What’s Your Story?

What stories do you tell yourself?

I had a conversation with my son Jake today. A conversation that I am particularly proud of. It all started out as my usual pep talk. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jake, let me give you a little background.

Jake was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS) at the age of six, and OCD at the age of eight. He “outgrew” his TS around the age of 14, but his OCD went into overdrive. Fast forward eight years…eight difficult years for Jake.

At the age of almost 22 (Feb. 16) Jake is struggling with social anxiety. His OCD mainly takes the form of repetitive thoughts, mostly centering around his anxiety of being “behind everyone else” in terms of where he is in his life. He has held himself accountable for a timeline that has been hi-jacked time and time again by anxiety and OCD.

He regrets that he didn’t have a “normal” high school experience. The local high school was awful, so we home schooled. I wish things had been different. Better choices available. But, at the time, it felt like the best option. And yes, I beat myself up on occasion about this choice. Hindsight, yada, yada.

He continually compares himself to where his peers are, as opposed to where he is. For example, at his age, according to society, he should have a bachelor’s degree by now. He should be surrounded by close friends. But because he doesn’t have those things (yet), he feels less than.

As a result of being home schooled, and struggling with OCD and anxiety, Jake has had a difficult time socially. He has struggled making lasting friendships, and interacting with his peers. Another factor in this has been that his interests are vastly different, and hyper-focused, unlike many of the students in his classes.

You see, Jake is extremely intelligent, and has educated himself over the years. His interests are math and physics…like quantum physics. He wants to answer big questions like “why is the universe?”. He’s been thinking like this most of his life, and has found it difficult to find others who share his intense passion.

But here’s the thing. Over the past few years, I have seen Jake make so much progress. He is currently enrolled in school and is in his second semester as a Freshman. He sees himself as a failure.

Here’s what I see. I see a young man who has walked through the fire, and while he may be covered in soot, continues to get up each day and try. I see someone who has gone from rarely leaving the house to having a job and attending college. I see my son overcoming all the things that have brought him down, and some days still do, making strides each day to change those things.

But I also see this on his bad days. I see him telling the story of an awkward kid who has no social skills. A kid who “doesn’t do anything” and “didn’t even go to high school”. A kid who “has wasted his life”.

But that’s an old story, with only a slight bit of truth written into it…very slight.

Yesterday was a bad day, as I sat and listened to Jake tell his story-the same story he has been telling for years. And I said, “Maybe parts of that story were true at one time…but that’s not your story anymore.”

“You are in school. You are starting to make friends.”

He countered, “Yeah, but it’s not that hard for everyone else.”

“You don’t know that. People are good at wearing masks, making others think they know what they are doing. I think you’d be surprised at how many people struggle socially. Especially in this day and time when everyone is talking to a screen instead of a face. You’re not giving yourself any credit for the things you have accomplished.”

“It’s just hard when I see everyone else surrounded by friends, and making it look so easy.”

“Do you remember what you told me on your first day at Armstrong? You told me that this was a fresh start. That no one there knows you. No one knows your struggles. You said that you could go in and act like the most confident guy in the world and no one would know the difference.”

“Yes, but-“

“Stop it, Jake. You were about to say that you haven’t had the same experiences – or any experiences like the other people. OK, so your life has been different. More difficult than many. More roadblocks. But that was then. You have to stop living in your old story, Jake. You have to put that book away, and write a new story. And that’s what you’re doing, even if you don’t see it.”

“But it’s so hard.”

“I know, but you’re doing it. You’re getting up each day and going out there. You’re putting yourself out there. You’re weighing yourself down with your old story. Let it go. Focus on where you are now. What you’re doing now. When you stop acting like the old you, people will stop seeing the old you. That’s the person you’re showing everyone and that’s not you anymore.

You’ve been telling yourself for so long that you have no social skills, and that’s just not the truth.You have a job where you interact with your co-workers and customers for hours at a time. You’re taking classes and working with other students, raising your hand in class, talking with professors. That’s not what a person without social skills does. I get that it’s not easy for you, but you’re quoting a story that has ended. You are not a person without social skills. You’re in a brand new story now, that you’re writing every day.”

