Addiction…my bitch

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Sitting here listening to Red Table Talk, “Kelly Osbourne Comes Clean” episode, and “wow” what a great reminder of the power of addiction. There are so many great quotes that I could not help but share and re-numerate on the hold it has had in my life through her story.

In my life I have known addiction, personally, intimately, and compassionately. I come from a long line of drinkers, fairly stated more honestly, alcoholics. I was never going to be a drinker because I hated everything about it in my young life and still to this day the smell of beer takes me to a place that turns my stomach. However, my drug of choice was food and in that addiction, I managed to reach 274 pounds with more co-morbidities than I could count on two hands.

Addiction in my opinion, is a personality trait. Many people have addictive personalities that never spin out of control and the trait instead serves as direction and drive. For others, and what you hear most when the word “addiction” is used, the trail of destruction it leaves in its path ruins lives, theirs, and everyone around them. I can relate to both.

I love that the first thing Kelly Osbourne notes is that she “…made it all the way through the pandemic…” without alcohol, which speaks to survival. Daily survival without the addiction, rearing its ugly head, feels like success. This feeling breeds a sense of confidence that “…you are normal, and you are going to prove to everyone that you can do this…” thing that you have avoided, you are cured. You tell yourself one drink can’t hurt anything and then one becomes two, three, TEN. The lie that we tell ourselves that we can have one drink, one bite, or one of anything that we are addicted to, leads to a spiral down the rabbit hole of self-harm and hatred. You sober up and come to grips with your reality “I did it again” and “Now I have to start over” which then leads to “Well since I have already fallen “off the wagon” I might as well _______________ (fill in the blank).” “Normal” is not a thing for anyone with addiction relative to the substance that addicts them. The new “normal” is the process of avoidance of all that has control over you and in building a resolve that can never waver.

Kelly noted that she “let go of her tools” of those things that help her “stay clean every day”. This is always where it starts. We fool ourselves into believing something is more important. It takes work to work the tools that keep it all together every single day for the rest of your life. Staying in control of your addiction is paramount to your survival. It is knowing this that becomes your number one responsibility, to protect the place where self-care lives as your FIRST priority and put all else second.

Kelly notes that some of her “insane thinking” included the idea of getting “pregnant because then she would have to stop drinking”. It is where self-care is absent that we search for the “reason” to stop. That is when we are not reason enough. In my life I remember the same fucked up thinking where a diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure would now be the “reason” I would give myself to get serious about my food addiction because the threat of death would set me straight; until the drama of it all would wear off and I would live to eat again. It wasn’t enough to stop for myself or my family; it had to be life-threatening. It had to be dramatic. Addicts live in the drama. It is always life or death until it is death-defying.

Kelly notes “I make everything more difficult.” Yes, WE do. Nothing can be done without it being painful or wrought with effort. Addicts are people-pleasers trying to solve for everyone around them and as Kelly noted she “Drained herself (through helping others) and left nothing for herself.” It is through failed attempts to solve for everyone and everything around you that you finally realize and are forced to answer the question of “How are you going to help someone else when you are all messed up?” Addicts are addicted to everything and codependency is where we find our value. Tell me I am enough, tell me how much you love me, validate me for I am not worthy without your judgment.

The climb out of addiction is hard. “You have to get honest with someone” that can understand the power of addiction and is able to handle your vulnerability. The second part of that statement is profound because as Kelly stated “I tell too much truth” and “You cannot have a conversation with someone that understands…if they are not an alcoholic (or addict)”. I have experienced this so many times with those around me that would simply solve for me by telling me to “Just stop”. JUST stop eating. JUST stop thinking. JUST stop worrying. JUST stop doing. If it were only JUST that easy.

In true addictive personalities, there is no such thing as stopping. You don’t stop. You can’t stop. You learn to use tools to control, manage and live on the positive side of addiction. You also learn to be uncomfortable in the addiction as it is always there, looming in the background, pushing you to do the thing that feels right at the moment. And when we give in, after the instant gratification of that moment passes we are left stripped of our self-worth and confidence leaving us asking, “Am I good enough for help?” and doubting our strength because of the realization that “I have done this again.”

This interview was revealing. It was also a great reminder that addiction is “…so much more than not using.” If you are reading this you are not alone and if you are not addicted put this blog in your toolbox to serve as a resource for those addicted in your life.

