Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Festivus Fun

My name is Kelly, and I am addicted to Halloween. This is my most favorite day, so forgive me if I squeeeeee publicly.

I have gathered here for you some of the scariest, coolest, weirdest things about Halloween. I'll also be adding some of my favorite Halloween recipes at the end.

HAVE FUN TODAY.

By order of the queen.

All of us this year at the parade

The Oldest as the 11th Doctor
Do you love horror movies?  Did you know that they aren't all fictional? In fact, many of them are based on true stories. Here are 13 of the scariest.

If you love movies of any kind, did you know that there are stories about some of them being cursed? About tragic deaths that happened either on the set or shortly after the film wrapped? This list includes some of them, but doesn't even include Poltergeist - one of the most notorious movies of them all. Several of the cast members of that series met untimely deaths, some violently, others by mysterious illnesses.

Not every scary story is made into a movie though, and some of the strangest unsolved crimes will make your skin crawl. Maybe literally. You can read about them here.

If that isn't enough, there are some places that will just scare the crap out of you. Here's a list of 10 of them, but I'm going to tell you another story.  When I was in college, my roommate and I decided to go check out the haunted house on the Queen Mary.


Seemed like a good idea.

We got there and paid too much money to go on a fairly lame tour of the ship. There were a few places that we screamed when some scary character jumped out at us, but we weren't impressed really...until we somehow got separated from the rest of the group and ended up in the engine room.

I can't really describe what it felt like in there, but I can tell you that we definitely weren't alone. When we finally found a way out, we both breathed a huge sigh of relief, then promised we were never going to do that again.

Found out afterwards that there is supposedly a ghost in there. Many decades ago, when the ship was still sailing, a young sailor was killed in that room. Might have been good to know that before...

Speaking of ghosts, here is a collection of the best pictures ever taken of ghosts.

Here are a couple of my favorite Halloween recipes. You can check out this link on my other blog for all kinds of Halloween themed ideas as well. There are recipes for child and adult versions of witch's brew there.


Mummy dogs - the recipe is linked here.


Shrunken heads - the instructions are linked here.


Leave your body at the door. Leave your body and soul at the door.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the day late for a reason edition

I feel like I have been doing an inordinate amount of apologizing lately.

I spent most of yesterday hiding in my hole, and when I peeked my head out for a second, I immediately realized why hiding was a better idea. There was so much terrible awful filling my newsfeed on Facebook that I logged off.

In fact, I haven't really been online much since Friday. It's been nice, if I am being honest.

We are so busy this time of year with Halloween that I hardly get a second to think straight, let alone sit down and write anything coherent.

I woke up this morning and decided to write though, for however long I can, before I have to get to my EMDR appointment. PTSD can suck my ass.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop right now trying to get this done.

Of course, on the way to the coffee shop this morning, I passed my mom's dog. Her actual dog. It was the first time I'd seen her in over a year, even though the wonderful family that took her in lives fairly close to us. She was out for a morning walk, and I had to do a double take. Then the lump formed in my throat and I was fighting back tears.

Because it's not just about the dog.

Grief is complicated. I could attempt to explain it to you guys, but I honestly feel like so much of this is just stuff that you have to live. Or not. If you didn't have to encounter this particular version of grief, I would truly be happy for you. It's not simple with my mom, but very little ever was. I had no logical reason for thinking that things would be different now, and yet for some reason I allowed myself to believe that. I know better now, even if it took seeing a cocker spaniel out for her morning walk to drive it home.

Diabetes
Diabetes can kiss my ass. It can get all up in there and suck it.

Little boy has been running high, which makes sense because he's on the tail end of a cold. That's literally all it takes to make me flinch. His numbers aren't scary high, but they are high enough to keep me on edge.

Having kids is stressful enough.

Having one with a potential life changing condition like this one, terrifying.

There's really no other word for it.

We are handing out full sized comic books for Halloween instead of candy this year. It started as a nerd solidarity thing, but now I am grateful that my husband came up with the idea because I hate, hate, hate trying to keep candy in the house and constantly telling him that he can't have it. He's five.

