Diet and Still-Not-A-Dictatorship

Diet first. It’s easier.

Keto’s still going well. I stopped using MyFitnessPal and actually paid for Cronometer. I regret it, since Adam is happier with MFP, and I’ve had to input no fewer than 20 recipes just for myself in the last 2 weeks.

Part of me wants to switch back to MFP because y’all can see my food/activity diary there, but more of me is like, “Dammit, I paid $40 for this program! I’m gonna use it!”  The reason I paid the $40?  To be able to share recipes with Adam. 😐

As far as deciding which caloric/macro goals to go with, I opted for the goals that I originally had in MFP because I don’t want to lose muscle mass.

Calories 1490
Carbohydrates 19 g (5 %)
Fat 116 g (70 %)
Protein 93 g (25 %)

Weight as of yesterday morning: 188.1 (Whaaaaat?)

I’m down 8 pounds since the start!  It’s kind of crazy to think about, since I didn’t lose any weight on paleo, even with exercise, even when I stuck to it for months at a time. What’s even weirder is that losing weight was not really the point.   Seizure control, improvement in depression and anxiety, and more energy was.

Presently, I’ve got more energy than I used to have on a daily basis.  It’s especially significant since I’ve been really sick this week with an upper respiratory infection.  Like on-antibiotics, sleeping-next-to-a-vaporizer, needing-to-put-Vaseline-on-my-nose sick. I haven’t had an appetite, but I’ve made sure to take all my vitamins and everything.  I’m still in ketosis, according to the strips.  Adam even rocked my socks off yesterday by making 90 second keto mug bread and turning it into grilled cheese.

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Not my sandwich, but very similar looking.

What might be the most significant change, however, is that my constant inner negative chatter is conspicuously missing.  The ruminating suicidal thoughts? Gone after the first full week at or below 30g of carbs. The constant fear that I’m doing something wrong and that my whole world is going to crumble to nothing because I’m somehow woefully inadequate in a way that I cannot even grok? Only present when my PTSD has been triggered.

If my experience is normal, I can’t imagine why changing to this diet wouldn’t be part of any regular treatment plan for folks who are chronically depressed and/or suicidal.  Maybe we just don’t understand the brain or nutrition well enough yet. Maybe I’m an outlier. *shrug*

Anyway, I’ve had fewer mood swings, been more patient with Henry overall, and I’ve been more motivated in every area of my life, despite being sick-on-top-of-ill. Altogether bitchin.

But what’s really super cool? The lack of seizures. Don’t get me wrong — I had a harder time last night (at least 4 of them), but I also had a low grade fever. Pseudoexacerbations happen, yo.  This feels like it’s getting the job done.  I hope it is.

But Really Though…

TBH, no amount of food-obsession-to-help-me-feel-in-control can stop me from thinking about the insane shit happening at our border.

I can’t believe that I find myself wondering why the “good guys with guns” would let thousands of children languish in prison camps.

I can’t believe that I find myself wondering — with police, soldiers, and thousands of other government employees also taking oaths to protect the Constitution, why no one appears to be actively protecting it, aside from lawyers and judges — who are working their happy asses off, I might add. (Seriously, my hat’s off to the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Lawyers for Good Government, KIND, and RAICES.)

I wonder how there can be so many millions of us deeply outraged at what is happening, and how we can organize marches that will undoubtedly be attended in record numbers — and yet, we march on peaceful streets rather than storm the camps and free the kids.

I wonder about how people can cheer over the President’s executive order when it doesn’t mandate that the children who have already been separated be returned to their families and specifically authorizes indefinite detention for all families in the future.  Nobody deserves “forever” in jail who isn’t a convicted murderer or serial rapist, whether they’re with their family or not. Innocent children should not grow up in jail. The mere thought of it sets me on fire.

I wonder what our lives are even for if we can’t protect infants from the horrors of the American prison-industrial system. Or from being trafficked by the government into illegal adoptions. (Many of the detained children have been sent to Michigan to be under the care of Bethany Christian Services. It is an adoption agency with ties to Betsy DeVos. The adoption system in America is a multi-billion dollar industry.)

Why are we asking #wherearethegirls? Why are we asking #wherearethebabies? Why are we accepting that the camps are demanding 2 weeks notice from government officials before they’ll allow them to even VIEW what’s happening on site with their own eyes? How can we bear witness to kidnapping and false imprisonment and not take direct action against it to make it stop?

