Thursday, June 26, 2014

Is Life a Pass/Fail Test?

My life has been very grey lately.

Now, before I start getting emails and phone calls from my friends and family inquiring about my mental state...let me assure you that this is a good thing.

It kind of snuck up on me, this whole grey thing, and it's been pretty eye-opening for me.

I don't know how my other self - the one I knew before all of this pesky anxiety happened - allowed her life to become so black and white, but she did.  Every day was good or bad, never just okay.  She either succeeded or she failed, never did she just complete a task in a way that left her content.  Every movement and decision was right or wrong, black or white.

Never was it grey.

As you can imagine, living this way is like waking up in a pressure-cooker every morning.  To greet each day with a "pass/fail" mentality is not a state anyone can live in forever - it's just not possible.  Actually I guess it seems possible until your mental state makes it completely impossible.

And that's when you're forced to live in the grey.

It occurred to me this week that it's been a long time since I've gone to bed thinking, "Today was a great day" or "Today was completely awful."  That's not to say that good and bad things don't happen...they just seem more fluid for some reason.  Kind of like whatever happens, there's something about me now that knows that whatever it is will never be permanent.  That what seemed like past failures actually weren't that at all and moments that I thought I had succeeded to a point where I thought my life would be golden from then on...that wasn't the case either.

It's really weird how sometimes you don't realize the rock-bottoms in your life until you're on the way up and how, for whatever reason, that thud might have been necessary for you to find the solid ground of "bad" so that you could stand up and start climbing towards the monument of "good."  I'd like to think that I'm in touch with myself enough to know by now that even when rotten things happen...I know I'll eventually learn from them.  But it usually takes space and perspective to figure that out.

And that takes patience and sometimes a little forgiveness.

For some reason right now, my life feels less angular, less sharp.  The everyday pressure I didn't even know I was putting on myself has disappeared somehow.  Truth be told, I didn't even realize it had been there until it was gone.

And now there is this sense of freedom I didn't even know was possible.

Some days aren't good or bad...they're just days.

Some successes turn out to not be what we imagined and some failures are sometimes just the catalyst we need to get us where we needed to go in the first place.

Some mental breaks are necessary while some intensely good or bad moments could be leading us to those mental breaks.

Life is not black.  It's not white.

It's not a pass or fail situation.

It's just life.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Fate's a Bitch

And so it begins.

On the eve of Father's Day, I am speaking the words of every single mother out there.

Aw, crap.

This begins my descent into milestone hell with Father's Day, my birthday, his death, and our wedding anniversary all wrapped up into one giant wine and tissue filled package.  Of course, it's not enough that I've got to deal with all of that, but this is also the time of year that I usually sprain an ankle, come down with a rash I can't explain, or - as was the case last year - have a series of floods in my house that I just finished recovering from.

It's been seven years and I've gotten to the point where I'm so scared of what Fate has in store for me every June and July, I really try not to make eye contact with her. Slowing down during this time of year is not just for my mental well-being, but also for my safety and the safety of those around me.

Seriously.  I wouldn't call to try and make a Happy Hour plan with me until at least August 1st.

I wake up every morning and cower through my day, just hoping I can make it to the end of July.  Because if she decides to attack, I usually spend the better part of my fall trying to pick up the pieces of my life that she's blown apart.

I know I'm tempting her right now by admitting this, but I actually feel pretty good.  I was a little worried a few weeks ago when I was dealing with near-crippling back pain.  I looked at my watch and thought, "Yup.  She's right on time."

I had resigned myself to the fact that I was probably going to be bedridden until the stroke of midnight on my last milestone, but for some reason unknown to me, the pain cleared up and I'm actually walking upright again.

Makes me wonder if Fate found a better target.  And if it's you, I'm truly sorry.

Amazingly enough right now, I don't have the shakes like I usually do before Father's Day.  I'm not crying uncontrollably in my car.  Heck, I've even had the attention span to make it through a People magazine.  I don't know who this widow is, but I hope she sticks around.

But I'm seasoned enough to know that she might not. After all, I felt pretty good around year four, only to have year five completely knock me on my ass.  So, I'm wise enough at this point to appreciate the fact that I don't feel too bad, but cautious enough to know that she might decide to strike tomorrow and then I'll have to write a whole new blog that will make you all think I have a multiple personality disorder.

Eh.  Who am I kidding?

You probably think that already.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

No Really...How Are You?

I had an interesting therapy appointment last week (of course, I find all of my therapy sessions interesting because my craziness always entertains me).

I walked in feeling pretty damn good.  It was a beautiful day outside and I'd just finished a walk with my oldest daughter, around our little main street and to a local frozen yogurt place where we sat outside and looked at the butterflies.  It wasn't too hot, wasn't too cold, and so by the time I dropped her off at home and headed to my counselor's office...I really had no complaints.

Which was why it shocked me that the second I walked in and she said, "How are you?" I started crying.

"This is so bizarre," I said, wiping my cheeks with the tissues she always has sitting next to my chair.  "I was feeling great when I walked in.  I have no idea why I'm crying right now!"

"Maybe because you're not as great as you think you are?" she suggested.

"Maybe.  But I really didn't have any burning issues on my mind."

"It could be that I'm just really wondering how you're doing.  And you know you can really tell me."


It's no secret that one of the worst things about losing a spouse is that we've usually lost the person who really cares about our day - who is as invested in our well-being as they are in their own.  We've also usually lost the person we would tell anything to...because, while we know friends and family members do actually care about us, there is also a part of ourselves that we keep hidden from most people.

A part of ourselves that we only unleash on a chosen few.

I've been thinking about this a lot for the last few days.  Not that this is directly linked to being in a romantic relationship, but for me...these last couple of years have been the longest stretch that I've ever been single.  It's been a long time since I've had the same person ask me every single day how I'm doing and really care about the answer.

For two years, I haven't had the same someone I can consistently unload on (even if it's for just a few minutes a day).  And that has started me thinking about the impact of that on my overall mental health.

Now, everyone is different and we all have different needs.  Some people are better at handling things on their own and some people need more personal interaction.  I fall into a strange category - I actually think I need someone to interact with on a daily basis, but have somehow crafted a life that doesn't allow it.

And that could be the root of many of my problems.

I've been wondering these last few days...if I had had someone all this time who had been asking me about my day and who allowed me to let off some pressure a little bit at a time...would I have experienced the crushing anxiety that began (or climaxed) months ago?  Would that have saved me this life-altering experience or would it have happened anyway?

I don't know.

But the fact that I was sailing through a beautiful day only to collapse into tears the moment someone safe asked me how my day was going...makes me wonder what an impact that simple question from someone who really cares might have on us all.