He understands, sort of, as much as he possibly could.

But he's still five, and he should be allowed to be a normal five year old and go trick or treating or snag some from the family stash and not have everyone in the house panicking and running for meters.

It's not fair, dammit.

This is what happens when you are trying to be a good guy
In the very brief moments that I was on Facebook yesterday, two things came to my attention.

This was the first one.

Back in the town I grew up in, I still have tons of family and friends. It's not anywhere near being a small town since the population is well over 100,000 people now, but it is a small town if ever there was one.

Everyone knows everyone, and on the off chance they don't actually know someone, they know someone who does.

That kind of thing.

So when a Caringbridge link popped up and it was a name that seemed vaguely familiar, I started racking my brain to figure out how I knew the guy. His younger brother is one of my brother in law's best friends. He's a firefighter. He's a good guy.

And he's on life support right now because he tried to intervene in a late night altercation between a young man and his girlfriend.

He was sucker punched, knocking him unconscious immediately. The perpetrator wasn't done though, and proceeded to kick him repeatedly until he was chased off by some other guys. I don't know all the details, and the newspaper reports are patchy at best, but it sounds like he had a cardiac arrest in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. He's in a medically induced coma right now, on a ventilator, and just about every bone in his face is shattered.

The guy who did this to him was arrested yesterday, but right now none of that matters. Trying to find a reason for why this happened doesn't matter right now.

All that matters is the man laying in an ICU room fighting for his life because he tried to do the right thing.

All that matters is his wife and the children who haven't been allowed to see their father because of how bad his condition is right now.

All that matters is the fight he has ahead now.

This small town that isn't one, this group of people who aren't even confined by a geographic area anymore, we're pulling for you Jason.

Be strong and fight.

It's not about the guns....it's about the responsibility
The second thing that popped up in my newsfeed yesterday, this.

A three year old boy accidentally shot himself in the head Monday in a town close to here, and was declared dead shortly thereafter. 

A three year old.

You can have all the gun debates in the world. All the endless conversations that loop around and circle back. Argue about capacity of magazines and limits on ammunition. Talk about background checks. You can debate the impact of violent video games, movies, shows, whatever.

At the end of the day, ALL THAT MATTERS is that those who purchase and own weapons do so responsibly.
Paramount on the list of things that define a responsible gun owner - keeping weapons away from children.

Lock them up.

This little boy is dead because someone left a loaded gun where he could reach it.

It only takes a second to change a life.

It only takes a second.

He's gone now.

Earlier this month, a 12 year old boy took a loaded gun from his parents home and brought it to school, where he killed a teacher, shot two students, then turned the gun on himself. 

Had that gun been locked up, away from his hands, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

He would be alive, that teacher would be alive, just like this little boy would be alive.

Quite often in these cases, the parents of the child who wielded the gun are not charged with a crime, under the theory that they have to live with the guilt already for their role in the death, and they will certainly carry that guilt - of that I am sure.

Before the incident, though, guilt wasn't a factor. It wasn't a deterrent. It didn't alter their storage of the weapon. I'm sure that, as with most things in life, the parents of these children just assumed that it wouldn't happen to them. Until it did.

They have to live with the guilt, yes.

I'm not sure that's enough.

I'm not sure what would ever be enough.

How do we demand and require parents to be responsible, not just in this area, but in a whole laundry list of areas?

If you can answer that question, you just might save lives.

Mental Health Awareness ~ Welcome to My Crazy, by Dinner and a Nervous Breakdown

This post has been a few weeks in the making, and it all started when we were still in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Week. This very talented woman reached out to me and asked if she could share her story. Please check out her blog and Facebook page
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I thought I would share my story. Or rather, stories. Maybe it will help someone, or maybe I will just feel better after purging all the bullshit. Either way; welcome to my crazy

Before I had even hit middle school, I was diagnosed with the following. Although some of it kind of smooshes together, and some of it didn’t have such tidy, convenient names back then, here they are in all their glory along with MY definition of each. *IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER* I am NOT a doctor or an expert in any capacity, and each of these may be experienced differently by different people.