Because these acts are being perpetrated by our government, under our watch, with our money, we, as citizens, have an affirmative duty to mitigate the damage and right this wrong as quickly as possible. We are not bystanders! We are part of this.

Are we, as citizens, really so desensitized, so tired, so weak, and comfortable that we can hear the screams of babies in detention, caused by our government, funded by our labor and wages, and not only not feel culpable, but believe there’s truly nothing we can do to make it stop other than giving money to fundraisers and complaining loudly to people who represent private interests (like the for-profit prisons who line Trump’s pockets) more than they do their constituency?

Can we be aware of rampant (1,224 complaints so far!), horrific abuse and still be too afraid of our government to rise up in any meaningful way?

Yeah, probably, until they start coming for us… which is pretty likely to happen since 2/3 of the population has no 4th Amendment rights when it comes to border security.

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The real kicker here, though, is that Congress is already gunning for us. They want to fund our concentration camps by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They want to pay to enslave people who wish they were citizens by killing actual citizens. The irony isn’t lost on me — especially since  our own government’s study showed that refugees don’t cost us money. They bring in money.  My strong suspicion is that Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare are also bringing in money to America by propping up Big Pharma and the medical industry, but that’s just a guess.

Besides, we all know this isn’t about money.

There are members of the disability community who say that we’re literally fighting for our lives now.  I think our lives are already forfeit, and we should go out swinging if we’re not running, but I’m admittedly pessimistic.

My husband’s litmus test for whether or not we should try to leave the country is if there’s a registry that gets started.   But, let’s be real here: I don’t need a registry to be in danger.  I’m disabled and on SSDI and Medicare.  I’ve been on a registry since 2011, and I know how fascism works.

What I wonder is how long it’ll be before America relents and accepts these concentration camps as “normal” and forgets that the government has already “lost”  1500+ children? How long before another school shooting?

If Americans can’t or won’t stand up to make it safe for our children to go to school without fear  of of being shot — to the point that it’s actually more dangerous to go to school than it is to be a solider in an active war-zone, and they can’t stand up in a meaningful way to stop the literal torture of refugee children whose only crime was hoping for a better life in our country — then they’re sure as shit not going to stand up for their aging parents or disabled friends and family.

So, the question becomes “What can we actually do?”  And I think that the elderly and disabled can do a lot more than Congress supposes. We have a lot more value than most folks realize.

Immigrants do too.  Maybe we’ll all be lucky and Melania will save the world… but probably not.

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Ke(y)to Happiness?

The other day, I made a comparison chart for 7 diets that I had considered trying or had actually tried in an effort to improve my MS. It ended up getting featured on Modern Day MS, which is pretty cool.

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I am almost certain that the diet that I need to be on is the traditional ketogenic diet. It’s ostensibly the best diet for overcoming NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease). This graphic outlines 7 ways that being in ketosis can help you, and I need help with all seven things!  

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Unfortunately, despite my logical brain knowing that this is a good idea, the most of me is absolutely dreading this shift. I will miss the convenience of restaurant food and delivery very much. I will miss comfort foods. I will miss the quiet calm of not having to justify my nutritional choices to others or to myself. (Because, let’s be real, the constant chatter and fretting of Anxiety will happen no matter what, and it’ll do its damnedest to make me question myself every bite along the way.)

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I think one of the hardest things about changing my way of eating at the moment is the fact that I have a precocious three-year-old who survives primarily on Goldfish crackers, peanut butter Ritz Bits, chicken nuggets, French fries, and various fruits. Honestly, reading that, I feel Shame. (“Big S” shame. Toxic shit.) Of course, like anyone seriously considering this diet, I watched The Magic Pill on Netflix, and felt like a terrible parent.

My boy is 39 inches tall and nearly 40 lb. I don’t know that changing his diet is the right thing to do – but, I do know that I will absentmindedly snack on Chex Mix if I’m serving it to him. If I’m genuinely convinced by the science surrounding the ketogenic diet — about it being the optimal way for humans to eat — why would I continue to feed my child a diet that is likely to set him up for type 2 diabetes in the future?

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My little ham.

Why am I so filled with anxiety over justifying these nutritional choices even to myself? Do I just like sugar that much? And, why is it so damn hard for me to just be part of normal society? Isn’t it enough that I’ve got a majillion chronic illnesses? Do I need more social isolation? Do I really have to make my life even more difficult? 

