At last…

…I’m a published writer. Not published on my own blog, and not published in an actual print publication. However, Ink and Voices is an online publication that boasts “Unapologetic expression. Unedited art.” In my quest to bring awareness, hope, healing, comfort, understanding to those suffering from mental health challenges, I submitted a piece of writing to this website. It was back at the end of June when I was experiencing a particularly depressive kind of day, that seemed to come out of nowhere. On September 10th, the same week that my state was bracing for the impact of Hurricane Florence, I received notice that my piece was accepted for publication on their website and would appear the next day, September 11th. I have received such positive feedback from those that I have chosen to share this news. My piece is honest and raw, and I have held nothing back. But not everybody needs to know my history. As a teacher in a Catholic school, I am particularly guarded of my mental health experience and have chosen to not announce or brag or in any way promote the fact that I have written something for a legitimate publication for the first time in my adult life.

With all of this said, I choose now to share the link with you as another way to shine light on something that is so stigmatized that it feels suffocating to acknowledge that I am a part of it. My real name is published on the website, so the veil of anonymity has been cautiously lifted. I hope only good will come of this choice.

https://www.inkandvoices.com/nonfiction/2018/9/11/cutting-the-past

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Birthday Eve

Technically it’s my birthday. But it’s almost 3 am, so my birthday hasn’t really started. It’s sort of like Christmas when you’re a kid. You may be awake most of the night on Christmas Eve out of excitement, and even though it’s technically Christmas after midnight, it doesn’t officially start until your parents wake up and you’re allowed to come out of your room to see the magic under the tree. Except this time, I’m not awake out of excitement, in fact, quite the opposite. I randomly woke up and just can’t go back to sleep. I’m pretty good at falling asleep when first going to bed, thank you pharmaceutical companies for that. I can usually tame my random thoughts long enough for the handful of prescription medications to kick in. That’s probably not going to work this time since it’s been about 4 or 5 hours since I took them. Which means a whole flood of randomness has invaded my brain. As a teacher on summer break, who also has a mid-summer birthday, this is the 2nd year that I have sworn off anything school related until after my birthday. Since technically it is my birthday, thoughts of school have come to this impromptu thought party. Though I’m pretty sure it’s not necessary now to think about how I’m going to prepare my presentation at the professional development day in September. Also not necessary to wonder what it will be like having a new principal when my current one retires in a couple of years. Funnily enough, pushing those thoughts out of my head and focusing on what I want to do today while my husband is at work also did not help me go back to sleep. I planned out a crafty day for myself, starting with a trip to Joann’s Craft Store to use my birthday discount coupon. I even came up with a little shopping list. That only made me a bit too excited about what I am planning on making today. The store is not open this early, so that’s a moot thought process too.

I wonder if this is what insomniacs experience every night. It kind of sucks. But thankfully, this doesn’t happen often for me. So on this birthday eve, I think I’m going to find one of my cats to bring back to bed with me and be very grateful that there’s only a few hours left before the sun comes up and I won’t have to feel weird about being awake when I’m usually asleep.

Sharp Objects on HBO

I had seen previews of this show and read online that there would be triggers in it so caution should be taken when watching it. That got me curious, but I ultimately ended up watching it last night because I saw that Chris Messina is in it, along with Amy Adams, who I love. I am a fan of the two of them as husband and wife in the movie Julie & Julia, so naturally I had to watch this.

The show is very dark, and initially I thought the triggers would be brought on by the fact that the main character is an alcoholic. It doesn’t just show her drunk, but shows the act of drinking–rearranging bottles, buying liquor, pouring alcohol into a water bottle so she can drink while driving, etc. I don’t have a history of alcohol abuse, so this part of the show didn’t affect me. It wasn’t until the last scene that I realized that there was another aspect of the main character that was troubling. She is a cutter. With closeups of her bare skin while taking a bath, you see the pink scar lines on her shoulders and arms. It’s obvious that these are self-inflicted because the word ‘vanish’ is cut into her arm. The show ends after this is revealed.

