The Guilt

I used to think I carried around this never ending guilty feeling because of the stereotype about Jewish moms and guilt.  I have thought about the guilt so much and have read enough articles concerning Depression lately to know that this guilt is not because I’m Jewish but in turn because I am Depressed.  This is a daily battle that for myself has been going on for not just years, but decades.  Yes, you read that right, DECADES.

I have guilt over everything.  It stays with me so much so that whenever I see a cop I start to shake and hyperventilate.  This becomes especially hard when I visit a friend of mine whose husband is in fact a cop.  Funny thing, I’ve never broken the law that I would have a reason for excessive guilt and anxiety around law enforcement.  Well,  that is to say I’ve never broken a federal or state law but I’ve broken many of my own laws or beliefs.  I think this is why I feel nervous around police.

What governing laws of Stephanie have I broken?  Why am I so guilty? Why do I still live in the past?

Sophia.  My beautiful almost preteen daughter.  I carry a horrendous amount of guilt about her:

~ I passed on my genetically linked illness to her. (I don’t even know if this is true, but I feel guilty over it).
~ I caused her childhood Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
~ It’s my fault Tyler is not in the house.  This one is so strong that I’m trying to impose thoughts into Sophia’s head.  I believe she’s angry with me about it even though she has said she’s not numerous times.  I keep telling her she should be.
~ I missed 12 days of her life between her age of 4 to 6 weeks old because I needed to go to the hospital for help.
~ I missed 5 days of her life this past January for the same reason.
~ I thought of running away and leaving her when she was a baby.  I had a whole plan.
~ I showed her my illness.  Another biggie.  I never meant for her to see any of it.  To witness my dry-heaving, the shaking, the crying, the delusional thoughts, the drug usage.  The pain… My pain and hers for witnessing it all.
~ I am the reason she is an Only Child.

It’s all my fault and I carry this guilt around daily.  Yes, my antidepressant does help but it isn’t a cure all.  Therapy helps but that too will not take it all away.  It’s the disease speaking and it is with me all the time. 

But wait, I have more guilt, Jimmy:

~ I put him through hell when I suffered with Postpartum Depression.  His days were filled with waking up at 5am to get Sophia to my parents and himself to work 1.5 hours away only to come home late and pick Sophia up to visit his crazy wife at the psych ward.
~ I put him through hell again with my disease while Tyler was here and I vowed years ago I would never stick him in a situation like that. 
~ I am the reason he does not have a son.  One day I know he will hold this over me, although it might be the guilt talking.

I constantly tell him to leave me, that I don’t deserve his love or Sophia’s.  I tell him to take her and run away.  He won’t and tells me I’m nuts.

Then there is the guilt for what I put my parents through.  I can only imagine what they felt 8 years ago during my PPD and PPA.  I say imagine because I at first was so delusional and then I was so drugged up so in all honesty, I don’t remember and that’s sad.  This last time I had some brief moments of normalcy that I know I put them through hell.  As a parent, I can’t imagine seeing Sophia suffering the way I did and basically being helpless.  All parents want to do is help their children.  This I hold guilt for.

And of course, more recently, the guilt I live with about Tyler.  We were supposed to be his forever home.  He was the little boy I always wanted, my perfect son.  I let him down.  Each piece of clothing that pops up, each toy that is discovered only reminds me of this… And that I disappointed myself too.

Depression.  It lives in me daily.  It’s biggest fighter is Guilt.  It is a strong fighter and currently winning.  It wins because with Depression, you live in the past.  You dwell about the past.  You are your past.  I’ve never heard about anyone feeling guilt over the future.  Although the guilt is ahead right now, it will fall behind like the hare in The Tortoise And The Hare.  It just takes time.  Time… Each bout of Depression for me takes a full year at least to overcome.  I may feel better.  I may look better.  I may act better.  Inside though I still ponder about the past.  I relive it over and over.  The Guilt.  It painfully hurts me mentally and then it physically manifests itself.  It drains me over and over.

Turning My Life Into A Book

I should’ve titled this, “Petrified, In Need of Confidence”!

Last year after one of my good friends published her first book I started to think about writing myself.  I had a remarkable talent for it when I was younger.  I was actually in Creative Writing Talent at my Junior High, had a poem published in high school, and turned the sport of bowling into a semi erotic poem in a college class.  So, why the lack of confidence?

I feel as if when the real world set in (job, marriage, child), adulthood, the creative part of my brain sold its living space and found a new host.  I used to write stories, poems, digiscrap, do crafts… Now, there is an empty spot in my brain that says, “VACATED, SPACE FOR RENT” and it has been that way for years.

