish so much.

Last night I had a dream. I somehow totaled my car and was unable to drive anywhere, leaving me housebound. This also meant I was unable to attend school. In my dream I did not try to find alternate ways to get to my school. I simply resigned myself to never being able to graduate and achieve my goals.

I woke anxious. As I analyzed my dream I realized what was most terrifying – I had let one obstacle (my car breaking) stand in my way of moving forward. I had lost momentum and became blinded to other possibilities because I only focused on the negative.

I will achieve my goals of education. I will not let anything stand in my way. Not even myself. I so often doubt myself and make myself believe that I am not smart enough or deserving enough or strong enough.

In the past I’ve put up road blocks subconsciously. Perhaps I was afraid to succeed. Perhaps it was easier to believe that I couldn’t do it instead of seeing it through and awaiting the outcome. I often wonder how much of our “failures” we have caused ourselves.

Let’s stop tearing ourselves down and instead build ourselves up. I can do it. And, if somehow I fail, I can view my failure as an opportunity to learn from it and try again. Isn’t that really what it’s all about? Making mistakes, learning and trying a different way instead of doing the same things over and over again (especially if it doesn’t work)?

I say, get out there and achieve your dreams, work towards your goals and live your life! You are, after all, the only one who can do any of these things for you.

Asking for Help

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I am going to come right out and say that I have been struggling. Recovery from my tonsillectomy was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Progress was extremely slow-moving and in very small increments. I had expected recovery to progress quicker and in larger increments.

I had great difficulty in being patient. Of course, I wanted to feel better right away. It was excruciating to allow myself to just be where I was – in my recovery and in a broader sense.

It has felt like I have struggled my entire life. Never seeming to “get” what I had expected. Always looking ahead to where I wanted to be. And always letting pieces of the past seep into where I currently was.

In many ways, it was easier that way. By always living in the past and the future I didn’t have to confront and deal with what was happening in the present. Avoidance is one of the oldest tricks of continued struggling.

For the past two weeks I have been in an outpatient hospitalization program. Perhaps in previous times I would feel embarrassed or ashamed by this admittance but, as I have grown wiser and gotten further in my self-progress, I can view this only in a positive light.

I knew that I was struggling and heading into a very dark place. I also knew where, historically, that could take me and it isn’t a place I’d ever like to visit again. I referred myself to the program, planning my attendance around a time of increased struggle for myself (my father’s second birthday since he passed away).

I recognized that I was in a place where I needed help – and I sought it out. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things any of us can do. We often view it as admitting weakness and exposing vulnerabilities. And yes, often when we are in a place of struggling we are vulnerable but asking for help is never weak. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things we can do. To identify that we are in a bad place and to ask/receive help is an incredibly mature and amazing thing to do.

I truly try to do the best that I can with the knowledge and resources (tools) I presently have. Most often my struggling isn’t because I’m not “trying hard enough”. It’s because I need additional knowledge and resources to help me more forward.

Sometimes my struggling isn’t because I don’t have the knowledge and resources that I need or because I’m not trying my best. Sometimes, when we are in a dark place, we can’t see the tools that we possess. It’s difficult to see anything in the darkness. Seeking out help can be a way to “turn on the light” and allow us to recognize and use the tools we had all along.

Life isn’t easy. Keeping constant momentum and living in the present moment isn’t easy either.

We will struggle. We will get caught up in the past and all the “should have, could have, would have” thinking. We will get caught up in the future and worry about what will be. We will face tragedies and heartaches and losses and disappointments. We will work to move forward a step, only to be unexpectantly forced three steps backward.

Sometimes we will be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue forward. Sometimes we will realize that we are unable to do so and, if we can find the courage, we will ask for help.

I am beginning to accept myself, who I am, and the life that I currently have.

I could spend every second of every day wishing to be things that I am not. Wishing that I didn’t have chronic, life-long illnesses. Wishing for a level playing field. Wishing things happened differently in the past… All that wishing won’t change a thing. I am who I am. I have the body I have and the mind I have.

I have the illnesses I have as well. And fighting against them will never propel me forward nor allow me to become the person I would like to be. I could be in a perpetual state of conflict and anger and darkness, fighting against forces that I have no ability to change.

I ask for help because when I’m in a place of darkness, of struggling, I cannot see any other way than to fight or to submit to the darkness. These past two weeks while I was in the outpatient hospitalization program, a light was shone on me. It was my choice to use that light and allow myself the opportunities to create my own light.

This is who I am. This is what I have. If I want anything to change I have to make that choice. And I am.

It’s quite likely that I will need help again, but I will view it not as a setback or a weakness but instead as an opportunity to grow stronger, to learn more and to make the choice to continue to work on improving myself and my ability to move forward.

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Resources:

If you or someone you know is in an emotional distress or suicidal crisis – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) 

If you are concerned about your own alcohol or other drug use or that of someone you care about – the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) hotline 1.800.NCA.CALL (622-2255) 

Free. Safe. Confidential. 24 Hours. 7 Days. – RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)  National Sexual Assault Hotline  1.800.656.HOPE

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder – the National Eating Disorders Association information line 1.800.931.2237

If  you have questions about or are affected by serious mental illness – the  NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) information help line 1.800.950.NAMI (6264)

Fear

Tomorrow I will be having a Tonsillectomy, a surgery to have my tonsils removed. I have never had surgery or general anesthesia before.

I am, quite honestly, SO very afraid, scared, fearful.

However, I do not want to let the fear engulf me. I do not want to let the fear become endless worry. Both fear and worry aren’t productive in this situation. They do not assist or benefit me in any way.

There is nothing I can do about the tonsillectomy. I need it. In fact, I have been putting the surgery off as a result of my fear, to the detriment of my health.

Because there is nothing I can do about it, I am trying to let myself accept that it is what it is.

In this acceptance there is no need for worries and no space for fear to take hold.