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Normal is a Four-Letter Word

  • Posted on March 6, 2013 at 11:43 am

Some days I despair of ever being normal. But what is normal, really? Normal for me is not normal for others. But is normal for others normal for all? Is there such a thing? I’m starting to think that normality is a myth. I should rejoice in what is my normal and not worry about whether or not it meets up to society’s definition of normal.

Are society’s accepted norms really realistic anyway? Look at what society considers beautiful. Stick-thin, anemic-looking models are the unhealthy aspiration of many a little girl. But why? That is not normal and that should not be the goal for which every woman strives. Trust me. I’ve been unhealthily thin and still would have been told to lose a little bit of weight by a top modeling agency. I’m serious. Those woman are put through hell. Their self-worth is continually challenged. They are told by one client that their hips are too big, by another that they need to lose a little weight so that their cheekbones are better defined. They are taught that they never live up to the standards set by others. They develop body image issues on a scale that most of us will never even begin to comprehend.

Why does a woman’s stomach have to be flat? How is a woman expected to be as thin as a rail and still somehow have curves? Why are implants required to be desirable? Why should lips be fuller, eyes rounder, teeth whiter?

Who decided that this is good? Who decided that this is the standard to which all others should hold themselves? Who decided that this is normal?

Perhaps “they” should be taken out of the equation and replaced with “we.” For “we” are far kinder and more fair than “they.” Even better, we should replace “they” with “I.” Because we really shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks anyway.

Hmm… somehow, what I had intended to be a post about my current state of mental and physical well-being turned into a reflection of my own continuing struggle with body image issues. Isn’t that interesting?

Don’t Freak Out, I’m Okay

  • Posted on December 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I apologize to anyone that I may have freaked out with my post last night. I am struggling to deal with the reality of my parents’ impending divorce smacking me in the face while I’m home. I needed to do a brain dump to get everything out. Writing is what saves my sanity in times like these and is what I turned to the last time my mother got divorced, as well.

Thank you for your support, as I can use all that I can get right now, but I will be fine, I assure you. I just have a lot of processing to do; far more than I had realized and/or ever anticipated. So, there will probably be more writing on the horizon, but it’s not a cry for help, just a release of emotion.

Sadness

  • Posted on December 23, 2011 at 1:23 am

Please forgive this very personal post, but I had an intense need to capture my thoughts and emotions this night so that I can purge them and move on.

_________________________

Oh no, no, no, no, no. Please no. Not now. Not again.

I’ve spent the last 23 years of my life clawing my way out of that deep, dark, miserable fucking hole that I was thrown into as a child and just as I’m finally reaching the top, I find the walls to be unscalable, the surface slicked by a flood of tears that won’t stop. My eyes are red and puffy, my sinuses stuffed and swollen. I can’t lie down to try to escape into sleep because I can barely breathe. Every fiber of my being yearns to run. Run away and never look back. Never come back.

I can’t take the silence, the boredom, the sadness, the pain, the hurt, the moving boxes, the empty bookcases. It has made a place that I already disliked visiting completely unbearable. I know that I need to scrape together what has become, in just one night, in only a matter of hours, the scattered vestiges of my sanity, put on a happy face and get through the next couple of days. I’m just not sure how.

Why? Why me? Why now? Just when I was starting to regain my sense of self, remember who I really am, reach out and dare to become who I’m meant to be. Haven’t I cleared enough hurdles? Haven’t I earned the right to get myself to a place where I am happy with everything in my life? I still had a ways to go to even get there and yet here I am. Feeling like that sad, scared, empty and lonely little girl again. I don’t want to be her. I don’t want to go through that again. Losing myself for two decades was bad enough. I don’t want to lose myself again. I don’t want to be broken, like a doll laying in a ditch after a hurricane, dirty and damaged.

I have a husband who is trying to help, wants to help. But he can’t. No one can. No one can follow where I go. And no one really should or should even want to. I don’t want to be here. Not again. Never again.

