Archive for the Photos Category

#medicatedandmighty – It’s complicated

This is it people. Two prescriptions to maintain this crazy. Wish me luck.

A photo posted by @muthalovinautism on

That is my friend Erin Jones. Her story has just blown up over the last few weeks. It's a story about hitting bottom, and getting help back up. I encourage you to follow her on Facebook and/or check out her blog at Mutha Lovin' Autism. Her story is shedding light on mental health, and seeks to break the stigma associated with mental illness. I'm standing with her.

#medicatedandmighty Standing with my friend Erin @muthalovinautism and sharing my story of needing help, and before and after pics. I might have been running regularly in 2012 and looking ok on the outside, but I was trapped in a cycle of self-medication and denial. Midway through 2013, I hit a bottom, and started getting help. 5 months after I started taking an antidepressant, I stopped drinking. 17 months later, I stopped smoking (again). 18 months later, I put on makeup and a skirt, and told my story to a room full of people. 20 months later, I weaned off the antidepressant because it gave me the emotional reset I needed along with my program to feel my feelings without fear of them and without being consumed by them and work through the pain if the issues I stuffed, suppressed, and numbed for most of my life. #throwbackthursday #tbt

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

The last time I posted, I mentioned wrestling over sharing my unsanitized story. Since then, I have added My Story to the menu above (below on mobile). Because I have reached the point that I am ready to share it. Because one thing I have learned in recovery is that I am not alone and someone else has done or experienced something I have. Which means, there is someone out there who thinks that no one can possibly understand what he or she has been through. It's what my Manifesto is about. It's about letting just one other person know they are not alone. And someone cares. And there is hope. I may or may not be on the autism spectrum. I don't have a diagnosis, but I show a lot of signs. I'm still not convinced that I developed symptoms that would be considered on the spectrum due to trying to cope and survive the abuse as a child. Regardless, I have never felt "normal" and came up with my own coping skills which work well for a child, but not so much as an adult. I am certain that the abuse and all the methods I used to cope contributed to my own mental illness - namely depression and anxiety. Y'all, you can't function "normally" when you are bouncing between the 2. Self-medicating will prolong the inevitable breakdown. Stuffing and suppressing will only last for so long before you blow up. And the isolation will slowly wear you down until you want to die. Whether by your own hand - quickly or slowly - or through recklessness, without professional help, you will find yourself in such a depressive state that death looks like the only viable option. And I know firsthand, you can't just pray that away. No, you need people who have been there and back and will walk with you or just sit with you without blaming you or trying to fix you. If you have been struggling with depression and/or anxiety, you probably do have a chemical imbalance which will require medication. Years and years of stress will throw the chemical balance off because your body has been on alert for so long it doesn't know how to not be on alert. It absolutely is a physical, mental, and spiritual sickness. You can't just treat one area and expect the other areas to recover also. And you absolutely cannot fix yourself. If you liked this post or it resonated with you, would you please share it below? Thank you!

