SAD-uation

In just a couple days I’m leaving for Santa Fe to, among other things, graduate from a coaching program that I have spent the last 18+ months working toward. It was incredibly hard work and I am beyond proud to have done it. I’m excited to see old friends and new faces. But, if I’m being honest, I also can’t help but feel a little sad. Graduations are actually pretty hard for me.

My high school graduation was bittersweet. I’m not sure what I actually expected. I think I was so focused on getting through it to be somewhere else. Anywhere but there. “There” was where I grew up. Fall River, Massachusetts. Where I never felt like I fit in although I tried like hell to.

From high school I went to Bentley College in Waltham, MA. I only applied to one school. I applied early, got in, sent a deposit, and literally never sent another application out. I was ecstatic to go, study accounting, and live out this amazing life that I was sure awaited me. It was perfect. Living on campus, hanging out with friends, being independent, trips into Boston, late night take out, talking and laughing for hours… It was perfect. Until it wasn’t and I dropped out more than halfway through my Junior year.

The story I tell people is that I was young and stupid and followed a boy. It’s all true. The part I leave out… the part I ALWAYS have left out until now… is that I was trapped. In over my head. In a situation I didn’t think I could get out of. I didn’t know who to ask for help, how to help myself, or, most of the time, even that I needed help. I was suffering from Stockholm syndrome. To this day even typing that makes me roll my eyes and feel like it sounds so dramatic. I think it’s because I hate knowing it’s the truth. I was trapped for years and my life took whatever path this other person wanted.

Knowing I wouldn’t get anywhere in life without a college degree, I enrolled at Fitchburg State College. Not because Fitchburg was a dream of mine but because it was safe. By “safe” I mean approved by my captor. Close to my new home, commuting so I wouldn’t have time to make any friends, and on neutral territory where no one would know that there was an “old me” stuffed inside and suffocating. I went to classes, kept my head down, didn’t make small talk, and eventually graduated with a bachelors in Business Administration. I didn’t go to graduation. I didn’t frame my degree. Truth be told, I’m not even sure where it is. It’s been a dark cloud in my past since. A reminder that I wasn’t strong enough to fight for what I wanted.

Another story I tell people is that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do accounting so I transferred from Bentley to pursue another path. I thought maybe I wanted to go into Communications and work in Public Relations. Ultimately I decided business had indeed been the right track for me I went back to Bentley to get a Masters Degree in Accounting. Not because I wanted to be an accountant but because I had to fill in the dark hole in my past and thought that would patch things up. Right a wrong. But I wasn’t proud of that degree either. It was a lame attempt to prove something to myself.

The hole was never filled. I had already missed out on so much. I missed senior year at Bentley with my friends. I missed the senior trip. I missed graduating with them and celebrating with them. I missed it all. Going back made me feel like a stranger in a somewhat familiar land. I felt awkward and out of place. It wasn’t the Bentley I knew and loved. Or maybe I just wasn’t that girl anymore.

I’ve spent years trying to set that girl free. Years trying to dig her out from that dark hole and remind her of who she once was. I don’t think she’ll ever be that same girl though. She’s been through too much. She carries dark secrets and scars and PTSD and two college degrees that may as well have come from cereal boxes. She’s changed. The world has changed.

I may not be the girl I once was but I have made peace with the girl I am today. This coaching program has helped me to do that. It has been nothing short of grueling and nothing short of amazing. This time graduation is different This time I did this for ME. This time I wanted it. More than anything. This time matters more than anything. I worked hard for all of the right reasons. I’ve earned this and I plan to celebrate my ass off!

Pick your battles…

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever got was “pick your battles”. If you don’t want to be that “nagging” mom you have to let the little things go (like if they want to wear two different camo patterns together just let them) and stand firm on the things that really matter to you (like always saying “please” and “thank you”). This is something that has stuck with me and fits nicely with my all around motto of “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”.

