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:

Same Old Me, Some New Feelings

It’s been nearly an entire month since my big emotional crack. I can hardly believe it’s been that long.

In some ways, I feel like absolutely nothing has changed and it was just yesterday. I feel like the same old Katie, with the same old personality and same old craziness.

In other ways, I can see an entirely new Katie evolving. After the shock of learning what had happened to me and what likely caused it, I knew that I had to make some changes, or else nothing would change and this would happen again.

Duh.

So change I did. Radically. Drastically. I lived in denial for quite a while. I ignored feelings of discontent. I buried feelings of ‘warning’. I focused on what others needed instead of what I undoubtedly needed.

Eventually, it stopped being so easy to ignore the feelings. Eventually, I had to see my life for what it was, not what it looked like through rose colored glasses.

Seeing my life for what it was was… hard. It was like sitting in the dark for hours and having someone suddenly turn on the light. Sure, it’s light. Sure, you can see. But you close your eyes because it’s so painful until you can adjust to it.

So, I’m adjusting. I’m learning a new normal now. My days are comfortably filled with a combination of work, ‘me’ time, quality time with my family and friends, and staying active. I can be honest and tell people how I’m really feeling. I’m experiencing a lot of new feelings that I haven’t felt in a long time. Some of them don’t feel so good. I’ve buried a lot of gross feelings that I haven’t wanted to feel for a while.

But some of the feelings? They’re amazing.

Connection – I’ve taken the opportunity to open up to friends and let them be there for me. I’ve let new people into my life, which is so freakin’ scary, but so great. I love being able to make a phone call, send a text, and get an instant, honest connection with someone I care about and know cares about me.

Accomplishment – I’ve lost 18 lbs. Eight. Teen. Pounds. Since I’ve been peeing like crazy, I know a lot has been water weight. But at the same time, I see a major difference in my clothes. I don’t really have a weight loss goal since losing weight isn’t really something I’m trying to do. But getting stronger comes with losing weight, so I see pounds lost as strength gained.

Endorphins – I’m always on the hunt for a workout that I actually like. Friends,  I’ve found Zumba. Oh. My. God. Amazing. I love Zumba for the first 15 minutes. For the remainder 35, I look at my classmates and we all make the faces of pure torture because Zumba is fun, but Zumba is hard. But afterward? I almost cry out of happiness. The endorphins kick in and for the next few hours, I feel incredible.

Endurance- I am a product of what has happened to me, but what has happened to me doesn’t define me. I could easily be in bed right now sleeping, taking off of work, opting out of plans with friends, and blame it on ‘going through a hard time’ and people would totally understand. I’m not doing that, though. I’m getting up every day. I’m going to work. I’m working out. I’m eating well. I’m dealing with my emotions. It’s a whole lot of work, but I know that 6 months, a year, two years from now, I’ll look back on this period of my life and remember it as a time of intense work and soul shaking realization.

Some days really suck. Sometimes I want to reach through the phone and hug my dad. I want to play an endless game of Hand and Foot with my grandmother.  I want to go back to when things were comfortable. Comfortable is great, but in a lot of ways, comfortable was in no way healthy for me and it was my own way of tricking myself into thinking I was happy.

I was quite comfortable eating horrible food. I was quite comfortable choosing to sit and watch crime dramas all day instead of getting even a little active. I was comfortable being the strong rock, and never showing weakness. I became so comfortable in being unhealthy physically and emotionally that I tricked myself into thinking I was okay.

DING DONG. WRONG.

The last month has been filled with harsh truths, tough conversations, raw emotion, and letting go. It has also been filled with self love, strengthening friendships, making new connections, and crystal clear realizations.

This is a hard journey. But I have the absolute best people in my corner, pushing me harder, not letting me give up, and reminding me of my strengths. I have no idea how people do this alone. I’m so thankful that I don’t have to ever know what it’s like to do it alone.

And it makes me feel good to hear things like this from friends:

“You earned this support. You deserve this support. I will always be there for you. I don’t care what you do, how hard you fall. Fuck, you’ve caught me thousands of times. It’s not that I was waiting for you to fall, but I’m glad I can reciprocate. That’s what love is all about. I’m sorry that you’ve had mixed experiences with this. But this is the real thing. Welcome to unconditional love. Enjoy your stay.”

Being Comfortable Is Comfortable Until It’s Not Anymore

I’ve spent the last little bit of this year being comfortable. Coming from a girl with a history of depression and anxiety, it probably sounds like a lovely place to be — a place of comfort and questionable contentment. It’s a far cry for being in despair, turmoil, and looking for a permanent way out of pain, that’s for sure.

With this comfortable state has come some negative stuff too. Like, my health consciousness has fallen through the cracks. I’ve stopped pursuing new clients, I’ve even let some responsibilities go to bask in the comfort of not being required to do things.  I mean, my days off as of late have literally been spent laying around, taking naps, and eating horrible food. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy being a little bad and deviating away from the ‘right’ thing, but it’s taking a definite toll on my body and mind.

