Lessons from Glisan Street

I just completed a three-month tour in therapy. I’m not ashamed to admit I sought mental health counseling, especially after such a terrible 2013. It ranks up there in the top five worst years of my life: my living and working conditions were difficult, I was emotionally manipulated by a smarmy politician who broke my heart, then found love with someone new, then I got pregnant when I wasn’t ready for it, miscarried said baby, and then experienced the absolute worst heartbreaks of my entire life- losing both baby and baby daddy.

To say I wish I could have an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind experience and erase that entire year from my memory is an understatement.

But since that is impossible, and I have to live with the events of what transpired, I sought help that couldn’t be provided by friends and family. Tuesday was my last session, and in the spirit of moving on and healing, I thought I would share the lessons I learned from that big comfy chair on Glisan Street.

 

1.  Your emotions are temporary.

This means that the way you feel at this moment is not how you will feel forever. Emotions ebb and flow. Even when it feels like your feels as if it has been wrapped up in barbed wire, even when the pain feels far too difficult to overcome, those feelings eventually will pass. It’s okay if it takes a while to move forward, but just know that you will move forward.

 

2.  Allow yourself to experience your feelings.  It’s the only way to get past them.

I learned how deeply I could bury my feelings so I can quickly move forward. I was still holding on to pain from years past, and that pain was seeping into my life like a toxic sludge, poisoning my actions and relationships. This was completely unhealthy, and I suffered the consequences.

No matter how much you want to avoid it, your feelings must be fully experienced in order to move on. This includes pain, anger, hurt, and sadness. No matter how far you try to push those emotions to the side, they won’t grow legs and walk away. Instead, they will become squatters on the periphery of your life, festering in silence, growing putrid and rank, influencing you in negative ways without you even realizing it’s happening.

You can try keeping busy, burying yourself in work, or dating new people to distract yourself, all in the name of “moving on.” It’s fine to be busy, but you still must face your emotions and allow yourself to just feel them. It’s okay to feel hurt, to be sad for what you have lost, and it’s even okay for you to cry it out. Each day is going to be different, and you need to go easy on yourself as you work through painful experiences. The key is to recognize and feel the emotion, and then let it pass.

 

3.  Your emotions do not define you.

This is an important part of working through pain. You may feel like this is a permanent part of who you are, but it’s important to remember that there is a difference between what you feel and what you are. I told my therapist, “I am damaged. I don’t know how to move forward.” She was quick to point out the language I used, and talked about how that negativity will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I tell myself I am damaged, I am setting myself up for failure.

“You feel hurt, you feel pain, but you are not hurt and pain. You are not damaged. How you feel is not who you are.” This taught me to be very aware of the language I use in describing how I feel and who I am.

 

4.  You’re actions don’t define you, unless you let them.

Just like your emotions do not define you, you’re actions do not define you either. That is, unless you allow them to. We all stumble and fall, make poor choices, and sometimes hurt the ones we love. When this happens, we must atone for the grievance and seek forgiveness. We must also remember that we may not be granted forgiveness, no matter how much we try to make things right. Therefore, and this is extremely important, we must learn to forgive ourselves.

Forgiving yourself doesn’t mean that what you did was okay, but rather it means that you have made peace with yourself. It means you won’t hold on to the pain and regret of your actions. It’s far too easy to get lost in the past. If you walk around thinking to yourself, “I really screwed up and acted pretty terribly. This means that I must be a terrible person, and will continue to screw up in the future. I will hurt every person who tries to love me. It’s just who I am.”

No no no. Do not let your past actions define you as a human being. Take the time to acknowledge what you did, take action to right the wrong, learn from the mistake, and then forgive yourself. It’s the only way to move forward in a positive and healthy manner.

 

5.  Your future is not governed by your past, so stop living in it.

One of my current biggest fears is that I will always be haunted by my dad’s abandonment, and will push away every man who tries to get close, as I have been doing for the last twelve years. This will only come to pass if I ignore everything on this list, as I have been doing up to now, and marinate in the negativity.

Nothing can change the past, and nothing can predict the future. All you have is the present. What can you do today that will change your future? What can you accomplish that will throw off the shackles of the past and allow you to be free and focus on what is happening now?

