Feet First!

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I’m not sure exactly when it clicked for me. The past 6 months, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. Not just the sitting in silence, pondering life part. I mean the making lists and digging REALLY deep into who I am and who I want to be. Maybe it was turning 44—a mid-life crisis sort of thing. Maybe it was having my dream job and still feeling unhappy and unsatisfied. Whatever started this ball rolling, I am glad it did. I have never felt more empowered, motivated, and aligned as I do right now, in this moment.

This uneasiness I was feeling, this sense of having  no purpose, no path—it literally brought me to my knees. And I’m being completely honest here. I spent much of April and May of this year in bed. In tears. In complete and utter hoplessness. If I had the job I always wanted, the love of my life by my side, two magnificent boys ensconced at top-notch colleges, my elderly parents still alive and living with me, all the material things I wanted, why the hell was I in complete and utter despair? What the hell was wrong with me?

Yes, I’ve lived with depression my entire life. I know its in’s and out’s. I know its lies and destruction. I know how it seeps into your blood and into your soul. I know how that bitch sneaks into your bed at night and steals every ounce of happiness you had, with no reason, no rhyme, no warning. This was beyond that. This was a completely new thing. This was me floating helpless with no idea where I was going. I was no longer just depressed; I was lost. I, the real me, was gone.

I’ve been changing my eating habits and fitness habits since the first of the year. I’ve blown up over the last 18 years. I mean, BLOWN UP. I was about 100 pounds overweight. And I think here is where the moment of clarity came to me. It was on a treadmill, when I thought I couldn’t go any further. I was about to push the “stop” button on my treadmill, when I looked at my time. I was on there for 40 minutes. At a high speed and incline. When I first started in February, I could barely do 10 minutes with no incline and at a low speed.

Wait a second? Did I really do that?  Did I really come this far in a few months?  And I did this on my own. Yes, with support, but ultimately I was in control. It was when I realized how strong I could be physically that I realized how strong I am emotionally and mentally. I have been through so much shit in my life—I mean seriously. And here I am. Still. No matter what life has thrown at me, I’ve gotten through. And there it was, the truth I needed. Everything I needed was inside ME. I didn’t need to look to a job, to my love, to my nice car—-what I needed to thrive was me.

Now, I feel free. Is everything perfect and happy? No. Is my depression suddenly gone? No. But, now I know that the power lies inside me to overcome anything life throws at me. I am scared to death. I’m flying without a lifeline. I’m starting my own business to coach others to find themselves, to harness their power, and to do so with writing. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself.

I’m jumping in feet first! And I’ve never felt so fearless in my life.

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Lloyd Dobler

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“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”—Lloyd Dobler

 

I’ve been thinking back to that college freshman I was 26 years ago. That girl knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life…..well, she thought she did. I was determined to be Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs. I was going to be a pistol-packing, strong, daring FBI agent for the Behavioral Analysis Unit, or in today’s terms, the people from Criminal Minds. I had no doubt that one day I would be catching serial killers and interviewing them from Death Row. Even as a young child I had a macabre fascination with criminals and crime. I read true crime books in elementary school, did reports on serial killers, gave speeches against Capital Punishment, and did my Senior English Paper on Jack the Ripper. Yeah, I was that girl.

So, as I stepped into the halls of my college in New Jersey, I had no doubts or hesitations. I majored in Criminal Justice and Psychology and knew exactly what my career path was. I didn’t want a family, no husband or children, so no ties to hold me back as I worked my way up in the FBI. But, something happened that year. Fear took over. As I started delving deeper into the FBI requirements, I questioned my own physical and mental strength. Then, I went to visit a prison and spoke to the psychologist there, he laid it out on the line for me. “You’ll be one of the only women they will see during their sentences.” “There’s a high risk you will be assaulted.”  He went on and on and pulled no punches. Suddenly the life and career I wanted seemed so scary. (Yeah, I should have thought of that earlier, right?) I finished out that year. Then, I quit. I quit because of fear and self-doubt.

