Everyone has a vice for dealing with feelings.

Booze, shopping, eating, drugs, sex, sleeping — or more beneficial ones like gardening, reading or working out.

Mine has been sleeping for a long time — that is until last week when I began the switch to a new medication and sleep has become almost impossible.

I’ve never wanted to be one of those people who takes a handful of pills each day. I want to take the absolute minimum and go on with my life.

Lately it’s been half of my old medication plus half of my new medication plus birth control (because if my birth weren’t controlled right now I would become a derailed train headed straight into the depths of a rocky canyon from which there is no recovery) plus a sleeping pill chaser, because if I don’t I lie awake all night thinking about how much I hate myself. It’s really not the best way to spend the night. Sunday I was convinced that what I was experiencing is what the beginning stages of death must feel like. I hated every moment of Sunday.

With sleep gone and no other vices to fall back on I have drifted back into thoughts of self-harm. (But Casey! Just fall back on working out! NATURAL ENDORPHINS! To which I say I can barely get out of bed and you want me to go to the gym? You’re adorable. Believe me, I’m working towards that goal, but I’m not there yet. One day at a time and many of my most recent days have hurt.)

I can’t even describe to you how depression hurts, you either know the pain or you don’t. It’s like being choked and sat on by an elephant while a finger incessantly pokes at the tired and sore parts of your brain. This is why self-harm enters the mind of so many that suffer with depression, you just want to FEEL something that isn’t depression. I once used sandpaper on my wrist joint until I saw bone . I’ve never done much more than that, it’s not really my thing (I certainly don’t condone it either, I’m just saying I understand it.)

Both of my tattoos come from particularly rough patches in life, it’s such a unique physical pain that dulls out and symbolizes the emotional pain. On my back are lotus flowers, which grow from the muck and mud at the bottom of a pond to bloom unblemished on the surface. I’ve been thinking a lot about another tattoo, especially right now. It’s one of the few distractions I have right now that I enjoy.

If this is your first time here, or perhaps you haven’t been around all that much — this is not me. I mean, the honesty part is me, but the sad wallowing is not me.

I can’t just go outside, do yoga at sunrise and feel better.

There’s no quick fix and if I don’t fix it right this time I’ll be even worse off down the road.

Depression is a disease, and there’s no other disease that is fixed overnight and forever with something as simple as a good night’s sleep and lots of prayer — so why should depression be any different?

So. There’s an update.

I’m trying. I’m fighting, but damn if I’m not real tired.

My best leaves the best ****ing cards.

Thank you for sticking with me through all of this.

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Let’s just get this out of the way.

Yesterday I was lying in bed as I thought how much easier it would be if I just took all the pills in my medicine cabinet and ceased to exist.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had those thoughts.

So long in fact I thought it was a joke. Surely I can’t be back here? I’ve been good for over five years. Sure, I had a slip up here and there, but I’m good! See! Functioning! SO GOOD.

Cody sat by my last week and said “You haven’t been well since November.”

When I asked those closest to me what they thought, they agreed. And not just one person, but many.

This caused me to give up me resolve to keep faking it.

I fell apart yesterday.

Big heaving ugly cries into the bedspread and an emergency trip to my doctor.

Today I have an emotional hangover and one of the worst cry headaches I’ve had in over three years.

Once I stopped listening for the other shoe to drop I began to believe there wasn’t another shoe, that I would be okay as long as I kept taking my little white pill every night before bed.

While there are a lot of people who continue to advocate and talk about depression and mental health even when they are well, I was so tired of suffering and fearing the betrayal my brain was capable of I fell into denial. “Depression? Sure, it’s something I’ve dealt with but I’m not dealing with it now! Let’s talk about cake and shoes!” I desperately wanted to believe I had found a cure. A fix. The end. Let’s talk about happy stuff, okay?

Here’s the truth I posted on Instagram this morning when I couldn’t sleep because depression is a bitch that wakes you up at 3 am and says “Sleep? Pfft. You should think about how worthless you are instead.”