Seeing this is not a trigger for me like it may have been at one time, and for that, I’m very thankful. If anything, it brought back memories. Throughout the episode, it is clear that it’s the summer in the south, as most of the characters are in shorts and short-sleeved shirts. There is even a large circle of sweat on the back of the lead detective’s shirt. And yet, Amy Adams’ character is always in long-sleeves and pants. I did that. When I was a cutter, I wore long-sleeved shirts out in public during the sweltering summer months. I had to hide the cuts somehow. But oddly, I never cringed when I looked at my cut-up arms. Even now, remembering the blood-red lines running parallel up and down my forearms, it doesn’t make me upset. Those cuts were a big relief to me then, and even beautiful in my mind.

The other thing that I got from the show is a reminder of why I will never again live in the town I grew up in. The main character on the show had a very disturbing childhood and is now having flashbacks of those times, now that she is an adult having to revisit the town to cover a story as a reporter. So many terrible things happened to me in the town I lived in from the age of 12. I can’t stand going back there. I really never have a reason to. In fact, they recently built a by-pass around the town so that when I have to travel north, I don’t even have to drive through the middle. The one time I had to actually go to a place in the town, I was quick to get out. I dropped off something that I had made for a friend and could not wait until my husband and I had driven out of the city limits. I am Facebook friends with a few people who still live there, and I just don’t get how they can stay. But then again, I didn’t live there my whole life. Maybe if I had, things would have been different.

In any case, the show only just premiered last night. I’m pretty sure I’ll watch the whole series. Like I said, the triggers that viewers were cautioned against don’t affect me. They are not making me want to cut myself again. Nothing will ever make me do that again. But I know that I will have to mentally prepare myself to watch each week. The show is seriously dark, definitely worth watching though.

Big City Living

The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, You’ve Got Mail, Coyote Ugly, Music & Lyrics, Will & Grace, Friends

These are all of my absolute, hands down, favorite movies and t.v. shows. I could watch them over and over and never get tired of watching, in fact, that’s pretty much what I do. Given the choice of new things to discover on t.v. or Netflix, I turn to these old favorites (granted I’m watching Friends for the first time on Netflix). Besides the chic-flick kind of story line these movies have that appeal to me, a chic, I think I love them the most because they’re all set in New York City.

New York is my ultimate bucket list trip. I would like to leave this country at some point and visit an overseas country, but NYC is the first place I want to go before anywhere else. My husband and I passed the exit for the city on our trip to upstate New York one summer. My heart practically leaped out of the car when I saw the exit sign. But more so than just a touristy kind of visit, where I’m sure I would be annoying to the locals because I would want to take a picture of everything, I think I want to live there. My husband’s niece just recently moved there and I am SO jealous! What I have heard about her experiences there reaffirm for me the reasons that I think I absolutely need to live there.

I’m certain that my desire is fueled by what I see in all these movies and shows, but they can’t be too far off from reality. In particular, I’m fascinated by the idea of my morning and afternoon commute being centered on the subway and walking to and from subway stations. Certainly I would miss the convenience of my car, but still… I’m also in love with the idea of corner markets and little hole in the wall dive restaurants that are just a walk around the corner from our apartment. Let’s not forget apartments that are up above a pizza parlor or a drug store or some other business.

Knowing me, I would probably get pretty tired of all the people and commotion after a while. Tourists would aggravate me and all the landmarks that I would so desperately want to be around, would become no big deal. I’d get used to seeing the Statue of Liberty off in the distance, or the Empire State building. I’d be frustrated by large crowds on the subway when I’m trying to carry home groceries. The romance of it all might wear off sooner than I’d like. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

I’m reminded of this now because my parents are currently on their way to New York City for several weeks to drive the bus for different groups of people touring the city. And while I’d love to trade places with them, I have to remember that my home is down here in the south. Though I’ll keep my camera charged and ready for the time that my husband and I take his niece up on her offer to come visit. Until then…it’s a You’ve Got Mail kind of movie afternoon.

