Not Myself

nicole bullock melancholySuppose I said
I am on my best behavior
And there are times
I lose my worried mind

Would you want me when I’m not myself?
Wait it out while I am someone else?

Suppose I said
Colors change for no good reason
And words will go
From poetry to prose 

And I, in time, will come around
I always do for you 

- “Not Myself” by John Mayer

The past year has been full of awesome highs and awful lows. I’ve had 6 months of physical struggle that’s been unlike any period of my life. I didn’t know when things would get better…but I’m finally feeling like I’m back on my way up. Here’s the recap.

For the first 5 months of 2013, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had lost over 120 pounds and had regained a zest for life that had been dormant for a long time. My professional life was on fire and I was getting opportunities to be in the media, to speak at events, and recognition for my career that I’d worked for most of my adult life to achieve. I was feeling fulfilled, lively, creative, and happy. But I began pushing myself far too hard.

smcslc board ladiesWhen people describe me, they often say that I am “dependable” because I show up at so many events. I am guilty of  FOMO (fear of missing out) to my detriment. Working as a social media professional, I feel the responsibility to be everywhere possible to connect, network, gain knowledge, and have fun. Between work, serving on the Social Media Club of Salt Lake City board, church responsibilities, family time, and keeping an active lifestyle, many days I was on the go for 18 hours straight.

In April, Taylor was transferred to Detroit. After 4 years of commuting to SLC, we decided it was time to relocate our family to Detroit. On top of all my work and social obligations, I threw myself into a very dedicated job hunt. For the first month, I was getting a lot of responses, interviews, and positive feedback. I had a feeling I’d be accepting an offer soon, and made tentative plans to move to Detroit during the summer. Now it’s October and I’ve had no offers. And we still live in Utah.

Within a few weeks of my job hunt, with a pretty enthusiastic response, I suddenly felt like the life had been sucked out of me. I felt fatigue and anxiety beyond any other time in my life. I started cutting things out of my life trying to desperately hang on to what was important – my job, my family, and my health. But no matter what I did, I never seemed to be able to tackle my health. I went from being completely diligent to hardly functional. It was hard to make it through an 8 hour work day, and I often went straight to bed when I went home. I didn’t feel creative and I felt like a failure. But I kept pushing along. And I got better at saying “no.”

Most of the summer, I felt depleted. I gained a few pounds back, and it was frustrating. I tried to jumpstart my metabolism by more sessions at the gym, and would feel dizzy within 10 minutes. I saw several doctors, had lots of lab work done, and no sense could really be made out of my fatigue. I had a feeling that I was suffering from mono, but my “mono-spot” lab test came back negative.

I was struggling, but not in a way that a typical “depressed summer” goes for me. I know the point when I need to see a therapist, and I never got to that point. I looked to alternative means to handle my stress and anxiety. The last week of August, I went to a yoga class with some of my neighbors. It was my first time doing yoga, and I ended the class feeling strange. By the next morning, a gland in my neck swelled up so big that it was difficult to swallow. The sore throat persisted for days, and I eventually went to urgent care to find out what was wrong. I was diagnosed with a peritonsillar abscess, was given IV antibiotics and steroids, and was told to return to my doctor if it hadn’t improved in a few days.

And it didn’t improve. I spent the better part of the month of September suffering, seeing my primary care and ENT physicians, missing work, sleeping, mixing up medications, and trying to get the pain and discomfort under control. As the abscesses were under control, I developed the worse sinus infection of my life. As the sinus infection improved, I developed viral tonsillitis and tested positive for infectious mononucleosis. The tests indicated that I’d had an active round of Epstein-Barr virus for 5 months, and it was causing all of the throat issues. I finally had an answer for why I was so freaking exhausted – I DO have mono. And because the infections were viral, antibiotics would not help, only a tonsillectomy.

At this point, I was laid off from my job. As if 5 months of illness wasn’t enough, one more major stressor was added to the list.

