BAD (Battling Anxiety & Depression)

I’m always in a battle with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety is what wakes me up in the middle of the night.

Depression is what makes me feel tired all day.

Anxiety is my all.

Depression is my nothing.

Anxiety is gales of nervous laughter.

Depression is a hurricane of endless teardrops.

Anxiety makes me care too much.

Depression makes me not care at all.

Anxiety fears death.

Depression cheers on self-destruction.

Anxiety worries about the future.

Depression agonizes over the past.

Anxiety overthinks.

Depression can’t concentrate at all.

Anxiety overachieves.

Depression labels me worthless.

The battle rages within.

Hopefully someday I will win.

Can you fix me?

I have been having a debate with myself forever over what is coincidence and what is meant to be. Do things happen for a reason or is there no rhyme or reason?

When we bought our house almost a year ago, we had some problems with the dryer. It was taking forever for the clothes to dry. I really didn’t notice it after awhile. But then other things started to break. The fan went out in our refrigerator. The dishwasher started to leak. I needed to get someone out to the house to fix these problems. While the guy was here, he might as well check the dryer.

I started to time how long it took to dry clothes. Three hours for a big load! I knew it was long but I didn’t realize it was that long. Maybe I just needed a new dryer?

The guy came out and pulled tons of lint out of the machine. It was backed up into the vent inside of the house. Big time fire hazard that I wasn’t even thinking about fixing until other things started to break.

Why did I ignore the biggest problem that needed fixing?

I think that I ignored it because it was still working, however dangerously and inefficiently. It only became a problem for me when something else wasn’t working at all.

This past week I went to see the counselor alone for the first time. I never would have set up an appointment by myself for myself. My husband insisted on talking to someone when we were having problems with our son. Now our son is doing so much better and here I am going to the counselor talking about myself.

I asked the counselor if she could fix me. She said that she could not, but I can. How come I ignored this for so long? I want to fix everyone else, but don’t want to work on the broken parts of myself.

I think the way I’ve been living my life has been working, although at times not very well.

The counselor asked me what are three things I wanted to keep the same about myself:

  1. My grit/determination
  2. Honesty
  3. Continue seeking self-reflection/growth

Then she asked me what are three things I want to change:

  1. Worry less/relax more
  2. Healing
  3. Be at peace

When discussing these goals, I realized that I was afraid. Part of me wants to stay the way I am. The demons I know aren’t as scary as the unknown. My anxiety and inability to relax has given me great determination as a runner. My depression and quest for full healing and making peace with the past is what I attribute to my honest self-reflection as a writer.

If I am able to change the things that I perceive to be negative in my life, will I still be able to keep the positive outcomes that was ignited by my pain?

Will I still have grit if I have nothing to run from? Will I still be able to write if I was totally happy with my life? Would it be worth giving up some of my grit in order to be at peace or relax more?

Would I even be me anymore? It was very confusing.

Some of the negative things in my life I turned into blessings. If I get rid of the bad, would I purge the good that came out of it as well?

Do I have to give up the good things I have to get the good things I want?

I guess the big question I can ask myself is why I didn’t do anything about the major problems until something else wasn’t working?

Why didn’t I start writing my book until I lost my job?

Why didn’t I ask for help until my house was almost on fire?

I was so upset when I lost my job, when my son was acting up, and when several appliances stopped working. But I now believe that God used these things for my own good to spur me into action that I needed to take. Maybe I am wrong, but I can’t believe that any of these things have been a coincidence.

 

 

 

Cycles of life

I’m at the period in my life when I’m feeling the most hormonal.

It’s crazy like the very beginning, without the excitement of what is yet to come.

I’m getting older, midlife.

Hot flashes.

My body aches.

My skin itches.

My stomach bloats.

I feel ugly and fat.

My clothes don’t fit right.

Lights seem glaringly brighter.

Sounds normally tolerated scratch like nails on a chalkboard.

I feel irritated and angry.

Like PMS on steroids.

What sounds like my normal voice to me comes across as an attack to them.

They ask why I’m being so rude.

But I respond in my regular tone.

What do you mean?

I cry at the slightest provocation.

My eyes are red and puffy wrapped in dark circles.

I want to be left alone, yet I don’t.

Mood swings.

Laughter mixed with tears of sorrow.

Anxiety kicks in, marching in double time.

I am exhausted.

I can’t sleep.

I stare at the clock.

Is it too early to get up?

When sleep finally comes, I wake up soaking wet.

He is cold, but the room is on fire.

I feel hot, not in a good way.

I feel stinky, gritty, grimy, and gross.

