kept the flowers

So, my husband has cancer…again

Because life is a total asshat, my husband’s testicular cancer has recurred. He’s been cancer free since 2012, but it was discovered in his abdomen last month.

f*ck cancerSo now he has to go through chemo, which I had heard is a bitch…and yeah it is. He went for 5 days in a row and felt progressively crappier as the week went on. Extreme nausea, fatigue, and, oh, pain in his neck, shoulders, and arm on the side of his mediport. Apparently it’s messing up his blood flow because it shifted…so they will need to go up through his hip to adjust it. Baller.

Now I have to figure out how I can he helpful to him. We have an eight-month-old girl to keep alive, so I can certainly take on more of that responsibility. I can make sure he takes his meds, drinks water, and gets some nutrition. I can provide emotional support.

I guess that’s all a spouse can do, but it never seems like enough—since what we really want to do is make the suffering (and the freaking cancer) go away.

I welcome any advice in the comments about getting through this and helping your spouse beat this unimaginably terrible disease.

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Getting off my meds for pregnancy: Mission accomplished

As I previously shared, I was petrified of getting off my meds (lamictal, abilify, trazodone) to try and create a human. I feel incredibly lucky to report that I DID IT and didn’t suffer too many repercussions.

my daughterI almost feel guilty writing this, because I’m sure so many women out there have given up their meds for pregnancy and had extreme difficulty—and maybe even had to get back on some of them to stay stable for everyone’s sake. To these women, I say: Bravo. You are incredibly brave and truly a hero.

The hardest thing I faced was sleep…or really, the lack thereof. Not having trazodone means my fibro insomnia rears its ugly head. And of course, the bigger you get, the more uncomfortable sleep is as you can only be on your side with a billion pillows trying to make your puffy self semi-comfortable.

But I didn’t get depressed, which was my biggest fear. I don’t think I could have made it through without getting back on something if I plunged into a deep depression. I’m incredibly grateful that I avoided that situation.

So, the day after Christmas last December, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She’s really cool.

After 12 weeks of glorious, unpaid leave (thanks, America), I had to return to work. In anticipation of that, I knew I needed to be stable and on my game. So I opted to stop breastfeeding and turn to formula so I had the freedom to take what I needed. Let me say this: it is never OK to judge a woman for her decisions on how to feed her baby. I absolutely felt the bullshit mommy guilt that comes with the dreaded formula, but I learned to ignore it and do what was right for me and my family. Also, having my body back after fighting a breast milk oversupply was the most wonderful thing ever.

I hope my story can give some shred of hope to any mommys-to-be out there. Know that it’s your decision how to handle your meds and that your mental health is extremely important for you, your family, and your developing fetus.

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Forgiving

Forgiving someone is so hard. It can seem almost impossible—like there’s no way in hell you could ever possibly forgive someone for what they’ve done to you.

forgivenessI’ve been there. I dated my ex for 7 years—5 of those being long distance. We dated throughout college while being 5 hours away from each other. Dumb, right? Looking back it’s hard not to think about how different—and probably how much better—things would have been if we had just broken up after high school. But we were madly in love. Knew we were soulmates that would be together forever. All we had to do was endure our time apart before we could finally start our lives together.

He was sweet, caring, sensitive…everything you’d expect someone who’s head over heels for you to be. I had no reason to doubt his devotion to me. Oh, how naive I was. It turns out that he cheated on me pretty much our entire relationship. Cheated. With many women. He lied to me more times than I can even start to guess. The whole thing was a lie. A sham. He had me completely fooled. How could I have been so stupid?

There was one time when I suspected he was cheating with another girl, and I even called him out on it. He of course denied it vehemently. But it was right in front of me. Idiot. He even tried to break up with me (of course for her!) but changed his mind when I freaked out. He didn’t have the balls to go through with it. Oh, how I wish I would have woken up and realized I should have let him go.