I conclude with the final quote in the interview. The best gift you can give yourself is “The gift of giving yourself a chance.”

Life as I live it — L.

Mood Swing Anyone?

Who am I? Sometimes this is a question I ask my many personalities. Scary, right? You just thought, “Did she just say that?”. Yes, I did!

I am in awe of the many moods we swing in and out of in any given day, week, HOUR, second…ha-ha. My moods sometimes catch me off-guard where I am wondering why in the heck I am in such a bad mood or why I am happy. Crazy it might seem but I realize that I am not my mood and my ability to dis-identify with a mood gives me perspective. However, this is not always the case.

Last night I was very anxious going to bed. I could not get something off my mind in anticipation and I awoke with the same feeling. Within an hour of getting to work my mind shifted dramatically to a happier state which led the way to a GREAT day. The anticipation alone caused the anxiety and if I was truly able to dis-identify it would not have consumed me. The reality of this is far greater than a mood, it is a state-of-being for a moment or moments in time and if we are not cognoscente of that we can and do make decisions based on that moment.

One of the ways I attempt to find perspective when anxiety, anticipation or worry get the best of me is to ask myself the question, “Will this matter in five years/minutes/days?” The answer regardless of the time frame assigned is usually “NO!” Admittedly the time frames has to be shorter; asking myself if something will matter in five years is too far of a time for me to consider in a world I navigate at 80 mph. While I would like to believe everything can be solved by this “reality check” it simply cannot. It is when the “no” is not the simply answer that I have to consider my next tactic.

The inability to see the “temporary” in any situation is that which feeds mental illness and its effects. When you are in such a dark place that you cannot see a tomorrow, another way, options, you cannot make decisions. Forget about the decisions’ relevance; right or wrong…you simply cannot make any decision. The paralysis of mental illness traps you in a state that feels isolating and the longer you stay in that self-isolation the more amplified the darkness. Yes, this is the core of suicide. By the time someone makes that decision, the decision to “end it all” they are so far beyond help that they likely could not be reached had someone been standing right in front of them. (Yea, I know that got deep…fast. Tough.)

This is WHY it is so important that you are in tune with your emotions, moods and states of being. If you are reading this blog you are old enough to be in touch with all of these things. You know how you feel in each of these moments and when you are “safe” and when you are not. Knowing is not enough though; unless you know when to ACT. The act of asking for help, the act of reaching out, the act of doing anything to get back to a “safe” place. This is WHY Mental HEALTH is key to preventing and treating Mental Illness.

Let me offer one simple analogy and then we will climb out of the depths of the “deep”. You absolutely know when you “feel” good or bad physically; it is impossible to NOT know when you have a cold. You are stuffed up, coughing, feverish. You go to the doctor if it gets beyond the point of a “common cold” to prevent a more serious condition, pneumonia, upper respiratory infection, etc. There is no difference when you “feel” good or bad mentally. However the way we treat it is VERY different. When we feel “blue” we might tell ourselves to “snap out of it” and sometimes that might work, but when it doesn’t how far are you willing to go until the blue becomes dark and you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel to know how to get out…again WHY Mental HEALTH is key to preventing and treating Mental Illness.

I offer my insight on this tonight because I recognized that within a range of four days I have gone through a WIDE array of emotions, moods, states of being unexpected and unintended. I felt physically exhausted Saturday, excited with anticipation and then later emotions mixed with confusion, gratitude and disbelief Sunday, grief-stricken Monday and then moderate on Tuesday…not to mention the anxiety and anticipation described last night and today as I started this blog. My mental health is in good standing because I prioritize it as high as my physical health which I simply do not compromise. Even with a strong base there are days that suck. When you mix exhaustion with any one of these emotions it can be a recipe for a fast decline.

My hope is that regardless of your “mood” as you read this blog that you have tolerance for the “swing”. Our highs can be as dangerous as our lows and if we are not paying attention while on the “swing” we can find our feet swept out in front of us as we lie flat on our back from the fall. Next time you are in a “mood” hang on tight and control the “swing” it’s easier to balance when not pushed!

Moody and I own it – L.

p.s. Committed to Love and Transparency – Judgment has no place here.

