A humble ask

Hi friends,

Nearly a year ago I started working for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Madison, WI (where I live). We recently held our annual WALK fundraiser, which is a 5k to raise awareness about mental illness and reduce stigma.

Our fundraising goal is $190k to go towards education and support programs for people affected by mental illness. So far, we’ve raised $161k and have just over a month left to raise the remaining 30k.

So, I’m doing my part  and making another pitch to my family, friends, and followers. If you’re reading this and have not already done so, I humbly ask you to make a difference and support our cause by making a gift to my team today.

No amount is too small – I’ve had friends forgo one of their daily, fancy $5 Starbucks drinks for the week and I will say it adds up quickly!

Please know that your support means the world and helps shine a much-needed light on mental illness.

Here is the link to make a donation to my WALK team (you can make it public or anonymous). And, many thanks in advance!

https://www.namiwalks.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donate.participant&participantID=32307

 

 

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Coping with a failed IUI

Nearly three weeks ago I went through my first insemination and have waited anxiously since to learn if a little babe was growing inside me or not. Unfortunately, the insemination was not successful.

I knew embarking on this journey could be a long one filled with disappointment. In all my counseling sessions and fertility specialist appointments, we talked at length about how to prepare myself for the possibility that the first, second, or even third attempt may not work given the low success rates for intrauterine insemination.

With fertility drugs, the chances of success are only 20% while insemination without fertility drugs is 14%. I opted not to use fertility drugs since it is so much more expensive and because it dramatically increases your chances of having twins or multiples. Plus, I’m 28. I should be fertile myrtle right now, right?

Knowing the realities and success rates of insemination, I was relentless in charting my cycle for months beforehand. I knew my peak fertility days. I knew when I ovulated. I knew the precise time I needed to have the insemination done to maximize the chances of the sperm meeting the egg.

I did everything right. And yet, it did not work.

Why? I don’t know but I have faith it will happen when it is supposed to.

That being said, I’m acutely aware that when I feel disappointment, I feel it deeply. Therefore, I want to give myself the time and space to work through this disappointment and lean into the worst feelings of confusion, frustration and heartache. If living with a mental illness has taught me anything, it’s that being honest and genuine in my sadness is a way to show compassion towards myself and practice self-care.

Many months ago, my psychiatrist and I made a plan on the steps I would take to manage disappointment if the procedure was not successful. It was a simple one. Cry it out. Take a break from ovulation kits and charting and doctors appointments for at least one complete cycle before trying again. And travel somewhere new because the world waits to delight in you.

I cried. I put away my ovulation kits and chart. And I booked a trip to Paris (I will be soaking in Parisian food, art and culture in just a few short weeks!).

My desire to be a mom is so strong and while I’m certainly disappointed, I’m still optimistic.

Fingers crossed for round 2!

 

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Filed under babies, Choice Mom, disappointment, donor insemination, IUI

Writing again

Hi Lindsay, I miss reading your blog posts. I hope you will start writing again. You have nice words to say. -blog follower

I was so touched to receive this email from one of my blog followers this past week. Writing is something I have always loved to do yet have done little or nothing of over the last eight months.

Last year, I would write and write but then in December it all just suddenly stopped. The words and thoughts still came but they would promptly float away, meaning every time I sat down to put pen to paper the page stayed blank.

It was aggravating and many times I found my inability to write fueling the self-hatred that darkness spews.

Because much of my identity is wrapped up in my writing, it is often one of the first subjects my therapist will ask me about as an indicator of my mood and how stable I am.

As you all know, most of what I write about has to do with loneliness, suffering, and pain as it relates to my own journey. I’ll often get notes from family and friends after they’ve read one of my more intense articles to see how I’m doing. I think for most of them its hard to imagine writing something with that much emotional depth unless you are depressed. Yet it’s the complete opposite for me.

Depression has never driven my creativity. In fact, it’s always destroyed it. When I am depressed, I don’t have the energy to write nor do I have the courage to share such vulnerable parts of myself. Plus, I have difficulty concentrating.

