Digging up Dirt

IMG_7729Spring is my second-favorite time of the year. I’m a fall girl, through and through, but there’s something about spring that’s nice. The green is brand-new, almost neon in its shading. The rain comes and symbolically washes away the grime of winter, while the colors from the myriad of flowers nearly blind me in their intensity. I like to sit on my pollen-laden porch with my afternoon mug of coffee, and think about life. Or read. Or breathe.

As a child and teen, I spent many evenings swinging on our neighbors’, Goldie and Clyde, front porch. The adults would talk and catch up on the day. Clyde would regale us with stories of his time in the Navy during World War II and sometimes, he’d pull out a couple of spoons and play them on his knee. One of my favorite evenings was when he accompanied me as I played my dulcimer. As people walked up and down the street, Goldie would whisper,

Oh, my. There goes soandso. I heard her daddy got arrested last week. Yes, indeed! He was down in Jefferson at one o’ them dancin’ clubs. Got inta a huge fight. Cops came out and had to break it up! It was terrible!

If you wanted to know what was going on on Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana Streets in the greater Spring Hill area, then you parked your carcass on Goldie’s front porch swing. The last time I had the honor of sitting there was summer, 2006. I drove the twins to West Virginia for a visit and never returned. Clyde and Goldie both passed last year.

I always wanted a front porch big enough to accommodate a swing, chairs, and enough people to keep the conversation flowing. I am nosy by nature, but that’s because of my father’s influence. As a police patrolman, he taught me to be aware of my surroundings, so I liked hiding in the tree in our front yard and watching the comings and goings of the people living around us. Tyler and I had nothing but a concrete footing at the front door of our first house in Cumming and, until 10 years ago, had just a brick stoop here in Woodstock. After we added a porch cover and I could leave the kids in the house to their own devices, I started sitting outside more and more. Many times, they join me with their homework or books. And we’ll sit and listen and breathe. We’ll watch the neighbors come and go and talk about the birdsong, their days, their friends.

Unlike my time in West Virginia, I’ve grown more and more introverted. I have my friends, but I’m most content when it’s quiet and I’m alone. I seek out my friendships when I need to reconnect and recharge. The rest of the time, I read, think, write, and so on. If it weren’t for our kids, I wouldn’t know anyone in this neighborhood. Luckily, the parents of the children our kids play with are all awesome people. And they get me. But we don’t socialize with anyone else. From what I can tell, from where I sit on my front porch, and from the furtive whispers I hear when I’m out and about, I’m glad we aren’t “out and about.” Because the gossip is rampant. And it’s causing one of my friends to move away.

Tyler and I bought this house 16 years ago because it was a steal and it’s located in a great school district. What I’ve learned over the last 10 years, since entering the local school system, is that many residents of this area think rather highly of themselves. So highly, in fact, that they will put aside their own failings to cast aspersions upon others. I used to feel guilty for not socializing at neighborhood functions or school carnivals. But now? I’m glad I don’t. I’m happy I only know seven families out of the 168 in this neighborhood. I’m proud to say that I rarely make conversation with the other parents in my childrens’ classrooms. I’m thrilled that my brick stoop is the home of quiet contemplation and reflection and not gossip and wasteful talk. To see one of those seven so hurt that they feel they have to move to an entirely different neighborhood is uncalled for.

Tyler and I decided 16 years ago that this would be the home where we raise our family. And once they grow up and start lives of their own, we will say goodbye to this place and find our home that will give us solace in our golden years. And I hope, on that future day, when I lock this front door for the last time, that the neighbors will ask one another Who lived there? I’m not sure. They were there for a long time. But I didn’t know them. And that will be for the best.

First World Problems


(Aka A blog post in which I whine about inconsequential things that I probably shouldn’t whine about. But where’s the fun in that?)

  • Target – What the Hell, guys? I go in there for a damned pack of deli ham and I come out with solar walkway lights, an outdoor chair (with cushion), kids’ pajamas, three packs of coffee, and friggin’ lemon poppyseed scones? I mean, I nearly ended up with fairy lights to hang in the Japanese maple. I just can’t even with you anymore.
  • iPhone – The Home button is sticking. Apocalypse.
  • Pollen – My black minivan is now yellow. Pine trees are raping my car.
  • Instagram – There is no longer an option to log out. Between this and the Home button, I’m just going to burn my phone. Or run it over with my “yellow” car.
  • The Martian – Andy Weir needs to get on the stick and write another book. Because I keep staring at the cover of The Martian and pining. Not that I don’t already have a stack of books I could be reading. It’s just easier to sulk about books that haven’t yet been written.
  • Sirius XM 80s on 8 – THE 80s HAD MORE GROUPS THAN CULTURE CLUB AND MORE MUSIC THAN KARMA CHAMELEON!!!! JUST STOP! PLEASE!!! AND TAKE THAT JOURNEY NONSENSE AND SHOVE IT!
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – July, ya’ll. WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL JULY FOR THIS!!
  • Converse – They need to be in every single color known to man. And in my closet. Because one pair of black and one pair of denim blue will never be enough.