I find myself wishing I had some sort of disease or disorder that would show up on an x-ray or in a blood test. Something that could be casted, cauterized or cut out of me. Some outward sign that although I look whole, I’m dying inside. My depression is the worst it’s been in years and it has been a slow and painful build to this moment where everything hurts and nothing is making it better.

Here’s the thing.

I’m ticked.

I hate that this is my trial. I hate that I’m dealing with it again despite doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. I hate that there is still a stigma around depression that it isn’t real. I hate that my brain betrayed me and tried to convince me I’d be better off dead. I hate that I listened to it. I’m pissed off.

Unlike my battles with depression  before, I refuse to let it win this time. I honestly don’t remember what happy feels like at this moment, but I know it’s out there, I know it’s worth pursuing. Maybe my anger will make it worse this time, or maybe my refusal to give in will work in my favor. “Oh, you think you want to kill yourself? LET ME SHOW YOU HOW IT’S DONE, SON.”

I don’t know.

I want to hit things. I want to smash things. I want to punch the people who have hurt me and hug the people who are just starting out on this painful journey.

I am not me right now, but enough of who I really am learned how to fight for herself over the last five years and is doing everything she can to come back.

There are things I hate right now, I don’t hate much — but the hate is actually helping me fight harder. The things I hate won’t win this time.

I’m done pretending. I’m done faking it.

I am wrecked and there’s only one way out of wrecked – up.

Camping with Frogs

Kissing frogs really have nothing to do with any of this, but they’re adorable so they get to bookend this entry.

It kind of changes things when you tell someone you’re close with that you’re leaving your husband. Maybe it doesn’t change things, but it certainly shows you how invested and in what ways a person is invested in you when you tell them a bit about what’s going on.

To be fair, no one really knew. It wasn’t supposed to be a big to-do or anything, keep things as normal as possible. Which means in the aftermath a lot of people around me were probably left going “But wait, what?” You see, I’ve made a very conscious effort to not write or speak ill of Cody or air our grievances for the world to see. It’s just how I operate and it works well, except when things go wrong — because that’s when people come back and say “But everything is going so well! You two seem like such a happy couple!” to which I say “HA HA! It worked then! I had you all fooled!”

Kidding. But in all honesty it is hard to come clean on something that is deep and ugly — be it marital struggles, an addiction, depression or some other foible.

What’s cool is there will be some people who will be all “Care to talk about it over burritos?” while other people will say some pretty stupid garbage that will show their true character more than it will say anything about your own.

It’s those people who don’t bat an eye (and then don’t betray your trust) that are worth holding onto. The ones with the judgmental opinions? Keep those guys at arms length, it’s not that they necessarily think you’re a bad person — they just maybe have a very narrow range of experience and opinions in life. (I’m learning this to be quite polarizing when it comes to church related relationships. The “clearly you’re not praying hard enough” people are just as active in regards to marital issues as they are with infertility and mental illness. Huzzah!)

I’ve learned I’m much more willing to take marital and relationship advice from friends and strangers alike because unlike parenting issues, there aren’t really “MARRIAGE WARS!” broadcast across the Internet in the same way the gag-inducing mommy wars are. I’ve learned most everyone takes their marriage, and it’s subsequent shortfalls and misgivings, much more personal than almost all parenting issues — which is why I’m more open to marital advice, there seems to be more hushed solidarity and strength when someone suggests a book or therapy rather than the demanding “THIS IS HOW I DID IT AND MY WAY WAS RIGHT AND I’M RIGHT AND WOE BE UNTO THOSE WHO DO NOT DO THINGS MY WAY” attitude some people can have with parenting.

First off is the Five Love Languages, we received it as a wedding gift and I read it immediately. I suggested that Cody read it early on in our marriage but being Cody, he didn’t. This is one book that both partners need to read for it to really make sense. And I’m sorry, but you also have to do the silly quiz towards the back. It can make a huge difference in your relationship if used correctly. Cody read it last month and it’s as though the sky parted and the angels sang for both of us.