And so I won’t. Somehow I will finish the climb out of that hole and I will seal it up so that I can never fall down again. I will find the strength to keep moving forward, to keep moving towards my dreams. I will not lose myself again. I can do this. I will do this.

Tonight, I may cry myself to sleep. I may feel as though I could drown in my tears. But tomorrow, the sun will rise. And another day will begin anew. And I will put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Take a Deep Breath and Jump!

  • Posted on September 2, 2011 at 6:05 am

I’m feeling bold and unpredictable, stale and unchallenged (at least under-challenged). It’s time for a change. A drastic one.

As I work through this on-going process of finding myself again, I’m re-discovering the core essence of my being. I long to express my exuberant, energetic, fun and quirky inner child on a daily basis. I long to express and utilize my natural creativity regularly and in a manner that is profitable. I feel restless, completely unfulfilled and seriously in need of a challenge.

The other week, I was talking to Terry and realized that I am desperately, desperately unhappy. It really is true that money can’t buy you happiness. I feel guilty that, from the outside looking in, I seem to have a great life, with a good, stable job and just about everything I could want. And yet, I weep with an uncontrollable sadness that wells up from deep inside of me. I am not doing what makes me happy. I am not expressing myself creatively, through art, music or dance. Sure, I try to attend a Zumba class once a week, dance around my house and sing/listen to music for hours on end whenever I can (daily, if I’m lucky), but it’s just not enough. I’m not feeling challenged and I’ve come to realize that I’m not happy unless I’m stretching myself and pushing my boundaries. I think that I crave being forced just slightly out of my comfort zone and, for years, I’ve been comfortably numb, but it’s all coming to a head now.

I’ve talked about moving to a large city for several years now. I have no desire to live in Philadelphia and New York City doesn’t hold any real appeal for me. London was an original thought, but the rain and cold would not be good for my headaches and/or joints. Plus the cost of living is sky-high. So now my thoughts are turning to the west coast. What do I want to do? I don’t know. Where do I want to live? I don’t know, but I’m sure that figuring out what I want to do will help to dictate a location. I realize that it’s going to take me a while to figure things out, but I’ve made the decision to enact radical changes in my life and start moving in the right direction towards true happiness. Fortunately, I have the support of (most of) my family and my husband, who is willing to take the leap with me wherever I decide to go. I have always known that home is wherever my husband is and to have him behind me 100% makes this journey so much easier. I already have a fall-back plan in mind, but no big picture plan. Yet. Just making the decision to make a plan, though, has begun to quell the growing restlessness that I’ve been experiencing. We figure that it will take about 2 years before we can fully flesh things out and start enacting a plan. Some days that feels like a long time and some days it feels like it’s right around the corner. Regardless, it’s movement, which is what I need.

The most important thing is to not be afraid. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen? I can fail. Well, okay then. I always have tried and true skills that I can fall back upon and I can pick up new ones in no time flat. But to be afraid to try is something that I would regret and I try to live a life without regret. So I’m ready to jump. I don’t know how far down the water is or what dive I’m going to execute, but I have time in the air to figure it out.

In the words of Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich: “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

Apparently, I’m very interesting. 😀

The Reality of Me

  • Posted on May 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Apparently, today is Mental Health Blog Day. Given my own (continuing) ride on the mental health roller coaster, I figured I really should take advantage of the opportunity.

I don’t think I’ve talked about my mental health on this blog in a long time. I think that I’ve been generally sticking with some sort of rule of thumb that if I don’t have anything stitchy to say, then I won’t bother blogging about it. Because who wants to read about my personal trials and tribulations all of the time, right? Well, maybe and maybe not. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook have the unfortunate distinction of seeing my whining status updates on a regular basis. You see, on Facebook, I seem to do the opposite of what I do here. I write pithy little synopses of what my days are like and, most of the time, I don’t have many good things to say. Which must make being my friend on Facebook a whole lot of fun. NOT!

