Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Birthday Lovin'

I have been a blog posting MACHINE this past week and a half. Are you proud of me? Because I am. I'm kidding, of course. I post simply to get thoughts "out there", and occasionally to inspire/motivate/make people laugh/laugh at myself because sometimes the option is to laugh or cry, and the former is more fun.  I am glad, though, that I'm posting more and that it's coming completely naturally.

Before I continue, let me say, that the title of this blog is meant in the most generic sense, as in "thanks for the birthday acknowledgements/wishes/serenades/etc". So if you were worried it would be about something more... um... intimate...I promise it's not (this is where you breathe a sigh of relief and decide to you don't need to close your eyes and quickly click the little 'x' in the corner of the screen). Also, I know I said no more birthday posts, but I so love birthdays.... just one more.

My birthday was awesome. I felt so loved and appreciated. As I mentioned in the previous post or several, I have trouble with attention focused on me. But I was, for the most part, rather comfortable with it yesterday. Perhaps this is because no wait staff came up to me at a restaurant doing some sort of odd rain-dance-looking maneuver, clapping their hands, and singing a non-trademarked version of Happy Birthday - that surely would have made me want to crawl under the table (thank you, loved ones, for not subjecting me to this). Other things, however, did make a huge impact. I got cards, and texts, and Facebook posts of birthday wishes. And yes, I do count Facebook posts in this instance, especially since so many of my FB friends are located outside of the US and it's therefore the easiest means of free communication. One of my best, best girl friends sent me flowers at work, which I'm still enjoying today. My team at work had a mini apple-tart type of dessert made for me and surprised me with it at the end of my shift, singing happy birthday (the real version, no rain dance involved), candle and all. I went out to dinner at a surprise location, which happened to be a place I've really been wanting to try, and had a delicious meal.

And so, I have to say that my first 24 hours or so of being thirty five have been quite enjoyable. Just 364 more to go until I can call it an unexpected success! In all seriousness, as I've now gotten past the dreaded deadline, I do feel a bit more calm and peaceful about this upcoming year. I think it will be a  year of action and changes - hopefully ones that put me in the direction that I want to be headed.

So thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of the birthday lovin'. And thank you, to all of those who thought I was turning twenty five rather than thirty five. You are particularly awesome. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You Say It's Your Birthday....

Sick of hearing about my birthday yet? Of course not! But just in case you are, since today is the big day, I promise you won't have to hear about it much for the next 300 plus after this. I'm not officially thirty five until 1:20 PM, but who's counting, besides me? I thought that with all the retrospection I've been doing about this occasion that's momentous for me and probably monotonous for everyone else, I'd do something fun today, and provide a few interesting/little known facts about my birthday/day of my actual birth. (And no, I'm not sure if retrospection is a word, but f*^& it, it's my birthday and I can make shit up). Obviously, some of these facts have been related to me years later because, as good of a memory as I have, I don't particularly recall making my way through the birth canal and the days immediately following, so I'm getting as close to as accurate as I can here. These are in no particular order, except for that in which they come into my brain. Which of course means it's completely random.

1. It was approximately 110 degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously) the day that I was born.

2. While I'm a jersey girl at heart, I was actually born in Indio, California (that's Indio, with an "o", part of the United States. It's amazing when I tell people that, how many people think I was born in the country of India.)

3. In the hospital, I was given a blue blanket, bracelet, etc and labeled "baby boy Northen" by mistake. Things clearly weren't quite as regimented back then.

4. Fittingly, I was born during (or immediately following) a Buffalo Bills vs. BOSTON Patriots game. My mom was determined not to give birth until the game was over. I believe that the Bills won. I have literally been a Bills fan since birth.

5. I had no middle name when I was born. My parents allowed me to choose my middle name when I was four, and I then chose Allanah. (I changed the spelling once or twice until it was official). I assume my parents policed this and wouldn't have allowed me to choose a name like 'sandwich' or something equally as rough.

6. Because I initially had no middle name, my official documents all said "N.M.I." for No Middle Initial. People continually thought my middle name was "nimi" (pronounced ni-mee). 'Sandwich' might have been an improvement.

