Friday, January 17, 2014

Grief makes you crazy.

I don't even know how to describe the state I'm in right now. I want to cry and/or throw stuff and/or scream and/or burrow beneath my blankets and hide for awhile. I want people around me and/or I want to be alone. It's dizzying and completely nonsensical. I find myself labeling this state as "possibly bipolar" or "inching on borderline". When really, there's only one label that fits:


I hate grief. It is unpredictable and isolating. It is nauseating with all of its ups and downs. It makes you push people away when you really want to hold on for dear life. It makes you rethink the world and life and all that existential crap you try so hard not to ever think about because, oh yeah, it's freaking DEPRESSING. It makes me scared, no, terrified to get closer to people, because what if I lose them, too? I couldn't bear it.

Then I hear God's voice, "Do you really trust me so little?"

You see God, it's not that I don't trust you, it's that I don't trust me. I'm the weak link in this equation. I'm the one not strong enough, brave enough, holy enough, to handle all this you gave me. You tossed one too many balls into my already shaky juggling act, and I'm just one blink away from screwing up and dropping everything.

And the panic-grief spins again.

It really makes me long for numbness, for the emotional wasteland I curl into when I'm all emotioned-out. It's a place that once held so much emotion, that it sucked all the color from the sky, all the water from the ground, and all the warmth from the sun and became a numb, empty place. Sometimes it feels good to be here, not feeling anything. But I don't feel God here, and that scares me.

I'd rather riding the crazy train of grief, yet feel God with me, than meander in the empty place all alone.

Really, I'd prefer to not have either of those states, but that's the thing with life - it was never meant to be easy. If it is easy, you're doing something wrong. You're not loving enough. You're not living enough.

And while my love for those close to me is what puts me in grief, its that same love that saves me from being a miserable wretch. Love renews and strengthens, even as the grief takes you for a ride. Love refreshes the soul, and brings light to the darkness. Because love is God.

I just need to hold onto Him until this revolving door of crazy-grief can simmer down. Actually scratch that - I need to hold onto Him always and forever.

Never let me go.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Therapized Therapist, Part 2: Panic Station

Healing from PTSD is full of hills and valleys, but lately it's been all valleys. Whether it's stress, adjusting to new medication, a combination, or whatever, my anxiety/panic is on an high alert. When this happens, my brain releases the Thought Police. And since my amygdala (aka Thought Police Headquarters) probably takes up most of my brain, I have an entire brigade of police, trolling for any thoughts that dare step out of line. Any thought that doesn't follow the norm, any thought that is the remotely bit errant, will get caught. Once caught, the lights flash on, the sirens go blaring, and the Thought Police tackle the thought with enough force to be blamed (accurately) for committing police brutality.

Scary thoughts, overly emotional thoughts, repetitive thoughts... none of these are allowed. Can you imagine having a brain that wasn't allowed to have these thoughts? A brain that was only allowed to have peaceful, gentle and loving thoughts 24/7? Yeah, it's impossible. Our brains have thoughts more times than we are even conscious of - there are background programs running constantly. We have thoughts we can't control sometimes. That's part of having a functioning brain. It's normal and healthy.

My anxious brain doesn't buy it.

Now when I'm anxious it's difficult to let those errant thoughts go. It's difficult to slow down the fear and panic that sets in because of the thoughts and memories. I make these illogical assumptions that if I have these thoughts I must be broken/bad/no good/never gonna get better. It's torment, thinking that my brain will always be this way. That thought just fuels the fire.

I hate being in this place, but I know it's only temporary. With each second I have to practice letting go of my thoughts, giving the Thought Police a leave of absence, let them go holiday in Hawaii, drink some tequila and tan on the beach. Then maybe my brain could do its thing and heal a little more.

Sigh. Healing is now, I recognize that. But I just wish it wouldn't take so long. Luckily, I've been blessed with friends and a boyfriend who hold me up when I can't go any further. I just gotta keep holdin' on, practicing hope and waiting for the day when I don't feel like the world is ending.

"You've arrived at panic station -
Doubts will try to break you
Unleash your heart and soul
Trouble will surround you
Start taking some control."
- Muse, 'Panic Station'

Thursday, February 7, 2013


I started writing this when thinking about PTSD, then realized about halfway through that I was really writing it for someone close to me who is fighting an on-going battle with illness of a different sort. This is for them, with much love.


The terror hits you,
sinks into your bones, icy and harsh,
turning your blood to fire and ice.

You freeze as the fear consumes you,
your vision fills with vestiges
of horrors, catastrophes
and terrors, large and small.

Your eyes squeeze shut against them,
your body tenses against the barrage of potential pain,
and your thoughts race for a way out.

They find none.

Death seems inevitable, and not so much an earthly death,
but a spiritual one,
a death born of not loving others,
of becoming so lost in this pain
you can't see beyond yourself.

It's all you can do to hold onto hope.