Crazy…really…wow

As I was sitting in the nail salon recently I overheard a woman in a pedicure chair talking to her nail tech about mental illness. At first blush her comments were somewhat entertaining until I realized her views and then I found myself shaking my head at the ignorance that was so blissful it was on display. Others in the salon could hear her commentary and like myself were taking it in silently. As I left the salon I was still shaking my head at her commentary and hence a blog is born.

Her comments after marinating on it made me realize that we are still climbing a mountain of understanding to get Mental Health to the mainstream. In her words “there are so many “crazy” people in the world today”. In my mind this is the equivalent of calling those that get annual exams “hypochondriacs”. I am no more “crazy” for having a therapist than I am a “hypochondriac” for getting an annual mammogram. The second is understood as “preventive medicine” and the first is simply incomprehensible to her.

As she told her story she went on to exclaim her shock about being asked “mental health questions” during a recent medical visit. She joked that she gave the doctor a hard time and would not give him straight answers to questions such as “Have you ever thought about hurting someone or yourself?”. Additionally, she went on about how “crazy” it is that we now have counselors in our schools. The reality is that there have been counselors in our schools for as long as I can remember and quite frankly with the incredible rise in mass shootings it clearly is not enough. We need more counselors, we need more doctors asking the questions that no one else has the courage to ask. We need to heal this nation one “crazy” person (her words, not mine) at a time until at which point asking these questions and seeing counselors in schools becomes the norm.

Her comments made me think back to when I was in school and while I knew there were counselors in the school I was not sure why some kids had access to them while others, like myself, did not. Further exploring this thought I think back to how much I could have benefited from counseling in those years. How could they know what I was going through? There were so many distractions at home that made paying attention in school a task beyond measure some days. I certainly can say that it felt “crazy” not having the tools to cope.

I am intrigued by this woman’s ignorance as I immediately acknowledge that at no point was she attempting to be offensive. This was truly a point of view from someone that was raised in an era where they swept it under the rug, kept a stiff upper lip and carried on; regardless of how miserable and uninspired they found themselves. Her generation was where a “woman’s’ place was in the home” and that “woman” was expected to “serve her husband” and whose place was always last behind everyone and anyone that needed something, anything. Forgive the assumption that some of this “crazy” that exists in the world today is a result of her generation “Mommy Dearest”. 🙂

I do not begrudge this respectable woman as this is her view which is clearly defined from her lifetime of experience. My Mom was also not a believer in therapy and did not fully accept mental health as I do. Our views differed greatly and we debated many times over the efficacy of talking with a therapist. My mother was a very private person and did not like to talk, in general, let alone when she was wrestling with her thoughts. My Father is also not a proponent but certainly does not begrudge others. Theirs is a tough generation. This is indeed the era that believed in a stiff upper-lip perfectly defined as ” displays fortitude and stoicism in the face of adversity, or exercises great self-restraint in the expression of emotion”.

I am not “crazy” nor are the millions of people that suffer from mental illness. We all have the ability to be mentally ill. Some suffer with mental illness more than others; no different than those that are more susceptible to a physical ailment more than others. The love of the era in which we live in now is that mental health is as easy, if not easier, to attain as any mainstream medical care. There are Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), hotlines and medical insurance coverage typically offers mental health as well.

So flipping the script a bit I want to thank the CRAZY lady at the nail salon for getting my attention and reminding me that there is still work to be done. But even more importantly I want to thank her for also confirming that our society is indeed changing; we do have counseling in schools, we do have better access to therapy and most importantly we are checking on our mental health as diligently as we do physical health. I will take it, one crazy baby step at a time.

Life CRAZY as a loon – L.

Therapy…the shame in talking about talking

Why is it taboo to talk about therapy? What is the shame in our mental health? We talk about mammograms, menopause and colonoscopies without hesitation. It makes zero sense to me and that is why I do talk and about it and will talk about it.

Mental Health therapy is no different than physical therapy or occupational therapy as it gives you tools to manage through an injury, to speed up the healing and ultimately to handle it when it comes up again. I can no more diagnose nor treat the breast cancer that a mammogram may find than I can diagnose nor treat mental illness. But both can kill you. If you have symptoms in your breast we are quick to tell you to go get it checked out right away because time is of the essence. But if you have symptoms of depression we rarely tell you to run to a therapist. Instead we may offer to have lunch and take you to a movie. We may sit and listen to what is on your mind with zero ability to help you solve it. But to suggest that you “go see someone” is considered extreme. Why?

