Tag Archives: depression

The Merrier Me

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When laughing didn’t hurt…

Like a lot of people this weekend
who opted to tuck in front of the fire in lieu of holiday parties, I watched Rudolph, which always stresses me out and I’m not sure why I go, “awwwwwwwwww” when I see it’s going to be on television because that abominal snowmonster still freaks me out and all those sad toys with Rankin Bass puppet mouths, and then Frosty (ditto—he melts!  A little girl cries next to the puddle once known as his former self, and there’s a cloying bad guy that he can’t shake with a weird rabbit helper—I forget what happens in the end.  I think he moves to Brooklyn.)

download (1)And then the healing began.  Mary Poppins.  Two hours of Mary and Bert and tuppence and votes for women and evening govnah and magic umbrellas and bottomless carpet bags and sidewalk chalk painting portals into barber shop penguins and carousels with real horses and hilarious helium tea on the ceiling and and and.  Even though she leaves them in the end and they all have to find their inner Mary Poppins.download

The only thing of it is:  I laughed.  And that is a physical response to emotions I haven’t let myself feel for two months.  The who what when where why how of it has to do with a horse and my tendency to act over-confident when I’m scared.  And a loose cinch.  In short, he zigged, I zagged.  Bottom line:  if you’re going to ride horses, you’re going to end up on the ground sometimes.  You just hope you don’t hear actual bones cracking.  Three of them.  Ribs.

If you’ve broken a rib, you are now making the face I make when I see the abominal snowmonster.
download (2)It suuuuuuucks.  Breaths are reduced to small sips, coughing and sneezing are a delicacy you can only succumb to if you can’t not, sighing is not recommended, sleeping in any position at all is nearly unattainable (I seriously almost bought a recliner and put it in the living room), talking with any animation is ish-y, singing is better left to a dull hum, crying—meh…and laughter?  Laughter is verboten, like the Burgermeister Meisterburger has some sort of hold on you.

You know that kind of laughter that happens at weddings and funerals and graduation speeches that you can’t control?  It has total occupation of your diaphragm?  Well, that’s one of my central goals in life.  That kind of belly-womping primordial caccination.  With snorts in-between.  If you can’t breath deeply, you can’t pull it off, not by any stretch.  So you have a choice:  Laugh your way into scar tissue that will remind you of your stupid horse tricks for the rest of your life when you climb a ladder or reach for your shoes.  Or go deadpan.  Poker face.  In short, I’ve been officially depressed.  I lead retreats.  I needed to go on one.  Just not in my bed for two months, groaning.bdd9bf5f53c4df963b2e91e3a5b2e939

And now that it’s the holidaze, the Kay jewelers people don’t help.  Or those Folgers ads.  Or all the perfect Facebook Christmas trees.  Or the families in matching sweaters on my Christmas cards.  Or the fact that I haven’t gotten a Christmas card out this year and probably won’t.  In my mind, it’s still October.  Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened.  I’m finally going out for a ride on my horse after a grueling fall work schedule.  I’m tired.  I feel sorry for myself.  And I’m going to do something nice for myself, damnit.  He jigged.  I jagged.  And I watched fall become winter from my bed for the most part of two months.

But I’m not writing this to complain.  I’m writing all of this to say that I now know what gratitude really means.  Bless you, cup of tea that took me twenty minutes to make, including the hard launch from bed– the roll, the sidle, the squirm, the shuffle, the sit, and the big one:  the stand…the walk…and the stairs…the stairs, the pick up the tea pot, the fill it with water, the ow ow ow ow ow all the way back up the stairs, back to sit, to the slow timber back into the pillows.  Oh.  And then there’s the tea.  Waaaaaaay over there on the nightstand, a century of inches away.  “Forget it.  Let it get cold.  I’ve just done the Iditorod.”  And there she lay.  Watching the sun move around the house and the moon rise, and all of her responsibilities fall like the leaves she never got to on the lawn, and the snow that’s coming, that came, and all the people she’ll have to ask to help her do simple things and all the shame around one stupid moment on a horse that she was planning on riding every day for eight straight weeks of much-needed horse therapy.  Her new craving:  Epsom salts.  And oh, that cold cup of tea.  If only someone would come in with a fresh steaming cup and fold her laundry…  Still, I have never been more grateful for just being able to get up and make the tea, never mind drink it.