So, as I was saying, my good friend wrote a book and it got me thinking, not creatively (remember, that part left) but logically… I used to write.  I’ve always wanted to publish a book and lastly, what I’ve been taught through the years, write what you know.

What do I know?  I’m a pretty ordinary person.  I have a daughter.  I can write about her.  No, nope, been done before.  I work.  I can write about that.  Who wants to read a book about me working?!  I suffered from Depression and Anxiety since age 14…  BINGO!

I started writing.  Jumping around from one bout of Depression to the next and then stopped.  Why did I stop? I once again fell victim (Great, more ammo for my book).

Recently I’ve started to write my book again.  It has a working title the same as my blog, “Rising From The Ashes: My 20+ Year Battle With Depression And Anxiety”.  I am nowhere near done with my first manuscript.  Baby steps.  But, I’ve started.

So why am I lacking confidence?  I’m scared no one will read it.  Who cares about some 30 something’s battle with mental illness? I’m scared my creative writing ability will not move back in and remove the vacate sign.  I’m scared it will be used against me.

Yet, I am still writing it.  I’m writing it for those who suffer like I did and remain in silence.  I write for professionals to get a first-hand look into a patient.  I write for myself.

Happy 3rd Birthday Tyler!!! (Letting Go…)

My Little Boy,

Today you turn 3.  I used to dwell on all the things that went wrong, blaming myself for everything and ultimately living in the past.  But, beating myself up is not something that should be done on a happy occasion such as your 3rd Birthday.  Instead, I am going to think of all the happy times we had when you were here and how much you grew.

You learned to talk with us becoming quite a chatterbox by the time you left.  Phrases such as “Coffee Time”, “Penguin, Penguin, Snowman”, “Christmas Tree”, “It’s A Mommy” still linger in my head.  You slept in a big boy bed.  You began to eat food… this is a biggie!  No more caloric shakes.  You also began to reject foods like a typical toddler.  You learned to love and play and be the boy you should be.  You have made such an impact on my life.  You will always remain in my heart.

So on a great day like today, I wish you all the happiness in the world and all the love a person can have because you are a special little boy who deserves everything.  Although I can picture a Blues Clues Birthday Party in my head that will never be, I know somewhere you are having a great celebration.

Sophia, Daddy and I decided to throw you a little celebration of our own, what we could do… to let go of the past and wish you a bright future.  We each released a balloon with our own wish for you on it in hopes that it will get to you.

Sophia chose Elmo for you.

Daddy chose a Monkey Balloon
I chose Mickey Mouse.

Letting go and hoping they reach you!

After that we lit a candle in a cupcake and wished you a Happy 3rd Birthday!

Happy 3rd Birthday My Little Boy!

With this I will close my letter to you.  Just know that we think of you all the time and will always love you.

Love, Your Former Foster Mommy

“Happy” Me vs. The Real Me

I’ve just read this great blog entry from the Project Helping Founder and CEO.  Everything he wrote in it was so familiar it was absolutely scary.
Here is the blog post.  I encourage you to read it:
Running From Myself 
The premise of the blog post is the constant battle he had between his “Happy” self and his Real self.  It got me thinking about my “Happy” self and my Real self.
Most people with Depression have 2 selves… The fake one, or “Happy” one, we put on for others to hide or Real self, the one that constantly suffers with mental and physical pain.  Ask anyone who has suffered from Depression and most likely they will agree to the constant battle.
Now, why do we put on the fake happy face?
Many reasons.  Stigma.  Hiding.  Confusion.  You name it, there is a good reason.  I would imagine the stigma behind mental illness is a biggie.  There are still so many people who fear the reactions of their friends and family that they put on a “happy” face.  I know several of these people who have privately confided in me.  I am glad they did tell me, I am glad that by me coming forward I am helping those in silence.
For me it was definitely the stigma in the beginning.  I was a teenager after all.  I was being judged on a daily basis for so many other things why add mental illness as ammunition?!
As the years passed, I still hid myself behind the stigma for fear of losing friends, employment, etc.  It wasn’t until after suffering from Postpartum Depression that I broke the mask I was hiding behind and became an advocate of breaking the stigma.  After this, my real self stayed hidden due to confusion on why I was suffering and the internalizing of my feelings I didn’t feel others needed to see.
The problem with having these 2 selves is the battle, like a real war, is massively draining in all areas.  Because of this duel between my Real self and my “Happy” self, I usually end up erupting with full blown crying fits, anxiety attacks and a body ache that my mind produced.
They call Depression a hidden disease for a reason.  You can’t look out in the public and pinpoint someone suffering but they are there, more than you’d like to guess.  Just realize underneath someone’s smile, their “Happy” face, could be a person who is inwardly suffering, inwardly at war with themselves.
I encourage any of my readers to talk with someone if they are hiding the battle.  Take the next step and get help.

