The Evolution from Dysfunctional to Healthy Love

From the beginning, my views on love and relationships were dysfunctional. I was surrounded by people who were supposed to love each other, though in so many ways what was between them was anything but. At six years old, I had a mock wedding with a young boy down the street that I couldn’t stand because we both believed people got married to argue and couldn’t think of anyone else either of us hated more. That speaks volumes about my earliest views on love.

Yet strangely I grew up to be in many ways a hopeless romantic. I believed in the presence of love, at least in theory. I believed in the happily ever after of fairy tales and the foot pop that occured with true love’s kiss. I believed with all my heart that there was someone out there for everyone, that one beautifully wonderful love that would remain strong and endure even through the roughest of times, a love that could stand the test of time. Though I had never personally seen such a love, I believed wholeheartedly that it was out there. I just honestly had no idea how to find it or where to even begin to look.

When I was a teenager and began to date, love was about fulfilling expectations. Identities seemed to be linked to pairing with others. Everyone strived to date because to be single meant something was wrong with you. Being with someone reaffirmed your worth somehow to others. It was never about how I felt, what I wanted or how I was treated. Being in a relationship, being in ‘love’, meant fitting in, being somebody. When I found what I thought might be love, I held on for dear life. I believed it was him and me against the world and love could conquer anything. I had been prepared to face anything with him at my side, never realizing that I was fighting a losing battle because you cannot keep someone there who wishes to be elsewhere. After years together, he blessed me with a child and then he ran. Despite all the faith I had in love, I found myself alone again. Yet at the same time, I would never be completely alone again.

On the verge of my twenties, I became a young mother. Everything in my life changed, love most of all. When I began looking to open my heart again, love became about family. When I searched for love again, it was ultimately to create a strong family, to find someone who would be good for my daughter, someone I could build upon my family with, growing it into something more. Love wasn’t about me at all. Love was about building a marriage, a family, trying to hold on and make everything work despite how I was feeling or hurting. Love was about being the best mother I could be and about trying to be what I believed a wife should be. Love was about playing roles and going through the motions. We were young. What did we even know about love? In hindsight, I’ve often said that what two kids in puppy love think they want turns out to be much different than what two adults in the real world need. In the end, we were just too different. We were never meant to last.  But I was blessed with beautiful sons that made it all worth it.

When my marriage fell apart, I felt so unlovable, unwanted, like such a failure for being unable to somehow hold everything together. Love was something I was terrified of finding again. I had never been more vulnerable, more scared of letting anyone in. An unlikely and unusual love still managed to push its way in, a love surrounded by safety and bonding over similarities and shared loneliness. My heart didn’t stop to consider longevity or practicality, it was just grateful to finally matter to someone. For the first time, albeit briefly, I didn’t feel invisible or inconsequential. Somehow, for the first time ever, I fit into the equation. Love became about holding tightly to someone who I could trust, could talk to, someone who I knew wouldn’t hurt me, was incapable of hurting me. It didn’t last long, burning hot and bright before fading to ashes swept away in the wind, but it was enough to open my heart back up, make me believe in the possibility of love again.

While rebuilding after the ashes, I stumbled onto a narcissist with a gift for playing the victim. He had supposedly been through so much and I found myself desperately wanting to take care of him, to somehow make his life better. My heart had been opened wide and he took full advantage of my empathy and vulnerability. For over a decade, throughout all of my thirties, love became about trying to take care of him, to help heal his wounds, trying to be enough for him, wishing that at some point I would begin to matter, too. For eleven years, I hoped that if I was just there enough, loved him enough, he would be able to heal, to change and we would finally be able to build something real and lasting. I had so much faith in the power of love that I was unprepared for someone who was incapable of letting anyone else in or loving anyone else in return. Love became very codependent, with my accepting abuse and making excuses for his transgressions instead of holding him accountable for all the hurt he kept causing. When he finally left me for someone else, the last in a long line of infidelities throughout our relationship, it was a blessing because my heart and soul had become so battered and broken by years of trying to give all the love within myself while receiving nothing in return. I had become an empty vessel. Yet somehow, I still believed in love.

Overlapping the pain from loving a man incapable of ever loving me back sprouted a new and unexpected type of love, one born out of a close friendship. It was much like the ill-fated love I had stumbled onto over a decade earlier when my marriage had collapsed, but at the same time, it was so different and so much more. He became my best friend, my confidante, the one person who truly saw me, knew me, accepted and loved me completely for who I was without judgment. If not for his presence during most of the eleven years of narcissistic abuse by my ex, I would not have survived the ordeal. I loved him for it, loved him more than I probably ever should have. Over the years, it grew into more than friendship for us both, though it was always suppressed by our obligations and commitments to others. When we were finally set free from the nightmare of our relationships with others, however, free to finally possibly explore what was between us, everything had already irreparably changed. The damage was already done. Though I still believed in love, believed in him and the vision we had carried for years of an ‘us’, he had given up on himself, on his future, on me, on love itself. Love needs to be fed and nurtured to flourish and grow. Love cannot be sustained by only one person. If both aren’t willing to put in the effort, it will wither and die. Though the foundation was strong, the walls still crumbled because there was only so long I could hold on by myself, only so long I could be the only one trying to make things work before I had to give up in order to save myself from dying along with our love. It was never that I didn’t love him or want to be with him. I just ultimately needed more than he was capable or willing to give.

