Lifeaversary | 7

*If you are new here, each year I celebrate my Lifeaversary – the anniversary of the day that I attempted suicide (August 3rd, 2009). If you or someone you know is having dark thoughts, or is in a black hole of depression that they can’t get out of, there is help here. and here. and here. and here. You are not alone. You are not done. Your depression is lying. The world still needs you.

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I’ve struggled with writing this post. Not because this year has been particularly bad, or even overwhelmingly good. It’s been… a lull. Which, after the crazy 2 years I had a while back, I embrace this lull like you wouldn’t believe. Admittedly, I thought about not writing a post this year because, well, I haven’t really felt inspiration. Writing has taken a bit of a back seat to career choices and Netflix binging. As you do, Internet. As. You. Do.

While nothing huge externally has happened to me this year — I am not married, I haven’t birthed any children,  I haven’t become the heiress to the Pancake empire (yet), it has been a very active year deep in the inside. (TWSS? No? Okay.)

Struggle Does Not Always Equal Crisis

I have noticed a monumental shift in my thinking. In years past, when I was faced with struggles, I would freak out, thinking my world was going to end. I would go immediately into crisis mode, contact my therapist, and go on this downward spiral of fear that I was diving into the dark place again.

This year has not been without its struggles. However, when something has challenged me, my mindset doesn’t go to crisis mode. I worry, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t worry myself to a point of anxiety and panic attacks that have me in some kind of Xanax induced coma of self-medicating. Instead I call up a friend, pour a cup of tea, take a walk, Meditate, or one of dozens of other self-care rituals that I have developed.

I am only human though, I have ugly cried for a few hours over some stuff. That’s what cupcakes are for.

Self Care + Happiness

The thing I am most proud of (and honestly, really freaking stoked about) is learning what self care and happiness mean to me.

For years I’ve read articles, blogs, had coaching calls, had therapy sessions talking about this elusive “Self Care”, how important it is, and how I needed to be practicing it.

I would try endless things, none of them made me happy. I was convinced that I was a real life Eeyore, born without any happy juice in my brain.

Arguably worse, I found myself waiting for someone or something to come along to make me happy. A romantic partner, a job, more money,

It took me 7 years to figure it out, but I learned to be open to happiness, and to experience it in whatever form it visited me. Happiness for me isn’t some huge smile and doing back-flips. So waiting for my happiness to look like every one else’s is going to be a fruitless battle.

For me, happiness is more of an internal feeling of calmness combined with excitement for that present moment. Most times, even when I am with friends or family, my mind wanders to the past or the future where anxiety and depression live and try to steal my sunshine, making my otherwise happy moments dull and cloudy.

But when I make a conscious effort to put aside the shame I feel from my past, and the anxiety I feel for the future, I’m left with a mindful, in-the-moment feeling of all-consuming happiness.

Calm + Peaceful + Hopeful + Open = Happy.

MIND. FREAKING. BLOWN.

This year, it’s been all about getting to know what makes me happy, getting rid of things and distancing myself from people that don’t, and  creating and nourishing new friendships and relationships. I am so grateful to my close friends and family who have made it so freaking easy to be myself in all my imperfect glory AND to be + feel loved at the same time. You are my lifelines.

Year 7 is down in the books. I survived another year. And internet, if you’re reading this, so did you, you little rockstar you.

 

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Wanna visit Lifeaversaries Past?: Read the archives, baby:

Lifeaversary | 6
Lifeaversary | 5
Lifeaversary | 4
Lifeaversary | 3
Lifeaversary | 2

 

Damn Katie, Back At It Again With The White Pill

Last night, I did something that I haven’t done in about 18 months — I took an anti-depressant.

I’ve been considering going back on a mild medication for a few months now, but have hesitated for no other reason than that I’m proud to be completely medication free for the last year and a half.  Because I spent my entire 2014 in a Xanax/Cymbalta haze*, being “clear” has been the one thing that I wear as a badge of honor.

*I do not frown on those who are on heavy doses of anti anxiety, depression, or psychotics. I admittedly over-medicated to avoid dealing with feelings. If you have found the medication plan that works for you – and you feel genuinely better, then I am so freaking proud of you. I am hugging your pretty little face right now. 