7. My birthday falls on day in which both the astrological signs and the seasons transition from one to the next - first day of Libra, and the autumn equinox - which means that the universe is more or less in a giant identity crisis this day. This probably explains my restless spirit and wandering soul.

8. My great grandmother wanted to name me Trixie. I am thankful every day to my parents for having more common sense.

9. I share a birthday with Bruce Springsteen and Kublai Khan. I find the fact that people say "oh Bruce Springsteen! But who the heck is Kublai Khan?" a testament to the fantastic world history curriculum offered here in the U.S.

10. The number one billboard song on the day I was born was My Sharona, by The Knack. I had to google this, but I thought it was a fun way to round out the list,

That's all I have! So, happy birthday to me. And to Bruce Springsteen. Not so sure about Kublai Khan - seems he wasn't the nicest fella. And happy autumn equinox to everyone!

Monday, September 22, 2014

In My Next Thirty (Five) Years

My last post was downright depressing. I totally get that. I don't regret it, because I think it's important for people to understand what goes on inside the head of depression exactly when it's happening. Not later, after perspective and analysis, but right then. Still, I'm going to try to keep from posting that way on a regular basis because, let's face it, nobody wants to experience that on a regular basis, whether it's going through it or reading about going through it. 

Tomorrow is THE day. The dreaded 3-5 that I've been thinking about for, oh, the last 5 years or so. For a bit of a laugh, I googled "great things about being 35". Inevitably, I got numerous lists of "35 great/weird/fun/insert adjective things about being 35." As I read through the lists, I found myself laughing and nodding more often than saying "oh crap", which I take as a pretty good sign. Things like 'hearing your favorite songs from childhood being referred to as classics'. Most of what these lists touched on is this, though: 35 is that great age where you can still be 'young and fun', but are also old enough to legitimately think, ahh those young kids, with their noses buried their phones all the time, wearing clothes that barely cover the things that should always be cover in public. Basically, you have the best of both worlds. At 35, I can be young when I want to be young, and use the "I'm old, I have to go to bed by 10 PM" card to get out of a social engagement that you really don't want to be at.  I never looked at it this way before but really, it's ideal. 

With this new found perspective, perhaps 35 won't be all that bad. Perhaps, it'll be good, or even (gasp) great. Of course, I'll still deal with all of the ups and downs, including the depression and over-analysis of life, that come with my condition. That, I'll most likely never be free of, no matter what age. And yes, there are some places in life that I had hoped to reach by the age of 35 that I won't be reaching. But maybe, just maybe, there will be some other cool ones I will reach that I never thought of - and yes, one of the advantages of 35 is I'm still young enough to use the word cool without sounding like someone's great-grandmother trying too hard to fit in.  

So as the countdown to 35 chips away over the next twenty four hours, with my mental image of the new years eve ball dropping ever so slowly until 1:20 PM tomorrow, I'm feeling calmer and slightly more at peace. And because I LOVE birthdays, regardless of the age, I'm still going to relish the actual day just as much as I would any other year. While I traditionally hate attention all focused on me, for one day a year, and one day only, I actually enjoy it.  That, dreaded thirty five and all, I refuse to change. As the song goes, perhaps I'll do it (even) better in my next thirty (five) years. 

Me, in those years in which birthdays were an excuse for party and cake. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Life Through A Fish Eye Lens

It's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote. Maybe my busy weeks are catching up to me, or maybe I'm going senile at my old age of mid-30s and forgetting what day/week it is. Anyway, it's been a rough couple. There's been lots of topsy turvy, up and down action in my life and my brain, in which I seem to be cycling more rapidly than usual. I also seem to be dealing with more depressive episodes than usual and let me tell you, I don't like it one bit. For all of you who battle long depressive episodes or major depression and manage to continue to function as a normal human being, you have my utmost respect. And those of you who cycle from full mania to full blow depression (as opposed to my hypomania and less intense depressive episodes)... well, you guys must be superheroes humbly dressed as every day people.

