I Am Alive

You know when it’s 12:40 in the morning and you’ve just finished working on a project you started nearly two hours ago because it’s normal to start working at 10:46 PM. And you’re listening to an audiobook of some sub-genre of a self-help book because God knows you can’t help yourself these days but you get bored or really triggered by the book—but you can’t decide which—so you turn it off and try to listen to whatever music is trending on Spotify.

And you realize you don’t get today’s music. So you switch to 90s alt-rock or something called “Dreamy Vibes.”

Well, you might be turning 36 this month. Or, at least, I am.

If you know me, you know how deeply I love my birthday.

Here’s a truth: Those who deal, daily, with depression and anxiety feel really fucking lucky to make it to their next birthday. It’s just a fact. My new diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression and the subsequent med change has me feeling like April 25th is a day to shout from the rooftops that, “I AM ALIVE!”

I feel fine. Most days. I’m still very, very tired. I am fighting very hard to beat this particular side effect of my treatment. It might help if I went to bed at a normal time as my husband suggests. Repeatedly. But my body is still in some weird transition period. It will work itself out in time. It always does. The fact that I’m just exhausted and not actively thinking of ways to harm myself is a huge step forward.

But some days are hard. Some days are hard even when you’re not fighting the demons inside your own head. Life can be hard. Period. Raising two sons under my roof? Hard. Being a present and supportive birth mom even when it would be easier to hide away from the truth of what your choice meant to a large number of people? Really hard. Getting out of bed when you feel worthless? Well, that’s so hard I don’t have a word for it. But I’m doing it.

I’m doing it.

Or I’m trying to do it. Something in between the two.

Someone called me Super Woman today. I laughed because, boy, do I have the whole world fooled. Today I put on a base layer of makeup, some mascara, some clothes that hid the parts of me that I literally, viscerally hate, and I did the things that needed to be done. I carried on conversations with people who aren’t part of my inner circle. I worked really hard to get my business jobs done and my home-life jobs done. I made a healthy meal for my sons despite being on a crazy, wonky baseball season schedule. I took dogs on walks. I didn’t drive across a wide ass state and give a teenager a talking to about what is and is not appropriate to text my daughter; this was the hardest of things to do today, if you’re wondering. I learned new software. I wrote a poem because it’s both National Journaling Month and National Poetry Month and, goodness, sometimes my words make more sense when they’re written in five lines of jagged Jenna-cursive-slash-whatever-it-is-I-write in a notebook, black ink on white paper. I don’t show you those. I don’t show anyone those. Maybe someday.

I do so much.
Yet I feel like I’m worth so little.

And this is the truth of my everyday.

In three weeks, or, looking at the time again, two weeks and six days, I’ll celebrate another birthday. Despite being miles ahead of where I was two years ago at this time, I’m still struggling to just be okay. Maybe not struggling. Fighting. Fighting each step of the way because I know there’s hope on the other side of this; I know I’m going to make it through this dark night.

There’s a new tattoo in my future. And a mole removal. And some meme I saw said that if you wore those black, slip on, platform Steve Madden sandals in the 90s, it’s time for Botox. I’ve seen my wrinkles appear this year. And I literally don’t give a fuck.

Aging means I’m alive. I’m still going to dye my hair for the time being; my grandmother was completely gray at an age younger than I am now. I’m not ready, but I’m aware. I’m still getting zits, so I can’t be that old. But I refuse to subscribe to a belief that my late 30’s mean anything more than the world.

I. Am. Alive.
I am thankful.

Thank you, Amy, for all you did. May your legacy live on through those of us whose lives you touched. Our stories aren’t over yet;

 

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13 Years In Seems As Good A Time As Any To Look At Trauma, Right?

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Today my daughter turned 13.

I’ve been struggling in the past week and a half leading up to this day. When she left after a visit last week, I felt depleted, empty, and overwhelmingly anxious. I did finally schedule a therapy appointment for this coming Friday, but not before suffering through a nearly all day panic attack.

The flashbacks are the worst during this time frame. I’ll just be sitting or standing or walking, watching TV or working or cooking, and suddenly I’m in a hospital room. Or I’m driving away from New Jersey. Or I’m in the clinic office. Or I’m alone, on Level III bed rest, in my basement apartment. Or I’m in the ambulance. I can hear the words that others say, what the doctors are saying over my head as I fight for my life yet again. I can feel the cold, damp air. I can smell the antiseptic smells of the hospital.

I have a strong, photographic memory about most things. I can remember what I wore on the first day of school every year of my life. But this is a very different experience. When I want to recall something in my past, I willingly go there and rifle through memories and pick out the one I’m looking for at the time. When it comes to the flashbacks, they come uninvited, unprompted. They take my breath away, quite literally. They’ve actually gotten stronger over the past few years.

A friend of mine used the word trauma to describe what I experience, and I immediately shut down.

I recognize there’s a lot of trauma in adoption, especially for adoptees. So why did I balk?

I have the best case scenario. I have a positive, on-going relationship with my daughter. I’m great friends with my daughter’s mom. We have nearly-monthly visits, save for occasional misses due to life. My sons not only know their sister but they love her. I am surrounded by loving, compassionate friends who show up at my house when I need them, who check on me, who want to be present with me in the good times and the bad.

I’m a mental health advocate. I have helped mothers who suffer from postpartum mood and anxiety disorders understand that PTSD is a real, treatable illness. I assure them that PTSD isn’t just reserved for our Veterans, that their trauma is real.

But me?

I chose this, right? That’s what some of my haters and trolls have reminded me of over the years. I chose this. I could have parented. I could have done a million things differently. Right?

Yes, I could have.

But I’m working really hard on understanding that I did the best I could at the time with the information and resources available to me at that time. I swear I’m working on believing it, internalizing it. It’s really, really hard.

Today, a beloved woman I am so lucky to know and call a friend shared this as part of her 24 days of poetry.

Forgive yourself.
For something you’ve been carrying around.
Say it out loud
into the air.

I laughed out loud when I read it. Today, of all days. My daughter’s 13th birthday on the 13th of December; her golden birthday. I’d love to forgive myself. People keep telling me to forgive myself, asking me to forgive myself, pushing me to forgive myself.

I just don’t even know how. It’s been my goal in therapy for years. I’m maybe like two steps closer to figuring it out, but barely. I don’t know what forgiving myself looks like, let alone how to get there.

Maybe that’s because there’s more trauma involved than I think. I don’t know yet.

But I do know this: 13 years ago I gave birth to my daughter. I loved her from the very moment I knew she existed and I have spent every moment since loving her all the more. If I had to relive all of this—every single moment of sadness and depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness and emptiness—I would. Would I change things, if I could? Yes. But if I had to relive it all just to have what I have with her now, I’d do it. I would do anything to have my daughter in my life. And I have.

I’m the mother of a teenager. I’m figuring it out as I go, the same as we all do. I am lucky to have her, and I hope she feels lucky to have me.

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