For the most part, I’m okay. I get out of bed every single day. I go to work every single day. I do my job to the best of my ability every single day. I get my “Katie face” on every single day. I socialize. I pretend to be okay even on days that I’m not. “Fake it til you make it” or whatever. My gauge has always been “If no one else knows I’m depressed, then I’m not depressed. If I can plaster a smile and a snarky, sassy personality on every day, then I’m fine.”

But you guys? Pretending all day is very exhausting.

It all came to a head about 3 months ago when I spent an entire weekend in bed. It was sunny out. I had plans to hang out with friends. I cancelled them all in lieu of laying in bed and sleeping for 25 hours. Yes, it’s possible. Yes, I did it. It was then that I realized that my bout with the blues was less of just having a rough day, and more like being in a rough patch. This is how this all started in 2009 – when I, well, you know. I recognized the signs, and I know one thing for certain… I don’t want to be there again.

Ordinarily, I would have made an appointment with my doctor – I would have walked in, said I was depressed, and left with a cocktail of drugs — some new anti-depressant I never tried, some kind of benzo, and a tranquilizer. The appointment would take about 15 minutes and $100 later, I’d have a way to bury my feelings for another year. I didn’t want that. I don’t want to bury my feelings or ignore my depression. I want to face it. Treat it.

So I set an appointment with a new Primary Care Physician. She spent 45 minutes talking to me – not like a patient, but like a person — and that’s something I haven’t experienced in a while from a doctor. We talked about my history, my symptoms, and my options. She then said something that I won’t forget. “I’m willing to try medication if you are…”

I felt my eyes get all teary like a real girl. I finally felt like I had someone on my team, as opposed to someone who was throwing pills at me to get me out of her office.

I left the appointment with a complete understanding of the medication I would be on, 4 referrals for unrelated “grown up stuff” like blood work and lady exams, and a verbal contract with my new doctor that if I get to the “bad place” again, that I would call her. Immediately.

I was feeling super good about everything.

Until I got home.

At 7:00PM, I decided to take my first dose – in an attempt to avoid any kind of drowsiness or zombie-ness. I popped the pill out of the bottle, and looked at it for a second – took a deep breath (I know this is a little dramatic…), and despite a lot of hesitation, I took it.

And immediately started to cry.

Maybe it was because I was tired, but I’m pretty sure my depression – a dirty ugly stupid liar – could tell that I was about to start fighting back, and went into defensive mode. Instead of feeling relieved, like I was treating it, I felt like I had failed myself. I felt defeated. I felt that my recovery had just been flushed down the toilet along with any pride that I had in myself for going off of medication all together.

It didn’t get better as the night went on. I had a terrible time sleeping. I feel kind of “meh” today. The first two weeks on a new medication are always the worst. Around day 5 is when I typically give up, decide it isn’t worth it, and retreat back into my silent struggle and feel “fine” most days.

But I want to do it different this time.

Fine isn’t enough for me anymore. I want to feel good. I want to stop pretending to be happy, and actually feel fulfilled. 

Instead of listening to my depression, I’m trying to really tune into my inner Katie…. she’s in there. And she’s just tired of yelling and being ignored and chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool. If I really strain, I swear I can hear her saying to:

“Hang in there. Take the stupid pill. Deal with the side effects for a few weeks. Evict this stupid, lying, beastly depression. Who invited her anyway? You know, she doesn’t even like pancakes? We don’t need that negativity. #ByeFelicia.”

Basically, exactly what I’ve told countless of you, internet, when you’ve trusted ME with your depression stories.

So here I am. Fighting the good fight.  Trying not to feel like a total failure. But it’s hard ya’ll.

