The Survivor Who Saved Me From Myself

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The last time I saw you, you were so frail and pained. Heartbroken. Weak and weary from a lifetime of struggling, your body was too worn out, too tired, to keep fighting the good fight. I curled up beside you in your bed, cradling you just as you have always done for me since I was born. The two of us are lying there in almost silence as I gently stroke your withered and wrinkled cheek, still so smooth to the touch. The only sound breaking the blanket of stillness embracing us were the soft echoes of slightly buzzed laughter from your legacy, drifting down the hallway and through your open bedroom door….

Her bedroom door was always left open. Never would she shut it. Not to sleep, pray, or get dressed. If she didn’t want company to see her change, she would use the bathroom; it was the only room of her house where she ever shut the door. You see, my grandmother was a survivor of the Holocaust. As a young girl, she witnessed more trauma and atrocity than any human ever should in an entire lifetime. And she endured even more. Her right eye was permanently blind from the damage caused by “scientific experimentation” because her hazel eyes appeared to be, inexplicably, two different shades of color- one blue and one gray. Her growth was  stunted from malnutrition, her fingers and toes slightly gnarled from the resulting calcium-deficiency. She was in line for the gas chamber when a miracle took place and the gas lines burst, saving her from her turn at death. My grandmother’s innocence was stolen. I wouldn’t want to leave any doors shut if I was living with nightmares of the past in my head, either.

Growing up, my grandmother represented everything I thought a woman should be. Classy, intelligent, maternal, loyal, strong, sensitive, beautiful, loving- she encompassed them all. Every morning she would brew her coffee, pour herself a cup, and sit down at her kitchen table with her cigarettes, makeup, and curling iron. The next hour was spent sipping from her cup, setting her hair, and putting on her face. I’ll never forget the way her lipstick was always worn down by the shape of her lips, the sharp angles of its original shape flattened to a nub…somehow it even was when I knew the lipstick was still quite new. This fact was so fascinating to me, and still is, long after I have grown up. My grandmother belonged to the era of ladies who wore as lipstick religiously as they attended church, reapplying as often as necessary to maintain its flawless perfection.

 

Whenever I was in need of a safe harbor to escape to, my grandmother was the only person I would go to. Like so many others had done before me. She possessed such a calm, sheltering warmth, you wanted to share your darkest fears and deepest secrets with her without hesitation. Regardless of what you told her, you knew she would never judge or be superficial; she was the most genuine, kind-hearted, and gentle soul. Her door was open to anyone, anytime. Even if it was her last loaf of bread, quart of milk, or sleeve of crackers, she was going to feed you. Providing comfort to your belly, right along with your soul, was her main prerogative in life; one I hope I will master as well as her someday. Especially, because I know I will never master her cleanliness and organizing skills. She was an amazingly adept and hard-working woman. I still envy her motivational drive to this day and wonder where the fuel which kept her heart fire burning so strong came from, when so much in her life proved to be stifling, traumatic, and oppressive.

When I was in my teens- brimming with bitter angst, unfocused passion, and general repugnance for anyone taking an authoritative stance, I wound up moving in with my grandmother. She welcomed me with heart-warming hugs, a firm understanding of the situation, and the personal space I needed to test my wings on my own. Her only rules: be respectful of her and my grandfather’s routines and way of living and to always let her know if I was expected home before she locked up at 1 am. Any later, I would have to wait until my grandfather woke up at dawn to get in, because I was too never wake them for such nonsense. At the time, I thought she was too afraid I would run if she had tried to “mother” me while I was living with her by strictly enforcing more age-appropriate rules for a seventeen year old girl, but I know better now. My grandmother gave me exactly what I hadn’t had before, what every kid needs to have with their parents to feel connected: trust and respect. She knew me so well and used my own personality traits to keep me in line unknowingly, while giving me the room to grow wild and free. A chatterbox by nature, she knew I would tell her what was going on in my life on my own accord. Without pressure. Or expectation. A soft-hearted and sensitive soul like myself also would feel guilty displacing, disrespecting, or disappointing my grandparents in any way. So she tricked me into behaving like a respectful young lady by laying out a few simple rules which played on my natural characteristics. Smart, smart woman; I told you so.

