I remember sitting in the backyard at my mother-in-law's. The rest of the family was playing a game of baseball using one of those plastic bat and ball sets that are so popular at dollar stores. There was much laughing and trash talking. And there I sat, by myself, at the picnic table. My sister-in-law was across the lawn from me, making her way back into the game. She paused and attempted to make eye contact with me, beckoning me to come play. I pretended I couldn't see her. Yes, that's what I did. I just ignored her because I was incapable of getting up and joining in the fun.
Mike got his sisters later in life, he was sixteen and so were they. We were not all instant friends. This baseball game was early on in their blended family relationship and I was already making a muck up of it because how do you form a connection with someone like that? Here she was inviting me to join the fun and instead I pretended I didn't even see her. She gave up eventually. Obviously. Why wouldn't you? At the time she didn't know me from Adam and I'm sure even she wasn't completely sold on the idea of investing in these new relationships.
My life is made up of a million of those types of stories. Stories in which I behave, seemingly, like an asshole (if I was lucky. A lot of the time I came off bitchy) because whatever I had going on inside my brain didn't allow me to be comfortable within myself. You'd have to wonder how I ended up with any friends at all. I'd like to send a very heartfelt thank you to those of you who pushed through all that stuff I had up and in the way to be my friend. I used to "joke" that I made you work to be friends with me and while the "joke" had more than a sliver of truth to it, I promise that wasn't by design. If I could have been any different I would have. So really thanks for taking a chance on me because if you hadn't pushed it, I certainly wouldn't have. Y'all know who you are.
Mental illness is not something I spend a lot of time discussing with other people. I mean if I was incapable of saying hello to someone I certainly wasn't about to offer up how I would stay up hours later then I should just because my anxiety went off the charts when I climbed into bed. My Dad was bipolar and committed suicide and yet on my hospital paperwork when I had the girls when they asked about a history of mental illness in the family I answered none because I didn't want to that to be my label. I realize that was stupid because the concern is postpartum depression and I knew that at the time, but I felt people would be watching me even closer once they found that out. When I meet someone new I usually skirt the Dad death question the best I can when and if it comes up because people are usually so incredibly sorry they asked and then it becomes an awkward moment of me very brightly assuring them that everything is okay, that I'm fine with it when I'm not truly fine. I live with it because that is the realty of things, but I will never been fine with it because it's not fine. It's not okay. He should be here. I don't know what has to change to keep this sort of thing from happening to other families, but just simply talking about it has to be a good start, right?
I am one of the lucky ones. My feelings of anxiety are lower then they ever have been before in my life. That is something I am still adjusting to. I can chair meetings and make new friends and sit through volunteer screening interviews and I barely break a sweat. I climb into bed and just fall asleep. No more staying up to the point of exhaustion and then reading until I fell asleep with the book in my hand. I presented an award to a couple of kids at the school in front of a room full of people. I was in a flash mob! My life is big and full and wonderful. I mean my life has always been wonderful, but this is just an easier kind of wonderful. That Shannon that ignored her sister-in-law all those years ago does not exist anymore. I have learned, the hard way, that I'm not "cured", living like this takes work. I need to be good to myself. I need to run and write and drink my water. I need sleep and game nights and volunteering and I need my friends. I read a book recently about the power of friendship and how important it is to a woman's overall health. My social circle is the largest it's ever been in my life and I credit it very heavily with how mentally healthy I feel. From my closest friends to work friends to volunteering friends to neighbours to friends who I've never met in person you all give something very important to my life and I thank you all for that.
Be good to each other, you never can tell what someone else is living with. Be patient. Be empathetic. Take a chance on the quiet bitchy girl in the corner. Mike's sisters did and I am so thankful for them.