The effect of focus

I'm afraid of heights. I'm not sure when I developed it because I did not have it when I was a kid. I first realized it one year when my mom and I went out to the old house at Birdtown to winter prep it. We had to cover the attic vents which required carrying the covers up a ladder and hammering them in. I got up the ladder and freaked. I couldn't do it. Mom had to manhandle the vent on the ladder. I didn't get any better with ladders though I did get to a point where I could climb a ladder and do stuff, but barely, and I was terrified and hyperventilating the whole time. I had to face my ladder fear this weekend. Half of the living room had been repainted, but didn't get finished. Like most of the projects around the house. I finally tired of being pissed off about it and decided there was nothing stopping me from just finishing it. I had gotten more paint, and kudos to the lady at the Pittsboro Lowes who did an outstanding job of matching that paint. Labor day, I intended just to paint the one wall so I could move the TV, but it went so quickly that I did all of the room except for that small bit on one wall that is technically on the 2nd floor. Before-WM That was going to involve getting on a ladder and painting at the same time. Some of it I was able to cut in from the 2nd floor landing, and thankfully that was the highest part. But still, I was going to have to get really high up on that 8 foot ladder with a paint bucket and brush...and actually paint. There I stood, 2 rungs from the top, paint in one hand, brush in the other. I dipped the brush, wiped off some of the excess paint, and put the brush to the top edge of the wall underneath the molding. No tape. "Just hold the brush steady and cut the line." I took a deep breath, and that's what I did. I focused on cutting a straight line, and kept the fact that I was on a ladder secondary. And it worked. During-WM I think in life we have a tendency to get so caught up in secondary issues that we are unable to do what we need to be doing. We get overwhelmed by things that are largely outside of our control so that we can't focus on what is within our sphere of influence. It wasn't that I ignored the fact that I was on a ladder. My safety depended on my awareness of standing on a very small surface 6ft off the floor. But my primary task was to paint a straight line, and as long as I focused on that task, I was able to do it without fear of falling. I also had to have faith that the ladder would work as designed. I made sure the ladder was solidly level and steady before I ever climbed it. I did not climb above the recommended highest safe rung, and stayed a rung below it. I made sure to lean my shins and knees against the 2 top rungs to steady myself. I am prone to vertigo so ensuring I had my body supported as much as I could helped to stave off that feeling of pitching. I did what was in my control, and left the rest to the ladder to not collapse. I took the appropriate safety measures with the ladder because they were within my sphere of influence. Then I let that go and focused on the task itself not allowing myself to stew on what-ifs or if-onlys. After-WM Focus on the task at hand. Just do the next right thing. Be aware, but do what is yours to do and do it well without grumbling and without fear. And don't live in fear over things that you have no control over. If you liked this post, would you please share it below? Thank you!

The pain of letting go

Marsh-WM I made the decision. I didn't like it. I don't like it. I knew I wouldn't be "happy" with either option. I also know that keeping things status quo is not healthy for anyone involved. I feel like I ripped out a big chunk of my heart and punted it. I told that to my therapist and also that I felt kind of numb. Also that I felt like I needed a meltdown but that it would probably wait until the most inopportune time to strike. You know, like at work, because no one wants that. By "no one" I mean me. I continually find myself wondering if I am doing the right thing. Did I make the right decision? And thus goes the rationalization process. Slogans fall flat as trite cliche. The doctrine of my youth fails from one-sidedness and does nothing but cover me in guilt and shame. There comes a point when you realize you are the only one that is even remotely providing accountability to your husband. You can see that he is avoiding everyone but the friends who enable his behavior. You can see that he is not being honest with himself let alone anyone else. You see him walking around in that same facade you yourself used to walk in while keeping your addictions securely hidden away from view of anyone who might call you out on them. You know that as long as nothing changes, nothing is going to change because that is what has been happening for years. As I have been recovering, I have been seeing that I had few boundaries, and didn't enforce the few I had. It was easy to overlook because I was numbing/escaping myself so as not to have to deal with much of anything. It has been something like coming out of unconsciousness into consciousness and seeing how things really are and realizing this is not the lifestyle I want to continue in. So I tried setting boundaries, but they were not respected. I tried pointing out what was really going on, and was dismissed and told I am the one with the issues. But I'm not the only one with issues. I'm just the only one working on mine. And I have had enough of the insanity of addiction in my life. So after the latest incident of craziness, I retained an attorney and am filing separation in a way to enforce separation. There is no violence or threat thereof, so I can't get a restraining order. But since I am the only one working consistently and have been the only one paying the mortgage and utilities, I'm not the one who is going to leave the house. And our children have dealt with the dysfunction long enough. I've been told that he's never going to hit bottom as long as I'm cushioning it. To be true, my lack of boundaries and lack of enforcing boundaries has certainly been enabling. But I finally had enough. So I took the opportunity while I had it to put up a legally enforceable boundary. And it freaking hurts. I feel like the pain is going to consume me in an implosion. As if my soul is collapsing in on itself. But I am not going to cave in. I will not continue to live with the insanity of active addiction. I will not continue to subject my children to continued dysfunction. If you liked this post, would you please share it below? Thank you!