I’m proud of that conversation because it made me think of the stories I’m still telling myself, that are no longer true, if they ever were. For years, I’ve told myself I’m not enough, I have never been enough, and I never will be enough. I’m putting that piece of fiction on the shelf. I’m writing myself a new story.

I think we all create mythologies surrounding ourselves, our identity. Who people have told us we are, who we’ve convinced ourselves that we are. And we’ve told ourselves these stories for so many years, we’ve come to believe them.

What stories do you tell yourself? Are they accurate? Do they reflect who you are now?

Maybe it’s time to consider writing yourself a new story in this brand new year. You deserve it. We all do.

Publishing My Memoir!

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(This is a very bad mock-up of the cover. Also, Michelle will be changed to Ginger because when you search for Michelle McGee on Google…well, just see for yourself.)

/Widgetflex.swf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Help Me Publish!!!

1 in 360 (approximately 138,000 US children) have been diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, based on parent report.

Run your fingers through my soul. For once, just once, feel exactly what I feel, believe what I believe, perceive as I perceive. Look, experience, examine, and for once, just once, understand.
-Author Unknown 

He’s Not Broken, is a 16 chapter 65,000 word, non-fiction, autobiographical book of a mother and son’s journey to healing and acceptance. An inspirational testimony of how a life filled with challenges – OCD, Tourette’s, Anxiety – can be used as a vehicle to engage in a proactive approach, rather than a life of silence and denial, it teaches us all that reaching out to others can make a difference.

I began writing He’s Not Broken 10 years ago. 10 years! I did have an agent express interest and request edits, but I’m almost embarrassed to say that those edits took me 5 years. Life happened. OCD happened. Anxiety happened. And every time I sat down to work on edits, I had to face the pain of all those years of struggle. Maybe I needed to take that long in order to have some time away from the story, so that I could make it even stronger in hindsight.

That said, since I have been carrying this book baby for 10 long years, I really need to bring it into the world now.

I believe in He’s Not Broken. I feel certain that it’s a book many will find helpful – caregivers, parents, family members – anyone who has a close connection to someone who requires special needs.

It’s the book I needed when Jake was first diagnosed. It’s the book that would have made me feel less alone. And, even though I certainly had support from family, it wasn’t the same. I needed a friend who could listen, but more than that I needed someone who had navigated the same waters, the same emotions. I want He’s Not Broken to be my stand-in since I can’t reach out personally to everyone. More than anything, I want my book to give others hope.

That’s where you guys come in. I hate asking for things, but He’s Not Broken needs to be available sooner rather than later.

If I’m going to self-publish, I’m going to do it right. That means lots of self-promotion, and a bit of an investment upfront.

I will need about $2500 to get this book out there. That will/should cover the following costs:

copyediting
cover and interior design
advertising
purchase of ISBN number
marketing and publicity
book trailer
promotional copies of book

AND THERE WILL BE CAKE! Ok, maybe not cake, but I have some incentives/rewards to offer as a thank you to all who donate!

And for everyone who donates I will be forever grateful for your support!  Please click this link: /Widgetflex.swf” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Help Me Publish!!!

Peace,
Ginger

 

 

 

New Year = New Old Me

 

IMG_2429Here we are again – a new year with possibilities waiting to unfold. For many, that means a complete makeover—mind, body, soul. The big three. The holy trinity of guaranteed happiness. An overhaul. And while some will be looking to buy a whole new computer, I’m looking to reboot the one I have back to its factory settings.

It really wasn’t that long ago that I used to know what I was doing. I was by no means perfect, but I had an idea of what I needed not just to survive, but to live. After all, that’s the point, right? I’d like to say this past year was that time, but I have to be honest with myself and admit that it’s been the past few years that I’ve lost sight of my own picture.

