Pages

Dec 5, 2012

On being me

Hello, my name is Heidi and I regularly pay someone to color my hair.  This is what that looks like.



So this morning I was telling my therapist (yeah, you heard me, now let's just move on) that I feel like I'm meeting myself for the first time.  As she helps me work through the mostly-self-imposed drama in my life, I'm slowly uncovering the real me...the girl who hasn't seen the light of day in a long time.  In the process I'm learning a few things.

Numero Uno: It's OK to just be me.  I love that in Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, her first strategy for having a happy life is to accept herself for who she is.  I feel more comfortable being myself on this blog than I do anywhere else.  I am not really sure why.  Is it the online medium?  The act of writing out my thoughts?  The feedback from all of you?  

You all definitely get my real life right here.  I don't share everything (like I've been seeing a mental health professional for seven months and precious few of you had any idea, right?), but I try to share the universal ups and downs of my life.  I'm not perfect, and I never will be, and my kids never will be, and my life never will be (and this sentence never will be, because I'm pretty sure it shouldn't end with "be").  My house and van and purse and fridge will probably always be messy.  And it's all OK.

Secondly, I'm not totally sure who "me" is.  My mom bought me some clothes when she visited recently.  I was completely astonished at the girl in the mirror wearing cute, trendy clothes that actually fit her figure.  I felt like sticking my arm through the mirror and shaking that girl's hand.  "Nice to meet you.  Come sit a while and tell me about yourself. What are your hopes and dreams?  Not for your kids or your husband...but for YOU? Aside from where you got those fabulous boots, that's what I really want to know." Because I don't know that about myself.  And I didn't know it until recently.  What do I want for MY life?  I'm not sure.

The third thing is that it's OK to have opinions and ideas and feelings and desires that aren't 100% selfless.  My little soul is like a cup, and things like good health and lots of rest and exercise and meaningful relationships and spiritual things are all drops that fill the cup.  When my cup is full, it is easier for me to share myself and do for others.  But when my cup is so bone dry that the ceramic itself is cracking, then I just don't have anything to give.  So doing things that fill my cup--and no one else's--is not selfish.  It's necessary.  This is kind of like the night I drove my van with the "empty" light on until the vehicle started to shudder and sputter.  I was too busy to stop at the gas station until I was nearly stranded on the side of the road.  The parallel to my life was painfully clear.

Number four: I love to GIVE a surprise gift, but I don't love receiving surprises.  I like the predictable, the linear, the safe, the comfortable.  Maybe that means I'm not spontaneous and carefree, but I am super reliable.  We all have different talents.

The sixth thing I have learned is that the standards I set for myself are generally much higher and certainly less realistic than standards anyone else might set for me.  (I know I skipped Thing Five; let's just embrace imperfection here.)  This goes back to Brene' Brown's thoughts on shame and perceptions.  I want my family to perceive the Christmas season, for example, as magical and fun, service-oriented, and rich with tradition.  And in my mind, to achieve those standards, my family must engage in several specific annual rituals, buy/give/receive certain kinds of gifts, eat like kings, participate in meaningful acts of service, focus on Christ instead of Santa Claus, wear matching church clothes, give the kids beautiful ornaments and pajamas on Christmas Eve, mail clever and witty and honest and positive-but-not-boastful [read: impossible to write] family update letters to our 100 closest friends, and, of course, take gobs of gorgeous pictures to document the entire season. None of these things are bad; in fact, many are wonderful and truly fun. That doesn't mean I need to feel pressure from all of them. In reality, my kids want lots of presents, and maybe to frost cookies and play in the snow. Everything else is a) invented by me; b) expected by me and me only; and c) carried out almost entirely by--you guessed it--me.  It doesn't have to be this way.

Lesson Seven: People can't read my mind.  If I want them to know how I feel, I have to open my mouth.  This has been an unbelievably difficult step for me.

The eighth and probably most important thing I have learned is that depression is not a character flaw.  I do not feel like this because I'm not trying hard enough.  I am not less of a person because I don't see sunshine and roses everywhere I look.  I don't really like (OK...I really don't like) that I need medication (yep) and therapy.  But I do.  There's no shame in getting physical therapy for an injured leg, and there's no shame in getting psychotherapy for the treatment-resistant depression that colors my life.  I'm tired of this part of my life being an ugly, shameful secret.  I have totally come to terms with it.  Well, that's not completely true. I really have accepted that this is part of my life, but that doesn't mean I have embraced it as a wonderful addition.

