May The Force Be With You

Good evening. It’s been a while…and a massive “eff you” to the band Staind for ruining that phrase for me, much like no one can resist yelling “YOU’RE AN ALL-STAR!!!1!!1!” whenever you say “hey now!” Goddamn shitty bands, I swear. 

It’s been so long since I’ve written anything, and I feel bad about that. Writing used to be my go-to outlet for expressing myself, but I haven’t picked up my laptop in many months; since December 2016, to be exact. Damn near five months. Sad! 

I felt compelled to dust off my fingers and muddle through a post tonight, though, and once you get to reading, you’ll all collectively nod your heads in understanding. I’m very transparent that way. I can be read like a book! Or blog post, as it were. But I’m going to take my time with this one, as I like to tease before I get straight to the deed. 

In general, I have a love/hate relationship with the “On This Day” feature on Facebook. The years 2009 to mid-2012 are just atrocious to read. I was dealing with infidelity, separation, divorce, and exploits in returning to the dating game. My posts during that time are god awful and weird (even for me), as I was obviously going through a bizarre “who the fuck am I now?” phase. Divorce is great. It doesn’t mess with your head at all. My entire body physically goes into a spasm whenever I scroll down to those years. Yes, I know I can hide them, but I’m a) dumb and can’t figure out how to do it, and 2) I am a punishment glutton and make myself read them. 

Oddly enough, it’s actually a bit comforting to do so; not because I find solace in them, but rather, Seven Years Ago Erin™ is wildly different than Current Erin™, and that, my friends, is a very good thing. Trust me on this one. 2009-2012 Erin was not dealing with the aforementioned troubles in her life very well and acting out in pretty ridiculous ways. Hey! Let’s get a DUI just for funsies! Let’s be wildly irresponsible with money and take advantage of your roommates! Let’s date total fuckface dickwads! Okay! Yay! 

I often joke that I am now the world’s oldest 35-year-old woman, but I’ve done some shit in my younger years that justifies this behavior now. I’m in bed at a reasonable hour, whereas before, I’d be out drinking until all hours of the night–on a school night, to boot! I also don’t drink nearly as much as I used to. I still drink, but not daily and not to dangerous levels of drunkenness. Now, it’s more like a couple times a month, and I can wake up in the morning bright-tailed and bushy-eyed* and not wish for a swift death due to hangovers. 

*Intentional mixup of expression for comedic value. I’m appearing on Jimmy Kimmel later next week. 

As you can see, time did me some changin’, thank goodness. 

That is the hate part of “On This Day.” 

The love comes from being shown genuinely good memories. Life seemed to start coming together while I did my time in Texas, and while 2013 to present day has seen its share of “Jesus fucking Christ, Erin…” moments, they’ve mostly been pleasant and I am grateful I have progressed to this point, and in an odd burst of enthusiastic optimism, I hope that trend continues upwards. 

Lately, however, Facebook has been bringing up things I would give up everything to never have to repeat in my mind. 

Tomorrow is May 4th. To the geek community, people stir in anticipation to post at 12:01am, “May The Fourth Be With You!” My timeline will be inundated with memes from my beloved Star Wars. Normally, I’d delight in this, but the day has taken on a new meaning to me: 

It marks the first 365 days without my dad. 

I know this is cliché as all fuck, but where did the time go? Why does it sometimes feel like he died only a few weeks ago, and others, like it has been years? 

I also didn’t realize how actively I’ve been trying to block all the painful events of late April to early May 2016 out of my head. 

Every morning, I go about my daily ritual which is get up at 5am, trudge downstairs to make a pot of coffee, and browse Facebook for the six minutes it takes to brew. I catch up on missed notifications from the night before, scroll through my timeline offering likes or hearts or comments, and when I’m finished with that, I go to “On This Day.” This fucking feature has been a thorn in my side since April 17th. This is when I started reading more posts about Dad’s rapidly declining health, my shenanigans involving his also rapidly changing mental status thanks to doping the poor bastard up with gallons of liquid morphine, and the days and hours leading up to his death. 

Yesterday’s memory really got to me, as I had shared about our failed attempt to “snow” Dad. He was becoming increasingly agitated and uncharacteristically aggressive to us, so it was suggested we just sedate the fuck out of him with pain medication and benzodiazepines. Instead of drift off into a controlled substance la-la land, that fucker did the opposite. If anyone has the gall to tell me my father wasn’t a fighter and probably too passive of a man, I would love to pull a time travel trip out of my hat and make you watch how he was towards the end. As I also had shared a year ago, “I have called my dad a motherfucker about 6 times in my life, and all of those times have been today.” 

And it isn’t just Facebook that’s bringing up all these things; shocking to no one I’m sure, my own brain is also conspiring against me. Hey, you’re having a pretty decent day today, Erin. Why dontcha think about how blotchy purple Dad’s feet got the day he died? And how the tube from his catheter to the collection bag at the foot of his bed turned red with blood, then to thick pink pus? 

I really fucking hate my brain sometimes. Super helpful, brain! Thanks! 

Ever have to pretend all is fine and dandy and put on a smile and joke around with your coworkers or friends when in reality, your mind’s eye is replaying scenes from your father’s death? If not, you are an innocent and must be spared these terrible things and protected at all costs. 

