Depression, Encouragement, Family, Life, Mental Health

Another Year, Another Prayer

It’s been 52 years now since I whispered in your ear for the first time.  That whisper was, “Happy Birth Day, sweet little boy”.

On October 5th of each of the last 51 years, I have whispered a short prayer in my heart.

On this 52nd year, I again whisper the following in my heart:

Happy Birthday, Allen Lee.

I pray that you are healthy.

I pray that you are happy.

I pray that you are safe.

I pray that you Believe.

I pray that you are loved.

I pray that you love.

 

 

Depression, Mental Health

Go Forth and “Be”

The following popped up on my Facebook memories today and I felt it was worth sharing here.  I had written this last year for a dear friend who was going through a rough patch and was feeling less than worthy.
~~~~
September 4, 2016
This is for my friend (you know who you are) who needs to hear this loudly and clearly:

Put on your Big Girl Panties so you can own this. 
Put on your Mr. Magoo glasses so you can read this.
Put on your biggest pair of Mickey Mouse ears so you can hear what I’m saying.

Ready?????

Yes, sometimes life sucks. 
Yes, sometimes some people suck. 
No, life is not always (and sometimes is never) Fair.

BUT…….

Neither you nor I are on the list of “suckers” or “suckees”.

I don’t care who thinks we are. 
They don’t know Jack Squat.

AND, one day…….

Life will be grand. 
Life wIll be great.
Life will be fun. 
But, it still won’t be Fair. It will Never be Fair.

But, you won’t give a rat’s patooty. 
I won’t give a rat’s patooty.

We will just “Be”. 
And we haven’t done that in a while. 
But, we will both love just “Being.”
Trust Me.

So….hang on. 
Get tough. Get mean. Get ready. 
‘Cause it’s gonna be good, my friend. 
It’s gonna be good.

Now, on top of all that wisdom, remember the most important thing–

When you don’t (or can’t) trust yourself, dad-gum it, just trust Me.

‘Cause I’m here and I love you and I won’t steer you down the wrong path. (Forget those times that I’ve already done that. They don’t count.)

Now, go forth and BE. 
Darn it, don’t you DARE quit BEING!!!

~~~Betty

Depression, Mental Health

I Know There Is A Plan

A friend of mine replied to a post yesterday and talked about how God had healed her from her depression.  I know this is possible.  I have heard of God’s healing many times. I have prayed for His healing many times myself and I know that others have sent prayers to God on my behalf.  But, we all know that God does things on His time, not on ours. I believe that just because He has not yet taken away my depression, there is no reason to believe that He does not plan to do so.  I have faith that in His time, He will restore my mental health.

I have spoken with God so very many times. As a young child, I was a believer. Then, as things went on, I began to question why He was allowing the abuse and the heartache. How could a loving God allow that? As a young mother, I was reintroduced to a loving God. My heart was full again and things were good. As time went on, troubles began and I again blamed God for allowing hurt to be heaped upon me. I was not strong enough in my faith to believe that He had a plan for me. An ugly, painful divorce followed and I spent the next 20 years again believing that the guilt was mine. I turned my back on God again, believing that He was punishing me for all the wrongs I had done. I reached a point where I hated my life, hated it as I had never hated before.  There was nothing, other than my children and my grandchildren, that was good.  I was tired.  I was weary. I could not handle the pain any longer.

It was during this time that He sent someone into my life. Although this person brought a spark to my  life, all my fears and guilt and feelings of worthlessness still haunted me.   This person was kind.  He was caring.  He listened and showed compassion.  But, I was still miserable and felt there was no reason to live.  After spending a summer in which I was trying to garner the courage to end it all, I had a real health scare. It was because of this person who had been sent into my life that I had been found and rushed to the hospital. Upon waking up and finding out what had happened, I was super mad. I had been given the medical opportunity to not be here any longer. But, for some reason, I was.  I was struggling.  A few weeks in a mental health facility brought forth some hope. Things were better.  Upon returning home, it became apparent that all was not good with this person. Yes, he had saved my life and for that I am eternally grateful. But, it was not all good.  This person made me believe that I could care again, something I was sure I would never do. I learned to open my heart.  The problem was that because I could see the light again, the darkness was being buried.  In time, I found out that this person was just playing a game. It was terribly hard to finally walk away from him, but he was toxic. Yes, he had opened my heart again and that was good, but he was feeding me with false hope.   I was mad because God had let me open my heart to this person for no reason. Why was God making me pay again? I just didn’t understand it, but I no longer feel resentment. There was a reason for that person.  You know the old saying that people are sent into your life as either a blessing or a lesson? This person had been both a blessing when I needed it and was also a lesson.  I am better for this person’s visit to my life.

During this time, I had friends who were working their hardest to reintroduce me to their loving God. Through their tenacity, I finally decided that it was time to give God another chance. You see, I had turned away from Him because I did not have the faith needed to believe that God had a plan for me. I had thought He did not care. I was wrong. These sweet friends made me see that. I now have a pastor and his wife to whom I have been able to open up. I know that they pray daily for me and I know that they believe I am worthy. During a session with them, my pastor said something that really hit home with me. He said that he knew that I would live with God upon my passing, but he also knew that God wanted me to enjoy the good things while still here on Earth. He told me that God had a plan to enable me to do this. And that is what is opening my eyes.

Although I still struggle, although I still have doubts in myself, I do know that there is hope.  I have recently been plagued with panic attacks and for some reason, the biggest panic attacks take place as I am getting ready for church.  It has been years and years since I struggled with panic attacks and these are quite scary.  I break out in a sweat, shake so badly that I can barely hold anything, and actually become sick to my stomach. Just the thought of walking into the church where I know that I am loved, where I know that people will be kind, is for some reason scaring me to the point of being ill.  I cannot imagine the reason for this, but I am determined to overcome this.   I have stated before that I have a real problem with people being “nice” to me.  Those old thoughts of not deserving their “niceness” all come flooding back and I am overwhelmed. I pray daily to figure this one out.