That said, all that woe-is-me managed to loop itself around to a world of hurt that I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve never taken anti-depressants, and for the first time, I seriously considered it.  And then, just as I was thinking this would be my permanent world…I caught myself laughing at something on Jimmy Fallon.  And it hurt…so good.  And I realized what was really wrong.  It wasn’t the horselessness or the shame or the frustration or even the pain.  It was the lack of laughter in my life.  Without laughter, I was living in a colorless world of fair-to-middling.  I had untrained myself out of delight.  Joy.  Unabashed explosions of glee.  And it had to stop.  I am a laugher.  No matter what.  I needed to get back on that horse.  (The other one can wait.)

So on Saturday night, in my eighth week of recovery, my ribs more mended than not, with permission from Mary Poppins and her tea-time wack-wonkery, I let myself laugh.  Ecstatic laughing.  In hee hee hees and hoh hoh hohs and hah hah hahs.  It made LOL look like mere titter.  And man…did it feel good.  My whole being felt light and alive in a way it hasn’t for far too long.  I am so grateful for this simple and essential human ability.  I love to laugh, indeed.  Laughter really is the best medicine.  LOLOLOLOLOLOL!

Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats 2017

February 22-26 (one spot left)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

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***According to Mayo clinic laughter is just what the doctor ordered!

***PS.  In all that lying around, I did manage to write 150 pages of a book.  So there’s that.  #grateful

 

 

 

 

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Write to Live. Write in Community. Write Because You Can’t Not.

IMG_1507Previously published by Adam Wahlburg from Think Piece Press.

I have written my way through crisis many times in my life.  One of those times resulted in a best-selling book that was published in nine countries.  Most of the other stuff is in my journals.  I believe that writing is a deeply healing tool.  I recently had a conversation with a book editor who specializes in books written about crisis and healing.  I’d like to share it with you because he asked really great questions and got my brain digging deep.

If you are considering writing your way though a crisis in your life, not just for your journals, here are some things to consider:

TP: The book is so skillful about identifying what’s really going on underneath the words, which is so hard to do. How did you arrive at such insights?

LM: Years of therapy! (Laughs.) Seriously. It also came from dealing with years of rejection from publishers and editors. When you get a form letter from the publishing world, it often reads like this: “This does not meet our needs at this time.” Right? It’s just the life of the writer. But I would take that  personally. In two seconds you can take that form rejection letter to, I’m a bad writer, I have no talent, I’m never going to get published, I can’t believe she got published and I didn’t. All that junk. And all that does is bring one into an intense world of suffering, and I had gotten very tired of that suffering. I had to tell myself a new story. And with the help of a great therapist I learned to find a gap between the things that people say and do and my emotional reaction to it. Whether it’s a publisher or a husband!  We have choices emotionally, and that is new news to a lot of people. It was to me.  We don’t have to be emotional victims.

TP: You write so clearly about being aware of your negative self-talk, which is a battle in and of itself, for so many of us.

LM: It is. We all have one of those negative voices and he or she is loud. By the time you become middle-aged, the voice is usually saying really mean things, things you wouldn’t say to your worst enemy. Many of us aren’t even aware of the way we speak to ourselves in our own mind. When you start tuning in, it really helps you to understand how much of a corrosive climate we have in our own minds. We walk around saying such cruel things to ourselves and it becomes our normal. Finding the awareness of what goes on in our minds and seeing how we’re suffering and putting a stop to it is the practice. It’s not going to happen overnight. We have to be able to develop a payoff.

TP: What do you mean by that?

LM: Well, you’re not going to spend your whole life walking around saying, Oh I love myself! My life is great! That would be dandy, but for most of us that’s just not going to happen. When we can start accepting our whole selves including our shadow selves with our inner critic, and realize that the shadow self is a scared creature who lives inside of us, it gets easier to look for where the positive payoff is and to cultivate that. Once we start moving into that way of thinking it can inform our way of being.writing

TP: And writing for you is a part of that payoff?

LM: An essential part. And I think it can be for many people. I think writing should be considered as much a preventative wellness action as diet and exercise.

TP: I like that. When did you discover this for yourself?

LM: Pretty early. I was able to find it as a young woman, and that’s something I’m very grateful for. Writing wasn’t just a passion, it was a lifeline. It was the one place where the climate was a free zone, a place where I could always fit in, a place for my inconvenient truths and dirty secrets. That was the one place I knew I could go whenever I wanted and have it feel safe. Little by little it felt better and better to be in that place.

