Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Go Team!

Since so much of this blog has been discussing a failed relationship, I'd be amiss if I didn't share about my new and, so far, very successful one. (With permission, of course.)

When I first started dating again, I was both anxious and hesitant to consider a new relationship. But, I am a relationship person. And I knew, for as much anxiety as I had about dating, especially dating in New York, I had to do it again. First, I thought it unlikely that I would find someone I would really like. I would constantly complain to the BFFs that I would NEVER find someone who favors home to a bar on a Friday night, let alone that person plus an adoration of my sparkling wit, desserts and sleeping on the right side of the bed. There was NO WAY that person existed AND didn't live in New Jersey. My friends reassured me that someone I could like did exist, even if the person wasn't exactly who I was anticipating.

The person I happened to find is a she. And she is awesome.

When I first discussed the idea of me dating girls in therapy, my therapist was surprised. Which I thought odd because she knew I had an interest. She claimed she just didn't expect I would try it. Because, apparently, I come off as uber straight? Hmmm... So we discussed; I agonized.

And then I met Rachel. And it became easy.

There are many qualities about her that I admire and adore. But one in particular pairs so well with me. Rachel is, by far, the most supportive person I've ever encountered. And while she will claim that she can be lazy, she's my cheerleader, my friend and support. We say "go team!" to each other as a silly form of support. But I find it motivating. She motivates me. So much so I even left my apartment last Saturday. She's THAT good.

For the first time in a very, very long time, it is blatantly obvious to me that the significant person in my life really cares about me. Even if she never told me, I know that she wants to make me happy and fulfilled. And I, her.

Of course I still have considerable anxiety about dating within the same sex. I am me after all and anxiety is kind of my middle name.

She is my epilogue to what had been a very tumultuous story.

On a hysterical side note: My entire office smells like syrup. Payback for a sickenly sweet post?

Friday, April 24, 2009

All About My Mother

This morning, on the first day I was permitted to sleep in past 5:30am all week, my stepfather calls and wakes me at 7:55am. To ask me where his and my mother's tax return was. BECAUSE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO ARRIVE TODAY. I HAD TOLD THEM TODAY. APRIL 24TH. THAT'S TODAY! Where the fuck was it? And, naturally, I was the only person who could answer this question. At 8am on the only morning I could sleep in all week.

I did my parents' taxes for them this year. I was able to get them a larger refund than last year, and I felt incredibly accomplished. I know that they are counting on this money to catch up on bills, and, rather than me contributing my own money to help them make ends meet, I was able to help them in another way.

My relationship with my mother and stepfather has changed quite a bit in the last year or so, and I am grateful. I feel more comfortable when I travel back to my hometown to see the family because not only do I witness them all actually trying to make their family work, but I've adjusted my expectations on them as well.

I still don't know where their tax return is, though.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Walk the Line

Since being diagnosed with chronic depression, I feel like much of my life is spent walking a fine line. The line between light and dark. This is a line that I’ve straddled for a very long time, but it’s only recently that I had a medical term to associate with it.

Thankfully, because of a medication that works for me and my own efforts to improve my daily life, I’ve been pretty firmly planted on the light side of the line for a few months. I haven’t had even more than a dark day since the new year began. I’m extremely grateful to the people in my life who have supported me during this time. I’m grateful to me, too. To the part of myself that is well enough to recognize when to ask for help in getting through a difficult few hours or difficult few days. I’m not embarrassed to ask for help. I’m not ashamed that I need medication to help my brain cope with life. I know that the stigma of mental illness has lifted considerably in the last few years, but it’s not gone. But, I’d rather be alive with the assistance of medication and talk therapy than having succumbed to my depression without it.

Since I am so open to talking about my experience and my current state of wellness, certain members of my family have judged my decision to accept the help of medication. I often ask if they were diagnosed with a serious illness that required daily doses of chemicals to be well – diabetes, for example – would they refuse it? Probably not. So, in my opinion, why should I suffer because of my brain chemistry?

Walking the line can feel like taking on a balance beam or navigating a wide river. Lately, I can do it with ease most days. Other days, it’s impossible not to feel like I am going to fall at any moment.

Often the hardest part of walking the line is getting out of bed in the morning. I still have nightmares frequently – sometimes several nights per week – that force me to relive some of the experiences and emotions that got me to my lowest point last fall. Those nightmares can be so fresh in the morning that I’m afraid to put my feet on the floor for fear that I will walk back into those months of paralyzing emotional and physical pain. So I have a choice to make – allow the darkness to take hold or fight it off. Some mornings it is as easy of a choice as it seems to be. I have the ability to make the positive, healthy decision to remind myself that it was just a nightmare and that time is over now. Other mornings, though, it does not feel like a choice. As much as the healthy part of me wants to fight it, it can consume me and I live the day as I would have months ago. Scared. Sad. Dejected.