Anyway, I’ve recently been keeping up with someone on Facebook who used to be a stitching blogger (which is how we originally “met,” although we have never met in person, even though she lives an hour away) who has become quite open and honest about her own mental health issues. I find it quite refreshing, honestly, so when I found out from her blog post today that it was Mental Health Blog Day, I decided to take the challenge to write a post of my own.

Longer-term readers of my blog will know that I used to talk about this subject, particularly when I fell into a serious depression years ago. Let’s pretend, though, that I haven’t really talked about it lately, shall we?

My struggle started when I was a teenager. I was first diagnosed with depression at the age of 14 by a general physician who gave me what I now believe was likely a Burns depression assessment. I was placed on Wellbutrin and took that for about 15 years or so. The strange thing is that I didn’t realize for a long time that I was taking it for depression. I thought that I was taking it for my chronic migraines, which I’ve also had since I was a teen or pre-teen. Or maybe I did know what it was for, but I had tricked myself into believing that it was for my migraines. Either way, I guess my mood was relatively in check for many years.

Then 2005 happened. In August of 2005, my maternal grandmother died; in early October, my mother-in-law died; and then in late November, my step-grandfather died. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I tumbled into a bout of what I now know was major depression and couldn’t climb my way out without help. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to stitch. I didn’t want to do anything other than sleep and be left alone. I went to see the therapist at work, who spent either 30 or 60 minutes with me and was able to find and poke into several major areas of vulnerability without having to even blink. I spent the session sobbing, sobbed almost the entire ride home and then continued to sob as hard and continuously as possible for a couple of hours after I got home. Yes, that was fun. After the second session, he told me that he was going to need to refer me out for longer-term treatment (we only get 5 sessions through work).

I started seeing Dr. Steve in February of 2006. At first, he thought that I had dysthymia, which is a chronic, low level depression. Then the diagnosis changed to major depression. Eventually, we figured out that I suffer from Bipolar Disorder Type II. My manic episodes are mild, fairly brief and typically very few and far between, which would put me into the category of cyclothymia (the bipolar equivalent of dysthymia; very low level) except for my episodes of major depression. That is what puts me into the category of bipolar type ii. At this point, Dr. Steve determined that I would likely need prescription assistance and I found my first psychiatrist. Fortunately for me (and others), he left the area and I was forced to find someone else a couple of years ago. He had changed my meds all around without much finesse and put me on a combo of medications that didn’t work; one of which messed up my cholesterol levels (from which I still haven’t fully recovered). I am happy to say that my new psychiatrist had me pretty much sorted out less than a year after I started with her.

I am taking an anti-depressant and a mood stabilizer and am now stable, for the most part. Or at least I had been until recently. I have a very strong seasonal component to my depressive episodes. As the fall and winter months come on and my exposure to daylight becomes less and less, my mood degrades and the now-familiar symptoms start to return. My psychiatrist has only gone through two seasonal cycles with me now and we are still assessing what, if anything, needs to change as far as dosages when the seasons change. This spring has brought with it a bit of an upswing in my mood that we didn’t see last year. I have become very attuned to my moods and energy level, so I am usually the first one to know when something is going awry and I don’t hesitate to call my shrink. I love that she trusts my own assessment of how I’m doing and asks for my thoughts on what I think needs to be tweaked. My mental health care is very much a collaborative effort. My doctors talk to me and they talk to each other. In fact, my psychiatrist is the most plugged-in psychiatrist any of my other doctors have ever heard of. She has requested to be copied on any tests I have done and is getting reports from the pain management specialist that I have started seeing for my migraines. She is extremely interested in my migraines and in my overall health, not just my mental health. I love that! I just wish that I had gone to her from the beginning. She came with the highest recommendation, but she doesn’t accept any forms of insurance and her receptionist is VERY off-putting, so I went in another direction initially.