Making Amends… I’m Sorry…

Last night I had a dream.  Actually, I was deep into this dream when my alarm clock went off at 7am this morning…

…Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

Normally, I will gladly wake up but today I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I didn’t want to leave the dream.  In the dream I got to see Tyler.  I didn’t want to leave him.

There was more to this dream then seeing Tyler which is why I call this the “Making Amends” dream.  I was at Tyler’s daycare waiting for him to show up, to be dropped off by his new Daddy or Mommy (still pains me to say that). It seemed as if I was an employee there but not sure.  Every time the door opened someone I wanted to apologize to walked through.

… Daycare Manager & Assistant Manager…

… Daycare workers in Tyler’s room…

… Birth to Three Workers…

… Tyler’s Social Worker…

During this dream I had deep conversations with the Birth to Three people profusely apologizing that I screwed things up, I let them down.  We went into how he was doing and how they would be leaving him soon too since he’ll be turning 3 in a week.

Then I turned toward my right and Tyler’s social worker was standing there.  I once again apologized as I never got the chance to speak to him since before Tyler left.  I was ashamed and still am.  I was in the middle of talking to him (or should I say crying) when Tyler walked in.  It was in that moment that I turned to look at him and smiled that my alarm clock went off…

… Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

This time I wanted to.  I wanted to dive back into the dream.  I wanted to hug him, to kiss him, to apologize to him and my stupid Cow alarm clock stole that from me.  It stole the most important thing, making amends with the adorable little boy I once called my son.

… Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

Thinking about it now I wish I threw that clock across the room out of anger of that stolen moment.  Then again the damn clock is right.  There would be no good in sleeping my life away trying to enter that dream world again.  I’d miss those around me now that I constantly say I’m sorry to, those I love deeply and hope love me still.

Making amends… I know it’s part of many addiction 12 step programs but I wonder if there should be a 12 step program for those who put their loved ones through hell due to Depression and Anxiety.

Step 1… Breathe
Step 2… Therapy 
Step 3… Medication
Step 4… Meditation
Step 5… Make Amends

And so on.  In my dream all those people I apologized to accepted and told me it wasn’t my fault.  I wasn’t in control of my body and mind.  I was sick.  I still wonder though if these individuals would really accept my apology including my former son.

… Wake up, don’t sleep your life away…

Just wish this time I could’ve, just to hold Tyler once again.  To hug him, give him one last kiss on his cheek and tell him, “I’m so sorry.”

The Thinker

I’ve come to the realization that when suffering from Depression I become The Thinker.  My mind races between a million different thoughts…

… Did I pack my lunch? What do I do if I didn’t?…

… Did I pack Sophia’s lunch? Oh my god, what if I didn’t? What is she going to do?…

… Is Sophia going to have an Anxiety Attack today?  Is she going to learn coping skills already? Did I pass my mental illness to her?…

… Oh my god, what if i did?…

… I’m horrible.  I don’t deserve my husband and daughter.  I am the reason they are without a son/brother…

In the blink of an eye my thoughts went from continuous worrying to negativity about myself.  Unfortunately, this happens often.  It’s a very good thing I’m medicated.  It was these thoughts that landed me back in the hospital over a month ago.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Tyler.  We would’ve been celebrating his 3rd birthday this month.  Last night I caved and looked at his picture.  Tears began to fall.  Tears because it was my fault that we weren’t going to celebrate his birthday.  My fault that he wasn’t with us anymore.  I am my worst critic.  Once again the Depression showed its ugly face and I began to beat myself up again with negative thoughts…

… I’m horrible.  I don’t deserve my husband and daughter.  I am the reason they are without a son/brother… 

I don’t deserve to be loved…

I cried.  I cried some more.  I put his picture away and wiped away my tears, but the anxiety was there, the thoughts were there.  Luckily, the medication I’m prescribed for sleep, Seraquil, (This was at night) clears my head like my anti Anxiety meds.  The thoughts stopped and I fell asleep.

I was lucky last night but there are times during the day where my thoughts race and they always go from worrying to negativity about myself.  I constantly call myself evil, undeserving, horrible…  It’s a never-ending cycle while under Depression’s spell.

But the sun still shines.  With the medication I get stronger.  With therapy I get stronger.  With exercise I get stronger.  Instead of crying daily, I’m now crying weekly and soon it will be less.  I’m hopeful when my thoughts aren’t racing.  I know I’ll return to the old me, but a stronger one.  It just takes time.