One of the most interesting aspects of coping with walking this line is that, very often, when I am standing on one side of the line, I find it difficult to remember being on the other side. When I’m in the light, I can feel so good, so positive, and so content that my brain will not allow me to remember anything else. The flip side of that, of course, is that when I am in the dark, I am consumed, too. And not being able to remember what its like to feel good can only make the slip into depression last longer.

But now that I have had such a positive experience over the last few months, why would I want to remember feeling the weight of my depression? Sometimes I don’t. But occasionally, I have a strange, overwhelming desire to recall how I completed even the most basic tasks of the day. At this moment, I don’t remember how I got myself up, dressed and to work for much of last summer and fall. I had refused medication and spent nearly all of my non-work hours alone in my apartment crying. I remember the crying. Always with the crying. I also remember watching a lot of House as a method of escape. Hugh Laurie was oddly comforting. But I really don’t know how I physically went to work and completed any assignments. I was on autopilot. More than just wanting to satisfy my own curiosity, I think being able to remember how I accomplished these things could be beneficial to me next time I backslide.

Of course, I had been depressed several times before my most recent episode. And, actually, I think that the reason my last was so severe and last for so long was because I had nothing and no one to focus on but myself. In my case, misery certainly loves company. For three years, I lived with someone—someone who had the capacity to be wonderful, caring and giving—who spent many years very depressed with little to no relief. And instead of me feeling consumed with my own depression during that time, I usually focused on his. I tried to make light of it at times – everything’s always harder for you, isn’t it? – but I usually felt that question to be true. And, for a while, my capacity to put him and his condition first probably saved us both from being committed or worse.

It wasn’t until my father was sent into a war zone and I prayed – I actually prayed even though I didn’t know who or what I was praying to – for him to come home safely that I began to resent his depression usurping mine. Even though our relationship went on for years after my father returned home in relatively good health, hindsight tells me that was my breaking point. I would be able to overlook most of the other girls and the silly arguments and “wanting different things,” but I would always remember how alone and helpless I felt when my father was fighting a war. He was walking a line in one of the most dangerous places in the world, and I was afraid to step outside.

I’ve learned so much about what I need from a partner and a relationship from that experience. I wish, though, I had learned to forgive. That may always hold me back from being vulnerable, particularly when I’m experiencing an episode of depression, to someone I love again.

But I certainly do not underestimate how crucial it is to have supportive people around me when I am in the dark and even just walking the line. Everyone from my closet friends to the person who smiled at me crossing Sixth Avenue to my coworker/friend who was the only one who remembered the day that could have been my darkest. I am standing on the bright side of the line now.


Ed. Note: The above post is the first of a series of personal essays about depression that I've been working on. I'd love to hear any and all feedback you have to share. Really! You can even tell me I'm an asshole. Although I'd appreciate something a bit more constructive than that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hey, I know YOU!

Everyone in my biological immediate family now knows that I have a girlfriend.

I told my dad in person yesterday. After picking me up at the train station, he took me to lunch and said, "so what's up?" Funny you should ask... I said that I had something I wanted to discuss with him. He asked if I was pregnant. He's now the fourth person to ask me that. Is there something about me that screams I'm a slut who opposes safe sex? Then he asked if I was engaged? To whom, exactly, I wondered? Then I told him. And he was quiet. He asked if I was happy. I told him I was. After an uncomfortable tangent into "sexual realtions," as he called them, we moved onto discussing the quality of our lunches. Where every good father/daughter conversation should lead. He said he wanted some time to let it sink in.

A few hours later, driving me to my mother's house, he said, "this may sound strange, but I think I knew." I asked what he meant, and he said that it just made sense. I'd always been accepting and open and... he said something else that I can't quite remember now.

And I thanked him for seeing more to me than just what was on the surface. I had thought it would be my mother, but my father never ceases to surprise me. He knows me better than I expect him to. He's always been the parental figure in my life. Necessary. Supportive. Honest. I didn't even think my dad would know what bisexual meant.

Thanks, Dad. I feel much better now.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

and the band played on

No, this is not about babies or depression or my financial black hole.

Here are five albums that have shaped my tastes in music, my most memorable experiences, and, by extension, me. To the six whole people who read this, I'd love your comments, feedback and your own choices.

1. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys: My father always enjoyed a good Beach Boys song... who doesn't, right? I have early memories of the tracks from Pet Sounds, particularly "Wouldn't It Be Nice;" the music echoing through my father's ugly, ugly green car. I don't recall being exposed to the album as a whole, although I know my dad has it somewhere, until I got to college and acquired good taste in music. The beginning half of Pet Sounds -- carefree and naive -- will always remind me of my very early youth; the back half -- serious and a bit detached -- reminds me of my final year in college.

