Writing is Racing

Right now, I’m a fish out of water.  I’m floundering.

I’m gasping for breath even though I’m hardly moving at all.

Too much stillness allows thoughts to zoom through my head.   Thoughts that have no business being there. Thoughts that do more harm than good.  Too much sitting is not relaxing, is not calming, is not restful.  Too much sitting is anxiety-provoking, is unsettling, is infuriating.  It’s the paradox of movement creating calmness.  Of stillness cultivating chaos.

I’m a runner who can’t run.  And it sucks.

Yes, I’m trying to compensate. I’m doing strength training right now – something needed, something I had been neglecting.  It’s fine.  It is toning my triceps.  It is the band-aid on the wound.

It is not enough.

Nothing feels the same, nothing give me the same rush as running does. No other type of exercise even comes close.  Yes, I can work out, but I don’t get the head-clearing release. I don’t get the skin-tingly euphoria.

My orthopedic surgeon told me that he can repair tendons, ligaments, cartilage, but he “can’t fix runners”.  Runners are broken people, before they get injured.  Runners need running for self-repair, even if it destroys their bodies in the process.

I’ve been dreaming about it, lately.  Dreaming about running pain-free.  Night after night after night. I’m running and I’m strong and I’m happy.  And then I wake up and I remember. I mourn. I miss it. Nothing feels the same.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Except.

Writing sort of does.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

It’s the closest thing I’ve found.  Way closer than strength training.  I don’t know how it works, but I get the same feeling in my head, the same tingling on my skin.

Maybe it’s because just like my legs move back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, on the pavement, my fingers are performing the same action across the keyboard. Over and over and over and over and over. For hours.

Maybe it’s like when I make my two fingers crawl across the table and then use them to tickle my daughter under her chin – my fingers race, mimicking the action of running, my fingers find that sweet spot, making my daughter erupt in giggles, mimicking the euphoria at the end.

With either activity, the writing or the running, there’s always a time goal, a publishing goal, an endurance goal, a self-preservation goal.  Some kind of goal.  There’s always the elusive search for a personal record.

With writing, or racing, sometimes I hate it, more than I could ever hate anything, and sometimes it feels better than I could imagine, leaving me high for days after.  I never really know going into it how a session will pan out.

Either way, both are always hard.  Both make me scream out loud.  Both make me cry. Both make me laugh.  Both help me breathe more deeply.  Both make me frolic and jump out of my skin with excitement.  Both wring out my body and wring out my soul.  Both are energy depleting, but are exhilarating in the process.

Both expose the real me.

Right now writing is my racing.  Until racing can be my racing.

10 Ways Depressives and Drunks are Similar

1.They tend to have a genetic predisposition.  Something in the brain is a little haywire, slightly imbalanced.  Both are examples of invisible diseases.

2. They get a boatload of judgment.  Both get the, “Aren’t you over that yet?”  Both get unsolicited tips.  “Just stop after one”.  “Just get outside”.  “Just appreciate what you have”.  “Just get over it”.  Rarely does any good advice begin with, “Just”.  One of the most ridiculous is, “Stop being so selfish”.

3. They don’t want to be this way.  As beautiful as a good drink feels, no one wants to be hooked. As needed as a good cry is, no one wants to be unable to fathom happiness. These are not pleas for attention, the behavior is a result of the disease, uncontrolled.

4. They relapse.  Even when the disease is managed, there are still ups and downs. There are depressive dives and days (weeks/months/years) when long-sober alcoholics might contemplate a drink. Or take one. Or more.

5. They take things day by day.  Forever.  It’s not over, not ever.  There is no, “I’m done with that now”.  There is a split-second moment in almost every single day in which the person isn’t sure if they will make it.

6. They push people they love away. They act like assholes, highly emotional and illogical while in the thick of it.  They’re unpredictable.  They say things they do not mean. They are too intoxicated, or too tired to be nice.

7. Sometimes they smell.  Or otherwise don’t take care of themselves. Stress has an odor.  Alcohol has an odor.  Sweat has an odor.  Both are gangrenous, eating a person alive from the inside out, emitting the stench of decay in the process.

