Depression and The Boundaries Book

I started to read a book called “Boundaries” a couple of months ago. I had bought it a long time before that, but I hadn’t read it. I was nervous because I have talked to several people who were very callous and used this book as their excuse, but I have also talked to others who say it changed their life. Now that I’m actively reading it, although slowly, I have to say I understand why.

“Boundaries” is simultaneously comforting and terrifying for me. Te first time I read it, I had a legit panic attack that I am such a worthless human being who does nothing but take from others and I have nothing to give and I don’t deserve to live. That’s dramatic, but honestly, it was kind of dramatic. I got so lost in the way they break down how much help to take and not take, and grew terrified that I take too much, or not enough, and I talk about my problems too much but not in the right way, etc, etc, etc.

The basic thesis of the book is that it is ok to set boundaries, and say “No” to someone who violates them. It gives Biblical support for that which is incredibly necessary for Christians especially who are taught to “Give until it hurts.” It was comforting in some ways to hear that I don’t have to just always give in, and it’s ok to take care of my needs too. I needed that. However, it is a hard time for me to be reading the book, because I hate needing help, and I am in a season on life where it seems like no matter how hard I try not to, I need more and more of it.

My senior year in college, I went through what I now know must have been an incredibly severe period of depression. I had nightmares, a weird kind of sleep paralysis, anxiety, thoughts of worthlessness, and at the same time, I lost many of my friends to a crazy whirlwind of drama. Meanwhile, I was writing my thesis about Hell, so that was great. Every time I tried to talk to anyone about what was going on, it seemed like they would stop talking to me. I had very few friends left by the end, and I still treasure every single one of them for sticking with me.

One Sunday, at a household meeting(for those who don’t know, households are a religious version of a sorority, basically) I broke down. I started sobbing in the middle of the meeting(and I was leading it so that was bad.) I ran out of the meeting and collapsed in tears on the floor. No, I don’t know why I broke down on the floor instead of the perfectly good bed next to me. Maybe the cold felt good on my body, sad people do weird things. Minutes later, a couple of my sisters came in and they listened to my story. Really listened. They heard out what was happening throughout my year. I will never forget what one of them said.

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

I will never forget that, because I DID. I told them, over and over and over again. I tried my hardest, but I couldn’t get across what was happening. I couldn’t express the magnitude of what was going on in a five minute conversation, and I was paralyzed by the feeling that they were done with me because I was talking about my hard time.

This book has brought that feeling back to me over and over again in the last few months. I will read one page and feel like a monster for talking about my feelings, while the next page, I feel like maybe I need to be better about sharing them. I just keep thinking about that moment, I felt so alone, and even though I had tried to tell them, no one knew.

I think this is a problem for mental health issues. People get annoyed if others “complain too much,” or are “Debbie-downers” or “sad all the time,” and I get it! It is so hard to be happy when you are around others who are not. There is even self-help advice to stay away from these people, and murky psychological articles accusing them of being narcissists, or energy vampires. Of course, I am not saying these people do not exist, but I do think that people who are genuinely struggling may sometimes look the same as a narcissist or energy vampire or just a downer. What happens though, when someone is just genuinely having a hard time for a long period of time? What if someone is just grieving and they aren’t feeling better yet?

The point of the book isn’t just about talking about feelings, but it is an example of the things that has been hardest for me. The author uses two images to demonstrate when to ask for help and when not to. It’s ok to ask for help when you are carrying a large boulder, but when it is just a backpack, you can carry that yourself-the backpack symbolizes daily struggles. What happens though, when the daily struggles feel like a boulder, like they do with depression/anxiety/grief/whatever?

How do we decide when someone is upset “too often” or “too long” or “too much” or “too upset?” How does someone struggling with this know when they are upset too long/too much/too often/too upset? I had a huge wake up call to this a couple weeks ago when I took a hormone balancing medicine and all of a sudden the whole world was a different place. I spoke with hope, I believed in things again, I was able to focus on other people. Unfortunately, the medicine had tons of side effects, so my search for something better continues, but it was literally a night and day difference. I felt like someone had taken a blindfold off of me. How does someone in that kind of fog for any reason figure out how much upset-ness is too much for everyone around them, and yet still express how bad what is going on is?

So, I struggle with this book. I really do. I know, and appreciate, what it’s trying to do, but I also know what it feels like to be told everything is ok and you need to handle it yourself when you are screaming out and begging for help. I also know what it feels like to swallow pain so hard you think you will die from it, and that is a dangerous mess I refuse to start up again.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you struggle with depression/anxiety/grief/sadness, please don’t hold it in because you are afraid no one wants to hear it. Even if some people don’t, some do, and you may not know who they are, so keep going until you find them. If you know someone who is struggling, please be patient with them. You may not know how bad what they are going through really is, and you may not know how badly they want to fix it.