Now.  I imagine that many of you are shocked by my frankness and will feel awkward the next time we encounter each other.  But I also think that a lot of you are walking along the very same road and feel like you're the only traveler in that dark and abysmal place.  To all of you I say this: You're not alone, and if you want to talk about it, I'm here for you.

Editor's note: Two weeks after writing this post, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder.  It's a whole different animal than depression.  It has a totally different treatment plan, has a different prognosis, and definitely a different stigma attached.  Ten months later, I have not fully come to terms with this part of my life, even though it has been part of my life for all of my life, even though I didn't know it.  It's been a rocky year, with many medication experiments failures.  Fortunately the roller coaster does find a level stretch now and then.  I guess the goal is for the hills and valleys to be less extreme and farther apart.  Until then, I'm holding on tight and grateful for those willing to ride along with me.  <October 6, 2013>

22 comments:

Mom not Mum (Sandy) said...

I pick up multiple prescriptions each month for various members of my family. Each and every one of them helps that person to live their life daily as "normal" as possible. There is nothing wrong with any of that. Of course this is all being said by the person who admitted to sleeping all day long when she first moved here and only got showered and dressed because the kids were almost out of school. I am all about whatever makes you feel happy/normal/healthy! I am also a firm believer that mint chocolate brownies are a huge part of that.

Katie Fuller said...

I love your honesty. I don't feel like depression is a struggle for me, but there are certainly things in this post that ring true anyway. I think that depression is one of those things that SO MANY people deal with that goes mostly un-discussed... I know that many of my friends deal with it and are embarrassed or ashamed, but I view it kind of like my sinus problems. Untreated, they make me miserable, and pretty much useless. Sometimes I am sure people wonder why I look like I haven't slept in a year, and then I get all self conscious and feel like an idiot... and explaining that I'm just full of snot is awkward and sounds fake. It is very very real, and it is a part of who I am and why I am... Just like the depression thing. Sometimes people just need a dose of understanding.

The Wizzle said...

I <3 my mental health professional.

And I <3 yours, and I <3 you for taking care of yourself!

I couldn't agree more with what you said about everyone having different talents. It's true, and beautiful, and the only way the world can go round! I know I have learned a lot of things that I think have made me a better, more rounded person by observing you.

As my friend Oscar Wilde said, "be yourself - everyone else is already taken".

Amanda said...

I so needed, (actually typed "nerfed" there and thought it was funny...), this today. I am one who is struggling. I don't think it's depression, but maybe anxiety or just trying to see the positive in or accept my imperfections. I started seeing a mental health professional a couple of weeks ago. (Didn't like her and am trying a new one tomorrow.) I have a hard time telling this to anyone because I can't even put my finger on my issues--so I'm keeping very quiet about it around here. I know what you mean about the goals for your life and figuring out who you are. I feel like I used to know--and I used to be so confident as that girl. And most of the time I'm left wondering where she went. One of my friends turned 30 a couple weeks ago and she commented that she could see why the 30's were the best years--because you're comfortable in your own skin and have settled in to life. And I thought that I must really be missing out on something because that hasn't been my experience with my 30's yet!

Jenny said...

Good for you for taking care of yourself! I think that lots of people make the mistake of thinking that they have to fix thing themselves when what they really need is some outside help. I wish my mom had been brave enough to get help when she most needed it when my siblings and I were small. She would have been happier. Speaking from an adult looking back at her depressed, unhealthy mom in her childhood, you're doing your family a huge service.

shaina said...

There will be no awkwardness when we see eachother again. I agree with everything you said and feel very similiar, especially with number 6, taken beyond Christmastime and into everyday life.
After a mini makeover and some new clothes, I feel like I might be coming into myself too.
Oh, and I also color my hair, as my natural hair is very much 60/40 in favor of grey!

Barrettes and Bows said...

That a girl! :) I love this post. Thanks for being real...we all love you.

Barrettes and Bows said...

barrettes and bows = Audra

Karie said...