I ran the race.

And it was tough. The first mile consisted of a really steep hill that I walked up, as did many other people who were in the rear of the pack. Once the route descended the hill, I was able to run. Not for the whole 4 miles, but as much as I could possibly run in intervals of varying lengths.

I had done a great job of getting out of bed every other morning at 6:30–of course it helps that 6:30 is when my husband leaves for work. I would get into my running gear and tackle the couch to 5k app, slowly building myself up to run in longer intervals. I was ecstatic when I got to week 5 day 3, which is running for 20 minutes straight. I had told myself that once I got to that point, I would stop using the app and just focus on distance. Time had run out by then and I was only able to do one run without the app before the race. For that run, I was able to go for about 2 miles without stopping to walk. Granted, my pace is that of a turtle, but my shuffle run is still faster than my walking pace. And really, just the fact that I was getting out there in the morning, like I had said I was going to, was enough for me. The temperature every morning was in the high 70s with pretty high humidity. But it never bothered me. I expected to come home sweaty each time, that’s what happens when you run during the summer months. Even on days when we were under a heat advisory, I still ran, because in the morning before the sun gets high, the temperature isn’t in heat advisory territory. So when several people talked of braving the heat and the humidity being the worst part on race day, I just kind of laughed because it really didn’t affect me. I had long since gotten used to it.

There were 1,016 people registered for the Firecracker 4 Miler this 4th of July, and according to the results website, there were 860 or so actual runners. I placed somewhere in the 740 range. I had no aspirations of doing anything spectacular for pace, I just didn’t want to come in last. I was very close to the bottom of my age group, but I wasn’t last and that’s o.k. with me.

What was spectacular about the race was the people. The event was hosted by the local running club that I’m a member of. I don’t go to their meetups out of self-consciousness, but I’m a paid member. It was many of the members that served as volunteers for the race. There were people at every turn in the route clapping and cheering for every person that rounded the corners. They didn’t know my name, but they could see my number and having someone call out “Come on 64, you’re doing great!” when I was huffing along was amazing. The people handing out water at every mile with big smiles as I approached were encouraging. Seeing my husband randomly on the side of the route taking pictures when I didn’t expect to see him and hearing him cheer me on, was a great motivation. Even the ladies running behind me commented on how sweet it was for him to do that.

But the moment I will carry with me came as I rounded the last turn that would lead me to the finish line. There was a lady waiting for me. Judy is the wife of the man I teach with. I teach English and he teaches math. He doesn’t have a Facebook page, but she does, and we have been friends on there for several months. She’s of retirement age, but is in great shape and running races like this are the norm for her. She had called out to me earlier in the race. She was about a mile ahead going in the opposite direction I was. We quickly passed by each other and I didn’t think much of it until I saw her on the corner of that last turn. Obviously she had already finished the race and gotten her medal, in fact, she placed 2nd in her age group. But there she was, back on the course, waiting for me. She hopped off the curb and started jogging beside me. Words of encouragement poured out and though I was very much out of breath, I thanked her as best as I could. She kept pace with me for that last quarter of a mile, continuously assuring me that I was very close to the finish line. When we reached the very last few feet, she stepped off the course and across I went. From extended arms I took hold of my finisher’s medal (which is all I really wanted), a banana, and a bottle of water. People were clapping and cheering and my name was being called over the loud speaker as I crossed, as though I was the first. It felt great. I didn’t see Judy after that, I had wanted to thank her again after regaining my ability to speak without my breathing getting in the way. I did get to thank her on Facebook later. It is very true what they say about runners being the best people.

the last leg
My fantastic hubby captured the moment. I’m the one in bright pink on the right, and Judy is on the left in the tank top and white hat.