I had two conferences on my calendar, and decided that I didn’t want to miss them and lose out on the money invested. I went to Atlanta for Type-A Parent conference, where I was nursing a recurrence of another peritonsillar abscess. I went to urgent care in Atlanta and was told by the doctor that my “throat looks like a horror movie,” and I needed my tonsils out ASAP. But immediately after Type-A, I had a paid speaking gig at the ObesityHelp National Convention in Anaheim.

tonsillectomy preopI scheduled the tonsillectomy for the first date my surgeon had available, and tried to not push myself too hard on my travels. I returned from California on Tuesday, and went under the knife for the adenotonsillectomy on Thursday. Today I’m on post-op day 2, and it’s been pretty brutal. I knew that the recovery from an adult tonsillectomy is much more difficult than on a younger person, but it had to happen. I’ve been surviving on ice packs, sipping icy drinks, cool mist humidifiers, sleep, Lortab, and limited soft foods.

The plus side of unemployment is that I have endless time to recover. I don’t know how soon I’ll feel like I could survive at day at the office, but it’s nice to not have to hurry back. I’ve thrown out another batch of resumes for open positions in Detroit, and am hoping to catch the eye of a potential employer soon. Once I’m feeling ready, it will be time to fly out to Detroit, look at neighborhoods, house hunt, go to networking events, and prepare for the next move for our family. After 7 months of job hunting from Salt Lake City, it’s hard to know if I’ll get a job without moving there. We’re going to make a leap, we may move before I have a job, and are running on faith.

It’s going to be difficult, especially after not feeling like myself for so long. But I think I feel ready to give the next chapter of life a try. I am confident that now that my tonsils are out, the viral infections will subside and I’ll be back to myself again. The optimistic side of me things it will only take a week or two to bounce back. I hope I’m right.

Social Media and Narcissism

social media venn diagramIt’s time for some head shrinking!

Today’s Topic:

Does the use of Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media make us appear more narcissistic than we really are?

It’s been an interesting few weeks for me. In a jumble of health problems, sleep deprivation, writing my story about surviving lung failure, travel, sticking up for a friend and other controversial conversations (not to mention trying to wean myself off caffeine) I’ve been a little more emotional than usual. I’ve had some things I’ve vented to a friend in confidence blow up in my face, and it’s made me do a lot of critical thinking about myself.

I am pretty open about talking about my struggles with ongoing depression on my blog. I am on medication, I read books on self-improvement and I see a therapist. But after a year and a half of teetering on the edge of my sanity, I decided to get a full psychological evaluation. Yep, I’m going there.

I filled out a packet of intake forms, met with a psychologist, then filled out a Scantron form with answers to 250 yes/no questions. They psychologist asked a lot of questions about my support network, past medical and mental health incidents, body image issues, and I feel like I answered openly and honestly. A week later I got an 8 page summary of the psychologist’s impressions and recommendations for me.

Without going into too much detail, I was really surprised to read words like “inflated sense of self, ” “superficially charming,” “immature,” and “exhibitionistic and narcissistic.” I think that everyone has moments where they seem a little more prideful or immature. I know I’m guilty of it, but I think it’s more the exception, not the rule. When my friends talk about me on Twitter, they say these type of things:

kate pease comment

In my studies of Dr. Google and Dr. Wikipedia, I realized that there is a spectrum of states of narcissism. When most people think of narcissism, this common and general definition comes to mind:

Some psychoanalysts and writers make a distinction between “healthy narcissism” and “unhealthy narcissism“…the healthy narcissist being someone who has a real sense of self-esteem that can enable them to leave their imprint on the world, but who can also share in the emotional life of others. According to Freud, healthy narcisissm is natural part of the human makeup, but also a characteristic that if taken to extremes can prevent us from having meaningful relationships.


Bearing all this in mind, how do you think that social media affects narcissism? Does it allow the vain to become vainer? Is it a safe place to explore your feelings of self-esteem? Have you had experiences where you’ve made a better/worse first impression on people because of the way you’ve portrayed yourself online? Are you careful to not allow the deeper parts to show in your virtual persona? Do you think that people uninvolved with social media misunderstand the sense of support and community that websites like Twitter and Facebook provide?

Is It Worth It?

Is it worth it to ask for help?

Is it worth it to try and try and fail every time?

Is it worth pouring your heart out, if you aren’t strong enough to handle rejection or silence? Or if your honest pleas for emotional support are met with nonchalance…because eventually you’ll be able to snap out of it? Or is it better to bottle it all up inside until you are certain you are going to explode from pure emotion? Is there a magic release valve so what I feel inside doesn’t make me feel like I’m going to implode on myself?

Is it worth taking a breath, when every breath is labored?

Is it worth getting out of bed, when every action you perform causes physical pain?