Second is Hold Me Tight, a book that was suggested by several people, and people? THANK YOU. You know the attachment parenting theory that some parents are so willing to heap upon others? This book argues that attachment bonds, much like those between parent and child, are just as important (if not more important) in an adult relationship as they are to children. But what are we told? “You’re an adult, grow up and deal with your own problems.”  If you yell at your spouse because yelling has become the only way to get their attention — or  have taken to not talking to them because not talking is so much easier than feeling emotions? THIS BOOK.

In summary, going through marital issues has been SO. MUCH. HARDER. emotionally and mentally than anything I’ve had to deal with in regards to parenting, from infertility to present day. BUT, it seems easier to map out and stick to a long term course of healing because we are two grown adults who ultimately want the same thing. (If one or the other of us was one foot out the door? I would be in an entirely different head space than I am right now.)

One of the first mistakes I made was turning my heart and mind off to Cody when what I should have done was turn to him and say “Hey, I’m not happy.” The second (and very important part) of this is that I needed to trust that he would listen to me (which was hard for me because five years ago he didn’t listen until I threatened to leave.)

This afternoon dreams were reignited over chicken salad wraps and spinach salad.

Trust, vitally important yet wickedly scary stuff.

I wish I could say that after two weeks of feelings and emotions my marriage is suddenly A-OK and that everyone can just move right along because there’s nothing to see here! Just a little blip on the radar of life! But I can’t say that because everything is not A-OK although we are very good at maintaining a sense of normalcy and pretending everything is good.

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Well, maybe pretending is a terrible word to use. Because we’re not pretending, we very much love each other and have a great vested interest in the well being of one another. Neither of us want to be done, but sometimes things are so hard for me that giving up seems so much easier.

The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.*

Cody has seen me at my lowest more than I care to admit, and yet he’s still here. He has known me at my worst yet he is also the reason I am capable of a best.

I planted a whole lot of flowers the other day. It’s very gratifying to see my sad, tired garden turned into something that is quite lovely and welcoming. One day of sweat, dirt and more bugs than I could handle and I turned something ugly into something beautiful.

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But it won’t stay that way for long unless I make the choice to actively care for it. I planted the flowers, it’s my job to take care of them.

If I neglect them, they will whither away and die. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

I expect to lose some, I never said I was working with two green thumbs here.

It’s going to be a slow process, just like Cody’s and my recovery.

I will probably want to give up at some point because maybe I took on too much.

But day by day everything will grow bigger and stronger, and eventually with proper care and patience there will be great rewards — hopefully in the form of heirloom tomatoes, red peppers and strawberries — but also in the form of love that doesn’t know how to give up.

There are lot of marriages ending on the Internet right now and hopefully that won’t happen here. No, here there will be a whole lot of fighting for marriage, ours in particular — because in the end I believe in it. I have always wanted to grow old with Cody — even when things have been hard.

It looks easy, but it can be (and is) so, so hard.

And I think that says a lot more about the love I have for this man than anything else.

*****

*This quote is credited online to The Great Kamryn, but I’m not so sure the Internet really knows who Kamryn is? She seems to be a myth on UD. Regardless, Lu sent it to me and it’s perfect.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with Victoria’s Secret. Her stuff is lovely, but overpriced and in all honestly, non-functional. Not to mention it’s all packaged and sold to us from the bodies of the most gorgeous and unrealistic teenagers Brazil has to offer. But still, every once in awhile a girl wants something a little frilly and impractical to flounce around in. I learned back in April that Victoria now has something close enough to my size, 32F, which she calls 32DDD and which I call “just small enough to give me a backache and cleavage of champions.”

Out of curiosity I meandered through a local store to see what lace and rhinestone encrusted beauties Victoria had for me. This is what I found:

selection

black and beige

options

not you

Nevermind, Victoria. You clearly didn’t need or want my money anyway.