I have been stuck in the past before, and it’s not a fun place to be. I realized that I’m doing it again- living in the past, piling regret upon regret, thinking to myself, “If only I had said this, or if only I had not done that.” Does that make a Delorean appear in front of me to transport me back in time? No. All that does is further my frustration.

My future is what I make it to be, and so is yours. Will it be one that continually looks backward, allowing those shackles to hold you back? Or will it be one that steps forward into a new journey, a fresh start? Choose the latter.

 

6.  99% of the time, other people’s actions have nothing to do with you.

I realized in therapy that I have been hinging my self-worth on my dad’s actions, and the actions of every man I have encountered since. There has been a feeling of worthlessness, that I wasn’t enough for my dad to stick around, so I won’t be enough for any man to sick around.

Except, that’s not true at all. My dad’s actions were his and his alone, and do not reflect upon me at all. He is an emotionally unavailable man who wants things on his terms, and when he doesn’t get his way, he tries to bully you into doing what he wants. His issues are his and his alone. My mother raised me to be a different kind of person than that, and I can recognize that my dad’s career choice was perfect for him. It allowed him to be both physically and emotionally distant, and this has nothing to do with me. He disappeared because he was a coward, not because I wasn’t worth enough for him to stick around.

Do you have someone in your current life or your past life who has made you feel like you aren’t good enough? Let that go. Even if you haven’t always acted right, that doesn’t mean you deserve to be put through a proverbial wood chipper. It’s always good to self-reflect and learn what kind of role you have played in a relationship, but if someone makes you feel like you have no worth, that reflects upon him or her, not you.

 

7.  Learn to draw boundaries.

Are you a “yes” person? Do you do things you don’t want to do, just because you think you should? Do you spend time with people you don’t want to see? Do you let someone at work push you around? Do you let the ghost of the past infiltrate your present?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time to start drawing boundaries. For me, one boundary I had to draw was with friends who are pregnant. One was about to give birth, and I told her I couldn’t go to her baby shower because it was too painful. The other friend was only three weeks behind me in conception, so looking at her is like looking at where I should be in my failed pregnancy. With her, I had to say that it was okay to talk about her health and how she was feeling, but to just be mindful of how much she said, and to please not show me all the baby stuff she was buying. For example, she found out the sex of the baby, and I asked her what she was having. She talked about it for a bit, and when I gently changed the subject, she understood and we talked about something else.

Drawing boundaries is important for your mental health, because you have to take care of you. If you are too busy trying to please everyone around you, you risk neglecting your needs, which are valid and important. If someone reacts negatively to your boundaries, that is a reflection of them and their insecurities, not you.  So learn how to set boundaries in your life by saying “no” or voicing your feeling and concerns. It will be like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.

 

8.  You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you.

This is a biggie. Perhaps this is the most important lesson on the list. If you don’t think you are good enough, then no one else will, either. You can try to hide your insecurities, but eventually they will pop up like a bloated dead body down in the river. Gross imagery, right? Think about it. We all know someone who is so insecure it makes the people around them uncomfortable. We’ve all had that friend or significant other that puts himself or herself down, can’t take a compliment, is so clingy you feel like you need a gallon of Downy to break that static down. No one wants to be around that guy, right? Right. Just like no one wants to be around a dead bloated body.

Learn to love yourself. There is only one of you, and that person is pretty great if you give yourself a chance.   Work on figuring out who you are, what you like, and what makes you awesome. And when you are comfortable with who you are, when you genuinely like yourself, that glow will shine out like a lighthouse, attracting all kinds of ships.

 

9.  Focus on the good things that you have, not the things you don’t have.

If you keep thinking about what everyone around you has that you think you should have, you’ll never move forward. This is something I am terrible at. I look at my age and current life status, and get angry with myself for not doing things differently. I’m the last single friend, I don’t have a home of my own, I’m not financially secure, and I don’t have a career. It’s hard when everyone around me has the things I so deeply desire. So I end up letting my self-esteem take a beating by comparing my life to theirs.

It’s not easy to reframe an entrenched way of thinking, but this is what you have to do. Ask yourself: What are the postive things in my life? What do I have that is good? What do I have that makes me happy? Start a gratidue journal and write down three things that made you happy. It can be as simple as “The sun came out today.” The more you do this, the more your brain will begin to focus on the good and not fixate on the bad.