Transparent

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 4.03.03 PMYou* were always there. It was never a question. Every chance we got, we spent time together. Didn’t matter the months or the miles, we would always take every opportunity to be in each other’s presence. We would breathe the same air, look into each other’s eyes as we spoke and caught up, and re-establish that friendship that meant so much.

But lately? I’ve noticed a pattern. You’ve been here, but not here. To find out second, or third-hand that you’ve been near, driven by, around, and yet haven’t seen fit to actually be here, it hurts.

I think it all started two years ago when I announced my atheism. Even Tyler noticed it, the drifting away, seeing you less and less. I remember figuring out that when I posted on my old blog about my decision to be public with my atheism, I lost a family member on social media. It wasn’t unexpected, but it gave me a twinge. You, on the other hand, stayed.

But really, you haven’t. This is worse. You comment on my posts, you send a message every now and then, but that’s it. We haven’t seen you, even though you’ve been so very close. I get that life intrudes, work gets busy, family comes first. But, we can tell that you’ve specifically removed yourselves physically from our lives.

And this quiet, drifting away is more painful than the immediate severing.

So, this is just me, telling you, that I see what’s happening. It’s very clear to me. To us. And it hurts.

*If you see yourself in this post, I’m not saying that, yes, it’s you. But maybe, if there’s a reflection here of you and your actions, then maybe you need to reach out. And we’ll talk. Or continue to drift. Your choice.

One Million Seconds

I need a martini.

I probably need a martini.

It’s been two weeks since I unceremoniously left you guys.

Social media has been a boon for me and it’s also been a curse. On the one hand, I get to share my craziness with you all. The stupid stuff that rambles through my head makes me giggle, so why not share it? But, on the other hand, I also feel the need to constantly share my drama. Which, let’s be honest, no one really needs to see any of that. We all have drama, right? And why pile my drama on top of yours?

I had lately noticed that my life revolved around Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I need to check on so-and-so’s account. What are they up to? Did anyone read my Tweet? How many people liked my picture? OH! That thing that just happened to me was funny! I need to tell everyone! How dare that person support that candidate! I won’t say anything, but I’ll steam about it for a couple of hours. And on and on.

To say that all of you preoccupied my day is an understatement. And when Friday dawned, two weeks ago, and Tyler and I had had a disagreement, I was done. Finished. In addition to walking a thin line each day in which I want to just rail against everything (and don’t) and realizing that my days were filled with the lives of other people rather than my own, I had to step away. Honestly, for that first day, my finger hovered over the Deactivate your account button and I seriously thought about just disappearing completely. But, I reconsidered. Since welcoming all of you into my life, I couldn’t just unceremoniously boot you all out the front door. So, I went silent instead. I walked out of the party and found a quiet spot in the back garden, where I could recharge and have my beer alone.

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Them Nazis never saw us coming, Grant.

The first week was pretty tough. I would, literally, jump on each morning to check notifications, and then close the Facebook app as if it had burned me. And then I would sit and stare at my phone and wonder What now? I purposefully logged into Twitter and Instagram as Paranormal Georgia so that there would be less temptation. I caught up on my reading, dabbled a bit in writing, talked with an old friend (Love you, Jude!), fought the Nazis with Grant, cherished a beautiful card from my favorite Pittsburgher, was interviewed for the most out-there article ever, and investigated the paranormal. And most of all, I focused on my children. During quiet moments, I just sat rather than jumping on Instagram to obsessively check pictures or Facebook to greedily count notifications.

And it’s been a revelation. I love all of you, but I have become consumed by your thoughts, opinions, activities, and such. I have 389 Facebook friends. That’s 389 people crowded onto my screen each and every day. 389 people talking and conversing and shouting and whispering and sharing and taking up my thoughts. Let’s be honest, I have a hard time just talking to the neighbor up the street. I don’t think my brain is capable of handling all of that information, on a daily basis, any longer. I hate to be the party pooper, but I need to be selfish. I need to acknowledge that I’m spending too much time on social media and that I’m allowing all the things you all say to each other affect me negatively.