The role that a therapist plays in unraveling the knots in our head is no less a skill that any other doctor possesses in curing us from any number of diseases. They know how to get to the core of the issues and most importantly what work to do to get past the issues.

As important as it is to see a Therapist when you are sick, it is as important to see them when you are well. Again, much like your doctor, you go and get an annual exam even when you are not sick to make sure that everything is well. It is in fact now called a “Well Visit”. Seeing a therapist when you are well is as important as when you are not. The more they know about your “normal” the better they can help when you are not.

The reality is that there is no shame in talking. We talk to our families, friends, coworkers, neighbors, store clerks; for God sake we talk constantly. Why then do we have to hide when we go talk to the one person that can make something out of what we are thinking and what we are talking about. The ridiculousness of it being taboo to find meaning in our thoughts and learning techniques to manage those thoughts and control those emotions is something we have got to continue to breakthrough.

I have heard many say, when the therapy-debate arises, that they don’t need to talk to someone. It is a choice like the many we have to make in our lives and you are entitled to yours. My plight is to to take the shame and judgement away from the discussion; the discussion with a Therapist and the discussion about therapy by talking about it…it’s what we do.

Just sayin’…L.

To write or not to write…

To write or not to write that is the question or is it? I write to relieve my brain, give my thoughts freedom and to pass along those things that I think can bring value to those around me. I am enjoying this journey and thought that today the process deserved some understanding of the intention and history behind it.

My writing started many years back with the exercise as prescribed by my then therapist, Randie, that gave me the assignment. She said that I needed to get what was wound tight in my head out. The assignment was to start writing, just write whatever was in my head and get it out on paper. Don’t correct anything, not spelling, grammar or punctuation and don’t read what I wrote…Just write. I did and it worked. Typing has always been easier than writing as I type as fast as I think and therefore my Google Docs were born. I did exactly as assigned and wrote for years. And then I started reading some of what I had written and wow. I could not believe what had come out on paper. Much like therapy so many of those thoughts that I didn’t even know I had locked inside started to come out as stories, recounts and full of emotion, EVERYTHING unfolded on those docs. I still never thought much of it until sharing a few of those entries with others and seeing their reactions. It was then that I realized that there may be more to this, more to give back, more to share, if I was willing to open these very vulnerable documents and truths about myself to the world.

There are times that I am learning that you don’t write or more importantly don’t publish. I had my first understanding of that a few weeks back when one of my loved ones was going through a tough time; a tough day and I realized that to write nothing at all, to let things lie where they were, was the right thing to do as that was my way of honoring her. I found myself feeling much the same way last night. Two mass shootings in less than 24 hours…and what in the world is “right” to publish? What could I write that wouldn’t seem callous to what had just gone on and what did I have to add to the conversation of the day. I think it’s an atrocity, I think it’s scary as hell right now and it falls somewhere in between believing there has to be more control of guns but more importantly MORE emphasis on mental health! I will leave the gun debate to those that know more than I but with regards to mental health I am going to beat that f’n drum as loud as I can and as often as I am given the soapbox because ultimately this is what is fueling these fires. So it was with that respect, to those lost and to those left to survive that I left last night unpublished. There will be many more days for me to write about all that I know, feel and believe about mental health/illness, last night wasn’t the time for it.

The more I write the more I read and the more I read the more I become fearful of what I don’t know. This creative energy has a lot more to it than I have originally invested. I decided it was time to write and I did, I decided it was time to publish and I did and now as I decide to perfect this craft I will become a student of writing but will work hard not to allow it to restrict my flow of creativity, thoughts, emotions and everything that has compelled me to write in the first place.

As stated this all started with a mental health practice of journaling/writing what was tangled up inside as a way to straighten it all out leaving room for things to resolve. The only thing that has changed is that I have found the courage to now allow those thoughts to flow out in a public forum, where you are welcome to join me in this journey. Take what serves you and leave the rest. Share what moves you or keep it close to your vest.