My grandmother was such a powerful influence on my life. It took until I lived with her as a teenager and was studying the Holocaust again in my Western European History class to find out she was a survivor. Her nightmare had been tucked away somewhere deep inside herself away from sight all this time. She never even told the whole story to her own children; my mother and two aunts only heard enough to answer their inquiries as they learned about the events in History lessons. The lady I knew so well as a child, admired so deeply for her womanly perfection, never showed even three slightest glimmer of a glimpse of the evil she had once known. She had once lived in. Evil which had not only scarred her severely, but had robbed her of her innocence, as well. Her love was so great, so powerful and mighty it was able to bury the hate which should’ve filled her after witnessing such nefarious barbarities before her life even had much of a chance to begin.

If she could find happiness after spending her childhood in a real life Hell on Earth, than I have no excuses why I can’t find happiness in my own life. And I never have made any. Life has been tough for me, in non-quintessential terms, and I have never had a moment in time where I wasn’t struggling with something. The short end of the stick, deck stacked against me, losing end of the deal…whatever you wanna call it, there is a curse of bad luck with its dark cloud of depression which follows me everywhere in life. Yet, I never stop smiling. I never give up. I always look for the ray on sunshine and beam of light making the dark seem so bright again. But like her bedroom door, if you know where to look, you’ll see the signs that, maybe, underneath the endless amounts of giving and tireless acts of love, I’m just a little broken inside. But it’s what’s broken which feeds the fire and overpowers the bad with good.

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I wish I had told my grandmother all of this when she was here. She made me the woman, the mother, and the survivor I am today. My children did not have enough time to know the magic of their grandmother’s tender touch,  delicious food, and grounding presence. They will never know how insightful and wise she was, how her presence could command respect without ever speaking in a voice above a loud whisper. How she made you want to do good and be a better you without scolding, nagging, or lecturing. How inviting her house was- the only one I’ve ever felt truly home in, in my entire lifetime. I wish I could have laid there with my grandmother for all of time, absorbing everything I still had yet to learn from her. I wanted to smell her in my soul, feel her in my heart, and see every moment we shared from the time she held me when I was born until this very moment now, thirty years later. I was her belated birthday gift, you know. I came just two weeks late, but as you know, I am still late for everything to this very day. (Late for preschool pickup right now!)

Since she’s been gone, I find it hard to shut doors around myself. I can only imagine the terror she must have felt alone in the dark, even with her husband beside her. I carry her nightmares with me now, because we should never forget such pain and suffering to humanity as those of the Holocaust endured. It seems as though, today, the people of the world have begun to forget. Genocide, racism, evil, and hate still very much present in our world, the most recent attacks on Kenya, Beirut, and Paris confirming as much. How can we forget so easily? I know I can’t, because what my grandmother did with the rest of her life after such tragedy is remarkably amazing. To live so selflessly and humbly while countlessly taking care of those who couldn’t take care of themselves and bringing smiles and laughter into the lives of everyone she happened upon is just the truest show of courage and strength I have ever seen.

This woman was my grandmother. My hero. My angel. My rock. My biggest fan. My everything. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Without her, I wouldn’t be strong. Without her, I wouldn’t be a survivor. I can feel myself lying with her in her bedroom every time I close my eyes and I can’t help but think, even for everything cursed in my life, I couldn’t have been anymore blessed…to be her granddaughter.

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      In Loving Memory of Pauline Kustra.

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By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom

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Worry Less, Believe More: I’m Still A Good Mother

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All any Mother wants is to be a good mom for her children. For them to know just how much she loves them and what she would sacrifice for their happiness. For most mothers, it is a wanton worry because they are a living example of the stereotype. They have all the makings in their bag of tricks, so it’s no surprise: financial and emotional stability, great health, stores of energy, craftiness, patience, and most importantly, after unconditional love, a great support system. I worry to the point of paranoia, because I don’t have anything on the list but unconditional love to offer my children. Will they understand one day? Will they resent me for being their Mother? Will they tell other people what a bad mother I was, when they are adults? Will we even have a relationship left by the time they’re grown?

