Lent 2017: Heart with a Gaping Hole

I’m just at the halfway mark and I would love to say that things have changed so very much. I want to say that I’m upbeat and positive, that the mood swings have gone, and that I am floating on a natural high of my own ability. I want to tell everyone that I feel better, healthier and ready to get active again.

But I can’t say any of that. The ancestors promised me despair; Lent has more than delivered.

Depression

Dark twisted fantasy turned to reality; kissing death and losing my breath. – Bones – MS MR

I don’t necessarily feel like a monster anymore, which could be a good thing. Maybe monster is too strong of a word.

Every day tends to have at least one single moment where I am ready to break down and say fuck it, fuck this, I just can’t do it. There is just that given moment in a given day – sometimes more than one and sometimes just the one – that leaves me questioning why I chose this course of action in the first place.

People always remind me then to look to my reasons. They tell me to remind myself with the reasons behind this choice to keep myself on track. To be honest, I can’t actually remember what those reasons were anymore. I stop and ask myself why the hell I’m doing this and I honestly can’t remember.

I always come back with an ambivalent response. There is always a “but…” in there somewhere. I didn’t really want to quit. The ancestors didn’t give a shit what I fore-went during this season. And I could have found something else if I tried hard enough.

But here I am, ambivalence and all, on day 20.

The least expected thing to start cropping up was the depression. I knew that I used this addiction to aid me through my anxiety and that it helped me to cope with all of that. I had figured that part out pretty quickly. It just honestly never occurred to me that I had been using it for my depression as well. I don’t know why I never thought of it.

My depression is usually small, pretty manageable. It’s the anxiety that causes the most trouble.

I’m high functioning so most people don’t realize that I do have mental health issues. The first time I mentioned my anxiety to a coworker at work, they stared at me in shock. I haven’t ever mentioned the depression; I can imagine that I don’t fit into my coworkers’ ideas about what a depressed individual looks or acts like.

My depression is something that sits there on my back like a gray monster. Sometimes it is big enough to smother me, much like it is now; other times it is just a small annoying weight back there. It started to grow around day 13 or so, maybe day 12. It seems to have grown as much as it was going to. I don’t think it’ll get any worse at any rate.

To be honest, I was kind of hoping it would stop of its own accord and start to shrink back down again.

It hasn’t.

It most likely won’t.

health

Lost in the pages of self made cages; life slips away and the ghosts come to play; these are hard times – Bones by MS MR

I’ve noticed that I don’t have a lot of patience anymore. I scream a lot more in the car and while everyone always said that I drove like an asshole before, I definitely do now. I yell a lot at people who can’ t hear me yelling: neighbors, my son, the dog, something that happened last year. I’m angrier than I was before.

Sometimes I can trace out what makes me so angry, what specifically about the quitting that has made me angry enough to overreact to what is happening. Invariably, I am always overreacting. I shouldn’t be so upset that the neighbor put the broken plastic chair on the side of the road; it doesn’t affect me. I shouldn’t be so upset at the car that’s inching forward to merge into the next lane; they’re over there and it doesn’t impact me.

I haven’t noticed any difference in my breathing or the aches in my chest. Everyone always says, with almost a badge of honor, it’s the coughing that let’s you know when you’re over a hump. I haven’t tried to clear out my lungs since I quit. I think I’ve had two coughing fits and nothing that came up with any substance. My chest hurts every day; sometimes it’s a panic attack and sometimes it’s this.

It actually annoys me sometimes because I can’t always tell the difference between the panic attack and my chest just hurting. Sometimes, it’s a muscle ache; sometimes it’s more than that. The ghost pains move around my chest, up near my arm pits one moment and then down near my diaphragm the next. It annoys me every time I stop, every time I am mindful of my body. Somewhere in my chest, it always hurts.

I can’t breathe through my nose still. I suppose I could just assume that I have allergies and that’s why I’m living with a perpetually clogged nose. I think that’s a lot of bullshit. I think my nostrils are probably just fine; they just haven’t caught the memo yet.

At the end of the day, I don’t feel healthier or better.

I kind of assumed I would. I mean, when you give up something that you have been doing for 15 years multiple times a day, aren’t you supposed to just suddenly feel better about, I don’t know, yourself, life? Something? I don’t feel better. I still feel as gross as before, but of course that could just be the depression talking.