Is it worth it to work on my physical body, when I feel like I will never be beautiful or healthy enough? Is it worth it to try drug after drug to heal myself, when it leaves me feeling worse than before?

Is it worth trying to give an explanation, when you feel like everyone already has a firm judgment established about your situation?

Is it worth it when your sheer emotional pain is overshadowed by the guilt you feel for allowing your loved ones to strap on a seatbelt to face your emotional rollercoaster of hell, over and over until you’re sure you’re going to vomit from eMOTIONal sickness?

Is it worth it trying to go to sleep at night, when more of the hours you spend in bed are spent worrying instead of actually sleeping?

Is it worth it to go to therapy, learn and master the steps and tools which will lead to your recovery, only to be plagued with overwhelming feelings of despair and sadness and worthlessness?

Is it worth it to pray when it feels like your bedroom ceiling is plated with stainless steel and your desperate prayers are ignored by a God that is too busy to listen?

Have you ever wondered who will come to your funeral? Is it worth entertaining that fact when you feel like nobody cares? Does the thought of your death feel like it would leave the world in a less chaotic state?

___

I don’t know all these answers. But I know that I think about them a lot. I know the good people I have in life – the family, the friends, the ever increasing circle of influence I seem to acquire. But why do I always feel alone and misunderstood? How can I have a knowledge of my Heavenly Father’s plan, yet still feel like I’m going to be an exception to the rule? How do I get the help I need, when I feel like I’ve done everything in my power and knowledge to make myself better?

Why is depression so difficult to overcome? Is it possible to truly be healed of gaping hole I feel in my heart? Why am I my own worst enemy, setting myself up for failure with obstacle after obstacle on a course that I feel I’ll never be able to achieve? Why does the horrific abuse I’ve endured in my life pale in comparison to the mental anguish I can’t seem to stop inflicting on myself?

My depression tends to be cyclical. I’m really struggling right now, but I’ll bounce back and feel fine in a few days. If I’m lucky, I’ll feel fine in the morning.

But for tonight, permit me the chance to have a literary pity party, and allow the thoughts swirling around my head to be expressed and left to rest for the night. That’s what my blog is for.

Optimistic about 2011

Self-Less – Thoughts on Service and Depression in Mormon Culture

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

My whole life, I have been taught of the value of selfless service. If you are ever struggling with yourself, find someone to serve and it will help your situation not seem so bleak. It is important to show compassion; to bear one another’s burdens, to mourn with those that mourn, and to succor the weak. The following two verses come to mind:

“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” Mosiah 2:17

“He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:39

Marvin J. Ashton counseled those suffering from depression to “not doubt your abilities. Do not delay your worthy impressions. With God’s help, you cannot fail. He will give you the courage to participate in meaningful and purposeful living. Prayer and service lift their spirits and increase their self-esteem and feeling of power or control. Taking the focus off of themselves also helps put their problems in perspective and makes them feel they are not singled out for challenges. A day of service makes them feel useful and significant to others. At the moment of depression, if you will follow a simple program, you will get out of it. Get on your knees and get the help of God, then get up and go find somebody who needs something you can help them with. Then it will be a good day.”

Depression isn’t a sign of failure, but the feeling of failure. Telling someone to “snap out of it” is like telling a sick person to perform surgery on himself. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, an LDS father of five said, ” We have this ‘All is well in Zion’ kind of thing going on here…We’d rather not talk about it at all…or maybe go talk to the bishop about it. If there really is  a mental health issue you need help with, it doesn’t work to talk to your ecclesiastic leaders.” He touches on a pretty common misconception – that the bishop is your all-knowing source of guidance and counsel. If you’re having a problem of ANY type, you need to go talk to the bishop. But this is not necessarily true. Most bishops are not formally and professionally trained in psychology. Bishops are given guidelines in a handbook, and are told to “follow the spirit.” Bishops do the best they can, but they have limited resources. They are able to refer you to a mental health professional, typically through LDS Family services. Unfortunately, an untrained bishop may attribute overwhelming feelings of depression as evidence for a serious undisclosed sin. These unnecessary feelings of guilt will likely make the depression even worse. Psychological disorders are NOT a reflection of sin. I wouldn’t be surprised if most disorders found in a mental health clinic were also found in a typical ward.

