When It’s Terminal

Around Christmas my dad was diagnosed with cancer in his brain. During the course of the next two months we learned that chemo wasn’t going to be much help and our focus turned to making the time he had left be as comfortable as possible.

The second day of finals week I had the conversation that I had been dreading. I called my mom to ask if I should come home early for my birthday, I live far away and traveling home requires a plane, I wanted to be there for my family and maybe see my dad one last time. She told me that my dad had passed away earlier that day.

I knew it was going to happen, and I had said my goodbyes when my parents came to visit just weeks before, but that still doesn’t mean I was prepared for what happens. No one is prepared for losing someone you love.

Nothing can prepare you for those moments when you would give anything to hear them laugh one more time, or when you need to tell them something that happened and you have to decide who you tell now. No one prepares you for the moments that you are crying over ice cream because it was their favorite flavor, and you can’t share it with them. No one tells you that birthdays hurt because they knew you at one age, and now you will no longer be that age again. A permanent reminder that the world keeps moving even when they are no longer there.

My mom was amazing. She moved forward, keeping him alive every way she knew how. I always knew my mom was strong, but she keeps proving it to me every day. My brother wrote and delivered the eulogy. He has always had a way with words, and I couldn’t be prouder of the image that he painted of our dad that day.

My dad and I shared a love for tattoos, and before I traveled back to school I had to get one for him. I got the words “Just remember what I taught you and you’ll be fine” over my left ribs. My dad was an amazing teacher, both in and out of the classroom, and this tattoo is a permanent reminder of the lessons he taught me.

The first books I read after he died was the “Monsters of Verity” series. What I took away from these books is something I will keep with me for the rest of my life. They show you that life is full of pain, most of it unavoidable, but to make life worth the pain.

My dad knew the pain life had, but he lived every moment to make his life worth it. Now I do the same.

Make it worth the pain.

 

~Mads

Advertisements

The Brain Tumor

When you find out that a loved one has a brain tumor, your world stops for a second. Everything shuts down and all you can think about are the times when you didn’t tell them you loved them, or you let go of a hug too soon.

For me, the brain tumor was in my dad’s head and I found out over winter break. I had been home for almost three weeks before he went into the hospital and we found out about the tumor. For me, the hardest part was that for those three weeks my dad and I argued a lot. It was clear to me that he was not functioning at a normal level, and I thought that he was doing it to himself. Now, looking back, I can see that that was all due to the brain tumor. It hurts knowing that the last memories he has of be before the surgery is us arguing.

He made it through the surgery, and they think they got it all out, but is was cancerous, so after rehab he will be undergoing treatment for the cancer.

I only saw him once after his surgery, and he was really out of it and doesn’t remember much of that visit. His memory is still a waiting game to see if he will have any short term memory.

His outlook is beyond positive though. He doesn’t want this to upset the family, and he can laugh about the things that are troubling him. Like how it can take him a half hour to get dressed in the morning.

Another hard part of this has been being able to still focus on my health. I have an appointment with a new doctor coming up and I was tempted to cancel it, because why should my health take precedent when Dad has brain cancer?

I credit not giving up, or slacking on my own health, to my mom. With her, everything was normal, with just the added news that it would take some time for Dad to recover and we would be there for him. Without her steady presence, I don’t know how any of us would have gotten through this.

Another steady presence has been my boyfriend, who has held me through the bouts of crying and not knowing is he would be okay.

Cry when you need to, realize that some parts of recovery will be overwhelming, but you still matter. Your thoughts and feelings still matter.

 

~Maddie

The Depression Mindset

People seek out what is the most comfortable for them. When you have depression that is what becomes your comfort zone. I consider myself in the “recovery” stage of my journey with depression, but sometimes I find myself feeling uncomfortable when I am happy.

When I am genuinely happy, it can be uncomfortable, or confusing. With depression you spend so much time not being happy, that when it happens without you doing anything, it can catch you off guard. You spend years learning how to cope with the sadness that is thick, and overwhelming, that once you break through it you don’t know how to handle the happiness.

I have often found myself watching sad movies or videos, listening to sad music, or reading sad books all in an attempt to make myself sad. I can handle being sad. I know how to be sad. I have to learn how to be happy again.

I don’t mean that I have to learn how to MAKE myself happy, I mean that I havedepression-warning-sign-rev to relearn how to live with the feeling of being happy. It feels weird to me, uncomfortable, wrong, and that is the scary part.

I WANT to be happy, I don’t want to be sad, and I enjoy being happy. The feeling of happiness simply feels uncomfortable and wrong. It’s like putting on clothing that irritates your skin, you spend all of your time thinking about how uncomfortable the clothing is rather than thinking about how good you feel in it when you look in the mirror.

More, and more I find myself wishing I had some sort of coping mechanism for when I feel uncomfortable being happy. I am aware that making myself sad is not a healthy coping mechanism. Recently, when I have felt like that, I have been reminding myself of how bad I felt when my depression was at its worst. That way I appreciate being able to feel happy more than I worry about how uncomfortable it makes me.

I am still working through how I handle my emotions. It is still a daily battle to develop healthy coping mechanisms, and catch myself before I can use unhealthy ones.

All you can do is keep working.

 

~Maddie

Crisis Text Line

Suicide Hotlines

What is Depression?