8.  They can be a drag to be around.   They can be wildly out of control or barely-breathing, impossible to move from the bed.  It can be exhausting to stay positive and uplifting when the person you are with is neither of those things.

9. Left unchecked both result in a slow, toxic death.  Unpleasant to think about, but all too true.  The alcoholics know it.  The depressives know it.  For some reason the friends and family don’t always know it.

10. They tend to benefit from support groups and networks.  Alcoholics Anonymous, church groups, online groups.  It’s usually helpful to talk to others who understand a situation.  If you fall into either category, you are not alone.  Not even close.

depressives and drunks

Need some help getting some help?  Here are a few relevant links:

Alcoholics Anonymous

Al-Anon (For friends and families of alcoholics)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

Reddit: Depression Online Support Group

Supporting a Family Member or Friend With Depression

Three Dirty Wash Cloths Can Put A Parent With Anxiety and Depression Over The Edge

Laundry is not a chore I mind doing. It’s something I can do while I’m doing other things around the house.  It doesn’t require me to get my hands dirty.  It’s not too physically demanding, except when I lug the basket up and down the stairs, but then I can pretend I’m getting some cardio in.  I like the way our detergent smells. I like taking the mess of dirty clothes and ending up with the neatly folded piles.  I like the way it feels when it is all done. Every hamper emptied. Every drawer stuffed full of folded clothes. When I’m done with the laundry, I know I’ve done it right and I really like that feeling.

Most things I do don’t give me that absolute feeling of successful completion, of knowing the job was well done.

Parenting is certainly not a job that leaves me feeling that way.  Especially being a parent that deals with anxiety and depression.

I try to do a lot of things for me, to ward of the depressive slumps, because doing so helps make me a better mama. One of them is running.  Nothing on this planet feels as good as a long run. Running makes every molecule in my body vibrate.  Right now a pretty significant hip injury has left me unable to run for several weeks. WEEKS.  And my body is not responding kindly. Other than the shooting, stabbing, searing pain in my hip joint, for the past four weeks it has felt like my legs are numb.  I’ve been wading through thigh-deep water instead of just walking like a normal person on land.  The other day I stood in place in the middle of my kitchen and had to think, much longer than should ever make sense, about walking to the garage to grab my shoes and then carrying them to the front door, or just walking outside barefoot because I wasn’t sure I could manage the extra trip across my house.  Lately I am moving very slowly. I am dropping things.  I am worried I will not be able to run the marathon I signed up for. I am not happy.

Maybe it’s my mind that isn’t responding kindly.

This month there have been so many days that I’ve felt like I didn’t have the energy to be the best parent I could be.  When I get like this, I worry I’m not doing enough arts and crafts, or taking the kids outside enough, or reading enough books.  I worry about my toddler watching too much t.v.  I worry I’m not giving enough attention to my youngest.

Lately I keep hearing a lot about how if you’re worried you’re a good parent, then you shouldn’t worry because that means you are one.  Which is sort of confusing.  Does that mean to stop worrying?  Because I’m worried now.  Is that good? Now I’m worried that I don’t even know the right way to worry.

Today I was finishing the final fold and had the, “Ahhhh” feeling of a task fully completed.  I exhaled for a minute.

Until I went into the girls bathroom and saw this:

This is enough to put a parent with anxiety issues into a tailspin.

This is enough to put a parent with anxiety issues into a tailspin.

I shit you not my heart jumped a beat. How did I miss this?  Damn it, I thought I had done all the laundry, but here are three wash cloths in the sink!  It’s like even though I did five loads of laundry today and everything is folded and put away, it all the sudden doesn’t count because of three dirty wash cloths.  For some reason it made all the more insulting that they were still wet.

And I know it doesn’t matter. I know that by tomorrow we’ll have dirty onesies and socks and bibs and whatnot, so what’s the big deal?   I know it shouldn’t bother me.

But it does.

So even though I’ve come a long way, I realize I am always on edge. My anxieties are raging.  I’m always worried that something won’t be good enough. The kicker? Something always won’t be.  And usually the more I worry about it, the more I screw shit up.  Or at least the more I notice.  Either way – that’s not a good situation to set oneself up for.