I was reading a link someone sent me on Mormon Depression via Twitter the other day. It was an article by a conservative Christian pastor named Mark Cares, President of the Truth in Love Ministry. The Ministry has launched a billboard campaign in Idaho called “Feeling Worthy?” and campaign literature focuses on Mormon “stress points.” Pastor Cares said, “Mormons are under a significant amount of stress because of all the commandments they need to uphold and the duties they need to perform in order to be worthy to receive God’s blessings — including his forgiveness. The article asks, “Are Mormon women plagued with guilt and stress because of their religion, or is this campaign simply another form of anti-Mormonism?”

Paraphrasing the article a bit, researchers have drawn conclusions that the large Mormon population in Utah is partially to blame for the high levels of depression in the state. According to studies by Mental Health America and Express Scripts, Utah is the most depressed state in the country, and Utah residents are prescribed antidepressant drugs at a rate twice the national average.

A 2008 ABC News article stated, “The postcard image of Utah is a state of gleaming cities, majestic mountains and persistently smiling people. But new research shows a very different picture of the state, a snapshot of suicide and widespread depression…Psychiatrists point to several factors that could contribute to Utah’s high levels of depression: limited mental health resources, restricted access to treatment as a result of cost, poor quality of resources and a varied list of other factors, including an underfunded educational system and a culture deeply rooted in the Mormon faith.

As these depressed Mormons, particularly women, serve themselves out of their rut,  a key principle is not often mentioned; the opportunity to serve requires the other half of the service equation – someone in need of service. Sometimes, the person desperately in NEED of service is overwhelming themselves with GIVING service. As I struggle to improve my self-confidence and trust my innate abilities, I tend to drop everything when I hear of someone in need. I want to be happy, so I help. It does feels good to be helpful, but I’m realizing how often it depletes me.

I’m in a constant battle between my own needs and the needs of others. My husband has needs. My daughter has needs. My parents have needs. 90% of the time, I ignore what I need for myself. And I’m beginning to realize how harmful my “selflessness” has been. I’ve given up on dreams and desires of my youth. I missed out on much of Rosie’s young years because I was working to support my family. I’ve postponed my goals of fitness and weight loss because the financial cost was too overwhelming for our meager budget. A lot of the time, I don’t know what is worth aspiring to in my future.

I am realizing my desperate need to allow myself to be selfish, not selfless. And it feels like foreign territory.

I know through my religious beliefs that my struggles are temporary. God has a plan for me. The following quotes and scriptures help sustain me when I feel like I have no strength to keep trying.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8­9).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

“Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (“Doctrine and Covenants 122:7)

“If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith. . . .Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood.” Spencer W. Kimball

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to be just like people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, and most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is just like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”  Gordon B Hinckley (quoting Jenkin Loyd Jones)

Putting the CUTE back into CuteCultureChick

nicole bullock weight loss

I may not be everyone’s ideal of beauty, but I am beautiful. At least, I believe I am most of the time.

The last 24 hours have really rocked my world. An article by Maura Kelly was posted yesterday, via the Marie Claire website, entitled “Should Fatties Get A Room (Even on TV?).” In this inflammatory piece of literary rubbish very bluntly and vocally stated her disgust with people who were overweight. She was speaking of a CNN article about a CBS sitcom called “Mike and Molly,” in which a couple meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Maura Kelly states,

“Yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

As I obsessively thought about this subject yesterday, I decided to watch some episodes of “Mike and Molly” on CBS.com. The show is a comedy about two blue-collar people falling in love, who happen to be obese. Sure, there are fat jokes poked in, but it is a COMEDY series, about people who are more real than most other TV relationships. The fact that they meet at an OA meeting shows that they aren’t content with themselves, and are making proactive steps to improve their lives. I truly believe that Melissa McCarthy is a knockout.

For me, and I’m sure for most people that struggle with their weight, it’s more than just fast food. It’s metabolic and chemical deficiencies. It’s long-term, deep seated fears and habits. It’s difficult to feel judged and misunderstood. It’s hard to be persistent when months of strict dietary observance result in plateaus. And despite the notions portrayed in the media, and the hurtful/helpful comments from loved ones,  I have to remind myself that I AM NOT WHAT THEY PERCEIVE ME TO BE.

Obesity does not equal Ugly

Obesity does not equal Lazy

Obesity may mean flawed and weak, but aren’t we all?