TP: What a gift.

LM: I’d spend hours and hours on a summer Saturday afternoon up in a treehouse writing and writing and writing. You’re just not born this way. At some point I figured out it feels good. It’s like people who are good at exercising and learn that it feels good to do it, so they go out for a jog. I never got that. (Laughs.) Writing is one thing I’ve been able to show up for in my life no matter what, whether I had three jobs or small children or was going through some sort of a crisis. I’ve always been able to tap into my writing.

TP: How does it feel to have a book take off in the way this one did, after so many years of writing?

LauraLM: I feel like my kids were a good age when this happened; they were in high school and middle school. So I got to model for them not just this woman who sits in this room in Montana and writes all day. (Laughs.) Now they can see that Mom sometimes speaks in front of large groups of people and has a web presence. They can now see me doing something other than just spending all those hours at the bottom of the stairs tapping away at the keyboard. And thank god I am the woman I am now, and the writer I am now, because I know myself now. If I had gotten all this in my twenties or my thirties or early forties it might have overwhelmed me. I know it wouldn’t have stopped my writing but it could have stopped my career. I’m glad for all those years of writing and sitting quietly and privately at that intersection of heart and craft and mind.

TP: How did you keep the faith with writing all those years, finding time to do it while holding jobs and raising children?

LM: You may not know at first why you’re doing it. It took me a long time before I sat down and wrote an author’s statement because at one point after a number of brutal rejections from books that I felt were really quite publishable I just sat myself down and said why? When I realized that this might not happen, this publishing dream of mine, I had to accept that I’m not going to stop because this is my practice, my meditation, my way of life, my way to life. So I wrote down one line that came out of my deepest well, and it said, “I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch-black corner to provide relief for myself and others.” And that’s when I realized I was writing from a place of service, both to myself and others, and that’s when I started getting published.

TP: And through your Haven writing retreats, you’re helping others integrate writing into their lives. How did you get started doing them?

LauraLM: When I suddenly was out there on the wellness circuit talking about personal responsibility and emotional freedom and all these lofty concepts, people would come up to me and say they’d love to write but they don’t feel like they have a unique voice. Or they’d say they don’t have the time or aren’t creative. Plenty of people would come up to me and say that everyone tells them they have an incredible story they need to write but don’t know how to get started. They couldn’t give themselves permission to do it. The one that I heard most was:  “You wrote your way through crisis.  I’m going through a crisis right now.  And I need some way to get through it.” And so it occurred to me one day: why don’t I develop a forum where people don’t have to do it alone? I just put it on Facebook one day. I said, Hey, anyone want to come on a writing retreat with me in Montana? Within two hours I had 24 people sign up. Quickly I figured out where to do it and what the design was going to be and the price point and I started leading retreats. That was four years ago.  And it’s not at all for people going through crisis.  It’s for anyone who wants to dig deeper into their creative self-expression on the page.  Anyone looking for their unique voice.  Anyone looking for permission to breathe it alive!

TP: And it’s growing and growing.

LM: It is. I’ve now worked with over 300 people. Open Road Media named Haven Retreats as one of the top five writing retreats in the country. I lead eight of them a year and we have an ongoing community of writers who continue to support one another. It’s not just a one-time deal. It’s a whole community of support and it’s designed based on what was lacking in my life.  Community.  Support.  Kindred spirits.  Mentorship.  You can come to Haven I and experience the five day immersion into your writing voice and your stories and themes.  Then you can come to Haven II if you are a Haven I alum and have a book in progress.  And then if you complete the Haven II program, you are eligible to work with me one-on-one on your book.  Not everyone who comes to Haven I is working on a book.  So you can come to Haven I and have a complete and powerful experience, or work the whole program from inception to book birth, if that is your goal.  Basically, I designed the retreat that I would want to go on, and the program I wish I’d had all along.  It’s incredible to see all these Haven alums interacting on our private Haven internet page.  So much support and kindness.  It blows me away.

Montana February Haven Retreat, 2015 "I write in a solitude born out of community." -Terry Tempest Williams

TP: You must meet so many interesting people.

LM: I do, and many don’t even consider themselves writers at all. They’re all over the place in their creative journey and I love that. We get people who have strong writing practices, publication credits, and we get people with works in progress, and we get people who are just starting and want to write in their journal or capture their grandmother’s homesteading story.  I love that.  We learn so much just by listening to each other and learning how each person’s voice is exceptional.

