No Body Is Perfect

Something occurred to me the other day as I was watching a movie on Netflix. There was one particular scene that made me wish I could go back to my late teens, early 20’s. The girl was trying on some clothes and admiring herself in the mirror. And it was that comfort that she felt in looking at her reflection that gave me pause.

I cannot recall ever looking at myself with such confidence. Ever. To be honest, it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Watching her made me sad. And I’ll tell you why.

If I go back and look at pictures of myself around the same age as her, I now see a young woman, that should have felt more confident, more at ease in her body. Not because I was all that, but because I would soon be past those days of youth, and regret that I didn’t embrace them, embrace myself more than I did. My low self-esteem held me back from so many things.

I hated how I looked and felt that if I looked different the world would open up for me. So, I became anorexic in high school. I didn’t set out with anorexia as my goal, but it seemed the smaller I became, the more people noticed me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being ignored prior to that, but I wasn’t exactly being “seen” either. Losing weight got me compliments. Losing weight made me feel better about myself.

The pictures from those days paint a different reality. I was sick. Not only mentally, but physically. There are so many things I would do differently if I could go back. I imagine that if I had projected more confidence (real, or imagined) I would have had the life that I so desperately wanted.

In some ways I feel like that girl now – just decades older.Wanting to fit in the pages of the magazines, but finding that I’m exhausted from decades of trying to fit a mold that was invented by an industry that constantly set me up for failure – then and now.

Over the years I’ve seen the standards being tested by different body types. But it still bothers me that women are being categorized by body type at all. Plus-sized, full-figured, skinny – all these define women by shape. We are bombarded with headlines about losing weight. Flooded with photos of beautiful, happy, people who just happen to have the perfect body.

I’ve been fed, and have been “eating” these images since I was in 7th grade. And even though I know there is no one size fits all, and that photos are altered, it has never stopped me from second-guessing how I look.

My body isn’t perfect in any way. It doesn’t look the way I wish it did. And I’m not sure that it ever will after a lifetime of being brainwashed.

But at the age of 51, what I’m trying to focus on is not what my body looks like, but what my body has done:

  1. brought two beautiful souls into this world
  2. survived heart surgery
  3. run a 1/2 marathon
  4. survived a suicide attempt
  5. overcome an eating disorder

I encourage all of you to give a shout-out to the body that has gotten them this far. After all, you wouldn’t be here without it. 🙂

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

 

 

 

– 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

 

 

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.

An Open Letter to Friends and Family Who Have Never Suffered From Depression:

Today I’m depressed. I’m not just sad. I’m stay in bed, there’s no hope sad. Otherwise known as depression.

Sometimes you will say to me, “yeah, I know how it is to be sad”. I know you mean well. Of course you know sadness. We all do. But depression is so much more than just sadness. And I hope you never understand this completely.

Depression is like being in a beautiful yard with a big hole in the middle. You walk around the hole and are sad because your yard is temporarily ruined. It’s an inconvenience, an eyesore. But you will fill the hole and your yard will be beautiful again.

I, on the other hand, walk around the same hole, but I fall in. The hole is much deeper than it appears. And then it starts to rain and the hole fills quickly. I am barely able to hold my head above the muddy water.

When you are sad, you sometimes say you feel blue. When I’m depressed the world is void of all color. No rainbows exist for me. There is no gold.

But you have a two healthy boys who love you, a husband who would do anything for you, and a beautiful house, you say. What have you got to be depressed about?

Nothing and everything. Yes, my life is full of wonderful people, and I am blessed to have the comforts that I do. I know that. But my depression couldn’t care less.

Depression, while often triggered by life’s hardships, can just as easily be triggered by nothing. And, let me tell you, that is the worst kind. Because when people ask me what’s wrong and I answer, I don’t know. The look I get says it all. They just don’t get it.

You might want to fix it – help me. And that would be incredible if it was that easy. But it isn’t. Depression runs its course, no matter how much I am loved. It doesn’t care.

Then why are you smiling and going about your day? Good question. Those of us who are depressed, often have to learn how to exist in two worlds simultaneously – the world of normalcy and the world of darkness that we have learned to mask when necessary.

Believe me when I tell you, we can smile with the best of them. We can crack jokes, show up when needed and act the part of happy camper most of the time. What you don’t know is that inside, we are not there. We are on auto-pilot. Inside we are counting the minutes until we can be alone, until we can give in to the darkness, because we know that the only way out is through.