This race was Judy’s last for a while. She told me this when we bumped into each other the day before at the packet pick-up location. Her knees have really been hurting her lately. I told her, this is just the beginning for me. And I meant it. I’m determined now to lose weight. My diet prior to the race wasn’t the best. But now I’d like to get rid of the weight so that I can be a better runner. So that in a future race, I can be an early finisher so that I can step in and jog with someone who needs an extra boost to the finish. It may take me a while to get to that point, but I’ll get there. I’m not going to give up, this truly is just the beginning.

Whatever, I did it.

I am absolutely serious that I’m going to run a 4 mile race on the 4th of July. The wife of my co-worker who is an avid runner and who is also running in this race, told me to prepare for the humidity. We’ve had a tropical storm bringing us a ton of rain and storms for the past few days and today was off and on rain while I was at work. I had worked out on the elliptical for the past two days, but today, I really wanted to get outside and run. I waited until the rain stopped and the radar showed that there wasn’t anything coming behind it. I originally planned to only walk a mile up the road just to start getting acclimated to being active in the heat and humidity. So I got out there and went up the hill and decided I was going to go ahead and complete another workout in the Couch to 5k app. I’ll admit that I skipped the last section of jogging because the hills I was going up and down really made me breathe hard and I didn’t want to overdo it.

Walking back down the road in the direction of home, I thought about all the cars flying past me. I always feel a little self conscious walking on the side of that road to get between where I live and the neighborhood that I like to run in. There is a lot of traffic on that road, but I’m only on it for a little more than a quarter mile. So what were they thinking of the overweight woman walking on the sidewalk in clothes that looked like she had been walking in the rain for how wet with sweat they were? I don’t know what they were thinking and I don’t care, because I did it. I went out in the humidity and ran. There was steam coming off the road, it was very sticky out there. I felt slimy and gross, but man did it feel good to know that I had accomplished my goal for the day. Doing that today proved to me that I don’t need to wimp out in the air conditioning and use the heat and humidity as an excuse to not go out and run. Whatever, I can do it.

IMG_2162

A screenshot of the weather from my exercise log that I took when I got back from running today. 

 

Sportsmanship at its finest

Last night, my husband fell asleep on the couch. That’s not new, it was a Sunday night and neither of us had to work today. Plus, he had stretched out horizontally and covered up with a fleece blanket, falling asleep was inevitable. It was then that I commandeered the t.v. remote and settled on watching the last several minutes of the NBA East finals, or whatever it’s called. All I know is that it was game 7 and the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Boston Celtics. Game 7, of course, being the game that decides who moves on to whatever level of competition is next. Clearly, I don’t watch much basketball, but I put it on because I wasn’t all that interested in t.v. I wanted something that was background noise while I knit.

I don’t generally put games on if it’s a team that I don’t know anything about. I grew up in a town just outside of Atlanta, so I’m a huge Braves baseball fan. However, I’m also originally from Cleveland, all of my family live up there, so in the absence of a Braves game, depending on what sports season it is, I’ll watch a Cleveland Indians baseball game, or in this case a Cavaliers basketball game. Just the mention of the Cavaliers demands a mention of their star player, Lebron James. I don’t know much about Lebron, I really don’t. In fact, my opinion of him is sort of negative based on the fact that I was in Cleveland the summer that the whole city was on pins and needles waiting for him to announce his decision to either stay playing for the Miami Heat or come back to the Cavaliers. Every time the news was on the t.v. at my mother’s house there was coverage of Lebron James and the possibility of him coming back. Every…single…time. Seriously. I was even there the day that he made it official, King James returns! Whatever. I rolled my eyes so hard that day and even took a picture of the t.v. and the ridiculous banner that was displayed across it.

Obviously, his return to the Cleveland basketball team meant something more to the city than what I could glean just from being there for a week and a half. And I don’t live there now to see what it means for all of the championships he’s won for the city. All of this hype for an athlete made me think that he must be a typical arrogant athlete that thinks he’s greater than he really is and only cares about the millions of dollars he earns to play a sport.

