Don’t Stuff the Birthday Blues

Yesterday my husband and I had a discussion about stuffing emotions, and whether or not there is a difference between stuffing and just telling ourselves that those thoughts and feelings may be real, but it isn’t doing any good to wallow in them. It’s a fine line, I think, and when I am struggling with an uncomfortable emotion, I’m often not sure which one I’m doing. My husband’s thought about it that is that it depends on what your self-talk is saying about it. Are you telling yourself to suck it up, that you can’t think about that? Or are you telling yourself that these feelings are there, but there isn’t anything you can change about it?

The conversation that started this was about the fact that it’s my daughter’s birthday today and I’m sad. If you’re a reader of my blog, you may remember that my daughter and I are estranged; we have been for nearly five years. Holidays and her birthday are hard (I suspect they always will be) because I always wish that we were together. It’s not that I don’t miss her everyday, I do, but special days amplify my longing.

So, yesterday I wasn’t sure if I was stuffing my emotions or not. I told my husband I was feeling sad, but when he pressed for more, I didn’t have anything else to add. It was the same as always — little snippets of happy times that I had with my daughter flashing through my mind, willy nilly. That’s all. And that’s what it always is, so why talk about it? I think there’s a saying about a dead horse that applies here. At least that’s how I usually feel about the situation. Is that stuffing?

Actually, thinking about it today, I think it was. The reason I say that is because later in the evening last night, I gave in to the emotion. I let myself cry, and I said out loud, “I miss her so much.” My husband hugged me and held me for a while. I didn’t have to say anything else, I didn’t have to discuss every memory that was in my head, I just had to actually feel the feeling…let it take hold for a minute. I didn’t have to wallow, but I did have to acknowledge what I was feeling, whether I liked it or not. But then, after I took some ibuprofen and a hot bath, I felt some relief.

Some.

I woke up this morning and the sadness was still there. I haven’t cried today, but I’m not stuffing it…I’m writing this post.

Happy Birthday, Kari. I love you.

19th birthday

Healthy Habit #11 – A month of do-overs

Try aagain

 

I tried.  I really did.  But October was a horrible, awful, emotional, depressing month.  I wrote about it here, if you would like to see why.  I didn’t even make it a week with my Healthy Habit #10.  I think I worked on physical activity for about 3 days, and then it went kaput, and I was back to laying on the couch, or, on particularly bad days, in bed, watching countless hours of mediocre TV shows to distract myself from the blues I was feeling.  The only silver-lining in the whole ordeal was that this time, as opposed to times in the past, I knew that the depression would pass.  I knew that I just had to be patient, to talk about the things that were bothering me, and to take comfort in knowing that I wouldn’t always feel sad and down.  I took it easy on myself, did the things that I had to (like earn a paycheck, and shower daily…or almost daily), and waited.  And finally, this last week, I started to feel better.  I noticed that I didn’t feel as sad, and that my smiling and laughing was, once again, genuine.  Last Monday was the first day that I felt I was able to stay mindful, the first day that I felt like myself again.  The remainder of the week has gotten better and better.

So, all of that being said, I have decided that November will be a month of do-overs.  I want to redo HH #10, and try to get my sedentary self moving.  That is first and foremost.  I know that I will feel better physically and emotionally if I do it.

version-1

I also want to revisit some other Healthy Habits that I enjoyed, but didn’t quite stick to.  Meditation is one of them.  I have been using meditation on and off since I first tried it, but it hasn’t been a regular practice as of late.  So I will again make time for it, and see how it goes.  I would  also like to add consistency back to writing gratitude lists.  My mind has been pretty well-trained to look for the good in every situation these days, even when it’s hard, or when all I can find is the tiniest of slivers of gratitude, I know that I can find something for which to be grateful.  Unfortunately, if I don’t take the time to really think about it, or write it down, then the gratitude stays in my head, and never really reaches my heart.  In other words, I know what I have to be thankful for, I just don’t know how to feel gratitude for it.   Writing it down helped me before, so I am going to do what I know works.  I am going to add listing the things that I am grateful for to my journal writing that I do every morning.