And will it just make life more difficult, or will it actually work?

If it works, it could make things so much better for us. I want to be able to imagine a future free from complications of NAFLD, hypertension, high cholesterol, and depression and anxiety. I’m honestly a little giddy over the thought of raising my seizure threshold. If I actually believe the science regarding how my physical health should improve, then it’s absolutely worth it…

Unfortunately, I have doubts. And it’s reasonable that I have doubts! Scientists sometimes lie for money. I did everything I was told by my doctors regarding diet for most of my life, which meant eating lots of low-fat, high complex carb food, which has, in part, led to the health that I am currently experiencing.

I feel so hopeless and depressed.  Living in a post-fact society, I have no idea who is trustworthy.  I want to feel empowered and excited. I want to inspire you to come of a journey of health and rebirth with me, knowing that the outcome will be stellar and worth the emotional investment.

The truth, however, is that I’m having a really hard time even being motivated right now, and so I’m looking for as many credible studies as I can find. Like these… and these… and this. It’s easy to find pieces challenging it.

My therapist isn’t much help with my depression these days. She says I have all the tools in my tool box.  It’s all up to me.  Well, either it’s all up to me to take the best possible actions or it’s time to find a new therapist, which may also be one of those positive actions, depending on whether or not I’m able to continue to hold myself together. To be totally honest, the idea that I could have “beaten” my mental illnesses sort of cracks me up when I legit had to do EMDR butterfly hugs just this morning.  

Still, I know meditation and my actions are only part of the equation.  Major depression is a biological disease affected by MS and caused by brain inflammation. Oh, and btw, “[p]eople with depression who [experience] suicidal thoughts … exhibit significantly higher levels of TSPO, … indicating inflammation of the brain.” [source] I’ve only visited that thought pattern a few billion times. 

But, guys — guess what is decreased when you’re on a ketogenic diet? Brain inflammation. [source]

So, I will start this diet on Memorial Day whether I feel like it or not.

I am ready to feel better. I want to be happier and lighter-hearted and thinner and to live longer for my boy. I’m just not looking forward to the hard part.

I’m glad to be reading Barbara Applebaum’s book Be Your Own Superhero. It’s really helping me with motivation right now.

Also in a positive direction, I have logged out of Facebook in Chrome on my telephone, and I will not log back in. So, now I not only do not have the app, but I have to actively log in on Chrome or open up my laptop if I want to immerse myself in other people’s opinions, problems, and other random bullshit.

I decided I’m tired of putting myself in harm’s way, and with the knowledge that real life is triggering my PTSD on its own, (Thanks, Dominionists!) I don’t need to poke the bear. I want to use my time better.

So, I’m using that time to craft a month-long meal plan with recipes. I’ll have a plan for ~1400 calories/day for me and one for whatever Adam’s ideal calorie count happens to be. I’m guessing ~1800.

Let me know if you want to do it with us. 

Sending a Letter Through Time

Henry says, "What are you lookin at?"

Henry says, “What are you lookin at?”

It’s been a good day.  Challenging, but good.

It’s a Tuesday, which means that Adam’s at work, and this is only the second day that I’ve had to take care of Henry and myself without any help.

The morning started out rough.  Yesterday, we ran out of disposable diapers, so we started using cloth diapers from the stash that I’d put together before Henry’s birth. Fortunately, he’s now over 8 pounds, so they fit him. (If cloth diapers had the yellow-turns-blue-so-you-know-he-peed technology, that would rock my world.  Scientists, get on that, won’t you?)

Anyway – the change from velcro-like closures on the disposables to the snaps on a reuseable Best Bottom shell got the better of me this morning in a suuuuper annoying kind of way.  You know that scene in all the baby movies where one of the parents gets peed on, and the baby pees on everything around it too, in an impressive and comedic fashion where you think to yourself, “Wow, kid got a lot of height with that whiz!”  Well, that was how I started my day — but it’s not where I am now.

Somehow, today, I managed to keep the kid fed and mostly clean (He needs a bath, thanks to spit-up, but we’re waiting for Daddy for that one!), to eat breakfast and lunch (Ok, so breakfast was just a Fiber One Protein Bar and a few swigs of RC Cola, but it’s better than nothing!), pump 3.5 oz of breast milk, do 2 loads of laundry, and take the kiddo with me to the grocery store and pharmacy down the street.