I tell myself “it’s okay that I am starting over at 31. I can do this.” I’m starting to believe it, too.

 

10.  You’re stronger than you think.

I promise this is true.  I know it’s hard to believe it sometimes.  It’s hard for me to believe it sometimes, especially when things get overhwhelming.  The last three months have not been easy.  In fact, they’ve been some of the hardest months of my life.  Yet, I’m still here.  I’m still standing.  When I look back at some of the things I’ve experienced in my 31 years on this earth, I see that I somehow manage to keep moving forward.  I don’t crawl into the fetal position under my covers and hide from the world.  Well, maybe I did once or twice.  Sometimes we just need that downtime.  But I didn’t stay hidden under the covers.  I eventually got up and faced the world.  And you can, too.  Find your inner-strength and channel it, even on the days you don’t want to.  It will begin to make a big difference in your life.

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Those are my ten lessons I learned on Glisan Street.  My time in therapy was valuable, but by no means am I healed.  I still feel hurt.  I still feel lonely.  Last week I had my first OBGYN visit and it took courage to return to the clinic, my first time since I lost the baby. And this morning I broke down in tears in front of a nurse practitioner in immediate care because she asked me what sources of stress I’ve been experiencing lately.  It is still incredibly pain to say the words I had a miscarraige.  And I know it will be for a while.  And I also know that’s okay.

I still have a lot of work to do.  One of the reasons I wrote this list was to remain mindful of the work I have done, and to have a place I can return to when things start to feel bleak and hopeless.  I can read this list and be reminded of how far I’ve come, and that I have the ability to keep going.  I have the ability to heal.  And so do you.

Until next time ~ B

 

Single After Miscarriage (The M Word, Part VI)

Miscarriage.  Such a terrible word.  Three months later, and I still have a hard time with the reality that it happened to me.

Pregnancy loss is one of the hardest things a woman will ever have to experience, particularly if the baby was wanted.  I never knew how much I wanted to have a child until I lost mine.  It still aches in deep places when I think about what happened.  It’s a profound sadness that will never go away.  It may lessen over time, but it will always be with me.

What is hitting me particularly hard lately is that my baby dreams are on hold.  I am envious of couples who have grieved together, and that envy runs especially deep knowing that can try for another one when they are ready.  I have read stories of women who got pregnant as little as a few weeks after their loss, and carried a healthy baby to term.  I do understand that I am generalizing here, as many couples struggle with fertility and multiple miscarriages.  There are also couples who simply don’t know when will be ready to try again.

Part of my jealousy stems from not having a partner to plan another child with.  I don’t have a future baby daddy in my life.  The father of my lost baby grieved on his own.  It kills me to think that we conceived a child and yet grieved separately.  It also stings deeply knowing that I have no idea when I will ever have the opportunity to plan for a child with someone I love.  I don’t have that to look forward to.   Not only am I dealing with the horrific pain of losing a baby alone, but I can’t even look forward to trying again.

I lost everything.  I am rebuilding my life right now, brick by brick, and it feels like an eternity before I will ever see a positive pregnancy test again.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t just want the baby.  I want it all.  I want someone to come home to.  I want a home of my own.  I want a career.  I’m slowly putting the pieces of my life back together, but it’s a long, difficult process.  I’m searching for the light at the end of the tunnel, but right now all I can do is run my hands along the wall and blindly feel my way there.

I no longer have hCG running through my veins, but some days it’s hard to believe that.  I still feel like it’s there when I see babies, especially one that may have looked like mine.  I feel like it’s there when I see pregnant women.  I feel like it’s there when I pass the baby section in a department store.  The strong, driving urge to nest and procreate feels as though it remains at the same level it did when I was still pregnant.  Will this ever dissipate?  Will I forever see young families and feel myself burning with envy inside?

And by god, when will I stop picturing T when I think of a future family?  Somedays I wish I could wipe him out of my brain.  Well, that’s not true.  Rather, I wish I could wipe the idea of him as part of my life out of my brain.  No matter how many times I tell myself he doesn’t want you, you need to move on, it’s like my brain is hardwired to reject those thoughts and keep him in that picture anyway.