Last year was particularly bad. I was hit hard with one of the darkest depressive episodes I’ve ever had. And it lasted a very long time. A combination of life stuff and a full hysterectomy that unleashed a pretty horrific army of hormones or lack of, and I began a spiral that nearly ruined me. (But I did get some good poems out if it).

I won’t get into the particulars, but it was bad enough that I chose to admit myself into the hospital—a decision that would affect my whole family in a way that has caused many problems. 😦 It was a difficult decision for me to make considering the stigma attached to such places. And why is that? Shouldn’t we be applauded for recognizing that we need a break, that we need help?

I’ll write more about my experience in the hospital in another post because I think it’s an important post and doesn’t need to be lost in the middle of another.

Back to my reboot. For me it’s the simple stuff, that I’ve allowed to be swallowed up by the struggles I’m having in other areas of my life. And when I say simple, I mean just that simple, basic.

  1. Eating – it’s something I tend to forget when I’m stressed or depressed. And then when I do eat, it’s usually not the most nutritional. Think pickles and crackers. Honestly, food is never something I’ve really enjoyed like I feel like I’m supposed to. Remnants of my days courting an eating disorder, I’m sure. So even on the days when I would remember to eat, it would make me sick. Like my body wasn’t quite sure what was happening.
  2. Drinking –  let me clarify – drinking water. I had the other covered. I know I must be severely dehydrated. Sometimes I’d go the whole day having only had coffee in the morning, and wine in the evening. Other than water to brush my teeth, I really didn’t have any. Not good. No wonder I’m tired all the time. Oh yeah, you can add pickle juice to that list, because I love me some pickle juice. I’m surprised I haven’t dried up.
  3. Exercise – I always know I’ll feel better. Always. And yet….

So there it is—easy as pie. Right? So it would seem. I want it to be easy. But I know that I’m going to have to dig in and go all Nike on it, and soon. So why is it so hard for me?

I’d love to know if you struggle with some of the same issues. It’s in sharing that we learn. I’ve shared. Now it’s your turn!

Tag! You’re it.

Peace, Ginger

 

– On being there for you

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how can i be strong for you

when my bones have been crushed?

how can i comfort you

when i sleep in blankets of sadness?

how can i hold you

when my arms carry the weight of the world?

how can i listen to you

when the voices in my head are screaming?

how can i walk a mile in your shoes

when i can’t even get back on my feet?

how can i be part of your life

when my own life isn’t whole?

 

how can i be anything to you

when i’m nothing to myself?

                                — on being there for you

 

 

No Longer Standing

 

Who am I that the world

chooses to rest on

my shoulders?

That sadness floods

my veins –

each step a concrete block?

That my bones

splinter

piercing, piecing the distance –

a bridge of pain?

Each breath

a glass bubble

shattering with every

inhale.

Where is peace? Trapped

in the pages

of a book?

Bound and

covered in dust.

The trees

hold my thoughts

in their

thin skins.

Perhaps the oak

will accept these

words – another story

absorbed by those

no longer standing.

The Face of Depression

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I asked you to pick the photo that shows me in a depressive state, you’d probably pick the second photo. Right?

Well, you’d be both right and wrong.

Those of us who carry this darkness around with us, are very good at showing the world what they want to see. Or better yet, shielding them from what they don’t want to see.

These photos were taken on the same day. One was posted to Facebook. One wasn’t.

Why is it that mental illness is so hard to talk about? In my experience, it’s just easier not to talk about it. In order to avoid questions that I either won’t be able to answer, or choose not to answer because the person asking won’t like or understand the answer.

Sadness is an emotion. Emotions can be easily understood, or accepted because we all feel them.

Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder is a state of being. It doesn’t run it’s course and then leave. It isn’t a reaction to something that happened or didn’t happen.

It lives inside of me all the time. Most of the time it stays hidden. But it’s not something I have control of. I can’t just choose to get over it.

So I’ve learned to smile for everyone who needs it.

