Expectations vs. Reality

“I was supposed to be having the time of my life.”

– Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

 

What I would tell elementary school Ashley:

Kick every boy who makes you feel ugly. Hard. Don’t feel like you have to be girly. You are a tomboy for a reason. Embrace it.

 

What I would tell middle school Ashley:

Read as many books as you can get your hands on. (I know you do this already, but branch outside of the RL Stine category). Don’t let the other kids make you feel like you run funny. You’re athletic, even if you don’t know it. Enjoy games, regardless of whether you win or not. Stop obsessing about boys. You won’t marry a single one of them. Take this time to develop your own hobbies, interests, and passions, without having a boy in the equation. You are not a spoiled brat. You’re just sensitive. It’s often misunderstood. That’s okay.

What I would tell high school Ashley:

I wouldn’t change a thing about your goth phase. You’re beautiful. Realize that nice guys are good to date, if you’re going to date. I would prefer that you didn’t, but I know you won’t listen. Just because a guy teases you to show affection doesn’t mean that’s a good match. You’re too sensitive to have someone critiquing while claiming it is for comedic purposes. The first guy that tells you he loves you? Hold on to him longer. He will probably love you the hardest you’ve ever been loved. YOU ARE NOT FAT. Even though you don’t believe anything your mom says, she’s right: you have a woman’s body. Embrace it. Start working on your daddy issues. Now. Yes, you have them. Don’t put all your value in a single person. You will always feel mediocre if you place your worth in others. Above all, realize that your heavenly Father loves you more than a man ever will.

What I would tell college Ashley:

You are enough. You’ve gotten this far. Branch out; be fearless! Don’t spend your freshman year holed up in your dorm room. You are worthy of company, and you add to the lives of others with your presence. Take relationships slow. Snail’s pace. I know you have an issue with this, but trust me, it will be for the best. Decide on relationships with your head first, then your heart. Go ahead and break off your relationship with A.J. Long distance relationships never last long-term. Take a daily vitamin. Exercise as much as you can. Switch your major if you feel led to. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. Stop being so judgemental! Create a new relationship with God out of love, not obligation. You may be cut from a different cloth (after all, you’re no Southern Belle) but God made you just that way: fiesty and passionate. Do not bend on your stance concerning premartial sex. Do not put yourself in a situation where you have the ability to compromise. Learn that saying “no” is perfectly acceptable, and required, to not be hurt very badly.

What I would tell married Ashley:

To date, I have not found a man that exists who has eyes for only you. Get over it, somehow (and if you figure out how, let me know). It is not a reflection on you or your sexy meter. You are desirable. You are worthy. Do not let your partner manipulate you into thinking you’re crazy because you have intense emotions. Do not isolate. Run to a friend’s house, if you need to. Your identity is not in being a wife. If you’re not a natural at cooking, this does not make you less of a woman. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Make spontaneous decisions, but make sure you have the financial backbone to successfully execute them. Listen to me: I have to believe that one day you will be a mother. It’s the absolute frame of your existence. Take better care of yourself when you get pregnant. This includes both spiritually and emotionally. No matter what, you will think it was your fault. I still don’t know the answer to this, but I know that if you have a closer relationship with God, you will have no choice but to accept it as being His will. Don’t isolate. Breathe. Do not feel embarassed for continuing to grieve. You take all the time you need, because in reality, you will need every day of your life until you die. It never goes away. I won’t even say it gets better. But you learn to deal with the grief, somehow.

What I would tell future Ashley:

  I’m so happy you’re actually here. I know some days there for awhile, you weren’t sure if you would make it to today. You are stronger than you thought. You are doing wonderful things. You’re living the dream. I’m so proud of you.

What I tell Ashley:

I don’t really know. Take it one day at a time. You know what you need to do to be happy again. Don’t question it. It’s your intuition talking. It will get easier.

Be the hippy you’ve always wanted to be. 

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Chemical Dependence

ZOLOFT® (sertraline HCl) is approved by the FDA to treat the following conditions in adults:

  • –Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • –Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • –Panic Disorder
  • –Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • –Social Anxiety Disorder
  • –Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

-taken from official Zoloft website

I’ve always been prone to Depression. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I feel so deeply, in full-blown colors and chaotic senses, but I remember first struggling with suicidal thoughts at age 13. Self-mutilation was my only therapy. I began a relationship with Christ at age 16. I remember the moment I truly gave my heart to the Lord, years of pain and anguish seemed to release from my pores and tear ducts. From then on, it got better. Though my immediate family members were on antidepressants and it was considered an inherited mental illness, I thought I had conquered it by putting my faith in Christ. Ashamedly, I carried a certain pride inside of me that I was simply relying on the Lord, and didn’t need modern medicine to cure my blues. I could pray, and everything was better, right?

Then came college, Freshman year. I felt inadequate and misplaced. The depression returned. I didn’t tell anyone, really. I vented thoughts on Xanga (the most popular blogosphere at the time) but outside of that, I felt admitting my sadness would only condemn me further. I was at a Christian college, where everyone was supposed to possess the joy of the Lord. I did, for the most part.

But I’m realizing more and more the only thing that prevented me from previous crippling depression were my life circumstances.

College included some of best years of my life. Stressful, yes. Terrifying? Sometimes. But epic memories replaced the negative. First came a degree, then came a professional job, then came marriage to the love of my life, then came a baby in a baby carriage…. or not. Struggling with infertility for five years wasn’t fun. It did a huge number on my self-esteem and identity as a woman. My body couldn’t do the one thing it was created to do. I had always felt my one true calling was to be a mother, and I couldn’t even manage to do that!  I threw myself into work, and then we spent five months overseas doing missions. We came back, intertwined ourselves into church, and I was happy. Then came the slow decay of the naive world I had built around me. The shatter of trust in a marriage, the resuming of self-mutilation, the deafening thoughts that told me I was better off dead. I was diagnosed with Depressive Disorder soon after. I took one pill of my antidepressant prescribed to me before I found out I was pregnant. I never took another, until after she was gone.

I’ve been on Zoloft, Xanax, and Ambien for a year and a half. The craziness of this month had me forgetting to get a refill on my Zoloft, then looking at the bottle and realizing I didn’t have a refill. Then remembering I missed my appointment with my psychiatrist last month. I spent a week without my medicine, and I cannot tell you how crazy I went. Crying all through the night, irritable beyond belief, panic attacks, paranoia… and I loathe that I am now dependent upon this artificial serotonin to make me semi-sane. I never wanted to be. I’m wondering if my lack of warm and fuzzies and my flat affect is partly to do with this as well. I don’t feel joy much anymore. It’s like a flicker of emotion, then it’s gone. Without taking my medication regularly, it’s an explosion of a million different emotions, as if I’m Bipolar. There is no in between. Numbness, or despair. These are what I teeter between.

I would love to one day wean myself from taking medication. I’m terrified that day may never come.