I’m also generally a positive person. I believe that things happen for a reason. I believe in karma. I believe in being a good person, seeing the best in people, second chances, A for effort… all of it. I can usually see the silver lining in situations. If not at first, certainly after finding the lesson in it and committing to moving forward.

And then I got sick…

Most days I can still “power of positivity” my way through it. I see it as an opportunity for growth. To learn to take care of myself. To learn to be more gentle with myself. To listen to my body. Things I was never really good at because I was such a people pleaser. I finally have an opportunity to put myself first. I even make jokes about being sick. I say things like, “I put the “LIT” in disabiLITy” … badumpbum… But some days are really hard.

This week has been a string of really hard days.

I struggle through work. It is painful just to sit at my desk. I finally get home and have all these things I want to do but my body just wants to shut down. I try reasoning with it. Like how about we just get the laundry put away and then we’ll sit? But it’s sort of like reasoning with a toddler that’s having a temper tantrum because you cut their sandwich into triangles instead of squares. It seems hopeless.

And then I remember to pick my battles. I remind myself that I expect too much sometimes. I realize that compassion and understanding are important. Especially with myself. So the laundry sits another day. The “screaming toddler” is happy once again. And I have time to write. The sliver lining. Lesson learned.

Impossibly Possible

I haven’t been feeling like myself for several weeks. I’m tired all the time. My body feels achy. I feel stiff and brittle and like I’m stuck in the body of a little old lady. I don’t get around easily. It’s been monumentally frustrating. I finally decided to see the doctor, sure that there was something seriously wrong with me. Countless questions, blood tests, and an EKG later I got the one result I just wasn’t expecting: “Everything came back normal. There is nothing physically wrong with you. Your symptoms are likely physical manifestations of severe depression.”

Damn.

My eyes instantly filled with tears as I searched my mind for something that we missed.  Then it hit me. The signs. All the signs that had been there that I just couldn’t see. Or didn’t want to see. The ever growing to do list. The countless unreturned voicemails, emails, and texts. The bookmark in my book that hasn’t moved in weeks. The daunting pile of clean laundry that has been waiting to be put away. I told myself I was too busy but the reality is I just couldn’t bring myself to do any of it.

I was avoiding it.

Avoidance is my number one sign of depression. I don’t feel sad, or sleep all day, or start crying out of nowhere. I just avoid. I avoid things I don’t like to do and I avoid things I love to do. I feel like I don’t have the mental energy for any of it. I know this. It’s not the first time this has happened. So I start beating myself up for not seeing it sooner. I beat myself up for missing the signs. I shake my head at how obvious it all seems now. Then I remind myself to just…

Breathe.

I remind myself that I can do this. I remind myself of all of the tools that I have that will help me. I remind myself that I have an amazing support system. I have a number of friends and family that I could call right this very minute and they will be there for me. Almost as if they were waiting for my call. I remind myself of all of my blessings. And, most importantly, I remind myself to love myself exactly as I am. To have compassion for myself. To trust myself. To allow myself to be exactly where I am.

Trust the process.

 

Forever Friends

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t spent any time with my yoga mat in many months. I’ve been dealing with some health issues that have made me feel like I’m stuck in a stranger’s body. I’m uncomfortable, self-conscious, clumsier than usual (if you can believe that’s possible!), and having breathing issues and dizzy spells. I can’t move the way I used to. I started putting limitations on myself as I “wait to get back to normal”. I’ve been in denial about it all… especially my fear that this is my new normal. But I’m tired of being held back. Especially by myself. I’m tired of missing out on things that I enjoy because I can’t do them as well as I used to.

Today I made peace with myself and my mat. I showed up at yoga class ready and willing. I didn’t beat myself up for modifying poses and didn’t compare myself to others. Luckily, my mat is that kind of friend that you can go a long stretch of time without seeing but when you do it’s like no time has passed. We fell into a familiar flow and had a lot of fun. We promised each other we wouldn’t let so much time pass before seeing each other again. If my yoga mat can accept me unconditionally then maybe I can too. I’m working on it.

person rolling green gym mat
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