Social Anxiety Disorder – Social anxiety disorder is not about being shy, socially awkward, or uncomfortable at your new boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding. Everyone experiences social settings with varying degrees of discomfort. SAD goes beyond awkward and uncomfortable into excruciating and impossible. The thought of being placed into a social situation in which they are expected to be normal and carry on conversations and mingle, sets the SAD sufferer into a tailspin of dread, panic and thinking of any possible way that to get out of it.

Seasonal Depression – Apparently also called Seasonal Affective Disorder, Seasonal Depression strikes its sufferers, well, seasonally. As fall sets in and the weather gets colder, the days get shorter and the dark gets darker, the bleak also gets bleaker. Winter is approaching and it feels like the days of sunshine and summertime are never, ever going to come back and you’re doomed to wander this cold world, dark and alone, forever. And no, I’m not exaggerating.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder – GAD is an affliction that is the most counterproductive of all, in my opinion. It’s a cycle. Worry causes stress, stress causes fear, sleeplessness, soreness of body and mind. The constant and overwhelming worrying about something makes it impossible to productively focus on, let alone fix, whatever you began worrying about in the first place. Problems set off the GAD cycle, and, The GAD causes its symptoms, which cause more problems which give you more to worry about. It’s never ending and completely exhausting.

Claustrophobia – Everyone knows that this is the fear of closed, or small, spaces. While no one particularly likes being closed in small spaces, claustrophobics simply cannot handle it and will alter their life in whatever ways possible to avoid it. At all costs. They cannot handle the thought of being trapped in an airplane, so no trips. Elevators are absolutely not acceptable, so lots of stairs. Doctor’s offices - small rooms, closed doors, - cause panic so we usually just don’t go. Hospital? Surgery? Ha! Prescribing an MRI or a CAT scan is like prescribing death.

Agoraphobia – The actual definition of agoraphobia is “fear of open spaces.” It comes from the greek word agora, meaning market. And no, the irony is not lost on me. From a mental health standpoint, agoraphobia has basically come to mean the fear of any situation that may cause panic. Large crowds, tall buildings, unfamiliar surroundings for some. Being lost, not knowing where to find a bathroom or being somewhere by yourself for others. Agoraphobia is an all encompassing disorder and affects everyone differently. And it’s my least favorite.

Panic attacks – For me, and for many, any of the above situations can cause panic attacks, and are in turn worsened by panic attacks. I know that’s confusing, but I will get into it more later. A Panic attack never looks or feels the same for different people, or even for the same people in different situations. I’ll do my best to explain the way a panic attack most often feels to me:

I usually feel it coming and it usually starts with a heightened awareness of everything in the room. All of the noises and voices are suddenly closer, right in my ears and echoing in my head. The walls close in, while any chance of escape seems nearly impossible. I am sure everyone is looking at me, if not talking about me. And no, I don’t give a half a fuck what any of these people think about me, but why are they doing this? I’m sweaty and crampy, or nauseous. Extremely hot or extremely cold. I may be sick, or I may shit myself (seriously) and oh my god I am going to die. If I were being rational I would know that I am not actually, but panic replaces rationality. So no, not exactly literally, but I am still going to die. Or I am not going to die, instead I am going to feel this way forever and wish I would die. Why is this happening? Why can’t I just be normal dammit?! Fuck this, get me out of here. Now. No, I can’t leave, then the panic wins. I have to fight it. Why do I have to fight it? Why can’t I just stay home, where this won’t ever happen again and I don’t ever have to feel like this again and oh my god just please make it stop. It’s never going to stop. I am going to die. Where’s the door? Where’s the bathroom? When can I leave without it being awkward and making them all look at me and talk about me more than they already are….

That’s the best I can do and it doesn’t even come close.