TP: Why is community so important?

LM: Just so you can be supported in your process. You can go to a cabin in the woods somewhere and be taken care of for food and things. Even if it’s just a small community that has meals together at the end of the day, I think that’s important. But a lot of people wouldn’t know what to do with the cabin in the words. The retreat is actually a retreat and a workshop in one. Each day you get major craft instruction through the morning class, which consists of writing prompts that I put together. But it’s very much through the back door. It’s play. We get outside of our comfort zone and people find their unique voice. And the evening class is a straight-up workshop, where writers get feedback for their work. You can consider the work that you do in the morning class compost at the end of the class.

TP: And it’s all done in a nurturing environment.

LM: It’s so important to have some kind of community, and to make sure that the people in that community know how to give good feedback. That’s rare, too, to find good readers. I’m trying to offer all of these things to people as I don’t want to perpetuate this tortured-artist paradigm. I want to empower people in their creative self-expression, wherever they are, and I know that’s possible. It doesn’t need to be a tortured way of life. And yet it’s a very rare person that wants to have writing in their life to this degree. I don’t want people walking around feeling alone and different and almost ashamed of that side of them. Haven sets you up emotionally and psychologically, whatever that means to you.

TP: You’re making me want to come to Montana.10482836_10152085778066266_8327595912032369678_n

LM: You have to come! I’m thrilled to share my Montana muse with other people. These people who come are really brave and a little scared but they’re taking a stand for their creative self-expression and it’s inspiring. Somehow they’ve gotten themselves out here to the woods of Montana to do this for five days and it’s wonderful.

TP: So do you still have time to write your own books? What’s next for you?

LM: I write several books at the same time and then I pick one to focus on. I just finished a memoir recently, and I finished a novel last winter that I have high hopes for. I’m also working on a book about the writing life and how to use writing in your life, much in the way that I’m talking about it with you. Oh, and a series of novellas. We’ll see which one gets fully birthed first. But ultimately if none of them gets published, I still feel complete. Writing is how I feel OK on this planet.

— This interview has been condensed and edited for publication.

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Breaking Point: #18

I have been busy writing my novel during this Breaking Point series and so I’ve handed over this platform to you brave souls.  Though I haven’t been responding to your comments, I’ve read every one and I love how people are reaching out to each other with such love and support.  It’s such a testiment to the power of sharing our pain.  You are all amazing human beings.  Hamlet talks about The thousand natural
shocks that flesh is heir to… 
Natural shocks.  Pain is natural.  Normal.  When we resist it, we make it worse.  A deep breath for us all, from this Montana morning.  Thank you to Joy and Karly for today’s brave Breaking Point stories.  yrs. Laura

Here’s an affirmation for you from a GREAT book by David Richo called:  “The Five Things We Cannot Change”:

As I say yes to the fact of suffering, may I accept the dark side of life and find a way through it, and may I then become an escort of compassion to those who also suffer.

Submitted by: Joy Weber

I was 22 years old and lonely as hell. I had moved from Minnesota to upstate New York in hopes of a geographic cure for the pain in my heart.

I was a new RN, working a new job and scared to death that I couldn’t do it. I had very few friends and those I had, I thought I would lose if they ever knew the real me. So I hid in a world of lies and pretended to be whatever I thought they wanted.

And through it all, I drank.

I had been a daily drinker most of my life since I was 15. Sometimes I had to drink in secret. Now that I lived alone, it was easy. I came home from work, closed the blinds, and drank until I “fell asleep” into that desired oblivion.

I drank so I wouldn’t be afraid, I drank so I wouldn’t feel lonely, I drank so I wouldn’t remember my childhood, I drank because it hurt too much to be alive in this world. I drank because I hated myself, I drank, well, because I’m alcoholic. I was completely lost.

And then one night, the alcohol didn’t work. It didn’t take away the pain. I was raw, aching, and desperate. I paced the floor. My chest ached so badly I could hardly breathe. I wanted to die but was too frightened to kill myself. It was 2 in the morning, pitch black in the country, and I was more alone than I had ever been in my life. Morning was still much too far away. My pain and anxiety escalated as I paced. Finally, I stumbled and fell to my knees and something inside of me broke and I began to cry. “Please!” I half-cried, half-yelled to a God I didn’t believe in anymore, “Please!! Help me!!” and the flood of tears finally came.