I’ve been dreading tomorrow for a while now, which is silly if you think about it. I don’t know why it’s silly, but I think I’m trying to be very nonchalant about it in an attempt to try to get through it. I’ll let you all know how well that works out for me later. Spoiler alert: I don’t think that’s going to go well. 

~~~~~

May 4, 2017

Good morning. I had to stop writing last night because I was getting emotional, which is dumb because pretty sure the first thing I did this morning–after I made myself some coffee…I think I’m an addict…anyway, the second thing I did was get emotional. Cool. 

It’ll be fine. If I burst into tears at any given moment, so be it. If not, that’s fine, too. 

I don’t have anything wise or profound to say. Words escape me for once. 

I do know that I miss my dad daily, and would give up all the things I have now to have him back. Well, almost all…if I can keep my record player and records and speakers because my god, these speakers…I think even Dad would be all, “yeah, no, totally keep that stuff.” 

Thank you for reading, thank you for allowing me to write, and thank you for everything in between. 

May the Force be with you. 

Azul

As if people really needed another reason to not like the holiday season, I bring this evidence to the table:

I have known three (3) dogs in my life that had to be put to sleep in December.

Exhibit A is my first dog, Gus.

Gus was part German Shepherd, part Saint Bernard, and one big, fuzzy mass of black fur. He looked intimidating as hell because ohmygod there’s a black wolf coming at me! But one of my earliest and fondest memories was being about 3 or 4 years old and opening the gate to Gus’s outdoor cage and crawling inside his dog house with him to lay on the hay that was inside. This visually ferocious beast was nothing but a tender mass of love (much like myself, I might add). I had a friend (!!) in grade school whose elderly grandparents lived next door to us and this girl would scream bloody murder every time Gus tried to follow me over there as she was deathly afraid of this monster, when in reality, he was anything but.

It was December 11, 1991 or 1992, I don’t quite remember. My brother still lived at home, so it wasn’t 1993. Anyway, the year is moot, it’s the time of year that matters. The few days prior to December 11, it had been rainy and cold and sleeting. Gus would usually trudge his massive body through the backyard to take shelter in his dog house when it got too wet/cold outside for him to lounge around outside in the sun. His favorite spot was in front of our front door. Nothing like trying to shove 100 pounds of dog away from the front door when trying to get outside. At the first nudge of the metal screen door on his butt, he’d look over his shoulder at you with cold, brown eyes as if to say, “really? You couldn’t have gone out the back door instead?” But begrudgingly, he’d heave himself up, walk two steps to the left, and hunker down again with a great, heaving sigh of exasperation.

That day, though…Gus didn’t move. He was caked with icicles that matted his glorious black coat down. By that year, Gus was a crotchety old man of fifteen years old, so half of his face was silver and sparkling as the ice that formed around it. I knew Dad was going to take Gus to the vet to see what was wrong with him, aside from old age. I couldn’t wait to get off the school bus that afternoon to find out how our dog was.

I need to stop here and say this: this is one of those defining moments in a kid’s childhood where they can without a question pinpoint a moment that irreparably fucked them up. This is my moment, and also when I learned to recognize when my father was about to share some not good news with people.

I had a school band concert that night, so my mom and I were busy getting ourselves ready. We had been gone for a bit after school to get things we needed and when we got home, all the lights in the house were out, save the twinkling Christmas tree. Dad had a thing for Manheim Steamroller and his music was all that played during Christmas. Not this night. This night was some very somber, mellow, New Age radio station he listened to on occasion from the NPR station in Salina, Kansas. Something told me to look at the Christmas tree, so I did. Displayed prominently in the middle, carefully tucked between pine branches was my dad’s favorite picture of Gus and a blue handkerchief.

I was only 10 or 11, but I immediately knew what that mean and remember running to my room and crying. Points to Dad for some quality use of props to tug at the heartstrings more. Kudos, old man.

Losing a dog at motherfucking Christmas is a torture unlike no other.

Exhibit 2 isn’t actually my dog, but I lived with Steve and Larcy for over 2 years, so in a way, their little cow dog Rhane became my own, as well.

She was short, fat, and looked like a cow. When I met her, she was already a cranky old bitch, but then again, anyone would be a cranky old bitch if you had to deal with Daxhole the Asshole Husky for a canine brother.  (Author’s note: I still fucking hate that goddamn husky.)

Rhane ended up with poor eyesight, and even worse bladder control, as it was a morning ritual to come out to the kitchen barefoot (or socked, if the winter was among us), sleepily staggering around to multitask letting the dogs outside and make a pot a coffee, and oh…step in a fresh–or not so fresh–pile of Rhane pee. Every. God. Damn. Morning. Sometimes two or three piles off pee, depending on if Rhane was feeling extra saucy that day or not.

It didn’t matter if you had taken her outside two minutes before and she whined at the door to be let back in, giving you the false assurance that yes, she had done her business, only to be betrayed by getting your cotton Fruit of the Looms crew socks saturated in urine. You couldn’t get too mad at her, the poor little sausage. She was old and riddled with arthritis and tiny little stumper legs. But really, Rhane? Every goddamn time. Everygoddamntime.

She also decided it was too much fun being here with us silly humans, so last year in December, she got taken for a good walk, was given tons of kisses and hugs, and told what a good, good girl she was for one last time.

Fucking dogs, man. It’s hard to type and cry at the same time.

Exhibit 3. Depending on who you ask what his name is, my version is Blue Barry Hoffmeyer, aka Blueber, but you have to pronounce the “L” as a “W,” so it’s actually “Bwueber.”

If you asked my mom, his name is Blue Barry, or Blue Baby. Keith, my mom’s husband, would just yell “BLUEEE!!” in a surprisingly high falsetto for a man.

Here is Blue’s origin story, like he’s some unknown X-Men or something:

Keith got Blue as a puppy to give to his oldest granddaughter, who I believe was quickly approaching 2 years old or was already 2. A two year old girl’s favorite thing in the world aside from mommy and daddy and whatever the hell else babies like is Blue’s Clues. This is where our hero, very much an Australian Red Heeler, got to be named Blue.

Then, another baby came into the household, and our boy Blue apparently didn’t realize little girls are not cattle and shouldn’t be wrangled like the livestock he was bred to herd. His bad. Sorry. After that incident, Blue was given back to Keith where he remained for a few years.