Starting Over #DoSummer2015 #DoOver

"It's always best to start at the beginning." - Glinda, the Good Witch of the North I have realized something really scary. I am the most emotionally and mentally healthy person in my household, and the most mature. 15yo-wm Right. I'm the mature one. But while perhaps I live according to the mantra that Ouiser Boudreaux calls "A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste" far too much, there is, unfortunately, a reason why I am the most emotionally and mentally healthy and mature person in my household. I realized my life was unmanageable and would remain that way unless I got help. I made the decision to do whatever I had to do to change. Sometimes I still fight it tooth and nail because I am still afraid. I spent my childhood living in fear, and it is deeply ingrained in me. What I am slowly learning, and much more slowly than I like, is that it's ok to be afraid, and push through it anyway. Just like when I run, I'm ready to quit a quarter mile into it. But I keep putting one foot in front of the other because when I finish, I won't remember how bad that first and/or second mile sucked. I will feel great because I kept going and finished. I had a sit-down, face-to-face meeting with my sponsor last week. I was in a huge funk, and I needed help getting to the root of what was going on. Plus, I find it is a lot harder to hold stuff back when she's looking at me. Through the course of processing and reprocessing what was discussed, I decided I need to get back in Al-Anon. I was going to go back to my home group Friday night, but I ended up going to an A.A. meeting instead. As I was adjusting my Friday night plans in my head, and planning out when I could hit the next Al-Anon meeting, I had a thought. I can have an Al-Anon #DoOver. I decided I could go to the same Saturday morning beginner's meeting that I started in, and this time do it right. You know, because I never really worked an Al-Anon program the first time around. I went determined to speak also, but I didn't really get a chance. However, I recognized someone whom I had met nearly 2 years ago in that room when I first started, and I went and spoke to her after the meeting. I connected. 2 years ago, I spoke to no one, and tried to quickly get out of there. I was overwhelmed. I had been crying and fighting crying the whole meeting, and I needed to get out where I could. This time, I could tell by remembering how I felt the last time that I have grown quite a bit. I teared up a little, but while it is still automatic to fight it, I didn't put all my effort into it. But I was also able to laugh and nod my head in understanding with other shares. I might be a beginner again, but I am no longer a newcomer. I'm glad to have the chance to start over. If you liked this post, would you please share it below? Thank you!

Fake it ’til you make it

Stairs-RavenRock-WM I hated that phrase. Because some people never seem to get to the "make it" point and just fake it. And they just fake it when it will benefit them in some way. They can talk the talk around the right people, but just don't seem to ever be able to personally apply it to their relationships with other people. You know, hypocrites. The other night, I was in a situation where I had to give a really brief version of my alcoholic story - what it was like, what happened, and what it's like now. I didn't really put any time into preparing for it even though I knew I would have to give it. I just let it largely flow spontaneously. As I listened to myself speaking (which one can do when one dissociates), I heard myself saying something that I had said before, but hadn't really heard.
"I knew how to pretend to live, but I didn't know how to live."
And that would be why "fake it 'til you make it" pissed me off so bad. I spent most of my life "faking it," but not ever "making it." From the outside it appeared I had it all together. And to an extent I did. But I was motivated by perfectionism; always striving for an unknown and/or unrealistic expectation of what success (professional, personal, and religious) really was. Then my facade - my carefully constructed bubble of control - shattered.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. - Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 59
At this point in working the steps, I was told that God might not remove all of them, and that He wouldn't necessarily do it right away. One of my character defects is impatience, so it was a given it wouldn't happen immediately. That doesn't mean He isn't capable of removing my defects. He is. But He isn't a genie that grants wishes the way we want it. He is a loving Father who knows and provides our NEEDS instead of our WANTS. I always want the easier, softer way. I have found that my greatest growth comes through "suffering" rather than being handed to me. And so, with the knowledge that that my request to have my shortcomings removed could be delayed or answered with "No," I was told to believe they would be removed regardless and until they are, "act as if they have been." Fake it 'til you make it. Finally, I realized the spirit behind it wasn't one of hypocrisy, it was one of faith and good will. Take, for instance, my insecurity. It has not been taken away yet. Left alone and allowed to "rule," my insecurity paralyzes me from making good decisions, or even any decision at all. Nothing gets done, status quo remains, and life becomes even more unmanageable. But, I can "act as if" I am not insecure, and make a decision that is at best uncomfortable or at worst downright scary. As long as I don't make a rash decision without looking at the consequences (good and bad) or take way too long to look at every thing I think might go wrong, something amazing is going to happen whether or not the decision is the correct one. I become less afraid to make a decision. I become less insecure. Sometimes the worst part of a decision is the fear of making the wrong decision. Not because you can always make the right decision, but because making a wrong decision reinforces how you think about yourself. "I'm stupid." "I can't do anything right." Those are products of false humility which is actually just an aspect of self-centered pride. And they are lies.
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:5-9 ESV)
Motives matter. Motive is why "fake it 'til you make it" can actually work. Motive is where you have to be totally honest when you ask yourself why you are acting on a "good" behavior. Are you trying to fool other people into thinking you have it all together, or are you simply just trying to do the next right thing because it is the right thing regardless of your feelings? If you liked this post, would you please share it below? Thank you!