Somewhat related, here’s a photo of Vivi with one of my big boring bras on her head:

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One of the things that has been hardest for me over the past several months is feeling as though I am broken because while I am fiercely loyal to my girls and have an intense unconditional love for them, I don’t have an inspirational quote type of feeling towards motherhood in general.

You know the ones, the ones that get people with and without kids fighting about kids and motherhood and what really is the most noble and important job in the universe? Those types of quotes.  (I tried to find one to illustrate my point but I started to gag too hard. Sorry about that.)

I also feel a very strong sense of obligation to teach them right from wrong, proper manners, good citizenship, character, patience, humor, empathy and all those other things that will really matter as the real world begins beating down on them. I do not however feel obligated to entertain them every moment of the day or involve them in absolutely everything I do. I am a better mom when I get away from them regularly. Cody and I are better parents when we consciously take time to get away from them and all their loud demands and moodiness. I may not always like my role as a mom, but damn if I’m not going to try my hardest to put good people out into the world.

Addie has been bringing home year-end test results from her time spent in third grade. The kid is brilliant. I’m crazy proud of her but at the same time I expect nothing less of her, I know what she’s capable of and I know I’ve spent the last nine years parenting her in a way that she can rely on herself to succeed, which is exactly what she’s doing.

I resented my mom for a long time, I wanted a mom to be there when I got home, a mom to bring me my lunch when I forgot it, a mom to bail me out when things got too hard. Now that I’m grown I wouldn’t have wanted to be raised any other way, and if I have to wait 21 years to hear Addie say she’s thankful that I taught her self reliance from the beginning, so be it.

Cody compared what we’re going through right now to a boxing match, we’re both so high off the adrenaline of surviving the past month that we’re unaware of just how hard we’ve both been hit. As the high wears off, the fear and the pain have started to seep in and we both know that the real work is going to have to begin sooner than later. Wounds that have just stopped throbbing are going to have to be yanked apart and reset so they can hopefully heal properly.

Neither of us are really looking forward to it.

One of them almost talks with her hands more than her mouth. Almost.

I hope you think twice when you see the seemingly perfect lives of others, including my own. While what comes through in a photo or phrase may seem idyllic — the person behind the lens may be barely holding on to the pieces of her own heart.

Tomorrow I will be shooting the Indy 500 again. Which means some dumb man is going to make some snide remark about little ‘ol me and my big black camera.

When I was in Vegas a few weeks ago working with Floyd Mayweather’s photographer I was holding his camera as we were waiting for an elevator — an older man looked down at the camera, then looked at me and said “That’s an awfully big lens” in a condescending tone. Something about girls and big camera equipment makes some men terribly uncomfortable. When I shot the Indy 500 last time I was in the elevator, weighed down with two enormous cameras and I was on a high — I had just been in the pits at the Indy 500 capturing some of the most exciting photos I had ever taken.

The old guy across from me with his stupid camera vest and borrowed AP equipment said “That’s some serious camera equipment there baby, you know how to handle it?”

I could have killed him.

I’ve been edged out by male photographers before, ones who believe I’m just some mom there with a fancy camera with lots of buttons my husband bought to keep me happy. In fact, the way some people feel about lawyers is the way I feel towards most AP photographers. Thankfully I have met some very kind ones — but it’s always those few loudmouthed stinkers that foul it up for everyone else.

I’m already going into tomorrow with a prickly towards the sexist attitude some men have towards female photographers, which is why I’m getting it out now.

I have to remind myself that my camera and I have a relationship most people will never have with an inanimate object. It is an extension of me, a detachable part of my body that captures what my heart feels, my brains sees and what my mouth can’t manage to say. Just because photography is an intensely emotional process for me, doesn’t mean the all of the technical knowledge and understanding isn’t there as well.

To all the women out there with big black camera bodies and an intimate knowledge of f/stops and metering — I salute you. May we stick together in the literal and figurative pits of being talented and creative ladies in a traditionally male dominated field.

my camera and me