With four kids, our expenses are stretched thin and it is damn near impossible to keep them in brand new clothes. We haven’t stepped foot inside a mall in years. They don’t have multiple pairs of shoes or oodles of accessories, hats, and belts to color coordinate with their outfits. They certainly have what they need, but they do not have a wide variety or a multitude of anything; much unlike their friends from school. My second son would cut off his left arm for a pair of Air Jordan’s, but we just can’t afford $150 for a pair of shoes to make the kid happy, and it pains me. There are no extracurricular activities like basketball, soccer, or dance. No family dates to museums, bowling alleys, or the movies, either. Our financial situation sucks more than ever since I’ve been unable to work. Yet, I don’t qualify for disability because I waited too long to apply. Are my kids going to think their childhood was shafted? Will they miss out on discovering a real talent? Will they hate me because they missed out on so many common life experiences which can’t be made up?

My health is not good for someone only in her early thirties. I have Degenerative Disc Disease with bone spurs. It limits my mobility even though I do push my physical limitations farther then I’m supposed to. I could never compare myself to those Pinterest-perfect moms I secretly envy. It causes me to waste precious energy on worries from self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness. Exacerbating the whole situation is the depression I’m constantly battling for control. Impeding thoughts of doom and gloom race through my mind frequently, playing out like those made for television Lifetime movies. Some days, I’m so physically drained which wears on me mentally, I feel like I’m deadweight and can’t move from “mom’s spot” on the couch. These are days I have to tell my children that I just don’t feel well enough to play horsey or go to the park, they can’t have friends over or make the intricate craft we had planned a week ago. I feel like the worst mom on the face of this earth in these low moments. Do they think I am the worst mom ever, too? Do they accept my illness and know it isn’t my fault? Do they see how much I try to push through my pain and despair? Will they hold this against me until the day I die? Will they call me crazy one day? Will they be stunted in some way because I’m not always emotionally available?

My biggest wish would be to have a traditional support system to lean on while I make my way through this haphazard parenting journey I’m on. In some way or another, I know it would make a huge difference in the way things are right now. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be drowning in trepidation over my relationship with my children if I had any kind of support at all. With my husband’s twelve hour, half-afternoon/half-midnight work shift leaving me as a married-single mother, it is just me and the kids- twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The only day off he gets he needs to use for recharging his own batteries, which doesn’t allow for giving me a day off for myself. This is the point where everyone suggests I call my parents or his and ask to drop the hooligans off for a few hours, the day, or a sleepover. Ask a good friend to come over and help me clean up the house. Call up an aunt to see if you can come over for a girl chat gossip session while your kids run wild in her humongous backyard. This is now the point where I begin laughing maniacally in their face. I don’t have those kind of comfy-cozy close relationships in my life. There is no one willing, able, or offering to help me raise my children, despite all the hurdles I have on my course. Are they going to realize I didn’t have the support those good mothers have? Will they see how limited my options really were? Do they know how much I have given of myself to do right by them? Are they going to see me as a failure? Will they think I didn’t give them enough? Are they going to distance themselves from me as they grow? Do they think I’m broken? Do they EVEN know how much I love them?

My worrisome, guilt-ridden thoughts eat away at my confidence. They bring me far away from my natural happy-go-lucky, go-with-the-flow disposition, taking me to a place of depression which is hard to climb out of. But NOT impossible. I still have the greatest of all the good mother makings in my bag, the most powerful of them all: unconditional love. It is true what they say about love conquering all because no matter how low my obsessive worrying brings me, I am always able to find my way back on the love train. Regardless of my pain level, the bad days full of darkness, or my inability to provide a wealth of experiences and material things I always have an infinite bounty of love for my children; no strings attached. The love I have for them pours out of my heart and soul with no limitations, no conditions, and no boundaries. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for their well-being even if it meant dealing with excruciating pain. I can’t be so hard on myself for not fitting the mold of a stereotype designed around circumstances which are NOT my own. If my children cannot feel the love I never stop giving them, then it is no fault of my own, because I am doing the best job of mothering I am capable of doing.
Have I taught them to be compassionate enough? Have I shown them how to be themselves despite social expectations? Do they see I march to the beat of my own drum, because it is the beat of my soul? Will they realize you don’t have to be anything but yourself? Will my journey inspire them one day?