I wept from the very depths of my soul. Wept all the tears that hadn’t come for years. I cried for the little girl I was who grew up too fast in the face of physical and sexual abuse. I cried with the pain I wasn’t allowed to speak when Daddy left. I cried for all I’d lost and all I’d never had. The sobs wracked my body and the waves kept coming. I cried out my self-hatred, I cried out my fear. I wept for my lost faith which had once been so precious to me. And still I cried through the night with the tears ebbing, flowing and finally, at last, quieting.

The morning dawned with gentle birdsong, glorious orange sunrise, and my heart, for the first time in my life, beginning to know peace.

I went to my first AA meeting that morning.

I am 26 years sober.

 

Submitted by: Karly Pittman, who blogs here.

For most of my adult life, I’ve suffered from various forms of mental illness – over 20 years of eating disorders, 15 years of on and off depression, and lifelong challenges with anxiety. I also cope with several other traits, that while not mental illness, are often shamed by our culture – like high sensitivity, distractibility/ADD, insecurity, and low self esteem.

I’ve felt terribly guilty about these traits, as if I should be able to will myself into being different. (To put it another way, I’ve felt insecure about feeling insecure.)

Yes, I’ve made progress; I’ve seen growth. And yet as the years go by, I’ll be honest – I don’t like the fact that I’m still – after all this work, and all this time – having to cope with anxiety, or depression, or a spinning, stressed out brain. I’m frustrated that I’m still, well, me.

If I examine my beliefs, I see that I approached my healing journey with a very closed fist and rigid, high expectations. My expectations went something like this:  if I do all the right things (forgive and let go and take the high road) and undertake this healing journey (God knows it isn’t easy), then I want a reward. I want a guarantee that all my pain will just go away; that I will be wealthy and happy and healthy and loved.

When I didn’t receive these things, I blamed myself. My pain was proof that there was something very wrong with me. This, my friends, is suffering.

I thought if I did all the “right” things – that if I pray and do yoga and meditate and look at my stuff and surrender and forgive – that I could turn myself into a being of pure light, pure radiance, and all my human messiness would fall away.

It is a subtle, perhaps the most subtle, form of control. In the wake of this control – or rather my lack of it – I feel ashamed. I feel perhaps the deepest shame, a spiritual shame, that I’m failing life 101 and it’s all my fault. I feel like I’ve flunked some spiritual test because I haven’t created my life in the way that I’ve wanted.

We feel so, so ashamed because we can’t control. We can’t control the challenges in our lives, the pain that needs healing, we can’t even control our emotions – they just arise. But this shame is based on a false truth:  that we should be able to control. We were never meant to control life in this way.

Perhaps viewing my mental health challenges, my inherent sensitivity, my humanity itself as something I can control with enough spiritual practice is unkind. Perhaps if I surrendered to it, instead, I may find a much gentler – and wiser – way of relating to it. And perhaps in this kindness, I will find a freedom, a peace even in the midst of anxiety, or sadness or sensitivity.

If I’m honest, I can see that my spiritual seeking was about trying to banish my pain, not care for it. I just hated it. I hated the dark muck of depression, the panicky spiral of anxiety, the wobbly feet of insecurity. I have come to see that as long as I’m relating to my pain from that place – a bargain of, “If I care for you, will you go away?” – I will suffer. I will feel guilty, like I’m being punished, and ashamed, like it’s all my fault.

But to release this suffering means to let go of control. To open my heart and release my expectations, my focus on how my life looks on the outside, my need to have a guarantee for a positive outcome. Big, deep breath.

So as I sat last week, with fresh grief in my heart and tears dripping onto my keyboard, I bowed to my pain. I surrendered. I said, “It’s okay anxiety, I love you. It’s okay depression, I will care for you. It’s okay sensitivity, I’m here.” I stopped fighting against my pain and turned towards it in love and care, allowing it to be.

I think there is no greater love than this – to open to all aspects of ourselves, even our deepest, muckiest, ickiest, most shameful parts, and to wrap them in our arms and say, “I will not abandon you. I will stay with you and I love you.” Maybe my deepest pain, all the mental illness and suffering and food stuff, is just that:  something to learn to love. If I don’t love these parts of me, who will?