Lifeaversary | 6

It’s my Lifeaversary today.  Actually, it’s my Lifeaversary in 6 days, but you know me being on top of things. (Wink)

For the past 6 years, I’ve celebrated my Life-a-versary — the day that I decided to choose life over…well, not life, and started on what would be the most difficult journey to self-discovery and acceptance ever. I spent such a long time carrying such a massive burden on my shoulders. I really think that my disdain for mornings was due to the fact that moving, walking, just getting up was physically and emotionally painful from dragging along all of the crap…. the baggage – the expectations – the belief that I had to pretend to be someone I wasn’t in order to be liked. Letting all of that go was the most powerful thing I’ve ever done.

When someone asks me how I am, or how I’m doing — the only thing I can think to say is “lighter”, “free-er”, “calm-er” — but even that doesn’t begin to describe the amount of relief that I feel.  I wake up every single morning and am grateful for everything.

Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. For the first 10 minutes of being awake, I hate the world. But after that, I’m grateful. For everything. For YOU.

This year — particularly the last 6 months — I’ve taken a huge step back from just about everything and asked the question “Does this bring me joy?” and “Would I want my daughter to be in this situation?” – If the answer to either of these was no, I walked away.

I ditched friendships. I ditched relationships. I ditched clients. Most of all, I ditched apologizing for being who I am. I’m not afraid to tell someone “hey, this isn’t working”, “i don’t have time for negativity”, or my personal favorite, #byefelicia.

I know I’m not perfect — God, I’m my own number one critic. If you were to ask me right now what my flaws are, I would name 50. But what’s changed for me, especially this year, is that I can also tell you what makes me a kickass person who deserves happiness and doesn’t deserve to be treated with disrespect or carelessness — especially by my own self.  I can honestly say that despite my flaws, despite my mistakes, despite my little quirks and imperfections, I’m pretty dang awesome in my on right. Or as I like to say, “I’m charming as f*ck”.  And that doesn’t require an apology.

One of the things that I wholeheartedly believe is that we accept the love that we think we deserve. I accepted relationships because I thought I couldn’t get any better. I accepted friendships because I thought that merely talking to me deserved recognition. I said “yes” in situations where I clearly meant “no”.  Wanna fail really fast? Try to please every-damn-one. I wish I would have known that a few years ago.

I know my worth now and I don’t accept anything less. I say no. I ask for help. I stand firm in the beliefs that I know to be true. I’m ridiculously resilient. I fall down sometimes — I fail — I let things fall through cracks — but I always get back up again and start fresh. I apologize where it’s due, and I mean absolutely everything that I say.

So this year, I’m short on words, but not on gratitude for everyone who has seen me through the past few years. Instead of a huge celebration this year, I’m going to therapy, and the Incubus concert… because that’s what I want to do, and both of those things bring me joy. But if you offered me a pancake breakfast or brunch date, I wouldn’t turn you guys down. I also would accept a cardboard cutout of Edward Cullen or Dexter. Take notes.

As I enter year 7, I can proudly say that I’ll stop banking on the phrase “It gets better” and move on to “It got better”.  And I’ll even throw in a “I love this life, now.” Because really. I love it. I don’t love it everyday. And some days I want to bitch slap every one I come into contact with, but they’re just days, and they always pass.

I don’t know whether it’s the fact that my best friend had a baby that I’m so in love with. Or that I almost lost someone so incredibly important to me, but he survived. Or that I had a spiritual awakening knowing that my Grandmother has a firm hand in helping guide my way — or a combination of all of these things. All I know is that I am filled with so much gratitude for everyone, everything, and every moment in my life.

In the coming months, I will be very busy being awesome, all in preparation for my now yearly trip to Florida with my family and to see my dad. I could have gone anywhere for my birthday vacation, but honestly, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Except maybe at IHOP. Or your house holding hands watching Dexter while I longingly picture myself stroking Michael C. Hall’s beautiful face.

Some things never change, Internet.

 

Wanna read about Life-a-versaries Past? 

 Lifeaversary 5
Lifeaversary 4
Lifeaversary 3
Lifeaversary 2 

 

Remembering The Why

 

So.Hi.