I began to notice that I was feeling much less proactive about things. I was more on edge, more sensitive, and feeling exponentially more needy than usual. I was looking to those who I was closest to to make me feel better. Probably not the best idea to throw up all over my friends. Especially when the key to me feeling better is inside of ME. That’s not to say that I don’t adore my core friends for the endless conversations and talking me through my mini crisis. Because, sometimes I just need someone to say “What you’re feeling is okay.” I think my favorite interaction came from my Boston Marriage Partner:

 

 

…and this is why I remain sane way more than I should be.

ANYWAY

This whole being comfortable comes with a price. Especially when you spend a few weeks, uh, okay, months, being comfortable and ignoring all of the signs of discomfort because “OMG, I’m too busy being so comfortable in my mismatched pajamas, eating greasy food, and drinking all the soda. Life is good. *BURP* *Scratch crotch*”

Any gross feelings that came up, I’d either blow ridiculously out of proportion or ignore completely. Neither of which helped address it. I’ve had this discomfort in my belly recently. Not like, THAT kind of discomfort. I’m not pregnant. I’m not constipated. But the feeling that something just isn’t right. I think they call that mess ‘intuition’ or something. I kept ignoring the feeling, swallowing it (TWSS), and waiting for it to pass. About a week ago, I spent the day sitting cross-legged on the floor, on the verge of tears because WTF WAS WRONG WITH ME? But I couldn’t cry. I wasn’t even sure what the hell I was feeling. Was I feeling anything?

I spent a few days doing something different. I felt the feeling. Like, really felt it, just as it was. I didn’t over process it. I didn’t ignore it. t let it take me over if it needed to. I felt…whatever it was I was feeling. There’s nothing more difficult than feeling something that you can’t give a name to. It’s like going to the hospital knowing something is wrong, but the quack doctor tells you that you’re nuts, and sends you home with some bullshit diagnosis that just isn’t right.

But then, last night, as I was sitting in bed, reading Sookie Stackhouse and emerging myself in the world of all things Vampires and Fairies, I realized what I’ve been feeling. I gave the feeling that’s been plaguing me a name. I knew I had identified it correctly because tears came to my eyes, and I felt like someone finally understood me. It was totally kick-ass to know that it was ME who understood ME.

What I’m feeling is a longing for the way things used to be. I miss people. I miss situations. I miss feelings. I JUST MISS THINGS! That’s it. I’m not batshit crazy, well, no more than normal. I have a legit emotion that I’m working through, and that’s okay. These feelings of missing things are still there, but now it’s easier to handle because I know what it is. DIAGNOSIS: MISSING THINGS. LONGING FOR THE PAST.

The next part, I know is that I’ll have to figure out which things are gone, which things aren’t coming back, which things are out of my control, and which things I’m just missing because I’m not doing them. Like brunch with friends. Nothing is stopping me from doing that. But missing people who are gone from my life, well, you know how that goes.

Learning to just be with my discomfort and not ignoring it is really hard. Sometimes I need to stop what I’m doing, go outside, and just breathe for a few minutes. I have tons of  back end stuff going on in life right now, but a lot of it is all about how I’m going to process it.

Shit is hard.

But, as Jillian Michaels says to me every damn day, “When things get hard, that’s when change is happening.”

Okay, Jillian. Not only do you have a smoking bod, you’re all up in my emotions too. Clearly I’m shedding more than lbs. this month.

I win.

 

Katie’s Back – Wait, Did I Even Leave?

Monday night, I was doing a last minute jam session with my client in my office and I came up with a solution to a very minor issue. It wasn’t a cancer cure. It wasn’t a way to bring our brothers, sisters, and friends home from overseas, it wasn’t a way to sell the toy I have dubbed as ‘245’ in order to score some of my money back. Nope. None of that. It was quite literally a checkbox on a word document.

When I provided the suggestion, my client lit up, exclaimed “I love it! Katie. Is. Back!”

I 1/2 grinned, 1/2 looked at him like he was pulling a Tom Cruise on the couch type thing, and 3/4 was kind of offended.

Note: Math and I ain’t friends, yo.

I mean, things have been a little touch and go around these parts. I have fab days and bad days and some indifferent days, but isn’t that how life is. I mean, really. But was I truly absent to a point where basic solutions became fewer and farther between for me? Was I not dependable?

YIKES.

I’ve said before how awesome I am at starting things. I love new journals, clean bedrooms, a clean office, new relationships, etc. When those things start to get old, I feel like the attraction and glimmer have faded and I lose interest. As great as I am at starting things, I’m equally good at abandoning and shutting down. Character flaw, I embrace it. That doesn’t mean I like this little flaw of mine. I shutter at the thought of the missed opportunities that I’ve experienced because of letting go of something instead of holding on. There’s a time for letting go, and a time for holding on. It’s a balance, but I tend to lean to one side.

I’m trying to change that whole thing up though. Plenty of situations have presented themselves recently that are just screaming “LEAVE. STOP. DON’T GO FURTHER. DO NOT PASS GO. COLLECT THE $200 AND SPLIT.” But, contrary to my inner-voice, I’m hanging tight. I haven’t abandoned any responsibilities. I haven’t ditched anyone from my life. I’m practicing the art of going with the flow; knowing that I might be a little down, but that means that good times are coming.