I would like to think that I’m just being too hard on myself.  It’s only been a little over three months since the worst day of my life.  Things are slowly improving.  I finally found a job, which I start next week.  I had two men on two consecutive days give me their phone numbers, so I must be putting some kind of positive vibe into the universe.  Spring is here and the cherry blossoms are blooming, which always makes me feel like renewal is just around the corner.  Am I finally on the upswing, and this relentless pain of my blank, partner-less and baby-less future will begin to fade away?  Will this soon be nothing more than a far away memory that I look back on with respectful melancholia?

There is nothing sadder or more frustrating than a miscarriage.  I know that I am strong and will make it through these dark days.  I also know that I am only 31, and there is hope for me yet.  There is still time to find someone to build a life with.  Someone to have children with.  Someone to grow old with.

Sigh.

Miscarriage.

Such a terrible, terrible word.

Until next time ~ B

Miscarriage Milestones and Bodily Betrayals (The M Word part V)

Tomorrow I would have been five months pregnant.  Big enough to find out the sex of the baby with an ultrasound.

Would it have been a boy or a girl?  Would she have had my eyes?  Or maybe he would have had his daddy’s smile.  Would we have been collecting things in blue or pink?  Would his middle name have been Michael?  Or maybe her name would have been Sophia.

This milestone, or lack thereof, really sucks.

My coworker is pregnant.  She was only a couple of weeks behind me in pregnancy, and she has a nice round baby bump.  Today at work she was showing it off with a fitted t-shirt.  It took all I could do to not just sit and stare at it.  I tried desperately to avert my eyes.  Is that how my belly would like right now?  I felt transfixed, and when she finally walked away, a relief flooded over me.   Every day I see her at work is like a slap to the face.  A reminder of what I will never have.

My baby died.  Hers survived.  Would you like to know why?  Because the universe does not play favorites.  Mother nature is not a warm cuddly maternal figure, but rather a cold, biological, unemotional entity that doesn’t care.  There is no god or higher power.  The world owes you nothing.

Sometimes when I see a woman holding a baby, my arms physically ache knowing I will never hold mine.  When I see a father holding his child, I see T holding ours and feel the acute pain knowing that will never come to pass.  When I think of pregnancy milestones, by body hurts.

Our child would have been beautiful.

I have never, in 31 years on this earth, known how much I want to be a mother until I miscarried my baby.  It was easy to get pregnant, but I have always known there was a chance I would have reproductive troubles.  I worry that my miscarriage was not a chromosomal abnormality, but rather my body being fucked up inside and unable to carry a baby to term.  I wonder if I will end up like those women who have miscarriage after miscarriage, only to have it all end in a divorce, because the relationship couldn’t survive all those years of broken dreams and failed pregnancies.  My relationship certainly didn’t survive an experience that, in such a heartbreaking way, brought out the worst in both of us.  We couldn’t survive the grief.

Miscarriage feels like a failure.  It feels like your body has betrayed you.  As a woman, this is the one thing that I am biologically programmed to do, and instead of successfully carrying out that task, my body malfunctioned.  On Christmas Eve, one of my favorite days of the year, the cramping and bleeding began that tore away the lining of my uterus, taking my baby with it.  The ultrasound scan displayed a now empty uterus.  Where I once saw a heartbeat, I now saw a blank screen.  This was visual proof that my body’s pre-programming system had failed.

Seeing my pregnant coworker makes me ask What is her body doing right that my body did wrong?

Miscarriage makes you feel like damaged goods.  Defective.  Insecure and self-consious. I can’t imagine telling this story to someone new without them running off into the hills.  What man is going to sign on for all of this?  Who is going to want me now?  Because it’s not just the issue of my defective body, but also because of my lingering abandonment/commitment issues.  I’m like a giant walking red flag.  I actually hid on the Max the other day because an attractive man kept looking at me and I was afraid he would walk over and start talking to me.  I hid behind a group of obnoxious teenagers.  Talk about a low point.

But that is the majority of my days now- a smattering of low points amidst moments of joy.

I am on the road to healing, but I will never forget this loss, and I will never forget these emotions.  This was my baby.  My little nugget.  A treasure that I shared with another human being, who would have been an amazing father.  An amazing father to our baby.