I do know that God has a plan for me but that it’s not yet time to open my eyes to that plan. He is not finished with me.  There is something that God wants me to know or to see or to do that I have not done or seen or learned yet.  In order for me to know whatever it is, I must continue on this journey through depression.  I have faith that there is an end to it at some point.  I believe that.  He has plans for me to do, and be, something great and He is still working on that plan, refining it, so to say.  At some point, that plan will be revealed to me. Until then, I will continue my journey.  I know that I should be accepting and stop questioning, but I have always been the type of person who is not satisfied unless I KNOW the reason why. That is one of my downfalls (legitimate this time).  I pray daily for patience and for His guidance.  I have faith that sometime in the future my eyes will be opened. I will then know what I am to do.  What a blessing that will be!

~~~ Betty

Depression, Mental Health

One Moment So Free……..

When I write that my goal for this blog is to let others know that they are not alone, I am being very honest.  That is my goal.  However, it has also been my lesson.  I learn a little more each time I read a message from someone.  I treasure those messages that tell me I am not alone, that you, too, struggle.  I don’t treasure them because I WANT someone else to suffer, but treasure them because I often feel that I am, indeed, the only one who does. And these messages assure me that I am not alone.  It is vital for each of us to know that we are not alone.

I received a message this morning from a dear friend in which she talked about her journey through depression. She wrote such a powerful statement, one that I feel so very often.  She wrote, “I am going through the “these are the seminal moments in my life that caused shame” in therapy.  And it is so liberating but so damned hard.  One moment so free. And the next plunged back into darkness.”  Oh, how I relate to that statement!

One of the most frustrating things (and there are many) about my depression is that there is just so much about its anatomy that I don’t understand.  I don’t understand how someone can be intelligent enough to realize that our thoughts are merely in our heads and that we can change these thoughts at a moment’s notice, but that I cannot do that. There are many people who have mastered this technique.  My friend, Luann, knew how to do this.  I don’t.  She was so very good about cleaning out her thought closet.  I try. Lord, how I try.  But, the moment that I stop actively trying, the dark thought is back there again. And it is gnawing at my soul.  I hear this thought spoken in my head that says, “You are unworthy” and I agree with it.  Then, I stop and tell myself “Betty, that is so untrue. You are a good person.  You have a loving heart.  You have worked hard and been productive.  You have raised three beautiful, intelligent, hard-working children. You have wonderful friends who care for you.  You have done good things in your life.”  And I do believe all those things — so for a fleeting moment, I feel better about myself.  But THEN, that thought comes back that says, “Ahhhh, those things may be true, BUT you are still unworthy.”  And I immediately believe that message again.  What is it, exactly, that I must do to become worthy?  To myself?  In my own head and heart?  So that I can actually believe it?  I can easily justify the reasons that the voice is wrong.  But, I just can’t believe that it is wrong.  If something has been drilled into your head for years and years and years, is there ever a way in which to believe that it is wrong?  It can become such a vicious cycle in which I constantly fight those voices and I have yet to learn how to stop the cycle. As my friend said in her message, “One moment so free. And the next plunged back into darkness.”  That, to me, is the worst part about depression. I can feel so good one moment, and the next, be plunged back into that darkness.  I pray that I will learn how to stop the darkness.  It is hell.

~~~ Betty

Depression, Mental Health

Why? Because You Are Not Alone.

It’s been an interesting four days since I made my last blog post.  I had spent quite some time writing it, rewriting it, deleting it, and beginning again.  I finally decided that if I was ever going to be completely honest, I just flat-out had to post it.  After all, I knew when I began my blog that this story was going to have to be the destination.  My secret had been kept for over 50 years and it was slowly killing me.

I’ve had a couple of people message me and say that they were confused as to why I had let that instance “bother” me because it really was no big deal.  Of course, these two people are not of my generation, a generation in which bearing a child out-of-wedlock was most definitely a “big thing”.  It was something that brought much shame to the mother and the father, to their immediate and extended family, and in the end to the child if and when he or she was ever told of his or her birth story.  Back then, it was a “huge” deal and everyone did their best to keep it a deep dark secret in hopes that it would never be revealed.  It was such a shameful thing that there were “places” such as the Florence Crittenton Home where these pregnant young girls were sent.  Normally, their families spread the word that their daughters had been sent to live with an elderly relative to somehow help out the relative.  I have no idea where Mom and Dad said that I was or if they even acknowledged that I was gone.  Of course, the fact that I did not go until I was almost eight months pregnant probably helped whatever story  had been told. Things are much different these days.  Becoming pregnant before marriage is an accepted way of life now.  I won’t get into my thoughts about that because that has nothing to do with my story.

For those of you who have sent loving, supportive messages, I truly thank you.  When the messages began to come in, I could only clinically read them.  I had to keep all emotion out, knowing that if I read them with my heart, I would be overcome with emotion.  I had lived in fear for several decades that this secret would become public.  Now, I was the one who had made it public and that was a scary thought.  However, I was able to go back this morning and read them all and let the words sink in.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for the love.

But, I would like to talk about why I decided to even tell my story.

I did NOT tell this so that anyone would hate my father.  Although he was one of the major players in my story, it really wasn’t about him.  It was about ME and how I looked at the things that were happening in my life.  I thought that I was the reason that my father didn’t love me.  I thought that the things that I did were to blame for his need to abuse me.  I thought it was all about me.  My fault.  I thought that as a 10-year-old child, I had the ability to bring about the abuse.  I thought I was bad and for that reason, I deserved what was happening to me.  I thought that I was most definitely unlovable, undeserving, and unworthy.  In reality, it most likely was not about me at all.  It was about him.  I just grew up thinking it was about me.  It was about his illness (and most certainly he experienced some sort of mental illness.)  It was about his anger and his inability to love.  But, no matter what it was, it does not warrant hatred from anyone not involved.  You can hate the actions, but you cannot hate the man.  In my eyes, hatred belongs only to those involved in a personal way.  And, true, I did hate my father for many years.  But, that was because I did not have the insight to realize that he was sick. For whatever reason — his experience, his upbringing, his generation, whatever — he did not have the ability to love me.  And I promise you, it takes a lot out of a person to actively hate someone else.  It drains you.  And I finally had to just stop the hate.  My hatred of him was doing nothing to him.  It was only hurting me.  If you take his abuse of me and his abuse of my mother out of the equation, my father was a good man.  He was a hard worker.  He was a successful businessman.  He was a good provider for his four daughters.  He was a good friend to many people in our small town. In all of those respects, my father was a good man.  I now try to look at those things.