When I stop judging my insecurity, my anxiety, my depression, and just allow it to be, I feel free. I feel free because I’m not so tense, fighting against myself. I don’t blame or punish myself for feeling sad or lonely, I reach out for support. I don’t feel so caught in, “It’s all my fault.” Instead, I surrender to the wisdom of detachment. As my friend Deidre says,  “It couldn’t have happened any other way.” Another way of saying this is, “You did the very best you could.”

This morning the Beloved whispers to me, “Dear one, you were never meant to be in control. You were never meant to take on so much. You were never meant to carry so many burdens. Let go, dear child. Let go.”

There is so much about life that is not in our control. Do we have the courage to let go, to accept this, and to open to grace? This journey, as all journeys do, comes back to love. Can I love all of me – even the dark, most painful bits? Even my very, very messy humanity – humanity that may never go away?

Rumi put it this way:

Learn the alchemy true human beings know:
the moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.

Perhaps our brokenness – our humanity – is the call that brings us back to love. We fight against it, try to evolve out of it, hide it, overpower it, and then, exhausted and discouraged, we return to love. Can we just love ourselves, right now, in this moment – where we’re feeling afraid, or anxious, or distracted, or lonely, or depressed? Can we care for our pain, just to care for it – and not for any other reason but that it’s simply a very kind thing to do for ourselves?

May we all remember who we are:  fully valuable, enough and worthy with all our tender humanity. The New Testament says, “the truth shall set you free.” This is what I know to be true:  that each and every one of us is lovable, is worthy, is precious, just as we are – with all our human muck, all our challenges, and all our pain.

We are wonderfully and beautifully made, and we are good; very, very good.

 

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Breaking Point: #12

Today we have two teen Breaking Point stories– one of eating disorder and one of depression.  Perhaps you can relate personally or as a parent.  As I read these entries every morning, I at first feel a resistance to the experience of empathy and pain.  Yet with each one, by the end, something is released.  I hope it is the same for you.  Submissions are closed, but I encourage you to write your own Breaking Point story as a healing exercise. 

yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Natasha Kasprzyk , who blogs here.

“When You Know That It’s Real”

There was only one good thing about going to St. Juliana’s: Noon release on Fridays.

Early release from being teased at recess while the slap of jump ropes smacked on the blacktop, the stares of indignation when I, the Jew, dared to ask a question in Mrs. Lidgus’s Religion class; the hiding between the toilet and the back left corner of the bathroom stall, focusing my tear-filled eyes on the spit wads clinging to the ceiling, while Chris Flosi told Mary Fahey what an ugly fat slob I was.

In other words, release from (insert sign of the cross here) Hell.

Of course, early release meant trekking over to my mother’s office for the afternoon, because god forbid I actually get four hours of peace and be by myself in my own house…well, my mother’s house, that is. It wasn’t mine, I was reminded on a regular basis.

My one saving grace, one area of neutral territory between this version of jail and that, one place where I could seek solace was watched over by a benevolent little girl, face doused with freckles and topped with vibrant red, braided hair.

Wendy’s.

Every Friday, I stood in the winding line, waiting to approach the counter where I could spend MY money on MY lunch, as if the grease and cheese and starch and carbonation could transport me into a world without judgment, if only for a few, high-calorie minutes.

Kathy always worked the register on Fridays. Tightly cropped curls framed her face, and at the time I thought she wore an expression of focus, but now I wonder if it was resignation at what her career had become. She smiled when she saw me in line, as if I were an old friend who had come to break up the monotony of her day.

One afternoon, I knew I needed to make a change. This lunch just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Whether I ordered my burger with extra ketchup or lettuce-free, it no longer brought me the pleasure it once had. Something was missing. And I decided that something was a second hamburger patty.

I finally arrived at the front of the line, ready to give Kathy my order, and in return, she would validate my existence for the week.

“Welcome to Wendy’s. How may I help you?”

Oh, Kathy, I thought. Enough with the pretenses…you could drop the formalities with me!

I smiled, cleared my throat, and said, “I’d like a combo meal, please…with a double cheeseburger.”

The corners of Kathy’s smile fell into a thin line, her lips held together tight until the right words were ready to come out. She looked left, checking to see if anyone would notice she was about to break character, leaned forward, and said, “Honey…do you really think you need that much food?”

Did she really just say that? Kathy, my one oasis in the middle of Hell?