Then…then there’s THIS bitch (hint: me) who comes along and is immediately infatuated with this ginger and white speckled dummy and I think I all but begged Keith and Mom to let me have Blue. They resisted at first, but eventually, the ol’ Hoffmeyer Charm corrodes away at your psyche like battery acid and I was rewarded him as my payoff for more torture.

I was a nervous first-time mom with Blue. He came to me wearing a metal collar. I had set up his food and water dish in the kitchen and nearly killed my then-husband from screaming so loud because at 3am, this dog decided it was the perfect time to a keg stand on his water dish and the sound of the chain hitting the bowl or, rather, just that sound at 3am in general was awfully disconcerting because I apparently had forgotten we now had a dog in the apartment. Needless to say, early the next morning, that collar was removed and a nice, quiet nylon one was purchased.

Blue was my companion for the next four years, as he always seemed to take to me more than Jason (good boy, Blue). I was the more cuddly/snuggly/lemme bury my face in your neck fur/sleep on Jason’s side of the bed because I like you more than him one. And Blue devoured it. He was so well-behaved, for the most part. He did have his “fuck you, dog” moments, but all dogs do.

Perhaps the most memorable was when over my old sister-in-law’s house—who just happened to have a greyhound. It was wildly entertaining to see this sleek, beautiful greyhound running literal circles around my stout, scrappy dog until! Until, my friends, millions of years of evolution kicked in and you could hear the synapse in Blue’s head fire that finally connected the “dude, you’re a cattle herding dog, not a chase a goddamn greyhound in circles dog” thing and one thing you knew, Blue was getting his ass kicked by a greyhound, then Blue stopped mid-run, eyeballed Mo the Greyhound, calculated his next move and shot out after him, cutting him off. It was the most science-y thing I’ve ever seen. I loved it.

Blue also earned the nickname “John Lithgow” from Chad and myself. Why is this, you ask? Was Blue in “Third Rock From the Sun”? Did Blue express an affinity for acting a wide range of characters?

No. Blue got himself this name because we discovered one evening while dancing to whatever the hell kind of music dorks like Chad and I listen to, Blue did not cotton to dancing and tried to bite our heels to keep us from dancing.

In other words, Blue was like John Lithgow from the wildly popular ‘80s movie “Footloose” where John Lithgow plays the small town preacher man who bans dancing because it is evil. Oh sure, sounds hilarious, but until you’ve had a few cubic meters of pressure from a goddamn cattle dog just aching to snap your Achilles tendon in twain, it really isn’t all that comical. It’s quite dangerous. I’m amazed we all survived.

It was me and Blue, Blue and me, and that’s the way it should always be.

And it was, until life changed and Blue got sent back to live with Ma and Keith. I looked for that dog for an entire week after I gave him back. I was living in the basement of a friend’s house and had to keep Blue away because there was a kitty at the new place and if there’s one thing ol’ Blue hates more than dancin’, it’s them kitties.

It was rough, of course. But he was back where he belonged and that was good enough for me…even though my mom got him fat off ice cream and Keith liked to feed him M&M’s and I know…I know…

In retrospect, Blue led a pretty wonderful existence. Mom and Keith say I spoiled him by letting him crawl up on furniture and give out puppy kisses and his always constant need to be within a few feet of his people or he feels like he isn’t doing his job properly.
I say Ma and Keith spoiled him with the aforementioned snacks and also letting him up on the furniture but always blaming that bad habit on me.

And now for some truth, and this is going to make me sound absolutely batshit.

Blue’s death is really hitting me far, far harder than I ever expected it would. Dogs have a short lifespan. Years of overbreeding or trying to engineer the perfect dog has mutated these beasts to snorting, flat-nosed, weak hipped, arthritic sacks of fur and we’re sad when something we’ve genetically tinkered with dies? And at a supposed rate 7 times our own (still the best joke to make to your dog, though: “Wayland, you’re 3 years old now. You’re a man. It’s time to get yourself a goddamn job! Quit scratching yourself and get a girlfriend!” Anthropomorphizing animals is fun.

(Here’s the crazy) Blue here, well, he was really the only “man” I could trust and who loved me when I got angry at him or forgot to feed him or walk him. He would greet me the same way every night I got home from work. He would still run up to me, digging his claws into my hips, me grabbing his front paws, and we’d dance around for a few seconds—until he’d jump down and try to chomp my heels apart. Aside from that, his love was unconditional even when there were times I absolutely did not deserve to have him hold me in such high regard: when I yelled at him for getting into the outside garbage can, or for constantly barking at the squirrels in the tree he would no way ever catch, or for his whining.

With Blue dying, I’m finally getting to understand these people who think they’ve suffered some great cataclysmic loss in their lives and had their guts ripped out absolutely refuse to move on from it. “I’ll never love again,” would always make me roll my eyes and mutter, “oh, shut the fuck up, you fuckin’ goomba” under my breath, but no…I understand it now. Over a goddamn dog. Humans are so goddamn wrapped up in their own problems that they forget others around them can be suffering some sort of loss or loneliness but be too self-absorbed to know it or just don’t know how to do anything to help, or feel like they’re bothering you if you try to offer meager help. Anxiety gets in our way. The fear of…whatever gets in our way.

Animals can see your hurt and even though all they can do it stick out their tongue and lick your eyeball, or put their wet noses in your ear and snort, that’s sometimes more love and affection people show each other, so I fully understand wanting to build up that goddamn wall to ward all those who dare be stupid enough to enter. Dogs are fucking smart. People are not.

My advice? Be more like a dog.

Yes, even if that means licking your own butt.

Okay, maybe not, but do all that other crap about unconditional love and if you really have to be weird about it, lick an eyeball, but that’s it.

December 7, 2016

I need to preface this by saying I am an asshole. I am not being denigrating. I am being factual. Eighty percent of the time, I am sweet and friendly, but the other twenty percent of the time, I can be a real rotten bitch, and I have been stewing over something all day that has raised my aggression a few notches, and because I want to get this shit out of my head, I’m going to write about it. If you don’t feel like reading this, I totally get it and no hard feelings, I promise.

And away we go!

A casual stroll through my previous posts on this here blog will affirm that I suffer from depression. I’ve written about this countless times. Second most frequent posts are about quitting smoking (which I’m revving up for again. I discovered I have two boxes of nicotine patches in the bathroom closet and I was all “huh.” If I’m anything, I’m consistent in my attempts).