Umm, so where was I going with all of this? I’m not sure. I guess I was just opening the floodgates and not really paying attention to what came out. 😆 There is one important thing that I want to say regarding mental health disorders, though. The stigma attached to any mental health disorder SUCKS. Yes, depression has become (disturbingly?) common enough of a diagnosis that it seems to get less of a raised eyebrow from others when they find out that you suffer from it. Bipolar disorder, though? Or other disorders, like schizophrenia or suicidal depression? They all still seem to draw untoward attention, along with that look like there is something seriously wrong with you that might be contagious. The reality of the situation is that these disorders are like any other. A malformed or missing chromosome here or there that, in this case, causes things like the improper production or reception of a brain chemical. Why, oh why, are these disorders treated any differently than those like diabetes or hypothyroidism?

Genetics plays a huge part in my own disorder. My mother’s side of the family is rife with mental health disorders. My uncle suffers from schizophrenia, one of my aunts suffers from severe anxiety, another of my aunts suffers from depression and my own mother suffers from suicidal depression and anxiety. That leaves one lone aunt who only admits to suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. You could say that the odds were against me from the start.

So, is it fair that I feel that I have to bury my head in the sand and pretend that I don’t suffer from bipolar disorder? Is it fair that I feel that I can’t talk to anyone about it because I don’t want to be judged? Perhaps it truly is only my perception, but I feel like most people will look at me like I have 2 heads and treat me differently if I reveal to them what I consider to be my “secret.” I mean, I had a good friend say to me a couple of years ago when I told him that I was depressed, “Well, stop being depressed.” Really? That’s the magic bullet? Oh, how silly of me. Grrr…

Okay, I will step off of my soapbox now. That’s my public service announcement for today. The bottom line? People with mental health disorders are just like everyone else. We are HUMAN. Please don’t fail to treat us as such.

SBQ – June 2010 – Part 2

  • Posted on September 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Often times we identify our love of needlework and our skills with our mothers or grandmothers or other women. It’s understandable because often they were are first teachers or role models. Now let’s think about our stitching life as it relates to our dads. Is there anything about our approach to stitching that we can recognize as traits of our fathers? For instance, does your dad (or any other important man in your life) have an approach to one of his interests that you can observe and think, “Hey….if I substitute the word “needlework” for “fly fishing”, we’d be pretty darn similar!” So tell us about it.

I’m afraid that I don’t have a good answer to this question. It’s a bit amorphous for my brain to process right now. I guess I would say that I am generally a perfectionist by nature, which I get from my biological father. However, I am learning to leave mistakes in my work, unless they will screw me up further down the road while stitching the piece. This I get from my step-father, whose motto is “perfect,” even when it’s not quite.

I had the concept of perfectionism psychologically beaten into my brain as I was growing up. Everything had to be just right. My father had a lot of anger issues at that time and I think that he was just generally unhappy, so nothing seemed to measure up to his standards. I’m one of those people-pleasers who pushed myself to get straight As in school, finish first in competitions, etc. It’s taken its toll on me as an adult and while the concept may have been initially instilled in me by my father, I now take full responsibility for allowing it to continue to have a (detrimental) hold on me.

My step-dad, on the other hand, is very easy going by nature. He is soft-spoken and puts a lot of thought into everything he says and does. I guess I could categorize him as being careful and deliberate. He is very gentle, accepting, caring and giving. No matter my flaws or flaws in my work, everything is “perfect.” He has been an incredibly positive influence in my life.

Dreamscapes II

  • Posted on April 15, 2008 at 2:19 pm

So, I don’t have as many details on my three latest nights of dreams, but they were all-nighters again. At least, I think they were. They were long, at least.

Three nights ago, I dreamed that we were moving out of our house into a slightly bigger house with a much smaller backyard and closer neighbors (eek!). There were three African-American kids in the family that was moving out, except they didn’t seem to move out when the rest of the family did. They helped me figure out the intricacies of the new house and I let them paint their own rooms. The backyard was fenced in, which was nice and necessary since we had not only our little Phoebe, but a much bigger black lab that wasn’t full grown yet and was completely untamed and energetic, so we needed to be able to fence him in. We also got a cat, as our neighbors were moving, as well, and had taken our cat at some point. They decided to give her back when they moved.