Now, before I get into my personal experiences, I have to say something. I’m sure this is going to piss some people off, but I’ve been pissed off about it for a long time, so suck it up. If you feel like you have some kind of a disorder, please, please talk to somebody and get help. Please. But it you don’t – shut the fuck up. Allow me to explain; if you don’t like spiders, you do not have arachnophobia. You just don’t like spiders. Now if you refuse to go into some places, no matter how badly you need to, or alter your life in dramatic ways in order to avoid any situation in which you may possibly encounter an 8 legged asshole, then you may actually have arachnophobia. In the same sense; shy people do not have SAD, people who worry do not have GAD and people who prefer summer do not have seasonal depression. In order for any of these to be an actual condition, they have to be extreme, usually irrational and cause excruciating consequences. Not be simply uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is life. Everybody is uncomfortable. It seems like it has become trendy as of late to claim some sort of mental disorder or another. Everyone and their little sister has Generalized Anxiety Disorder now, or gets Panic Attacks. These are not things I would wish on my worst enemy, let alone want to have myself. Believe me, you DO NOT WANT this! Why pretend, or exaggerate, so that it looks like you have this? Seriously? Why? I think it is a result of drug companies and doctors. Someone has to be labeled in order to be medicated, and the more prescriptions they write the more money they make. But the whole thing makes me sick. The result is that those of us genuinely affected are not taken seriously. Try to tell someone that you suffer from a disorder that has exponentially hindered you in your life, and have them say, “Oh, me too.” Really? No.

Okay, rant over. You’re still here? Awesome. Lets continue.

Now, medication is usually viewed as the first and sometimes only treatment. Xanax, Valuim, Paxil, Effexor, Ativan and on and on and on. You’ve heard of them, I’m sure. You may take them. You may love them. I do not. I am on no medication. My opinion is that we are, as a society, completely over medicated and that these drugs do more to mask the problems, and zombify us, than to fix anything. While in some cases, medication may be a necessity, behavior modification, thought control and therapy are much more effective and may actually treat the issue instead of chemically covering it up. Though I do feel that medication has its purpose, that purpose is NOT in me. It’s not because I’m so strong, I don’t need drugs, I am going to fight this on my own. Nope. Most of the time I would so much rather pop a pill and have it go away. But I can’t. I literally cannot handle drugs. You know that little insert that comes with all the prescriptions? The one with the tiny print that lists all of the things that could possibly happen as a side effect? All of the things that could possibly go wrong? That list might as well be titled ALL OF THIS SHIT IS ABSOLUTELY GOING TO HAPPEN AS SOON AS YOU INGEST THIS PILL on anything prescribed to me.

I took Zoloft once. The doctor had been begging me to get on it for months,, and he finally convinced me by saying that it would likely lessen my panic attacks and my migraines. “I am going to get sick” I told him. “Just take it for 3 months and we will see” he responded. Okay. Here goes nothing. He gave me 25 milligrams, and I broke them in half. 12.5 milligrams a day. I was in bed for 2 weeks. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t really sleep, but couldn’t get up. I was nauseous and puking. It was like the worst flu AND hangover I had ever had, combined with not being able to grab onto any one thought for too long. I muscled through those miserable 2 weeks. By the third week I could get up, I could eat a little, but I was still all fuzzy, not really present. After a month I was almost normal, just felt a little disconnected. But if I forgot a pill, took one too early or too late, I was sick again. I sucked it up for 3 months, because I said I would. It did reduce my panic attacks and my migraines, but at the end of it all, I just couldn’t take it. My body does not like drugs.

So I’m pretty much on my own here.

All of these conditions that I have, essentially like to come out and play with each other and cause a clusterfuck for me. I’m going to try to keep it all straight, but sometimes you can’t. And by the end of this piece, you will see that they are all pretty much one big mess anyway.

I had my first panic attack in kindergarten. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that I was having a panic attack; I just thought that the entire world had flipped the fuck out and attacked me for a while. I told my mom about it and she brushed it off, said it was nothing and wouldn’t happen again. Mama didn’t respond this way to be heartless. You see, my 5 year old self had just explained to my mother her own worst nightmare. She had been suffering from her own panic disorders, to the point where she had been unable to leave the house for a period of years, and she thought that if she didn’t give it a name for me, didn’t give it any credibility, didn’t “feed the beast” I guess, then it wouldn’t happen to her baby as it had been happening to her. Mama was wrong.