My body seems to have forgotten how to regulate itself right.

I want to wish time away so this will be over.

But I don’t have extra time to spare.

I know in a few days I’ll feel better.

Then the whole cycle starts again.

 

 

 

 

Depression

As I was getting ready for the last show, I saw a car pull up to the theater long before the show started. It was a navy blue car, the same color, model, and make as my dad’s car. The passenger door opened and a very large man struggled to get out of the car with a cane. He had his head down, but I could see a mass of white hair and a long white beard.

I knew my mom was coming to the show. But was my dad? Would he finally tell me that he was proud of me? The man looked up and I realized that he wasn’t my dad. I felt sadness for what never was and what probably will never be.

Depression, it hit me the hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. As I mentioned before, my childhood was the hardest period of my life. My brother Matt, who is less than 2 years younger than me, had some very serious health and mental health issues. He was violent towards me, towards others, and to our pets. He hit me, pulled my hair, and clawed my arms on a regular basis. I think he killed my cats. He threatened to poke my eyes out with a knife. The list goes on…seriously, just read the book once I finish it.

My dad was depressed too. He withdrew from the family. When he was home he would sit on the couch and ignore us while watching TV. If the house was too quiet, I worried that I would find him dead somewhere.

My dad is the most pessimistic person I know. His life mottoes are ‘sh!t happens’ and ‘life’s a bitch, then you die’. He never hugged us or told us that he loved us. We never had father-daughter ‘dates’. Nothing. Instead he told us that we were stupid and laughed at our feelings, dreams, and fears.

I consider myself a realist, which probably is just a nice way of saying pessimist. But I will never be like my dad. I will never tear someone else down to lift myself up.

My dad is everything I don’t want to be. He never took care of himself. He ate a lot of junk food. He never exercised. He weighs almost 350 lbs. He hasn’t brushed his teeth in years. He hasn’t showered in almost a year. He is lazy and hates to work. He doesn’t clean up after himself and is a hoarder. Once one building is full, it’s time to build another shed. He doesn’t finish anything he starts. My parents built their house in the 1970’s and the upstairs bathroom still has not been finished. Simple repairs lie in disrepair for years. He is even too lazy to bother getting dressed if he doesn’t want to.

Maybe that is why I do everything the opposite. I eat healthy, run marathons, can be a workaholic, try to maintain a healthy weight, get things done right away, and am a clean freak. I don’t like things that he likes just because he likes them. But the truth is, I am still his daughter. I can’t hide from that.

In early childhood, when my dad emotionally checked out, I was called up to the plate. I started trying to fix the problems at home. Nothing was kept from me. I was handling responsibilities that no child should have to handle.

A 6 year old should never have to watch her 3 younger brothers in the lake even for a few minutes. My youngest brother almost drowned that day.

A 13 year old shouldn’t be making the call whether or not the neighbor should come over and put our dog out of her misery when she was suffering a painful death. I made the wrong call and I have to live with that.

A college student shouldn’t have to help raise 3 teenagers. But that is what I was doing.

I home-schooled one year of middle school and two of high school so I could help my mom out. Even though I attended college in the drunkest city of the United States, I never went to a single college party. Most Saturday nights you could find me at home helping shower my disabled brother. Then I graduated from college, got married two months later, and right away started a family of my own. At times I feel like I am suffocating.

Sometimes I yearn to be the child I never was. In some ways, my kids are older than me. I gave them everything I didn’t have. The pendulum swung too far to the other side. I only told them the things they needed to know. I only let them be kids. I gave them few responsibilities and chores. I shouldered that responsibility so they didn’t have to. I was wrong. I realize that now. But how can we be functional parents if we both had nothing but dysfunction to model from?

I get depressed when I have memories of the horrible things that have happened to me. The PTSD depression is the worst I’ve ever experienced. Burying my painful feelings in the moment is a future time bomb. The feelings I’ve repressed have a way of coming out tenfold. The depression from that is intense and irrational. The urge to end it all is hard to fight. By the grace of God I was able to make it through to tell you about it. I want to say that will never happen again, but here I am stirring up my demons.

I actively mourn the childhood I never had. There is something joyous and magical most people experience that I’ve never had. It is utterly devastating. I don’t know if I will ever be able to get over it. It is the kind of depression that no pill can cure.

My life is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be now, yet somehow I cannot outrun the demons of my past and find peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going home

Today my mom and I went to see Matt for his birthday. He spends the day at a program for autistic children and adults. While we were there, Matt’s caregiver asked him to tell us about his special morning in a high pitched sing song voice reserved for a small child. Everyone was optimistic and cheerful, except me.