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Dear Stay At Home Moms: And A Prayer to the Weeping Women of Jerusalem

Dear Stay At Home Moms:

(disclaimer: I love being home with my kids, and my worst fear is having to leave them to go to work. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t hard.)

(also disclaimer: working moms, semi working moms, other moms, you are still moms so this goes for you guys too, and also, you will have another letter for you. This is just what I had to write tonight.)

Hi guys. I just joined you pretty recently. Like, so recently that I’m still that arrogant mom who thinks she’s perfect sometime. I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown yet, but I’m pretty darn close. I’ve got a couple things to say as the judgy kid-free I was taking my infertility out on you new mom of 2 under 2(well one just turned 2, but I’m not sure how to refer to this chaos in another way.)

1. Support each other. You already know this, but dude, people do not get this life. Even on taxes, you get a tax credit if you paid for care, but not if you stayed home to care for them. Like, seriously? What we are doing should be worth a shit ton of money. Like, a ridiculous amount of money. The ONLY people who get this completely are other moms who are actively IN it. No, not other moms who have been in it. They may kinda sorta get it, but not really. And the worst thing is that you are being told everyday in a million ways how completely worthless you are. Well, guess what? YOU ARENT!!!!!!!!!!! Just because our culture is stupid and doesn’t value us does not mean that we are worthless.(Am I saying this because I’m losing my sanity and I need to feel important, who knows, maybe? I’ll find out I’m wrong about it in ten years maybe like everything else I ever thought.)

2. Also because of everything I said in #1.

Hey, you are worth so much. You are providing love to those babes, a clean environment, a lower stress environment, you are working your ass off to make sure that they stay healthy, loved and well.

On top of that, you are trying to make money in other ways, you are trying to get time for yourself, you are trying to make meals.

On top of that, you are alone. A lot. And also never. Worst. Paradox. Ever.

3. Also, you are worth MONEY. Maybe calculate how much?

I’m literally planning on writing out all the things I save or make money doing so that I can prove how much me staying home is worth. Maybe then in the face of the voices in my head(not literal, just normal) I can defend myself.

4. Basically this is just #1 again, but it beats repeating. STICK TOGETHER. Ask for help from each other, but you may have to ask different people because some aren’t great at helping, don’t get gunshot(um, dear iPhone-that was dark, but ok sure don’t get shot. But how about also, don’t get gunSHY.)

Also, use whatever hurts you the most to create what will help the other yous out there the most. Even if it’s just in a little way.

That’s what I’m trying to do. Tonight I found a mom who had it harder than me and encouraged her. Then I wrote this. More to come. Lol

Finally, I was feeling stupid a week ago for how hard of a time I’m having, The Holy Spirit led me to look at the Scripture verse about the weeping women.

Jesus was on His way to DIE after having been BEATEN within an inch of his life and sweating BLOOD. He literally told the women to weep for THEMSELVES and their CHILDREN.

How many days have you spent doubled over in years over some unbearable suffering you have seen in your baby? How many times has the anxiety of living in this terrifying world seemed like too much? How many times have you ended the day shaking because you had nothing left?

Also, incidentally, looking up the exact verse of this story, I found out that people pray to the weeping women. So lets pray together:

Dear Weeping Women,

I cannot imagine being present there with Jesus being crucified. The fear, the anger, the helplessness, and hopelessness. Even in that nightmare, Jesus told you to weep for yourselves, and for your children. I think He was talking about all of us. Because once you are a mother, you are a spiritual mother to everyone. I believe God was telling us, during His pain, that our pain matters too. He cares. I sometimes try to pretend He doesn’t and that I have to do it all on my own, or I give lip service to His help, but when I really turn to Him, He is there. Weeping women of Jerusalem, pray for us. The world is suffering. Your children are suffering. There are so many of us suffering right now. Help us. We are hurting, and A mother cannot bear to see her children hurt. Help us.

What the New York Abortion Bill Means to Me

When I found out I was pregnant with Emma, my husband walked away from me, went upstairs and blared slipknot. I trembled downstairs in fear.

When I was pregnant with Emma, my husband and I fought every single day. These were not little, meaningless spats. They were screaming arguments, “How are we going to pay for that? How are we going to take care of her? What are we going to do?” We would scream at each other for hours and break down into the kind of sobs that take over your whole body, and your guts come out through your eyes.