But last night, when I watched the end of that game, my attitude about him changed. He could still potentially be the typical arrogant athlete, but I really don’t think so now. When the last seconds ticked off the clock and it was clear that the Cavaliers had won the championship, on the Celtics court no less, Lebron didn’t get carried away with cheering and high fiving his teammates. There were cameras and reporters and a whole crowd of people surrounding him on the court, but the first thing he did was go to one of the Celtics players and embrace him in a hug. He said something in the player’s ear as he hugged him. Then with a pat on the back, he let go and again, cameras and reporters surrounded him. But he didn’t talk to the reporters, he pushed through them and went to another Celtics player that was on the court and did the same thing, hugged him and said something in his ear. Lebron repeated this at least five times, for as many Celtics players that were still on the court. Only after he hugged each player did he stop and talk to a reporter. As a teacher who coaches a team of kids, granted, not athletes, but a Battle of the Books team that competes every year, I drill into those kids’ heads that whether we win or we lose we are good sports and we go to each of those kids on the other two teams and either congratulate them on winning or telling them that they played a good ‘game’.

So seeing this super star athlete who has just won yet another championship care more about showing good sportsmanship to the team he just defeated than boasting of his victory, that really touched me. Someone who does that has character and integrity. And now, as of last night, also has a fan in me.

Go Cavaliers!

The purpose of a teacher’s summer…

…is to relax and rest. Two months off in the summer is the reward for 10 months of having very little free time because of lesson plans, paper grading, and a thousand other extra things that I’m responsible for. There are exactly two and a half days until summer break and my principal has already let us know that when the kids leave on Thursday, she wants us to leave with them. You don’t have to tell me twice! I will lay rubber in that parking lot just as soon as that last kid is picked up.

This summer, I fully intend to do a lot of knitting and a lot of reading. Doing all of that in a reclining position on the couch with my feet up is also in my plan. But this summer, I’m going to do something different. I’m going to actually get up early each day and go running. I have to get up early because here in the southeast, there’s a small window of time each day before the crushing heat and humidity take over, and I plan to take advantage of it. I want to run, I love running, and I’ve been very, very bad at it lately. Bad, only in the fact that I haven’t been consistent in my efforts.

Now though, I have to be consistent because I have already paid my registration for a 4-mile race in the downtown area of my city on the 4th of July. I’m cutting it awfully close on training time. To be fair, I did re-start my couch to 5k app a couple weeks ago, however, school kept me busy and a new baby kitten kept me busy, and a whole host of other excuses kept me indoors. After May 31st, I will have no excuses. There will be nothing to keep me busy besides what I come up with myself. I’m doing this.

It’s going to be a bit tougher this time because I’ve only ever run a 5k, which is about 3.2 miles. This is a full 4 miles, but man oh man am I excited to get out there and try. I really can’t explain what it is that makes me like running so much. Maybe just the sense of accomplishment… I don’t know. But I do know that I’m eager to run this particular race. Perhaps because when I ran my first 5k, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a finisher’s medal, so I went home empty handed. With this race, I am determined to get that medal at the end.

Training for that race will take the first month of my summer break. I don’t plan on stopping after that race–I want to keep a running habit going, so we’ll see what the second month brings. That’s going to be my main purpose this summer–running. One of the songs I listen to when I run has the following line: “Surprise them with a victory cry.” If I make it through this summer and actually develop a running habit and run that race and get my medal, I will surprise myself with a victory cry when back-to-school time rolls around. Wish me luck.

 

There are those days…

There are those days like yesterday, when my husband left to do laundry at his mom’s house and I had to convince myself it was not a reason to cry. When I got dressed and got in the car and headed to the store to go grocery shopping only to turn around halfway there and come back home because I was afraid I would break down crying in the middle of the store. When I’m usually early with emailing a weekly file for my second job but decided yesterday that I just didn’t want to put the effort into finishing it at my normal time. When my nap on the couch turned into something I had to force myself to get up from. When my Saturday routine and joy at being alone turned to torment until my husband came home again.