I have passed along this same advice to many that have confided in me about their own angst. Just write, don’t read it, don’t correct it, just write. It’s the best medicine and has opened up an entire world to me; internally through my mental health and now externally through sharing with you…my world. This is life as I see it – L.

p.s. Today we lost our sweet Smokey. She was our beloved cat who was blessed to live a very long life with us. She was 22 years old, as best we knew as we got her about a year after moving to South Florida. She disciplined our kids better than we did; swatting at them when they would simply walk by her and was my husband’s biggest fan. She loved G more than any of us and he her although he would spend years denying it. In the end, she gave us as much as we gave her, unconditional love and a sweet life. You will be missed as you are as much a part of this family as any of us. RIP Smokey Kiel –

Knowing Better…

This post started with the word DREAD but it is such an unfair word. August has been the focus of my dread for months now. This is the last month I had with my mom last year. It brings up so much emotion and none of it wanted, thereby dreaded.

On August 31st it will be a year. A year that I feel I have barely survived. A year of feeling loss when I want to call her, see her or even when I think about her. I know she is with me, I see her in my hands, my voice and she is my heart.

My day started out with smiles as I drove to work talking to my friend. I realized I was smiling as I was talking to her and stopped to note as much. This was a good way to start the first day of this month that has caused such anxiety.

Unfortunately by 9:00a the weight was mounting, the clouds were setting in and I could feel my mood changing. I can’t stand the power I have given this month. Why? Why? Why? My day continued to be isolating and heavy.

As it would turn out and coincidentally, I had an afternoon appointment with my therapist. And the power of therapy would once again prove its power in my life. As I left my therapists office I felt lighter. The day still had its shroud and the month is still wound in anxiety but how I allow it to affect me is still my choice.

The night concluded with my first run around the neighborhood in months. As I floated home on a runners high it only got better and I ended the night with babies and fellowship.

I am still not where Joe Biden’s quote promises me to be but I am going to work hard to spend this month HONORING HER instead of GRIEVING HER.

When you know better, you do better…one day at a time Kiel, one day at a time… L.

Medication or Meditation?

Medication or Meditation…that is the question. Or is it?

It is astonishing to me how many people have reached out to me after posting “The Smiling Faces of Depression” and to date the “mental health” tags in my blogs have received far more views than any other subject matter. It is clear that I have hit a nerve and while I am on your nerves allow me to continue the conversation with the hopes of settling your nerves.

I have had many conversations over the years on depression and the many solutions that exist; natural and pharmaceutical. It is my belief that if we engage in this conversation with the sentiment that we are speaking on behalf of mental health as we would physical health then it would seem to me that the following statements should apply.

  1. Depending on your level of depression you could require meditation OR medication. This is why it is important to seek the help of a professional. My first analogy is a simple one, if you had high blood pressure (HBP) you would go to the doctor who would suggest you change your diet and exercise and possibly prescribe a medication. You would likely not think twice about this advice. So why is it then when it comes to medications to solve depression we pause? That pause can do as much damage as untreated HBP as depression worsens without some form of intervention.
  2. Should you use natural supplements? It is not my preference as I told my “tribe” during a recent girls trip when we had this debate. Every bout of depression is not the same and therefore there is not one solve when it comes to choosing a medication. It is far better to go to a professional that can determine the severity of your depression to find the chemical that can serve you best without worsening it versus experimenting with supplements.
  3. Meditation is ALWAYS the answer regardless of the question. Meditation has many forms so finding the one that works for you is simply trial and error. I have tried many forms of meditation and ultimately what serves me well is counting my breaths, breathing deep and controlled. I prefer it because I can do it anywhere and any time. Meditation calms the mind, it clears the soul and through the practice it resolves the physical, slowing the pulse and calming the central nervous system.

Despite the debate the fact is that you need to do SOMETHING when you feel a depression coming on! Yes, that is not a typo…it is a “a depression” just like it is “a cold”; you are not depressed, you are affected by depression and can treat it and come out of it which is why we are not identifying with this condition as a characteristic versus the disease that it actually is. Not doing something about depression is where depression like any other illness can make us prisoners in our own lives. An analogy for you to consider:

  • When you get the sniffles you hope a cold is not coming on so you blow your nose and continue on. Then a cold sets in and you likely run to the drugstore to get some over-the-counter meds but they simply suppress the symptoms they don’t heal the infection brewing inside. Those sniffles eventually turn into bronchitis which without medication/antibiotics turns into pneumonia which without medical intervention can kill you.
  • When you feel sad, you acknowledge that your spirits are down but likely are not alarmed knowing that it is just a moment. When the sadness sits in for weeks at a time you start to feel worse as it is likely affecting your sleep, ability to focus and overall mood. If that long-term sadness is not addressed it can then turn into a depression which requires some form of intervention. This is a pivotal point in the journey of depression as if it is not dealt with or identified at this point where the depressed individual can be “reached” it can turn into suicidal thoughts and at that point reaching the individual suffering is far more difficult because like pneumonia when you are that deep into the disease the intervention needed is professional.

