My Christmas Struggles

This Christmas season has been difficult for me. I have been struggling with feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. I enjoy giving gifts. That look when someone’s face lights up because they feel seen when you give them a gift unique to them is one of my favorite things. This year though, I realized that my gifts have not always been the best or were not really what the receiver needed or wanted. I have adjusted to this and tried to limit my gifts to experiences or something useful instead of just something I feel the person would like. And I have given gifts outside of Christmas because what was the point of waiting till Christmas if the person was not going to like the gift anyway? So the giving part of Christmas has been harder this year.

In addition to that struggle, I had to work more this year than I have in the past, which meant that I could not join my family for Christmas. This was especially hard because my nieces and nephews could all be together this Christmas, which does not always happen. I still had my sister and friends, but it was hard not to long to be with the rest of my family.

I have not let myself think about those things because there has been so much to do around the house and with work. I finally broke down last night though. I wanted to message my friend to thank her for having us for Christmas, but all of my fears and anxieties finally bubbled to the surface. I found myself unable to stop crying or calm down. Knowing I needed peace, I turned to the story of Christ’s birth in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. Reading these chapters calmed my mind and I was able to drift to sleep.

I don’t know why I am sharing this other than to let people know they are not alone. If you are feeling anxious or lonely or inadequate this holiday season, it will not always be this way. Someday we will be okay. Someday we will find ourselves. Someday we will not be alone. I do not know when that day will come for me, but I have hope that I will be ready for it as I work towards healing and growing. Maybe I am not okay right now, but that does not mean I will always be this way. I can find healing. I can find hope. And I can keep telling myself I am enough until someday I believe it.

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My car insurance comes out of my account tomorrow. Because I had to pay for an appraisal for my refinance and our Airbnb has not made money this month, I was a few dollars short. I posted some items for sale on Facebook, letting people know that I just needed a little bit of cash to make my payments. I was hoping it would make people look twice at my post, but there were a couple people that just gave me money to “pay it forward”. Now, I am not drowning financially, and I could have easily asked my mom for a tiny loan to cover the expense, but I like being independent. Still though, it was a humbling reminder that we are all here to help each other.

I have had the chance to help many over the years. Some people were more difficult to help than others. And in the end, it did not always seem worth it. But it is nice to be kind. It is nice to know that we do not have to do this alone.

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We arrived home late last night from our trip. Before we left though, we were able to visit our nephew’s grave and leave some flowers. I love being able to remember him and keep him in our hearts.

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My sister had class tonight, so I decided to go outside to pull weeds. She joined me after class and we ended up trimming our trees and cleaning up dead foliage. It felt good to get so much work done and it looked great afterwards!

Finding Hope

Grief is one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience. There are so many dimensions to grief. Sometimes it will come out of nowhere and swallow you whole. Other times it is just on the surface and the smallest reminder will make it come out in suffocating waves.

I have contemplated suicide for as long as I can remember. I am not sure why I am this way, but I have found a medication that helps me. For some reason, my brain just doesn’t work the way it should on its own.

Anyway, I have been reading a book about finding hope after suicide. My sister bought it for a friend, and I decided to read it first to see if it would be appropriate to give someone else. It brings up so many emotions in me, both because of the grief I am still trying to navigate and because of my own thoughts and experiences with suicide.

Right now the book is talking about healing. The author said that when she was a child, she felt like she had to bury her feelings to be strong. Her therapist challenged her to start sharing her feelings in order to heal from the traumatic experiences of her childhood.

A few years ago, I talked about abuse I faced as a child that I had never told anyone. I wrote about it on this blog and told the person I trusted most at the time, someone who was quickly becoming my best friend. It was hard to share something so personal. My parents were shocked by my experiences. And it caused some ripples in the next few family gatherings with accusations about why it was allowed to happen. I did not blame my parents for what happened, especially because I was too ashamed to tell them. But it was healing to finally tell a secret that I had been hiding for years.

As this book talks about sharing the story of her mother’s death, I feel emotions that I have not felt in a long time. I wonder if I still have hidden demons that need to be uncovered to fully heal. I wonder if I need to talk more about my nephew’s death to cope with the grief that surrounds me. I wonder if I need to reveal more of my deepest secrets to fully recover from all the wounds I hold within me.

I have discovered over the last few years that healing is not easy, but allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can make us into much better humans than we thought possible. Healing allows hope, and hope can lead to love, and love can mean finding happiness even if the midst of painful experiences.

A few years ago, I felt like I was finally the person I always wanted to be. I was able to help people without feeling guilty or unworthy. I was patient and forgiving when others made mistakes. I could stand strong in difficult circumstances because I knew where I stood. That all disappeared when my nephew died and I moved to run away from the memories. I shut myself off from the world again because some things were just too painful to talk about.

I think that now is the time to heal again. Now is the time to talk about hard things and learn to hope again. I can find hope in my difficult experiences by sharing the things that have hurt me and allowing myself to trust in ways I have forgotten. 

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Today was incredibly busy at work. It did not feel overwhelming, but we kept busy the entire time. At the end of the night, one of the tellers was missing a large amount of money, and we weren’t sure what happened. I am grateful for how we all work together though when someone needs help. I helped my coworker look through everything. Then, my manager helped. We were there later than we should have been, but it was such a good environment.