It should come as no surprise then that I stopped writing in December because I was, in fact, depressed. I had just started a new job that came with tremendous challenges and pressures in the first few months of my tenure. At the same time, a romantic relationship was coming to an end.

Those major life changes were happening at a time when I was still figuring out the right cocktail of medications to manage my illness. Thus, the stress of all that combined had deep impacts on my overall mental well-being.

By February, I was stable again and doing great but I gave myself permission to continue not writing if I didn’t feel like it.

I had come to realize that I didn’t always want to be a storyteller. Sometimes, I just wanted to exist and savor the moment without this expectation that in order for the experience to be real I needed to write about it.

The closest analogy I can come up with is if you’ve ever gone to a concert and spent more time taking photos and videos to prove to social media you were there and having the time of your life that when you got home it almost felt like you weren’t there.

Maybe that hasn’t happened to you but my point is this: the urge to write and tell a story sometimes overshadows my ability to appreciate the moment. Thus, my writing sabbatical has been a good thing for me.

I have a new job that I find meaningful and rewarding, I bought a house and enjoy putting in the work to make it my home, and now I’m embarking on motherhood alone.

Today, I wrote for the sake of writing. I wrote because I wanted to. And for me that feels like a really big accomplishment.

🙂

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Journey to baby

Growing up, I assumed I’d get married and have children. As I’ve progressed through my 20s, though, my attitude towards marriage is more of ambivalence and genuine disinclination than desire. On the other hand, my desire to be a mom has been unwavering.

While I would love to share the experience of raising a child, I haven’t yet found a compatible partner to share my life with and I don’t know when that will happen. I also don’t want to get married just for the sake of having a kid; it wouldn’t be the right decision for me or my child and in many ways I feel I would be robbing him/her of something special.  

And so, after a year of researching the choice mom movement and working to reach a healthy place in my recovery, I have made the conscious and deliberate decision to parent on my own via donor insemination.

The motivation behind this decision has nothing to do with the ticking biological clock so many women talk about (I am only 28, after all) nor does it have anything to do with believing there isn’t a compatible partner out there for me (I have faith there is and hopefully one day I’ll meet him).

What my choice to be a mom does have everything to do with is LOVE.

To be able to bring a child into this world and wrap my arms around them fills my heart with so much joy and peace. I am ready emotionally, spiritually, and financially to do this and I don’t want to wait. 

I am aware that being a single mom is not easy. You are everything all of the time and not having someone there to co-parent will be overwhelming and hard. I know this. But the one thing every single parent out there has told me is that it is all worth it.

Over the last week, I’ve been able to share my decision with several family members and close friends after getting the go-ahead from my psychiatrist. While I prepared myself for both positive and negative reactions, I am thankful they have all shown me unconditional support and are genuinely excited for me.

My first consultation visit with the fertility specialist is in two weeks and in 4-6 months I will undergo my first insemination. I know this journey will be an emotional and sometimes challenging one, but knowing I am not alone means the world to me.

I am so blessed!

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Filed under Choice Mom, donor insemination, Uncategorized

The Drama Triangle

Do you ever meet someone and feel it in your bones they will play a profound role in your life? You don’t know how or why but you know this fact to be true and you find yourself stubbornly devoted to making all those fantasies you dreamed up a reality.

With time you realize his/her presence in your life did, in fact, fundamentally alter your soul in a way very few people in this world do. But for many of us, the role we envisioned that person playing in our lives doesn’t pan out in the way we initially dreamed. This realization provides opportunity for self-reflection and self-introspection. What was their purpose in my life? What did I learn about myself?

And this is what I want to write about today. I’ve tried talking to the one friend I feel would get me on this subject but they always seem too busy so today, dear ones, I am going to talk to you because when I look back at two important people in my life – one from my past and one from my present – I see something in myself that I don’t particularly like.