This is the conversation that we need to continue to have with each other. It is through these conversations that we can save lives. Openly discussing mental illness as easily we do HBP or any other mainstream condition is important because we acknowledge that we are more alike than different. We all want to feel like we are not alone in any journey whether it be medical, mental or social.

Back to the original question…Medication versus Meditation? To this I say BOTH! Medication is prescribed as needed to offer the body what it is deficient in and there is no shame in that especially when it can make all the difference in your life. Walking around anxiety-ridden, panicked or overwhelmed is debilitating and that a medication can solve is what I call a no-brainer! Meditation is a form of exercise for the brain, for the body and most importantly for the soul. it can be done anywhere and is as easy as breathing. There are great apps, free guided meditations on the internet and books and magazines that can offer techniques.

I conclude by applauding YOU my audience for making this conversation the top trending all month. We have to continue to have these conversations and have the courage to share that we seek therapy, take medication and meditate and these things do not make us “less than” they make us BAD ASS. My life is AMAZING because I am as serious about my mental health as I am about my physical health and that combination makes me whole, it makes me who I am. This is life as I see it. L.

The Smiling Face of Depression

Image may contain: 16 people, people smiling, text

So as I was driving to work today and I was thinking of what I would be blogging about tonight and I knew tonight would be the night that I shared yet another personal experience in this life; my experience with depression. In that same moment, I had a thought that the face of depression has a smile, a twinkle in an eye and an infectious laugh. Ironically, I get to work and as we are reviewing our companies social media pages I see this meme posted by my Aunt Susie. Talk about the universe, parallel energies, synergy; whatever the heck you call it I was floored and KNEW this would be the subject of tonight’s blog.

Yes, these are indeed the faces of depression. This is reality, a terrifying reality but it was as real for them as it now is for their loved ones left wondering what they could have done, what they missed and the ever-longing cry of WHY!!!! I hope tonight’s blog can shed light on depression for the sake of your understanding or empathy for those around you that suffer. I have too often heard, “I don’t know how anyone could kill themselves” and to that my friend I say “consider yourself lucky”. Ignorance is indeed bliss however before putting your head in the sand consider my stance, my experience, my transparency…I put this out there to promote understanding and acceptance and hope you will read WIDE OPEN.

I believe in mental health as an active practice to stave away mental illness. Mental health is as important as physical health and while more accepted today it continues to be a stigma in our society. You would no sooner tell someone struggling with high-blood pressure to ” get over it” then why would we suggest the same to someone who is experiencing a depression. (Yes “a depression” because we ARE not depression; just as we ARE not our elbows. It’s a state that we are passing through.)

There are many roads we can go down on this topic so let’s start down one lane and see where we run into a few guardrails, cross solid lines and fly through tolls before finally exiting this highway…just for today. Yes JUST for today because this is a subject I will continue to blog about as I have a responsibility to all of those that believe in mental health as much as those that do not to help explain the curse of feeling sheer desperation, anguish and exhaustion from this life.

I came to know depression as a 20-something. I may have known it earlier in my life but it did not have a name until my boss (and friend) inquired as she could see I was in pain. She asked me “Does it feel like you are standing in front of a window that you cannot see out of?”. “YES! it does” I replied. “How did you know?” I asked. She then told me the story of her sister’s depression and in that moment I felt understood. She knew exactly how I felt, she described the despair, the helplessness to a tee. “But what do I do now?” She helped me get an appointment and there began my initial introduction to Mental Health.

This first bout of depression would be a hell of a ride. I have never been to a therapist and found it CRAZY that she could ask questions that made me say things I didn’t even know I was thinking!!! WTH? But the thoughts, stories, feelings were true, they were real, they were simply so deep inside I could not reach them to deal with them on my own. After weeks, maybe months, of therapy I felt unwound, understood by both my therapist and MYSELF. Yes, I understood myself better and had amazing realizations about who I was and would become.