But, you say, he never abused your sisters, so maybe it was about you.  Well, that certainly makes me stop and wonder.  And, I guess you have a point there.  I do not have the answer as to why I was chosen. But, I was. I, and I alone, have to figure that one out. However, unless I find some hidden diary in which he wrote down his reasons, I will most likely never know why I was chosen.  And I don’t even know if finding out the “why” would change anything for me. It happened.  I suffered because of him.  But, I am recovering. That’s what counts.

I was most certainly not the first child to be abused and sadly, I will not be the last.  Child abuse happens far too often, even in today’s world.  Child abuse is a crime and the abuser should suffer the consequences.  A large majority of those abusers are never exposed and never suffer any consequences.  But, the children suffer. More importantly, the child who is abused is scarred for life.  And THAT is the biggest crime of all.  The thing is — I THOUGHT I was the only one who had things like that happen to me.  I had no idea that there were other children whose parent abused them.  I did not know that there were people out there who could have helped me.  I told my story because there are STILL people out there who think they are alone in their abuse.  They need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that there are millions of us out there who have experienced, and who still are experiencing the same things.  There are adults out there who still believe that their experiences of abuse have never happened to anyone else.  There are adults who struggle with depression, PTSD, and other problems because they think they are alone.  THAT is the main reason I decided to tell my story.

I have been amazed at the number of people who have contacted me to say that they, too, had similar experiences and that they have never been able to talk about those experiences.  Some said that it seems as though I easily speak of my past.  Believe me, it’s not been easy.  I have struggled with talking about my past.  I spent years and years and years not talking about it.  I spent years keeping it all bottled inside and it was slowly eating away at my soul.  I finally reached a point where I knew that it had to come out if I was to survive.  I am still embarrassed to admit what I did and what I experienced, but when I look at the options, talking about it was the only thing that made sense.  And, as I said yesterday to my therapist, at my age, I am at a point where I don’t really give a flip what others think.  Those people who are my friends and who care for me are not going to change their minds because they finally know about my past.

I do, however, worry about my children and my grandchildren.  I never, ever want to do anything to embarrass them.  I told my girls when they were teenagers about Allen.  I didn’t tell them about the abuse, but have openly spoken about it with them in the last few years.  Unfortunately, I was not the one to tell my son about Allen — my ex was the one who did that out of spite and that was the reason I told my girls when I did.  My ex also used this information against me during our divorce trial, so word of it got out in the town in which I spent 25 years of married life.  That was extremely painful, but I learned to bunch all of that crap together as being part of an ugly, public, painful divorce from a man who was and still is spiteful. But, that’s a story for someone else to tell; I am done with that part of my life. Thankfully, my children have been very supportive about my decision to talk about my past.  I just pray that my openness never brings them pain or embarrassment.  My son, my two daughters, and my six grandchildren are the best things that have ever happened to me. I love them beyond measure and never wish to bring them pain.