Normal can be subjective

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." - Inigo Montoya Sunset-WM I've been having a recurring dream. It isn't exactly the same dream, but it is the same theme. I am sometimes in a prison camp, sometimes in a cult, and sometimes in some type of camp like a reservation. No matter which it is, I am trying to escape. These dreams have been going on for at least a couple of months. Granted, I am grateful that I am no longer having the gray-mud-vomiting zombie dreams, but those were only 3 or 4 dreams total. My escape dreams have been 3 or 4 a week for several weeks. Enough to wonder what the heck is going on in my subconscious. I wonder if maybe my brain is trying to work out how I am trying to escape the lies I have believed about myself since I was a child. Maybe that sense I had that I didn't belong or fit in was my way of coping with so much contradictory reality as such a young age. I woke up in the middle of the night a couple of days ago, and couldn't go back to sleep. I didn't have a deluge of racing thoughts like I used to have, but I couldn't seem to settle my brain back down enough to get back to sleep for 2 or 3 hours. I had another thing that I hadn't ever told anyone. Funny how things like that pop up when you get repeatedly triggered over something related. In the process of revisiting, praying, unpacking, praying, peeling that freaking onion, and praying some more, the thought came to me:
Nothing was normal. Everything was distorted. I don't think I have a clear objective memory because there was so much contradictory information.
I didn't want to let that thought be lost once I went back to sleep, so I wrote it down. There is usually running involved in the dreams. Running away from somebody, some group, some zombie, some trap. The running never ends, except for that one time I was trapped in an empty cargo bay about to die from irradiation or poison. But at least the zombies weren't in there with me. Every race I've run has always had a clear end. There have been times I was sure I would never make it to the end, but I've always managed to keep going - even if I could just barely put one foot in front of the other. Because I knew there was a clearly defined end. And a couple of times because my friend Karyn either came back to get me or stayed with me vowing to drag me across the finish line if necessary. Sometimes I feel like I am chasing after "normal," when I have no idea what "normal" is. There is a conversation that takes place in Star Trek Generations between Dr. Soran and Geordi LaForge regarding Geordi's eyes.
Dr. Soran: Have you ever considered a prosthesis that would make you look a little more... how can I say... more normal? Geordi: What's normal? Dr. Soran: "What's normal?" Well, that's a good question. Normal is what everyone else is and you are not.
Geordi was blind from birth. There was no prosthesis that was going to give him sight in the same way seeing people had. The banana clip visor he wore gave him the ability to see things that sighted people could not. Soran was trying to force him to focus on the external appearance of normal - looking normal. In later movies, Geordi has prosthetic eyes rather than the banana clip visor. His eyes still didn't look "normal." Geordi's handicap did not handicap him. He couldn't see things the way other people see, but he had a unique view of things that made his lack of normal sight valuable to those who had normal sight. His biggest physical weakness was also his biggest physical strength.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Maybe the reason I never escape in my dreams is because escaping the past doesn't change it. I'm never going to have that "normal" childhood. I'm never going to have a "normal" loving relationship with my dad. And you know what? I might not ever "feel normal." But I am not alone. Even in those dreams, I am not always alone. Sometimes there is a small group with me who are also trying to escape, and we are working together to escape and/or overthrow oppressors (or zombies). Here in the real world, in my real life, I am not alone. I have a tight network of friends who know most (and some all) of my junk. And they are willing to drag me across the finish line - to help rescue me from the cult/nazi/zombies. I'm not the only person to not grow up in a "normal" environment. We generally try to appear "normal" because we want to be "normal" - to fit in. But we tend to find each other. And that's where our "abnormal" lives intertwine and become strength. We understand each other. We can help each other in ways "normal" people can't. And when "normal" people find themselves embroiled in the type of "abnormal" that was our "normal," we can be there for them in ways their "normal" friends and family can't. Thus, weakness becomes strength. And "normal" means nothing.