But I didn’t. I stuck by him faithfully the whole time. I stood by his hospital bed after he was in two near-fatal car accidents. And he repaid me by cheating. The first accident gave him a traumatic brain injury. From that time on, he was definitely different. He wouldn’t call when he said he would. He chose drinking and smoking over talking to me. He constantly let me down and broke my heart. But I stuck with him, because it was clearly just a phase and he would grow up after college. Idiot!

But, of course, he didn’t change when we finally lived together. He then chose drinking, smoking (which he lied about), and playing texas hold ’em at a bar almost every night over me. I’m sure he was sleeping with some tramp he met there. And I had no clue.

I broke up with him because I was terribly unhappy. I didn’t even find out about the cheating until after I left him. My wounds were deep. I was angry and hurt and livid. How, I asked myself, would I ever get over this? Therapy was step one.

So here I am, 6 years after we broke up. Happily married with a house and two giant kitties. And it was just recently that I realized I’m finally able to forgive him. It’s true that time heals. (That and a good therapist).

But I forgive him not just because so much time has passed. It turns out that he has every single cluster B personality disorder. Yep. All of them. That means he lies without feeling any remorse. He’s promiscuous. And he does whatever it takes to douse the pain he feels inside.

I’ve finally realized that while he broke my heart more times than I can count, he is truly his own victim. I can only imagine the turmoil he experiences inside, but I believe it would lead someone to do whatever they could to try and push the pain away. For him, that meant sex, drugs, and alcohol.

So at the end of the day, I feel sorry for him. He’s at the will of his inner demons and he will never escape them. But I could escape, and I did. He is the one who will suffer his entire life.

I’m not saying that his actions weren’t his fault and that he had no willpower to control them. As someone once said to me, “it explains but it does not excuse.” But knowing the shit that my own mental health issues cause me, I can understand how he wasn’t always in the drivers seat.

So now, I forgive him. And that’s something I didn’t think I would ever say.

“Forgiveness is not something we do for other people. We do it for ourselves to get well and move on.”

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Depression pick me up: things I’m grateful for

Just like my idea of listing the things I’m proud of myself for each day, I thought it might also be good to remind myself what I’m grateful for. It can be so easy, especially with depression, to get mired down in everything that’s going wrong and all the things you want but don’t have. Negative thought patterns suck.

So, I am grateful for:

  • My wonderful husband
  • My awesome and supportive parents
  • My fantastic friends
  • My two kitties
  • Having a job – no matter how much I may despise it
  • Owning a house
  • Having—in the broad scheme of things—my health. I’m not in a wheelchair, I don’t have cancer. Things can always be so much worse.
  • Hockey
  • Zumba

Just like being proud of myself each day, I think I’ll try to remind myself of these things—even when I’m not depressed.

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Personality disorders

It seems, at least to me, that personality disorders are less talked about than other mental health issues. I certainly didn’t know much about them until a very earth shattering moment when I found out my ex has all 4 cluster B personality disorders.

As soon as he told me I went online and did research faster than I ever have. Just reading the descriptions put tears in my eyes. Holy shit. This explains so much.

All at once things came into focus and I started crying at my desk. I realized quickly that this wouldn’t stop and left work as quickly as I could. Why the visceral reaction? In short, this explained so much. He had shattered my heart into pieces more times than I can count throughout our 7 year relationship. He lied. He cheated. He wasn’t at all who I (and I think he) thought he was. At the end of the day, it feels like the whole thing was one big lie.quote

And now knowing what the cluster B personality disorders are, it makes more sense than it ever has. On the surface, he was the golden boy. Charismatic, funny, sensitive, confident, and loving, he appeared to be happy most of the time. He seemed secure with who he was and was confident in every facet of himself.

But underneath that façade lies a dangerously insecure and self-loathing person. He constantly over exaggerated how awesome he was to counteract how he really felt about himself. It was like he was constantly trying to convince himself that he was talented, had worth, and was happy. The Narcissism is to blame for this.