So, why did I do it?  Why did I “out” myself?  Because of the many others out there who are still hiding their truths.  For those out there still thinking they are alone in their depression due to abuse — please know that you are not alone.  Find a friend, find a therapist, find someone to talk to.  You will be amazed to discover how many other people are JUST LIKE YOU.  They have the same memories, the same guilt, the same fears, the same regrets.  Together, miracles can happen.  Together, you can find a way to overcome this terrible, terrible thing that has happened to you.  You can’t erase it; you can’t cover it up forever.  But, you can live through it.  Don’t spend your life alone, thinking you are the only one.  I, too, am one and I am living through it.  Come join me in this thing called life.  I hear it’s quite grand.

~~~ Betty

 

 

 

 

 

Depression, Mental Health

Today’s My Anniversary

The following post comes from a Facebook posting of a year ago.  As I read it today, I stopped to think about how, and if, I have changed in the last year.  Sometimes I think that I am continuing to make progress in my mental health journey and other times, I see no progression at all.  As I read through the 80 comments that had been made, I saw a couple of recurring themes —  strength, courage, and determination.  I had to smile as I read some of the comments because I can’t help but think to myself that these people have no clue.  While many people call me strong, I see very little strength in me.  Most days I still feel like a blob of jello.  (And, I hate the word strong, by the way.)  While they talk of my courage, I tend to mostly agree, but only because I know that in order to talk about my illness, it most definitely takes courage. There were so many years when I never admitted to anyone that I struggled with self-loathing, guilt, and depression and I certainly never had the courage to tell them why.   Through my postings on Facebook and since I’ve started this blog, I have had a few people to message me to say that I shouldn’t be talking about these things because I’ll embarrass my family, or that these things should be kept private, or even that these things may make others feel badly. Some of those comments have struck a few nerves, some have made me wonder if I really shouldn’t talk about this, some have been really hurtful, and some have made me think that perhaps they are right, But, I had made the decision that I needed and wanted to talk about my mental illness and their comments are not going to stop me.  I can speak of this much more easily now and readily credit my ongoing therapy in the ability to speak openly now. Through my therapy, I have come to learn that I am not at fault. (Even though I know this in my head, there are still those times when I will claim the fault in my heart.)  And while others talk about my determination, I struggle.  I don’t feel as though I am “determined” as much as I am just “accepting”.  I have accepted the fact that I will most likely feel this way for the rest of my life. There will be times of happiness, however fleeting those times may be. But, there will also be times of not caring and just accepting that “this is the way it’s going to be.”

I don’t really mention in my post what the medical emergency had been.  I had over two dozen clots in my lungs as well as a “Saddleback clot” that had blocked over 80% of the oxygen going to my lungs.  My granddaughter had found me and notified her mother and a quick trip in the ambulance had landed me at our local hospital.  While I don’t remember this incident, nor do I remember the first 3 or 4 days in the hospital, I certainly remember what happened afterward.  Here’s my Facebook post.

August 6, 2016 — Well, today has been an interesting day. When I got up this morning and saw that it was August 6th, I couldn’t figure out why that day kept sticking in my mind. I went through the names of my friends to see whose birthday it was and still couldn’t figure out why today’s date kept twirling around in my brain It finally came to me — Seven years ago today (or was it six, I can’t remember), I was supposed to have died. At least that’s what the doctors told my children. “She shouldn’t have made it to the hospital. We are not sure she will make it Macon, but that’s where we’re sending her”, said the doctors. Someone also worked their magic and got Darrell home from Iraq in 3 days. Although I still don’t remember anything about the first several days, I do remember finally waking up and being told what had happened. And I was mad. Pure mad. I don’t think I’d ever been that mad before. I had struggled all summer being in the bottom of a deep, dark pit of depression and anger and self-loathing and I so wanted to leave this world. But, for some reason, I hadn’t. All I could think was, “God, you know what I have prayed for all summer. You had your chance, and dad-gum it, you didn’t let me go. Why in the world are you making me stay here when you know I don’t want to be here?” Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers” kept running through my mind and Garth kept saying that they are good things. I could have, and would have, slapped Garth if he’d just shown up next to my hospital bed. What the heck did Garth know?

Once my children realized that I WAS going to make it, they decided it was time for what they called a Family Conference, but in reality it was an intervention (and Dr. Phil was nowhere to be found). After a long and painful discussion with a lot of crying and a lot of being treated as though I was the child and they were the parents, I was told that I was not going home. I was going to Atlanta to a Mental Health hospital to get my head screwed back on right. No choice. Period. That was the way it was going to be and I needed to just accept it. They had already made all the necessary preparations; we just needed to call and tell them when I was being dismissed. I was mad, discouraged, afraid, embarrassed, afraid, and had no idea how I was going to do that. Did I mention that I was afraid? I had spent my entire life wearing a series of masks so that no one would see the real Betty. How in the world could I strip off those masks? How in the world could I actually talk about how I felt about life, myself, my past, or my future? In my mind, the only good thing I had ever done was to have my three wonderful, loving, accomplished children and through them, I had been given six wonderful grandchildren. I could hide everything else by choosing a new mask for each day. It was only when I got home and was alone that the mask would come off. At that point, all the fear, self-hatred, and depression would be there full force. But, masks were no longer going to be allowed. Oh, Lord, I am so afraid. Why have you done this?

So, after almost three weeks in Macon, I went to Atlanta. And I must say that those next five weeks were the best five weeks of my life. The first two weeks while I was in the actual hospital, (and no, it’s not like a mental hospital you see on tv — we didn’t shuffle around the halls in our bathrobes with stringy hair) things were pretty tough. Long sessions with the psychiatrist were so draining. And of course because of my recent health scare, I was seeing the medical doctor on a daily basis. We had group sessions in the hospital, but I was pretty quiet in most of them. I still could not figure out how to talk about my feelings. After all, I had kept them bottled up for 60 years and had to learn how to talk. The kids and Sandra had to come up for a family session and that was Hell — pure Hell. Once I moved to the group house, I pretty much didn’t have a choice to not talk. We stayed in group sessions, group therapy, and individual therapy sessions from 8 until 12 each day and then again from 1 – 5. Dinner at 6 and then from 7 – 9 each night we had to attend either an AA, NA, or an EA (Emotions Anonymous) meeting. Since they had AA meetings 5 times a day, I seemed to gravitate to them. Although at one meeting, I had to confess that I felt guilty feeling so at home there since I really didn’t drink nearly enough to qualify to attend. (I had finally gotten a bit of my humor back, I guess.) Although those were the hardest 5 weeks of my life — full of introspection — those five weeks literally saved me; they gave me a life worth living or at least a roadmap I could follow to find that life. Upon returning home, I was introduced to my miracle worker, Roz. I have spent all these years since leaving Atlanta going to Macon to meet with Roz, talking, crying, cussing, praying, crying some more, and talking some more. In the beginning, I saw her 3 days a week then weaned off and last summer I decided I didn’t need Roz any more. (BIG Mistake) I was able to deal with life and with Betty. Or so I thought. There had been many times during these years when I had fallen back in the hole, when I wanted nothing other than to isolate. Thankfully, Roz understood and talked me out of the hole each time. Sometimes, it took a while to do so, but I finally reached a point where I could see the hole for myself and could avoid it, but, if I wasn’t careful, I’d be looking the other way and fall back in it. I am now always aware that those holes are out there and they are ready to gobble me up if I’m not careful. Thankfully, God knew what he was doing when he made “my Roz”.

