Let’s Talk

woman-1302674_1280I had another panic attack today. And I almost hurt myself. I wanted to. I wanted to so bad because I thought what I always used to think back when I did cut myself long, long ago—that the physical pain would distract from the emotional and mental pain. It was the worst panic attack I’ve had and worst I’ve felt in a long time. But I have more presence of mind (even feeling that bad) these days to remind myself how it doesn’t really help. I have more strength to keep myself from doing it. Even so, it’s hard to admit. It’s hard to write it on a blog where people will see. Even now, when I tell people I used to hurt myself or I have thoughts of hurting myself, I get that look—that same one I got when I first started admitting to people that the scratches and scars on my arms came from me, from myself. They look at me like I’m crazy, like I’m not normal. They look at me like I have some fatal disease they don’t want to catch and can only think about how fast they can get away from me. But I write it anyway—because I’m not the only one.

Last October at the General Conference my church holds, Sister Reyna I. Aburto spoke about mental illness. My favorite quote from her talk was, “…when we open up about our emotional challenges, admitting we are not perfect, we give others permission to share their struggles. Together we realize there is hope and we do not have to suffer alone.” We need to talk about these things so others can talk about it. So we can give each other hope. So we don’t have to suffer alone.

Mountain Therapy, Music Therapy

This past week has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve had some high highs and some very low lows. Last night I watched Hulu for hours and hours and feasted on waffle fries from Chick-fil-A for dinner, along with diet Coke and a whole six pack of raspberry-filled donuts. And I sobbed. A lot.

Today, I realized I couldn’t allow myself to engage in such destructive behavior again, so I thought about what might help me. I’ve talked about it before, but I will again—one of the tricky things about mental illness is that there’s no one set cure. Different things help different people. What works for one person might not work for someone else. I’ve dealt with my mental illness for so long that I’ve come to know what helps and what doesn’t—or at least what hasn’t helped so far. Two things that do help me are mountains and music. So I decided to take a drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon, while listening to music from my youth.

The drive was so good for me! Drinking in the towering granite cliffs with their varying shades of gray, black, blue, white. Being mesmerized at all the waterfalls I passed. It has been the second wettest spring on record here in Utah, so there were more waterfalls than I’d ever seen, and the river was raging harder than I’d ever seen. It made me downright giddy! And rocking out to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Collective Soul and Soundgarden—that was what I needed. That was my therapy.

Last night I was feeling pretty hopeless and defeated. I have those moments. We all have those moments. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to remind me that I don’t have to stay there. I’m a fighter. I will get back up and soar above that rock. It may be hard, it may be painful. I may stumble and falter as I scrape my way up, claw my way out, but I won’t stay down. And when I get up, I will be stronger than I was before. I will be able to look back at what I’ve learned and use it to propel me forward. Doesn’t mean I won’t get on anymore rollercoasters. Doesn’t mean I won’t have anymore lows. Doesn’t mean my mental illness will be gone. But it does mean I can keep going. It does mean there is still hope.

Just a Poem

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Maybe

Winter.
SAD.
Cold, wet, dark.
Siren song of depression
lulling me to sleep,
enticing me deeper into blackness.

I need to prop my eyes open
like Odysseus.

But maybe I don’t want to see
the endless ocean,
relying on nothing but hope
to get me home.
Maybe I want to close my eyes.

Let the dark overtake me.

-Tacy Stine

Coming Back to Hope

There are so many thoughts racing through my brain right now. I hope I can get it all out in at least a semi-coherent way.

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I spent the evening looking for new cars. I came home to an empty house (my kids are with their dad), and I hate the feeling of being here all alone all evening and night, so I went to a movie. It was almost midnight by the time the movie got over, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go home. Instead, I drove around the streets of my home town with the windows down and the music cranked. Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden are some of the bands that came on the radio. Music from my youth. It was so nice just cruising around, belting out my tunes. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have someone there with me. I tried not to dwell on that, knowing the loneliness that would ensue could overtake me, and I didn’t want that. Dating/relationships are hard. I think it’s harder now than the last time I was doing it, before I got married. Add mental illness on top of that, and it adds even more stress to the equation. Maybe I’ll talk about that later. It’s one of the things I’ve been wanting to write about, but right now, before my tired mind unravels (like the sweater in that song by Weezer—yeah that came on, too!) I’d like to focus on the idea of hope—again.