My weight has exacerbated my respiratory problems (asthma and sleep apnea), and I have PCOS. I know my emotional scars and depression are intricately linked to my body issues. Back in May, I started Weight Watchers for the 8th time. It’s embarrassing to say that out loud, but it’s true. Weight Watchers has worked better than any other weight loss method I’ve attempted. And believe me, there have been some crazy ways I’ve tried. Wackjob doctors, diet pills, starvation, injections, days of eating nothing but oranges and pickles. I have kept all my Weight Watchers materials (five different printing editions). I have a thick file folder full of my written food trackers. Month after month after month of negligible progress.

Fortunately this spring, I got up the guts to give it another try. Since May, I’m down 25ish pounds. Unfortunately that means another 160 to go. No weight loss effort has very netted a loss of over 30 pounds. It’s hard to not get frustrated and give up. Or I’ll be having some good Momentum and financial difficulties require dropping the $40/month membership fee. When I’m motivated, I exercise like a maniac…and usually hurt myself. I’ve been through numerous counseling sessions and support meetings, partnered up with workout buddies, and nothing seems to have a lasting effect. I’ve learned the coping mechanisms to avoid binge eating…but I still occasionally relapse. I’m seriously considering bariatric surgery, but I don’t feel like I’ve reached the “last resort” point yet.

So for people who look at my body, thinking I’m lazy, disgusting, slothful, unattractive, I wish they could know the real me. The desire I have to be healthy and shapely. But it’s been a long time since CuteCultureChick has FELT cute. I’m committed again to working towards a better life. I just wish those with narrow minds and cold hearts could recognize that.

The Dark Side

For so long, I’ve been putting off this post.

It’s tough to talk about personal, difficult things in a public forum like a blog.  I’ve had so many people check up on me…wondering why I’m not blogging, why I’m not showing up to social events, or why I just haven’t acted like myself. I thought I’d explain.

Summertime is so tough for me. I’m one of the crazies that deals with summertime seasonal depression much more than dark months of winter. When the weather cools down and evening begins earlier, I feel refreshed and invigorated for the winter. Sometimes I even feel that winter “freezes” me into an enthusiastic, hyper-productive, nearly manic state of mind. Spring is actually my favorite season…watching new growth emerge through the matted frozen soil. But as the days become longer, and temps linger above 80 degrees on a regular basis, I feel myself shrivel and dehydrate. The the sultry, hot days of summer broil the life out of me. I become a sullen, lethargic, and dried-up version of Nicole…despite all the Prozac, therapy, and gigantic cups of Coke Zero I consume.

Summer 2010 felt different than any other summer. But I think it was a result of recovering from life in Summer 2009.

Summer 2009 was almost like a coma to me. In a weeks time, I went from working in a high-stress full-time corporate environment in a major metro area, to packing up my condo and driving cross country, and ending up two time zones west in a borrowed house in a rural town. I began yet another phase of living apart from my husband (who was already away half of the month). I felt incapable of taking care of myself, abandoned in a place I didn’t care for, in circumstances I had little control over. Many weeks were spent alone in my bedroom. I was practically catatonic. It took a few months to get myself to a point where I could function and have a personality again. By October, I felt energetic, was full of ideas, creativity, and aspirations.

After months of unsuccessful job searching, I tried to decided to make a move education-wise. Because of our already excessive student loan debt, taking out more money for school wasn’t possible. I didn’t feel right about working on my bachelor degree at this time, and instead looked into professional training programs. With my background and experience in healthcare, I knew I should find something to make me more relevant in that field. I reconnected with some old coworkers who encouraged me to become a certified professional coder. I found a good online training program, and last October I hit the books.

The next 6 weeks went well…I was motivated in many aspects of my life. I started exercising vigorously, studying diligently, and was feeling optimistic. But Mid-December brought in a nasty back injury and many months of painful recuperation. I was in terrible pain, had very limited mobility, and struggled again to make it day-to-day.

During this time, my marriage suffered greatly. We were both feeling so stressed, upset, and impatient with each other. I hated that I couldn’t have my partner here when I needed him, and he hated that I was living my life as someone different that he’d known for the previous 5 years. Our finances suffered from my lack of full-time income; we were making sizable monthly payments for my tuition, straining our already anorexic bank account. Our communication suffered, and we both had to make a lot of adjustments to recover the things we’d slowly lost in our relationship.