Sandra’s death on New Year’s Eve drove me back to Roz. While I guess we all expected it at some point, to me it was just so sudden. There were so many things I still wanted her to know and she was just GONE. How could that be? Losing my younger sister, Sonja, had been Hell, but her death was not drawn out like Sandra’s. I just couldn’t handle it. What in the world was I going to do without Sandra? I know I still have KaKa and am so thankful for that. But Sandra was here in Eatonton and when I’d get down, I knew she was just down the street. After her death, I once again retreated to my deep, dark hole for quite some time. I would try to venture out, only to have panic attacks and become an emotional wreck. Most of the time when I talked to my kids, I would grab that “everything is fine” mask. I didn’t want them to know that I was slipping back into that “I’m just tired of it all and really don’t want to be here” emotional roller-coaster again. I promised myself when I left Atlanta that I would never cause them that pain and embarrassment again and I never wanted to disappoint them again. I knew that if they knew the state I was in, they would be hurt and disappointed. Thank the good Lord for Ash. Not sure why, but she made it a point to come to Eatonton at least once a week for lunch. She was my lifeline and was my cover. I always made sure that I had on the “good Grams” mask so that she could report back to her mom that I was ok. There were several weeks that those lunch dates with Ash were the only times I left the house and pretty much the only time I had any verbal contact with anyone besides Roz. (Poor Roz has certainly earned her pay these first 6 months of 2016.) Of course I still had Bella and that poor little dog has pretty much heard it all. (I guess that’s why I spoil her with a weekly Zaxby’s salad.) I have always been extremely good at the art of isolation and I was isolating, big time. My sweet friends, Dru, Mary Helen, and Gail made sure I checked in with them daily on good old Facebook, but I had no desire to see or talk to anyone. Finally, after a killer session with Roz, I reached the top of the hole and could at least see out of it. It’s been hard, very hard, but I’m slowly digging my way out of the hole again and think that I finally see some sunshine.

When I first came home from Atlanta and started seeing Roz, I was still embarrassed about having been in a mental hospital (that just has such a negative sound and we must do something about that) and for all the suffering I had caused myself and my family. I didn’t know what to say to people when they asked where I’d been — it was so hard to admit that I had some real problems. There were some people who knew where I’d been and they were quick to tell me to keep it a secret. I tried that for a while, but finally reached the point where it was important to me to be truthful about where I’d been and why I’d been there. Through my therapy, I have learned that there is no need to be embarrassed. You know that old saying that people are quick to throw out there — if you had a physical disease, you wouldn’t be ashamed to get medical treatment for it, would you? I’m sick of that saying, but I guess it’s true. I have even become proud of the fact that I have “fixed” myself (even though I had not begun the fix willingly and I really wasn’t “fixed”.) But, I reached a point where I could somewhat talk about what an absolute living Hell depression causes and how dangerous self-loathing is and can proudly say that I am truly a work in progress. Hopefully, this post will help others see that there is a light at the top of the hole and it’s worth the effort to get to the light.

Moving back home to Eatonton was a huge part of my recovery. I had spent 25 years or longer scared to death of Eatonton and all the terrible memories that hid behind every tree here. I had been told by someone close to me that I would never be welcomed back in Eatonton and I believed it. I believed it with every fiber of my being. Moving here was the most frightening thing I had ever done. But, you know what? Eatonton is not that scary. I was welcomed with open arms and have reconnected with friends, made new friends, and have been happy here for the most part. There are still days when I go digging through my closet for my old trusty masks — I feel so safe hiding behind them. “Hello. My name is Betty and I am addicted to masks.” But, I know those masks are not good for me. Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol. I am addicted to my masks and have become so proficient at wearing them, I can fool people so that they have no idea that the mask is on. Sometimes it’s torture to take it off, but I know I must. I cannot go back to that life of hiding behind them.

Now, I’m sure that some of you are saying, “But, Betty, why didn’t you just trust God? Why didn’t you turn to Him when things got tough?” Believe me, I tried. I tried so many times. But, just as many people claim that they had been let down by the “church”, I used that as an excuse also. I spent many years being scared of God. I had trusted Him and had still lived a life of Hell. Why did He let me live that life? I don’t know the answer to that. But my sweet friend, Luann, sat me down one day and told me to trust her if I couldn’t trust God. “Come to bible study with me, Betty. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” It was hard. Oh, Lord was it hard! But, I slowly began to hear the whispers of God telling me to trust Him. Then, Elaine C. and Rudy H. invited me to come to Liberty Chapel. I remember telling Rudy one time that I didn’t know if I could actually go back into a church and his response was, “Betty, you will receive nothing except LOVE at Liberty Chapel.” And Elaine wouldn’t give up. She constantly texted me, inviting me to come to church. I am so thankful that I finally listened to them and gave it a try. And they were right. I have never received anything except Love. And that has been such a blessing. It is good to have God back in my life and I realize that the hurt I received in the past from the church was their problem, not mine.

One of my biggest problems has always been that I don’t know how to handle it when people are “nice” to me. I’ve never felt that I deserved anyone’s kindness. Isn’t that silly? But, I had spent the first 18 years of my life being told that I was not worthy and I believed it. (I won’t tell you what Roz says to me when I say something like that, but some of you are probably saying the same thing.) I won’t talk about my marriage out of respect for my children, but those 25 years did nothing to break the spell that Dad had cast upon me. Most people yearn for niceness and I try my best to steer clear of it. I’m scared to death of it, to be truthful. I become an emotional wreck and have no idea what to do at that point. I’ve always felt that if someone is nice, they are just faking it until they can figure out how to hurt me. And, yes, I know in my head that all people are not like that, but knowing something in my head and feeling it in my heart don’t always jive. I am trying to overcome those feelings and most of the time, I can talk myself out of the distrust. Hopefully, I will soon reach a point where I can give love and also receive it.

I think my biggest desire is to be able to freely GIVE love without being afraid that I will have to pay the price for it. To me, being able to give love is more important that actually receiving it. I know that even at my lowest point, when I couldn’t even stand myself, there were people out there who loved me. I have loving children and grandchildren who think that the sun rises and sets in their Grams. I have dear, dear friends who have loved me through the bad times. I have a church family who, I believe with all my heart, loves me. The problem is that I don’t love me and because of that, I find it hard to believe that the love I give to others is accepted by them. Maybe once I learn how to give it, I will also receive it with gratitude. I pray for that constantly. I so want to be the real Betty. But, in reality, after all these years, there may not even be a real Betty. I may have to build a new Betty.

I have always yearned for love and acceptance and realize now that one of the reasons that God did not let me die all those years ago was because He wanted me to actually experience it. I can now thank Him for that. I’m not mad at you anymore, God.

Back to the present — I have finally reached a point where I can get back out there again, but it’s hard.  It’s really hard.  There are more times of sunshine and happiness, but they don’t last.  There are times of real clarity when I can see the weaknesses and can see the solutions.  But, those times don’t last either.  I know I told Roz once that it seems as though the bad times are much worse now but I think it’s because I can see how good the good times are.  Back in the day when there was nothing but depression, I was no longer aware of “good” so it fooled me into believing that the “bad” wasn’t really that bad.  That probably makes no sense to any of you, but it makes perfect sense to me.  If I could show it in a graph, you would see many “good” spikes way up there in the 70% – 90% range and then comes along a “bad” dip way down at the 10% – 40% range.  The way down to that dip is just so damn far and it’s so hard to make that climb back up to the good spike.  If you live in either place — the spike or the dip — after a while, it just becomes natural and it is only when you fall again into the bottom of the dip that you realize how absolutely terrible that dip is.  Thankfully, I haven’t hit that 10% dip in many a year, but I always know it’s there and I’m always afraid of it.  I also don’t think I’ve made it above the 90% range either because I’ve never learned to fully trust — be it life, or people, or myself.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited with my Pastor and had a long talk.  I must say that he and his sweet wife were able to set my heart at ease about some of the things that have truly bothered me for so many years.  I don’t think that I’m fully at peace with myself yet, but I do know that my past is not my fault and that God loves me, no matter what.  And that knowledge brings me peace.

So, while it’s been 7 years since I was supposed to have died, I’m still here. I’m aware of the progress that has been made.  I’m aware of the fact that the hole is still there.  I’ve visited the hole several times, but I’ve climbed out each of those times.  I’ve learned a lot. I’ve loved a lot.  I’ve been loved a lot.  I’ve trusted some.  I’ve learned what not to trust.  I’ve still been hurt by others and I’ve been hurt by me.  But, I’m here.  I’m still learning and I’m still trying.  I guess, in the end, that’s what’s important. So, Happy Anniversary to ME.