Last night I was talking to a friend, who has also been divorced. I told him it had been a year now. I’ve been divorced/a single parent for a year. He told me the first year is always the hardest. “That’s good to know,” I said. “That means I can make it.”

I have hit some of the lowest points of my life this last year, but I have also had some incredible highs. Overall, I think I’ve grown more this last year than I ever have before in my whole life. I was thinking about a saying—the one where you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I do believe in picking yourself up and continuing on. Sometimes I’ve had to lay in the mud and the muck for awhile before I could do it, and even when I did get up, I had to trudge through with pain, like dirt, still clinging to my clothes. I’ve dealt with some anxiety and OCD again recently, but for the most part I’m still doing really well. I don’t know what the future holds. Right now I can’t try to look too far into it or I’ll go mad. I’m having to live each day as it comes, but I’m doing my best to keep each of these days good.

I guess what I want everyone to know is that you can keep going. Even through the most bitter of trials, the most painful of experiences you can learn and grow and find peace. You can even find happiness. It’s never completely gone. It’s never completely out of reach. Despite my often-times love/hate relationship I have with hope, I always come back to it. I can never completely let go of it. And I’m glad of that right now.

Am I Enough?

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A Facebook friend recently posed a question about why it’s so hard for us to choose to believe we are enough. At first, all I could think was, “That’s just the way we are as humans.” But as I thought more about it, I realized there was more to it than that. Others responded in a myriad of ways, but for me it has to do with the way other people have treated me.

It’s hard to feel like you’re good enough when so many other people treat you like you’re not. It’s hard to feel that you have worth when so many other people tell you that you don’t.

In the last year and a half I’ve been told multiple times by family members that I’m a horrible, awful, evil person, that I’m a bad mother, that I’m going to hell, that I’m completely incompetent and that I’m wrong. Then there are the men that have been in my life since I got divorced. Every man I’ve dated, liked or been interested in has used me, lied to me, betrayed me, manipulated me, made me feel as though they liked me, cared about me, even loved me, and then rejected me because I wasn’t good enough, perfect enough—I just wasn’t enough.

Now, I know God loves me and cares about me. I know I am of great worth to Him because I am His child. I know I’m of worth to my friends, and I can even confidently say that I’ve made a difference to some of them the way they have made a difference to me. But does that mean I’m enough—in everything? How can I not feel worthless in some way when my own parents and some of my siblings—the people who were supposed to love me the most—hated me so much and felt such a strong need to tell me how bad and wrong I was? How can I not feel that there’s something wrong with me when people who act as if they care about me always end up rejecting me? If it happens over and over again that must mean there has to be something wrong with me, right?

It’s hard not to have those feelings and thoughts. It’s nearly impossible to not lose hope. I have lost hope. And I don’t know how to get it back, or if I even want to. Is it better to live hopeless or to constantly have your hope crushed? I still don’t know.

Hope and No Hope

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I didn’t think I could get any lower. Then I lost my job, and suddenly that pit I was in got a whole lot deeper, a whole lot darker.

 

My job wasn’t much—just a couple hours a day, a few days a week, but it was something. It was enough to help. And it gave me a sense of purpose, a feeling that I was doing my part to contribute to my family’s financial needs. It also worked so perfectly with my schedule, allowing me to be able to pick my son up from half-day kindergarten and be home with him and my daughter when she got out of school. Now it’s gone. And now everything rests on this new venture of mine as an independent sales consultant for this company. It’s a whole lot of pressure and fear. Pressure to make it work. Fear that, not only will I fail, but that I’ll make people dislike me even more. Yet, I have to hope that it will work, that I won’t fail and that people will be understanding that I’m only doing my job—only trying to put food on the table.

Yes, I have some hope. I have to, otherwise I would have given up completely. I still feel very hollow and numb inside, and I still have no hope in other things in my life, but in this one endeavor, I see a very tiny, very faint light far, far in the distance. Maybe it’s enough right now. I guess only time will tell.

This is Just How it is Right Now

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Just keeping it real, people. This is how I’ve looked most of the last three days because, yes, ugly-crying is most of what I’ve been doing the last three days. I don’t think I’ll be posting for awhile. How can I talk about hope when I don’t have any anymore. I clung to hope because it was the only thing keeping me afloat. But I’ve realized that everything I had hope in was false. And I can’t do false hope anymore. It hurts more than not believing at all. See, no matter how hard I have tried to do what’s right, no matter how hard I have tried to make my life the way I want it, the way I need it, the way I know it’s supposed to be, I have failed. I have done nothing but sabotage myself. I have brought nothing but pain and hurt into my life. My hope is gone.