I’m not going to deactivate my accounts because I’m hoping to blog every now and then and maybe interact with you that way. I also have my paranormal group’s account to maintain. But I also want to remind you all that even if I do exercise the nuclear option and disappear from Facebook, I’m not gone. There’s still email. There’s still snail mail. And I’ll always be here, in the cul-de-sac. It’s my thing, you know?

Mad Cow

mad_cow

Paraphrased…

Her: How are you feeling?

Me: OK, I guess. I don’t know. I just feel like there’s nothing there. No emotion. I’m just… here. You know? I don’t know if I like this. I don’t feel like me.

Her: But, Heather. Think about this. You were on a rampage for so long. Maybe this is what normal is supposed to feel like? The other you? That wasn’t healthy.

Me: Yeah, you’re probably right.

Her: Give it time, Der.

There are moments when your friends put everything into perspective. I don’t think I’ve probably ever felt truly even-keeled. I think most of my life has been just me on a tear and now that I’m balancing out, calming down, what feels out-of-sorts for me is actually what life is SUPPOSED to feel like.

It’s weird. Pre-Zoloft/Klonopin me was just angry all the time. As well as sad. And now that I’ve stepped back and can see that me from outside… wow. Just, wow. What a hot-ass mess. But, while I’m examining this, I’ve also been mourning. For some strange reason, I’ve been saddened because that old me is going away. And even though that me is batshit crazy, I kind of miss her. Don’t get me wrong. The sarcasm is still there. The opinions are still there. The emotions are still there. They’re just not bubbling on the surface, waiting to splatter all over the place like hot bacon grease. They’re all functioning in proper order, waiting for the proper moment, quietly biding their time.

Does any of that make sense?

I’ve been a mad, daft cow for quite some time. While watching an old Boston Legal tonight where Denny Crane decides he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s but instead suffers from Mad Cow, I made an off-handed comment about how the dog probably calls me that in her head. “Oh, look. There goes that Mad Cow again.” And then, I thought, maybe that’s how a lot of people have seen me over the last decade or so. I really have been quite mad. Every time I talk to my friends about my mother or post some nonsense on Facebook or when the neighbor saw me lose my shit over the garden hose this summer (quelle horreur) that’s been sad, angry-at-the-world me.

Mad cow.

I’m sorry, everybody. I really, truly had no idea, until just now, how bad I’ve been.

 

Monster Mash

IMG_3958I’ve now been on Zoloft for two weeks. I won’t feel the full effects of it for another two to four weeks, but I’m already feeling a glimmer of better. My doctor also gave me klonopin, a drug I’ve heard of but never used. When I first looked it up, I discovered its main use is to treat seizures. When I read that, I was confused, but considering that my panic attack pretty much caused my heart to have its own little seizure-fest, I got it. Then I saw also treats panic disorders, which is what I’m going to someday have tattooed onto my forehead. So, I took one, immediately after my doctor’s appointment. And you know what? Best. Drug. Ever. I didn’t care. I had that cheap-ass-glass-of-moscato buzz going on and the pope himself could have walked through my front door and insulted my cat and I would have been all Yo, dog! Come and get summa dis kpin! It’s the shiz!

I only took the one because I was pretty sure that all the other carpool moms knew I was higher than the ISS and that DFACS would be at my front doorstep before the kids finished their homework. (PS Dear teachers, I’m sure the kids’ homework that afternoon was a cluster. It was my fault. Common core and klonopin don’t mix.) I haven’t touched the bottle since. But I feel better just knowing it’s there if I need it.

We all have monsters living inside us, monsters that are chemical imbalances or brain deformities or bad memories of traumatic events. All of these things shape us into who we are, for better or for worse. I don’t think I would be the creative person I am without my depression and anxiety. I mean, I like me, I just hate the monster living inside of me. After spending the last ten years reading books to my children, I’ve read about many different monsters. All of them are deformed, horrific, external projections of the bad in the world. Two of the hardest things on the Teach Alla Dis Shit To Your Kids list isn’t potty training and it isn’t sex. It’s (1) Death and (2) The monsters are not only inside us, but the ones outside look just like us.

The last time I checked, Ted Bundy was a handsome charmer and John Wayne Gacy was a Jaycee and a community volunteer. Aileen Wuornos wasn’t exactly beautiful or a civic leader, but she was a human, not a red-eyed, fur-covered, evil demon under the basement stairs. Now, I’m no serial killer, but my depression turns me into a monster of sorts. It makes me angry at the world and the people in it for no reason other than it’s me versus all of you. And it makes me so terribly sad and takes away any semblance of hope.