The next bout of depression would show itself in my 30’s. I was struggling with my weight and despite hundreds of diets and thousands of hours spent in the gym I was not winning the war with the scale. This time I went to the therapist to help me uncover what was eating me inside out while I was eating everything in sight. This was a larger revelation than I was prepared for; I didn’t know it then. I found a therapist that kept it very real. She was a Jewish New Yorker who reminded me of my mother but absolutely was not buying my “shit”. I loved the process, I needed to be called out for my excuses, the lies I was telling myself, it was time to get real. She and I started digging and digging until the issues started rising to the surface. It was too much, I couldn’t bear it, I ran scared and I didn’t go back for two years!

When I returned to that therapist ready to finish what we started, she told me that she always knew I would return on my own terms because you cannot pull all of that shit out and think you are going shove it back in…it never goes back in once it’s out. So we finished the work, she took me to the edges of my courage and got me to deal with the realities of my life that I had never dealt. it was truly doing the work, dealing with these issues that ultimately allowed me to now get to work on the “easy” stuff…but not until I confronted my past. Ugh…the joy!

I emerged from this experience dazed and confused. She told me I would feel a weight lifting off of me as soon as I confronted these realities. For the next year I would continue to question when that weight was going to lift because I felt no different, had I done it wrong? No, I had not…it just took longer than the act of confronting my realities for my subconscious to release the burden.

My last visit to the dark side of depression came after a bout with kidney failure which would prove to be the last ailment I would face before finally taking control of my weight. I couldn’t do it anymore. I remember telling Gary “I’m done”! I was at the end of the rope, the bottom of the barrel, I had finally hit the proverbial bottom and it was time to act. This time didn’t send me too far down the “rabbit hole”. The blessing this time was that I knew what was causing my despair and I not only knew exactly what do but had done the work all along and was easily able to act. I had the tools, every single one of them…well except for the one that would offer the final resolve…my decision to have gastric bypass.

The process of preparing for bypass is a scary journey because not only do you have to get cleared by a number of doctors to prove that you can physically withstand the surgery but you have to pass a Psych eval! Holy Shizzle…now that is SCARY! I met with the Psychologist who immediately questioned my intentions…WTH I don’t want to date your son, I just want to lose 100+ pounds! Ha! I then was taken to a desk where I had to complete a 100+ question exam that I guess would tell them if I was “bat shit crazy” or sane enough to be skinny. Double Ha! I have to admit I was nervous about the test, and worse waiting for the call that I had “passed”. I wasn’t as scared about my cardiac clearance as this psych clearance. I was cleared and so were 140 pounds from my 5’3″ frame. 🙂

The experience of going through depression is that you learn what it feels like before it gets to far, you know what to do about it and you ultimately can control the extent of it. Much like a flu that you feel coming on. The first time you get the flu you don’t know what to expect when it comes, nor how to deal with it, when it has set-in you are left at the mercy of that strain of flu. So it goes, the next time you feel the flu coming on you get to the doctor immediately to get a Tamiflu shot to reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration. Depression is much the same. Depression does not always feel exactly as it did before however when you are paying attention, which when practicing mental health you do, you can get in front of it and while you will inevitably walk through it, if caught and treated early enough the walk will be brief.

Let us return to the those bright and smiling faces at the top of the blog. Those smiling faces were in pain, they were at their bottom, they were beyond reach and while we will never know if this was their first bout or their tenth ultimately they chose a “long term solution to a short term problem” or so a therapist would recite. Those around them may have never known that they were mentally ill as mental illness does not show itself in the form of an infection that we can see but it as painful and as gut-wrenching as any physical pain you will ever know. It is a lonely disease, it is an isolating sickness and it can overwhelm the heart and soul with a profound deafening and blinding thud.

I say to you that if you have never experienced depression be grateful and to you I hope that I have offered a bit of insight that will allow you a greater and more accepting understanding of a disease affecting many.

I say to those of you that have experienced depression, you are not alone. I know you, I am you, I feel you and I will walk with you.

This is life as I see it through my experiences that have formed my beliefs and ultimately shaped who I am. This is me – L.

Fiercely Independent…

Happy Independence Day America! Happy Fourth of July! I am so grateful to the men and women who fight for my freedom. I am proud to be an American and know that living in THIS country is indeed a privilege. While I honor the day I have to take advantage of the theory of INDEPENDENCE as it relates to the human condition.