But my dear one,
you must keep your eyes open to see it.
Hope is in Him, in His light!
Even in this blackness, it shines.

You must look past the shattered images,
breathe through the panic,
stand up against the deadweight of despair.
Can you see?

His light works through the cracks,
through the walls that seem to reach the sky.
His love consumes the fear that consumed you;
Nothing can contain His fire.

Look for His light,
even if all you see in the moment is a spark,
for that spark is part of an unending source
of light, of love, of salvation.

See the light, hold onto it with all your might,
even as the anxieties and lies assail you,
luring you to sink back
into their hopelessness.

Hold on!
They cannot consume or defeat you,
You, who are bright and beautiful,
a creature of the Divine.

Hold onto the spark.
watch it as it grows with your awareness,
glowing brighter and bigger,
until it becomes the Sun itself.

It will shut out all that scares you,
all that makes you cower.
It will burn so lovingly, so fiercely,
that in time it will be all you see, all you are.

And my darling,
if the darkness comes back,
never fear.

The light will save you.

Again, and again, and again.

A spark is all it takes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Superheroes don't always wear pants.

It's true. Superheroes don't always suit up in cape and spandex. They aren't always noticeable when they spring to action, saving the bystander from certain danger. And from my experience this weekend, they can come in the most interesting of outfits.

Last night I found myself struggling - against my will as always - with PTSD symptoms out of nowhere (seemingly). They like to do that, attack you when you least expect it. What was supposed to be an awesome night downtown, turned into me crying in a parking lot with panic and all the fun that goes with that. Now before you pause here to get all sorry for me, please hold on for a second - this story is actually not about that at all. But I digress.

Not wanting to ruin everyone elses night, I called the person I knew would come to my rescue. I stood on Cesar Chavez feeling silly and sorry, when suddenly my hero comes pulling up, whisking me to the safety of a warm car and an empathetic ear. They listened to me, asked all the right questions, and took me straight to Whataburger for fries.

Before we went inside, they exclaimed, "Oh, I'm not wearing any pants!" I looked down and bursted out laughing at the leggings + reindeer t-shirt + fuzzy boot ensemble my rescuer was wearing. In their haste to come help me, they ran out of the house with their nighttime clothes on, not bothering to change into something more befitting of public viewing. "I just knew you needed me, so I ran out the door in this!" they said.

I laughed until I cried, thanking God for blessing me with such a beautiful, caring, and goofy sister.

My sister has always been there for me, saving me with her witty humor, strong will, and love as fierce as anything I've ever seen. I know that no matter what happens, no matter if she's dressed like Wonder Woman or a cat lady, she'll always be a hero to me. Though it would be easier if she wore pants next time.

"You be the anchor that keeps my feet on the ground, I'll be the wings that keep your heart in the clouds." - Mayday Parade

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Give me hope in the darkness.

"Are you kidding me?!"

That was the first thing out of my mouth today when I read about the shooting in San Antonio.

"What is this world coming to???"

That was the second thing I muttered right before I fell melodramatically onto my bed. My mind raced as it flipped through all of the messy, tragic and confusing things that have happened in this world in 2012. I felt heavy with grief, but worse, I felt the cold tendrils of despair begin to wind their way across my heart.

The world is full of evil; the world is full of pain and horror. There's nothing we can do to predict it or stop it. It's a reality that not only feeds despair, but also the mentality that people are bad and we must live closed and guarded if we are to survive. And maybe it's true. Maybe we do need to live cautiously, but to what extent?

My fear is that if you open the door to despair, hopelessness will soon follow. Those two go hand-in-hand it seems, and they can easily tie themselves to your feet, the cement blocks that they are, and bring you to the very bottom. That is not a good place to be. Darkness and fear thrive down there, and pretty soon those convincing four will become so loud that's all you hear. Then what? You become frozen, closed, bitter or harsh. Or maybe you become numb to it all, and lose yourself in the various forms of modern day distraction.

It's easy to go there, at least for this catastrophisizer (yeah, I just made up that word). It's much easier to sink than to shake off the despair and hopelessness, and choose hope instead. It's so hard to carry hope when all of this horrible stuff is happening. But we must.

I remember someone telling me that faith is believing the unbelievable. I think that having hope and faith feels like that - believing in the impossible. It feels counterintuitive sometimes. But I have to look at these negative news stories and believe that people are still good, that love still exists in this world.

Luckily, examples of this are not hard to find. Spend time at a park or playground, and you'll see kids laughing. Go to a restaurant and see families sharing food together (just don't go to Chuck-E Cheese's... not the best place to find peaceful joy). Go to a corner downtown around sundown in Austin, and you'll see people feeding the homeless. Watch the "Free Hugs" video from Sick Puppies and laugh at all the love. (

These are the reminders that make hope not so hard to have. It reminds me that despite the darkness of the world, there is much more joy and love to be found. No matter what we do in this life, we're all called to carry this joy around and be hope for those around us. Love cannot stop just because there is suffering. Because there is suffering, we must love more.