I wasn’t always depressed. I lived a fair chunk of my life happy-go-lucky. I wasn’t a depressed teenager or anything like that. I remember the D word being uttered probably ten years ago when I went to have my yearly pap smear. The doctor was chatting with me and one thing led to another and next thing I knew, I had a prescription for Cymbalta in my little hands. I hated the stuff as it made me feel like nothing. Not joyful when I needed to be, not sad when I needed to be, just…flat. It’s such a bizarre feeling to know you should be expressing some sort of emotions but are physically incapable of doing so. That was my brief stint in psychopathy, I think. Needless to say, I quit that medication and honestly don’t recall if I ever took anything after that. I don’t think so. I think it was more of a “well, that didn’t work out, did it?” and I managed to go a few years drug-free. I can see now that I was getting depressed, but I guess just thought I could handle it.

The next time depression was seriously brought up was in 2010 and going through the hell that was the decline of my marriage. Lacking coping skills, I turned to getting drunk nightly and a bevy of other questionable activities. Nothing like drugs or that, but having an emotional affair with a guy, and honestly, I’m not sure if that’s any better.

I could tell I was heading down a bad path and sought help through the employee assistance program at work. These services are great for the most part, but I was only allowed 5 visits with the therapist and wasn’t too keen on having to find another one and start over from scratch with someone else, but I did eventually. I then had my little mental breakdown in July 2010 which landed me at Bryan West in the Effective Disorders unit and spent a fun-filled 3 days being doped to the gills and having to participate in group therapy and color mandalas. It was wild. I highly don’t recommend it.

On release, I was under the care of a wacky psychiatrist named Raphael Tatay. He was five feet tall and Spanish and had a rich Spanish accent that made it difficult to understand him at times. He pronounced my name “Air-leen” and would sing me weird little songs he made up, like “zee fay-moos Air-leen Zook-ooskee!” He saw me while in the hospital, started me on drugs to help me sleep, for anxiety, and depression. He diagnosed me with PTSD caused by my divorce, and would see me every three months for three minutes so I could get refills. I went through two therapists in that time. One gal was at his office and had some sort of eye disorder that she literally could not make eye contact with you when you spoke to her. Not to be an ass, but that was distracting as all hell. I found myself trying to position my head to look at her, but that didn’t work. Also, we didn’t have good rapport, which happens.

The next gal I saw had her office out of her home and I remember two things about this woman: she had a giant black dog who would wander around, and she always wore the same outfit whenever we met. For whatever reason, that was a deal breaker for me. Well, that and the expense of her visits got to be too much to handle, so I stopped going.

In 2012, I switched my care to a different psychiatrist and this is the guy who “diagnosed” me with bipolar 2. I feel good about placing the sarcastic quotes around “diagnosed” because his super thorough diagnostic tool was a single page with ten questions. He took one look, said, “yep. Bipolar 2,” and put me on different medications. Neat.

Oddly enough, I got put on Abilify and it was helpful. Abilify is for bipolar disorders. Abilify is also close to $1,000 a month, but ONLY $600 with insurance and a prescription assistance card! Hey now! Seeing as I couldn’t even begin to pay for that, I got switched to lamictal, the drug I am/was currently on/stopped taking. I didn’t last long on that because I ended up in Texas a few months later, losing my health insurance, so I couldn’t afford prescriptions.

Until early this year, I wasn’t taking anything, so I managed almost a solid three years, save the weird fiasco after my hysterectomy in 2014 where I got put on some medications which was a nightmare, but whatever.

The thing with antidepressants/antipsychotics is this: they are a straight up crapshoot. They aren’t like beta blockers or diuretics for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Psych meds are notorious for being consistently inconsistent from person to person. Abilify may help some people, or it could totally fuck with your program. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the medications I’ve been on in ten years:

Trazodone, Remeron, Geodon, Ativan, Cymbalta, Abilify, Lamictal, Effextor, Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Wellbutrin again, Ativan again, Trintellix, and Lamictal again.

Impressive, no? And the shit of it is, there’s more I can try still! Lots more! Based on my recent assessment and getting a more definitive diagnosis of major depression and generalized anxiety, there’s a whole slew of antidepressants I could take! Zoloft! Paxil! Effexor again, but in a much higher dose! Buspar! So many others! Terrific!

I don’t know if I want to take medication right now, and based on my list, I don’t think I could be blamed for that. That’s a lotta failed medications for one woman. I also know it’s still going to be a shot in the dark with finding a good one for me, too, obviously since I compiled quite the listy-list. It’s fucking frustrating and exhausting and sometimes sucks physically (looking at you, Trintellix and Lamictal).

There’s a big “but” coming here and why I declared myself an asshole earlier.

But. I know I lack some of the necessary components to functioning normally, a wildly subjective term, but just go with me here. My brain mishandles serotonin for whatever goofy reason…genetics, mostly. Thanks, Ma and Pa! I don’t have enough of the stuff, unfortunately. I am in therapy again and adore my Therapist as she’s teaching this old dog some new tricks, but again, that isn’t enough, I don’t think. I need to find the sweet spot between learning coping mechanisms, an effective medication, and to get regular exercise, as I know for a goddamn fact this power trio will get me to a good place.

As you can tell, it’s been an interesting ten years for Ol’ Grey Eyes here (my super cool nickname for myself).

And now for being an a-hole!

Obviously, I’ve been through some stuff personally during this time. Divorce, being in a verbally and emotionally abusive “relationship” with an alcoholic, unemployed for ten months, two major surgeries, dealing with my father’s cancer and recent death, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Yet, despite all this, I somehow have maintained a fairly decent outlook on life. The eternal optimist, I guess. I could absolutely give the world a double-barreled middle finger salute and choose to wallow in pity and despair because I think I’ve earned that chance to do so, but I don’t wanna. Yes, I’ve had some setbacks (Chantix-induced meltdown, anyone?), but I keep fighting to get back.

Depression gets to people in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to express your mental illness. Perhaps I’m more of a high functioning depressive than I realize, but for the most part, I do fairly okay-ish. For having a major depressive disorder, I’m still weirdly optimistic about life and what I can do with mine. That’s not to say I am 1000% happy and content in it because I most certainly am not. Mounting debt, not having a place to call my own, general discontent with my career status and wanting to further my education but lacking the funds to pursue it further, dealing with sometimes crippling grief…none of this is a goddamn picnic.