First of all, I LOVE that picture! And way to be open, Heidi. That took guts.

Second, I love mental health professionals too, as I am married to one. :)

Third, if there's any embarrassment or awkwardness the next time we meet, I'll buy you lunch because it will probably have been a result of me sticking my foot in my mouth. Again. Unfortunately, there's no medication for that.

Karie said...

First of all, I LOVE that picture! And way to be open, Heidi. That took guts.

Second, I love mental health professionals too, as I am married to one. :)

Third, if there's any embarrassment or awkwardness the next time we meet, I'll buy you lunch because it will probably have been a result of me sticking my foot in my mouth. Again. Unfortunately, there's no medication for that.

Lars said...

Yea for Heidi! I love you! You know I know this road. Way to share. I know it's hard at first with all the wondering of others' perceptions...but the more I'm authentic me and cheer my own self instead of seeking affirmation of others...the happier, peaceful, and calm I am. Hugs!

Emma said...

Good for you Heidi! I'm glad you are taking care of yourself. So many people don't want to ask for help.

Shannon said...

You sharing your journey will help others for certain, so I thank you for that! I go thru seasonal ups and downs and I think we all experience some of what you're experiencing. So, do share and tell us what works and what doesn't. You know, it probably won't be like this forever--especially if you can really internalize what you're learning and recognize the signs and things that bring you down so you can fix them before they get out of hand. Love you, Heidi!

Colleen said...

I think the stigma of needing a therapist or medication during certain periods of your life is never something that anyone should be ashamed of, and just because you need it right now does not mean it's something you will need forever as you work your way through the challenges you face. Of course, both my mom and my sister are therapists, so therapy is a part of my everyday life! :) I think it is wonderful for you to be taking steps for your physical and emotional/mental health. It is good for you AND for your family! Life is messy, and that is the good as well as the bad of it! Love to you, Heidi!

Reynolds Family said...

I love this for so many reasons...you are not alone in your struggles! I think so many of these things ring true for so many 30-ish mothers, whether you know about it or not. Thank you for being so honest...it's nice to know I'm not the only one who is tormented with many of these same things! Much love to you :)

Reynolds Family said...

I love this for so many reasons...you are not alone in your struggles! I think so many of these things ring true for so many 30-ish mothers, whether you know about it or not. Thank you for being so honest...it's nice to know I'm not the only one who is tormented with many of these same things! Much love to you :)

Reynolds Family said...

I love this for so many reasons...you are not alone in your struggles! I think so many of these things ring true for so many 30-ish mothers, whether you know about it or not. Thank you for being so honest...it's nice to know I'm not the only one who is tormented with many of these same things! Much love to you :)

Heidi said...

You are a brave, strong woman. I totally look up to that. And I relate so, so very much to this post. You are amazing Heidi, thanks for this post, it helped me as a person more than you know.

that's what she said...

You have the realest blog of anyone I know. and I love that. Thanks for sharing. I can't imagine having to deal with this on top of everything else but remember that you've got a whole stadium of people cheering you on from afar. Hang in there! :)

Jeff and Lori said...

I remember a post or yours from way back when when I first started blogging where you posted a picture of your floor at it's most kid-caused messiest. It was one of my first realizations of why reading others blogs and blogging could be so therapeutic. It's really comforting to know that you are not the only one with a messy floor, or crazy kids, or times when you struggle to find YOURSELF when you thought you'd figured that out years ago. I enjoy checking in on your blog and getting a healthy dose of a reality that I can fully identify with, sometimes laugh over (which helps me laugh at my own frustrations), and sometimes even choke up a bit over. Your honesty isn't awkward, quite the opposite! It makes me feel a little more comfortable in my own, imperfect skin. Keep it up!

D said...

Thanks for this post. I feel like confessing all the horrible thoughts that seem to be running through my mind lately, but I will content myself with knowing that everyone else goes through the same things. You are awesome!!

Debbie

GinaJ said...

If I was fortunate enough to meet you in person, there would be no awkwardness. If you had everything "together," then I would feel awkward. Because I definitely don't have everything all together, which sometimes is overwhelming. {deep breath..it's okay that I don't have everything all together..and out again}

pass it on!

Bookmark and Share