That's the beautiful thing about love - no amount of pain or suffering can squelch it. Love is immune to death; it is immune to darkness. Where love exists, so does hope.

As I go to sleep tonight, I mourn the suffering of the world, but I rejoice in the blessings all around me: my family, my friends, my sweet boyfriend, my job, my life. They give me love, and they give me hope.

"So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
Cause oh they gave me such a fright
And I will hold on with all of my might
Just promise me that we'll be alright."
- Mumford & Sons 'Ghosts That We Knew'

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Therapized Therapist: Part 1

I've been debating about when or if I would blog about this. I usually blog about love or stupid things I see that I find amusing. Sometimes I blog about faith. This topic probably encompasses all of the above, plus some.

I've been putting it off because it's sensitive and sometimes difficult and blah blah blah. Excuses really. It's not something that is talked about often, but I really feel like it should be.

Unfortunately, trauma effects more than just a few of us. It's a sad reality, one that would be super depressing if it wasn't balanced by faith and hope. It's something we should know to watch for and learn how to guard against and heal ourselves and each other from. Even as a therapist, I missed it.

And I'm still stalling.

Sigh. Here's the truth: I was diagnosed last May with "Acute Stress Disorder", which is the baby version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or what I like to call (thanks to Pomeranian Catholic for this one), "Hunger Games Readiness". Basically, it's the label they give people who have been traumatized, but haven't been traumatized long enough to get the oh-so-coveted PTSD label. They save that for later (like now).

Long story short - I worked in a drug rehab facility with unstable, potentially dangerous people. Some really scary shit ensued. I was caught in the middle of it for about 6 months, until I cracked and changed jobs. That's when I met my Australian psychologist friend who pulled me from the trenches and has been healing my brain ever since. He first encountered me 4 days after my last violent encounter at work; 4 days after I finally broke down and told people what I had been going through. He was the first person to tell me, "Hey, what you went through is NOT NORMAL. You're not crazy. You just feel crazy. It'll get better." He then proceeded to teach me more cognitive behavioral tricks than I've ever cared to know.

It's fun stuff, really.

And still the battle wages. I sit here watching my thoughts whirl and spin in the oh-so-familiar dance of anxiety. This happens when I get tired, sooo like every night. My thoughts go running, like wild horses penned up all day suddenly bursting forth, kicking and chomping, so eager to be free from the confines of my ever-vigilant thought police.

But it's better than it was, thankfully. I actually feel like there is hope (yes, even Emo's have hope). I feel like I can actually beat this beast of trauma and panic. I praise God for even small moments where I think that. The hope is that 5 minutes of belief will stretch to 10 moments the next time, and 15 the next, and so on.

Hmm... that should do it for now I suppose. Next up will be all the fun PTSD symptoms. Or perhaps how God literally dropped help into my life. Both? We'll see.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Love as easy as breathing.

We've all seen them, those people who are so in love that depending on your emotional state will either elicit feelings of awe, jealousy, nonchalance or mild disgust. Regardless of your internal reaction, (or sometimes external, for those of you brave enough to say aloud "Aww" or "Get a room!"), you have to admit that these lovebirds have some things in common:

1. They gaze at each other as if they were the only two people on Earth.
2. They do things like buy each other trinkets, write them poetry, hold open the door, greet them with flowers, shower them with compliments, and generally act more hospitable and giving.
3. They probably spend an inordinate amount of time thinking of their significant other, often getting lost in daydreams or spending time planning the next date or sweet thing to do.
4. They are filled with good will, good intentions, positive energy, motivation and charity.
5. They try to make a good impression, often displaying the best version of themselves.
6. They smile with ease and they smile a lot (unless you're super emo, then you might just smirk more often).
7. They overlook the bad and are quicker to forgive each others' flaws.

Now maybe some couples embody these traits, others don't. We vary in love as much as anything else perhaps, but these are commonalities I have seen and felt. The love, the happiness, the energy, the brightness, the giving... It's beautiful, really.

And it makes me wonder, what if we all acted this way regardless if we were in love or not? What would the world look like?

Now I'm not saying we should all walk around wooing each other. That would get weird, complicated and all kinds of inappropriate real fast. But what if those traits that come so easily when we first fall in love - charity, generosity, excitement, motivation to serve, easy smiles, forgiveness and warmth - what if we practiced those traits every day to those around us? What if love wasn't something you fall into once, but something you choose to fall into every day?

I like the idea of this but already realize how difficult it would be. There are people on this earth that I love as easily as I breathe. Being charitable to them is second nature. But then there are those that I struggle to love. Maybe they pester me, maybe they ask too much, maybe they treat me poorly and maybe they drain me of precious energy I work hard to save. I haven't thought about loving them as much as I love my best friends or my sister, but maybe I should. Then maybe those loving traits would become second nature, would become like breathing.

To love as easily as I breathe... now that sounds like a worthy goal.

"Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be." - Anton Chekhov