Month: May 2021

Fake Masks by Lois Hewitt

Masks are everywhere these days but then again they always have been. I do not mean the Covid masks but the fake facades or masks we wear everyday to give an illusion of ourselves that may not be necessarily true. The ones Billy Joel sang about.

I like to think of myself as being authentic but when I look back, and cringe, over my youth I see clearly my mask. I wanted, so painfully bad, to be loved by all that I never developed the true me until much later in life. I wanted acceptance more than anything. What I was too ignorant to notice was the harder I tried to fit in, the more alienated I became.

I conformed to the people in the room. I bent and swayed with the social breezes. I never cultivated myself as my own person. I tried to emulate my father, my friends, movie stars…it mattered not who it was. Anyone was better than I was. In a previous post, I mentioned that I finally learned that I am enough. Back then, I felt very little, if any, self worth. I was damaged goods trying to act like I was a whole person.

No wonder my mental stability was questionable at times. I was on a merry-go-round that never stopped. I fooled no one but myself. How pathetic I must have been.

Fast forward to a certain age no longer dominated by the foolishness of youth. I woke up one day and did not care if I was accepted or not. I had to just be me. If someone doesn’t like it, no worries because it no longer matters.

What freedom! I finally allowed myself to just be me. I long for all the misspent youth but also have realized I was not ready then. Given the experiences of my youth and my perceptions of myself, those types of realizations would never have happened. Only with age, for me anyway, and an overwhelming exhaustion from being someone I was not could I be free. Only then could I give up the mask.

I still have moments of insecurity but now they are real or shall I say authentic. Today you see me, not some wanna be. I relish the fact that I don’t always fit in. For no one truly authentic can fit in every situation. It’s not possible. Today I feel empowered to work on me and those things that touch my soul.

When I look back at my youth, I feel sorry for that petson, a person I barely know now. Someone who tried to hard to please people who ultimately did not even matter in the scheme of things. The more cruel they were, the harder I tried to please. Always on an emotional treadmill, moving but going nowhere. My heart breaks for the sad person.

I know that those experiences made me who I am today. They filled me with empathy and wisdom. They made me stronger than I ever thought I would be. They taught me the value of true love and friendship. I am grateful for the ugly mask I wore but am so happy to have discarded it into the garbage where it belongs.

Mental by Lois Hewitt

Everyone is talking about mental health issues and relating personal stories about the subject. I hate to be a follower but this is an important topic.

As a person who has long carried mental illness in my purse I feel compelled to weigh in on the subject. Back in my day, mental illness was the lone guy downtown swearing to himself and urinating in his pants. That wasn’t me. I could not possibly be like that.

But I suffered other things. I would have excruciating manic periods where I was compelled to get a second job and/or volunteer and/or go back to school and/or any number of things. I felt invincible. I talked nonstop and could not sleep. Then one day the depression kicked mania out of the house and I could barely move. I let people down because I could no longer honor all those commitments. I felt a loser which made the grief and depression even deeper. Then one day I got up like Superman and the cycle continued. It never stopped. I had two speeds: full on or non-existent. In retrospect, the manic times were more devastating than the depressed times.

Now throw some heavy duty OCD into the mix and I had days I didn’t know how to go on. I worked hard to hide my “quirks”. More than once I heard it said that’s just how she is. As I piled empty soda bottled in front of every door every night and checked and rechecked in closets and under beds looking for the sum of my fears. Going out literally meant up to three hours of checking the house for those fears in human form.

I have only told one person this but it feels important now. When I drove somewhere I would wonder if I had run someone over and I would have to drive the route several times to check if I had or not. Then I would agonize for hours about something I may have missed. My mind was like a prison. I, obviously, couldn’t say anything to anyone. Because, in my mind, I was crazy. Unfortunately that is just the tip of my personal descent into mental illness

Late in my 20s, my doctor, very casually, put a name to what was happening. I was manic depressive with OCD. I was amazed at her calmness. I thought I was the only person living through this. Turns out I wasn’t very unique at all. More and more people deal with these and other illnesses every day.

So what happened? I took anti-deptessants until I barely felt alive. I didn’t hurt as much but had all but lost my joy. One day I just stopped taking them. My advice…DONT EVER DO THAT. The spiral was insane. It look a long six months to even out. In place of the numbness I was treated with anxiety.

Over the years I have learned techniques to help. I feel pretty stable. I feel the mania and I can tone it down. The depression still kicks my ass.