We had to have portions of the yard re-fenced because, for some reason, it went straight down the one side to a certain point, then came in a bit and went back out to the back of the property, instead of just making one big rectangle along the property line. And the back property line was wavy and went back at an angle, so we had room to put a swingset in the back left corner. Anyway, the kids were male, female and male, from oldest to youngest and the elder male had some developmental problems. I figured out, and was told by a teacher at the same time, that he liked crafts, especially working with beads. So, I went right out to a Michael’s or something and bought a bunch of craft kits utilizing beads. Somehow, this helped to break through his developmental barrier and transformed him into a normal child. The middle child, a girl, was the most helpful of all of them, though, and we grew to have a good bond.

Two nights ago, I dreamed that I met Ash in person. Which is highly unlikely due to her new location. But anyway, we met at a football game at my high school and I had brought some stitching to work on and some to show her. Anyway, when she showed up, I was absolutely ecstatic to see her and kept giving her hugs. In the meantime, I had left one of my stitching pieces further down on the bleachers where I had been sitting. When I went back to get it, someone had been working on it and made great progress. I showed it to Ash and some other miscellaneous people who were in the scene and we were all making a big deal about it. Of course, I didn’t go try to find the person who did it… Then, it was time to go and Ash needed to borrow some money. I asked my parents to help and they refused. So, Terry and I took her to her hotel and I used the ATM there to give her the money she needed.

Then, last night I dreamed that I was back at the University of Delaware. The landscape had changed drastically, with the whole university much bigger than it was when I was there and lots of additional dorms. I wandered from my dorm to another dorm to hang out with some classmates and then couldn’t find my way back, so I asked an older gentleman to help me. He was more than happy to help, but then when we were almost to my dorm, he put his hand down my pants. Hello! Anyway, it was interesting because all of the classes that I had signed up for that semester were art classes. One was abstract art using quilling paper, where I met this Asian guy whose dorm it was that I went to to hang out. I remember not being able to remember my class schedule, too.

So there you have it. More of the twisted workings of my mind. And more of the reason that I’ve been feeling tired in the mornings, I suspect. Weirdness.

More Lyrics for Thought

  • Posted on April 15, 2008 at 11:20 am

This is a short and sweet little ditty that packs quite a wallop. Can you tell I’ve been listening to a lot of Hilary Duff lately? 😉

Inner Strength by Hilary Duff

Gotta find your inner strength
If you can’t, then just throw life away
Gotta learn to rely on you
Beauty, strength and wisdom too

You’re beautiful inside and out
Lead a great life without a doubt

Listen girl, gotta know it’s true
In the end all you’ve got is you

Song Lyrics – Food for Thought

  • Posted on April 14, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I left out a stanza or two, but these are the parts that hit me the most. Mostly the chorus, though the last two lines (and the title of the song) are less relevant to me than the rest. Even when my mood is bleak like it has been and still is, I remain optimistic that this too shall pass. After all, each and every day is a brand new start.

Someone’s Watching Over Me by Hilary Duff

I found myself today
Oh I found myself and ran away
But something pulled me back
A voice of reason I forgot I had

Chorus:
So I won’t give up
No I won’t break down
Sooner than it seems life turns around

And I will be strong
Even if it all goes wrong
When I’m standing in the dark I’ll still believe
Someone’s watching over me

It doesn’t matter what people say
And it doesn’t matter how long it takes
Believe in yourself and you’re fine

And it only matters how true you are
Be true to yourself and follow your heart

So I won’t give up
No I won’t break down
Sooner than it seems life turns around

And I will be strong
Even if it all goes wrong
When I’m standing in the dark I’ll still believe

Someone’s watching over me

Dreamscapes

  • Posted on April 10, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Sorry I haven’t posted much this week, but I really don’t have much to say. :)

Today’s post is for Dr. Steve, who asked that I write down my dreams whenever I remember them. I’ve been having these long dreams that flow together and pretty much run all night. It’s like a movie, but I’m tired afterwards. Not sure how much actual sleep I’m getting if I’m dreaming that much. Anyway, here’s last night’s saga:

I walked into my college dorm room after having been away for years. My roommate was Sandra, my roommate from my sophomore year and I knew that she would be hurt that I was gone so long without talking to her. The room was painted in a deep shade of purple and I had trouble turning on a light at first. Sandra had left all of my things in the room, as they were when I left.