Molds were made to be broken. It is encouraged to think outside the box more than ever now. It is wrong for me to deny myself the credit I’m due and look down upon myself with unnecessary regret and guilt. I will love my children to the moon, around all the planets in the universe, through the Milky Way, across all the stars, and back into my heart…to infinity and beyond sanity until the day I die. I would give my last breath for them, to sound contritely cliché, without hesitation. They give me purpose and motivate me to fight the battles in my life and overcome the challenges they present. I want to be the best me I can be for them. All the worrying I do may be justifiable, but it is just as wanton as it is for any good mother.

Because, despite which tricks I may, or may not, have inside my mothering bag…I am as good a mother as any. Whether I worry incessantly, or not. It’s up to me to believe in myself- believe I’m a good mother, because not one of those tricks will do that for me.
What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t teach my kids to believe in themselves by me believing in myself first? The kind of mother I’ll never be, that’s who!

By: Kristina Hammer, aka, The Angrivated Mom

The House Depression Built For Me

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Have you ever heard the saying, you are what you eat? Well, I’m living proof that you live in who you are, too. With that being said, one can presume correctly that, because my life is a gigantic blackhole of kinetically-charged chaos, so is my dwelling, my homestead, my address of residence.

It is a level of embarrassment in my life which I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with, but somehow I have. I never imagined that I’d be in this predicament, not in a hundred thousand dreams of nightmares, but here I am nonetheless. I’m living in a house built at the hands of Depression, decorated on a recovering addicts budget, and maintained in unkempt upkeep by chronic pain. It’s not what I had in mind, but it has to do for now.

Long before I was a married mom of four hoodlums, it was very possible I could have been classified with an OCD diagnosis. My home was always a spotless level of clean, worthy of magazine ad showcasing. Each and every thumbtack, sequin, and screw, had it’s own place separate from the toothpicks, bobbypins, and batteries. Everything micro-organized into labeled containers within containers for maximum organization. Everything was always nice and neat, nothing in excess, lost, or wasted. I vacuumed twice a day, every day. I swept the kitchen even more, scrubbing it down, by hand, every night after dinner. Not a single lacy cobweb or dingy dust bunny could be found hiding anywhere, not even in the unfinished basement with exposed rafters and beams throughout the ceiling. I would cut someone with my stabby self if they even thought about leaving their shoes on in my house.

These days, if I even let you get through my front door- after reading you the riot act and forcing you to sign consent forms releasing me from responsibility over your safety, I’ll warn you to keep your shoes on, unless, you want the Plague or Ebola, that is. Every single wall in this house has been colored on. Any cabinet below adult waist-level height has been colored on and stickered, too. The flooring, paint-splattered original-to-the-house wood flooring, which still desperately needs to be stripped and rewaxed, is a gigantic step up from the carpet I tore out of here over the last summer. The same carpet that was brand new to the house when I moved in. The house is totally done with, destroyed merely by living in it, as you do. There’s no helping it anymore. It needs to be nuclear bombed. Or radiated and evaporated. At the very least, quarantined in one of those little life-sustaining bubble thingies until someone finds a cure.

Four years ago, I was in the middle of a really bad time in my life. A time that was dark, cold, and isolating, full of burning bridges and severed ropes to the emergency lifeboats  I mistakenly thought were weighing me down. I was fresh in the aftermath of recovery from an addiction to pain pills, stemming from chronic pain in my spine. Physicians were so quick to throw prescriptions at me, even before the final diagnosis was made! They allowed me the misperception off the starting gate, that the meds could actually help heal the damage, without warning me of the serious dependency aspect.

When all I wanted was answers as to how/why/where I was broken and a plan of action for treatment, all I got was more meds to mask the newest symptoms and the beginnings of immobility issues. Every time I tried to get someone to talk to me like a normal human being, I was blown off with the same spiel and more meds. After trying to get second, third, and fourth opinions, I was accused of doctor hopping to feed my arbitrary addiction. You know, the one they created in the first place! Never any real answers or treatment options beyond the meds, only a name to call my problem- Degenerative Disc Disease with Spinal Bone Spurs.