For nearly four years I was trapped in a state of emotional confusion with a man I thought I would marry but as much as I was a victim of his emotional and mental abuse I begrudgingly admit I emotionally and mentally abused him as well. This realization doesn’t paint me in a particularly good light but that is how it was between us. I would become entangled in the role of Victim while he took on the role of Persecutor. Then we would trade positions. We were constantly fluctuating between acting helpless and lashing out at one another. It was as if we had a vested interest in keeping the dysfunctional game going because if we really did end it and truly allowed our souls to heal then who else would we play with?

I once again find myself trapped in another state of emotional confusion with a good friend but not in the same emotionally volatile and violent way I felt trapped before. The first time I met this person I felt immediately comfortable in his presence, like I did not have to hide behind this facade I had built up. I could be honest, even about the fucked up, dark, and scary things inside me and there was no fear, no judgment, no misunderstanding. Only compassion and kindness and big ears to go along with his big head. But timing is everything and as it turns out the fairy tale ending I dreamed up is not my reality. Respecting and nurturing our friendship is made more complicated by a deeper emotional and physical connection and I find myself floating between the roles of Victim and Rescuer while he floats between Victim and Persecutor (at least from my standpoint).

I described these sorts of habitual, emotionally dysfunctional relationships in a previous post but given the circumstances of my life at that moment in time my comprehension and interpretation of the concept (known as the Drama Triangle) was rather one-sided. So I’ll try again.

You can gather from above that the three roles in the Drama Triangle are: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. The Victim is the person who is always suffering; the Persecutor is the person who is inflicting the suffering on the Victim; and the Rescuer is the one who tries to step in and save the day.

We all fall into one of these roles (Hello, everyone! My name is Lindsay and I’m a professional Victim) but inevitably we end up switching roles with the people who are trapped in the Drama Triangle with us. The Victim builds resentment at having been mistreated so they lash out and become the Persecutor and the Rescuer becomes the Victim when they feel victimized or, if they feel manipulated by the person they are trying to rescue, they become the Persecutor. So basically the Drama Triangle sucks.

Being enmeshed in this never-ending cycle of doom is evidence of my obsession with misery and torment. My participation in these dysfunctional relationships is an act of self-violence that I have mistaken for heroism and martyrdom. But where is the heroism in abdicating responsibility for my own happiness and misery? Where is the heroism in giving myself over and over until I feel so completely drained that I have nothing left to give? Where is the heroism in the depression and the grief and the emptiness I seem to burrow inside? And where is the heroism in my willingness to burn at the stake time and time again out of an absurd sense of loyalty.

There is none.

Because I crave love and affection so intensely, I continually seek out these moments of pain and suffering and more often than not they are self-inflicted. I think I even like playing the role of Victim, which is REALLY hard to admit because that definitely doesn’t paint me in a pretty light. It’s sick and twisted, I know. But as some people are held prisoner to their addiction to drugs and alcohol, I seem to be held prisoner to my own suffering. This is how addiction works. And that is the part of me I do not like.

Two important people in my life have awakened my soul. This is the role they have played and will continue to play in my life. It didn’t pan out in the way I had hoped but they brought me closer to myself.

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Story of ‘the cut’

Since inspiration struck a few weeks ago I’ve been working on my book diligently, spending at least a couple of hours writing each day. I just finished the Prologue and have made considerable progress in the first section of the book entitled Love is a Motherfucker (ain’t that the truth!). Writing a book is challenging and laborious and at times immensely frustrating but it is also fun and rewarding and has provided me with the gift of insight and perspective.

I recently adapted one of these chapters to be a short, personal essay for a site I write for that focuses on fighting stigma around mental illness. It will be published in the coming weeks but I was given permission to share this story on my personal blog.

The essay I wrote is the story of the first time I cut myself. I’m not afraid to write about taboo subjects and I like pushing people to the edge of their comfort zones when they read my work. I will preface this post with the fact that this is a story that will certainly make you feel uncomfortable and squeamish (and for some could even be a trigger) so proceed with caution.

