Sometimes You Need a Full Stop

unplug

This time of year always seems to get me down. And 2015 isn’t proving to be any different. This time it started a little bit early, September instead of October, and it has lasted longer. Despite all of the good things that are happening in my life, I have been depressed and anxious, with some PTSD junk thrown in – just for some added fun. The funny thing is, intellectually, I am grateful and I realize that I really have nothing to be sad or down about. But it’s autumn, and my emotions seem to be winning the battle against my intellect.

In the past, when I have felt like this, I have done one of two things:  I either trudged on, suffering silently, with a smile on my face, until I had some sort of meltdown, or I got drunk. This time, in the interest of avoiding self-destruction, I decided to do things differently. I am choosing honesty, sobriety, and self-care. Imagine that! It sounds so healthy!

It’s really easy for me to say I’m fine, or I’m just peachy, when someone asks me how I am. So easy. Now though, when someone who I know cares about me (not the grocery store clerk or mere acquaintances) asks how I’m doing, I’m being honest. If my anxiety is up, I tell them. If I’m feeling depressed, I say it. And it works! Just getting the truth out of my head and acknowledged by someone else, takes some of the power away from what I’m feeling. I was also honest when I went to see my doctor a couple of weeks ago, which resulted in an adjustment to my medicine. In the past, I don’t think I would’ve done that. I think I would’ve opted to believe that the problem was with me, and that I had to figure out how to navigate it without any help.

Surprisingly, and oh so thankfully, my sobriety hasn’t been challenged at all this time. I am coming up on three years sober, and I am so grateful that I haven’t felt like drinking would make things better. It’s a miracle if you ask me! Knowing that I can make it through tough times without drinking is truly a blessing that comes from God. It’s grace, pure and simple.

The biggest part of me getting through this period of depression and anxiety is self-care.  This is something that I am still learning to do in recovery, but I recognized this time that it is essential. There are times that I need a full stop from outside stressors, and this is one of them. The difference is that in the past, I would never have admitted stop-sign-2that I needed it. I would’ve carried on, hoping the negative feelings would pass. What I did this time is take a month off of my job to work on myself. A leave of absence to take care of my mental health! I’m over a week in, and I still can’t believe that I put my well-being ahead of my job. This is huge!  My husband, my sponsor, and several friends have commented on how big of a change this is for me, and how great it is that I am doing this for myself. I was undecided about it for the first few days, but I realize now that they’re right. It’s what I need right now, and it is already helping me.

So, I am spending my time doing the things that feed my soul, and take care of my mind. I’m reading, writing, taking walks, talking to friends, baking, crafting, and napping. I’m listening to my body and my brain, and doing what I need to keep them healthy and sane. And you know what? It feels good!

I know that this cycle of depression will pass, it always has in the past. The difference this time is I’m doing what I can to help it go away. Honesty, sobriety, and self-care…and, just for now, a full stop.

 

 

Blessing or Curse? I Get to Decide

Today is my birthday, and birthdays always seem to invite a certain amount of looking back, reminiscing about the past, wondering how I got to where I am…if I’m even where I should be. I have been doing my fair share of thinking this week, leading up to today, about the things that have shaped me into who I am now at 44 years old.

On paper, my life may not look so great. I’m an alcoholic with PTSD, estranged from my family. I’ve been raped, beaten, arrested, to the psych ward and to rehab. I’m sometimes depressed and anxious, and I struggle with self-esteem and self-worth. That doesn’t sound so good, right? It would be easy for me to wallow about all of those things, to think of them as some cosmic curse that I am just destined to endure. But the more I look back, look at now, and look forward, the more I am able to see them as they really are — blessings.

It might be difficult to believe that any of the things I listed above are blessings, but In-Every-Trail-There-is-a-Blessingthey truly are. The traumas that I suffered, the ones that caused my PTSD, have made me strong. Surviving the big things, has made it easier to make it through the small things. I don’t worry nearly as much as I used to. I have a good track record of making it trough difficult times…why should I question whether I will make it through any of life’s struggles. Don’t get me wrong, I still worry, but when I remind myself that I have been through much worse, and made it to the other side, it gives me comfort.

Becoming an alcoholic was awful. It was a horrible time in my life, and I had many, many dark days. It’s also one of the best things that ever happened to me. I say that because hitting bottom in my alcoholism gave me the opportunity to learn to live life differently. Had I not become an active alcoholic, I would never have taken the time or made the effort to get to know myself. I would never have been as self-aware as I am now. I think I would’ve just muddled through life, never seeing things as they really are, never seeing myself as I really am. My recovery has given me so much. I have learned what unconditional love and true compassion are, and how to give and receive both. I have learned to not judge anyone, that everyone is a work in progress, and that I don’t always know what they are going through. I’ve learned that honesty, forgiveness and acceptance are my friends, not something to hide from as I used to. I’ve learned that I’m not a bad person because of the things that I have done, and that every step forward is proof of that. With all of that, how could I possibly believe that becoming a drunk was a curse and not a blessing?

The biggest blessing that has come out of my life’s challenges is that I have been able to help others. I have been able to tell my story, here on this blog, at 12 step meetings, and in my daily life, and others have heard it, identified, and felt comfort. I love that. It makes all the bad times worth it, and it makes the good times even better.

So today, as I celebrate another year of life, sobriety, and recovery, I am grateful for the life I have had, and I feel blessed.