But aren’t you on anti-depressants? Yes, I am. I’m so good at being depressed that I’m on two different ones.

Then why are you still depressed? The medicine is not a cure. It’s a damper. It tends to make the episodes shorter. If I wasn’t on medication we’d be on season 49 of this show. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d be here. Yes, it’s gotten that bad before.

When I’m depressed, I feel lost. I drift aimlessly through the days without purpose or motivation.

When I’m depressed I am Atlas, the weight of the world making every movement a monumental effort.

When I’m depressed I just want it to be over. It’s exhausting. Depression sucks all of the life out of any given moment.

And it happens in a blink moment. This morning I was fine. Tonight as I write this the light is dimming and my dreams are too.

So next time I tell you I’m depressed, just know that all I need from you is compassion and understanding. I need to know that you know I’m not being dramatic or looking for attention. I need you to know that I have a mental illness, and I’m trying not to let it define me.

Mostly what I need you to know that I’m in here. Don’t forget that. I’m still me. And I will be back.

Sincerely,
Ginger

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.

 

 

 

I Am

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Original mixed media artwork

I am a notebook lined with intimate inkings that are not my own.

I am an untrained runner in a marathon with legs that quiver and quit on  me.

I am a brittle-backed leaf on bare limbs, desperately hanging on.

I am the earthworm tirelessly trekking the sun-soaked concrete path in search of the cool dirt, my skin shrinking around me.

I am a discarded bag forced by the wind to kite dance, dipping and diving, an empty carcass of plastic skin.

I am bone-tired, and every breath breaks me.

I am all these things on any given day. But I am here, and I am trying.

 

Got Compassion?

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An original piece of my artwork inspired by two beautiful compassionate children – Pippa and Sunna

 

“Oh I don’t know, Tourette’s can be kind of fun. I knew someone with TS and he would throw the “F” word around all the time,” the stranger said with a laugh.

Silence. Suddenly I was bombarded by the image pain of Jake sticking his finger down his throat hundreds of times a day. I was reminded of the time I stood in the kitchen doorway, unknown to him, as he repeatedly punched himself in the stomach, tears running down his face. He was six. I recalled the angry stares of strangers who judged him every time we were out. And I felt my words stick in my throat as they so often do.

Sadly, this is a scenario that has played out in many forms over the years. I have since learned to speak out for Jake and other people like him who live with the suffering that accompanies Tourette’s and OCD. I can assure you none of them are having fun.

When Jake was diagnosed I was under the impression that his biggest problem would be peer bullying. Kids can be cruel. What I have learned instead, is that adults tend to be the worst bullies of all.

Over the years I’ve wondered about this. Why, when adults have so much more life experience, are so many lacking in compassion? How do they justify such insensitive remarks?

As adults we tend to inhabit our own space, both physically and mentally. The longer we remain earthbound, the easier it is for us to grow cynical and care less and less about the “big” world, concentrating instead on our personal lives. Unless a person’s life has been touched in some way by disability, and special needs, I think they just don’t get it. Instead, they are driven by the media’s skewed stereotypes.

All people with Tourette’s curse. False. Less than 10% are afflicted with coprolalia – a tic that causes them to use obscene language. I once met a twelve year old boy who was deaf because one of his tics was to box himself in the ears. I’ve seen a fifteen year old girl in a wheelchair because one of her tics was squatting while she walked. Hilarious,right?

All people with OCD are neat and are germaphobes. Just give them some hand sanitizer and all is well. False. Jake’s OCD immobilizes him at times, making him unable to leave the house. He struggles every day with repetitive thoughts and fears, causing him severe social anxiety. Good times, yeah?

Clearly, there is no humor in these conditions or any others.

So what’s different about how children process these differences. I think that children are simply more connected to the world than we are. They are newer beings on this Earth and are naturally curious. They haven’t been media-trained in the ways of callousness. We have so much to learn from them, and such a responsibility to protect them from becoming hard-edged.

But I think it’s important to note that compassion is more than just caring. As connected Beings we all need to practice empathy more than sympathy. And if we allow ourselves to reconnect with our spiritual side (not religious – that’s completely different and man-made), we will realize that it’s our natural state because we are all connected.

So how about you? Got Compassion?