I speak every day to the ancestors about all of this. Without fail, I jot a few words down to form a small string of sentences in the morning. I tell them how bleak I feel; what my dreams are filled with and how it relates to how fucking irritating this shit is; how annoyed I am with myself and my surroundings; and what the fuck was I fucking thinking.

Sometimes they respond in whatever way they feel is necessary. Sometimes, they don’t at all but I kind of feel them a little bit. Personally, I think they’re still cheering me on even if I don’t hear it. I guess I’m okay with that.

I just wish the depression would quit already.

laughter

Dig up her bones but leave the soul alone; let her find a way to a better place. – Bones by MS MR

I did notice that while I’m more aggressive and bitchy still, I’m able to laugh more. I don’t know if that makes any sense? It’s like everything is funnier or brighter sometimes and it just makes me laugh for no apparent reason.

I spent hours on the couch with the significant other last week just laughing at stupid shit. None of it was particularly funny, but it all kind of streamed together into a long drawn out laugh. I had a similar experience with my son; it was definitely funny. He made that face he makes that gives me a case of the giggles, only this time it was a paroxysm of barking laughter.

I was thinking just the other day that, honestly, as horrible and annoying and as bitchy as I am about all of this, I haven’t really had to exert willpower during those times when I want to break down. I don’t even really distract myself during those moments. I just ride it through. Sometimes I’ll breathe through it, but mostly I just let it ride.

It hits, it overwhelms, it’s gone.

I guess I’m doing okay. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t gotten into a car crash when I was driving like an asshole. I’ve caused a lot of mayhem in other ways. I don’t know if I’m working through those parts or if I’m just going to let it ride, just like the cravings.

I figure one day I will be safe to be around again.

Lent 2017: Things That Will Bite.

On the final day of February, a mere few hours before Lent was set to start, I went off by myself for a few minutes while I considered what I was getting ready to do. I needed to think about what I was giving up, what I could expect. That card reading I had done for myself kept showing up in my mind’s eye, reminding me that what I was looking forward to was despair.

It honestly seemed like no matter how much I tried to spin how positive this experience was bound to be or was supposed to be at any rate, I kept coming back to the bleakness of despair.

Since the start of Lent, I’ve woken up twice in mimicry of the 9 of Swords. I’ve managed to put down the feeling of anxiety and depression those moments brought with them. Before falling back to sleep in those moments, I turn over the image of the 9 of Swords in my mind and kind of sigh. I mean, what other type of reaction can I really have?

I knew what I was getting into and I honestly thought that I could get through this.

Reclusion

Say your prayers, little one. Don’t forget, my son, to include everyone – Enter Sandman by Metallica

I’ve felt a little bit like a monster since the 1st of March. I’ve also felt a little like a doll made of porcelain, minutes or hours or years away from a cracked face, knowing that the cracked face will occur one day. I have also felt more than a tad like a broken piece of pottery, something perhaps once used in someone’s heka, that has been used up and destroyed.

It’s been 10 days since then and my emotions are all over the place. Everyone tells me that this is normal. I’m kicking an addiction – something that I have been absolutely assured is not done every day or even in a day – so emotional upheaval is part of it, I guess.

I don’t know if I really want to hear it though. All I keep thinking about is why in the fuck I’m doing this and what this is supposed to achieve. Everyone says something different from each other about it and in the end, I’m left more confused and annoyed than I was when the advice first popped up.

Quite obviously evidenced from the above paragraph, I spend a lot of my time complaining, though mostly in my head.

I never realized how much having an addiction could, like, lessen your ability to give a tin shit about outside things. I also never realized that this was the one thing I did regularly to keep my mental health in check – I honestly didn’t understand what a coping mechanism this is or how completely unprepared I was for that fucking despair thing the 9 of Swords talked about.

I am far less entertaining with my ongoing monologue while driving and use a lot more curse words (and I’ve always used a lot of them). I am far more willing to get off the phone with someone who is angry not-with-me or maybe-a-little-with-me over work stuff that isn’t my fault and cry. I don’t typically cry at work so that’s been interesting. I’ve done a lot of yelling in the last ten days and I’m not a quiet person once you get to know me.

It’s been… it’s been a lot for all of us.

The significant other keeps reminding me that this is absolutely a good idea. Sometimes I tell him to fuck off. He smiles and laughs since he’s been in my shoes. Other times I tell him that I want to stab him in the eye and he gives me his telltale smirk and continues on with his day. I feel bad for all the times I thought very uncharitably about him when he was going through this.