Within that time, my life had flipped, turned upside down, into the darkness of addiction, setting off a domino effect of misfortune, consequence, and debt that continued to follow me, long after I got sober. Way longer than I had ever considered, but, then again, I hadn’t even considered becoming an addict the first time I chewed up two Vicodin, instead of swallowing one, whole, as the directions on the prescription bottle directed. The doctors and pharmacists also failed to mention the living hell on earth the withdrawals are, that happen when the medications are cut off, as well. It’s the second biggest reason why the majority of people who are addicted to some kind of opiate, from Vicodin and Tylenol #3 to Morphine and Oxycontin to  Fentanyl and Heroin, plus everything in between, don’t stay clean. Here it is, straight from the horses mouth for you: The actual reason why the majority of addicts of any kind don’t stay clean for long, is that domino effect of aftermath that occurs after getting clean.

There’s debts to be paid from all the financial responsibilities neglected to pay for more medication. There’s no support system left, because there’s no trust remaining with family or friends, strangers can peg a train wreck headed their away rather quickly, and other recovering addicts are not the greatest support system, regardless of whatever AA/NA preaches, because everyone has demons of their own they carry with them. Most former addicts have arrest records that won’t get through the background checks every employer uses these days, prohibiting anyone, even the most deserving and longest clean citizens, from getting a second chance at making an honest living. No job, no income, and then there’s more debt. More government assistance. More shame, embarrassment, and discrimination for mistakes long gone and done with.

So, why not keep on using drugs, numbing all of the downer feels, drowning out the life that’s too screwed up to be fixed into anything better?

If I’m gonna live dirt-broke and dirt-poor, might as well be down in the dirt high, too.

I can’t say I blame a lot of them for that kind of reasoning. Had I not had the fire burning fierce in my soul, never liking being on all of those meds, consolidated with the blessing of a husband I have, I can’t say with any certainty that I would’ve been able to get out of the vicious cycle of addiction, otherwise. It was a really hard battle with the DDD factor, to find non-abusable medications that would ease the real pain, still there, long after the withdrawals passed.

What better time, than this perfect storm a-brewing, to find out Depo Provera was no match for my Fertile Myrtle self. I was expecting! Child number four! Right smack in the middle of the declarable national disaster of my life. Someone, certainly had a sense of humor, above me. Now I had a fourth child on the way, with chronic pain to manage resulting from a genetically inherited disease, while maintaining my recovery. That’s right at the time we moved into this house. After all the destruction and mayhem I had experienced in my last residence, it was a dream to me to be able to start fresh in a new home. I really thought this place could be the beginning of something great for my family, a stepping stone back into the social ball game, a place to feel proud and accomplished of all we had overcome. Little did I know upon signing the lease, that the real landlord for this new house was going to be Depression and it was going to redo everything I blueprinted the way it wanted.

During the course of my pregnancy, and the first months we lived in this new place, I was feeling really rough. My body was thrown into a permanent withdrawl type ordeal because the pressure of the growing baby irritated the spinal injuries and the pain meds severely upset my stomach. Coupled with the morning sickness that grew in intensity with each one of my previous babies, I was so very sick throughout the whole pregnancy. So sick that I had to be on round-the-clock nausea meds, administered every 3hrs & 55mins exactly, to prevent it from fully wearing off before the next dose kicked in, or else I couldn’t even keep the pill down long enough to dissolve before I wretched it back up. I wasn’t worried about organizing the house as we moved in, I just threw everything that wasn’t necessary for every day use into the hall closet or basement, to be stored until after I delivered the baby and could take the time to sort it all out. Without puking on it.

Furnishing the house was just as big of a challenge with a baby on the way, as the organization. Like I said before, there was plenty of destruction and mayhem before getting sober, so I didn’t have much of anything worth bringing along when I was starting anew. It was the unexpected pregnancy of the child now known as Stinx Majinx, that really threw my game plan through a loop. Since I thought my family was complete after the third, I had parted with the baby gear as I went through each stage, never thinking that the Depo shot would one day fail. The triple-the-retail-price sacrifice of Rent-a-Center in order to get us nice furniture on weekly payments without credit check play call was uprooted for the Secondhand-Family-Freebie pass play, so the budget could make room for this new addition.