There are days when I let depression and anxiety run my life. There are days when I truly and honestly wish I wasn’t alive anymore so I didn’t have to deal with any of this. There are days when I eye my bottle of Ativan and think what a good idea it would be to take the entire bottle and hopefully go to sleep and hopefully never wake up. There are days where I am so goddamn angry at certain people in my life, I physically start shaking and it feels like every muscle in my body is being wound up into a hate ball until there will be too much tension and I’ll fucking snap. There are days were grief kicks me squarely in my face and it feels like I lost Dad a few hours ago instead of seven months ago.

But then, there are days when I wake up a different person. I feel good. I think I even look good. I smile at myself in the bathroom mirror and go, “you’re alright, Hoffmeyer.” I feel like I’m a good person. I feel like I am loved and treasured. I look back to days where I wish myself dead and think, “my god, woman! Really? Why would you ever have such wicked thoughts about yourself?”

I mentioned a paragraph ago that depression gets to people differently, and that’s true. It certainly does.

People also deal with their depression in different ways, too. I like to think I’m doing it right, and by that I mean I’m still kicking around despite how irritatingly difficult it’s been as of late. Again, I could very well throw in the towel and give up, letting depression win.

I’m going to be brutally honest and perhaps a hypocrite here, but that’s not new to me, so here goes: I cannot tolerate people who let their depression get the best of them in the way that they give up on themselves. I realize how stupid this is because that’s kind of the definition of having depression…but I hope some sense is made from what I’m trying (poorly) to say. And here’s the dickhead in me shining through:

You have your depressed folks that are fighting for their lives even when they have days when they don’t want to.

Then, you have your depressed folks that wallow in their own misery, throw pity parties for themselves constantly, and don’t make any effort to get better. They are perfectly content to being a victim to their illness.

I hate that shit so much. I hate when people throw their own flags in the ring. I hate when people choose to throw their fights.

I’m not entirely sure depression is their underlying cause for this attitude, though. Again, despite my depression, I am weirdly optimistic in general. I like to shine the silver linings to my clouds. I think the frames of my rose-colored glasses compliment my cheekbones well.

I think if you’re a negative person, you might have a tougher time dealing with your depression. They get the “what’s the fucking point?” mentality that isn’t depression-related, but being a miserable person in general related.

And there are two things in this world I despise. 1) Arrogance. 2) Negative fucking people. 3) People who can’t count and make lame jokes about counting things. Get out of my goddamn face, the both of yas.

I have an aunt who is the latter. She’s a miserable fucking human being. I do not get along well with this woman because of this. I bet if you were to pit the two of us together and we were to compare our mental illnesses, we’d be fairly on par diagnosis wise. But if you were to ask her, she would genuinely think she’s the only person in the entire history of the universe who has had it as bad as she has. Her struggle is the epitome of struggle. She should be martyred.

There are no words biting, cutting, or that express the amount of utter disgust and contempt I have for people like this.

Fuck me, now I’m all pissed off again. I had worked myself into a terrific tizzy earlier today thinking about something similar and man alive, was I ever angry! And how!

But do you get what I mean? I’m not saying I am free from being a detestable cow, but I snap the fuck out of it! I go, “okay, Erin. That’s quite enough of this.” And I stop!

Goddamn, seriously.

I’m all flustered and lost my steam and I’m hungry, so perhaps this is a good stopping point.

To reiterate, I don’t always love my life or what I’ve done/haven’t done with it, but I don’t let that get me down much. I don’t cotton to “everything happens for a reason,” either. Sometimes, it just isn’t the right time for things to fall into place, you know? I know.

Alright, 2,400 words is enough for one evening. I’m glad I was able to write tonight because this is the shit I had trouble remembering yesterday, so perhaps my brain isn’t totally fucked after all! Yay!

Before I go for realsies, know this: depression is an asshole. Do not let it tear you down to its level. Do whatever it takes to make you feel like your life matters and that you matter to people, because you fucking do. I don’t mince words like that, especially when it comes to this topic. You fucking fight, and you fucking fight like hell. I promise you it’s worth it.

As always, thank you for reading.

E

 

December 6, 2016

Every Tuesday night, time negotiable, my best friend/sister/heterosexual lifemate Jamie and I partake in something we have dubbed “Writing Babies,” or #WritingBabies, for those who see this annoying hashtag and photos of our laptops in various locations on social media. It started back when I lived in Austin and the both of us fancying ourselves wordsmiths, would take our computers to either a coffee shop or a local bar and we’d write. That’s it. Just write. It grew to be a favorite thing we did and there’s something about sitting quietly with someone you love, enjoying each others company, and doing something we both like to do. I adore it when I can make similar connections with people, my other favorite is listening to music, and I’m fortunate to have someone to do that with, as well.

Anyway, Jamie’s still in Texas and I am not, and after a three year hiatus, she suggested we start this up again and I wholeheartedly agreed, so here we are. Even though we’re 15 hours and 900 miles away, for an hour every week, it feels like we’re together and if that isn’t the sweetest goddamn thing, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to write about all day, and wouldntcha know it, when it comes down to the time to open up the Dell and peck away at the keyboard, my mind goes blank. Twenty-three hours a goddamn day, my mind is a flurry of activity when I desperately want it to chill out for a few hours and give me peace, but my brain decides the optimal time to freeze up is when I needed it to be sharp. Sonuvabitch. It doesn’t help that I’m also watching Westworld because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and so far I have this to say: robots? In the Old West? And Sir Anthony Hopkins? I don’t hate it yet, but my judgement of movies/shows isn’t to be trusted.

So, I guess I’ll just prattle on about random shit then. I’m good at that.