Smarter Parenting

Living Away From Home

I am a junior in college. A college that just happens to be 1,192.4 miles away from my family. I chose to go far away for school, in fact I didn’t apply to any schools in my home state. I wanted to try and be on my own.

I have always found it easy to be independent, to think for myself. This being said, being on your own, in a place where you know no one, can come with it’s challenges.

In my first semester I kept to myself mostly. Yes, I made friends, but I was shy and preferred my own company, rather than theirs.

Second semester I tried to be more outgoing. To make connections with people. It was that semester that I came to be close with my little group of friends. k0502332 I ended up leasing a house with them starting this summer. I have never been a very outgoing person, but forcing myself to be around people more gave me the best group of friends I have ever had.

I miss my family every day though. I try to call my grandmother at least every other day, and I text and call my mom at least every day. Being away from my little brother and dog is by far the hardest, and when I am home I try to fit in as much time with them as I can.

When I am home my family treats me like they haven’t seen me in years. They make the food I like, and do the things I want to do, that is until the novelty wears off after a few days and it’s back to normal, like I was never away.

When it comes time for me to leave again it is always hard. I try to focus on the fact that I am becoming more independent, and when I’m away, every decision is up to me. For me, that is an exciting thought.

My advice for anyone moving away from home, either for college or some other reason, is to make friends. Surround your self with people who make you happy. Also, try and keep in touch with family. That will help you feel like you are still a part of their lives, and you theirs.

Family, like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.

 

~Maddie

Long Distance Friendship

I met my best friend through a mutual friend in eighth grade. We became really close, and throughout high school we were each others emotional support. We tried to do everything we could together and spent all of our free time at school together.

When it came to choosing colleges, we never really talked to each other where we were going to go. united-states-map I went to Missouri and she moved to Florida. It was hard to say goodbye of course, and that first summer apart was hard.

We talk all the time, either over text or Skype. It is the fast that we keep in almost constant contact that we are still such good friends. We still go to each other to talk about our problems, and the good things that happen in out lives.

That’s how I know that our friendship will last, even though we are so far away, we are still the first person that we go to.

We have seen each other 3 times over the two years, and counting, of living in different states. 6-1-2014 046 When we are together, it’s like nothing has changed, no time has passed. We still enjoy each other’s company. It is hard to be apart, to see each other making new friends, moving on in life without the other, but we will always be there for each other, and that is what matters.

It is because we refuse to let go that we are so close. Don’t let go of something that is of value, and it will always be there.

 

~Maddie

Scars

Most people have scars, mine just happen to be caused by my own hand. If anyone is triggered by mentions of scars caused by self harm please stop reading now.

I have depression, and cutting was one way that I coped. The marks from that time can be found on my left shoulder, my left forearm, stomach, and both thighs.

At first I hated them and was ashamed of them. But, now I love them and am proud. My opinion changed when I realized that the scars were a record of what I have been through. Each mark is proof that I have fought the demons that reside in my head, and lived to tell the tail.

I haven’t gotten any negative reactions from strangers, just people staring and asking where I got them. Most are surprised when I am so open with my response, which is usually “I have depression and these are the marks of one way that I used to cope.”

You would be surprised how many people answer with their own similar stories.

When it comes to friends I find it easier to handle their reactions. Any friend that has had a negative reaction to my scars has been cut out of my life. If they can not accept or be supportive of what I have been going through then their friendship isn’t worth keeping up with. The friends that I have kept, and made, sense then have been the best ones I have ever had.

Many people with scars from any type of self harm may be worried about how a significant other will react to them. I got lucky, my boyfriend has never treated me any different because of my scars. We have been together for nine months now, and they are normal to us. But, if you are dating someone who doesn’t react as favorably to your scars, I would try to explain to them your feelings behind them. If that doesn’t work, I would urge you to think about your future with this person.

My family used to stare at them, make sure that I wan’t cutting anymore. They have said that they don’t want to see anymore. They have been nothing but supportive. After five years of having them I only catch them staring occasionally.

Have I ever covered my scars?

No. I have never intentionally covered my scars. Even when I was ashamed of them, I wanted to see peoples reactions to them. I think part of me wanted to let someone who may be struggling with something similar that they are not alone.

When I was cutting and hiding it I would look at other peoples bodies, searching for scars. For something to prove that this could be survived with dignity. 

So, I wear what I want, showing my scars, because they are part of me. I am proud of the stories they represent.

If you want more information on self harm and how to help someone going through it click HERE.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal you can find a list of suicide hotlines by clicking on this link.

~Maddie

Family

I have been thinking a lot about family and what is normal, and if I had a normal up-bringing or not. I think a lot of kids that grow up with parents dealing with addiction are concerned about others finding out. This can come from fear of being judged, or rejected.

It wasn’t until the past few years that my dad recognized he was an alcoholic, and bipolar, or at least that is when he brought it to my brother’s and my attention. So, I didn’t grow up associating my dad with these things, and in some ways that made it easier. I could ignore the things that I didn’t like, and pretend that my family was normal because there were no negative labels put on it yet.

On the other hand, it made somethings harder, not knowing why he was acting a certain way, and thinking that this was normal. This not knowing, or feeling of normalcy, is what I believe contributed to my fear of growing up to act like my dad.

I wouldn’t change the way I was brought up, or the things that I have been through. They made me me, and I like the person I have become. If anything, I wish my dad didn’t have to struggle so much to get to a place where he is comfortable and getting the help that he needs.

Normal is overrated.

 

Maddie