I have always defined myself as “fiercely independent” as both a reminder of what I want to be and ultimately who I am. I was raised by a mother that personified this throughout her life. As her daughter and biggest fan I watched my mother navigate this life with grace first and independence always! it was through watching her that I became very comfortable with my own company (yes, I go to movies and restaurants by myself…oh the horror!! HA), silence and dependence on NO ONE! My mother was very introspective and private (Unfortunately, the thrill of finally getting to read her journals proved fruitless as of course she wasn’t revealing a thing…ugh!) but her independence is one of many of her characteristics that I cherished most and attempted to replicate.

I was meeting with my therapist recently (yes, I believe in mental HEALTH to avoid mental sickness!) and he was telling me the lengths at which he had gone in his life to be comfortable with simply being alone, silent and in his own company. It started with a friend inviting him to go up on the mountain to “watch the monks” (literally! Monk-watching!!). He said that it moved him so much that he went back every month for the next ten years of his life. He would sit in silence (enter the “Sound of Silence”-Simon and Garfunkel) and observe the monks but most importantly in that silence he could observe his thoughts and ultimately learn to quiet them. As he told the story I am sure he thought I would be appalled at the extreme nature of this effort but instead I was in awe and jealous of the opportunity. To simply BE, just sit, quietly and allow it all to happen around you is the fiercest level of independence I can think of and respect.

When thinking on this topic I am reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert author of “Eat Pray Love” as it is one of my favorite books and movie. This is a memoir about the undoing of her marriage and her journey to find a new life. There are so many things that resonate with me through her story but two stand out:

  • She goes to an ashram where she is given the opportunity to be “silent” for a period of time. She was not to speak a word to anyone and wore a button that noted that she was practicing silence. I think about the challenge as I enjoy interaction, communication and yes, sometimes the sound of my own voice as I indeed talk to myself. Ultimately the way I see it is that when you are silent you are forced to take in because you cannot put out. (Not that kind of putting out…dirty minds!!) It’s in this state that you will observe more as it’s when we shut down one of our senses that we enhance the others. Try it and comment below to let me know the longest you have been silent and what you learned about yourself.
  • I am moved by Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Physics of the Quest” and have it in the notes app of my phone as a place to go for inspiration on how I want to live this life. I share it here with you:
    • “If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting (which can be anything) and set out on a truth-seeking journey, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared – most of all – to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself… then truth will not be withheld from you.”

I would be remiss if I did not note that my greatest accomplishment to date is putting two extremely independent human beings out into the world. My oldest children are exactly the kind of independent I wanted for their lives. Molly is fierce in every sense of the word. She cares not what the world thinks and simply lives HER life according to her standard. She has taught me so much in this life about independence and owning who you are inside out. Cameron is the softer side of fierce as his independence is a bit less “F you” (Did I mention Molly has a smiley face tattooed on her middle finger!!) and more “I got this”. Cameron puts his mind to what he wants in life and he goes for it with a relentless focus that is exhausting from the outside but fueling his fire on the inside. He comes across as amicable but don’t confuse that for agreeable. He has very strong thoughts about life and how it is to be lived and will offer a healthy debate on all the wrong things to talk about in public if engaged…by this I mean religion, politics and his sister; even when she doesn’t want to be the topic! HA! These children are 100% their own people. They have views that do not reflect mine or Gary’s and stand for something. As I said at the top, they are by far my greatest accomplishments to date…now about Brendan…well that is an entirely different blog post! Ha!!

I will conclude with an excerpt from my journal after visiting my therapist and having the greatest aha moment about my independence and what was actually an unhealthy dependence on my mom that I never realized the power of until she was gone.  

Written 11.17.18 – I realize that I put so much into her; faith, trust, love, EVERYTHING, that when she died all of that died with her and that which is ME.  I get it. At some level I also realize that my dependency on her life was not healthy, although it NEVER felt that way but it is/was what it is/was.  Now it’s time to heal, it’s time to learn how to live a life without reliance on another human to hold all of what you find valuable in life. Funny that what occurs to me right now is that while I have always believed myself to be fiercely independent I was fiercely dependent on her.  Interesting.

I learned that my independence was not truly as fierce as I had portrayed as it was very dependent on her, my everything. In order to be truly independent in this life no one thing can be your “everything” as the very idea of being independent is being surrounded by nothing and being perfectly okay in that place.

I wish you a Happy Fourth of July and may this Independence Day inspire in you freedom from all that holds you back. #HonoringHer