I don’t think the cleanse cured my funk, but it did bring to light how much what I put into my body affects my mood. Even after the 10 days of required raw eating, I decided to try and keep a 80% green 20% lean mean diet, and I’ve stuck to that mostly with a few bites of a friend’s burger here and there. I opt for salmon over beef, I have at least two vegetables with every meal. I still haven’t had even one soda. Not even a sip. I’ve had pancakes once, and it was a miserable experience.  I learned a lot about food, and what to look for on packages and what’s good for you.

I did realize that over the last few days I was in a foul mood. I was just miserable. Typical Katie would just be miserable and wait for it to pass. This in-transition Katie asked “Why the hell am I in this bad mood and what can make it stop?”

I had no idea what it could be, so I went back over my diet tracker that I use just as a way to calculate calories, and realized that I hadn’t tracked my food in several days. I know I had eaten according to plan because my house doesn’t have anything unhealthy in it. I didn’t know if it was because I was feeling messy since I hadn’t tracked my food, or what, and then it hit me. I wasn’t getting enough water. For the last two days, I’ve gotten over 120 oz of water in me each day and my mood has elevated slightly. We all know I’m naturally lower in the mood realm, but I had no idea that I was so dehydrated. I also suspect that I missed some meals, so my body was probably pissed off at me too. So I’ve been trying to stick to eating every two hours, doing one meal replacement bar per day,, and downing my water. So far, so good.

Something I’ve been struggling with recently is staying focused during my work day. I’m doing my own thing again so I have to have a lot of self discipline. I work best alone, with music on and zero distraction. But times I get really unfocused and end up having to stay up much later than necessary. While the nature of the projects that I have do require me to pull a few late nights, I wonder how much of that could be slashed in half if I just focus more. Again, Typical Katie would have just continued to work as late as it took, put things off that she could, and would wait for things to get better. In transition Katie asked “Why”

And then I had a breakthrough.

Throughout any given day, I’ll lose focus of why I’m doing something and that’s the exact point where I give up doing it or let some of the passion out of my balloon, get lazy, etc.

  • I’m eating healthy, not drinking diet soda, and working out —WHY?

Because I like the way I feel when I’m healthy. 

  • I’m choosing to release certain people from my life.–WHY?

Because they bring me down rather than raise me up. I want to feel inspired.

  • I’m writing a 10,000 page e-book on something I’m not passionate about.–WHY?

Because this is what I need to do to make ends meet right now. I want to feel secure.

  • I’m picking up side jobs for much less money than I would usually charge.–WHY?

Because I have a vacation in October that I am so desperately craving that I can’t even stand it. Every dollar saved beyond the bills that I pay goes into my vacation fund. I want to feel excited and carefree when I go on vacation.

 So, in order to remind myself of why I’m sitting at my desk for 16 hours a day, I have a photo of the sunset in Indian Rocks Beach, where I’ll be in just over 6 months. It keeps me going. It keeps me focused. It literally shows me the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

This is the point in my life where I strip down to the bare bones and rebuild.

(I even changed all of my profile photos to a completely bare faced picture of me from last night to show the world. This is me. Right now. Bare. Vulnerable. In the trenches. Fighting the battle. Moving forward. Actually, a little hopeful.)

I’ve had a rough few years, but I’m ready to stop hovering so close to the bottom so that the next fall doesn’t hurt so bad. I want to rise higher because  I can rise higher. The risk of being that high, content, happy is worth the fall. And honestly, the people that I have met and reconnected with so far on the way back up have been absolutely fantastic, so I know that any fall won’t be as bad with the support.

I think I’m not stuck anymore. I’m finally pulling myself out of the sludge and while it’s hard sometimes, It’s worth it. So worth it.

 

 

Lifeaversary | 5

 

I’ve been thinking about this post for months. Not so much in a  ‘what would I say” kinda way , because girl, I always know what to say. But  I wanted this post to be honest. And saying the words “Yeah, I didn’t know if I was going to make it through this year” doesn’t quite sound or look as pretty when written.

I know this sounds super scary, but it’s my truth. And that is something I have grown to value.

My truth is that this year was not only difficult, it was almost impossible. I struggled to get out of bed. I struggled to keep up with commitments. I didn’t talk to anyone other than my mother and occasionally my close girlfriends. The conversations were fake. I wasn’t okay. But it kept them from worrying, so that was a win. I thought.