I know to a regular SAHM, this is probably not such a big deal — but I’m not a regular SAHM. Today’s the first day that I’ve managed to find time to put clothes on instead of pajamas, and is the first day in 3 weeks that I haven’t had any seizures at all.  Even on a good day, prior to giving birth, I would have been proud of myself for this level of activity. Adding in diapers, bottles, and pumping for breast milk, and I feel like I need some sort of gold star on a chart somewhere… which I guess is what this blog entry really is. I’m proud of myself, my kid is napping, and I get the chance to tell the world how far I’ve come.

If I could send letters back in time, I’d write this today.

Dear early 2011 Rae (the one having so many seizures per day that she has to use a chair to shower, isn’t allowed to cook, is bankrupt and suicidal),

You know how you are worried that you have no good reason to live, and that you are nothing but a burden to your family and society? Well, in 4 years, you’re the woman walking to and from the local (non-chain) grocery store and Walgreens with a 6 week old baby that strangers can’t stop cooing over, to shop for fixings for dinner and baby supplies…and you haven’t had a single seizure today.

Thanks for not killing me! There is more to look forward to than you can allow yourself to imagine.

-2015 Rae

I doubt she’d believe it was real. I’m a cynic — always have been — and depression/suicide is a crafty demon that doesn’t let anything positive in… but if I could show up in a TARDIS and give her a pep talk, I sure as shit would do it.  I hope that sometime in the future, if I need a pep talk, I remember to look back here and see how far I’ve come, and remember that things are never really as bad as they seem.

Look what I had to look forward to!

Look what I had to look forward to!

That being said, it would be totally bitchin’ if 2019 Rae could send me a letter or show up and let me know that we’re gonna make it through this infant stage without me losing my mind or ending up in the hospital because of sleep deprivation and stress. *looks around, expectantly* Well, I guess that’s not happening, so I’m gonna have to just keep doing my best every day, and remember to do my future self as many favors as possible. 🙂

Speaking of — that means getting off my butt, putting a freshly-laundered mattress pad & sheet back on the pack n play, washing all the bottles that have collected around the apartment, putting up another load of laundry, and straightening up a little bit. Heck, I might even go for extra credit and spritz on a little bit of pretty stink.  Adam’s on his way home!

The Irony Is Not Lost On Me.

In the wake of Robin Williams’ death, I’ve been talking with a lot of my friends about the topic of suicide.

Suicidal Thinking: I know a little about it…

suicideThe first time I tried to kill myself, I was very young. I want to say I was 8. I might have been 9. I was in 3rd grade. I had been through some shit. I took double the adult dosage of some cough syrup. (What can I say? As a kid, I didn’t understand how it worked.) To my surprise, I didn’t die. I did, however, faint, and get to deal with EMTs. I actually was glad I lived, but I never stopped thinking about it. Any time I was down on myself or dealing with bullies, it seemed like the natural, appropriate answer to the situation. It wasn’t.

In early 2003, at the age of 22, I walked into Lakeside and said, “I need help. I can’t stop thinking about killing myself.” The week that followed was horrifying, but helpful. They put me in a room with an anorexic lady who stole my down jacket so that she could sweat off more weight, and I actually had to spend a significant amount of time in group therapy with the very woman who had abused me as a kid at child care and convinced me that I was nothing more than a burden to my parents.

In a very everything-happens-for-a-reason sort of way, I learned all about the abuse she suffered as a child and her messed up reasoning for abusing me. Turns out, I was actually her favorite child from day care, ever. At the time, she was unmedicated, undiagnosed, and suffering from schizophrenia. She genuinely believed that she was trying to teach me necessary life skills and the reality of the world we are living in. Abusers often don’t understand that what they’re doing is harmful because they’re repeating a cycle from their own lives. So, I had to forgive her, in front of a group of strangers, so she could begin to forgive herself. She had been red-banded (a red wrist band told hospital workers not to allow her outside or near anything she could use to harm herself) for more than 6 months. In contrast, I was red-banded for 2 of my 5 days.