~~~

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I dread this day each year because I know it is a day of introspection and that’s always tough.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  Still dealing with a terrible ear infection or something, but will be seeing my doctor tomorrow so am looking forward to some relief.  The biggest problem (besides the bleeding and the pain) is that I can hear almost nothing.  The roaring and clashing and banging in that ear is driving me pure mad.

~~~ Betty

Depression, Mental Health

Like a Pack of She Wolves

I am so blessed to have the friends that I have.  There is one special group of friends that I am sure God sent to me.  It had to be during one of His playful times because I know that HE knew what a dangerous (in a fun sort of way) group He was putting together.   One of the gals in my group has been a lifelong best friend.  She and I have hung together since forever and have gotten into, and out of,  trouble since high school. We have more stories that could be (but shouldn’t be) told than Carter has Little Liver Pills.  The other two in the group were sent directly to me after I moved back to my hometown.  We had gone to school together back in the day, but really bonded after my move home.  When our group first got together, we referred to ourselves as The Twisted Chicks.  As a group, we went through some tough times and decided that we could no longer think of ourselves as chicks — we were still twisted, but felt we needed a bit of revamping and became The Hens.  Hens are much more mature than a bunch of chicks.  Right?  And we had certainly matured.  A couple of folks claimed that we were really more like a bunch of old biddies, but we decided not to go that far in the renaming of our group.  We lost one of our Hens about a year and a half ago to that ugly, nasty thing called cancer, but we know that she’s watching over us and when we get out of hand, we hear her sweet, familiar cluck that is urging us to calm down. Sometimes, though, we hear her clucking like crazy which means for us to “Carry On, Cause Some Ruckus.”   We chat daily and try to get together for lunch or supper as often as possible.  Three of us attend the same church, so it’s always interesting when we are all there. Interesting for us, that is. Maybe not so much for others.  We’ve been known to take over a bakery for the afternoon, crash Mexican birthday parties, park in a field and turn the radio to an oldies station and dance in the field, become entertainment at our local favorite restaurant, and even spend time in hardware stores. And I’m sure that we also give our pastor something to pray about on those days where he may be searching for a couple of more prayers he can add to his list.  Occasionally, we get to go on a road trip and that is always an adventure. On those road trips, we tend to get lost, find our way again, talk about everyone we know, rehash old love problems, solve the world’s problems, see some amazing sights, and mainly just enjoy each others’ company.  I don’t know what I’d do without my Hens. They all understand my struggles with depression and are always there to lend a loving ear to my rants and raves.  They sincerely listen to me, although I know that they probably wish that I’d just shut the hell up.  But they listen and they still love me.  Sometimes they may offer a bit of advice, but it’s never in the “You ought to do this or You need to think this way or Why don’t you act this way?” form of advice that can be so hurtful and not useful at all. Their advice normally comes in a sarcastic, smart-butt tone that immediately brings me back to earth. One of them actually helped me do an online search for a contraption we could use as an “Vaporizer” when I had someone who was being quite troublesome to me.  Sadly, we did not find one that would actually do the job. But she was there to lend a helping hand and I thank her for that.

Anyway, the Hens had plans to get together tonight for supper and a bit of mischief.  I was so looking forward to it, but had to back out this afternoon due to a nagging ear problem that has just about incapacitated me for right now.  I am so disappointed, but know that I’ll survive this and we will get into some mischief in the near future.  The comment from one of my Hens about this is the reason for my post today.  Her comment has made me smile all afternoon and is one of the sweetest things that has been said to me in a while.  I knew I had to share it on my blog to show others how important a core group of friends can be to someone who is down, for whatever reason.  This is what MH said to me when I apologized for spoiling the fun. (And I love the way she has always called me “Bet”. No one else has ever done that.)

“Bet.  Look.  We travel as a pack.  As in wolves.  She wolves.”

Now, that comment might mean nothing to most of you. I wouldn’t expect it to.  And many of you may feel that it was a silly comment or just not get it at all.  (However, some of you who know us get it.  I know you do.)  But, I got it.  I felt the love.  And, I am still smiling — throbbing ear and all. This afternoon, while feeling like crap, I am filled with love.  I am thrilled to think that my friend considers me to be a part of her “pack of She Wolves.”   She Wolves are ferocious beasts who can fight back all the dangerous things that may come their way.  They will let nothing harm the other members of their pack.  They stick together and protect each other and their young.  I can think of nothing more scary to meet up with than a pack of She Wolves.  Can you?

Do you have a “pack”?  If not, find you one.  Make that bond.  No telling what a difference it will make in your life!  I have got to pat myself on the back when I think that in a short eight years I have evolved from a blubbering fool, scared of everything and everyone, to a Twisted Chick, and then to a Hen, and am now a She Wolf.  Way to go, Bet. You have come so far!  Hear me Howl.

For now, I’m going to heat up my compress, hold to it to my ear, and smile some more thinking about being a She Wolf.  I may even sharpen my claws while I’m at it.  Just in case.   Y’all enjoy your day and think about who can get to join your pack.  You won’t regret it.  I hope to hear you all Howl!