Some days came easy, but most didn’t. The sun was too bright. Bed felt too good. And ignorance of the outside world was as close to bliss that I would get.

Thankfully I have a day job that I have to actually get up and go to, or else I might not have left the house.

I’m sure people realized that some days were not my best days, but I’m a master of the “I’m just having a tough day” lines, and they worked damn well.

(Oh, ISFJ, you don’t want to burden people with your problems at all,  do ya? No. We do not. We need to be needed. We don’t like to need.)

But what I wanted to say was “Everything is spiraling out of control and I don’t know how to get off this ride and can you make it stop? I really just want some funnel cake or something. Can life please just sit fucking still for one damn minute? PLEASE?”

 

How did I get here?

There’s never an exact moment that I can pinpoint that things went to shit and I stopped caring. For me, it was more likely a culmination of a lot of things.

The grief from losing my grandmother last May ripped me inside out. Again. Just when you think grief is over, the cycle begins again. And again. And again. Grief has no rules.

My weight began to fluctuate. It was the same 20 pounds,  but it was going on and coming off in the most unhealthy ways.

I decided to get rid of a lot of clients, because I just didn’t care anymore,  so I went from living comfortably to having to have a to-the-penny budget. This was one of the largest adjustments I had to make. Financial comfort makes me happy.

I left  two relationships that were not in line with my life nor were they what I wanted, no matter how comfortable they felt.

My best friend  of 11 years and I didn’t speak for 4 months – during some of the most difficult times of my life where all I needed to hear was his voice, or  get some of his insight. You never know how much someone means to you until they’re not there, you know?

I accepted that some friends were never going to be the types of friends that I needed them to be. Instead of trying to teach them how, I decided to let them go. Ouch.

I saw my father’s health decline a bit.

I had a financial setback that eliminated all of my savings.

I considered moving across the country for a better paying job and leaving my NJ roots and Philly love.

I was just so confused, and the ground that I had relied so much on had been taken from under me.

There was a point this year when I honestly had no idea what “good” looked like, and I tried everything in my power to make things look good. I was convinced that I would never know what good would look like again, so was it even worth it?

And that was my rock bottom.

I needed a new plan. Things needed to change. Something had to give. But did I even want to bother? Was I beyond helping?

After much thinking. I realized that no moving cross-country plan, hair cut, new outfit, new friends… none of it changed the truth:

  •  That changing things was completely in my control and it wasn’t in one small change
  • That everything I needed  to overcome my difficulties was already inside of me, or by my side.

If you can’t see it, does it even exist?

The weird thing about any kind of depression is that it’s invisible. I don’t go into work limping. I don’t show up at my family barbecues with bruises and rashes. For a while, I was showing up with a smile on my face, and jokes ready to go. But then I stopped showing up because even walking into the door was too much pain.

Pretending to be happy when you’re so miserable inside is hard. Wanting to talk about it but not knowing how to even start is a battle that I couldn’t even walk into.

The choice and the change. 

I knew I had two choices. To do nothing and keep feeling horrible. Or to do something and at least have a chance of being back to good again. Even though doing something was much harder than doing nothing. Sleeping all day and not giving a shit was much easier. Seriously. I tried.

But with a lot of fear,  and a ton of resistance, I opened up more to my core circle about how I was feeling. Letting go of the guilt that it would burden them. Instead of “I’m having a bad day” I said “I’m having a rough time with _______________, and I need some help navigating this.”

And some listened. And cared.

I wrote an email to my best girl friend and was completely honest with her. I laid it all out on the line. I held nothing back. It was the darkest email I had ever written, but I had to get it out of me. It made it real.  I needed someone to know that I wasn’t giving up the fight, but I was having one heck of a time staying in the game.

I remember sending that email, and her response came quickly. “What can I do? Can I come over and just sit with you?”

Another friend who I briefly told my situation to reacted “This is when you say “I need my friend” and I come rushing over.”

These… friends. They weren’t trips across the country or new haircuts or decisions to lose  80 pounds. They were people who already were here and ready to fight with me.