I’m to the point where I just don’t care anymore. It’s that numb feeling that overtakes everything else. I will not take my own life because that is the easy way out, and I never do things the easy way, the easy way has eluded me my whole life. And I will not deprive my children of a mother. But if someone came along and stabbed a knife in my gut, I wouldn’t care. If someone shot a bullet into my brain, I wouldn’t care. If someone pushed me off the edge of a cliff, I’d open my arms and soar on the way down, because I wouldn’t care. My hope is gone.

And please, those of you who know me, don’t call or text and ask if I’m okay, because obviously I am not. But I will live. I will keep going. I will do what I have to do, well, because I have to. That is all.

Why Are We So Hard on Ourselves?

I’ve been thinking about how strange it is that we beat ourselves up so easily for mistakes that we make. It’s so easy to be hard on ourselves about things we would never be hard on anyone else for. I’ve seen others who have made similar mistakes I have, and I never think it makes them a bad person. I see a good person who simply made a mistake. I would never condemn, abandon, make fun of or gossip about someone like that. I would never expect or want them to be hard on themselves or think they were beyond forgiveness. Yes, I do believe there are consequences to our actions, but I would never presume that someone who has made a mistake—even a really big one—deserves what they have coming. I would still love them and care about and want the best for them. It wouldn’t change how I saw them or felt about them. Yet, for some reason, I just can’t do the same for myself. When I do something wrong I obsess about it, beat myself up over it, condemn myself for it, hate myself for what I’ve done. I tend to pull away from people because I assume they won’t want anything to do with such a failure, and it doesn’t hurt as much if I’m the one to back off than to have them abandon me. I wouldn’t abandon someone just because they did something wrong, but I assume that’s what others will do to me. I wonder why it is—that we’re so damn hard on ourselves, why we treat ourselves so much worse than we would treat others. One of the hardest parts is that mental illness only seems to exacerbate this problem, making that hole deeper and the darkness even darker. But there can’t be darkness without light. So, as always, I continue to hope—that the light will come back.

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Still Hoping

There are so many things I want to write about, so many ideas crowding my head just waiting to be set free. I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

I’ve been plagued by memories recently. Memories of happier times, simpler times. Not that right now isn’t good. I’m still feeling better than I usually do at this time of year, and I recognize and acknowledge the many blessings I have to be grateful for. I know this, but sometimes it’s just hard to feel it.

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It’s my first Christmas as a single mom, and I will admit that I’m feeling incredibly lonely right now. I know I have friends, family, neighbors who are there for me, who care about me, but I still feel lonely and sad, especially when images of good times in my marriage surface in my memories. I still haven’t found a way to look at those times and just be happy about them, grateful for what they were. It’s like there’s this big, black slash through them now, marring the happiness that should line the memory. Maybe one day I’ll get there. For now, I look at my life, reflect on the memories and wonder how this is where I am right now—so far from where I thought I would be, nowhere close to where I wish I was.

I have plans, and yes, even goals, for my future, but they’re still vague and general at this point. Maybe because I think I’ll fail once I set that goal for myself. It seems as though I’ve failed at so many things in my life, that I’m never quite good enough, and I don’t want to fail again. I know there are people out there who want to see me fail, who can’t wait to shove it in my face, and I’m so tired of that. Yet, despite it all, I still see this glimmer of light in my life, in my future. Hope. There are times when I don’t want to hope anymore because I’m afraid of being let down, afraid that my whole life is nothing but smoke and mirrors, and when you take them away there’s nothing real left. Somehow, I can’t let go of it—of hope. It trails me, bursts in front of me, and I can’t help but cling to it.

Do You Believe in Magic?

Do you believe in magic? Of course you don’t. You did as a kid, until your parents told you the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and fairies and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—and crushed your happy, innocent bubble of a magical world. But you know what? I still believe in magic. I’ve felt it swirling through the air of Joe’s Valley, caught between long rays at dusk on golden cliffs. I’ve seen it in the reflection of sunlight on towering pines at Kolob Canyon. I wrote this poem once called Kolob’s Gift.