Is there someone in your life who might be smiling on the outside, while struggling on the inside? Are you?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And if you aren’t comfortable talking face to face, you can text the Crisis Text Line (741-741). The most important thing to know is that you are not alone. You have never been alone.

 

Crisis Text Line: 741-741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. The service is free, confidential and available 24/7.

I’m Published!!

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Yesterday I had an article of mine published on The Mighty’s website. If you aren’t familiar with the site read this for  a full explanation of who they are and who they represent. If you are familiar with them, then you already know how amazing their content is and why I feel so honored to be a contributor for them now.

I would absolutely love it, and you, if you would take the time to go over and read the article if you haven’t already. As a writer with a book on the horizon, it is imperative that I build a platform for my work. The more readers I have, the more likes and follows, all of these add to my platform and will help me out in the long run.

The edits on my book are nearly finished and I will be submitting them to an agent. If all goes well, the changes will be accepted and she will take me on as a client. The story on The Mighty is just one of the many parts of my bigger story, my book, He’s Not Broken.

Stick with me guys. I have a lot to say. If I play my cards right, then maybe one day I’ll be able to meet my supporters in person on book tours. It’s a dream of mine.

If you have a moment, please head on over to The Mighty and check out my piece on Tourette Syndrome.

Brain Spill

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* I am writing this so that others can see one of the many faces of depression. I am not seeking pity or attention.

One thing I have always been in my writing is honest. So this is me being honest, unfiltered and raw.  I am not editing this at all, so please forgive the James Joycian run-ons and stream of consciousness, it’s the most accurate representation of how my mind is working (or not working) right now.

Tonight, I feel broken. I feel like I can’t move. I can’t breathe. There is something inside of me that won’t work no matter how much I tinker with it. And, believe me, there is much tinkering going on.

I don’t like this. I don’t want this. But this is me. I have clinical depression. At any given moment it visits me. It doesn’t care if I have everything I need, everything I want. It comes without warning and stays for as long as it wants. The sun may be shining. The clouds cleared, but inside of me the storm rages despite the current forecast. I try to fight it, but it’s like fighting the undertow. It. Just. Doesn’t. Work.

But think of all the good things you have. You have so much to be thankful for. No shit. I know that. But my depression doesn’t care. Those of you who say this, I don’t fault you. I don’t hate you for thinking it’s as simple as that. In fact, I think you know it isn’t, you just don’t really know what else to say. It’s okay. I don’t know what to say either.

It’s like someone asking you how you are. They are being polite. It’s what you do. It’s not like I’m going to answer by saying, you know what, I’m not good. In fact, I feel like I’m disintegrating. You just don’t say that. It makes people uncomfortable. I get it. It makes me uncomfortable too. 24 hour kind of uncomfortable. Unless there is wine. And then it’s only mildly annoying. Until there’s a sad song. And there’s always a sad song, isn’t there?

But I’m a mom. I can’t “self-medicate” like my mind tells me I want to. I can’t keep a travel mug full of “peace” with me at all times. And, honestly, I don’t want to. It scares me that the wine helps as much as it does. I don’t want to be that person. But a part of me is that person whether I like it or not.

Then there’s the most awesome part of all. My oldest son also has anxiety and depression. And every time I look at my youngest I wonder if I have passed the curse on to him as well. Do I think I shouldn’t have had kids? Absolutely not! This world needs my kids because they are incredible. But it doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty, which fuels my depression…vicious circle.

Did I mention I’m tired, but I can’t sleep?  I feel like I’m losing it most nights as I try to drift off with all of the what ifs shooting off like firecrackers in my mind. Problems that aren’t even my problems. Sadness that doesn’t even belong to me. I am too connected. So connected that I disconnect in order to survive.

I just want to rest. I just want to feel like everything will be okay. I want to trust the words I feed my children every day. It will get better. You just have to believe.  There are plenty of days where I feel like I’m just setting them up for the firing squad.

I’ll find my way out. I always have. But every time I surface, I can’t help but wonder when the next wave will hit.