Monday, July 20, 2015

Tattoos-Mental Fitness

As a high school English teacher, I have interacted with hundreds of teenage students over the years. One common question that comes up quite a bit is, "Do you have any tattoos?" (Many of my students have tattoos themselves.) The quick answer to this is, "No." Do I have anything against tattoos or people with tattoos? Nope. I don't care much about other people's skin. The simple fact of the matter is that I have never found anything that I wanted on my skin for my whole life (no, not even my kids' names etc.) so, since that is the nature of a tattoo, I never got one.
Recently, that changed. I was scrolling down my facebook feed when I came across a story about semicolon tattoos. The headline was something about, "Do you know what they really mean?" Being an English teacher...and a curious person who clicks on facebook links...I clicked and read and understood and wanted one.
It is all summed up with this line from the Project Semicolon website: "A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life"
If you know me personally, you know that I don't have the prettiest past. I have come a long way from where I once was and I am pretty open to talking about it, well...most of it. Most of you have heard my stories of having a mom addicted to drugs and alcohol; the impact that it had on me and my life and the wonderful people who rescued me from it (some of the most amazing people I know). But what most people don't know, what I really don't talk about, are the really hard times I suffered mentally-silently.
Depression is never an easy thing to talk about. Suicide is even more difficult discuss. Too many people simply suffer in silence and it is some of the most painful silence a person can ever live with. I am...trying to put into words...something I have avoided talking about for about 20 years...all because of the semicolon...
I spent a good portion of my young life depressed which I think will surprise a lot of people because of the person I am today and the outlook I have on life. I wasn't always this way. I'd like to think I hid my depression well but the only people who could tell me that are the people who were around me during those times. Looking back, I know it started in middle school-I remember a good friend that I had at Discovery Middle School in Vancouver, Washington. She was the first person I could talk to about the darkness I felt growing ever larger inside me. She had similar feelings and together we did some stupid things to get our adrenaline going and make us feel at least a bit better, even if it was only for a moment. Eventually, we moved and I never saw her again.
I spent a good chunk of the next part of my life writing about my feelings to release them without letting anyone know. My mind was quite the dark lonely place and constant moving only made things worse. I idolized suicide and wondered what it would be like to just be done with life, be done with feeling terrible, be done with living in scary places where people broke in, be done with sadness...just done. I wrote things like, "My life is a train that's on the wrong track; it won't turn around it just won't go back. Things just get darker and darker until...crash." My mom found that written in a notebook and questioned me about it. I lied and said I didn't feel that way but I was SCARED. What if she didn't believe me? What if she really knew what I was thinking? She did believe me, and I made sure that anything I wrote was well hidden after that. Even today, I wonder why it was so hard to talk about what I was feeling and experiencing. I think I worried about rejection-if people really knew how screwed up I was inside, would they want to be around me? I still have journals going up all the way through college of the constant battle I waged against my depression. Some journals list the kinds and amounts of pills that I had in my possession-my journals of the mental battle I was locked into within my own mind: live or die. I am thankful that the live side won but it never felt good; it felt hopeless. I think I keep those journals and glance at them every now and then to remind myself how far I have come and also to remind myself that there are other people out there silently struggling as well. Maybe a semicolon tattoo is just what I need to let those journals go because I chose to continue my life's story rather than to end it.
Matt was a very bright light in a very dark place in my life. I was able to talk to him about some of the stuff that I was going through, but part of the power of depression is the fear of putting too much of the burden of it on someone else. Like if I shared too much, it would be too much for him and I would lose him. Back when I was struggling, I thought that much of how I felt would go away if I just got out of the situation I was in. But even when my life changed my junior year in high school, I still felt that darkness. It stayed with me through my junior year in college. I couldn't just change the setting of my life and get myself to snap out of it.
Sometimes I wonder what kept me from taking my own life? Did I have just enough hope to get through? Was I too scared to disappoint the people who cared about me? I really don't know and that's okay. What matters is that semicolon. So when did things change? Marrying Matt and When I became pregnant with Cohan. Both things happened pretty close together ;) Some day I will tell Cohan just how much of a blessing he really is. He was the light that chased away the rest of the darkness and it has stayed away ever since. I created the little family I dreamed of-it wasn't some dream in the future; it was reality.
At this point in my life, those 10ish years seem like a little blip in the story of my life. The happiness that I now have and experience on a daily basis feels so much more powerful than any of that darkness but I never knew that back then. If I could have one wish, I think it would be for people to be able to see the happiness that awaits them if they can just hold on a little bit longer...well, that and a semicolon tattoo.

Parenting: The Mental Struggle

This has been one of my toughest weekends in a long time. Those that know me, know that I have a pretty upbeat and positive person but sometimes the load just gets a bit too heavy. I have really been feeling down, and I wish there was something that I could do to make myself feel better.
Being a parent is hard. Sometimes, parents need a break to be better parents. It is frustrating, challenging, and scary at times. It is also amazing, rewarding, and joyous. Simply put, parenting is a balance and sometimes the scales get a little off balance. That is the best way to describe this past weekend-the scales were tipped but not in my favor.
This weekend was supposed to be kid-free fun but it became kid filled frustration. I found myself in the car, in the bathroom, in the shower, on the couch, writing this post-crying and, to be truthful, I feel like a whining kid who didn't get her way having a melt down. I want my weekend back-the one I was supposed to have. No broken arm, no surgery, no scalp lac, no kids. I wanted meals without bargaining, sleep without interruption, games without kids, time with friends without watching the clock; and it was so close I could taste it. I think I wanted it too much.
It isn't like this was the first time that the kids ruined our plans so why is it SO HARD this time? I think it's so hard because I didn't know how much I needed it until I didn't get it; we didn't get it. As a result, every little thing this weekend felt like a bigger thing. The 4 hours of sleep on Thursday night, Cyver still not sleeping through the night, whining, tantrums, wildness, fighting, hitting screaming, it all felt like too much.
I also think it is incredibly hard because it isn't easy to talk about here. I don't want Cohan to hear us saying how much we wish we were on our trip. I don't want him to feel bad or feel like it's his fault we didn't get our special weekend because it isn't anyone's fault. Shit happens. He has enough crappy things to deal with as a result of his broken arm (missing state swimming, final baseball games etc.) I don't want the loss of our weekend weighing him down. This weekend was just a weekend that wasn't meant to be and it sucks. IT SUCKS! And it sucks even more to not get to talk about it and voice my frustration and just openly have a good cry. I am hoping that by writing this I can start to let this go and get out of my funk and open myself up to a better week.

**I don't want anyone reading this to think that I am not thankful for all the kind words, prayers, help, and gifts. Without the help of our little village, this weekend would have felt much worse. I am beyond thankful that it's just a broken arm. I am forever grateful that I did not have to sit waiting for Cohan's surgery with a whining 6 year old and a melting down 2 year old. We were very blessed to just be also to focus on and be there for Cohan during a scary time. So thank you to everyone that helped or sent kind words, it really was appreciated.**