dog fur

dog fur

It seems like so many people are doing 30 days of something. I’ve done my own stints of 30 days of yoga, 30 days of bicycling, 30 days of meditation, 30 days of poetry, and so on. 30 days sounds doable. And if you can hang in there for 30 days, there’s a promise, implied or explicit, that you’ll come out of the exercise with a new and healthy habit.

Usually there is a hash tag involved. You post a photo, a little blurb about how you are doing and this creates a community of people working together on the same thing. With a group comes encouragement and accountability — that extra push of not wanting to be the “one” who did not stick to it for the full 30 days.

But there doesn’t seem to be a 30 days of mental health thing — something to turn a muddy rutted road into a solid path away from anxiety, depression or whatever it is you feel yourself slipping too deeply into.

petting dog

You know how there are highly functioning alcoholics? Well, I am a highly functioning depressive, which merely means that this is a low grade, under the radar depression. It is a level of the illness that is bad enough so you irritate and frustrate people but not so bad that you are rocking back and forth in the corner of your closet.

I have asked myself over and over, what is this about? Beyond the obvious that there is something wrong with my brain.

Some of these things sound really silly as I write them down, like this one:

  • I thought I was going to get onto this health and wellness committee at work that would have been an outlet for my interest in promoting bicycling and participating in a group activity.

It didn’t happen.

I felt huge, out-of-proportion disappointment over this. Perhaps that shows how desperate I am to be a part of something and have an outlet for the ideas rattling around in my head.

This one is maybe a bit more like conventional disappointment:

  • I thought I was going to get a job that would have put me into a position of working on something I enjoy, with people I enjoy working with, plus learning new things and having new challenges. And the best benefit — feeling useful and like I’m helping people.

It didn’t happen.

petting dog

Loneliness and losing people through distance or death is a common trigger for depression:

  • I haven’t seen my son for over two years and I miss him — a lot. Pulling together travel plans, making flight and hotel reservations, and figuring out all the logistics is something I can’t wrap my head around right now.
  • And my birth mother died. This hasn’t been the kind of losing your mother experience many people my age go through. I barely knew my birth mother. She was difficult to get to know. Whether she had always been that way or not, I don’t know.

I’ll never know.

When she died, I lost possibilities I didn’t even know I longed for. And I don’t know how to process what I’m feeling…

I wish I could be one of those people who when they’ve lost confidence in themselves, take off across country on their bicycle or hike the Pacific Trail, or eat, pray and love their way across several countries and finish their journey with a whole new outlook on life (and possibly a best selling book). But there’s too much that I couldn’t take with me (like dogs and a horse) to go be that kind of person.

All I can be is myself. And right now, I don’t know if being myself is very helpful.

driving car

I’ve read studies and know from experience that the physical act of smiling can make you feel happy. It’s a temporary fix. If you tried to fake smile to feel better all the time, it would come off as pretty, frickin’ creepy.

I made a weird discovery on my own while working through some training games with my dogs. The games require that you get your dog all revved up so they will enthusiastically run to you when you call them. This revving up requires jumping up and down, running across the yard and using that crazy, excited voice you hear parents use with their kids a lot. Strangely, all that goofiness makes me laugh and feel, well, goofy and weird, which is way better than feeling weighed down and sad.

I may feel stupid, bouncing around and sing songing, “Get the toy! Good puppy! Whoo! Whoo! Get it! Get it! Get it! Good puppy!” But it’s a good kind of stupid.

My dogs jump around me and look at me with those expectant eyes that say, “That was fun! What’s next?”

“Good question,” I answer.

I don’t know what’s next. But I am working on a series of photos in the month of August — photos of hands doing what they do in day-to-day life. I believe hands are as individual and expressive as faces.  You can follow my photo experiment in my Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feeds. If you have any catchy or silly hashtag suggestions for the series, send them my way.