The second time I was hospitalized thanks to suicide was 7 years later. Even after going through EMDR therapy to help stop seizures and deal with trauma from earlier in life (much of which I have intentionally kept off this blog), I genuinely believed that I was nothing more than a burden to my family and friends. In the course of 2 years, I had gone from being a socially adventurous academic overachiever to someone who had seizures almost all day long, every day, who couldn’t work and spent all of her days either on the couch or in bed.

suicide2When my parents suddenly let me know that they could no longer help us with rent, Adam and I faced an immediate choice between heading to a homeless shelter and leaving the Los Angeles area to move in with his brother in Romeoville, IL. Either way, we would lose most of our possessions and pride. I felt entirely responsible for our situation, regardless of the facts that Adam had been unemployed for 2 years thanks to the recession and I had no control over having MS or a seizure disorder. I simply wasn’t willing to pull Adam down any further, and I could no longer handle my shame.

I was put on a 72-hour mandatory hold at Glendale Adventist after he called the police because I walked directly into traffic on a busy street. It was the most loving thing anyone has ever done for me, and it helped transform my life. It was there that I learned the truthful phrase, “Suicide is a liar demon.”

I wish I could say that my fight against suicidal thinking ended in that hospital, but it didn’t. It did, however, jump-start some better behaviors, like using aromatherapy to help keep you in the present moment. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t cope with the fact that I’d failed the CA bar exam twice (and wasted $20,000 in the process) or that I still couldn’t magically make myself better enough to be able to work.

It wasn’t until January of 2013, when I started working with a cognitive behavioral therapist to really break the cycle of suicide addiction, that I learned how to stop suicidal thinking in its tracks. It’s probably the most valuable set of rituals I’ve ever learned.

How I Kick Suicidal Thinking’s Sorry Ass Every Single Day

behappyThe best advice I got from CBT was to keep busy. My therapist often said, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” But just keeping busy doesn’t get the job done. It only helps distract you from your thoughts so you can get a word in edgewise with your thoughts. You still have to be pro-active. You still have to recognize when you have irrational thoughts and fight them. And any suicidal thought is irrational. Trust me on this one.

Here’s what I do to keep suicidal thoughts at bay:

1.) Every morning, I list 3 Great Things About Yesterday to remember the good that happened in the past and trick my brain into forgetting about or at least not focusing on the bad. Sometimes I write it here. Sometimes I write it on Facebook. Sometimes, I write in a real paper journal.

2.) Daily gratitude rampages help me focus on what’s good in the moment. Most of mine are in the journal, but sometimes I do them here or on Facebook.

3.) Daily meditation helps me focus my intentions. Right now, Chopra Center has a free 21-day meditation challenge going on, if you want some guidance to start your practice.

4.) I am constantly examining my thoughts for truth to figure out what’s real and what’s an ANT (automatic negative thought). If I find out that a thought is an ANT, I challenge it. It’s like running virus protection for your mind.

5.) Move! Even if you only take a 5-10 minute walk a day or do a few minutes of chair yoga because your legs don’t want to cooperate, getting your body in motion makes a huge difference in your ability to be happy.

When I started these practices, they were very difficult and a constant pain in the ass, but so was enduring life! Nowadays, they’re usually easy, quick, and enjoyable.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Williams.

robinwilliamsI have to say though, that I wouldn’t have written any of this if not for the fact that Robin Williams choked himself to death with a belt.

This guy — this actor/comedian whose roles were so intensely life-affirming that I watched many of them (especially Robots, Dead Poets Society, Good Will Hunting, and Hook) multiple times while fighting suicidal ideation — he did the world a horrible favor by dying this way. He brought suicide into popular consciousness in the worst imaginable way — by being the very last person anyone would have expected to do it. The irony is not lost on me.

Robin Williams got us talking about how international fame, ludicrous amounts money, and talent-without-match are absolutely fucking meaningless when you’re dealing with addiction and suicidal thoughts. He reminded us that just because someone is smiling doesn’t mean they’re okay. He reminded us that actors can completely miss the messages for which they’re so loved. It’s profoundly sad.

Here are my favorite quotes from his incredible body of work:

Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting: “You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.”

Armand Goldman in The Birdcage: “So what? The important thing to remember is not to go to pieces when that happens. You have to react like a man, calmly. You have to say to yourself, ‘Albert, you pierced the toast, so what? It’s not the end of your life.’”

Fender in Robots: “You know Rodney, even if you know you had an discouraging day, remember. There is another one coming tomorrow!”