One of the most difficult aspects with my depression is my unrealistic responses to emotions. Things that make me sad suddenly feel tragic, and little joys become euphoric. When I have a small setback, I become unrealistically anxious and hopeless. When I feel success, I become competitive, driven, and egotistical. I am easily tempted by things that would have never been a temptation before. In order to achieve balance during this time, I force myself away from spontaneity, and toward introspection. I spend time alone, and have to force myself to get out of the house. I feel social anxiety when I’m around people that are used to the “real Nicole,” and turn down invitations to have fun (despite my desperation to connect with other people). I went to several conferences this summer (Bloggy Boot Camp, Casual Blogger, EVO, and BlogHer), and was so worked up that many hours of those conferences were drowned in my tears.

This summer was my first time dealing with suicidal feelings, and I’m grateful for the love and support of many people who helped me out of that awful abyss. I focused on my successes and allowed other people to help me.  My husband begged me to be selfish and spend time on the things that would bring me happiness and success. I started to regain my mobility from my injuries and started losing weight (down about 25 lbs). I enjoyed being a “stage parent” for Rosie’s first play. I dove headfirst into school, spending 5-7 hours most days on studies. And most of importantly, I fought for my marriage. I changed behaviors that caused contention, I opened up about issues that caused anger and tension. I had to be patient. I had to forgive and ask for forgiveness. I worked on being the spouse I knew that Taylor wanted me to be. And now, things are finally feeling awesome between us again.

This week marks the Fall Equinox, which is the official end of summer. Days are getting shorter and temperatures are cooling. The lengthening nights don’t seem quite as dark as the lonely nights of the summer. I feel hopeful.

Phony McPhonerton

Tomorrow (or tonight, or Thursday, who knows?) I’m leaving for New York City. I’m headed to the BlogHer Conference, which I’ve been excited about for MONTHS. Excited but anxious. I’ve read other bloggers’ accounts of their past experiences at the BlogHer concerences, and it seems like it could be a fine combination of awkward, awful, and awesome. I’m excited about the people I’m rooming with. I’m excited to be volunteering. I’m excited for the parties. I’m excited to meet my online friends in person, and reconnect with others I’ve previously met. But I’m worried…I feel like a bit of a phony. A self-proclaimed “blogger” who hasn’t even updated her site in over a month.

It’s been a crazy summer. Between Rosie’s rehearsals and performances in “The Music Man,” Taylor’s commute, and my school, I’ve managed to keep myself very busy. I am frustrated that school is taking so long, and was hoping to be working by now. I was really hoping to be off to NYC with a little more cash in my pocket. I’ve seriously considered not going. It’s hard to go to a big, expensive, unfamiliar place like New York without means to recover from a possible travel disaster. Some plans have already fallen through, partially due to my anxiety-ridden procrastination. As I write this, I’m still scrambling for a place to stay Wednesday night. I could plan on taking the Wednesday night red-eye from SLC…but if I miss the flight I’m hosed. Maybe I’ll try staying with another friend in an east coast city, then hop over to NYC Thursday morning. Who knows?

It’s times like these that I feel like a Phony McPhonerton. What happened to the confident, spontaneous, and blogging Nicole I usually am?

One Month, One Year

It’s been almost one month since my last blog post, and it’s the one year anniversary of me moving back to Utah.

Both seem hard for me to believe.

Dates and anniversaries are significant to me. I have a strangely accurate recollection of dates from the past. 3/15/1995 brings a chill to my spine. 7/10/2004 was a very happy day. Flag Day always reminds me of the birthday of a boy I had a crush on in elementary school. Realizing this afternoon that I arrived in Utah last June 27th felt prosaic. Despite my exhaustion from a whirlwind of activities over the last week or so, I felt that blogging tonight was important.

This year has felt like an out-of-body experience in many ways. Cross-country relocation, serious injuries and health problems, unemployment, weight gain, financial difficulties, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and soul searching. I’ve actually been doing a lot of writing…working through some anger, pain, frustration, and insecurities. It’s been incredibly therapeutic….and I’m realizing how helpful it can be. Writing helps me actualize reality. And for a long time, my only writing happened publicly on my blog. I hid and ignored many deep feelings I was experiencing…and lately I’m feeling the weigh of many things I’ve repressed or refused to acknowledge that were in existence.

So over this month, I’ve been writing…but I’m not sure I’m ready to share most of it here. Yet.