In my journey through life, my search for love, my perceptions on love itself have changed again and again. Both my first views and my first experiences with love were highly dysfunctional. Over the years, with each new relationship, a different facet of love presented itself, each a piece to the puzzle, a fragment of the whole. With each new facet, a new perception of love emerged for me, as well. Though each love seemed to have so much possibility in the beginning, looking back, I can understand why each failed in time because love must be whole in order to work. Both partners need to matter, to fit into the equation. Both partners must be willing to put in their all, as well. Over the years, I have found fragments of love, each different, though none could stand the test of time. Though strangely, out of the rubble of all these failed relationships, a new love I had never expected has taken root and begun to grow.

As a child of abuse and dysfunction, over the years I’ve struggled to even like myself, drawing my worth from the warped views of others around me instead of from within. I never expected to ever truly love myself. Yet somehow that love crept in, took root and began to grow, like a daisy sprouting through the cracks in the concrete, refusing to give up or give in, fighting to survive. Though it was never nurtured, it managed to grow just the same. I once saw a simplistically beautiful motivational saying that stated “The moment you start wondering whether you deserve better, You do”. And the truth of the matter is that I do deserve better. I will no longer accept fragments when I deserve a whole. I will no longer settle for loving anyone who isn’t willing or capable of loving me back just as much in return. I love myself too much to set myself up to be hurt again.

Though I’m still honestly not sure where to find that fairy tale love, the hopeless romantic in me still wholeheartedly believes it exists. I will learn from my past, from my failed relationships and heartbreaks, and move forward in a healthier way. I will no longer settle for less than I deserve nor will I ever allow myself again to be abused or to become inconsequential. As much as I crave love in my life, I would rather be alone than mistreated, rather be single than be fed empty words or false hope. I believe, in time, love will once again present itself and this time I will be ready for it. I am willing to fight for love, to put all of myself into a relationship, though this time around, I will settle for nothing less than that in return.

Advertisements

The Depression Dialogue

The Reality of What I Hear in My Head

Depression is a master manipulator.  Regardless of what is being said or done around me, my depression has an uncanny knack for twisting and morphing everything into a dark pit of hopelessness and despair.

I talk a mean game.  I’ve been told by some that I am the happiest depressed person they’ve ever met because I am always sweet, friendly and smiling, always reaching out to others to see how they are doing.  What everyone doesn’t realize is that it is all a survival mechanism.  I smile because it is easier than letting others see me cry.  I reassure others that I am peachy because it’s easier than trying to talk about everything that feels wrong, some of which I cannot even pinpoint or put into words.  For me, living with depression means bolting on that cheerful, smiling mask.  Sometimes it’s the only way I can get through the day.

In my head, there is constant turmoil, constant chaos.  No matter how many friends reach out here and there to check on me to see whether I am okay, my depression tells me that there is truly nobody there, no one who cares, nobody I can count on.  Depression convinces me that I am all alone and that the only reason people are even asking is because they feel obligated to or feel guilty that they haven’t spoken to me for a while.

Depression tells me to be suspicious of everyone’s motives for saying they want to be there and never let anyone in too close because it will only make it hurt more when they leave.  According to Depression, everyone is going to leave sooner or later anyway.  It is hard to argue that point because everyone always has.

Depression tells me that I am a burden on everyone, that I have too much baggage, too much drama and that nobody needs that in their life.  So I isolate to spare everyone from that burden and spare myself from eventual abandonment.  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I am alone.

Depression tells me that nothing I have done has ever been good enough, that all I ever do is mess everything up.  Depression harps on my flaws, reminding me of every mistake I have made, every time I have let anyone down.  Depression tells me that I am a failure.  It asks me why I should even bother trying to do anything because I just mess everything up anyway.  The constant badgering leaves me petrified of failing again, terrified of even trying.  I find myself paralyzed, afraid that no matter what I do, it will be wrong.

Depression tells me that nothing will ever get better.  No one will ever truly love me.  Nothing I do will ever be good enough.  Depression tells me I have failed everyone in my life – my children, my friends, my partners, even myself.  Depression tells me I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, not good enough, that everyone deserves better than to have me in their life.  Depression tells me that I’m a waste of space, a waste of breath, that the world would be better off without me in it.  Depression hones in on every single one of my insecurities and uses them as a weapon against me.  Depression spews out a constant barrage of absolute negatives until it is all I can hear.  It drowns out everything else until it is all I hear, all I know.

Though part of me knows deep down knows it is the depression talking and not reality, it is so hard not to listen, not to believe all it says.  After all, depression has been my steady companion for as long as I can remember.  It has been a part of my life longer than any family, any friend, any love interest.  It is hard not to believe that one voice who has been there longer than anyone else.