Genie in Aladdin: “To be my own master. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.”

Peter Banning in Hook: “To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.”

John Keating in Dead Poets Society: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

The fact that I posted a “Carpe Diem” graphic yesterday felt like a kick in the gut. It deserves repeating.

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Disability & Your Relationships With Your Self And Others

Judgment. It’s not just for other people to place on you. Every one of us has certain standards and ideals that we hold ourselves to. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have read a statement that goes like this: “I’m not the [wife/sister/mother/friend] that I want to be.”  This is almost always placed in the context of disability, suggesting that MS, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, a cancer of some kind, or even seizures are to blame for the reason that the writer does not feel good about themselves.

It’s Not About What You Do. It’s About Who You Are.

If there’s anything truly helpful that I’ve learned over the last 7 years of battling MS and the last 5 battling seizure disorder, it’s this: You are not your disease(s). To everyone else in the world, you are the victim of your disease(s), and anyone who loves you wants to fight the disease itself because they see how it negatively affects you.

I had a particularly hard time differentiating my self from my ailments for a very long time. I thought that because I had these afflictions that they were a part of me – and that maybe they even existed as proof that I wasn’t good enough as a person. (Otherwise, why would God let me end up this way?) I considered myself a burden on my family and my husband. I hated myself for having MS, a seizure disorder, PTSD, and depression. I consistently put myself down for not having a job, for not doing the cleaning around the house, and for not being “my best self,” thinking inaccurately that “my best self” existed free from the challenges of disease. I became suicidal because I thought that the only way to end not only my suffering, but the suffering of anyone who had to care for me or bear witness to my pain, was to end my life.

When I was in the mental health hospital, on a 5150 (involuntary psychiatric hold), my husband said something very important to me, that I hold in my heart to this day.  He said, “MS or no MS, seizures or no seizures, you are my wife and I will always be here for you – because I want to be. Nobody held a gun to my head and said I had to marry you.  If you kill yourself, that’s leaving me, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life without you.”

Prior to that, I hadn’t, even for a moment, considered that he wanted to care for me. I hadn’t let myself believe that I was desirable as a companion, regardless of ailments.  The delusional thinking that I was engaged in had me convinced that my disability made me bad for him, worthless as a person, and that by killing myself, I would be doing him (and the world) a favor. It never dawned on me that I was more than the sum of my problems. I was also me.

Finding Your Worth With Disabling Conditions

It has only been a few months since I started working with a therapist (Let’s call her “K”) to find out who it was that I had become and to get myself on a path towards who I want to be.

When we first met, K asked me the question “Who are you?”, the answer I gave was, “I’m a housewife who is on disability because of MS and seizure disorder. I failed the bar exam twice, so I am not a lawyer.” I defined myself strictly by my career and my disease. I ignored the fact that I am a woman first, a daughter, a wife, a person with a unique viewpoint on the universe. I forgot that there were other important aspects to my personality, like loving to sing and to cook and to help friends. I defined my worth by my ability to make a paycheck.

And that way of thinking had held true for a long time before I started working to change my way of being – for years, defining myself by what I could not do caused cyclical suicidal thinking.  I was, for a few years, a very miserable person.

It is only recently that I have come to realize that my worth as a person is not determined by how much money I can make, what things I can do, or what other people’s opinions of me might be.

She had me create a chart that said on one side “Worth =” and then I had to fill in the other side.  Together, we examined each statement that my “fill in the blank” chart created to see if the thought was rational or an ANT (Automatic Negative Thought) that we could challenge.

Sometimes, the statements were just plain silly – not even a believable negative thought, but just thinking that didn’t make sense.  Things like “Worth = Not Needing Help.”  I actually had let myself believe that I was only a worthy person if I never needed help. I had to ask myself, when confronted with that statement, “Who, in life, doesn’t need help from time to time? Does needing assistance actually negate a person’s innate worth?”  The clear answer was, “No.”

Then, there were other statements that were very true, like “Worth = Irreplaceable/Precious.”  “Precious” means that something is of great value and is not to be wasted or treated carelessly. It’s true that there is only one of you in the universe for all time. This makes your life immeasurably valuable. Because of that, you should not waste your life or treat yourself carelessly.

doctor

I was forced to admit to myself and to allow myself to really believe the truth: that being unique in all of time and space means that regardless of how I feel about myself, I am valuable and deserving of care. It’s objective truth.