This weekend I attended the EVO Conference in Park City, UT. I took the “scenic” drive up through Provo Canyon and Heber to Park City, instead of the usual way I take through Parley’s Canyon. I know that I’ve taken that road before…but I don’t think I’ve ever realized how beautiful it was. As I visited with out-of-state guests of the conference, so many remarked how beautiful Utah is. I have lived in Utah a total of 12 years, and I think I’ve just gotten used to the way it looks. Arriving in Utah last June, in the circumstances I was experiencing, made Utah seem like a punishment. I felt “Banished to Spanish” (Fork). But over the weekend, I’ve contemplated many elements of the beauty that surrounds me…and I feel like I’ve been taking so many things in my life for granted.

I am a daughter of God. I have a devoted husband who loves me and works hard to support the family. I have a daughter who brings me so much joy and love. I have a plethora of family members and friends who are loyal and caring, would drop everything to help me out when needed. I have a roof over my head, a car that works, access to good healthcare, the Gospel,  and air conditioning! My life is abounding in blessings…yet I feel dark, twisty and sad feelings every day.

Depression really stinks…I can acknowledge the good things in life and be surrounded by amazing people, yet still feel lonely, abandoned, overwhelmed, scared, and unloved. I think the reason that I feel unloved…is because I don’t love myself much these days. I look in the mirror and see an image that only slightly resembles the mental image I default to in my head. I don’t like the way I physically feel. I don’t like the scarce selection of clothing that I settle for because the cute styles aren’t made in my size. And I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I need to proactively set goals and reach for the stars. I’ve already started to make some changes in my life over the last few weeks, and I’m trying to bask in the happiness of the little successes.

I’m working on me, inside and out.

Despair and Euphoria

Melancholy

Indulgent

Narcissistic

Overly-critical

Impatient

Unrealistic

Moody

Contrary

Impulsive

Unforgiving

Wistful

Confused

Irreverent

Recently I’ve had a difficult time figuring out who I am. I feel like my life is a constant state of change, and so many elements are beyond my control. When I am in a depressive episode (nearly a year now), I have a hard time focusing on the positive traits I possess. I know I have many attributes that are admirable…it just seems like I can’t admire them in myself. Despite my greatest efforts, I find myself drowning in despair nearly every day.

I have felt so unattractive for so long. While focusing on improving my mental health and self image this year, my eternal quest for weight loss has fallen by the wayside. Other than a brief few months in high school while on Phen-Fen, I’ve always been overweight or obese. I now weigh the most I ever have, well surpassing the “Not in a million years!” weight I set for myself. I actually have no idea of my exact weight at the moment…my digital scale now reads the “ERR” error message. I have very few clothing items in which I feel confident, and little money to buy something new. It takes me so long to find ANYTHING that fits correctly, and I never seem to have the money to purchase something I finally find that works.

I have only found a few things that have made me feel happy…supportive words and good conversation, affection, the beauty of the outdoors, and time with my loved ones.  But when I wallow in the depths for so much time, I find myself seeking things that not only make me happy…I want things to make me feel euphoric. The things that make me feel euphoric…food, sex, travel and concerts. Travel and concerts find themselves into my budget more than most people, but I can’t tell you how happy I feel after I’ve gotten home. Sex…well, when you’re married to a man who is gone 2/3 of the month…you get the idea. So I’ve heavily relied on food to feel euphoric. And in the end, I weigh 50 pounds more than I did last April.

A few days ago, I took the above cell phone picture of myself for Taylor. I sent it off to him via text, and forgot about it till last night. I kept looking and looking at it…not believing it was me. After so many months of being on the edge of hating myself, it was an incredible ego boost to see a picture of me where I looked attractive and beautiful. It was a glimpse of the innate Nicole that I feel so rarely that her image was almost an enigma. After cropping out the scandalous lingerie I was wearing in the photo, I’m sharing this Nicole with you.

I am Nicole. I am talented. I am passionate. I am strong. I am a survivor. I am ambitious. I am tolerant. I am devoted. I am unique. I am sexy. I am conscientious. I am spiritual. I am considerate. I am wise. I am empathetic. I am intelligent. I am a loyal. I am silly. I am intuitive. I am enthusiastic. I am accomplished. I am compassionate. I am generous. I am witty. I am creative. I am flexible. I am skilled. I am assertive. I am hard-working. I am grateful. I am eclectic. I am artistic. I am diligent. I am resourceful. I am resilient.

But most of all….I am honest. Thank you for caring enough to share my struggles and offer support.

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