No, this will be with me always.

Until next time ~ B

 

 

 

 

 

Field Report: February 27, 2014

Pretty excited to have a new field report.  I feel that it has been far too long since I have had public transportation material.  Dear readers, I hope you enjoy today’s offering.

Max Green Line, AM Commute

The train was fairly empty, as it was past the morning rush.  I was traveling to work late, per usual.  Everyone was quite, reading or listening to music, when the train rolled to a stop at the Main Street station.  The doors opened, a few riders boarded, and the doors shut.  Instead of moving forward, the operator came on and said that we had to wait there a few minutes because there were two trains ahead of her at Gateway.  Not caring about the time, I kept my attention on my Twitter feed, also per usual.

Suddenly I heard, “Man, don’t you touch my bike!”

I looked over in the direction of the voice to see a tall, commanding man in a lime green reflective jacket.  “Are you drunk?!” he asked a smaller man whose attire indicated that he was not as well off as the larger man.  The smaller man said something that I couldn’t make out, and the larger man said, “I’m getting you off this train.”

I was tingly with anticipation, thinking this was going to be a great morning show.  He walked over to the door and pressed the emergency call button.  The operator came on and asked what was needed.  The man said, “Yeah, there’s a drunk and disorderly jackass on this train and he’s touching my bike.”  The operator said something about contacting security and the man replied, “Oh, he is going to get off this train.”

The smaller man looked at him defiantly and sat down.  “I’m not getting off this train!” he said.

The large man told the operator that he won’t leave, and she said it would be handled at the next stop.  The train began to move forward and I watched the small man sit in his seat, reading a small book out loud to himself.  He started praying and talking to himself about god.  The larger man stood staring at him, as if he was on guard.  Finally the small man looked up and started talking to the larger man.  It was hard to understand him, but I think he said something about being sorry.  The larger man replied something about his bike, to which the smaller man said, “Man, I have my own bike!”

We rolled to a stop at Gateway and a transit officer boarded.  “What seems to be the trouble?” he asked. The larger man had no qualms about making the smaller man out to be some kind of out of control rider.  The officer asked the smaller man for his ticket and photo ID.  The smaller man pulled his wallet out, and it was stuffed with cards, George Costanza style.  He pulled out an ID, and the officer said, “This is expired.  Please come with me, sir.”

The smaller man protested and said, “No, no I have another one,” and began rifling through his wallet for a piece of identification.  This is when I went from being amused to feeling sorry for him.  This wasn’t a drunk and disorderly jackass.  This was a drunk man who likely had mental health issues, and the larger man was the jackass who was blowing the event out of proportion.  The officer again asked him to get off the train.

“Come with me, man,” transit fuzz said.  The smaller man asked in a small voice, “Where we goin’?”  He stood up and slowly put his jacket on, then his backpack (attached to the bag was a small purple teddy bear) and he unhooked his bike from the rack and got off the train.

This time I took a closer look at what he was wearing.  His clothes were old and ill-fitting.  His bike was dirty.  The larger man stood there with a smug expression, and when the doors shut he took a seat.  As we pulled away, I watched the transit fuzz pull out his pad of tickets while the man continued to search through his wallet.

I wanted to walk over to the larger man and ask, “Are you proud of yourself?  Was all of this really necessary?”  But instead I just sat there, silently.  I hope the smaller man got to wherever he needed to go today, and I hope the larger man gets a big dose of karma.

Max Green Line, PM Commute

I missed my usual 4:35 train, and had to take the 4:53, which was absolutely packed.  I squeezed on board, and found a spot standing near the door.  I was tired.  It wasn’t that today was a long day, but rather, I just felt gross.  Have you ever had that kind of day?  Where you just feel so… blech?  My hair wasn’t doing anything, I was wearing a big oversized sweater, and I had dark circles under my eyes.  Despite getting what feels like enough solid sleep, I’ve been exhausted this week, and my eyes are showing the wear.

So I stood there, minding my own business, avoiding eye contact with anyone.  When the train arrived at Lloyd, three young men boarded and we all shuffled to make room.  I had about a foot of breathing space, with one of the young men right in front of me.  I was paying attention to my phone, but could hear snippets of his conversation.