Everyone on the hall was getting ready for some sort of formal dance and were in the shared showers. I had an aversion to using the shared showers and didn’t have any friends to go with or anything to wear, so I just stayed in the room and cried.

Sandra came back from wherever she had been and we had a long talk that night, with me explaining where I had been and what I had been doing (i.e. I got married, etc.), how my absence had nothing to do with her, etc. We ended up falling asleep feeling better about our relationship in general.

It was nearly graduation time and Sandra was due to graduate with a 10.0. While this doesn’t exist in reality, she did actually graduate with a 4.0 and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, which is really tough to do.

Anyway, at this point, the focus of the dream shifted. My friend Mary was in my dorm, as well. And this creepy older guy kept showing up in the dorm and in my room one time. My friend Albert and I think Terry were in the room with me at the time and we kept wondering if we had closed the door or it was open and he just came in. He was a very odd guy and something was just not quite right about him. Mary had her daughter Lori and her best male friend Elie with her, except her daughter was quite young (in reality, she’s a senior in high school). The creepy guy came up to me, commented on what a cute little girl Lori was and asked where they were parked. I told Mary this and then the guy grabbed Lori’s arm. There was a struggle and building security showed up. We knew this would do no good, though, as we had found out that he had a “gateway key card” which allowed him into any room in any building on campus. This meant that he essentially had carte blanche and would be let go by security to go on his merry way.

Flyers were sent to everyone in the dorm, except there was no mug shot of the guy and I was angry about this because the only picture on the flyer wasn’t a very good one, whereas I knew that the photo on his badge was a perfect likeness. It turned out not to matter anyway, as he knew that everyone was on the lookout for him, so he started wearing disguises and we never knew if someone was him or not. He was angry with me for getting involved and reporting him, so I was afraid he was going to try to kill me. The problem was, I would never know who was trying to kill me because of the disguises he was wearing. Sometimes we thought someone was him and were wrong. I was extremely paranoid.

Mary and I went to her room and it turned out to be this gigantic room with 8 to 10 other girls in there. They yelled “Surprise!” when we walked in and turned out to be celebrating Mary’s birthday. There were several different cakes around the room and the conversation ended up turning to the creepy guy.

At this point, the dream shifted again. One of the girls in the dorm showed me these really pretty embroidery scissors that she purchased from a bazaar downstairs. So, I took Mary and Lori (who was now back to being a teenager) down to investigate. Mary sat outside so that she didn’t get winded from walking around and Lori came in with me. We found the scissors shop right away, but Lori was told that she wasn’t allowed to buy scissors. I got the feeling that they thought she was too young. So, I went on alone. It turned out that it was a build-your-own-scissors place, where you could pick each component of your scissors, the finish, the color, etc. The blades were separate from the handles and the place was huge, so you could come up with any number of combinations. I chose a pair of blades that resembled a fountain pen at the tips and remember looking for the right pair with good craftsmanship that cut to the tip and had a smooth working to them. The girl who suddenly appeared as my guide assured me that the blades would be worked on by this woman sitting beside the hangers of blades until they worked just right. She had polishing compound and a polishing wheel that she was using to refine the blades.

Next, we moved on to the handles. I wanted something lacy and found this sample pair of handles that were an intricate version of the Eiffel Tower, except there were none available at the time. I asked my guide when there would be some more and she said that there would be no more made that day by the artisan. Next thing I knew, it was the next day and the handles were available. I went up to a male guide because mine had disappeared and we tried to find my blades so that my scissors could be assembled and then I could choose the color and finish.

And that’s about when I had to get up. If you stuck with me this far, I hope it was interesting to you. Otherwise, this will just be printed out for my next visit to Dr. Steve in two weeks.


My Stick Family from WiddlyTinks.com