2. August and Everything After, Counting Crows: This album defined my formative years. My closest friends and I listened to this on repeat throughout high school, and I still often listen to it when I want to feel closer to those people. A road trip, be it to Philadelphia or to Boston, wasn't complete without this record. I adore the sounds, and it feels heavy with happy, safe memories of growing up.

3. Monster, REM: I'm not sure this is my favorite overall REM album, but it certainly did have the biggest influence over my musical preferences from then on. I first heard this record when it was nearly-new, which is a rarity for me, and besides falling hard for Michael Stipe, it sounded what good music was supposed to sound like. Sure, I was still listening to Boyz II Men at the same time, but I knew REM was what legitimately cool people were listening to. I've grown up listening to REM and they will probably always define what a great band is for me. I was fortunate to see them live last summer and they blew me away.

4. You Are The Quarry, Morrissey: "I've been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour, and Tories and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell..." LOVE. THIS. RECORD. Circa 2004/2005, I played the hell out of it. I wasn't in a car going anywhere without this present. Morrissey is the coolest person on earth. Ever. Period. I was once in a focus group and said that and the other girls in the room thought I was deranged. They so weren't cool.

5. Nothing Feels Good, The Promise Ring: My taste in music firmly changed after hearing this record around the time I graduated high school. I only took a handful of CDs with me to college my freshman year (because, hello, there was still Napster for FREE!), and this made the cut. This makes me dance and sing, and yet still breaks my heart.

Honorable mentions go to:
Born on a Pirate Ship, Barenaked Ladies / Rumours, Fleetwood Mac / Whitechocolatespaceegg, Liz Phair / Mass Romantic, The New Pornographers / Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tick, tock...

My biological clock is a fierce, unrelenting sound that begins in my ears and penetrates my entire body at least four days a week.

Circa 2005/early 2006, I recall feeling the clock like more of a wave, when I was perfectly settled in my then-relationship, thinking I had my life almost figured out. I'd feel it wash over me and I would be calm, content and even happy. Emotionally ready should there be a birth control error and an embryo should take up space in my uterus. It never did. I was pretty careful with the BC (despite that boyfriend's comic stylings that included I had plans to "trap him").

The feeling of the wave ended when that relationship ended, and I was glad at the time. I couldn't fathom wanting a child when I didn't have a partner to have a child with. I mean, that would be insane, right?

My birthday, 2008: It was like I woke up on that Sunday morning and the wave that I once felt crested and the water hit me forcefully as I sat up in my bed. Alone. It sounds bizarre, but it's, sadly, very, very true.

On Christmas night, 2008, I announced to my mother and stepfather in their living room that maybe, but that time next year, I would have a baby. I got blank stares all around. And understandably so.

The water, at times, suffocates me. I feel the clock ticking and it makes me sad. Makes me antsy. Makes me crazy. Makes me wet. But not in a good way.

(I apologize for the lame ocean analogies, by the way.)

Occasionally, I can go an entire day without the desire of wanting a baby. Those days, especially lately, have become pretty infrequent, though. And I see a cute kid on the street? Forget it. It's back with a vengeance.

The book that I'm currently reading, It Sucked and Then I Cried, should cure me of all of my motherly dreams forever. First she talks about how her pregnancy made her miserable. The morning sickness, the acne, the flatulence... it all sounds severely unpleasant. And, me knowing myself pretty well when I have merely a cold, I could be the worst pregnant person ever. I always half-suspected that perhaps this was the underlying reason that my last relationship ended. You really want kids, and I might even want them, too, but ya know what? you with your period is bad enough... No deal. Heather Armstrong, the author, talks about how breastfeeding can be an awful experience because your boobs get clogged and holy sweet heavens that really fucking hurts. First of all, I didn't really know that your boob could get clogged, but now that I do it certainly sounds like a horrifically painful experience. And then, of course, there's the author's predisposition to depression, which landed her in a mental institution for PPD. Um, hellllloooo? my brain is screaming at me that I could very well be the most unstable glutton for punishment on earth considering my tolerance for pain and history of severe depression. A kid? I have so lost it.

But, ya know what? I really, really, really want. And tomorrow's good for me, how about you? Free for my baby shower?

Of course since I am currently on a depression upswing and my meds are working as they should be, I know that having a baby now, let alone anytime in the near future, would be a terrible idea for both me and the baby. Financially, I struggle to take care of myself. Emotionally, I've been taking care of myself well for only a few short months. And, of course, there's the sex of my significant other that would prohibit me from getting knocked up the old-fashioned way. I'm in a good place, overall, right now and a child would only jeopardize that in every way. Thanks for the reminder, logical side of my brain.

But when I am in a place where I can say, annnnd go!, bring the pain and give me that baby!