I stopped taking my mood stabilizer because a) I didn’t see the need for it anymore given my recent mental assessment suggesting I am not bipolar or its type 2 cousin, b) I’m forgetful with pills after a while and after my third day of forgetting, I just decided to eff it and see what happened. For the most part, it wasn’t that helpful of a medication to me anyway and I wasn’t noticing a huge improvement in regards to my mood.

OR SO I THOUGHT.

I’ve been off lamictal for almost two weeks and the last two days have been kinda shitty in the mood department. Yesterday was, in a word, shitty. The ol’ familiar sting of irritability and anger ebbed and flowed all day. It was great. I loved it. Today was better mood-wise a little bit, but I’ve discovered I’m stupid? That was rude of me to say about myself. Let me rephrase that: my brain is not cooperating with me, as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Quite a few times during the day, I’d be thinking of something and then poof, gone. I can’t remember what I was going to write about. There are other examples, but I…can’t…remember…them… Either this medication/depression/anxiety in general fuck with your memory, or I have early onset dementia, which really, at this point in the game, I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.

It’s upsetting, if I may be honest. It seems to be getting worse, too, which is great fun. I’ve always been a little bit of a ditz, but the frequency of me doing something and then forgetting what I was going to do next is increasing. I’ve brought this up to the several healthcare providers who have seen me over the last few months and all seem to think it is my mental illness being a dick, not anything overly concerning, so I guess I’ll relax. It’s still annoying, though. It’s hard to concentrate when you lose the reason why you’re concentrating.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about continuing medications. Given my poor history with consistency and forgetting to take pills, plus the whole “hey, ingest something into your body that fucks up your brain chemistry” thing is a bit off-putting at times. We’ll see, I guess. Therapist has been trying to work with me in regards to “mindful thinking,” since I do think so goddamn much, might as well make sense of what I spend so much time pondering.

It’s pretty simple, really. My biggest hurdle is never allowing myself to feel an emotion, namely anger or sadness. Lately, whenever I’ve been faced with these particular feelers, I am to stop and acknowledge the emotion (Cool. I’m pissed off). Next step is to identify why I’m having this emotion (Cool. I’m pissed off because of xyz). Then, I’m to allow myself to experience this emotion, no questions asked or trying to talk myself out of feeling the way I do (Cool. I’m pissed off because of xyz, and having this reaction is perfectly fine and normal and just roll with it, baby).

Surprisingly, it’s been useful so far. I know right? Weird!

I like therapy. I like Therapist. I hope I can keep building on things to reach the ultimate goal of being more expressive of myself. Can you even believe that’s my goal? To speak? My god!

That’s all I have for now since I can’t seem to focus any more.

Thank you all kindly for reading.

E

 

 

 

A Suggestion

Good evening.

Let me cut through the b.s. and get right to it. This will also be short and sweet today. It’s a Christmas miracle and not 1,800 words of me prattling on.

I decided this morning over my coffee that I think I’m going to stop apologizing for writing my feelings as compared to speaking them. Now, before anyone assembles an angry mod with pitchforks, let me reassure you this doesn’t mean I’ve given up and will continue working on being more vocal, because I will keep trying to speak more openly. It means that for now, I am embracing the fact I have an outlet for my emotions, which is jotting them down, and at least I do that in favor of never expressing them at all.

I know some people may disagree with this method, but may I offer a suggestion, please? And I don’t mean to sound defensive here…even though it sounds a little bit that way, but in regards to helping me speak more, perhaps you can bring up what I’ve written about (if you’ve read it, that is) and try to make a conversation with me about it. Not only does that prove you care enough about me to want to get more information, but it will also help with getting me to feel comfortable with verbalizing.

As a compromise, I can write the titles to these posts as click-bait articles: Today Is Monday and You Won’t Believe What Happened To Erin! It Will Amaze You!

Or not.

Mull it over. Let me know what you think. Ooh, or make a PowerPoint demonstrating your opinions as to why this is/is not a good idea. Cite your sources, please.

Thank you.

 

November 22, 2016

A three-peat of posts? Who do I think I am, the Chicago Bulls? Incredible!

(The Bulls won championships in 1991, 1992, and 1993, and again in 1996, 1997, and 1998 for those who didn’t quite get the poor joke I made. Thank you to those who found it humorous. And yes, I had to google my own joke.)

I just got done with my weekly therapy session and I felt the need to write, so I am doing so at the coffee shop close to home, and I’m sipping on chamomile tea and eating the best goddamn frosted sugar cookie I’ve had in a while. It’s crumbly and I’m sure some have fallen onto the keyboard, let alone the fact I’m typing with one slightly sticky hand now (from the cookie; gross, you guys. Grow up). This is why I can’t have nice things.

Tonight, I’m going to address something that I struggle with, and that is The V Word.

No, not “vagina,” although I like to joke that I could never be a lesbian because I am squeamish around other cunts. Bless anyone’s heart for dealing with these things. I thank you for your service.

No, sillies, I mean VULNERABILITY. 

(Insert a great clap of thunder, terrifying lightning, and flickering electronic devices as the word is read.)

First of all, what is it? The dictionary defines it as such: vul·ner·a·ble–adjective; susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. Synonyms include helpless, defenseless, powerless, impotent, weak, susceptible. Used in a sentence, “We were in vulnerable position.”

In general, I do not like to make myself feel any of the above. I am smart enough to realize I cannot prevent this from happening, but goddamn it if I don’t try. I do take issue with the word “weak,” though. I don’t find being vulnerable as being weak. It takes a great deal of courage to express yourself in a way as to be perceived as being vulnerable. Opening up and exposing the raw bits of you to other people is terrifying, which is why I don’t do it, or do it very rarely.

I never considered myself to be a controlling person, but with the amount of self-awareness I’ve been made to do over the last few months via therapy, I certainly can be! I recall a moment this last July when with two people I trust, one asked if they could drive since I had been doing all of it. I quickly said, “no!” And then followed up with “don’t take away the minimal amount of power I have!”

I can also be a bit of a control freak at work to an extent. I don’t like accepting help from coworkers unless I am forced to. I like to think I have shit under control most of the time, but will begrudgingly ask for assistance when it comes down to it.

I do most things by myself, as well. If I have a problem, yo, I’ll solve it, check out this hook while the DJ revolves it. I detest asking for help, although again, I will when I must. I won’t like it, but I’ll do it.