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Shimmering gold grabs my eyes.
Mesmerized.

Individual needles of pinyon pine
reflecting the streaming sunlight
against the brilliant blue sky.
A treasure worth more than all the jewels
I could ever buy.

 

Magic. I also experienced it once at Bryce Canyon. Most people would probably call me crazy. I call what happened a gift. Let me take you back with me.

In high school I was different—different, weird, an outcast—a freak. Most of the time I was fine with that. I didn’t want to be like everyone else, and I proudly walked around in my tie-dye and bell bottoms, not caring what anyone else thought. But some of the time it did affect me. Some of the time I hated being different, hated knowing that people thought I was a freak. And it made me feel bad about myself. Low self-esteem is a common side-effect of depression. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I was ugly. I was worthless. I was different. I was a freak. And I hated myself.

The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, we took a family trip to Bryce Canyon. I loved being there. I was a nature girl, a desert girl, a red-earth and green-pines girl. But I was also a very depressed girl, feeling so worthless and alone, feeling like my life didn’t matter.

Our last day at Bryce we took a shuttle ride. It stopped at certain lookouts long enough for everyone to get off, take a few pictures, get back on, then drive to the next stop. The main road comes to an end at a large parking lot with several lookouts so this stop was longer than the rest. Everyone shuffled out of the hot, muggy shuttle and took out their cameras. I noticed a trail disappearing into a cluster of pines and took it, wanting to be alone. It led to a lookout called Yovimpa Point.

I stood there at the edge, next to the wooden fence separating me from a long, steep dive down, and took in the breathtaking view of red sandstone, white earth and deep green pines. A good place to take my last breath. All I had to do was climb over the fence and jump. I could end my worthless life and die in my beautiful nature. All problems solved.

I had just put my foot on the fence when I heard voices nearing me, speaking French—a group of tourists who had been on the same shuttle. I stepped back, suddenly nervous about letting these strangers watch me commit suicide. Not long after, my family wandered down the trail, as well. Plan foiled. Now, I can look back and say I’m glad it was.

When I got home from Bryce I talked to my best friend about what had happened. She gave the generic answers any Latter-day Saint person would give about how I was of great worth to my Father in Heaven and that He and Jesus Christ wanted me to live. It did help—enough for me to decide that killing myself wasn’t the answer.

Halfway through my senior year of high school I decided I was sick of being depressed. I remember this one day, sitting by myself in the dark in one of the practice rooms in the band room, thinking how I didn’t want to be depressed anymore. I wanted to be happy. So I told myself I’d be happy. And I was. I know it sounds simple and easy, and, well, it was. That’s not always how it goes, that’s not always how it’s gone at other times in my life, but that time it did. It was amazing how easy it was to make myself be happy after that. It’s not that life was easy. I still had challenges and faced difficult trials, but it was easier getting through them because I had a better attitude, and I wouldn’t let anything get me down.

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Okay, now let’s fast forward to my second year of college. Some roommates and friends and I decided to go to Bryce Canyon over spring break. One day, we drove to the big parking lot at the end of the road. I quickly took off away from everyone else and walked the trail to Yovimpa Point. I stood alone, looking out at the same scene, though painted white from several feet of snow. After a short time I noticed movement from the corner of my eye. I turned to look, thinking maybe one of my roommates had come down the trail, but no one was there. Odd. I turned, looked out at the scene before me, again, and again, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I saw someone. I turned, but no one was there. As soon as I turned back, I saw the person again. But this time I didn’t turn to look because I knew who it was. I knew who was there—it was me. I saw myself—the past me, the one who stood there, thinking about jumping. And in this rush of memory I thought about how much I had changed and grown and evolved in the last two and a half years, since the last time I was here. The most incredible sense of peace, calm, and quiet satisfaction settled over me—just like the pure, white snow settled over the land. A gift to remind me that we don’t have to stand still in this life. We can become more than what we were, more than what we are. And it’s okay to falter, it’s okay to be weak. It only means we have some place to go, that we can make ourselves strong.

So, did I really see myself that day? I will always believe that I did. Was it magic? Am I just crazy? Just different? Just a freak? Well, whatever anyone else may think, I’m grateful—will always be grateful—for that experience and what it meant to me. What it taught me. What have your experiences in life taught you?