I was too young to process it all really. The horrible thing had happened when I was in school. I loved school, but the horrible thing happened while I was in school, so I didn’t want to go ever again. But I had to. It wasn’t as simple as school being the problem though. For the first time ever I was being asked to socialize, and I was discovering that I just couldn’t. This talking and playing together thing that all the other kids were just effortlessly doing, was absolutely not working for me. I couldn’t. Welcome Social Anxiety Disorder. I was being asked to accomplish new things and follow new directions. I was a very smart kid, and certainly capable of all that they were asking me to do. But suddenly I was worried. What if I didn’t make my letters right? What if Suzy was better at coloring than me? What if I actually wasn’t smart, and I was doing it all completely wrong and everyone knew it? Welcome Generalized Anxiety Disorder. And as a result, welcome the Panic Attack. See how they all smoosh together?

As a kid I learned that I couldn’t go to sleepovers – I’d make it until about 2 am before I called mom to come get me. I couldn’t do the afterschool functions like parties or dances – I literally made myself sick with the nerves of trying. I couldn’t raise my hand in class, join any clubs or play any sports – I would be expected to talk. Out loud. While everyone looked at me. No. Oral presentations were an absolute nightmare. I skipped school, talked my way out of it with the teacher, or just took the E even though I was a straight A student. All the things caused the panic attacks, and the attacks caused me to avoid all the things. Simple. Fast forward a few years to when I was a young teenager and throw in hormones and seasonal depression. Then I had all the things plus an overwhelming desire to not get out of bed. Ever again. My poor mother had to physically pull me out of bed more than once. And every year I missed so much school that they threatened to fail me.

At some point my mother accepted the fact that I was suffering from many of the same things she had been suffering from. She took me to a doctor, they put some names on some of my crazy and discovered that pills hate me. My dear, well intentioned mother gave me some advice. Again, she was doing the best that she could with what she had. It went something like this;

“It’s a mental thing, honey. The panic attacks are going to happen all the time. Anytime there are too many people or too much noise, or sometimes for no reason at all. Try to fight through it. You’re not really going to die. It just feels like it. And sometimes makes you wish you could. But you can’t.”

Really, really bad advice. “It’s going to keep happening no matter what” and “just fight through it.’ Worst advice ever. But it was the best that she had, and it then became all that I had.

Now the funny – not at all funny – thing about all of these conditions is that they feed off of each other, cause each other to kick in and worsen one another. That’s confusing, I know, but here’s what I mean;

1. You go to Kroger, worried that you’ll have a panic attack

2. You have a panic attack and you either

a. Fight through it hoping to God it goes away once you’re out of the building

b. Get your ass kicked by it and abandon a full cart of groceries in isle 6 as you run for the door hoping that the screams that are inside your head don’t escape until your inside your car

3. But you survive it

4. You realize that you cannot go to that Kroger anymore because you will have another panic attack

5. Repeat steps 1-4 with every fucking place else.

That’s how my mama ended up staying not leaving the house for years. At my worst I made it 6 months before my then husband literally picked me up and deposited me (kicking and screaming unfortunately) in the middle of our front yard and held me there until I stopped. Actually, I pretended to be okay with it and ran back inside as soon as he let me go. But I didn’t want to end up like this, I didn’t want to be this, I didn’t want to do this. So I fought it.