It’s a different way to live life. Especially when I’ve spent so long with this “Ditch when it gets bad” method of survival. Which, truth be told, isn’t as much a method of survival as it is an intentional sabotage of all of the things I want. The fact is that even the most delicious dreams and goals require a lot of work and sweat. That whole “No one ever said it would be easy, they said it would be worth it” rings abundantly clear to me now.

Have you noticed that I’ve posted a shit-ton of times in the last week? Like, seriously. Almost every morning over coffee I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing. Sometimes it’s public stuff for all of you little lovers to see, and other times I had on over to 750 Words to throw some words down that are for my eyes only. Because, you know, sometimes I need some privacy, yo. Why did I stop writing? It’s like, the best way to get all of these cray-cray thoughts out of my head and manifesting themselves into ridiculous assumptions and self-created fears.

WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THINGS THAT SABOTAGE ME?

I guess the first step is realizing that I have an issue. Now, we move onto correcting the shiz. I’ve been doing a decent job, like I said. I have been feeling more myself recently, and I even (finally) picked up my Nook and started reading again. I’m hopelessly re-addicted to the Sookie Stackhouse Novels. I’m making my bed before I leave in the morning. I’m wearing something other than yoga pants to work every day. I wear makeup. I’m working out again (though I fell off that wagon over the last few days! EEK!).  But each day, I’m sure to do at least one thing that I know I love to do for myself. This morning it was listening to my Sookie book on my way into work and indulging in a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Cosi. I also sent Good Morning texts to some of my favorite people, and forced myself to be more social.

Getting back into the swing of things is a hard job, but I’m working through it.

Katie’s Back.

I need to start with self-pep talks EARLY.

Breaking the Cycle

It seems like my life is this cycle. Though, to be completely fair, everyone’s life is a cycle. *Cue: Elton John’s Circle of Life playing softly in the background* — I mean, a little mood music is good stuff, right? Now that I’m more conscious of my feelings and emotions I’ve noticed patterns. You’d think I’d have noticed this before, since I can trace this cycling back at least 6 years, but no. New revelation.

It would be awesome if I could pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that I’ve been living a life in a pattern. But I can’t. I just know that until now, I never realized that this pattern was happening. I’d spend my bad days wondering if good days would ever come again. I’d spend my good days waiting for the bad days to return. The middle days would be spent spreading myself incredibly thin amongst tons of projects. Then, when I couldn’t complete the projects (because no matter how many hours I want in a day, there are only 24. And some of them need to be used for other things. Like sleep. And food. And stuff), I’d beat myself up, assume I couldn’t do anything, convince myself that I was a big liar and I was leading a life of lies and I wasn’t capable of being successful.

No fucking wonder I struggled with loving myself.

As much as I want to report that I’ve broken this cycle and my days are spent Pooping Rainbows and skipping merrily down the streets of Philadelphia, this isn’t the case. I’m stuck in the cycle again. I know I am. I’m somewhere on the upswing after beating myself up for not completing projects and saying “Yes” to too many things. Nicole really nailed this topic in one of her recent posts and I totally got what she was saying.

Through my trip through self discovery and allowing others in to my life, I’ve learned a lot. Unfortunately, my lessons are usually short lived and I go back to my old habits. I mean, we all fall off of the wagon sometimes. The important part is that we hop back on. We cheat on diets, skip a day of running, forget to call someone on the phone…it’s just life. The problem comes when we use our most recent mistake as a determining factor of who you are as a person. Cheating on a diet one day doesn’t make you a disgusting pig. Skipping a day of running doesn’t make you failure. Not calling your friend on the phone doesn’t make you a horrible person who is undeserving of anything good in life. But habit makes me think that way sometimes.

I’ve found myself wearing a ton of hats recently. One of them is being a supportive friend. Another is being a caring daughter. One more is attempting to be there for my family during a tough time. Then there are my usual clients, projects, consulting gigs.  I think I’m someone’s girlfriend at this point too. So there’s a lot of internal hats that come with that as well. Somewhere amongst all of these things which are uber high on my priority scale, I’ve forgotten about one huge, mega, important thing.

Me. Katie Colihan. HELLO?!

I’ve been eating terribly for a week and my body hates me. I’ve gained 5 lbs back. I’ve been meaning to get my eyebrows waxed for three days. I cancelled my facial and massage. I haven’t written in weeks. I’m having a problem with feeling guilty about being there for myself. When I do take the time out for me, I feel like I’m being a horrible friend, daughter, employee, significant other, etc.

This is where I catch the cycling that I’m doing and nip it. I know I need some “Me” time right now. It needs to be a priority – a guiltless priority. I need to feel as good about being there for myself as I do when I’m there for others. Right now, my support system is going through their own life issues, and I respect that. But that means I need to be a little nicer to myself and remind myself that I’m worth a massage and an eyebrow wax. Oh, and a dance party in my basement.

So, yeah. As I quickly approach my 28th birthday next week, I’m dedicating a large amount of my time during the next week to myself and doing things for myself that make me feel good.

I need me right now.