The results are a mismatched mix-up of styles that look like I hired the local white trash redneck garbage picker as an Interior Designer. Another one of those happenings I had no intention of keeping the way it worked out, but once I went into labor, all bets were off, all remaining rights to my blueprints, revoked. That bundle of sleepless nights joy brought home the Baby Blues with her. At first, I accepted it as the familiar gig from the past, knowing it would wander out the same way it came in, riding the changing hormonal tides of post-pregnancy and new life. I couldn’t have cared less about the nitty gritty details of housekeeping. I was beyond over-tired, exhausted, drained. I was a sauntering zombie, unable to think clearly, focus my thoughts long enough to care for the newborn, let alone, three other children and a husband who is gone 72hrs a week, trying to provide financially for his family. Everything in regards to the house and it’s upkeep was loaded onto my back at this point and there was no one else who had my back, but my hubs. What good can a man do at the home when he’s already out doing good for the home?

In light of this reality, I saw the Cyclic Depression I’ve always suffered from, had snuck in under the guise of the addiction recovery, hiding behind it all along. The imbalanced hormones from the very normal Baby Blues gave Depression it’s chance to announce it’s presence, rearing it’s ugly head with an intensity unlike any time before. My mind was consumed, overcome, by a darkness that had been slowly seeping back in through the cracks and crevices of my brain since I had stopped abusing opiates.

Now, after four years of chaos, turmoil, and solidarity, this house is better off on an episode of America’s Worst Houses To Live In. If that show even exists. If it doesn’t, then my house should certainly be the inspiration for such one after this! There are so many times I find myself looking around at all that needs to be caught up on and bursting into tears. It’s not that I wanted it to be this way, it’s not what I had envisioned, and it’s not at all how I wanted things to turn out to be! Depression took over, engineering it’s own blueprint and hiring the lazy, half-ass carpenters, Recovery and Chronic Pain, to carry out the plans and influencing the interior design of the place. There’s finger prints on every surface, boxes to be sorted full of old clothes, toys, and books just waiting patiently to be repurposed, and stacks of laundry baskets that sometimes get emptied out from living out of before it can actually be emptied out by folding and putting everything away.

My floors are lucky enough to be swept and vacuumed daily. It’s a good week if the kitchen floor gets washed. Accidentally. By Stinx dumping out the entire 2 gallon water jug from the fridge, trying to be a big girl. It’s a great month when I remember to not only vacuum the bedrooms, but change the kids’ sheets, as well. The living room window could use a good washing, but why bother when the dog’s gonna press her nose right back into it the second I move out of her way… besides, if I want to clearly see the outside, then I’ll take my butt out there and enjoy nature up close and personal. Forgive me, also, because I have flower beds that haven’t seen flowers in them since I took up residence. My inner green thumb self is much better at smoking green plants than growing anything of anything color.

This house Depression has built for me may not be the house of my dreams, but it’s still my home. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it will take more work than I’m able to put forth effort for and more money for products, supplies, and equipment then I can afford to try to take back what Depression has created out of my home for me. Everyone and their mother’s uncle’s fourth wife, advises me to take baby steps to get ‘er done, but when you have four kids, presently all under eleven, you can’t complete such a large projects in pieces, without expecting everything previously done to come apart while you’re working on a new section. Because, well… life happens is why.

Life does happen, IS happening, and that’s what I focus on when the tears start to roll. Life is constantly passing by. What good would it do to wallow in the happenings that have already passed by instead of making the most of what’s actually happening right now? There’s comfort to be taken in the ever-changing moments of life, because nothing stays the same for long. That means the house that Depression built, with Recovery and Chronic Pain heading it’s crew, won’t last forever. There will be another house, another opportunity, another chance- to do things right next time, get life in order inside my life at home to go along with everything that I was able to get in order outside of my home during the time I’ve lived at this one. Fate is really pretty comedic in it’s ability to alter your perception of reality along with the course of one’s life.