This also bleeds a little bit into the Histrionic part of him. Histrionic folks are described as lively, dramatic, and always needing to be the center of attention. That’s him to a tee. He would also engage in sexually seductive or provocative behavior to draw attention to himself.

Which leads me to his promiscuity. Upon breaking up with him I found out that he had cheated on me pretty much throughout our whole relationship. I wouldn’t describe him as a complete sociopath, but he lied and cheated without ever feeling remorse (he told me this) – the antisocial part of these disorders.

I think his cheating was part of how he self soothed and coped with his inner turmoil. He also used drugs and alcohol to get by. This is common with Borderline personality disorder.

So after many years of sorting through the baggage and emotions from this relationship, I’ve come to realize that his suffering is much more severe than mine ever was. I can only imagine the turmoil he experiences on a daily basis. While his reckless and selfish behavior hurt so many around him, he suffers deeply every day.

Someone once told me that while this explains his behavior, it does not excuse it. These words definitely ring true. But knowing some of the causes behind what we experienced for those 7 years has helped me heal and even forgive. Now if only personality disorders (and all mental health issues, for that matter) were a priority to educate people about. If only we could have found this all out sooner.

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A lil’ pick me up: being proud of myself

How often do those of us with bipolar pat ourselves on the back or give ourselves praise? For me, this can be especially difficult when staring depression in the face.i am so proud of me

But I recently stumbled upon a nice thought pattern that gave me a little pick me up. I started listing things in my head that I was proud of myself for that day. I was proud of myself for sticking to my high protein diet when all I wanted to do was make some damn pasta. I was proud of myself for asking a potential employer for more money. I was proud that I went to the gym even though I wasn’t really feeling it.

As I started my mental list I found that more and more things came to me. It felt quite nice and gave me an instant boost of self worth and confidence. Rock it out, me.

I think I’ll try and do this every day. Depression or not, I think we all deserve to tell ourselves how awesome we are for doing even the simplest of things.

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Expecting a little too much from the wounded

Have you ever had a friend that disappointed you? Maybe they just didn’t try to keep in touch or always flaked out on you. Or maybe your family member has bad habits like smoking/drinking/eating poorly. These things can be frustrating and easy to get upset about.baggage

But have you ever stepped back and asked yourself where this behavior might be coming from? Maybe your friend is just really busy or flaky or has other priorities they rank above you. And maybe they just like to eat. But what’s beneath that? Are there deeper reasons for this behavior? I’ve come to realize that things are rarely as simple as we might make them out to be.

We all know our own baggage and issues that are always churning inside of us. Of course in our heads, we know the explanation for all of our behavior on some level. But maybe other people don’t. Say you freak out at someone for lying to you about something little. You know your reaction is stemming from the fact that your ex lied to you for years. But is that something they even know or would realize? Maybe not.

As the years go by, I’ve come to look at people’s shortcomings in a different light. Maybe coming to terms with my own inner demons and mental health has caused my eyes to open. I’m realizing, hey – if I have baggage and anxiety and depression, maybe other people do too. And that probably drives some of the behavior that I’m upset about.

Maybe my friend has trouble keeping in touch with friends because she herself is depressed because she lost her father. And I think my family member who overeats does it to self-soothe because he’s still dealing with the baggage of his life—Vietnam, being fired, family feuds—as well as his own anxiety and depression.

So I’ve realized that there have been times I’ve expected too much from these people. Just like me, they’re fighting their own battles and should be forgiven for their reactions and coping mechanisms. I’m going to try and apply this idea to more people in my life and lay down some straight up understanding.

PS: The post title is a quote from a song I enjoy: 3 Libras by A Perfect Circle.