I put up my Halloween decorations today. I got a jump on October 1st, but I have absolutely no shame in doing so. It was a combination of surprise the kids when they return from their grandparents’ house and I need to do this for me because I love Halloween. And, yeah, I need to do things for me. But I also need to do things for a few others. Like apologize for that monster inside of me that convinced me to lash out in anger rather than in understanding. That monster that gets upset and angry for no reason whatsoever except that maybe it’s a Tuesday.

I’ve got a long way to go in accepting myself as not just “Heather” but as “Heather with a side of mental illness.” It’s not that I’ll allow it to define me, but that I can no longer be ashamed of it or assume it will get better on its own. I need help and I’m on my way. The monster will always be here, let’s just hope I get her under control because goodness knows every day can’t be Tuesday.

Stuck

IMG_6275The last several weeks have been… difficult. As summer drew to a close, I found myself anticipating the beginning of school and some quiet time to myself once the kids were gone each day. For those first two weeks, I pounded through this house like a woman obsessed. I cleaned, dusted, scrubbed, organized, and entered the third week feeling in my element, convinced I had all my shit together.

I so don’t have any of my shit together. When you’re in the middle of a downhill slide, all you can do is feel the rush of the wind while trying to convince yourself that it’s fun and exhilarating. All the while, you’re avoiding staring at the pit at the bottom. You imagine that you can just sail over it to the next side and be OK.

I dropped straight down into that pit over Labor Day weekend and can’t quite figure out how to climb out.

Suicide has visited my circle of bloggers this week. I never knew Anastacia, but I knew that she inspired many of my online friends and that many of them are saddened and beyond grief-stricken. I was excited about meeting her this November when she was to join my paranormal group on an investigation and just the evening before, I had discussed her coming with another blogger friend. Then, the news. And my newsfeed was filled with grief and utter confusion. I have sadness for my dear friends who are grieving today and for the days to come because of the hole Stacy has left behind.

I’ve never contemplated suicide, the ultimate in disappearing acts, but I have thought about leaving. I confessed to Tyler just last month that I always have it in the back of my mind to take some money, pack up, and leave in the middle of the night. I’ll just disappear and that will be that. I think about this not because I can’t stand my family and want to leave them behind. I think about leaving because I constantly battle feelings of unworthiness, despair, and self-loathing. I think The people I love would be better off without me and because I have this all-encompassing fear of pain and botching the job and being horribly disfigured, I imagine leaving for parts unknown and desolate, giving my family and friends a chance to find someone more worthy to fill my absence.

That’s what it all comes down to. Worthiness. I’m not worthy of this life. I’m not worthy of this love. I’m not worthy of this job. I’m not worthy of this hug. I’m not worthy.

This long, slow decline into the pit of depression has been happening to me for quite a while. The bad days are outnumbering the good. I sit and wonder What do I want to be when I’m grown up? but the rub is that I’m already grown up. So, how do I decide what I want to be and then juggle the dream master’s degree, then the dream job, all while balancing the dream motherhood without further losing my mind? My worthiness? Should I just stay here and be a “supermom” who runs the daily carpool and homework drill and escapes to her closet each evening to cry? And would I be truly happy in a 9 to 5 environment again?

I don’t know.

I do know that I need a break. After a week-long anxiety-panic attack that left me wondering if my heart may just end it all for me, I went to my doctor and cried on her shoulder. I have, yet again, embraced the bottle of Zoloft and have a pending appointment with my counselor. Going along with my constant, negative inner-monologue is the outer-monologue I see everyday on social media and that monologue is more vitriolic than not. I have to admit that I probably have more than a passing obsession with everything having to do with Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and that’s not healthy. To constantly read and know the inner thoughts of other people all day, every day, is bad for my mental health.

I always say to myself I’m going to blog more. I’m going to write more. I’m going to call my friends more. I’m going to ______________ more. and I know I need to stop doing that because I’m just setting myself up for failure. I’m not going to put up a timeline or a promise here. Except for the promise that I won’t run away. I won’t disappear. I’ll still be here, with my family and my Zoloft, working through this morass of self-judgement and unworthiness. If any of you need me, you know how to find me. Just know that I’m looking up out of the pit and I see the light above. And I’m trying really hard to make it up there where the rest of you are.

(If someone you know and love is struggling with depression and you’re worried for them, or you’re struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255. And remember. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.)

Dear Catherine,

I woke up this morning, like any other day, ready to tackle the craziness of summer and the kids getting easily bored if they don’t have every minute of the day packed full of activities. Amelia, running upstairs after breakfast, breathlessly told me about a hole in our sunroom window. I followed her downstairs and stood, helplessly, in front of a window that, indeed, had a golf-ball sized hole in it. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I should have known that this was a portent of the day to come.