My dad was like this, too. When he was going through chemo and it really started to kick his ass, whenever we would go to his oncologist and she’d ask him how he was doing, knowing two weeks prior, he was puking his guts out, in pain, and leading a miserable existence, he’d smile and say he was doing okay.

“You’re not going to get a medal for pretending everything is OK when I know it hasn’t been, Dan,” she said to him one time. I started clapping and yelled “THANK YOU!” to her, because from my point of view, he was enduring so much but trying to act like it wasn’t a big deal. It’s cool, I got this…while breaking down crying at having me to see him in such a low state.

Sound familiar to anyone? Huh. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

I could probably think myself stupid as to why I am also this way, and believe me, I’ve tried. I think most of it comes from not wanting to bother anyone. I know that’s annoyingly cliche and the stereotypical reply, but truly y’all. We all have our own shit to deal with, why should I encumber  you with my problems, as well? I shouldn’t, so I don’t.

And yet, by doing so, I inadvertently push people away and I sit and wonder, “gosh, where is everyone?” I never claimed to be smart.

Also, historically speaking, and it seems like I’m really ragging on the old husband a lot lately, and I totally am because fuck that guy, I became controlling and fearful of asking for help because I couldn’t rely on him for anything, from talking to me to knowing what the fuck to do if an appliance broke. His solution was to ignore it, which trickled down to me quite literally. If you ignore it, it goes away, right? Well, yes, which is why he’s my ex-husband. Ooh! Burn.

Tonight, Therapist and I were discussing what I do with my emotions when I have them. I know it seems like I don’t do anything with them, but that’s far from the truth. I just internalize the shit out of them, but not the way of suppressing them, but rather raging a battle in my head about what I feel. Pissed off? I will fucking rip you to shreds in my thoughts. I know I am angry, I understand why I am angry, and I do let myself be angry, but you’ll hardly know it, save the ultra-mature method of sulking and pouting. I don’t want to fly off the cuff at you in an outburst of fury and say shit I will regret and never can take back, so I stew in it. Then, I ruminate over it. I try to see the other person’s point of view and what happened that made me angry and try to understand them, if that makes sense in my jumbled wording.

You make me mad, I get mad, but then I try to empathize with you, saying stuff like, “well, it wasn’t meant to be taken that way, I’m just overreacting to the situation,” and in doing so, I calm myself down. In theory, it’s actually a great practice. It’s mindful as fuck, too. But it’s also counterproductive because my emotions and feelings are valid and real, so express those fuckers! But I get worried I’ll offend or say something awful, so I have the argument meant for two people in my mind like some sort of crazy person.

Therapist then said, “you have no trouble expressing yourself when you write.” There has nary been a truer statement uttered in all of mankind.

You know why I love to write, especially about shit like this?

Because I have control over every aspect of it. I can write what I feel and not have to deal with someone trying to get their two cents in, or getting me flustered, or talking over me to make their point. I can say what I want to say in the safety of my own space, I can stop and think for a few seconds before I type without having the conversation commandeered from me. I don’t have to make myself vulnerable to another person. I mean, writing is fucking amazing and I love it.

Some of you probably don’t love it as much as I do. Actually, there’s no “probably” about that. I know some of you hate that I can write so well about a variety of things, yet can’t open my gob in person.

I know I’ve been saying this for a while now, but I’m trying to work on it. In fact, my weekly homework assignment is to intentionally be open with someone in person. Oh my gooooodddddd. I recoiled in terror at that. But I’m willing to give it a shot. Lucky for me, most of you do not exhibit the same traits as the guy I used to be married to, so I take comfort in the fact that whomever I speak to won’t wander off to get stoned or stare blankly at the television while playing video games, so that’s nice for me.

Also, please let me say this: I know I’ve been running my ex through the fucking ringer, and I want to say that he really is a good guy. Truly, he is. He just happens to be a major component on my road to understanding myself better, so unfortunately, he’s getting his ass unknowingly kicked. Sorry, dude.

I hope this makes some modicum of sense, and I hope I used the word “modicum” properly.

I want the important people in my life to read this and gain some small amount of understanding. I want them to also know I am committed to resolving my problems. That’s one thing both Therapist and the psychologist I saw said in common: “Erin, you want so badly to get better.”

They’re right. I do want to, and I will some day. Not today, though.

As usual and always, thank you for reading.

E

 

 

November 21, 2016

Two posts in as many days? By golly, it’s a pre-Christmas miracle! God bless us, every one! Give a bitch her laptop back and suddenly she thinks she’s David Foster Wallace!

I’m currently at work, waiting out the last 30 minutes of my shift before I can go home and probably over-analyze things that have happened today because that is, as the kids say, what I do.

Back in October, after having been on five different medications since March of this year, and always questioning my original diagnosis of Bipolar 2, I sought out a psychologist to do a mental health assessment to help determine what exactly is wrong with me…brain-wise, that is, and even that is a crapshoot.

I ended up taking the MMPI-2 test, which is the most widely used among head doctors. It is 600 questions of fun and took about 2 hours to answer; not because the questions were difficult or anything, but after a while, you start second-guessing yourself due to repeated questions, but in slightly different wording. It’s actually quite like the often poo-poo’ed Myers Briggs personality tests (INFP, thankyouverymuch), which I mean, yeah, that test is goofy, and admittedly, so was the MMPI-2, but if it can be used to help me manage my medications, aka find the right fucking kind of medication for fucking goddamn fucking once, I’m all for spending 2 hours on a couch in my shrink’s office.

A few days after I took it, I got told I needed further testing because this test can apparently tell when you’re flubbing the system and will render it invalid. I didn’t do that, but some of my answers were so wild in comparison to other questions, I had to come back in and chat with the psychologist a little more so she could make a more educated evaluation of me.

She started asking me questions like “do you think you’re overly particular about your personal space?” and “does it make you upset when someone borrows something of yours and doesn’t return it in the exact same spot?” The more of these types of questions she asked me, I was hip to her OCD jive and even said so to her. Hey there, lady; what are you getting at here? Can I wash my hands a few times real quick? (kidding.)