But mostly, I feel like a monster. I feel like something dark and rabid, living in the swamp with all the dead things.

Monster

Dreams of war, dreams of liars, dreams of dragon’s fire, and of things that will bite. – Enter Sandman by Metallica

Every single morning, I wake up and think about how much I can’t do this. The push to just give up is overwhelming. I always knew my mind was an enemy of sorts. I am very used to listening to my brain tell me what a complete failure and loser I am about so many things. It’s a daily occurrence, so it’s not like I haven’t gone through this particular song and dance before.

The idea of giving up just pushes at me like a weight on my chest though and it is so strong. Frankly, giving up is louder and more insistent than the voice that has always told me what a horrible human being I actually am. I never really considered the fact that there would come a day where I could honestly say that the voice in my head that is named Anxiety is drowned out by something louder.

And truly, it does get drowned out when the voice of Surrender whispers insidiously and seductively in my ear.

When I open my eyes and I am finally aware of my surroundings, I think about how stupid this is. When I have my second cup of coffee before I wake up my son during the week, I think about how it would be easier to stop this ridiculous exercise. When I drive to work, when I get angry, when I want to cry, when I am reading a book, when I am scrolling through Facebook, when I am going through Duolingo for my French lessons, when I have forgotten to take a lunch break at work again, when I have gotten out of the shower: all the fucking time, I keep thinking about what a farce this is.

The key, or so I have been told, is to distract myself. The funny thing is that I would use my addiction to distract myself from the voice in my head that tells me how much I suck at everything. Everything else I try now seems to pale in comparison or fail miserably. Chores, books, conversations, etc. They all fail to offer the distraction that I have been assured is the key to this.

I write about all of this, thinking about what Alex said in a comment on my last entry about this. He told me that sometimes willpower isn’t the way to go, sometimes asking for help is the way to go. I’m not very good at asking for help, so I write a small paragraph each morning to the ancestors. I think they’re listening.

Last night, a very nice and happy cheerleader appeared in my dreams. She wore an A on her uniform and her skirt went to her knees. She had white sneakers and a peppy little grin. Her eyes were made of the universe; she was my ancestors in a single body. They did a cheer about how I could do this and how I shouldn’t give up because, of course, yesterday’s daily entry was about giving up.

I haven’t given up yet, but I want to.

Day 3 (Barbed Wire)

And never mind that noise you heard. It’s just the beasts under your bed, in your closet, in your head – Enter Sandman by Metallica

It’s not all horrible, I suppose. Part of Lent includes donating more regularly than I already do. If I hadn’t gotten a body modification within the last year, I would have most likely donated blood which is a favored go-to of mine for a myriad of reasons. Instead, I have been having a lot of fun researching various organizations to give to in order to ensure that almsgiving, as requested, is a part of my Lent experience.

I get to donate every 10 days and I get to choose the organization so long as it is not the ACLU. I have a recurring donation set up there and the ancestors requested that the places I donate to be new places. I have determined which two organizations get the first two donations – Planned Parenthood and Hope for Paws – and I have a pretty good idea of what the third will be. I guess I’ll have to look around for the fourth.

When I’m not complaining or hurting or annoyed, I think things are going remarkably well. I’ve managed to ignore my desire to give up on all of this and I’ve managed to keep to the goals I had set for myself. I don’t think I’m doing too badly all things considered.

It could be worse, I keep reminding myself in as cheerful a way as I possibly can. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. It just really depends on the day.

Lent 2017.

Recently, I started thinking about that story in Genesis where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son to God. It’s kind of a weird thing to be focused on, but I woke up one day thinking about how Abraham just got this message one day and instead of fighting back against his deity, he went ahead with a plan to sacrifice his kid.

It’s been a few years since last I heard it spoken of in relation to the Bible, but I can remember wondering why in the world anyone would do that. It just never made a lick of sense why the hell someone would be willing to do that.

I mean, did he cry at the thought? Or did he just go “yeah okay” and get on with the program? I always had to ask myself whether or not the whole story was “yes, I will do this thing” from Abraham or if there was a lot more fear, anxiety, and ranting against what appeared to be a completely unfair request.

