Posts from the ‘advice’ category

“Do you have any tattoos?” was not a question I expected to be asked in the Psych ER. But there I was–curled up on what Plato would refer to as a couch that’s not ideal, with one of my friends next to me–so unprepared for the question that followed: “Do you have a boyfriend? Because I want to be yours.”

Apparently not having tattoos is not a prerequisite for love.

I told him I’d think about it, but thinking about that was not number one on my priority list. Every 15 minutes he’d walk by, “Have you thought about it, yet?”

Time still passes in the Psych ER, albeit slowly.

I had thought about it, but not in the way he wanted. I thought about what had led me to this spot. What I could have done differently. What I did right. What I did wrong.

I thought about the way snowflakes feel as they melt on your tongue, cold for just an instant.

I thought about who was coming to sit with me next. Was anyone going to come? Was I going to be sitting alone? Was coming to sit with me a major inconvenience in their life? (I’m not allowed to ask such questions out loud.)

I thought about my past, where I was in the present, where I wanted to be in the future. Have I accomplished what I had hoped to accomplish by now? What do I need to do today to help me accomplish what I want to accomplish tomorrow?

I thought about everything that would need to be done at work in my absence–what would happen if the printer went down? Did everybody have enough time to do my work and theirs?

I thought about everything and nothing.

But what I haven’t thought about yet is how to take care of myself first, which is the most important thing.

Friends, I need help with that.

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On the bulletin board next to my desk is a handwritten checklist from my therapist: is it truthful? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If no, let it go.

.  .  .

Act 1: 

Hold an ice cube in your hand, squeeze it until all you can focus on is the pain shooting up your arm.

Nobody found me there, sitting in the workroom, rocking back and forth. I was paralyzed by some unidentifiable fear, a vague ‘what if.’ If you move, the world’s going to explode, my brain shouted at me. Move and you die, like some stranger holding a knife to your neck; only, the person holding you hostage is yourself.

You’re ok. You’re ok, I whisper to myself, as I breathe slowly in and out, trying to hold back the tears that are starting to fill my eyes.

The light starts to fade to dark.

.  .  .

Act 2:

Focus on your breathing: in for four, hold for four, out for four, until you can breathe normally without thinking, until it starts to regulate itself.

When the panic sets in, I have to remind myself to breathe. I become too focused, too caught up in the mutterings of my mind to stay sane. I can’t get out unless I breathe. But, even then, sometimes it takes more than just “focusing on my breathing.”

. . .

Act 3:

When all else fails, let it go. Put it in a box, watch it float down the river, watch it careen over a waterfall and crash on the rocks below. When all else fails, ride it out. This, too, shall pass.

You’re ok. You’re ok. You’ll be ok.

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“Honey, you ain’t been to a funeral until you’ve been to one with 3 ex-wives,” is not a sentence I’d ever thought I’d here in my life. But, here I was, in the trailer home of an 84-year-old woman who spoke “her damn mind.” She was, of course, referring to her ex-husband number 2, who left her for one of her girlfriends they met in a Camping Club. “The girl didn’t even like camping,” she retorted, “but she had the best camper, so we invited her.”

At the funeral, the husband’s first ex-wife came up to Anne and said to the woman on her arm, “This is the broad who stole my husband.”

“I didn’t steal your husband; he came running.”

A lot of what Anne told me yesterday has stuck with me, but perhaps the thing that’s stuck with me the hardest is something I say all too frequently: If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. But she added to it, saying, “People will laugh with you, but they won’t cry with you.”

Who are you going to cry with today? Who are you going to support in their difficulties? Who are you going to sit with when they need it most?

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all the people who cry with me. We’re not meant to suffer in silence.

Anne sure doesn’t. Well, when she’s around people, that is. She spends most of her time alone in her trailer, with her books and her cat statues, and her real-life cat, Bella. She doesn’t want it to be this way; she wants to be able to help her neighbor who had breast cancer, whose radiation destroyed her hip bone, whose husband died on the road in front of her house. “She couldn’t even be there because she couldn’t get out of the house, and I so badly want to help her, but I can’t,” she said tearfully, rubbing her right knee, aching with arthritis.

“I can’t help my oldest son, and he can’t help me because he has COPD, and his two brothers live out of state.”

As we said our goodbyes, we prayed with her. She told my friend that introduced us that “she must be a pipeline to God because nothing hurts when they’re done praying.”

Nothing hurts when we’re done praying.

As we pulled out of the trailer park, my friend said to me, “It’s sad, isn’t it? Most people wouldn’t want to come here, but there are amazing people living right in our neighborhood that we would never choose to interact with because they seem different from us. But this. This is what it means to love your neighbor.”

Love your neighbor who’s different from you. Love your neighbor who’s struggling. Love your neighbor.

Love like Anne does: she loved her ex-husband so much, she went to his funeral, despite the two other ex-wives.

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How does one even make a budget, I texted to my friend, a mixture of panic and frustration washing over me. Like, I know I need to move out, but I just don’t know how. I don’t know how to even begin apartment hunting, and besides. I have a crockpot and a mattress.

Life has this way of sneaking up on you: one minute, you’re a child, being carried to bed by your father; the next, you’re an adult carried your heavy heart and full mind to bed at 7pm because the depression is too bad to stay awake. And that’s how my depression has been lately. Too heavy for me to stay awake.

But that hasn’t stopped me: I’ve gotten up, gone to work, showered. Done all the things I’m supposed to do. Heck, I’ve even done things I didn’t have to do: start a new blog, apartment search, and found an apartment.

Guys, I found an apartment. And that’s huge. Because six months ago, I wasn’t ready to live on my own. And now I am, or maybe I’m not. This depression seems too big to handle alone. But I’m stepping out in faith that everything’s going to be ok. Because I have the skills, I have the support, I have all the tools I need to be successful in life.

And I’m ready, anxious, but ready.

But, I’m also looking for recommendations on how to live on your own. What’s helpful? What’s not? What works? What doesn’t?

We’re all in this life together.

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