I looked down to hide tears of embarrassment, put my money in my pocket, set my straw, two napkins, and four ketchup packets on the counter, and slipped out the side door.

I wasn’t hungry anymore.

 

Submitted by:  Mary Novaria

Her blog, A Work in Progress, is found here

Also on Facebook — www.facebook.com/mimsy811

A call from the school is rarely a good thing. When my phone rings and I see the caller ID, I resist the urge to let it go to voicemail, my thoughts wavering between now what? and impending doom.

“I have Hannah in my office,” says Mrs. K, the school psychologist. “She’s in a pretty dark place. Can you come to school so we can talk?”

“Of course,” I whisper calmly, although I am not calm.

Senior year. Until now, Hannah has attended school in our neighborhood. Less than a block away, I can see it from my kitchen window. It ‘s quicker to walk there than to drive and find parking. Wanting a fresh start, Hannah has transferred to a new school ten miles away.

I breathlessly sign in at the front office, a security measure that annoys me since I am in a mad dash to get to my daughter who doesn’t say much, but lets me hug her. We follow Mrs. K into a classroom and sit around a table with Hannah’s guidance counselor, assistant principal and gifted education teacher. They are concerned and sympathetic. Hannah looks small and pale. She’s huddled in a jacket with a sweatshirt pulled over her head, a state her dad calls being “hooded.” Hannah’s ever-present hoodie has become a security blanket, although it seems to make her more separate than secure. A symbol of retreat, the hoodie is a silent decree: Leave Me Alone. But a mother just can’t leave a troubled kid alone and neither can these educators who, although they’ve only known my daughter and our family for a few months, really seem to care.

“We are worried that Hannah isn’t safe, that she’s going to hurt herself.”

No one uses the word “suicide” or the phrase “kill herself” but we all know that’s what we’re talking about. The room begins to close in on me yet, somehow, also seems too cavernous for such an intimate discussion. High ceilings, fluorescent lights, institutional furniture… an assistant principal with tears in her eyes.

“I just want to get out of here.” It’s the only thing Hannah says.

“Before you can go,” Mrs. K says, “We need to be sure you’re not going to harm yourself, Hannah. Can you tell us you won’t?”

She can’t. Or she won’t. One thing I know about my daughter is she detests being on the spot. If she is backed into a corner she will dig in her heels and there will be an epic standoff. For the next hour, each of us tries to get a guarantee from Hannah that she’s not going to carry out some dark and deathly plan. I am grateful this isn’t my battle alone. Hannah knows exactly what she needs to do to escape this intervention and she won’t do it. It is a quiet and indirect cry for help.

“Hannah, I’m going to ask your mother to take you to the hospital…” Turning to me, Mrs. K asks, “Will you do that, Mom?”

“Yes. I will,” I say, aching from my tensed, furrowed brow to the knotted pit in my gut.

“No! I won’t go!” Hannah says defiantly.

“Then tell us you’re going to be safe,” someone pleads.

Silence.

We’re not making progress. The adolescent psych hospital is not far away.

“They won’t admit you unless they feel it’s necessary,” I tell Hannah.

I am glad someone else can decide. This is the fifth time in the last year Hannah has had a hospital assessment related to her severe anxiety and depression. The first resulted in a week-long day program. The most recent was a six-week inpatient treatment center 2,000 miles away. Now this.

At the hospital, Hannah still won’t articulate a safety plan and is thought to be a danger to herself. She is admitted. She is furious. I want to take her home but I am too scared. She was gone over Thanksgiving. And Christmas. Then, finally, home for New Year’s. We had a fresh start, a new beginning, a healthy girl, hope.

That was three weeks ago.

 

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Breaking Point: #10

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  

yrs. Laura

Today we have two Breaking Points.

One of desperation…

Submitted by: Victoria, in London

Sitting in the hall way of my small modern flat.  Just me.  Although the walls were bright, it was dark with no natural light.  The walls were moving in.

What were my choices, there must be choices.  Swinging my straggly hair and becoming aware of an odour I wondered when I last had a bath.  Did I need to do something?  It didn’t matter.  I could not do anything.  I would sit and wait.  And wait some more. Something would happen, it always did.

I could hear the buses in the road and was aware that life was carrying on outside.  Buses, bikes, cars, people bustling, on the way to and from the shops, the bus stop, the park, the library.  But nothing was changing.  It was still the same.  No one was coming to rescue me.  No one was going to knock on the door and solve everything.  If the phone rang I would not be able to ask for help, again.  I cannot ask.  Who would understand?