It never stopped. Every single day we erupted in terror at the only person we could talk to about it.

We were Catholic. There were no options. We were stuck, and we were screwed. We had no insurance because we couldn’t afford it, but because we were paying rent we couldn’t get Medicaid. We didn’t have our own house. We were living in a tiny bedroom, sleeping together in a twin bed as I grew enormous in a matter of weeks. My mom has always said that using NFP meant that you didn’t really trust God, and I had had virtually no sex education so it didn’t occur to me how quickly you could get pregnant, if you were married(obviously you get pregnant if you even think about having sex if you aren’t married.)

Our marriage was ruined, we had no idea how we would survive, or how she would. I was terrified of hospitals, and we couldn’t afford one anyway.

I had fleeting thoughts of wishing I would miscarry, but I could feel her. She was present in me and I knew her, but I couldn’t stand the pain of knowing that she would always be afraid because we couldn’t provide for her.

It got so bad that I considered abortion. Not fully, not seriously, but for a second, I thought about it. It is almost impossible for me to admit that as a Catholic.

Later, I don’t even know how it happened, but one day I realized I was reading a how-to on committing a natural abortion. I think I may have been searching for vitamin safety during pregnancy, and then saw this article and was so shocked it even existed. I had been taking a ton of vitamins that weren’t safe to stay healthy while I was so run down, and again, for a split second, I thought, “What if I just kept doing it?”

It couldn’t be a sin right? It’s just taking a vitamin, for my health. It’d be an accident. I’d like to think I didn’t mean it, but I was so scared.

We lost her a week later.

In the most horrifying, tragic moment of my life, I miscarried our honeymoon baby.

I don’t know if it was the vitamins I was taking unknowingly, the lack of sleep, the exhausting work I was doing, the stress, or just my body’s inability to form the baby correctly, but whatever it was she was gone. She IS gone.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel some repercussion of losing her. She is my butterfly effect proof. She is everywhere. She was all over my periods every time I questioned whether they were miscarriages or not. She was there every step of my pregnancy with my rainbow, and my double rainbow. She is there when I check my babies breathing at night. She is there when I hear stories of women losing their children. She is in me still, even though she’s not for anyone else.

I cannot believe now that there were moments I did not want her. Now, I would give anything to take those moments back, to have her back. I was so scared, and I try not to blame myself, but losing a child, whether it is your fault or not, is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. It is the greatest pain that you can imagine, and it isn’t healed by time. The thought fades, thankfully, but the grief never does.

In the face of the New York bill, what I want to say to you, is that you do not know what these women are feeling. A woman who is losing her child, has lost her child, or could lose her child, is in a kind of pain that you cannot imagine if you have not been there. There are women who are pro-life who have held their own children lifeless in their arms, and they cannot stand the idea of another child being lost. There are women who are pro-choice who have faced the worst nightmares and had to ask “what do I do?” No matter who you are, you do not know what is in the hearts of who you are against. You do not know what drives them.

So? You ask. What do I do with that information? Find out. Learn from the pain of others how to address problems in a way that helps everyone. Ask the mom who is contemplating abortion what she needs, and help her find it. Start a fund for women who are struggling. Be compassionate. If you are pro-choice, ask the pro-life women what are they worried about, what is wrong with the bill? What do they want?

More than anything, tell your story, tell it as loud as you possibly can, until you are heard. Stop telling everyone else what’s wrong with them, and speak your truth.

Sabotage

It’s crazy to me how promptly my psyche starts to sabotage any amount of success I experience. I self-published a book last night, and almost immediately the chorus began. “You just self-published, that doesn’t mean anything, no one will ever read it anyway.” I even started feeling like I was ripping people off who decided to buy it. And that’s ridiculous! I know because the reason I self-published it is because I believe that the traditional style of poetry is no longer widely appreciated which is why I think I have struggled so much in selling the poems. I truly believe these poems are the highest quality, and need to be out there for the world to see. And yet, my subconscious has decided they are worthless. Probably because it decided long ago that I am worthless.

But what is making it do this? Is it some inferiority complex I have developed as a result of my upbringing? Is it laziness? Or is this just something every artist faces? I tend to think it is the latter, because so many other artists have told me they experience the same thing. So apparently it isn’t just me. It may be something in our make up as humans that creates this self-sabotage.

The thing that gets me though, is what purpose does that serve? In what way does it help an artist to immediately feel that they are and always will be a failure as soon as they accomplish something? Are the gods working against us? Trying to shut us down? Or is the devil realer than we ever thought, and he is frantically angry that we have defied his challenges to create something? I hope it’s that, though I often fear it is the first.