Triggering onions

"Can I handle the seasons of my life?" - Stevie Nicks RR-Sanford-Crop-WM I may have mentioned this before, but do you know what happens when you peel an onion? You cry. I talked about why I was going to stop taking my antidepressant, but I really had no idea how that was going to play out. Despite weaning off over 4 weeks, I still had some significant withdrawals. But the crying. What are the odds that in your first week off your meds, you are going to be triggered. Repeatedly. About something you did NOT want to deal with so soon. (Or at all.) I definitely didn't expect to be triggered at church. I knew I was going to break down this past Sunday. I had looked at the service lineup, and texted with my friend Stacey who was singing. I had no idea I would have such an ugly cry meltdown. After the sermon, we had communion. But not just communion. We had the opportunity to be anointed with oil, and prayed over with laying on of hands. I walked up to Pastor Nate a complete wreck. "I can't even word." I could barely get out more than that because of the sobbing. But I didn't really have to because he knows my story. We stood there in front of everyone, he praying over me, and me sobbing. And I was okay with that.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:13-16 ESV)
I then took the cup (because the bread ain't gluten free), and sat back down. I sobbed uncontrollably some more. And it was okay. And it is a big breakthrough. I wasn't allowed to cry when I was a kid. My crying was categorized as either "having a fit" or "showing my ass." So I learned how to hold it in, and not cry. And then I medicated/self-medicated so I wouldn't cry. But crying isn't something to be ashamed of. I've been praying for healing. Family and friends have been praying for my healing. Crying is part of that healing. All I have to do is let it happen. And it's okay.

How the dull becomes vibrant

Sometimes I can remember events from childhood as if I were there again. Not the bad things or even really good things. It's more like ordinary things that wouldn't be considered significant events. I can remember the brightness of the sun, or the grayness of clouds. I can almost feel the warmth or the chill. I can see the colors, and I can almost hear the sounds and smell the scents. I didn't realize that I had the ability at one time to live in the moment and appreciate the beauty around me. It seems like a precious gift today as I reflect on random memories. I still have the ability. I don't know exactly when I stopped noticing my environment. I think it was in college. I would even go so far as to guess it happened when I began regularly numbing. I'm more convinced of that since I only started noticing and appreciating here and now moments and making mental note of them in the past year. Could it be that appreciating the beauty in the world around me is related to my desire and/or ability to feel my emotions? It's ironic that in the course of self-medicating to avoid feeling pain I anesthetized myself to beauty and joy that comes from admiring dandelions blooming along the side of the road. The numbing dulled the deep and vibrant green of the spring growth in the trees and grass, the red of the clover, and the orange of those flowers that popped up "volunteer" from last year's planting.