From there, I transferred to another school closer to home and declared Journalism as my major. English and writing was always my second choice, since I had been writing since I was a child and was always told I excelled at it. But, no…English was too safe. But when I decided against being the next FBI super agent, I fell back to what I knew. I fell back to the safe place of Journalism. I loved it. I had written for the paper freshman year and was on staff of the newspaper my sophomore year. Editing and writing were a safe place for me. And they were therapeutic. And I was good at it and no one was going to shoot me—well, some editors I wasn’t so sure of!

Every job I’ve had since graduating has involved some form of writing: Marketing, editing, managing a publishing company’s editorial division, being an executive assistant, advising two student newspapers, serving as Poet Laureate. Part of every job has been writing. But recently I’ve been doubting my career choices. Am I a writer? Am I a journalist? Am I crazy? Short answer: I’m having a mid-life crisis. Yes, instead of buying a fancy car of my dreams (which I did two years ago anyway), I’m doubting who I am and where I want to be.

Honestly, I have no idea what exactly I want to do. I had my dream job and I wasn’t happy. So, what exactly should I do with the rest of my life? What am I good at? What makes me happy? I hope you’ll stay tuned as I try to answer those questions. I’m not who I was at 18 or even who I was in my 20’s when I graduated college. I’ve grown. I’ve adapted. I’ve changed….a lot. So, I ask myself, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Contradiction

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I sit in isolation-

(surrounded by the masses)-

desperately looking for companionship-

(exhausted by  the interaction).

 

 

An imitation of a person.

Passionate, yet apathetic.

Loving, yet spiteful.

 

Tedious days melt into dark nights

and I’m a remnant of who I once was.

 

 

 

 

Times Long Past

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I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Eve. I hate resolutions. I feel they put too much pressure on me and then I’ll fail and hate myself even more. So, I make personal goals for the new year. I have a list of things I want to do in the next 12 months and then I cross them off, as I do them. Then, I see real progress. Crossing something off a list gives me a momentary bump in my self-confidence. Yay me! I did accomplish something.

I found myself in a strange place this New Year’s Eve. I looked at my parents, during our traditional dinner out and I had this dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I started thinking, “What if this is the last New Year’s Eve they are here to eat dinner with us?” Being in their 80’s and having some medical issues for the last 10 years or so, it really is a distinct possibility. Then, I looked at my 21-year-old son and thought, “Wait a minute….what if he isn’t here next year?”  Which, of course, led to me turning that question on my husband and then myself.

It’s true, isn’t it? We aren’t guaranteed anything in this life. Only that life happens. Shit happens. Bad things happen. Every. Single. Day. To every single one of us. In life, the bad comes with the good. The light always turns to dark. In order to live a happy and full life, we have to accept that. And then I realized, that my list needs to be more than a “2016 Goals” list. It has to be “Allison’s Life Goals” list. (Not a bucket list. I hate that term.) For some strange reason, sitting there in a nice restaurant on the last day of what was a very trying year, among the dinner rolls and salad, I had an epiphany of sorts… we are all running out of time. Every day. Every minute.

I mean this is common sense, right? At least it should be. But, with all my issues and my mental illness, it is a concept that is very difficult for my brain to process. I fret about every step I take. I get knots in my stomach at missing keys and dirty dishes. I live my life in a constant state of worry, guilt, regret, and sadness. What a waste of precious time. One of my personal development goals this year is to try to find the color in my days of black and white. Try to embrace the happy and push away the sad. This will be a big undertaking, but I feel up to the task.

I’m not saying that I’m going to overcome my diseases—quite the contrary. I know they will always be there, but maybe I can accept them a bit more. Maybe I can find a silver lining in the darkness. Maybe if I find it enough, it will start to penetrate and permeate into my being. I’m running out of time, and damn it, I have too much left to do. If I’m here next year, then I can celebrate what I did accomplish in 2016. If I’m not, I want people to look back and know I did my best every single day to live a good, full life. And that I refused to let the darkness win.

The Mask I Wear

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Depression sucks. Anxiety sucks. Borderline Personality Disorder sucks. And when you’re a woman dealing with all three, life can sometimes seem like torture.