~~~

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I can’t help but smile and think of the things that my pack and I can do.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  Crap, but still smiling.

~~~Betty

Depression, Mental Health

Rise

I know.  I’ve said it a frillion times already.  But, I’m going to say it again — I am in absolute awe of song writers. They have the most magnificent minds.  How do they do it?  How do they know exactly what you are thinking and how you are feeling?  It’s almost as if they are living in your own mind.  And that, my friends, comes almost to the point of being spooky.

I’m sure that I’ve told you before how much I love music, right?  In order to feed that addiction, I discovered YouTube many years ago and I can honestly say that I could probably spend all day long watching YouTube videos — not only music videos, but videos on cooking, sewing, scrapping, how-to’s, just about anything. A few weeks ago while watching YouTube, one of the many ads that pop up every couple of minutes came on.  I thought it was an odd ad since it wasn’t really trying to sell anything, but was rather just showing the making of a music video.  There were parts of the video that for some reason, just kind of tugged at my heart, but since it just showed snippets from the video, I wasn’t sure what was so special about it.  Then, yesterday, I saw a post on my Facebook timeline for the completed video.  I watched it a couple of times, trying to figure out what it was about the video that totally had me enthralled.   Was it the words?  Was it the perspective that most of the video is shown from above, as though you are flying?  I couldn’t quite figure it out until I could put the actual words to it.  Since my hearing is so very, very bad, when I hear a new song I normally just go online and look up the lyrics so that I actually know what the singer is saying.  It is only once I know what words are being spoken that I can put things together.  (I sometimes wish that I had a “lyrics sheet” to Sunday sermons since my lack of hearing keeps me from actually hearing half of what the preacher says, but that’s another story.)  When I read the lyrics to Rise, I “got it”.  A couple of things about this video were speaking directly TO ME! 

Perspective — Looking down from above on the scene was all too familiar to me.  I think I’ve told y’all before about my ability to fly.  When things get too stressful for me, I have always had the ability to close my eyes, stretch out my arms, and just fly away.  I have seen much of the world while just flying around.  I have been doing this since my early childhood and feel as though I have spent much of my life looking down upon the actions of others from above, while I fly away from the situation.  If for some reason, I could not fly away, I’d disassociate by stretching out my arms and just float away on the waves of the sea. So, when this video showed things from a perspective of flying above it — it got me!  I was watching as the woman was freeing herself from all the troubles of the world.  How did the songwriter KNOW that I needed to see hear this?  How did the videographer know that his vision was what I needed to see?  That I would be able to relate?  What a blessing!

Words — There are parts of this song that speak directly to my heart. I know it was written for ME to hear and to absorb.  And absorb it, I have.  I immediately went to iTunes to download it to my computer and have it on repeat as I sit here.

I’ve been sleepin‘ in my mind
But now my heart is risin’
Risin’ with the tide
Floating on a wave
Buoyed by the sea
Carry me away ‘cause the world is not for me  

I have spent many years “sleepin’ in my mind”.  It has always been so much safer to “sleep” through the many stressful times of my life, rather than actually “live” them.  But, I have reached a point where my heart is learning how to deal with those times I’ve slept through.  My feelings are risin’ with the tide and I am being forced to deal with them.

If I could see through different eyes
From ten thousand foot skies
I’d navigate the lies
And never fear demise
Nor be timid of the rule
How can I grow wise
If never I’m a fool?

Oh, how I have wished to “see through different eyes”.  I have prayed many times in my life to be removed from the situation so that I would not have to experience it any longer.  Isn’t this what she’s saying in the song?  By seeing the situation from different eyes, we are able to see the lies that are taking place, but not have to live those lies ourselves or perhaps to just learn that they are actually lies.  And of course, if it’s not really us living it, it’s so much easier to not be afraid. But, as we know, we only become wise by seeing or living through a situation so that we can learn what not to do or how not to act.

Oh I must be quiet
Enough to hear the sound
The song inside my soul
As it echoes in the clouds

Therapy has helped me learn to be quiet enough to hear those sounds that scream from my soul.  It has been through therapy that I have learned to listen to my heart and deal with the many cruelties and the abuse I’ve lived with.  While I haven’t mastered it yet, before therapy, I never even realized that I was capable of hearing those hurtful sounds in my soul and might possibly learn to live with them.

Raindrops ripple as I breathe
I can feel the deep blue miles from my feet
Coming up for air, conscience coming clean
I have left the past at the bottom of the sea

Those raindrops are the whispers from God that constantly come to me, telling me that He loves me.  As I learn to listen to my soul, I can feel the old hurts float up from that deep blue sea (my hole that I live it).  Those hurts do gasp for air, trying to be freed.  I am learning to clear my conscience from the guilt I have felt my whole life — guilt for not being a better daughter, sister, wife, teacher, mother, friend, servant of God, or person.  I am struggling to leave my past somewhere — whether it be at the bottom of the sea, in a fire pit, or in the garbage — just anywhere except in my heart where it currently lives.

No matter where you land or how far you may fall
You have heart, you have hands
And the highest calling of our lives
Is to find the grace in the very place we stand
And rise

And this, my heart, is the important part.  No matter what my past.  No matter what I’ve suffered.  No matter what I’ve felt — my biggest calling is to find grace right here where I am today.  And to rise.

So, to the songwriter of Rise, whoever you are — thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing these words so that I, too, can Rise! To the videographer, thank you for your perspective.  I am enjoying this “flight” through Rise.  And to Caroline Jones, as I fly high above you watching you ride your horse through the beautiful countryside and listen to you beautifully sing these meaningful words, thank you.  I am trying my best to Rise along beside you.  Absolutely a beautiful video!  It has touched my heart. Thank you and God Bless You!

Rise (Sing it Loud)  by Caroline Jones

I’ve been sleepin‘ in my mind
But now my heart is risin’
Risin’ with the tide
Floating on a wave
Buoyed by the sea
Carry me away ‘cause the world is not for me
If I could see through different eyes
From ten thousand foot skies
I’d navigate the lies
And never fear demise
Nor be timid of the rule
How can I grow wise
If never I’m a fool?
And home, home is in my heart
So why do I get lost in the crowd
Trying to be proud
Oh I must be quiet
Enough to hear the sound
The song inside my soul
As it echoes in the clouds
I’m going to sing it
Loud
I’m going to sing it
Loud
Raindrops ripple as I breathe
I can feel the deep blue miles from my feet
Coming up for air, conscience coming clean
I have left the past at the bottom of the sea
‘Cause home, home is in my heart
Why I do get lost in the crowd?
Trying to be proud
Oh, I must be quiet enough to hear the sound
The song inside my soul
I’m gonna write it down
I’m gonna sing it
Loud
I’m gonna sing it
Loud
No matter where you land or how far you may fall
You have heart, you have hands
And the highest calling of our lives
Is to find the grace in the very place we stand
And rise
I’m gonna sing it
Rise
I’m gonna sing it
Rise
We will rise.