When I talk about my depression, I describe it as a battle, a struggle, a fight because that is essentially what it is.  Every single day, I am assaulted with a barrage of negativity and hopelessness.  On good days, I am able to fight back, to tell myself that none of it is true and find a way to move forward and be positive.  On bad days, I’m left feeling critically wounded and crippled, unable to even climb out of bed or face the day.  Every single day it is a fight.  Every single day, I wake in this battlefield, never expecting to ever win, just hoping to survive.

People who don’t understand depression assume it is just random bouts of sadness and cannot understand why someone suffering from depression cannot just get over it and move on.  They cannot see this monster I carry with me, this beast that is constantly attacking me, wearing me down, stealing away all hope and dragging me down into the darkness.  They cannot hear the steady barrage of attacks I face every day or see how wounded and broken it leaves me inside.  More than anything, I wish others could see and hear the war that is being waged inside me so that they might understand how weary I am from a lifetime of fighting for my life.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 03/03/17.

The Meds Crash..

What Happens When Your Insurance Company Won’t Cover the Medications Needed for Your Mental Health

In the last year, I have made so many positive strides in my ongoing fight to get in front of my mental illness and to be in a healthier place.  I not only have begun finally opening up, writing and talking about my struggles with depression, anxiety and p.t.s.d., I have begun therapy at a wonderful facility that uses a multi-pronged treatment plan to combat mental illness, involving not only traditional treatments such as therapy and medication management but also incorporating unconventional tools such as yoga, meditation and art into the mix to help people heal mind, body and soul.  Perhaps the greatest stride forward I have made, however, happened thanks to a genetic test my new doctors gave me that identified a genetic mutation I possessed that has been the linchpin blocking all previous attempts at medication and treatment.  Due to this genetic mutation, my liver is incapable of metabolizing folic acid, a simple b vitamin used by the brain to help transport the chemicals needed to help moderate my moods and depression.  It is a fairly simple fix because there is an already broken-down version of folic acid on the market, a synthetic version that can help my brain to function properly – something it has never been able to do on it’s own, due to my genetic mutation.  However, the simple yet life-changing fix has been completely derailed by my insurance company, CDPHP, that refuses to cover it.

My doctor had been providing me with samples of the broken-down folic acid, also known as l-methylfolate or by the prescription name Deplin, for the last seven months.  While it is in no way a panacea that would make my mental illness disappear, it made a world of a difference.  I had more clarity, was able to focus better and function more.  I was able to fight back tears and move forward, face fears and be productive in ways I previously never imagined possible.  I found myself able to genuinely smile and experience happiness.  Despite the fact that I was going through one of the rockiest times in my life, I had real hope.  It was the beginning of a new life, a new world for me.

Yet despite how much of a breakthrough I had achieved on many levels thanks to this medication, CDPHP continues to refuse to cover it, deeming it unnecessary.  My doctor had a drawer full of samples to keep me going while we began our fight for coverage.  I had been filing appeals, reaching out for help, fighting with every ounce of energy and courage that I could muster, completely due to the Deplin helping my antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications get where they were needed in my brain, something they could never do on their own because I had always been medication resistant due to my genetic mutation.

…And then the samples ran out.

…And my internal appeal for coverage by CDPHP was denied.

It has been a week since I have had any Deplin in my system.  Where I was previously up before seven in the morning every day, up for breakfast and ready to start my day, I can’t seem to pull myself up out of bed again.  Today, it was almost eleven before I even got out of bed.  Less than twenty minutes later, I was back in bed, wrapped in my blanket, wondering why I was even bothering.  Each day, it becomes increasingly harder to do anything at all.

Even the simplest conflicts feel unbearable again.  I find myself panicking and breaking down into tears over even the smallest bumps in the road.  Where previously I was convinced that I could somehow figure things out and find a way, I don’t feel like I can deal with anything right now.  I’m afraid to go out, to leave my room, because I have no control over my emotions or my tears anymore.  My mind is racing again, I cannot focus, I cannot sleep, I have no desire to eat, no desire to do anything.  I feel like I’m in a constant panic, one word away from breaking down into tears again.

It is like I had entered a Renaissance, a beautiful world full of progress and hope, only to be kicked back into the darkness of the stone age.

I have an external appeal yet to file with the state but I don’t know if I can do it.  I don’t know if I have the strength.  My mind keeps asking me why bother?  Everything feels hopeless.  The battle feels lost.  All I want to do is climb back in bed and cry.  That other world, that one where I was smiling, where I felt hopeful, feels like another world, another life, just a dream.  I’m terrified I’ll never find my way back to that person again.  Sitting out in public, typing this out, I cannot stop the tears from flowing, cannot find my way back to the person I was even a week ago when I believed that things were going to be okay, when I believed in hope.

This story began with Fighting for My Mental Health on 1/13/17.

mightylogoRepublished on The Mighty on 5/11/17.