Throughout the time I’ve lived in this house, I saw it as a cursed blessing, a positive turned negative, as my plans fell into what I believed to be the wrong hands. I now know that Depression was meant to build this house all along. Once it gets evicted and a new home to build, all by myself this time, in the works, it is going to be my turn to shine. This time. This time, I will have all of the tools the trio of Masquerading Contractors left behind, in my tool box. Those missing tools I never knew I would need until I learned from life that I did. Until I finally learned how to live in the moment, in the house, Depression had built for me.

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An Ode To Depression

Loving you is like welcoming cooling rains
After an endless summer fever.
Oh. So. Easy. It is.
And for the first time, I’m a believer.

Hating you is like shutting out a blizzard
During a harsh winter’s freeze.
Oh. So. Hard. To do.
And for the first time, I’m on my knees.

The perfect partner with which to dance
Taking lead for me to follow.
Step. Into. Line. On command.
As always, such a tough pill to swallow.

The secret confidante who knows all too well
Whispering the key to unlock.
Step. Outta. Line. Disobey orders.
As always, such an aberration, system shock.

Going up and down, forwards and backwards
With me forever, where ever I go in life
Mental. Illness. Sucks. To have.
For the rest of time, causing so much strife.

Cycling around and around, over and over
Making me who I am today.
Mental. Illness. Rocks. My world.
For the rest of time, I’ll be strong as a warrior.

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#ENDTHESTIGMA
#ACCEPTANCE

Treating Depression: Soldiers of Misfortune Need An Arsenal To Fight The War Within

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There are days when I feel like I’ve had well more than enough. That I need to run away and never come back, leaving everything behind. I’ll contemplate what it would be like, what it would feel like, to no longer have the mundane responsibilities and overbearing pressures in my life drowning me, that I have now. My mind squirrels away down every trail it stumbles across with whatever captivates my fancy, only to chase another sparkle down another winding path. If I didn’t get lost within the sanctity of my mind, I would likely do more than just contemplate my getaway, only to sorely regret it in once I arrived at the end of the road, wherever that may be.

We all have these kind of days. They’re the days that make you question what the greater good of everything in your life actually is. Whether or not the living in your life is worth the aggravated struggle it takes to keep it up. The kind of day when your emotions are stretched so thin that anything could become a trigger for the damn retaining the overflow of your soul to release. But, when you have Depression, these days come faster, harder, & more frequently. These kinds of days may be triggered by the outside influences of life weighing heavy on one’s shoulders, carrying enormous loads of stress, but, they are fueled by influences from the inside. The misfiring of nerves, the imbalanced brain chemistry, the racing or irrational thought processes, and the irregular cycles of intensified emotions and feelings of intense despair, among many others symptoms are the enemy in a never-ending battle for control. Those outside influences of stress give aid to the war cause, but, reality is, that the disease is ultimately what generals the army. Depression is The Commander In Chief and there’s no impeachment laws.

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As we grow and mature from children to adults, we learn many ways to cope with, handle, and control the many different aspects of our human psyche. Seemingly, the most successful people in life are those who are truly in touch with their own psyche. They are able to control their actions and reactions and maintain a cool, calm, and collected presence in the most stressful of circumstances. This is a near-impossible achievement when you’re diagnosed with Depression. Depression manages to stay one step ahead of the opposing army, cutting off all attempts at preventing it from sinking it’s talons in, relinquishing the dark in replace of the light in one’s life. It takes a full array of life skills, coping mechanisms, maturity, wisdom, knowledge, and support under one’s belt to push back the frontline to one’s advantage.

The pharmaceutical companies take gamble on this factor of the disease. They prey on those genetically stuck between a rock and a dark place. They prey on the fact that therapy, the psychological reconditioning of one’s thought patterns and teaching of those crucial coping skills and survival mechanisms, takes time, dedication, and a willingness to work hard at make change. Instead, those companies advertise promises of quick, easy, chemically controlled cures. These cures only work so long as you take the medication ritually consistent, creating a physical and mental dependence on it to maintain control of the disorder. That fits right in line with the definition of addiction- the psychological dependence of a substance to satisfy a psychological need for the resulting affects of that substance. In this case, the need is instantaneously relief of Depression symptoms, the substance is antidepressant medication, and the affect is the feeling of sanity, a return to the bright side of life, or, at least, a way to keep the all consuming darkness at bay and maintain whatever misguided idealism of what a normal brain might be.