I did avoid certain places and things that I knew would bring on an attack. Certain restaurants where I had experienced particularly nasty attacks, driving somewhere for the first time by myself (Before Siri could give me turn by turn, obviously), and small intimate gatherings were a no go. Everything else, I tried. Usually had an attack, sometimes fought through it, sometimes was beaten by it. I learned some tricks, though. My baby sister was born when I was 14. It didn’t take me long to discover that I didn’t panic when I had the baby with me. I don’t absolutely know why, but my guess is that my subconscious knew that I had a little person depending on me and wouldn’t allow me to lose my shit. So I brought the baby with me. Everywhere. Poor kid is 15 now and absolutely hates to be idle, she always wants to go, go, go. Oops. I learned that smokers had a very convenient, legitimate reason to periodically remove themselves from the situation. Looked like a great idea. And, it’s much easier to say “Be right back, gonna grab a smoke” than it is to say “If I don’t get the fuck out of here RIGHT NOW I am going to snap and this may be the one time that I don’t come back from the crazy.” I still smoke a pack a day and wish I had never started. I learned that if I was drunk, or even buzzed, I could almost handle a social situation. I still worried about it before, freaked during, and replayed it over and over in my head finding everything I did wrong after. But if I was not sober, I could participate some, it was a little less painful. I learned that if the attack didn’t go away when I left the situation, then I had to go home. Back to mom’s. Even after I moved out. Home was my safe place and mom was my safe person. I learned that relationships are even harder when you expect your boyfriend to put up with all of the things that you can’t do, all of the places that you can’t go, and all of the times that you have to go home (especially if you feel like you don’t deserve someone who will. But that’s a whole different post, isn’t it?). But I generally did better with a boyfriend around, so I pretty much always had one. And when I found one that would deal with all of my issues, I put up with whatever kind of treatment I got, because I’d likely never find anyone else willing to deal with the crazy anyway.

I went on like this for years. Missing out on so much, not enjoying the things that I couldn’t miss out on, and barely surviving things that other, normal people did every single day without even a thought. Constantly fighting panic and feeling extremely powerless and defeated anytime I let it win. Always tremendously, crushingly, unhappy and stressed out because I had to deal with all of this. Why the fuck couldn’t I just be normal? Everyone else could mingle at a party, even actually have fun, ride elevators, put gas in their cars for fucks sake, without issue! But not me. I was broken, and everything, all of the normal things, would always be hard.

I was doing it WRONG.

Once my fiancé and I started dating, I started dreading the obligatory I-have-issues-and-here-are-all-of-the-ways-that’s-going-to-suck-for-you conversation that was approaching. I never looked forward to this conversation. At best it was uncomfortable, at worst it put an end to whatever relationship was starting. But with this guy? I absolutely dreaded it. I didn’t know how he would respond, but I was pretty positive I wouldn’t like it. And I wasn’t wrong.

“…so that’s all of it,” I finished “I cant go some places, do some things, I have to leave in the middle of stuff a lot. And it sucks. What do you think?”

He then proceeded to say every single wrong thing possible.

“There’s no such thing as all that. Panic attacks? Its all in your head.”

Cue thunder and lightning, shocked face, middle finger, the entire array of nasty emotions available to a human being. Well, that’s pretty much done, I thought, so much for this guy. I still tried; I argued with him, tried to explain it, to make him see that it wasn’t all in my head, it was a very real thing, it wasn’t rational, I wasn’t rational once lost in it, I had no control over it . He didn’t buy it.

Until he saw a panic attack hit me, saw what it did to me. Then he believed it. And then he got pissed. He became angry that I had to deal with all of this, that I had been dealing with all of this for so long, frustrated that he couldn’t flip a switch and make it go away and kind of sad too I think, for all that I had missed. He understood, but he wasn’t willing to accept it. He was going to cure it. He was going to fix me. He told me this one day.

“Bahahahaha,” I laughed.”There is no fixing this babe, I’ve been dealing with it for more than 20 years! I do the best I can, but it’s not going to just go away.”

But the fiancé is stubborn. He’s also smart, has the patience to do extensive research, and has a passion for psychology and human behavior. Shortly after I laughed in his face, he approached me with a solution.

“Just decide you aren’t going to panic anymore.” He beamed. Like he had just solved fucking world peace and poverty all in one shot.

“Just decide, huh?” I asked. “Well, fuck! Why didn’t I think of that years ago?!?”

He tried to explain to me what he meant, how his solution would work. He talked about conditioning, behavior modification, conscious thinking. What in the actual fuck? Just what? He was psycho-babbling me, and really thought it would fix what had hindered my entire life. I quickly lost patience with it and insisted again that it wasn’t fixable, and that I as dealing with it the best that I could, and this was the best I was ever going to be.