What You Do Is Not Who You Are.

No matter what actions I take in life, it’s not going to change a few very basic things.  I will always be a human being (as opposed to “a piece of shit” – regardless of what my inner bully might want to shout at me). I will always be a daughter. Because I my parents chose to have another child, I will always be a sister. Because I have been lucky enough in this life to meet a man who loves me as deeply as I love him, I will always be a wife.  Nothing that I do or fail to do will change these designations.

So, I had to ask myself the really tough questions… “What does it mean to be a good human being? What does it mean to be a good daughter or good sister? What does it mean to be a good wife? What is goodness?

After reading through the dictionary and thesaurus and taking some time to really think about it, I’ve determined that a “good” person is one who is virtuous, genuine, and commendable; kind and benevolent.

Regardless of physical status, anyone can still be “good” and “worthy.”  Being “good” is a question of character, not whether or not you meet the arbitrary goals you set for yourself. It’s about being loving, sharing of yourself, and making the effort to connect with others, emotionally, on a genuine level.

So, stop confusing your worth or your goodness with your ability to do certain things.  A genuine connection with a precious person is all anyone could want out of a relationship.

Living A Meaningful Life

One of the existential traps that I constantly work to keep myself out of is that of questioning the meaning in my life.

It is a constant battle, because somewhere along the line, I picked up the mistaken idea that everything you do in life is a part of a path towards something bigger… so when I would get down about where I was in life, or would start questioning what I was doing (or not doing) I would get super down, thinking that my life was meaningless, because I could not, at that moment, extrapolate a “lesson” or divine some greater “meaning” from the events that had previously unfolded.  Nevermind the fact that in a book, you must finish the work before you understand the thrust of the story, I very frequently had gotten it in my head that I needed to have life figured out, and have it under control — right then. Admittedly, this came from impatience with myself and with the situation that I was in at the time.

Because I did not (or could not at some points) have a job, and I did not know what I wanted to do (or worse what I judgmentally thought I ought to be doing), I decided that I, myself, was worthless, and therefore my life was meaningless as well. This sort of thinking is, of course, deeply unhealthy: a combination of overgeneralization, catastrophizing, and emotional reasoning, 3 ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) that go together so frequently you could almost consider them a sort of mirepoix of misery.

Oftentimes, this sort of thinking can continue to eat away at your self esteem and to spiral until you become suicidal, because the thought of ending your life carries with it the only sliver of control that you think you have left. It has a sort of comforting side to it, carrying on death’s shoulders the burden of all of the awfulness you’ve created through the ANTs and saying, “You can make it all stop/go away,” despite the fact that the delusion would end in death and not in an improvement in your life, which is what you actually want. This is how suicidal thinking can become addictive. It lets you abdicate responsibility for your way of thinking and imagine that there’s a way out of your situation without having to work hard for it.

But the truth of existence is something entirely different. Nothing good and lasting ever comes (or stays) without effort. What I have found is that life is something that cannot be experienced passively if you hope to attain and prolong happiness.  It must be constantly infused with meaning, the same way that plants must be watered and fed — each day must be lived purposefully, driven with intent to create or to drive you towards one or more of the goals you have set for yourself.  Anything less than recognizing your duty to yourself and choosing to be empowered will cause sadness and decline.

Of course, with this empowerment comes the responsibility of taking action, and for many people, it is a difficult pill to swallow. It is not pleasant to recognize that happiness and a good life are the responsibility of each and every person individually for themselves — and that no one can do the work for them, no matter how much they may want to. It is especially difficult to believe that you can rise to the occasion when you are in the depths of depression.  We can only tell folks what we know — there isn’t anyone else who can tell them exactly how to achieve it for themselves: not even life coaches, because everyone’s life is special, different, and unique. But what we do know is that everyone inherently has the power to make things better for themselves.

So, for those of you who feel like you’re towards the bottom today, I’m going to ask some questions that I think might help you find your way toward light:

1.) What does happiness mean to me? How does it feel? What people/activities/places make me feel that way?  Can I contact those people or find my way to those things?

2.) If I were happy, what would I be doing right now that I’m currently not doing? Can I do that anyway and see how it makes me feel?

3.) What does gratitude feel like? What am I grateful for today? What can I do to show thanks?

4.) What’s one thing I can do today that will bring me or my family pride?