And what if I tell?  The look of pity and incredulity at my words would be the last pebble that made the earthquake begin.  And it may never stop.  Not ever and this may be the end of the world. The world which is my world which is the only world that I can know.  How am I supposed to know another person’s world, how is that possible?  Which brings me back to here.  And the walls and my bad hygiene because I have no energy to go the bathroom not 3 steps away.

Get the clothes and bury myself, pile them on myself and hide in them so that I do not exist, no one could see me if anyone was here.  Finally, I am not here I am sorted out and I am just a blouse, or a towel or a piece of fabric and no one can tell that I am in the pile of things so I can stay here forever, un noticed.

But no one is here.  And there is no one to see that I am not here.  I know that I am here and I still feel the same.

Nothing has changed, nothing is better and I cannot do this any longer.

And one of healing

Submitted by: Merris Doud

God helps us in times of need even when we want nothing more to do with Him. In my case, He used my dogs to help me through the days following the death of my daughter, Sarah.  I never blamed them, never questioned their love for Sarah or me, never felt anger towards them. They were the perfect instruments for God to use. In the split second that it took my brain to process the words “Sarah took her own life,” my world lost all meaning.  My husband, Mike, had taken the dogs to be boarded.  When I was able to move – to speak, I asked him to bring them home.  As I lay on my bed, feeling a brand of pain that I could never have imagined, the dogs ran in and excitedly jumped on the bed. They immediately sensed that something was horribly wrong and quietly settled, lightly molding their bodies against mine.   Soon they slipped into their afternoon routine, gently snoring as they napped.  They didn’t move; they didn’t speak; they didn’t cry.  They were just there, warm and alive and touching me. And it was comforting, so much more comforting than being told that Sarah’s death was God’s plan, that time would take the pain away, or that Sarah was now in a better place.

Throughout the months that followed, I moved through my days vowing never to love anyone or anything again.  The dogs were always there, either laying on the bed beside me or collapsed like speed bumps on the floor beneath my desk where I tried to work.

I begged anyone who would listen for an explanation, and it infuriated me when they shook their heads looking through me – offering nothing. I felt no such rage towards the dogs.  I asked them no questions; they gave me no answers.  I didn’t expect that from them.  They looked at me in the same way they always had – no pity in their eyes.  Nothing had changed in our relationship, no awkwardness – no impatience for me to get up and carry on.

One morning I woke up to find Maggie, the abandoned pup that Sarah had brought home, standing over me.  She cocked her head to the right then to the left. I swear she smiled as if to say, “There you are. I’ve missed you.”  And I felt something other than pain for the first time since Sarah died. Encouraged, Maggie bent over me, wagging her tailless backside with such vigor that she nearly toppled over. Then she began showering me with wonderful, wet kisses, her sweet puppy breath warm against my skin – awakening my capacity to love. Watching this action from the foot of the bed, Annie, who Sarah had rescued from an animal shelter, jumped up and joined in, happy that we were kissing again.

I believe that was when I started to heal.  Not then, but now I see that in that moment , God revealed to me that there was still joy in my world – not joy as pure as before,  for it would always be filtered through the pain of losing Sarah, but it was there, nonetheless. Both Maggie and Annie are gone now, their purpose fulfilled.  They were special dogs whose lives began as unwanted strays and ended as the esteemed channels that God used to touch me and give me a glimpse of hope.  For without hope – without love, we’re just passing time – waiting for the lights to go out.

For Annie and Maggie

I miss you guys

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Icicles


Glass sculpture, Dale Chihuly, Sleeping Lady resort, Leavenworth, WA

ICICLES

A brilliant beard of ice
As harsh and heavy as glass
Hangs from the edge of the roof.
The spikes a child breaks off

Taste of wool and the sun.
In the house, some straw for a bed,
Circled by a little train,
Is the tiny image of God.

The sky is a fiery blue,
And a fiery morning light
Burns on the perfect snow:
Not one track in the street.

Just as the carols tell
Everything is calm and bright:
The town lying still
Frozen silver and white.

Is only one child awake,
To splinter the shining stems? —
Knocking them down with a stick,
Striking the crystal chimes.

–Robert Pinsky, poet laureate 1998

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