Creating something is usually healing (or at least distracting) for me, so here we go…

coffee mug



Taking a break
A pause
From life as usual

Because sometimes
Life doesn’t go on
As if nothing has happened

I know it is not enough
But I will be with you
And wish I could do more

Meredith: “After a trauma, your body is at its most vulnerable. Response time is critical. So you’re suddenly surrounded by people—doctors, nurses, specialists, technicians—surgery is a team sport. Everyone pushing for the finish line. Putting you back together again. But surgery is a trauma in and of itself, and once it’s over, the real healing begins. It’s called recovery. Recovery is not a team sport. It’s a solitary distance run. It’s long. It’s exhausting. And it’s lonely as hell.” — Grey’s Anatomy, season 7 episode 19

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Grey’s Anatomy quote but that one seemed to fit with today’s post.

When I took a walk at Rum River on Saturday, the peepers were going full bore in the wetland areas.

It about made me cry I miss them so badly — that sound that comes every Spring. And sand cranes — I miss hearing sand cranes calling as they fly over and seeing them dance in the neighboring fields.

I’ve figured out how to fake myself out on some of the things I miss, but I can’t pretend and fool myself on everything.

I get angry and frustrated at how much these things hurt. Am I doing this to myself? How do I stop it? How do I find beauty and peace in this life that I feel so stuck and trapped and imprisoned by?!

I want to scream, “This is not me! Why am I here? In this place? Alone. Why have I ended up with the opposite of what I wanted?”

Okay, I do have a horse and dogs. Be thankful for that. And I am. Sort of thankful. Kind of grateful for the things that aren’t lost, like my job and friends, and I’m lucky to have been able to buy a house.

Yet, I have not found a way to stop feeling the grief over the loss of things that used to lift me up and make me smile, the ones that warmed me like a quilt and made me feel safely home.

Even some of the new comforts have gone astray. I haven’t heard or seen my owls for weeks. They were my consolation, my night companions, filling in some of the gap between old and new life.

I looked forward to seeing or at least hearing them every day. The lack of their presence is so pervasive, It’s surprising, even to me, how much I miss them. Perhaps they’ve gone somewhere to nest and I won’t see them again until their babies are grown.

It’s been two years and the trauma still feels fresh. I didn’t expect that. I’m strong, right? I’m brave. I’m good at picking myself up and going on. So why?

Why, I guess, doesn’t matter. Perhaps inside, I am like this pile of debris that the river carries in springtime’s high, fast waters.

Logs, twigs, muck, and trash hang up in the shallows — more and more pieces keep piling into and onto the mound.

I need to stop piling garbage on top of myself, despising everything about me, quit considering myself and my life a failure, and stop reminding myself that if I had a choice, I would leave me too.

Maybe the assignment now, in this new life, is to not depend on anyone else to make up for what I lack or don’t like in myself. I have something…  My friends see it. But I can’t. Not yet anyway.

I perhaps sound like a broken record with some of these things that I say, but I guess I will keep repeating what I need to hear, over and over, until I finally listen.

If I am going to pull through this with more than a grunt and a just getting by life, this is the time for me to pursue some of the adventures I’ve dreamed of. This is the time to be a writer, to take that identity fully on. To be visible as me, not as what I think someone wants me to be, or as someone who gets through the door because of who they are attached to.

This is the time to believe I can do something that will amaze at least me — if not anyone else.

Some dreams are a bit harder now. Funds are tighter. Gas is way more expensive. And I’m older and often don’t have the energy to do everything I want to do. But maybe the adventure is mainly in the mind anyway — in venturing outside myself and my fears and judgement.

These trees remind me of myself, stooped over, shoulders hunched with shame over mistakes and lost opportunities.

Busy looking at the ground and missing the beautiful sky right above me.

I have the right to not only take up space, but to fill the space that opens up for me.
I don’t believe that yet, but I’ll keep repeating the words until I do.

Meredith: “The length of your recovery is determined by the extent of your injuries. And it’s not always successful. No matter how hard we work at it. Some wounds might never fully heal. You might have to adjust to a whole new way of living. Things may have changed too radically to ever go back to what they were. You might not even recognize yourself. It’s like you haven’t recovered anything at all. You’re a whole new person with a whole new life.”

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