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Dying inside to live

Lately I feel like I’m screaming inside. Screaming to LIVE. To be adventurous, crazy, carefree…to live.Girl jumping on beach

To not sit in an office and feel my soul slowly wither away. I feel like I’m trapped in this life where we work in dark offices all day instead of actually enjoying life. I go outside into the sun at lunch and just crave the chance to stay out there all day or work in a garden or take a trip. To do anything but sit at a keyboard until I want to stab my eyes out.

There has to be another way…doesn’t there? Is this just the curse of working in America? I’ve heard that many construction workers are highly satisfied with their careers, as they get to be physical and in the open air all day. I find myself wondering if I could make the same salary being a professional landscaper (as I lack the skills for construction). I think if I could be a firefighter, I would. Or maybe open up a restaurant in Santa Fe.

I’m not sure if the depression just brings out these restless and unsatisfied thoughts…but I feel like they’ve always been there. I can’t be the only one thinking like this—there have to be others dying to live as well.

Maybe all I can do (until we win the lottery) is amp up what I do in my free time. That’s really hard when you work and have to take care of life, but I suppose it’s the only option I have right now.

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The terrible 20s

I used to think that my 20s would be the best years of my life. Apparently, I was mistaken. And hopefully, they will actually be the worst—because that would mean that things get better.

It seems I’m not the only one to experience this. Both of my parents said that their 20s pretty much sucked. My mom’s 20s were fraught with change and turmoil and my dad went to Vietnam. And then, things got better.

I’m sure that many people thoroughly enjoy their 20s. But I sit here actually looking forward to turning 30, because that could mean that my bipolar is being better managed, my husband and I are both in jobs that we like, and we have some money to fix up the house and go on vacations.

Losing your youth is scary, but my desire to beat depression and feel better has overpowered that. I do tend to take after my mother, so maybe I’ll just have to survive my 20s before really starting to live, too.

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Swallow your pride

Pride. It’s one of the worst Seven Deadly Sins. Apparently, it’s the reason that Satan fell from heaven. Who knew?satan falls from heaven

Today, I think pride is usually used to describe someone’s ego and what causes someone’s refusal to apologize or admit they’re wrong. It can be quite a beast. I’ve had my pride bruised pretty bad—and it sucks. It sometimes results in me strutting and pacing around the house as I declare others’ wrongdoing and my infinite wisdom.

Luckily for me, that’s usually the extent of my reaction to a bruised ego. But I’ve seen others take it to new levels of destructiveness. And it seems that once their pride monster has been awakened, it can be difficult to put back in it’s place. Just like watching someone suffer from an addiction, all you can do is sit back and wait until they’re ready to stop.

Then you have the pride that prevents you from admitting that you’re wrong or refusing to take the high road in a fight. I think a whole lot of people suffer from this…myself included. Sometimes it’s about not wanting to ‘lose face’ or lose the fight. Other times we may truly believe that we’re right. “I wasn’t wrong, so why should I apologize?” But I think a majority of times, it’s simply not wanting to admit that we’re Wrong.

The W word is very strong and extremely threatening to our pride. Why is that? Does the human condition make us fearful of being wrong by nature? I do feel like it’s always been engrained in me. And I’ve definitely known people who would rather lose a limb that lose an argument.

But there are situations that force us to swallow our pride. I think we tend to learn that skill quickly upon entering the real world. Whether it’s for your boss, a client, a partner, or even the DMV, it seems that ditching our pride becomes a vital survival skill. Humility and the ability to say “I’m sorry” are like tickets out of precarious situations. And maybe, just maybe, we even learn to admit to ourselves that we were Wrong.

Though this seems to be extremely difficult to do with your partner—and may get harder the longer you’ve been together. But hopefully by that point, you will have realized that there isn’t just Right and Wrong. There are many many shades of gray between those poles….and just because you were wrong about something doesn’t mean you were wrong about everything (necessarily).

I have come to realize that love means always having to say you’re sorry. Sometimes saying those two words can melt away a fight and open the doors to communication in mere moments.

That is, if you manage to swallow that pesky pride first.

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