He was patient when I lost my shit, stayed calm when I got frustrated (Totally opposite of the norm for us, by the way), and then he decided to take a different approach. “Just trust me.” He said. I knew that it would not work, but I went along with it. Mostly to shut him up.

That was almost 3 years ago. My panic attacks are down about 75% in frequency since then, and I am capable of doing 3 times as much shit as I could then. It’s not gone, fixed or cured, but it’s all so much better.

I’ll try to explain the process, try to minimize the psycho babble, and pray to God that I am able to get this across and that maybe someone else can benefit from it.

Before the fiancé decided to fix me, I started off every outing with “I am going to have a panic attack” running through my head like a mantra. I knew I was. I had been here before, and I had one then, so I would again (There’s that conditioning crap, y’all). Well, that was stupid. Human, but seriously stupid. Of course I am going to have one if I decide before I even leave the fucking house that I am going to have one. If you wake up in the morning and think “today is going to suck,” well then guess what? It probably will. I had to change that thought (There’s conscious thought). Well I immediately resisted that idea. I can’t control my fucking thoughts! What do you think I am? They just happen! But I tried. And it was ridiculously hard. It took a long time.

I started off thinking “I will probably have a panic attack.” Eventually it became “Maybe I will.” But about then, an amazing thing happened, and this is key; I went somewhere where I had always panicked, and I DIDN’T! I don’t know if it was a coincidence, or if it was that conscious thought shit working, but it was a huge fucking victory. And I grabbed it with both hands and ran with it. I started to be able to think “Maybe I won’t,” and sometimes even “I am not going to.” The whole conditioning thing, like the cycle I referred to earlier, had been working against me my whole life, and I was turning it around. I was making it work for me. I was making it my bitch!

What was previously:

All the things caused the panic attacks, and the attacks caused me to avoid all the things

Was becoming :

I can do stuff and not have an attack, so I can do stuff again and not have one again!

I know it all sounds kind of simple, but I promise you, it wasn’t. Its hard to change a thought pattern that is so ingrained. But every successful non-panicking thing fueled me. I gained confidence in myself. More importantly, I gained the desire to be not so damn afraid all the time, the desire to continue to accept this bullshit life with all these restrictions.

The fiancé helped me, tremendously. At first simply by distracting me while we were out, and it was sometimes enough to keep the panic away. And eventually, he saw the improvement, and the resulting confidence and so he challenged me.

“Drive out to this place tonight. I’ll meet you inside,” he said one night.

“Are you out of your mind?” I asked. “I can’t drive there by myself; I don’t know where it is. What if I get lost? And walk in by myself? To a place I’ve never been? What if I can’t find you? NO.”

“You can do it baby,” he assured me. “Remember last weekend? You made it through a whole afternoon at that crazy busy art fair!”

And he was right. I could. And I did! He played on my confidence, added to it and used it. More often than not I found out I could do it, and it was amazing. I was using that fucking god-awful cycle to my advantage. I was turning it around. Each new accomplishment allowed me the next one. It was like the best high of my life, every time I earned a victory.

They weren’t all victories, they still aren’t. I sometimes still slip into the old thinking. I just have to catch myself and pull out of it. And if I’m having a particularly crappy, weak day, and I have a panic attack, it still sometimes sets me back a bit. It’s still a battle. It’s still there. It always will be. But I have some of the control now. I just have to pay attention and keep it. It’s still a fight y’all, but now it’s a productive one, and one I can win.

And so can you. I’m not anybody special. I’m not super brave, or super strong. I was just super tired of it all, and I was handed a little piece of hope for change. And I took it. I built on it, I fought for it, and I refused to let it go. And now I’m handing it to you. If I can get better, even a little bit, you damn sure can.