I felt such sadness I could cry. My brother should be meeting up with his friends for his birthday, or maybe going out to eat with his wife and children after driving home from a long day of work. His normal isn’t right.

I feel such grief every time I see someone with a developmental disability, especially my brother, that I don’t want to be there. I feel guilty for visiting out of obligation. Visiting makes me think about the families and all of their lost dreams. He shouldn’t be putting stickers on a chart for good behavior, he is a grown man. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

I feel tired today. I slept good last night. But the night before was restless with nightmares. I was triggered by the developmentally disabled girl backstage. I heard people ask her sister what was wrong with her. I remembered all the times I was asked that about my brother. I got sick of explaining after awhile. They never asked about me.

Then I dropped my mom off at home. I went in and said hi to my dad. He didn’t get many birthday cards or calls this year. I wonder if it will be his last. He looks so old and weak. He rarely leaves the house. No one really cares about him much anymore, certainly not my mother. I want to reach out and help him. But he was a very cruel father. Why should I care? Why is it so painful to see the consequences of his bad choices when I was one of the people he hurt?

I walked through the house. There are still clothes from the 1980’s hanging in the closets. Hoarders. Piles of mail on the table. The same linoleum lies on the floor from my childhood worn with holes in it. Bags full of food line the floor. Dirty dishes clutter the counters. Nothing must be thrown away, but much more to be collected.

I feel depressed. But writing about it makes me feel better. I am starting to process how I feel and why I feel the way I do. I feel sad that my family is broken and nothing I do can fix it.

On the way back home, I drove through town and did not avoid it by driving through the outskirts. I drove by my Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold’s house. I drove past the area where my grandparents lived. I remembered how the town looked when I was a child. It was alive then with parades and festivals. But now it is a ghost town. Small town businesses closed. New houses stand where old homes once stood.

Everything has changed. But I still remember how it used to be back when my aunt, uncle, and grandparents were still alive. The town was alive then and that’s how I want to remember it with my loved ones alive in it. But that is not how it is anymore.

That is what it is like going home. The broken things still have not been fixed. The town and relatives that made my life magical as a child are no longer there. Emptiness.

Writing helps me process the way I feel. I think I understand why it is so hard to go home. Maybe you would feel the same way.

 

On writing

I took a step back from writing my book.

I was doing it all wrong. In January, I just jumped in and started writing. I took a break when we went on vacation in the beginning of February and haven’t wrote a word since.

It has become common knowledge now that I am writing a book. When my mom found out, she brought over 2 boxes of journals. I sat down and read through them all over a weekend. Most of them were notes between my mom and special ed teachers. It really gave me a glimpse into some of the school day that I didn’t see.

It was a reminder to me how incredibly violent my brother Matt was. There were times that he threatened school children with scissors and was into poking eyes. That is just a small glimpse.

Then I went and reread all of my personal journals. I flagged all pertinent parts of at least 15 journals and created a general outline of what I wanted to share in the book. Then I am going to go back and rewrite what I already started. I am even thinking about asking my other siblings if there was something that they wanted me to share. But I am afraid that they will be more open to what they don’t want me to share.

I decided that I will not write when I am really stressed out or feeling depressed. The next couple of weeks I will be performing a major part in the community theater production. That would not be a good time to stir my demons.

I have to be careful. I have to know when to run forward and stay back. I could get lost in it or worse dragged back into it. There have been times that I experienced PSTD symptoms. It is horrifying, but I am not afraid of it. I have people around me that will make sure I am safe. This is what I was meant to do.

I see writing this book as a challenge similar to my desire to conquer a 50k. It is a test of strength, determination, and will.

The people who know what I have experienced are saying that I am brave and strong to tackle this. I have a unique story that unfortunately is not unique anymore. When my brother was diagnosed with autism, as the first generation of de-institutionalized mentally ill, it was rather rare.

This is going to be a story of survival and abuse, many people do not realize that when I talk to them about it…the people that didn’t know me then. I seem so normal, healthy, and strong. But remember how I said I am in community theater. I can be a good actress. They don’t know how difficult this is going to be emotionally. I have to be very strong. I have to be smart to notice if I am slipping.

I am doing some public speaking in September for the local autism chapter. When I told the woman that I was going to write a book about my experience, she said that she knew of a publisher who would be interested. Maybe that should be my last resort. Maybe I can do this. Maybe this will be really big. If not, I am okay with it. I want to tell my story for me. I want to heal. I want to help others feel like they are not alone even if it makes me look bad.