Something in me is broken and unfixable. The level of self-loathing and hatred I have for myself has left me emotionally empty, unable to feel anything. At times the numbness and silence is so deep that my desire to feel something, anything really, leads me to moments like these. The ones where I find myself sitting cross-legged on the bathroom floor of my Madison apartment, 26 years old, with a knife pressed against my wrist, poised and ready to cut.

I look up and see that two of the three light bulbs are burnt out in the light fixture above the sink creating an illumination of ambient lighting. The faucet is leaky, making a drip-drip-drip sound and the fan above me is humming softly. There are no windows, just boring white walls and one framed photo of Lava Lake in Big Sky, Montana hanging above the toilet. There is nothing special about this room except that it lacked life – the perfect backdrop to my lonely existence.

Every night for the last six months I have laid face-down on the cold hard-wood floor of my apartment, sobbing. And I’m talking about the worst kind of crying – the kind no one actually ever sees – when your soul weeps profusely and it just goes on and on and on. The emptiness, numbness, and loneliness I had felt for months were so profound I thought I might explode at any moment.

This must have been what led to my sudden uncontrollable desire to cut that day. Sitting there – sentenced to being stuck in my drab, uninviting cubicle, boxed in by dull gray modular panels and even more boring industrial carpet in a tiny space devoid of any natural sunlight – I wanted to feel something, anything, other than the emotional pain I had been harboring inside me for so long. Even if cutting was physically painful it had to be better than feeling dead on the inside. So without telling anyone where I was going, I grabbed my coat, purse, and keys and walked out of the office building towards my car.

It was a frigid, ice-kissed winter day in Wisconsin and the gush of air as I opened the door made my teeth chatter and the cold seep into my gloves. I half-ran, half-walked to my car, heart racing and chest pounding. I was having difficulty catching my breath and hysterically I unlocked the car door, put the keys in the ignition, and peeled out of the parking lot towards my apartment a mere five minutes away.

By the time I pulled into the parking lot outside my apartment building I was hyperventilating. I felt like something was squeezing me so tight that my ribs would crack. In my panic I ran from my car to the building and climbed the stairs two at a time. I unlocked the front door and all but threw myself at the kitchen counter, rummaging through the drawer where I kept the knives. I picked the sharpest one I could find, hurried to the bathroom down the hall, and slammed the door shut before sliding down on the floor next to the bathtub.

I sat there cross-legged, breathing heavily with my back against the side of the tub, looking down at the shiny knife I was holding in my right hand. I ran my fingers over the smooth blade, lightly pricking the tip of my left pointer finger. A small droplet of blood oozed out, running down my finger. I wiped the blood on my black dress pants then closed my right hand over the bottom black handle of the knife and rested it against my right leg.

Sitting there staring at the dull, white walls I wondered what it would feel like cutting myself with the tip of a blade. I knew I would be crossing the line into dangerous territory and potentially creating a habit that would be hard to break. It was then that the darkness interrupted my thoughts: It’s not such a big deal. A lot of people do it. It feels good, I promise. You’ll feel relieved. Go ahead and give it a try.

His argument seemed convincing yet there was a part of me still trying to reason her way through this – sort of like a sliver of light peeking through the darkness making a last-ditch effort to get my attention. She was jumping up and down in the corner, maniacally waving her hands above her head yelling: Hey! Hey! Over here! Look at me! DUDE, IT WILL NOT FEEL GOOD. IT WILL FUCKING HURT. Don’t listen to him. You don’t have to do this. You are so much stronger than this.

To which darkness responded: And why should she listen to you? Just ignore her, Lindsay. She doesn’t know anything. Let go. You’ll feel so much better. You can trust me. I am your most faithful friend.

I looked over at darkness, finding comfort in those two words faithful friend, and reached towards him to take hold of his hand.  Just like that the thing I feared most – losing control over my mind – became a reality.

I rolled up my sleeve, placing the tip of the shiny knife against my left wrist. I hesitated slightly but then slowly drew the blade over the veins, careful not to hit the artery and careful not to go too deep. As much as I would have liked to disappear (and as much time as I spent thinking about death) death was not actually on my mind at that moment. I just didn’t have the energy to carry out all the suicide scenarios I’d dreamed up.