~~~

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I cannot get this video off my mind. I have listened to the song at least 50 times as I’ve been at my computer in the last 24 hours and am absorbing the hurt, the love, and the grace.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  Slept terribly last night.  Finally got up around 3 and took half of a sleeping pill.  Was finally able to sleep, but awoke later to the realization that I’d been dreaming about Sandra.  She had been here with me.  Lord, I miss her so much!

~~~ Betty

Depression, Mental Health

And That, My Friends, Is The $64,000 Question…..

Do you remember when you were a child and did something that got you in trouble? Maybe you were chasing your sister through the house and hit a table and knocked off the lamp. As soon as you heard it hit the floor, you knew you were in trouble — big trouble. Your mom or dad would come after you and ask that ridiculous question — “So, young lady, just how many times do I need to tell you not to run in the house?” And they’d stand there and wait for you to answer them. Good gracious. How do you answer a question like that? Do you just stand there and say, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to knock over the lamp.” (I tried that many times and it never went over well.) Or do you get brave like I remember getting one time when dad was raging and answer, “Seven times”?  Let me tell you now that that was not the answer he was wanting. Maybe I should have said, “More than a thousand times” because evidently that’s how many times he had said it to me already and I was still running in the house. I guess I was a slow learner.

Anyway, I finally made it to Macon to see my therapist this week after three long months of not seeing her. It wasn’t that I was staying away on purpose — I was sick and then I got busy with the class reunion stuff and then I spent a week of medical testing and appointments and I just couldn’t get over there. But, whatever the reason, I was finally there. And I was lamenting about the fact that I am still screwed up. I was talking about how I couldn’t forgive myself for being such a screw-up as a kid and then a screw-up as a wife and now I’m just a plain screw-up. Period. After a few minutes, she took a deep breath, looked at me, and said, “Betty, just how long are you going to let your father run your life? When are you going to take your life back? When are you going to forgive yourself and go live the life that you know you should be living?” Well, damn. What was I supposed to say? Do I (as I did) just look at her and say, “I know. I need to let it go.” Or do I look at her as I looked at dad all those years ago and say, “I’m going to do that next Thursday. Or next month. Or in three weeks. Or evidently, never.”

How do you answer that question? That question, to me, is what we used to call the “$64,000 Question.” It’s one of those questions that I have no clue how to answer. How do you decide when enough is enough? I’ve made that decision many times. I’ve decided that enough is enough. I’ve told myself that I didn’t deserve all the crap I got from him and that I was going to let it go. I’ve even said out loud, “This is enough, Betty. Let it go.” And maybe I would for a bit. And then, something else would happen or I’d have a nightmare and wake up remembering it all over again. And, Wham! It’s back! All the feelings of worthlessness. All the pain. All the anger. All the guilt. All the hatred. And I’d have to start over again.  I am so very, very tired of starting over.

She says we are going to work on that question at our next session. That ought to be a fun time, huh? If any of you have any answers for me, please clue me in. How do I let it go? How do I convince my heart that what my head knows (I don’t deserve the pain; it wasn’t my fault; It’s nothing that I did to make him not love me) is correct? How do I make it stick? How do I really and truly forgive — not only him, but myself, also? If any of you have the working answer to that question, I’ll scrounge up the $64,000 for you. You will deserve it!
~~~

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I so wish I could just go buy a book from Amazon that has the answer to my question.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  Been a pretty good day.  Talked to my friend, Dennis, tonight and he said I sounded like I was in a better place.  I had to admit that I just had some new, better drugs.  Ain’t that a kick in the rear?

~~~ Betty 

Depression, Mental Health

Was It Easier Back Then?

A couple of my friends and I were chatting a while back about all the sickness in the world today.  I do believe that it’s been here all along, but back then it just wasn’t spoken of.  Now, with social media, we know everything about everybody (sometimes almost before they know it themselves).  But, I do remember when I was growing up that people in my home town would die and I never even wondered why or how they died – it was just a given that old people died, right?  Was it that way for you, too?  Now, my friends and I are the age that many of those people were back then and we don’t think that WE are as old as we thought THEY were back then.   So, if we are now that age, is it time for us to die?  Will the upcoming generation wonder about how and why we died or will they, too, just think that we were old people and that it was our time?

Death is such a hard thing and it seems as though it sometimes just takes forever to happen, if you know what I mean.  I told MH that I sometimes think it would have been easier to live back in covered wagon days like Ma and Pa Ingals.

We would have crossed the Mississippi in our covered wagons, fought the Indians, and suffered through winter with only a possum or raccoon coat.  We would have watched as the men in our settlement cut down trees, drag them to a clearing, and build us a house.  To those back then, this house was their castle; to us now, we realize that it was a shack.

We would have spent Sundays at the village church worshiping God and thanking Him for all we had, which many times was almost nothing.  We would have welcomed the spring, plowed the field with our horse (if we were lucky and old Buckeye had not been killed in the Indian raid or had not starved to death during the long cold winter), and planted our seeds until daylight was gone.  At harvest time, we would harvest our crops and pray that we would have a bit of profit to buy more seeds for next spring.

We would birth our babies and pray that they would make it through the winter and someday have an easier life than that which we were living. At the end of the day, we would cut a chunk of venison off the carcass hanging from the rafter on the front porch or make rabbit stew from the rabbits that our old men had gone out and hunted.  We would thank the Lord for His many blessings and eat our rabbit stew with day old beans. Once a week we would wash up in the river and nightly we would sleep on a lumpy hay mattress, dreaming of a better life.

Then we would get up and do it all over again the next day. After many moons of this hard life, we would just drop dead from heart failure at the ripe old age of 36. Sometimes, that seems much easier than this crap we are dealing with today.

~~~

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I need to find something else to think about besides why old people (my age) die.  Maybe it’s because I had to go out last week to have an ultrasound of both legs checking for more clots. Today I had to go have a Echocardiogram and tomorrow morning I’m scheduled for a Brain MRI.  I need a day at the pool.  Or a shot of Fireball.  Or a night at the movies.  Or a lunch with my Hens.  Getting old is for the birds.

~~~ Betty