This week I had two separate incidents where I thought I was having a heart attack. Ready to head to the ER. I think it was anxiety. We live in a new world that wraps every news report and every event in a blanket of anxiety. Why are you anxious, you might think. Why aren’t I? Plus it is just a normal state of being for some of us.

You don’t have to be a rock star or part of the Royal family to have this. And there are many varying degrees of it. I have learned a lot from my time silently suffering. Find someone you trust and talk about it. You don’t have to live with this alone. Do not let it be brushed off as if it was just a quirk. This is serious shit.

While I am on the subject, self-mediicating isn’t the answer. Buying things to fill holes in your soul does not work. Alcohol and drugs make the situation worse and can be deadly. The other devices we use to feel better don’t work any better. That’s why you need someone you trust in your corner. Please don’t suffer alone. Please!

https://www.nami.org/help

It might be a place to start. Be safe everyone.

Today I’m living with it all. Good days and bad just like everyone. Here is to better days for all!

Enough by Lois Hewitt

Welcome back! It has been a while. A lot has happened for all of us during these uncertain times. I am glad you are here. I have no idea how anyone is going to read this because I quit Facebook, but however you got here…Thank you!!

Have you ever cut your own hair? Anyone who knows me, knows that I have cut my own hair for years, badly I might add. You would think by now that I would be good at it, but I am really not. Today, I looked in the mirror and saw an old haggard woman. I know I am pushing 60 and mostly feel like it, but I do not want to look like it. I thought about all the things I could change and felt the easiest thing to do was cut my hair short. Really short. Much shorter than I had expected. You make that one wrong cut and next thing you know, it all has to go. That was me this morning. My husband is going to hate it. Hey, its only hair. It will grow back.

As I was cutting away this morning, I thought of all the unwanted things that I had “cut” away from my life since the pandemic lockdown. I literally sat in my apartment for three months straight without leaving. My husband brought me food and I cooked and I cooked. I found a new passion!! That will be another post! I took some unexpected journeys down rabbit holes on the internet. I learned new things and got really depressed.

Before the lockdown, I had a job I knew was going to be my last job. I loved it and wanted to do it until I dropped. COVID changed all that. I was starting to get some confidence and bravery. COVID changed all that. Basically, everything I knew was not any longer. I know a lot of you out there went through the same thing.

For a time, I wallowed in the fear of the things happening in the world and the fear of a virus that, with my preconditions, could kill me. I struggled to get up in the morning. Then like cutting my unwanted hair, I started to shed all those things that were keeping me down. I started to forgive myself for all the wrong things I had done up until now in my life. I gave myself permission to accept myself as I am. Not as some perfect being, something I am so far from, but as I am. I learned that I was enough. That is not to say that one needs to stop growing, I hope that never happens to me. But being enough means, in my mind, I have accepted who I am, what I have done and allows me to make permanent changes not because I am deficient but because now I can focus on the things in my life that work and work on the things that do not.

I cannot believe the changes I have made. I feel like a totally new person. Gone is the overwhelming, debilitating guilt, the woeful remorse and now I see a cleaner slate, one that can be erased and added to as needed. I feel the ability to work on myself to be a better person without always thinking that I do not deserve anything good to happen to me. I hated when things went well, it just meant that it would all collapse and I would be full of sorrow again. That mentality never allowed me to enjoy the good times as I waited for the other shoe to drop. I learned life is that way, intermittent pleasure followed by a prerequisite amount of discomfort. The pleasure is there though and it needs to be grasped tightly. It is true, it doesn’t stay but it will come back, just like the hair I cut this morning. It will come back, you just have to wait out the storm.

My life is very different than it was a year ago. I bet yours is too. The world changed during that time and I am not completely sure all was for the better, but it is what we have. I have learned that I am not in control of many things, but I can control my attitude. I have days I look back at the cool job and wish for it back. But I have a new life and a new job and it is okay. It is enough and when it is not any longer, I have permission to make up the difference and keep it enough. At this point in my life, over-wanting is not something I want to have in my life. As I pared down my belongings, I pared down the internal baggage I have been carrying all my life. The new lightness inside of me is very pleasant. I calmly look forward to new things, not in a manic way as I did before. No, this is a calmness that is worth working to keep. I appreciate more. I am grateful. I am, dare I say it…happy. It is different than I imagined it would be, but that is okay because it is enough. That is a good thing!!!