I’m working on it.  Usually at the end of the night I do a final load of dishes and clean up the living room and kitchen, making it somewhat presentable before I pour my glass of wine and relax on the couch.  I pat myself on the back on the nights I’m able to step over the baby toys on the floor and just leave them.  I’m happy to report that there have been days that I have been able to do this and let it go.

Today just wasn’t one of them.

The Six Week Check-Up

She started walking two days after,
running within a week.
Each day she ran those miles faster!
Physically, she would quickly peak.

She ran to combat it,
her becoming a disaster.
She was afraid to bring it up,
she was scared they would ask her.

But even more afraid of that,
she feared that they wouldn’t.
They had to bring it up,
she knew that she couldn’t.

It was hidden inside her,
like a wire wrapping her psyche,
cutting into her brain,
she felt the pressure, tightly.

It just might kill her,
if that wire tightened more.
It would shred her to pieces,
it would sever her core.

You look great! They said.
Her appearance fooled them.
She looked healthy. Strong.
She smiled and wooed them.

But she was not okay.
She was sick, deep inside.
She felt weak. Embarrassed.
The disease was easy to hide.

She was wearing herself to the bone,
running from fear, running for health.
She could not be trusted to be alone,
not with the baby, or her own self.

She wore a mask, to appear in control,
as the docs droned on and on.
They didn’t notice the void behind either eye hole,
or their patient, so withdrawn.

Everything looked good, or so they said.
Amazing! Bravo! Congratulations!
Smiling, the doctor shook her head.
But there were serious internal complications.

They never asked about it,
which she thought was bizarre.
She smiled and left.
And cried in the car.

Don't wait for the doctor to ask you about postpartum depression.  Bring it up yourself.

Don’t wait for the doctor to ask you about postpartum depression. Bring it up yourself.

The Secret

She had to hide It somewhere. Somewhere safe. So, she cut herself open, quickly, before anyone could see It. It had to be hidden from view from prying eyes. From her own eyes.

The pain of the cut was nothing compared to the pain Exposure would bring. Or so she thought. She shoved it inside her chest cavity, wedged beneath her lung, impeding her breathing, but just a little. She could deal with it. Hopefully.

She cleaned up the blood and hastily stitched up the wound, much more concerned with the functionality of the stitches than the aesthetics.

She didn’t bury it as deep as it could go. It was a somewhat superficial burial, but an effective one, nonetheless. Too deep and It could do some serious damage to the internal organs. Too shallow and It could burst through the artificial seam, undoing all the work she had put into harboring It.

Because of Its relative proximity to the surface, sometimes It pressed against her wrinkled scar tissue, making it stretch… itch… ache. She ignored the nagging tension when she could, and tried to press the bulge down just a little deeper, with minimal success, when it became too much. Eventually It would subside on its own, even if only to resurface later. An internal iceberg she hoped wouldn’t sink her.

She covered up the slight bulge and occasional redness of her jagged scar with a polished wardrobe and a carefree attitude, so no one would suspect she was hiding something so ugly underneath. Inside.

If you liked this post you may also like The Monster’s Comforting Cloak.

Secret:  An internal iceberg she hoped wouldn't sink her.

Secret: An internal iceberg she hoped wouldn’t sink her.

Zip. (A Mental Health Awareness Poem)

zip.

a blooming line.

red.

zip.

zip.

a rush of agonizing relief.

ziiiiiiiiiip.

torturous and comforting.

a dislocation of the pain.

zip.

it feels better.

to bleed.

It’s National Mental Health Awareness Month.  Make an effort to become more aware.

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon

Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depression is Analogous to Treading Water

Depression is hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced it firsthand. People who are lucky enough to not understand it often brush it off, and expect the depressed to just, “snap out of it”.  There’s no limp, no rash, no wheezy cough.  It’s an invisible ailment.  The disease is misunderstood and has a negative stigma and it can be embarrassing to admit you have mental health condition.  It is also biologically based and indubitably real.

When I think about my own depression, I liken the experience to being out in the middle of an ocean, treading water.