After talking with me for an hour, she said she’d have her preliminary report done in a week and come in for feedback. Okay! I was morbidly curious about it. I mean, I knew depression and anxiety would be the biggest winners of the day, but what additional piece would present itself?

As expected, I am the proud owner of a major depressive disorder of the recurrent type, generalized anxiety disorder, and drum roll please…I display several traits of obsessive compulsive personality disorder. I also have a highly addictive personality. At first she tossed out “schizo-effective disorder” and I think she saw the panic in my eyes because she quickly countered with “I don’t think you’re schizophrenic. I think your GAD (ultra-hip psych talk) is the main root of your problems with your mood.”

Ya think? Or like how I cannot wind my brain down even the slightest bit which leads to over-processing pretty much anything and everything in my life : “oh my god, he didn’t “like” my Facebook picture he hates me what did I do to make him hate me oh my god I bet it was that one time two years ago where I said something and he’s still mad at me about it and is just too polite to say it hurt his feelings but obviously he’s still upset about it otherwise he would have liked this picture and now I guess I’ll just go kill myself because what good am I to anyone at this point?” I’m sure you’re laughing, but this is pretty much exactly what I think. This is not an over-exaggeration in the least. This is 100% Erin Thought (registered trademark).

Generally speaking, I think too goddamn much, I convince myself I am right about what I’m thinking about, which leads to anxiety. There’s a fine line between being worried about something for valid reasons and being worried about things because you thought about it and have convinced yourself it’s true. I tend to face plant over that line on the reg.

She asked me how I felt therapy was going, and I like to think it’s helpful. I mean, I don’t go visit Therapist once a week just because I want to hang out. She’s cool and all, and I’m sure she’s a hoot on a personal level, but I am going to get help because I was tired of feeling shitty. I know my brain isn’t right and I want help to try to correct behaviors and coping mechanisms and deal with grief and all that other happy crappy.

I did, however, mention that I do find it somewhat difficult at times because of this pesky talking problem I have, repeating the “I can tell you want to say something, but physically stop yourself from doing so” thing, and she nodded knowingly. I hate it when people do that. I like to think I’m some complex creature with an impenetrable stone and steel wall with razor wire on top built up around me that people are left befuddled by me, but I also don’t have a very good poker face, and I give myself away. Goddamn it!

I felt the need to elaborate on why it’s so fucking tricky to get me to open up and talk.

“Feeling vulnerable?” she asked.

GODDAMN IT. STOP KNOWING WHAT MY ISSUES ARE WITHOUT ME TELLING THEM TO YOU FIRST, YOU PHD IN PSYCHOLOGY. FUCK!

I nodded, feeling tears start to form. I had to quickly take a drink of my lukewarm coffee to keep me from crying. After I regained my composure, I added this:

“I constantly think about what I want to say, but don’t say it because I’m afraid I’ll sound stupid or my thoughts don’t matter. When I was married, it was extremely difficult trying to talk to my ex-husband because he always made me feel like my thoughts were invalid. If a topic didn’t interest him, or wasn’t about something he was interested in, he’d ignore me or give curt one word replies. I just learned to not talk to him anymore.”

Sadly, this habit never went away, and also why whenever I do talk or text, I end up apologizing for “rambling” because again, I trained myself to assume everyone is like my ex-husband and is bored out of their skulls by me and wishes I would shut the fuck up already because no one cares, Erin. I want that to go away because whenever I am able to talk, I actually kind of enjoy it. It’s nice to not be ignored when I’m speaking, or being made to feel like what I have to say is inconsequential or small.

This shed some further light to Sally Psychologist (not her real name) and she asked if therapy was focused more on insight, as in trying to determine why I am the way I am, and I said yes. She asked if that was helpful for me. I said no because due to constant thinking, I’m fairly self-aware of why I do things, or at least I like to think so. She suggested ACT therapy, or “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, as a unique empirically based psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.”

In other words, take responsibility for why I am the way I am and instead of making myself feel like shit about it (you dumb bitch, why can’t you just open your goddamn mouth and speak?), acknowledge it (hey, you’re not talking again. How’s come?), and make a plan of attack to fix it (‘Member how you said it feels productive and positive to talk? Hey, do that shit). So simple, yet so fucking terrifying because of that motherfucking “vulnerability” word.

Oh, I’m also incredibly self-deprecating. Surprise!

Another major point she brought up is the addictive personality, which manifests itself in two ugly ways: smoking (duh) and drinking. She expressed concern for the drinking. She probably has valid reason to do so. I typically don’t drink during the week, with some exceptions. I save my booze for the weekend, and I make up for lost time. Full disclosure: I drink to get drunk. Past alcohol abuse and the fact I’m 70 pounds overweight means my tolerance has been built up, so it takes a lot of liquor to get me drunk, which far exceeds the normal, safe amount. I can’t drink one or two drinks and feel satisfied. I have to be that happy, chatty, word-slurry drunk.

But Erin, did you know alcohol is a depressant?

I do know! And I also know that drinking while on antidepressants is basically like taking a pill in my mouth and immediately spitting it out. It’s counterproductive. And yes, I make myself feel like shit the next day when I berate myself for drinking that much. She suggested either drastically cutting back on drinking, or abstinence from it. I have to say that I agree. With what method is yet to be decided, but I am willing to try anything.

Needless to say, I have some massively hard work ahead of me and it’s freaking me out. You mean to tell me I have to make myself communicate more and reduce my alcohol intake? *insert me flipping a table over here*

But…I want to do this stuff. I want to be able to talk without fear of being made fun of. I want to be able to wake up on a Saturday morning and not hate myself for the drinks I had the night before. I want this old dog to learn some new tricks instead of shrugging my shoulders in a “welp, that’s just the way it’s always gonna be!” way.

I am glad I did this assessment, as silly as it might seem to some. “You paid someone to tell you what you already knew?” Well…yeah, but sometimes it’s nice to have a much better understanding of what’s going on with my brain and hopefully be given the help and care I need to correct the more infuriating traits I have.

And there you have it.

As always, thank you for reading.

E