I have decided to also keep my blog personal. I am at times tempted to share this blog with family and friends. I can’t waver. If I tell you I am tempted, please remind me of my words. It is a struggle to be fully honest with myself and others. I need to be completely genuine.

I can’t let anything stop me from telling my story.

 

Doubt

Would you be willing to hurt people you are closest to in order to help strangers?

Fear that is toxic. Anxiety whispers an endless echoing rhyme. Worry incessant. Doubt creeps in like a vine that entwines the wrestling demons running around in my mind.

I’m not sure I can do it. It’s too risky. Who do I think I am? Do I really think this will be a bestseller? Do I really think that my poison will be a tonic? Do I really think that my story is going to make a difference, change things?

Really, Alissa, you couldn’t even save your own family.

The thoughts painfully pierce my poorly healed wounds. The scabs tear away and bleed onto my parched paper skin. The memories scratch at the demons inside. They wreck havoc on my mind. Tears slip from my eyes.

Now I understand why there aren’t a lot of siblings telling their stories. I get it now. It is too painful. If the story is going to be effective, I have to be brutally honest. But that honesty is going to hurt, not just myself but other people.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with a lady from the local autism group. She wants me to be on a panel representing siblings of autistic children in front of a group of parents. There are not a lot of programs available for siblings because they are ‘normal’. I think that is very tragic if a child needs help and doesn’t receive it because they aren’t special enough.

My goal is to write a book about my story as a sibling. I want to advocate for siblings. My thought was to write a book and donate a certain amount of the proceeds to go towards helping siblings that are struggling through support groups and therapy, etc. Just how it is all going to come together is not totally known to me at this time. I would be willing to donate my time and money to help other’s struggling through what I’ve experienced.

Maybe tomorrow I will have some answers. But as for today, I never want to write again. I want to delete my blog. I want to throw the book that I started into the trash. I feel unsettled, almost angry and sad. Restless.

I am at a crossroad of sorts. Will it make a difference? Am I just picking at scabs and bleeding out into my words? Will it heal me? Or will it hurt me and those I love? Should I just let it go?

Will I be able to help others? Am I being delusional that I can make a difference? Would it be worth it if my story can help someone contemplating suicide if  my family turns away from me? Maybe my vision is too grandiose?

I am absolutely terrified, but I think it will be worth it.

What if I don’t help anyone and end up alienating myself from my family? Do I have the strength and courage to do what needs to be done?

I have my doubts.

Prove them wrong

Never let someone’s opinion of you define who you are. Sometimes they make mistakes too.

Although I may be in over my head this time.

Last week my daughter Arabella and I tried out for the local community theater musical. I got cast in a very challenging vocal part. The director said she was happy that I tried out because she didn’t think that many people could handle the part. How horrifying!

Yesterday, I talked about how I wasn’t very athletic in school and now I am a marathon runner. When I was a child, I really wanted to be a singer. But I allowed a teacher to crush that dream.

The choir teacher was the same person that axed me as a cheerleader in middle school. In my defense, when I auditioned to be a cheerleader I had the flu. I stayed home from school the day of auditions with a high fever. The choir teacher said that if I wanted to try out I had to audition on that day, no exceptions. That evening I went to school with the flu and auditioned.

Now in her defense, I couldn’t do splits or flips like some of the other girls and was probably clinically depressed since grade school. Having the flu didn’t help with my audition either as you can imagine.

I wasn’t a good athlete and don’t blame her for not selecting me to be a cheerleader. But I always thought I was a good singer.

More than anything, I wanted to be in the high school jazz choir. But I didn’t bother trying out. The choir teacher didn’t like me. I’m not even sure why, I never did anything to her. There were certain teachers though that did not like me based on my autistic brother’s behaviors. Perhaps you have been judged for a sibling’s misdeeds? It sucks! There were certain old school teachers that blamed my mother for my brother’s autism back in the day and I think she was one.

The choir teacher picked a song for solo and ensemble for me. On the first practice, she told me I was a horrible singer and there was no way I was ever going to compete. I was so humiliated. Maybe I really did suck?

Remembering her words and cheerleading tryouts, I didn’t bother auditioning for jazz choir.

I gave up my dream. In college I wanted to audition for choir, but didn’t think I was good enough. It wasn’t until many years later that I started to sing in front of people again. Wow, you are very good at singing. You must have been a star singer in high school. What?

Now my daughter Angel is going to college for vocal performance. She has a very similar voice to mine. She has been to many competitions around the country and has done very well.

The choir teacher could have made a positive impact on my life. She could have encouraged me and worked with me to make me a better singer. She could have given me something to take me away from my troubles at home. But instead, she squelched a dream.