Satellite image of Tropical Depression One-C i...

Satellite image of Tropical Depression One-C in the Central Pacific Ocean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You are just trying to keep your head above water.  You are using all of your energy to stay afloat.  You do not have energy to attend events, enjoy your hobbies or cheer on your friends.  You might be focusing so hard on surviving that you forget dates or meetings or to pick up bread from the store, or even to take your own meds. Compared to sinking and drowning in the salty sea, those other items are quite trivial.  It’s Maslow’s hierarchy in action.

You feel alone.  Stranded, stuck. There’s no one to talk to, no one to listen, no one to understand.  In a crowded room, at a family holiday, you’re still staring out at an open ocean, feeling utterly isolated.

It’s physically exhausting.  Treading water takes energy.  Your legs hurt, your neck hurts, your head hurts.  Your eyes hurt, your stomach hurts.  You’re tired.  All the time.  Tired.  You are so tired, you could fall asleep at your desk, at the grocery stores, driving your car.  You’re so tired you’re not sure how long you can keep this jig up.

You think you might not make it. Sometimes not knowing which direction leads to shore, means you remain immobile.  People who do not understand depression might think you don’t WANT to help yourself, that’s you’re being lazy – when in reality you just don’t know where to go.  You don’t know how to fix it.  You don’t know if you CAN fix it.  Sometimes something that used to help, doesn’t help anymore. You feel hopeless.

You think it might be easier to just let go and be swallowed up by the sea.  You’re just so tired and you don’t think it’ll ever get better.  You sit in the garage with the car running, thinking about shutting the door, much more often than you would ever outwardly admit.  Usually you just go inside and say hi to your spouse and start making dinner.  Some people eventually decide to stop pumping their legs and shut the garage door.

You might not be able to get out of this situation by yourself. Remember when Rose, from the movie, Titanic, was stranded at open sea, half-frozen on the trunk?  If you recall, the rescuers came to help, but at first she just blends in with the rest of the dead.  Most people can’t see how depressed you really are.  Even when the help was right there, Rose barely had the energy to reach out to them to save her own life.  The only thing that saved her was the whistle.  If you don’t have a whistle, of sorts, a way to get the help that’s needed in terms of medicine, therapists or other supports, it’s very difficult to get yourself out of the blackness.  Sometimes you have a whistle and just can’t see the rescuers.

You’re not very cordial.  You might notice that saying hello and turning the corners of your mouth upwards takes significantly more energy than you have stored within your cells.  Can you imagine a rescue team approaching someone who is stranded in the ocean, and them berating the person they are plucking from the tide because he or she isn’t affable?  Is too unsociable?  That’s the message we receive when our friends and family get upset at us for looking or acting like we feel. Sometimes we push away the lifesavers around us with our poor dispositions.  Sometimes the people we need help from the most unknowingly hold our heads under water.

Some days are okay while others are a nightmare. Sometimes treading water is okay.  Like, if it’s sunny and there’s a nice breeze and you’ve only been treading water for 20 minutes.  But, it is a whole different story if you’ve been stranded for days, without food, and it’s thunderstorming.  People with depression have good days and bad days (or months or years) depending on what’s going on and how long they’ve been feeling this way.  Seeing someone smile does not mean they are not struggling with depression.

You have irrational fantasies of being saved.  Mirages appear, making you feel like you are saved.  You think the depression will never recur.  Perhaps you’re picked up by a boat, and you think, “Hooray!  I’ll never be in this situation again!”, But inevitably, the boat gets a hole and sinks and whoever rescued you drowns and you’re back in the same blackness you fantasized about never again having to experience.  And you think, “How did I get stuck out here, AGAIN?!”  As much as you feel like it won’t, it always comes back.  It always, always does.  Hint:  That’s how you know it’s a disease.

No one is ever really cured of depression.  If you struggle with depression, you’re always treading water.  Sometimes your legs are like lead and your head keeps going under.  Other times you’ve got your floaties on, bobbing in the Sun, with a clear view of land just over your shoulder.  You’re still always treading. It’s just a matter of how far offshore you are.

For those of you who have experienced depression, how do you explain it to other people?

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