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

The numbing distorted the whole picture as well as the color, like the above picture of my mom and I. The camera and the film were cheap (and probably old), and while capturing a moment in time, it lacked the vibrancy of color. It does not accurately portray the joy I felt in that moment after finally talking Daddy into taking a picture. He even let me take my first picture that day. It is just as devoid of true color. I don't remember that afternoon in Polaroid. I remember it bright and colorful - with cats. :)

A photo posted by Martha Nemec (@dragonlady42) on

This rose represents what I see now in sobriety. I took this with my iPhone at church in between services where I went to smoke. (I wasn't hiding my smoking. I was just keeping the smoke away from others.) It was a gray, misty day that makes you want to just snuggle up in bed. But yet I was shown the beauty of the tiny raindrops on the petals and leaves of the flowers and plants. God gives us emotions to enjoy the beauty even amid the pain. I'm starting to believe that feeling and living through the pain makes the beauty even more beautiful.

On with the show

The DragonLady doesn't like crowds. That's why she doesn't do concerts. Crowds freak her out. Also, she doesn't like to pay the price concert tickets cost these days. But you know what? I went to see Fleetwood Mac last month paying way more than I wanted to pay for tickets in the rafters. IMG_3716 Prior to the beginning of the show, I would look at that and get that feeling in my stomach as if I was going to pitch forward and fall to my death. Because I also don't do heights. IMG_3718 That's my "this is too high" face. Note that we weren't all the way at the top but close. Once they came out and started playing, though, I did not notice the height at all. It was a heck of a good show! I sat there singing along with every single song as only someone who has spent a LOT of time listening to Fleetwood Mac can do. I screamed. I yelled. I was surprised I could talk the next day. [caption id="attachment_2316" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Dreams unwind. Love's a state of mind. Dreams unwind. Love's a state of mind.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_2317" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Tusk Tusk[/caption] They were so fantastic! Lindsey Buckingham didn't leave the stage until just before the encore, and then just during the drum solo in World Turning. I know he is the youngest member of the band, but he is still mid-60's rocking a 2.5 hour show. IMG_3719 This was the finale, which I obviously didn't take from the rafters. Someone with much better seats than I took this. Also, I used up my free space recording Gold Dust Woman. Which I haven't uploaded.


It struck me in the middle of a conversation where I was sitting on my pity pot bemoaning the latest catastrophe to befall me. Do I really trust God? Do I really trust Him? Because it is one thing to pray and surrender everything to Him and His will, but when you've done that, and something happens that you didn't anticipate, it's another matter to follow through by walking in the faith you thought you had when you said that prayer. Talk is cheap, but living it out is going to cost something. Clinging to control and self-sufficiency is going to cost you a lot more. All the years I spent pushing myself and pushing myself trying to do it all and do it all perfectly exacted a heavy price. Multiple times. And I didn't get it. A few years ago I asked "Just how broken do I have to be?" I knew at the time. Completely. I just didn't really know what that means exactly. I have a much better idea now. It's whatever it takes until I become completely dependent upon God and quit trying to do everything (and do everything perfectly) in my own power in effort to be good enough. Ah, but there's more. I was talking with a friend earlier this week and we got on the subject of legalism in the church. Since we both grew up Baptist, we were generally talking about Baptist churches since that's what we have had the most experience with. I don't know where it came from (I probably read it somewhere), but in response to discussing the logical though flawed thinking behind legalism, I said, "Grace is scary because grace can't be controlled." If you can spot it, you got it. The control freak in me doesn't want to go down without a fight. She's been calling the shots for decades because she has to head off every possible problem and either prevent it from happening or fix it before anyone finds out she messed up. Every time she thinks she's hit bottom, it turns out to be a ledge, and she rolls right off over and over. Can I really do this? Can I give up my control and self-sufficiency and really really surrender my will and my life over to the care of God? Am I going to just admit where my best thinking has gotten me and just trust Him? Am I going to accept the grace I can't control? IMG_3561