5.) Am I showing myself love by giving myself good care? What can I do today to care for and love my body?

I hope these questions help get you going down the path towards making choices that make you feel good about yourself and better about life in general.

Today, for me, writing this blog entry was something that made me feel like I was making a difference in my own life and in the lives of others. I hope it was helpful for you!

 

 

 

I’ve Gotta Have Faith.

Suicide Isn’t All About Me.

One of the pitfalls of suicidal thinking is that it is inherently self-centered. It happens as an answer to panic, as a self-soothing mechanism, to make you feel, for a time, as though you are somehow back in control of your situation.  Granted, at the time that it is occurring, the thoughts are not nearly that clear. Otherwise, you’d attack the source of your panic and not focus on ending life itself.

What I hadn’t realized, over the many years that suicidal thinking has fucked with my general life, is the numerous messages that I’ve been sending to the people that care about me — especially to my husband, who constantly is by my side, helping me fight against the thinking and the panic… or that the longer that it’s gone on, the more ingrained the messages have become.

Messages like, “I don’t care about how much I hurt you,” or “I don’t love you,” or “I didn’t mean it when I said I’d share the rest of our lives together, because I’m planning to end mine while you’re still young.”  Suicide says, “I don’t appreciate how much love, attention, and care you give me.” It says, “You don’t matter to me. Nothing does.”

But those messages aren’t truth. I wish I knew how to erase their stain.

Doing The Hard Work To Heal

I’m doing everything I can think of to end my suicidal mindset — not just for myself, but because I do love my husband and want to be happy with him.  I’m taking medicine. I’m going to weekly counseling. I’m owning my problem, doing all the work that’s given to me, and am trying, every day, to become a better version of myself.

I am so deeply ashamed of my behavior. It may seem as though I’m proud of it, since I let it all be shown here on my blog, but that’s not the case.  I use this platform as a way of relating to other people, since I spend so much time completely alone in real life.  It’s how I reach out.

I wish I knew how to fix the damage I’ve caused and make everything better.  I feel like the cycle of suicidal thinking has poisoned my best relationships and hardened my heart.  I keep pushing people away. I’d push myself away if I could.  I wish I knew how to forgive myself for being so consistently mean to everyone. I wonder if I even deserve forgiveness.

Where Is The Undo Button In Life?

I swear, if there were a Ctrl-Z function for activities in the real world, I would “undo” all the suicidal bullshit.  It’s so immensely counterproductive.  It doesn’t even achieve what I’m actually after…  and that’s a feeling of peace.

At the end of the day, what I really want – what I really am trying to get, but am fumbling like mad for and am entirely fucking up is basic, run-of-the-mill contentment.  I just want to be okay.  I just want to not flip out, feeling lesser-than or unable to do.  I want to not be constantly afraid or feel like I’m under scrutiny where every little thing I do has to be perfect.

And no one puts me in a position to be judged like that.  I’m the one, very harshly judging myself, every minute of every day. I’m the one causing my panic. I’m the one who is pissing all over true love because I’m too afraid to believe I could actually have it, and in some sick way think its safer to pretend to be tough, while I know the whole time, I’m just hurting both myself and the man I love. I know I’m fucking up, all the time, and I don’t know how to stop it.  But at least I know, at this point, that the way to stop it is not by killing myself, or even fantasizing about it.

So What Does Faith Have To Do With It?

Quite a bit, actually.  I have to believe — have to let myself believe — that things can be okay. I have to stop letting my fears and perceived inadequacies rule my life.  I’m afraid right now even to imagine what life would be like if I weren’t in crisis.  It doesn’t feel safe. I don’t even remember what a normal life is like, I’ve been going through high-stress awfulness for so many years.

I know that I have to stop ruminating over the idea that Adam is going to leave me, and have faith that he really does love me and want to stay with me for the rest of his life – and I have to stop thinking that means he’s going to die soon. He’s told me about a million times that he’s not going anywhere. Worrying about it won’t make any difference, and not believing it only robs us of happiness.

I have to stop being afraid – truly, palpably afraid – every damn day about how I’m going to fill my time so that I don’t think about suicide, and just spend the time actually doing things – whatever they may be.

I have to have faith in myself to change my ways of thinking and acting, faith in my therapist to help me make those changes, and faith in God to sustain me through all of it.

I have to dare to hope.