It’s been so difficult lately to pick up the pieces of myself, when I feel like those pieces have been glued back together so many times that they are unfix-able. The pieces have become dust and that dust has flown away somewhere, leaving me with nothing but big holes in who I am. I’ve been struggling with mental illness since I was a teenager and I really thought it would get better. I thought that the dark parts of me would somehow get illuminated with time, and I would grow up to be a well-adjusted, happy adult. But, the illness never leaves, it just finds new ways of manifesting itself. In some ways, I feel like I dealt with it better when I was younger, because I was more resilient and I had this hope of one day getting “better.” But, I haven’t. I’ve actually gotten worse.

My anxiety is a recent thing. The last 10 years or so have brought this new dimension to my life. I never had anxiety before. I never cared what people thought of me. I never had fears of public speaking or of new situations. I never let fear stand in my way of anything. But, lately, it consumes me. This sense of dread, this sense of despair. It makes me lie awake at night and worry about things that will never happen. It’s worse when it comes to my children. Now that they are both in college, I think about what could happen to them away from home and I physically make myself sick with worry. And it doesn’t help when people get irritated with my irrationality. If it’s physically possible, I’ve thought of it. Even if you hit me with statistics, how unlikely something is, it makes no difference to me. I’ll still get ill over the scenarios that play out in my head like a bad movie.

Being mentally ill has always been something I’ve been afraid to talk about, afraid to let others know. So, I wear a mask of normalcy. But, in recent years, I’ve realized that there is no shame in saying, “I’m a mentally ill woman.” It’s who I am and it won’t ever change. It’s a lifetime label. My mission has become to help other women become empowered by their label, no longer fearful of what others will think. Would I choose to have this disease wrecking havoc on my life and the life of my loved ones? No–But, it was the hand I was dealt. They are the only cards I have to play–so play them I will–with dignity and pride.

My mental illnesses make me who I am–and most days, I’m okay with that.

Droplets of Life

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I had an experience yesterday which honestly rocked me to my core. I was eating a Labor Day picnic lunch with my parents and my husband, when a piece of chicken got stuck in my throat. I panicked, which of course made it worse, and it lodged deep in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. My military-trained husband remained calm and gave me the Heimlich Maneuver…..twice to no avail. I started to see stars, the light started to fade. Finally, as I lay over the sofa, another thrust and out came the blockage. I didn’t stop shaking for hours. I’m still feeling the pain in my throat and my ribs.

Talk about a wake-up call! I suffer from severe anxiety and worry over the slightest things. But, I can tell you, in that instant–I wasn’t worried about if my bills were paid or if my hair looked ok and my make-up just right….I was worried about my husband. I would be leaving him with the care of my elderly parents. I was worried about my boys–would I see Harrison’s National Geographic photo shoot? Would I see Holden’s world-changing invention? What would my parents do if they lost a child? I was thinking about how I would never again feel the sun on my face or the water in my eyes.

Today, as most days, I went for a swim. It is my calming place, my sanctuary. It is where I feel most at peace. With all the chaos that lives in my head on a daily basis, I need a place to quiet the noise and allow me to just be. I find that in the water. My favorite thing to do is to stand under our pool fountain and watch the streams of water hit the surface, as the hot sun beats its rays on my face. Today, I noticed something different. Today, I noticed that these individual drops of water make their way through the fountain and come together in a stream, which then hits the surface and creates a ripple effect throughout the pool.

But, when those streams of water hit the sun, just right, they create this beautiful kaleidoscopic prism effect that looks like a rainbow.  I had never really noticed this before. It was magnificent. Aren’t our lives like those droplets of water? We come into this world as a single entity, but we come together with our parents, our friends, our spouses, our children to form a stream that flows through everything we do. And every once in a while, we get our chance to shine in the sun and spread our kaleidoscope to the world. Our light shines. Then we create a ripple that touches others and impacts them and carries them further on their journey, till we come to the end. Our ripple is gone. But, the effects can still be felt by those left behind.

I keep thinking today, what is my ripple to the world? How many prismatic moments do I have left to share? If I learned one thing yesterday, it’s that our lives truly hang by a thread. We have no control…..we think we do. But, truly, we don’t. I want to leave a mark somehow, some way. I have to find a way to worry less and love more. To be happy more and to give of myself more. To be more forgiving and less judgmental.

And the best day to start is now….the first day of the rest of my life.