They didn’t tell me to “go to therapy”, they didn’t tell me to “run away”, they didn’t tell me anything really, other than that they were there, for whatever I needed.

There are some family and friends who knew of my struggle and stayed away. I can’t blame them for that. People have their own struggles to go through. All in all it was a blessing that those who stood in my corner are the people I know are my people. My lifesavers. My lifelines.

“Can I come over and sit with you?”

It’s precisely what I would do when my Grandmom was alive. If I had a bad day, I’d just go visit with her and sit beside her. Sometimes we’d talk, and sometimes we’d play cards, but mostly, we’d just sit.

As I was going through my big hairy scary stuff this year, I didn’t need someone to see me as someone who was too delicate, or fragile, or breakable. I didn’t need people to sit around a table and say “Oh, that Katie. It’s such a shame.”

I just needed someone, anyone to want to be in the same room as me for no other reason than to be there with me. If we laugh, we laugh. If we’re quiet we’re quiet. If I spill my guts and ugly cry, then so be it.

Sometimes I need someone to just be. And I’m so grateful to have that in my life and not to have to go looking for it.

 

So here we are… … what’s next?

Another year down. And since I sent that letter to my friend back in April,  there have been definite changes.

The biggest thing I’ve learned to do is to ask for help. No person is an island, and sometimes you need to say “Hey, I need some help, can you please help me?”

God those words are so hard for me. It’s so much easier to be someone’s midnight crisis phone call than to make that phone call, you know? But I had to get off of my Beyonce “Independent Lad-ays” dance tendencies and move over to some U2’s “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.”

Because you can’t make it on your own. We’re not meant to.  My brain still doesn’t completely buy that, but it’s sure learning.

I learned things… because otherwise this struggle would have been for nothing.

    • I see the light at the end of the tunnel, guys. Like, it’s there. Even on my dark, gross, days, I see the light. And I know I’m on my way there.

 

    • I’ve re opened my savings account again and God, it feels better than cupcakes.

 

    • I know who I am. I have an identity. I’m a kick-ass business woman who loves Hendrick’s Gin and TWSS jokes, coffee, and a medium rare steak.

 

    • I’ve learned that not everyday is going to be a good day. I’m going to struggle. My mood is going to suck. But I have the right people on my side who I can just vent to, or sit and ‘be’ with.

 

    • I’ve learned that if I’m feeling poorly, then I have total control over that, and it’s up to me to identify the source, and eliminate it or acknowledge it. (This one was SO HARD!) Sometimes sitting with the negative feeling is the answer and OMG I HATE THAT.

 

    • I’ve learned not to feel shame for my story because not only have I been weak, but I’ve been incredibly brave and resilient.

 

    • I’ve learned that not everyone will understand what I’m going through. I understand that people will make up their own stories as to why I haven’t called or written or reached out. I’ve also learned that I have zero control over that.

 

    • I’ve realized that moving anywhere right now is not a good idea. I’d be running away, not running toward something. Running would have been much easier, yes, but there’s still fight here in Philly. There’s still more for me here. Good things.

 

 

    • I’ve learned that some things make me happy, like really happy, not just ‘happy because I have to be’.  Like, pancakes, and greek salads, and coffee dates, and naps, and the perfect running playlist.

 

Here I am. 5 years old. Fresh off of a freakin’ hard as hell year that I had no idea if I’d make it through, but I did.

I did it you guys.

And you all helped.

Every. Single. One. Of. You. Who. Is. Reading. This.

Friend. Family. New Friend. Old Friend. Someone I’ve never met. Someone I will meet. Someone just reading this right now. All of you. Any of you.

You’ve said things you didn’t know you’ve said. You’ve done things you didn’t know you’ve done. You’ve believed in me when I didn’t even know how to look at myself.

Thank you.

I’m dedicating this year to all of you, my dear lifesavers.

Here are some previous life-a-versary recaps. Sadly, my initial post on Brandy’s blog is no longer available because her blog is closed. Boo,. But enjoy!

Lifeaversary 4:

Lifeaversary 2: