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Month: September 2012

Addiction, Anxiety and Depression are Liars – Part Two

Addiction, Anxiety and Depression are Liars – Part Two

If you haven’t read Part I, you need to go read it first. It’s right here. (But wow! I can get wordy when I don’t post in a while so it was too long. But if you’re reading these back to back it is still too long.)

"The Sob" by David Alfaro Siqueiros taken at the MoMA in NYC
“The Sob” by David Alfaro Siqueiros taken at the MoMA in NYC

So where was I? Oh, yes, I was telling you about being plunged into a darkness unlike any I have known before. The trigger was a broken heart but it was far from the cause. It was as if someone had actually thrown a dark, heavy blanket over my head. I sort of, kind of tried to share with some friends but it wasn’t a true opening up. It was more saying I needed a break and was stressed out. When I saw this was different, I reached out and emailed a friend who I knew went through this and has learned to deal with it and is open about it. (I just didn’t think I could or should reach out to my friends because everyone has something going on and no one needs my extra drama. Reaching out to someone who I know has been there and come through it seemed like reaching out to another addict. You go to those who have gone before. And? I really don’t want to be “that” friend.) After a few emails (and trust me when I say it was one of the hardest things to do to even email) many of them with me apologizing for “bothering” her and sharing my embarrassment about being so weak, she sent me an email I needed to read at that moment.

Never feel humiliated for reaching out.  You are worth more
than you know and I’m here for you.  Promise.

Many times since then I have pulled out that email and read and re-read it to remind myself that there is someone who knows where I am.

Much like when I confessed that I don’t want to talk but wish I had a friend’s hand to hold. One of my dearest friends sent me a message with no words. It simply had a picture of her hand. In case I needed to remember that someone was there to hold my hand if I ever needed it. A reminder she cared.

Many times when it seems the darkest, I stare at that picture and pretend I have not isolated and she really is there to hold my hand.

It’s a double edge sword having many of the people who know you best and are the very closest to you live so very far away from you. It is so easy to say you need some time offline and shut down connections. But then when it gets to a point where you are drowning or feeling completely alone, it is harder to reach out. It’s an ugly cycle. You need to be alone but alone makes things worse but you hear the lies of depression and don’t feel worthy of your friends so you pull further away and it gets darker and your feelings of worthlessness grow stronger and the lies are more believable and you pull even deeper into yourself… And on and on.

There were days where the hardest thing to do (and what I considered my biggest success) was simply getting out of bed and going through the motions of the day. It kicks my other two “bad guys” into gear: addiction and anxiety. I start really wishing I could just take something, just medicate myself to wellness. But I know better. And then anxiety tells me I can’t share what I am going through because I will be judged. I will be mocked. I will lose those I love. All the while depression taps me on the shoulder with the sing-song voice mocking “I told you so! Forever alone! I told you so! Forever alone!” (Assholes!)

Remember back when I told you as a recovering addict? How I don’t have the best coping skills? I’m learning. I mean, I sought out someone to talk to and we’re working through the issues that brought me to this point. From not really dealing with the death of my mother to the nervous breakdown my former “friends” slammed me to the ground with to ways of reaching out to the people I love so they can tell me what is a lie and what is real. (That last one is the very hardest for me.)

And I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous between an “obvious” lie and reality. How can anyone not know the difference? Well, sometimes it really is hard to tell. When everything to your core shouts that you are worthless and not worthy of the friends and family you have because look at what the former “friends” you had did to you, it  feels so real.

I know the darkness will lift and the world will feel bright and light again. I know this. I just hope and pray that when it does, I haven’t pushed away everyone I love. I don’t want it to be too late. This? This is not the end of the story.

It is just the beginning.

Addiction, Anxiety, and Depression are Liars.

Addiction, Anxiety, and Depression are Liars.

Addiction is a liar. It tells you to numb yourself when things get too stressful. It tells you no one will know and you it will help you out. That one drink or one fix won’t make any difference. That you really are funnier, happier, and better off when you are using. It’s not really “addiction,” you just enjoy the feeling now and then. It’s not going to effect your life. Addiction is a liar.

Anxiety is a liar. It tells you things really are that bad. It tells you the panic you feel is justified. That you may not know why you feel anxious but you should “listen to your gut” because bad things could happen. That you may be right about there not being enough oxygen in this room for everyone. That you shouldn’t go to that event because you won’t fit in, will be laughed at, or that you really don’t belong there and everyone will know it. Anxiety is liar.

Depression is a liar. It tells you that you are not worthy. That you don’t really matter even to the people who say you do. That if you disappeared, it wouldn’t make a difference to anyone. That people would be better off without you and your broken self. It tells you the darkness will last forever and you’re not strong enough to come out of it. It tells you that you are alone and no one understands you. It says it won’t get better. It tells you that even if you did share your desperation, no one would understand and it would only make things worse. Depression is a liar.

If you know anything about me, you know I have no problem talking about the fact that I am a recovering addict. And? I’ve addressed anxiety and having panic attacks before. I have absolutely no problem talking about those two things. I will share my stories. I have shared my tips on how to conquer them when you feel as if they are strangling you. I have shown you ways to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and signs to recognize that you will come out of it. (And be stronger and feel happiness when you come through it.)

But depression? Oh hell no! Don’t talk about that one. It is “t-a-b-o-o.” Depression means crazy. It means sick. It means you are weak and probably a drama queen. (Lies.) But what I learned about addiction and anxiety is when you talk about them and share your story not only do you help yourself and others but you take away the power it holds over you. When kept in the darkness, those things can set up camp in your mind and become more powerful than they deserve.

So I am sharing with you. (Because I want to take away its power.)

crying
This is the face of depression. Of broken.

I’ll be honest. I never really dealt with things the way I should have after my Mom died. Hell, I didn’t deal with things as I should have during the six months prior to her dying while she was in the hospital. But life doesn’t stop just because your world feels like it fell apart. It doesn’t even pause. Life moves on. And so did I. There were some big life changes that happened in the years that followed. Big or small, good or bad, I pushed them down into the vault where I would deal with them on the surface but never really deal with them. Then in the Spring of 2010, I hit a breaking point. You see, that year I did something I never thought I would do. I stepped up into a job that I wanted to do out of passion but knew I would need the support of friends. At the time, these friends swore they would be there to help. People who said they cared and said they were there for me in truth were not. As it turns out, those “friends” very viciously and publicly turned on me and stabbed me in the back. Now, the Jenn who took drug addiction and kicked its ass would have stood up and fought back. She would never have just backed off and allowed the malicious intent of toxic people to spread rumors, lies, and downright try to ruin me. But that Jenn was buried under so many other issues in life that she couldn’t take this one on. And they broke my heart. My spirit. Me. I broke. I watched and just let things happen that shouldn’t have happened. I chose to sink deeper into myself rather than stand up to the bullshit around me. I let people who wanted to believe the crap that was being hurled believe it. And those who knew me or truly wanted the truth, I told them. It was a rough year following that. I isolated. But on the plus side, I truly saw who was toxic and who were bullies and who really didn’t need to be in my life. I made new friends who saw the truth. But really? I just didn’t have it in me to face this all head on. The broken parts of me were too broken to handle it. And life became too busy for me to truly deal with everything. My family needed me. That summer was just a time where more bits of me were broken off. But I had responsibilities that I couldn’t put off. So I moved on.

Of course during all of this I did the worst possible thing I could do: I isolated and refused to shed light on the broken parts. As a recovering addict, I know if I am struggling with addiction, I have to talk to someone. I have to tell someone the lies I am believing so they can show me what is real. When I am struggling with anxiety, I have learned I need to talk to someone who has been there who can show me that I will be okay and how to push through it. It always shatters the lies I was believing and helps me through because they show what is a lie and what is real.

But with depression? I stay silent. I always have. If anything, I minimize it and just say I am a bit down.

I got through that hard time with friends who really were friends and who loved me for me. Did I ever deal with it as I should have? Not really. And life moves on.

I could see the ebb and flow of depression and I dealt with it the best way I knew how. I started to become me again and was happy and enjoyed time with my family and my friends and life felt right again.

Obviously, as a recovering addict, I don’t really have the best coping skills. (Duh!) But I have learned (as best I can) to live life on life’s terms. I can’t change other people. I can’t make anyone be someone they aren’t or do something they don’t want to do.  That’s just a fact. Good things began to happen in my life this summer. Things that make me so happy! One of my closest friends moved back to town after 3 years. I was able to spend an amazing few days in NYC with some of my dearest friends laughing, crying, being myself. Truly and without apology being myself. (That is rare but oh so needed to be around people where I feel as if I can truly be myself and am loved in spite of it. Maybe even because of it.)

And a couple of weeks ago things changed. Someone I love broke a promise to me and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And it threw me into a darkness unlike any I have been through before….

(This is becoming quite long so stick with me, take a break and then go read part II)

 

 

 

 

9-11 and my visit to NYC

9-11 and my visit to NYC

When I knew that I was going to be in New York City for a conference in August, the first thing on my mind was to go to the 9/11 memorial. One of my dear friends invited me because she was planning to go with a group the first day there. It was the perfect plan. Except that it wasn’t. First, the group was filled and didn’t have enough room for one more. (I was heartbroken but realized it was what it was and there is nothing I could do about it.) Second, you know what they say about the best laid plans. First, I missed my flight so that delayed me. When I finally reached the city it took me nearly 3 hours to reach the hotel from the airport. So, even if I had been included in the group, I’d have missed it traveling anyway. Things happen for a reason. I knew it would weigh heavy on my heart to be there but I thought it was exactly what I wanted to do.

Now, if you were with me during most of my trip to NYC, you know it was super emotional. You see, I’ve had a mini-crush on the city from afar. I have never been there but my heart was all “NYC ERMAHGERD!” But when I was actually there? It took mere seconds for me to fall in love with the city. Things that people who live there probably don’t even give a second thought had me so smitten and emotional. It became so commonplace, my friends didn’t even give it a second thought to look over and see tears in my eyes or rolling down my cheek over something that moved me about the city. Something I dreamed of seeing or doing and was actually seeing and doing!

All of that to say, with my emotions so up front and center, maybe the 9/11 Memorial wasn’t the place for me. This year. But there was something that I was supposed to see and experience in relation.

I went to an event with one of my closest friends, Liz, one evening in SoHo. And of course, I was enamored with just about everything in the area. (Shout out, City Winery!)  As she and I were walking around the area, I noticed a firefighter standing outside a firehouse. I peeked in and noticed a memorial wall. (cue tears) I asked if I could take a picture if it wouldn’t be too disrespectful. He smiled and told me it would be fine and not at all disrespectful. As soon as I set up the shot I started to cry. No, cry doesn’t really cover it. I began to sob. I took in every face. I looked at every name. It was a “small scale” vision of such a massively huge tragedy. And maybe that was what I needed to see more than the huge memorial. I needed to see one company. To see the impact that day had on them. To see their friends and brothers they lost.  Their names. Their faces. Eleven men. My heart broke. I did my best to capture the shot, but my hands were shaking. As we were leaving I tried to thank the firefighter but I could barely whisper “Thank you” through my sobs. With a teary look at me, he just nodded. Liz hugged me, took my hand, and we walked away.

I have always felt the weight of 9/11 each year in my own way. I couldn’t truly imagine it. I still can’t. Unless you were there and felt it, heard it, smelled it, survived it or lost someone that day, I don’t think you can really grasp the enormity of the day. But walking the streets and falling in love with NYC and the people there, brought it a little bit closer to my heart. Standing in a firehouse that lost 11 of their finest brought it closer to my heart.

Though I truly thought I wanted and needed to see the 9/11 memorial, I realized my heart–my very soul– needed to see what that day meant in a more intimate way. One day I hope to go see the site where the twin towers stood and hope I can do it with someone who will understand my flow of tears. But this year, I am so very thankful I was with Liz who held my hand and never once questioned my emotional reaction or tried to stop it. She just knows my heart and always has.

I’ll never forget the day that beautiful and completely amazing city came under attack. And now I will never forget that one time I stopped by a firehouse with someone I love to take a picture, thank a fireman, and sob over the loss of lives that horrible day brought.

Never.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

These are the heroes pictured who were lost on that horrific day.

LADDER 5

Lt. Mike Warchola
Lt. Vincent Giamonna
Lou Arena
Andy Brunn
Greg Saucedo
Paul Keating
Tommy Hannafin
John Santore

BATTALION 2

BC. William McGovern 
BC. Richard Prunty 
FF. Fautino Apostol, JR 

Engine 24/ Ladder 5/ Battalion 2
227 Ave of Americas (6th Ave)
Manhattan