I guess it is up to us as artists then to keep going and pray that it isn’t the gods who are stopping us, but something else. Not necessarily out of confidence or certainty of which side we are on, but because we have to. Creators must create, it is in our blood, art begs to leave us like the river from our sliced open skin. I stopped breathing for a while and released I needed to open my mouth. So write, play, dream, so that you can breathe, I suppose, and live.

When Morning Sickness is not just Morning Sickness

Dear Reader,

I am so tired. I am here to talk to you about something that not many know about, and those who do know about it know it all too well. Morning sickness is an often joked about part of pregnancy. Women on television daintily vomit into a trash can and go on about their day. Then, second trimester they are fine. There are women for whom this is a reality, and I am so happy for them, but there are others who laugh at the term ‘morning sickness’ for its inept description of their 9 month personal hell. These women suffer from something called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which means severe morning sickness, and I am one of these women.

I am lucky as far as HG sufferers go. Many spend multiple days in the ER getting fluids to keep hydrated enough to survive, let alone nourish their growing baby. I have only one HG related scare that I may have to go into the ER, but I experience enough of the symptoms to tell you that HG is no joke.

Imagine the first day of the flu, you are weak and nothing seems to sit well. You gag at every smell and food is the worst thing you have ever heard of. What if told you that was your life 24/7 for 9 months? I am on medicine for my HG and I still have at least one day a week when every inch of my body is in pain and I can’t even imagine eating. Part of the curse of HG, though, is that this is not just a couple days. You can’t let yourself not eat because you and your baby will starve. So I force down whatever seems like it might not make me nauseous, and not just nauseous like a tummy-ache, but I literally have to sit in a certain position all day and chew ice chips to keep myself from vomiting.(Though I recognize I am lucky that I don’t experience uncontrollable all day vomiting like so many women do.)

What’s worse is stress makes my HG worse. This means that the struggle of trying to figure out what food won’t make me nauseous, just makes me sicker, and feeling the nausea makes me sicker, and having an uncomfortable conversation makes me sicker. I hate myself sometimes for the loss of patience this causes in me with the daughter I already have. She is precious and so well-behaved, but her cry releases cortisol in me which makes me feel like vomiting. So instead of selflessly worrying about what she needs, sometimes I just want to scream at her to stop because it just hurts so much when she cries, and it won’t stop hurting for hours after. I have less patience with other members of my family too, people who normally mildly irritate me, make me furious because my short stressful conversations with them result in a whole day of mindful breathing and panic attack management from how exhausted I am, and again trying not to vomit.

People often say to HG sufferers, “Oh just get someone to help you.” Well, unfortunately our culture has created the do-it-all woman, so now we are expected to do it all. While this may be great for women’s advances in business and careers, family members and friends no longer crowd around any pregnant woman to help her with anything she needs. There are lucky women, and I am lucky in many ways, but there are moments when I hide in the bathroom sobbing that I can’t go on, only to do it again the next day.

I feel so much guilt because I should feel grateful for the help that I have, for not working during this pregnancy(HG at a new job is a nightmare) for family who helps when they can. I am grateful for all of these things. Incredibly grateful. It is impossible to have enough help though, when one spends every day in so much stress and discomfort. This isn’t meant to be a pity party, but just, be there for your pregnant friends and family. Be kind to them, you don’t know what they might be going through silently.

Mistakes

I accessed this blog today, for the first time in almost a year. It was almost an afterthought of sending a poem into an online journal that I have an immense amount of respect for. They write truth, but more importantly, they write what is in my heart. There is nothing more powerful than that in reading, when another person somehow unlocks the deepest caverns of your soul and says what you cannot say for whatever reason.

Anyone who has read this blog for longer than two minutes knows that I struggle with anxiety and depression. These are aggravated by the detrimental self-talk that I learned from a young age. I know they are aggravated by it, and I know I need to learn to stop. Knowing something, though, and practicing it, can be two very different things. The most powerful voice in my head is not even a voice. It is a lock. It is a powerful cage made of the most powerful material imaginable. Me. (My inside voice says I need to clarify, Not that I’m that powerful, it’s the most powerful material inside me because it is me. ;-). )

 

The beauty of a work that speaks into your heart is that, if you have a lock that powerful, whispers from inside are often impossible to hear and even harder to engage. But, if something outside strikes the right note, and the one inside meets it, something strange happens. The bars of the cage ring with the sound, and threaten their own annihilation. That one moment of acceptance, resulting in a near self approval, is the beginning of change. I hope that I will continue ringing this sound until the bars shatter into a million pieces and I become a version of me that is not dead, but truly alive.

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