Prior to this time of quarantines and social distancing, I was passively looking for another job. My coworkers all knew I disliked working at a bank and did not intend to stay long. Now though, I am so grateful for my coworkers and the care the bank has shown me as an employee. I have been humbled by this experience, and it has brought me closer to my coworkers. It is in times of darkness and hurt and loneliness that we find out what lives in us and those around us. We find out what means the most when it matters most.

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My grandma sent me money for Easter. We bought some Easter candy a few weeks ago and ate it all already. Since I knew my grandma was sending me some Easter money, I was able to buy some more candy and eggs so that we can still have a fun Easter. We also have renters moving in tomorrow that will be here for about a month, so we invited them upstairs for Easter dinner. It will be nice to have a somewhat normal holiday in the midst of these uncomfortable circumstances.

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Social distancing and Idaho’s stay-at-home order means that I need to stay busy to avoid getting depressed. I am very grateful that I do not live alone because that would make this nearly impossible for me. Over the last three days, we have been playing games, cooking and baking, and watching movies and shows.

I have a lot of games that I have never played. This extra time at home has given us the opportunity to try these new games.

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We have also used some kitchen gadgets for the first time. My sister used our mixer to make gluten free bread, which I later turned into bread pudding. Then we used our potato crisper to make homemade potato chips. We are planning to try making apple chips with it as well.

Overall, we are doing well with our social distancing efforts. I called my siblings to check in with them today and texted a couple friends. We avoided the crowded grocery store yesterday and just got a few essential things at a smaller store. My bank has implemented a 10% cash back reward for restaurants, so we have used the drive through for a couple fast food restaurants to help support them at this time. I am staying active by using the elliptical machine we bought a couple months ago. So far depression has only consumed me over a couple minutes in the last week. I think that as long as I keep active and take care of myself, things will all be okay through this.

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Sometimes I forget I have autism, especially at work. I work at a bank, and things are usually the same every day. I help customers with their transactions. We have a weekly schedule. The opening and closing routines are always the same. Even though I think I do well with changes, the structure helps me remain calm when changes do come.

Things were different when I went into work yesterday. The opening routines were the same, but everything changed after that. The lobby was closed. We could only help people in the drive-through. I could handle that, but then more changes came. Our cash machine was not working, and they asked us to wear gloves the whole shift. I started to feel anxious. The longer I wore the gloves, the more anxious I became. And customers kept coming, so I did not have time to process all the changes and adjust to them.

After an hour, I took an early lunch to get away from everything. I broke down in the break room and could not stop crying. My boss came to check on me after a few minutes. She said they would work something out with the gloves and that I could go home for the day if I wanted. I decided to go home because I was emotionally exhausted. I took a nap almost as soon as I got home.

After the nap, I called the branch manager to discuss my needs. She told me that I could take an additional day off if I needed. I felt fine at the time but said I would let her know. As the afternoon progressed, I felt tightness in my chest and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I told my manager I would take another day off and return on Thursday.

It is not fun to have a meltdown at work and not be able to explain why to your boss and coworkers. But I am grateful for their support through it.  I only realized after this experience that I did not like the new girl because she did not fit in my routines. She did not do things the way I wanted, and it frustrated me. I know I owe her an apology, and I need to express my appreciation to all of my coworkers.

Anyway, my something good for yesterday was being able to talk to my sister to help me calm down. Then coming home and finding some peace in the chaos. I am hoping the extra time to process everything will help me return to work tomorrow better equipped to handle this whole situation. People need banks to stay open during this time as much as possible, so I am glad we are staying open for now.

A New Year

I did not have a good year in 2019. I was angry and upset and disappointed and frustrated with life and people and God. I still don’t understand, and I still have a lot of grief and anger and conflict to resolve. But I decided to stay up last night to welcome in the new year because I want it to be better. I want to make some changes, and I want to be happier.

I have been through a lot of changes in the last 10 years. I have gone from getting off antidepressants because I felt like they did nothing to taking an antidepressant that made me more depressed than I had ever been before to finding one that actually helps and prevents me from having constant suicidal thoughts. I have been through all the range of emotions from the happiest I have ever been to the saddest I have ever been. I have felt more loved than ever before and have been overcome by my emotions several times. I forgave people I never thought I could. I got to the point where I didn’t get angry or yell when my brother accidentally scraped the side of my new car. I made significant changes to my life and became the person I wanted to be.

Then, I spiraled down into grief and depression and physical pain like I had never known before. And it was hard, and I was hurt and angry. And it eventually got to the point where my reservoirs of faith and hope and joy were depleted, and I was not sure where to turn or if I believed in anything anymore. And I am still at that point in a lot of ways.

But… It is a new year. I watched a video this morning where Kristina Kuzmic challenged people to write down a specific good thing that happens every day. She said it changed her life and helped her find the positives even in days that were terrible. I need that in my life. I need more positives. So, for the next year this blog will be turning into a space for me to put down something positive from every day because I need it, and maybe it will help someone else along the way, too.