The choir teacher, whether she knew it or not, changed the path that I chose to take. She was a horrible teacher. I wish I didn’t give so much credit to her opinion.

Challenge accepted, I’m going to do the best I can at this role. Maybe I will dedicate this show to proving my choir teacher wrong.

Goal 3: Start the process of writing a book

For a very long time, I was angry about the things that happened to me in my childhood. Why did my family struggle so much when other families had it all together? I think it was a miracle to survive with most of my sanity intact.

What is the purpose of struggle? What are we supposed to do with what we have been through?? Personally, I believe by successfully surviving my obligation is to reach out and help others going through similar circumstances. I have always felt this way but I was never sure how to do it.

Blogging has been a wonderful way to process my experiences in life honestly. But I found it to be lacking. I don’t feel like I have been able to reach my target audience so to say. They haven’t found me and I haven’t found them either. Maybe there are few that can relate to my life story. Where is everybody? Why aren’t you writing about it? Maybe it just takes a long time to process it like it did for me.

I told myself that once I retired I would write my story. I always put it off into some future place. Then I found myself without a job.

I’ve tried to find books even other blogs of people out their with similar stories and found nothing. How can there be a void? Nothing?? I decided that I am going to be the one to write the story. I don’t think that it will be easy, but I do think it will be worthwhile.

I am going to write the story of a sibling growing up in the 1980’s with a violent autistic brother. This was a time when autism wasn’t an epidemic. This was a time of very limited services. This was a time where my mother was blamed for his violent behavior. This was the time where I was expected to give up my childhood to be a caregiver. I also had two other younger siblings and an abusive father which will be woven into the story.

So I will be processing more journals from my childhood in the weeks to come and compiling everything together to start the process.

I also have some exciting news. My new friend Sue, who is a child psychologist that works with autistic children specifically, put me in touch with someone from her agency. I will be meeting with this person at the end of the month. I have been asked to be put on a panel as a sibling to work with parents. I don’t have all of the details yet, but I feel like this is a huge step forward in being able to help others who are going through what I have been through.

I am very excited about where this could lead even if I am only able to help one person through my experiences. Struggle does have a purpose, I just needed to find mine.

 

 

Season’s greetings from your favorite demon slayer

Wow, Christmas is less than a week away already!

Tomorrow I am hosting a Christmas party at my house for the entire family…while I am working out of the house…and cooking a meal for over a dozen people…Nothing says overachiever (or insanity) better than that.

I really didn’t want to have a Christmas party on a day we had to work and the kids have school. I wanted to have the party on Sunday, the day after the extended family Christmas party. But my sister-in-law Carla couldn’t miss the kids Christmas program at her church. I guess that wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if she actually had kids. But I can’t complain too much, she is the only person that was ever able to get my brother Mark to go to church. So Friday it is.

Carla wanted to have the party in January. After we scheduled the party for Friday, Carla wanted to switch it again. I finally told her to let me know if she would be unable to make it which is a polite way to say that I am NOT going to change the date again unless it is back to Sunday.

My brother Luke and his family will be staying over for the weekend. Luke didn’t want to make the far drive out a couple weekends in a row, so we ended up scheduling the Christmas party for Friday night before the extended family party on Saturday…after I am done working…instead of Sunday (which I preferred) because of Carla’s schedule.

Talking about work, I only have 4 days left until I am unemployed. I was angry and despairing about it at first, but now I think I should throw myself a big party on the last day and get on with my life. Maybe I’ll have a bonfire and burn all my work clothes!

Angel is home from college. Soon all of the kids will be done with school for Christmas break.

We bought Alex a boxing club membership for Christmas. He has been bugging me about joining for over a year. Boxing seems kind of dangerous, doesn’t it moms?? I was the kind of mom that had to close my eyes at middle school football games. I enjoyed watching Alex wrestle, but there were a few times…Somewhere in my mind he is 8, not 18. I still feel the need to protect and mother hen him. Although I know he would end up protecting me if push came to shove.

Alex says that boxing helps him express his anger in a healthy way. Maybe I need to start boxing since anger is no stranger to me. Can you imagine me showing up at the boxing gym? Oh my gosh! He has been working out every night. He is like me, all or nothing. The hard part is to convince him to give it his all when he wants to do nothing. He is a stubborn one, also like me. But he is doing better! He just might be ready to move on with his life come spring.

I just want everyone to know how thankful I am that you put up with me! Consider this my Christmas card…I haven’t actually sent one out in years. Lucky you! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And if anything exciting happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!