After the first cut I sat there in awe watching as small droplets of blood trickled down my forearm and wrapped around the side of my wrist. It was a vibrant, rich red and I was dazzled by its brightness. I closed my eyes and breathed out a sigh of relief as my heartbeat slowed and the muscles in my body relaxed. The noise in my head retreated back into its hiding place and I was relieved of the pressure and racing thoughts darkness had crushed me with in recent days. I sat there another minute then I made another cut and another and another. Each time the blade dug into my skin it stung but it was a feeling that made me ache in both pleasure and pain.

I could feel the warmth of the blood as it trickled out of each of the wounds. I could feel it tickling my skin. I could smell the iron too and I found myself savoring the metallic taste it left in my mouth. Here was the proof I had been searching for – evidence of my existence. If I was bleeding then that meant I was alive. Dead people don’t bleed.

The relief I felt was momentary, though, because when I opened my eyes to look down at my wrist that sense of satisfaction was replaced with a sense of embarrassment and dread. What had I done? Why did I do that?

I frantically reached for the towel hanging on the back of the bathroom door, wrapped it firmly around my wrist, and held it up until the bleeding stopped. Through misty eyes I saw that the cuts weren’t deep. I didn’t need stitches.

While I was both pleased and appalled at my behavior I was afraid even more. Afraid of myself. Afraid of what I might do if I was left alone a minute longer. Afraid at the realization that I was no longer in control of my mind. Afraid of how my family and friends would react if they knew.

I collapsed into a ball on the floor, curling up inside this swelling depression. With the side of my face pressed against the cold, gray tile I wept tears of sorrow and whispered a plea for someone – anyone – to save me.

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Filed under anxiety, bipolar II, depression, mental health, mental illness

The magic of inspiration

I began writing a book about my journey through mental illness back in February of this year. I had written a few chapters but eventually hit a road block so I put it away in a drawer and haven’t look at it since.

However, one of my literary heroes, Elizabeth Gilbert, just released her new book Big Magic which profoundly changed the way I think about creativity and the “hidden jewels” lying inside me.

After finishing the book, I pulled out the chapters I had worked on so diligently for several months and the words made me cringe. The meat of everything I had written was about what happened to me rather than how it transformed me. Basically, it was dull and boring, even to me.

So I went back to the drawing board and asked myself, “Lindsay, at the beginning of your journey what would have been the ideal outcome of your story? Because that is what you should write about.”

It took an hour of soul-searching and self-introspection to get to the bottom of it, but in the end my ultimate desire was this: I didn’t want to waste my suffering. I wanted to use it to get closer to myself and to become the heroine of my own story.

I thought that sounded pretty cool and when I wrote that, inspiration struck me with such ferocity that I wrote and wrote and wrote. Before I knew it, nearly ten hours had passed, my Saturday virtually gone. But I looked through my composition notebook and realized I was looking at the outline for an entirely new book – a more real and genuine one than what I had previously written. One I was writing purely for me, not anyone else.

And you know what’s strange? I found myself writing about the profound pain and suffering and emotional confusion I had endured and was actually enjoying it, which is to say I am in a drastically different state of mind compared to where I was many months ago. Maybe that is because enough time has passed for me to look at my story as a spectator rather than writing it all as it unfolded.

At the time I had begun writing my book I had only been out of the hospital for a little over a month. I was still depressed as my medications hadn’t quite kicked in yet. And I was angry. Why did this happen to me? Why is life so unfair? It’s no wonder, then, I had written a book from the viewpoint of a victim. Thank god I’ve moved on.

Perhaps the most encouraging piece of advice I took away from Big Magic is the idea that your creativity and art is begging to be made manifest. It doesn’t matter if what you create is any good. It just matters that you finish it. It may not always come easy or naturally, but then again your work never promised it would be either of those things. It just promised it would interesting. And it is interesting, indeed.

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Filed under advice, books, heroes, inspiration, self-introspection, Writing