I've been going through one of those phases in which I completely question almost everything about myself. Ever have those times? It feels like I'm on the outside looking in, examining myself as if I were a potential friend or dating partner or something. When I try to create a mental picture of what I'm going seeing, I imagine the view through a fish-eye lens, in which things are most likely distorted, by you can't entirely tell what, and by how much. In addition to subjecting myself to brutal honesty, it is a bit paranoia-inducing in that it causes me to question my own perspective - am I actually seeing/hearing/experiencing this right, or is it skewed because of my cyclothymia? From this bizarre perspective, my level of excitability, which I always thought endeared me to people, looks annoyingly hyper instead of charmingly, if perhaps a bit awkwardly, energetic. From this vantage point, my being happy, lively, and a bit quirky looks like I'm trying to call attention to myself instead of just BE myself (the latter which may cause attention, positive or negative, but is not aimed at doing so). My voice sounds too loud. My conversations sound too self-focused. From this perspective, every loud word or laugh, every talkative conversation, every time talk at all about myself, feels like it's happening at rapid fire and in slow motion at the same time. That's confusing, I know - it is to me too. It feels like it happens so fast I can't stop it, and then it replays over and over again in slow motion to ensure substantial regret and kicking myself for not being able to shut up.

The result? I'm becoming closed up. I'm drawing into myself. I still have bursts of energy because it still comes naturally and, let's face it, I have hypomania. But I'm becoming afraid and, if it's possible, more socially awkward. Now more than ever, I have trouble looking people (who I'm not very close with) in the eye, because I feel so awkward, nervous to have any attention on me, even if just through simple one on one conversation. Now I'm concerned that all this time, I haven't accurately been perceiving myself, my personality, and my actions. Now more than ever I'm worried that most people merely tolerate me and don't really want me around because I'm annoying/loud/embarrassing/fill in the adjective. In short, my view of the happy, sweetly energetic, humble woman who brightened a room with her smile and laugh, who disliked the spotlight, who loved to focus on others but not herself, has been destroyed - or at best, seriously put into question -  and I'm left wondering who I am.

I'm not sure of the solution. I don't know how to tell what people really think, and what is just based on my anxiety. I'm don't know if I should trust my own judgement, that of others, or some combination. If I believe in the person I thought I was, and others' positive opinions of me, am I in denial of who I really am? If I don't, am I giving in to some cyclothymia-induced brain warp and trying to be someone I'm not? Is there another solution that I'm completely missing?

I realize I've just talked about how I am trying to stop talking about myself and don't want attention on me, and now I've just written all of this about myself. But this blog, and this alone, is my turf. This is the one place I know I'm safe to say what I need. If you think I'm writing any of this for self-pity or using my condition as a crutch - and yes, I've been accused of both by those who have never had this condition - let me tell you that in this and this alone my perspective is crystal clear. You're wrong. I have never used the "I can't do this I have cyclothymia" excuse. I've never once said "screw it I'll just give up on myself I can't ever change". I've never asked for people to feel sorry for me (to clarify, asking for support and asking for people to feel sorry for you are NOT the same thing).

Take what you will from this post. I'm sure that it's not going to win me any popularity contests, but as I've never been a contender for the popular crowd, that's ok. I simply wrote this to get it out of my head and into space. I so often write to inspire that I feel sometimes I need to share the difficult moments as I'm in them. As always, if you ever are going through something similar and need a thought, a vent, or a virtual hug, please feel free to reach out. I undoubtedly can't solve what you're battling, but I'm happy to listen and offer support as best I can. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Staring Down The Barrel At Year 35

In less than a month I’ll be 35 years old (it’s Sept 23rd, if you’d like to write it down, text me, send me a gift, serenade me). Thirty five is a really tough birthday for me, and I don’t say that about a lot of birthdays. I’ve always felt like an old soul, so the fact that I annually move closer to the age that I actually feel doesn’t tend to affect me too badly. But thirty five is rough. To explain, I have to dig down deep and talk about a subject that, for purposes of my blog, I’ve put a complete taboo on up until this point - my former marriage.

I always said that if I had a family, I’d be done by 35. When I got married over ten years ago, this seemed like a very reasonable and feasible goal. We had a five-year plan. As in, we’d start trying to have a family in five years, figured two kids not super far apart, and within seven to eight years - putting me at 31 or 32 - we’d be a happy family of four. Well, six if you counted the furballs. But things changed.