I kind of thought, as a kid, that he probably was pretty upset by the whole thing. I mean, can you really just go ahead and willingly sacrifice your child out of blind faith? I personally don’t know the answer to that question, but I have a better understanding about sacrifice and faith as an adult than I ever did as a kid.

As a kid, the sum total of things that I would sacrifice was, well, bullshit. It was stupid things. “Give that to your brother” or “stop doing that because I said so.” I mean that’s what I thought sacrifice was. I just assumed it was being told by someone more powerful than you to stop doing the thing for their own reasons.

It’s not really like that, but it also is. I’ve been told any number of times by my gods that X had to happen in order for Y to occur. And X usually entailed having to surrender and give in to blind faith that they would ensure that Y really did occur.

This is an actually an overarching theme in my religious relationships and it comes around quite often. I don’t trust, therefore I have a hard time foregoing whatever it is they think I need to let go of in order for Y to occur. It’s a cycle or something.

To me, it has always been scary and frightening whenever I’ve had to do that. There’s no stoicism here as shocking as that may be to some people. I have ranted and raved quite a few times because what they wanted just seemed so damn unfair. But even with all of my bitching and moaning, I did the thing and gave into faith…

Eventually.

My gods have never come and told me – either through themselves or through alternative means – that I could stop sacrificing whatever it was because I had proved my faith, proved my fear of them. Maybe Abraham got the better end of the deal because he didn’t have to give up something he loved.

lent 05

I’m a sinner; I’m a liar; Want forgiveness; But I’m tired – Curbstomp by Meg Meyers

The theme of sacrifice has been popping up a lot lately. I kind of expected it. I usually hit this theme around now when Lent is around the corner. Last year, I studiously ignored all of the little neon lights pointing at Lent and kept tooting on my merry little way.

I’m not so lucky this year.

Some weeks back, my ancestors began hemming and hawing about Lent. I kind of assumed they’d be a little outspoken about it since they had asked me, very politely of course, to observe Advent and I had declined for perfectly valid reasons [at the time]. I guess they figured since I wasn’t able to partake of Advent, then it would be perfectly okay to push for Lent.

I kind of went round and round the idea for a bit with them. They were very sure that they wanted me to observe Lent, but had little other advice to offer. It was only after a particularly grueling session with them that I came to the conclusion that this was A Thing and that I should do The Thing.

I figured I know how to go about this and I have a sort of blueprint to follow, it couldn’t be so bad as all that.

Though they were particularly mum when I pushed the point in that grueling session, I have since learned from my ancestors that the original blueprint is a little faded and aged (maybe they had to think about it before getting back to me). I need to revamp the process and start over.

That’s around the time that I started thinking about Abraham and his requirement of sacrifice.

The ancestors made it clear that the sacrifice this year had to be bigger than diet Coke, had to be bigger than chocolate. It had to mean something to me personally. I wasn’t really sure what they were looking for, so I of course asked my son for a few suggestions. He only had one even after my pressing and pushing for more.

When asked, the ancestors agreed that would do.

The funny thing is that I’ve been thinking about giving it up for a while so it’s not really anything that’s come up out of the blue. It’s just unexpected and a little rushed. If I had more time, I’d plan it out. But my ancestors know me of course. They know that’s an excuse; if I don’t go for broke, I’m never going to fucking go.

sacrifice

I’m a shadow; I’m a creeper; Want forgiveness; Getting weaker – Curbstomp by Meg Meyers

The other day, I sat down with them and went through a long list of questions and answers. I asked them what I could expect all of this to look like and wouldn’t you know it? Despair. I got a lot of despair. I kind of had to laugh; you’d expect someone who is sacrificing something pretty big to be going through despair.

In one of those flip moments, they also told me that if I didn’t bother, then I would be much happier. It’s like they just needed to let me know that this isn’t supposed to be a pleasant process. They even came back three separate times and reminded me that sacrifice isn’t supposed to be easy or simple; it’s supposed to hurt.

When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who has a longer Catholic association than my tangential one, she reminded me that the 40 Days of Lent were related to Jesus’s time in the desert where he’s being constantly harassed by the Devil. If that doesn’t resemble despair, I don’t know what does.

But as with Jesus in the desert, the refusal to give in to temptation is what I’m after here. I can only hope that my will power is enough to see me through.

That, and hopefully my friends and family understand just how completely awful I am going to be while I sort this addiction bullshit out of my system. But at least I can always remind myself (and them) that I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.