“Yeah man,” the kid, likely between 18 and 21 years of age, said.  “So she came over and I totally fucked her.  And then she gave me an ounce of [something I couldn’t make out] and left.”  They all laughed, and one of the other boys said something I couldn’t hear, to which the kid in front of me said, “Haha, yeah.  You know I ruined all other men for her.”

I vomited a little in my mouth, and wanted to say, “Son, the only thing you probably ruined was her was the chance for a good time that night.”  But I kept my mouth shut.  As we hit each stop, we had to keep shuffling around just a bit, and he finally turned around and saw me behind him.  He must have not realized I was there because he looked a little surprised.  After that, he was much less boisterous to his buddies.

The train began to thin out after a few more stops, and finally at Flavel, the boys had reached their destination.  The train began to slow, and the kid in front of me turned around and looked at me.  Suddenly his body language and demeanor had changed.  “Please excuse me,” he said politely, as the doors opened.

Great.  He probably sees me as old enough to be his mother, and therefore feels the need to show respect.

I smiled politely and scooched over so he could walk off the train.  He was the last to leave, and just before he stepped onto the platform, he stopped and looked at me again.  “I just want to say that you are absolutely gorgeous,” he said, and stepped off.  My jaw dropped and I barely got a thank you out before the doors closed.

I stood there, stunned.  There I was, feeling so tired and gross, and this little punk who was just talking trash about some poor girl, just spoke to me like I was a lady.  I have no idea what he saw in me today, but it definitely put a smile on my face.

Today’s lessons:

Twice today I judged a book by it’s cover.  The small “drunk and disorderly jackass” on the train this morning turned out to be a man likely in need of mental health intervention.  The punk kid on the evening train who boasted to his buddies about his conquest is likely a polite young man when his friends aren’t around.  Today I was guilty of making snap judgements, which has been a bad habit of mine for some time.  I react before I think.  I need to start thinking more and reacting less.  We all have a story to tell.  We all have a chain of events in our past that have led us to where we are today: successes, failures, illness, divorce, abuse, poor decisions, good decisions, accidents, baggage, life, and death.

If we start looking past the exterior, we might be surprised with what we find underneath.  A life full of hopes and dreams.  A life that has weathered storms.  A life that is important and deserves respect.  A unique life with a story to tell that will be unlike anyone else’s.  And when you think about it, that’s really something, isn’t it?

Until next time ~ B

To The Reader Searching About Suicide

To Whomever It Is That Reached My Blog Via A Suicide Search,

I discovered that I have the ability to check out my site statistics, and see how readers are referred to my blog.  If a reader is referred by a search engine, I can see the search terms used.  This is an open letter to the reader who used Bing to search for

I may commit suicide tonight 

PLEASE DO NOT DO IT.   Please do not take your life.  I know how what it feels like to feel so low that you don’t want to go on.  But I beg of you, please do not end your life.  Please do not commit suicide.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24 hour free service.  Here is the website and number:

1-800-273-8255

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

I am not a praying woman, but I will send whatever vibes I can out into the universe to keep you alive and well on this earth.

You’re life is precious.  I implore you to call the hotline.  No matter what you are struggling with, it is not worth you ending your life for.

With all the sincerity in the world,

~B

 

Aside

Tonight I Had A Brush With Suicide

Tonight I had a brush with suicide.  At around 9:00 pm, our neighbor knocked on our door and said she needed help.  Her fiance had left, she hadn’t taken her Paxil in three weeks, and she wanted to slit her writs in the bathtub.  She said she couldn’t reach her son on the phone and didn’t know what to do, but she just wanted to make the pain go away.  She said she was afraid she would hurt herself.  She kept apologizing for bothering us.  We told her to stop apologizing, she was doing the right thing, it was not a bother, and we were going to help her.  We got dressed and just as we were leaving the driveway of our complex, we ran into her son who was on his way to check up on her.  We told him what was happening and he followed us to the hospital.

She cried and cried on the way over, talking about her lost love and how she can’t go back to her house, and how she doesn’t want to go on anymore and doesn’t know what to do.