I feel positive and hopeful.  I was going to add “about….”  to that sentence, but as I typed it, I realized that it said enough.  I feel positive and hopeful.  And that’s good.  🙂

 

Down, but not out.

Over the last week, I have started this post several times, only to end up deleting it.  Some of the drafts just sounded too depressing because I’ve had a rough month.  Some I thought seemed flat, like I just didn’t have anything good to say.  And one draft just sounded angry, and that’s not how I wanted it to come across.  Today, I realized that the whole point of my blog is to express my feelings – whatever they are.  So, I’m not going to delete this one, I’m going to put my feelings down and get them out of my head.

May has not been a great month.  At the beginning of the month, my estranged daughter celebrated her 17th birthday.  Not being able to be with her was heartbreakingly painful.  I wrote an open letter to her, and while I had no expectations of a response (I don’t even know for certain that she reads my blog, but I know that other family members do), I think I was holding onto a little bit of hope. But I heard nothing, good or bad.  Then, just a week later I had Mother’s Day to deal with.  I was sad to not be spending it with my daughter and with my own mother.  No matter what my relationships with them are like now, I still miss them.  In recovery, I have gotten better about accepting the past for what it is, but on days like Mother’s Day, there is still a part of me that longs for a different past.  I know it’s an impossibility, but I still wish for it, especially on days that I am already in the dumps.

As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, last week we lost a member of our home group to his addiction.  He was a handsome young man who had been in and out of the rooms for a couple of years. He was intelligent and friendly and had a smile and a voice that lit up the room. My husband took an instant liking to him and talked with him at length on several occasions. The last time I spoke to him, he was headed back to treatment and he sounded hopeful. He did not die sober. It was a drug overdose that took his life. He was only 18 years old.  That’s where my now deleted angry post comes in.  When our friend’s death was announced at our morning meeting, some of the comments from old-timers majorly pissed me off.  Before I knew it, I had written a long rant about how some old-timers forget what early sobriety is like, and that their self-righteousness will, more than likely, send newcomers back out the doors that they only just worked up the courage to walk through.  The comments that were made were enough to offend me, even if I hadn’t known the young man who died.  When you add the shock and grief of losing someone who you care about, it makes it all the harder.

The first three weeks of May have mostly sucked, and I’ve been feeling depressed and sad and discouraged.  What have I been doing with all of these negative feelings?  Nothing.  I’ve let them be.  Now, if I were to play Monday-morning quarterback I could list the things I should’ve done that I didn’t:  I should’ve talked to my sponsor more, I should’ve finished working on my 4th step (I’m in the process of re-working my steps), I should’ve practiced more of my Healthy Habits, I should’ve journaled more and written more posts.  But, until today, I just haven’t felt like doing many of those things.  So instead I’ve been binge-watching Nurse Jackie, crushing candy like a crazy woman, and taking 4 hour naps on my days off.

So, where exactly is the silver lining in all of this, you may ask?  Here it is:  even through my blues and self-pity, I was able to remember that “this too, shall pass.”  I was down, but I didn’t despair.   I didn’t isolate (much), I went to meetings, I talked about my feelings when I needed to, I honored my commitments even though I didn’t feel like it, and I took care of myself.  And the icing on the cake was that I didn’t drink.  I didn’t even want to.  That’s huge.  It’s a fucking miracle.

I’m happy to say that I think I am coming out of my funk, and while I didn’t do everything right while I was down, I did what I needed to and I remembered that feeling bad wouldn’t last forever and I made it through.  I learned that my emotions won’t kill me and that I don’t have to try to avoid or numb them.  I also learned that I am stronger and healthier than I thought before this period of melancholy.  That’s some pretty shiny silver lining, if you ask me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go finish my 4th step, do some yoga, and de-clutter something.  🙂