My blogging friends have been a mainstay in my life for nearly eight years. It’s all of you guys who gave me my creative outlet after Jarrod was born. I was here, day in and day out, with three little kids who ALL needed diaper changes and entertainment and I found that writing and interacting with people on the internet was my saving grace. It helped me to keep my sanity. By summer, 2009, I was neck deep into blogging and ready to meet all of these amazing internet people face-to-face. I found myself on the road to Kentucky, to stay at the home of someone I had only met once before, to spend 48 hours with a crowd of people I had never physically laid eyes on. And it was glorious.

I met you there, Catherine. I hadn’t ever read your blog, but you had been writing, just like me. It was amazing to me how we all clicked. All of us, at Bliss Manor that weekend, we got each other. There’s a certain personality that goes online and shares their inner-most thoughts and secrets with the whole world. We are those people and we all got along fabulously that weekend. We all sang awful karaoke, drank more than we should have, and talked and shared. Dave was incredible in his guyliner, Becky drunkenly watched and cheered her Penguins to Stanley Cup victory, Britt tried out her selfie-stick, Hilly test-drove some new black hair, Marty did his Elvis impersonation, Karl promised us all eternal love and devotion, Brad sang, Liz mixed up sangria, and I sat in the middle of it all, trying to process how awesome all of you were. And there you were. You came with three other ladies, whom I had never met, all of you in your matching t-shirts. I didn’t know you, but by the end of the weekend, we were following each other on Twitter, friending each other on Facebook, and promising to do this again, soon.

I never actually saw you again after that, but we’ve shared many laughs on social media since then. We had similar tastes and opinions and you even bought one of Andy’s books.

And then you died. Suddenly, you were gone. The hole in my window mirrored the sudden hole you left in our circle of blogging friends. I looked down at my phone, in a moment of distraction, and saw our mutual online friends lamenting your death and I couldn’t believe it. Private messages flew, questions were answered and yet not, and I realized how fleeting not only life is, but also these 21st century relationships. We only met, in person, once. But I saw your wedding dress, I knew of your taste in music, your friendships, saw your pictures, read of your high points and your heartache. I walked at a distance, next to you, as you lived your life. And now, suddenly, you aren’t there.

I frantically looked back through all of the photos of those magical 48 hours in June, 2009, and in not one of them did we stand together, smiling. But that’s OK. Because I remember you. You made me laugh. You actually got Brad up on stage to sing a Journey song. And I’m glad I was there and got to know you.

We miss you, Catherine. Wherever you are in the great beyond, save a spot at the karaoke stage for all of us. We’ll see you at the next blogger meet-up among the stars.

Love, Heather

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Liar

IMG_4682I’m really good at hiding things. For years, I hid my 145 pounds behind loose clothes and untucked shirts. I’ve always hid my pain behind false smiles and I make sure my tears only make an appearance when the house is empty and the shower is running. The Bloggess once wrote a blog post with the title, depression lies. She’s right. Depression is a lying bitch who waits until you’re at your most vulnerable and then She whispers in your ear, confirming all the bad things about you that you are convinced are true.

Depression has been gleefully whispering to me for many years, but She’s been particularly loud for the last 24 hours and it’s so damned easy to just listen to Her and allow Her to drown out all the other voices who disagree with Her. Why? Because it’s easier to believe that I’m a mediocre person with no personality, minimal talent, and below-average looks rather than to fight Her.

Because that voice of Depression is MY inner voice. And it’s hard to ignore yourself. Especially when She is adamant in Her beliefs.

There are numerous external voices belonging to family and friends, each reminding me of all the positive things about me. For the most part, they keep Depression at bay and I listen to them, hoping beyond hope that they’re true. And then, one external voice disagrees with all the others. For whatever reason, this external voice, or opinion, tells me something that agrees with my Depression. And then that Bitch is off and running and I can’t drown Her out, no matter what I do. It will take me days to push Her away, to quiet Her down, to finally ignore Her lies. But by then, the damage has been done. More cracks have appeared in my psyche, and Depression has a better foothold for the next time.

I didn’t write this for sympathy or for kind words. I didn’t write this because I’m at risk for harming myself or others. I write this, I’m sharing this, because at times, people seem genuinely surprised that I think so little of myself. But I do. All the time. I just wanted to let everyone know that even the strongest-seeming people are sometimes the weakest, that our internal battles are the hardest we will ever face. And that ultimately, we do it alone.

But, I want to remind you all that your voices help. I’ll drown Her out soon enough and listen to you again. Until then, keep talking. Please.