My mom sat in the backseat with her while I drove us over.  As I listened to her tell us her story, I fought back my own tears.  I could literally feel her pain, as I recently suffered losses myself.  I could feel her heartbreak and her loss and understood her desire to make it all go away.

I know how you feel, I thought.  While I have never been on medication for a mental health diagnosis, I have reached some incredibly low points.  Five weeks ago I stood on the Astoria pier alone, having left my then-boyfriend sleeping alone in our hotel room. I looked up at the Astoria-Megler bridge that spans the Columbia, joining Oregon and Washington together.  It is a daunting bridge to look at, and I watched the cars drive north, disappearing into the night, leaving only the faintness of their tail lights as proof they ever existed.

I stood there, defeated.  It was barely one week from my miscarriage, and the baby’s father had grown suddenly and incomprehensibly distant.  I could feel the end of my relationship speeding towards me like an out of control freight train.  I wanted to disappear into the night, just like the cars were, and leave all of this pain behind. 

The next morning I found myself back in the same spot.  Once again, I stared at the bridge.  Once again, I had left him sleeping in the hotel room, but this time, he was my ex-boyfriend.  The previous night, after my solo trip to the pier, he finally admitted he wanted to break up with me.  I was grateful we got a hotel room with two beds, and after a few scant hours of sleep, and I watched the sky grow lighter through the crack in the draperies.  As soon as I deemed it light enough, I threw on my clothes and walked back to the spot I was in the night before.

What is to stop me from climbing the bridge and jumping into the icy river? 

I stared hard, feeling like I would almost do anything to make all of the pain and memories go away.  The breakup.  The miscarriage. The feeling that I was completely and utterly worthless.  That clearly I had nothing to offer him now that there was not a baby, so he was free to find someone who was worthy of his time.

Looking up at that bridge, I have never felt so small and insignificant.  So unworthy of love.  So alone.

I just stared for an unknown period of time.  The air was frosty and my breath was visible.  I watched boats anchored out in the water.  I watched the tourists walk hand in hand down the marina.  And I watched the cars.  Hundreds of cars, filled with people who have their own troubles.  I knew that jumping off that bridge was not the answer.  I knew that jumping off that bridge was something I would never do.  But I won’t deny that as I stood there, I felt like there was nothing left for me.  It was the lowest of the low.  And perhaps if I didn’t have the most amazing family and friends waiting for me back in Portland, I might have seriously considered the worst.

But I knew, deep down, that even though it felt like I had just lost everything, I still had everything waiting for me in a small little duplex that overlooks a cranky farmer and his dahlia fields.

I wanted to tell all of this to my neighbor.  That I understand the pain, I understand what it feels like to hurt so bad and all you want is it to go away.  I wanted to tell her that I know it hurts because she still loves the man who left her, just like I still love the man who left me.  I wanted to tell her that I don’t know how long it will take for her heart to heal, because I’m still working on mine, but I believe it’s possible.

Instead, I silently fought back the tears and took her to the ER.

She is getting the help she needs now.  I am grateful we were there to help her, and she seems to have a loving son and friend who took over for us at the hospital.  I hope she will be okay.

Mental health and suicide continue to be stigmatized in our country.  People are judged for their thoughts and feelings.  They are judged for taking medication for a chronic condition, as if it is any different because it’s above the neck and not below.  Depression, anxiety, and similar mental health diseases are hard and painful and continue to be viewed in a negative light.

I will admit it right here, right now:  I am depressed.  I am in counseling.  I don’t know if I will need medication.  I hope not, because I don’t like being on medication of any kind, but that is a bridge I will cross if/when the time comes.  And while I would never commit suicide, I understand why people do it.  I understand feeling hopeless and unworthy, two of the worst emotions of the human condition.

We all have our demons that we carry with us, the “devil on our backs” as Florence and the Machine describes it so eloquently.  Perhaps if we were kinder and gentler with ourselves and others, those demons would be a little easier to deal with.  So educate yourself.  Get informed.  Be kinder.  Think twice before you want to judge another human being because he is on an anti-depressant, or she is feeling like there is nothing left to live for.  Life is hard enough without having anyone to rely on, so be someone that can be relied on.  Be someone’s support.  You never know when someone is going to need it.

Until next time ~ B