Now, the concept of taking medication for an illness or disease of any sort is not a ridiculous concept at all. It’s the fact that the pharmaceutical companies push these medications as cure-all’s and one-swallow-fixes, misleading people to believe that it is the only necessary method towards achieving that normal brain they crave, that’s ridiculous. That medicating is the only imperative for escaping the clutches of the piercing talons of that twisted, discombobulated Commander In Chief, Depression. Through the suggestive brainwashing of advertisement, the drug companies give credence to the fact that Depression is no different than flipping a switch or setting a timer knob on and off: at 8 a.m. the pill goes in, normal brain turns on; exactly 23:59 hours later the pill wears off. That is a cycle of symptom masking, not a cure of the actual disease! Human error and real life interference are an oversight, no forethought given that the medication will even be used continuously as prescribed, at the specified doses and intervals.

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It is a grave injustice to the mental health community for this debauchery, this facade, of mental health care to continue to go on as it is. Family physicians may have enough training to recognize basic mental health symptoms and feel falsely confident under the persistent influencing by Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Representatives, in treating the more cut-n-dry of mental illnesses themselves- Depression, Bipolar, and Anxiety. They will suggest one see a therapist for “added benefit,” but it’s not mandated for treatment. Other alternative treatment options are typically only brought to the table when the patient does so themselves. Medication, alone, shouldn’t be the only answer given, because it doesn’t work as promised for everyone. There must be something more, something greater, enabling the promotion of every option possible and mandating therapy to increase one’s arsenal, in order to effectively combat the frontline, or else, Depression will always win.

It’s a very morose state of unmet growing needs catapulted by financial greed, wealth of power, and a bit of political influence that the Mental Health care system is being controlled by these days. People walk around like brainwashed soldiers dedicated to the organization, oblivious to whether or not they’re actually benefiting from the system, getting the whole story, or being informed of all the truths. There’s a lot of misdiagnosis going on when Family physicians try to keep those “easy” patients, with their insurance monies and self-paying funds, presumptively lining their own pockets on someone else’s sanity. The only person monitoring a chronic, potentially debilitating and life-threatening illness is an overloaded physician of general practice with no extra mental health training beyond the mandatory six-week rotation in med school. Depression is not a drive-thru issue. It’s a serious mental illness and should be respected as such.

When the medical professionals representative of our own personal opinions of well-being don’t take an illness seriously, neither will anyone else. When those professionals covet their patients and refuse to show them the truth about their diagnosis, refuse to give them other options and mandate therapy, they are harming the mental health community. What good does that daily dose of antidepressant medication do when the day has turned rotten and running away is the only feasible option? It’s not going to magically kick your brain and say “Oh, wait a minute! I’m here. Let’s just change those thoughts about all the things that have gone wrong today and are bringing you down, then make you feel all rosy, sunshiny, and happy, again.”

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The medications do the best they can to balance the brain chemistry that leads to those thoughts taking over, but they can’t stop them completely. Especially under a general practitioner’s care. They’re not apt to run any testing to make sure the medication is actually changing anything on the inside, they ONLY take the word of their patients, never looking at whether the medication is accurately effective at balancing that haywire brain chemistry. Those pharmaceutical reps will just continue to bait those physicians with their free samples and smooth-talking, hooking them with the guarantee to increase their revenue by treating cases of Depression themselves, leaving their patients vulnerable, misguided, and at risk.

If the stigma on mental health diagnoses is to ever change, so must our avenues of treatment. Therapy must become a requirement, so those of us with diagnosis can arm ourselves with the necessary weapons of control against this lifelong war on Depression- a fight that will not cease until our deaths. Alternatives to pharmaceutical medications must become readily available and easily obtainable. Changes to the structure of combat against this mental disorder are long overdue and necessary, because the next person contemplating driving off the face of this earth, might actually make it to their final destination without regret, lost to the war within their mind needlessly, sadly, unfortunately. An arsenal containing more than just man-made chemical compounds, could’ve saved that soldier of misfortune from being lost forever.

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