First of all, marriage was both everything and nothing like I expected. I suspect a lot of people feel that way. I tried to be pragmatic, forcing myself to believe that long term relationships must be more slow, steady, and consistent than fiery and emotional and passionate, the latter being my natural tendency toward just about every aspect of life. I tried and I tried to adjust, but deep down inside I couldn’t reconcile that way of thinking with what actually made me happy. It was one hundred percent my fault. Nobody who ever met my ex-husband would say that he was ever a super fiery, emotional person, and in fact, his stability and grounded ways are what drew me to him in the first place. But thinking you know what’s best for you, and living with that day in and day out for the rest of your life, are two completely different things.

As our marriage passed the one year mark, my then-husband decided he wanted children sooner than four years from then. He broached the subject increasingly. Meanwhile, I was twenty five, unhappy, blaming myself for it, and petrified of bringing another life into the world, particularly in the current situation. The more he suggested starting a family sooner, the more I freaked out. There’s no other word for it. I completely freaked out. And eventually, I ran. I ran from him, and I ran from my marriage. The thought of us starting a family opened the virtual floodgates, and I finally couldn’t hold back my emotions. Everything that had been making me miserable came to the forefront. While our divorce was mutual, and as friendly as a divorce can be, I knew it was more or less one-sided. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t perfect, and there was plenty wrong between us without the family issue, but he would have stayed in the marriage out of love for me and desire to have the settled life he'd always wanted. I couldn’t. My ex-husband is a good person, and I have always felt guilt about the entire marriage. I believe he’s remarried now, and I truly wish him happiness. I hope he ends up with the family that he so wanted.

After my marriage, the idea of children continued to freak me out. I liked my “single” life - not always single, but not tied down to a house and children. I was traveling a lot, and enjoying the freedom that I’d never found in my twenties, having been settled down by the ripe old age of 23. As the years went on and I got engaged again, I reconsidered perhaps having a family once married. I was 30, and getting past what had happened in my marriage. For reasons that don’t need to be blogged about here, my engagement didn’t last. Time ticked away.

About a year ago, I started to realize that I’d been wrong. All those years ago, I’d given up potentially being a parent. I’d allowed that mindset to sink in, and it became part of my identity. Everyone knew I liked kids if I could hand them back to their rightful parents. Everyone knew I was the free-spirited one who wouldn't be tied down to family. It had practically become a joke amongst those who knew me well. But suddenly, it wasn’t me anymore. I desperately wanted children. I knew what a wonderful parent I’d be. Except that now I have discovered that I have this genetic condition that would most likely be passed on to my children. Now, I’m on medication that I’d have to stop if I were pregnant, and that, combined with pregnancy hormones, could be disastrous. Now, I’m going to be 35, and my womb feels like a ticking time bomb. Now, I cry about this on a weekly basis. I know I should get over it. I can’t. It feels like the worse form of karma.

Technically, I could adopt. Except that a non-married woman who barely makes ends meet and has a mental health disorder isn’t exactly the prime candidate for adoption. I could foster, but there are the same issues, and besides, fostering isn’t actually my child. I want my child. I realize it's selfish, but it's true. I want to be a permanent mom, not a temporary one. I do have a lot of other people's children in my life, and I feel incredibly fortunate for them. I know it could be worse. I know people who cannot physically have children and have tried for years. I know people have lost babies in miscarriage, or possibly even worse, lost them once they were born. I cannot imagine going through that. My childlessness was, and to some extent still is, my choice, even though at times it doesn’t feel like it. At times, it feels like a big old “F.U., you made your bed, now lie in it” from whatever powers that may be.

One of my favorite pieces of inspiration, the anonymous poem “Don’t Quit” says: “life is queer with its twists and turns, as every one of us sometimes learns.” You never know what to expect, and which direction your decisions will take you. I fully understand that it’s my choices that have brought me to where I am, and I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made, as much as they’ve caused me pain. At the times, they were the right ones to make, given my situation, and I have to imagine I’d make the same ones again, knowing what I know now. Perhaps thirty five will surprise me. Perhaps as my birthday passes, as that self-imposed deadline comes and goes, I’ll be able to make peace with it. It will be behind me, instead of looming down on me. In the mean time, I’ll enjoy those that I am lucky enough to have in my life, and be thankful that I have been gifted with them.