Deadly Ever After

The Writing Adventures of The Undead Duo–Julie Hutchings and Kristen Strassel

Julie Becomes a Self Help Guru or Something

TODAY’S BREW: Mistobox Colombia Banexport. Coffee that makes me feel as important as the person who gave it to me does.

By Julie 

One month into this year and I’ve already had a boatload on the agenda. Surgery, a million doc appointments, recovery from said surgery which is more mentally draining than physically, a hundred and fifty snow days from school, Ben’s birthday, a lot of emotional (and A LOT of hormonal) trouble.

And yet, though it’s already been an incredibly taxing year, one that I’ve emotionally hit bottom in a little, I feel better still than I did in all of 2014 probably.

But in 2014 I TRIED so hard, I set so many expectations of myself, tried to stay ahead of the curve of all the things that were assaulting me and my family, and I failed. I. Failed.

I’ve refused to let that follow me into 2015. I have intended to make this year as good as last year was difficult.

I’ve grown to realize a lot this week alone. One thing I knew going into 2015 was that perfection is not going to occur. But how I deal with my difficulties and traumas can change. My reactions and my expectations can change. So I’m changing them:

  • I recognized an emotional descent into Hades and I called a hotline. Trying to work it out myself has not done me any good. It may have saved me until the next 5 minutes, but it didn’t HELP me. So I called a hotline that could help me just by acknowledging that I KNOW I’m in trouble. And that alone felt brave and proactive. (I’ll talk a helluva lot more about that in another post.)
  • I listened to doctor’s orders. Had surgery. I feel (physically) GREAT and did literally the day after. But I’m not to exercise, lift anything heavier than 30 pounds (including Sam, which I do by the minute usually), and I’m to get plenty of rest. Though I heal with Wolverine speed, I’m shutting up and listening. I’m not a doctor, and pushing myself is only going to have me working at half-Julie in some capacity again sometime soon.
  • I’m listening to my own self-diminishing thoughts. And purging them.  Having had such a hard time recently, and being one who likes to help people as much as I can, I’ve felt like an absolute life-suck for some time. I’ve tried to convince myself that asking for help and not being the one to help everyone is okay, it’s smart, it’s courageous. But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like my life is one big emotional handout. I can’t get past it. So I have to start doing what I can do which is LISTEN when people say that I’m important in their lives and try to give back the way I am accustomed to.
  • Purging self-diminishing thoughts, continued: Every time I think something like “I don’t deserve to be sitting here, reading,” “All I do is crybaby and people still talk to me,” “I can’t do anything right (spurned by something as simple as not getting a stain out of a shirt)”, I’ve started writing it down in a pretty pink notebook. I’ve already started looking at those words and seeing how INSANE some of them are. But they’re mine and they’re mine to get rid of.
  • Realizing that because the world sees me as strong that I assume responsibility for every. little. thing.   Just now, Bennett was bored. That’s my fault. Sam has to nap after his meds, my fault. I say the wrong thing, I’ve ruined everything and nobody will want to talk to me again. The wallpaper is peeling, I’m a terrible mother. I spent time alone in my room and felt awful that I was wasting family time. Seriously. I’m crying right now because my kid is seeing me cry and I think it will do some irreparable damage to him. I have to try to realize that every single thing I do does not mean life or death for everyone, and that just because I’m important doesn’t mean the world will end without me.
  • I asked people to read an unpublished work.  It’s being resubmitted now and I don’t need critique on it, but I wanted someone to know the book like I did and be able to say sometimes, “this is good. This is important. You’re not just Ellie Morgan and Nicholas French and that’s it.”
  • Eating what IS better for me, not just what will FEEL better for me.  I’ll push myself until I feel “well fuck this, I deserve to eat an entire cake.” Tastes good, doesn’t feel good. So I’m working hard to make smart food choices which has helped a lot. Lettuce instead of bread. Water and ginger ale (a comfort food I’ve really clung to recently) instead of all coffee all the time. Instead of a cookie every time I walk in the kitchen, a couple of tiny cookies with a cup of coffee. And letting myself have what I want when the time is right because I don’t want to feel like I’m punishing myself for not being as thin as I was 10 years ago.
  • Sitting up straight, taking deep breaths, having mini meditations all day, and wearing lipstick even when I’m home. 
  • Realizing that my own writing deadlines may be doing me more harm than good. 
  • Drinking.  Yes, drinking. I had champagne last night and just picked up my laptop and started writing. I haven’t had a casual drink for a long time. All it’s done is add to my irritation when asked by a doctor if I drink, smoke, do drugs, have any history of x diseases and I say “no” only to find out I have some uber weird physical shit wrong with me anyway. That champagne felt GOOD. And yes, I said some risky stuff on Twitter, and felt guilty about it later, but then I realized IT’S OKAY. When have I EVER been afraid to say what I feel like saying as long as I’m not hurting anyone? So yeah, a drink here and there is on the agenda. Hell, Kristen and I used to drink ourselves silly every Monday night and we got so much writing done it was crazy. I need to loosen up the brain muscles, let myself create instead of letting myself “work.”
  • Helping people.  I feel like a better person when I’m helping people. So as soon as I called that hotline the other day, I contacted someone I knew was having similar issues and told her I was thinking of her, and that I think we should blog together about our experiences. I want to run a short story series again like we did in the good old days on the blog (surprise, Kristen) and help some new writers get their feet wet. I want to give back so I don’t always feel like I’m taking.
  • Surrounding myself with people when I’m at my worst.  I spent 7 hours at a playdate the other day because I knew that being alone would only open me up for more overthinking. And I was right. I played Twister, had pizza with friends, talked to adults, connected outside of my home. And I said out loud, “there is nothing else I can be doing right now. Only this.” And it felt damn good.
  • Finally, recognizing that my harmful thoughts are very much a product of my physical state post surgery and not “just my head.”  And vice versa. Just because it’s triggered by my hormones doesn’t mean it isn’t real. The depression is there no matter what right now, despite its causes, and that’s important. Letting myself accept that I’m a work in progress is a big change.

I’ve always been of the mind that any change is good. Trying anything is a good idea. Not staying stagnant is smart. And so far, I’ve been goddamn right. This isn’t me telling a depressed person to “cheer up” or sending them funny memes of a cat eating celery or something. It’s me saying that you can be part of your own change to get better. Growth should never stop, you owe that to yourself. Remember that you don’t have to have all the answers, but you can try to come up with them. You can make up your own. And for just that one simple thing, you are important.

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6 thoughts on “Julie Becomes a Self Help Guru or Something

  1. S.K. Sophia on said:

    You’re an inspiration and I love you.

  2. Take care of yourself, my dear. I think you have plenty more stories to tell.

  3. I can always count on you, John.

  4. *hugs* Been having a lot of this going on for me lately as well. It’s so hard to admit to yourself that you don’t have to be strong all the time. But it sounds like you’re taking care of yourself now and I’m glad. Love you, Jules. You are one of the most awesome people in my life and if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m only a phone call, text, email, whatever away.

  5. You’ve done so much of this yourself, Liz, and I take a lot of strength from you. Thanks for being there when I needed you.

  6. This. This. This. You never cease to amaze and inspire me Juliesan. Your open and candid post is wonderful to read because there are times I have similar issues/thoughts and there are better ways for me to cope and deal than my typical “squish it down, squish it down, waaaay down” approach. Thank you as always for you just being you!!

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