There are those days like today, when I had enough energy to do everything I wanted to get done yesterday and still had motivation left over to clean the apartment from top to bottom with my husband. When he and I cracked jokes while putting away the laundry and I remembered why I was labeled somebody’s “loudest friend” one time, all because of my laugh. When we went out for dinner and had a nice conversation while we ate. When I marvel at the difference a day makes to someone battling mental illness.

There are those days like all of the ones in between when I am constantly grateful for medical science and all that it has done to help me find a life I can live without the intensity of an untreated mental illness. When I can look forward to going to my regular therapy appointment because I have found someone who can help me understand so many things about myself that I never could before. When I am in awe of the man I married whose patience and willingness to see me through every single day that I am here.

Yes, there are those days.

Strange Days

It’s a strange time of the year. Every year, the beginning of May brings the promise of summer break. My school year ends right around Memorial Day…every year. And yet, this year, I feel anxious about school ending. Things don’t feel right. I’m not excited as much as I usually am. I feel the same exhausting ‘teacher tired’ that I’ve seen expressed in countless memes online. There’s more to it this time though. It’s entirely possible that the events in my  life over the past several weeks have contributed to this sense of strangeness.

To take stock of what has happened lately, here’s a quick list:

-My 13 year old ginger kitty, Joey, died while I was at work one day. Though it was a blessing that he died at home. He hated the vet and I worried about having to put him to sleep at a place that caused him so much anguish.

-Work has been difficult, demanding, and defeating, for my husband–and since marriage makes us a team, I have felt his stress. It has made me feel closer to him than ever. A strong need to comfort him and be physically near him has consumed me.

-My grandmother died in hospice this week–I drove 10 hours last weekend to see her before she passed, and 10 hours back home in a brutal drive that I do not want to make alone again for a long time. She was not the easiest person to love. Being set in her ways made it difficult to communicate with her around the time that I got married. I hadn’t talked to her since before my wedding. But she did give me so many wonderful memories from things we did together when I was a kid. Her passing has made me very curious about where she is now. Did her devotion to the Catholic faith bring her to the place she yearned for? How did that transition work? What is she experiencing right now?

-My physical health has reverted back to how it was before I returned a 2nd time to exercising. Terrible food choices and lack of physical activity have led my blood pressure and weight to balloon up again.

At my annual women’s exam, the doctor questioned my mental health after reviewing my answers to several questions about how I have felt in the past seven days. After assuring the doctor that I do have mental health professionals that I see regularly, I simply explained that there has been a lot going on.

The feelings linger though. Good days happen. I was happy this afternoon–it’s Friday–I got a lot of work done at school, meaning not much work to do this weekend so I can have plenty of free time. However good of an afternoon it was, here I sit with tears brimming in the corners of my eyes. I know why. It’s not the specifics of everything that has happened lately. They are a part of life. But for a person like me, who relies heavily on structure and routine–this is hard! It’s funny because usually anxiety is my biggest nemesis, but through all of this, it hasn’t been anxiety, it has been just plain sadness and concern.

I’m happy that it will officially be summer break when I get home from work on May 31st. But what happens next? I don’t know. Something has to happen though, I have to create a routine for myself for the summer. Not just a list of goals or things that I would like to do over the summer, but a daily schedule. I have to. If I don’t, the daily laziness will begin to erode my mental health faster than it normally does each summer. I usually get a little depressed and stir crazy by the time summer break is almost over. It will happen instantaneously this year if I don’t prepare. I haven’t gotten very far with ideas, but I know one of them will be exercise. I live in the south, so running outdoors won’t be easy in the blazing summer months, but I have an elliptical. As much as I hate using it, I will need to force myself. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

I don’t know when things will improve, but I know they will. There is possibility and good things to come in the future, but getting there, through this transition time, it sucks. And that’s okay, for now anyway.