And guys? Please try to keep in mind; no one ever knows what anyone else is going through. Be compassionate whenever you can. The world needs it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mental Health Awareness - Anxiety and Depression, a guest post

This was shared with my by a very brave woman named Carla. She asked if she could tell her story so that others out there wouldn't feel alone. With love and respect, her words.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

It really starts with my parents divorce when I was 17. I began to feel anxious and depressed then, but was ashamed to say anything to anyone. It wasn't until I was about to get married, nearly three years later, that I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Since that time, I've been on and off medication. I was always very ashamed about having to take meds for it, therefore when I started "feeling better", I often stopped taking them.

Then the whole cycle would begin again. It was very hard to find something to fit all of my symptoms. So I began feeling like I could handle it myself. It wasn't until I had my second miscarriage that I finally got the courage to talk to my doctor about it again. By then I was 27. 

Since then, I've been on several different medications, but only two have really worked well. This summer I was on one, and it in particular gives a "black box warning" of signs to watch for. I took it for only two weeks, and I can tell you I never want to feel that way again in my life. 

I called people and had conversations with them that I don't remember having, and was inconsolable even by my own husband over something I had no control over. He can always redirect me, and calm me, but he couldn't then. It was two of the scariest days of my life, because it was like I couldn't stop myself, and had no control over my behavior. 

I can always tell when I'm getting more anxious, because I have a really hard time concentrating. My skin feels like it is crawling almost. Going out in public, to Walmart or the grocery store, is an ordeal. I have to make myself get up out of my recliner. It may take me a couple of hours to get to the point where I'm mentally ready to go. I'm an avid reader, but when I am dealing with increased anxiety it's hard for me to even focus on a book or tv show. 

If I am really honest, I don't even feel like talking to anyone besides a couple people while going through this. I've often thought I'm pretty good at "faking it". There's not more than a handful of people who can tell when anything is really wrong with me, I think. It's because I have gotten so good at putting on a mask.

I've currently taking different medication, and it works great. I can function, and even though I still have periods of ups and downs, it's no longer a living nightmare. Bottom line? Anxiety sucks, but I refuse to let it rule my life. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

I will not enjoy being a girl

This post might be a little TMI for some people, but so be it.

I'm known for telling you guys things that most people wouldn't admit out loud, so there.

Anyway.

I'm not enjoying my female-ness at the moment.

Or on a fairly regular, cyclical basis for that matter. From what I hear from my lady friends who are a bit older than me, it's only going to get worse from here on out.

Which is awesome.

Not.

I'm on the pill, the heathen that I am. I've been on probably ten+ different incarnations of the pill in my lifetime, but never had to deal with the crap that I am dealing with now. I get the most bizarre abdominal cramps like every three weeks. Not just lady cramps, like all the way up to the base of my rib cage. Then I want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world for three days or so until it passes.

Usually, of course, I can't do that because four kids.

Occasionally, though, I do force myself to sit down and wallow in my misery. I usually spend most of that day consuming whatever chocolate is in the house (even the semi-sweet chocolate chips - don't you judge me, dammit) and watching some movie that I should not watch because it makes me cry like a little girl ordinarily, but when I feel like this I ugly cry with dry heaving and snot bubbles and everything.

Freaking hormones.

Lord.

Ah, flowering.
I have wondered aloud to a few friends recently why this shit only seems to get worse the older we get. Why is the beginning of menstruation this beautiful flowering moment where girls are transformed into women who can have babies and do all this awesome stuff...but by the time you're solidly in your mid-30's, you no longer have the foggiest idea WTF is going on in your body and you occasionally hate everyone in the house? Even the dog? Yes, even the dog.

Admit it.

Sometimes you hate the dog too.

Why?

What happens to us???

Why do we tolerate it being referred to with romantic notions like flowering when what is really happening is that we actually lay a goddamn egg, then if we don't magically turn the egg into a baby with some help of a man, we get to bleed for a week???


What is romantic and beautiful about that???

Not a damn thing, that's what.

I can honestly say that I've never frolicked in a field on my period. I may have gone to the beach or the pool with my friends reluctantly, but there was no confident volleyball playing happening. No sir. There were shorts over swimsuits and constant string checks when the shorts had to come off. You know what I am talking about. God.

Being a girl can suck it.

Sure, making babies and having babies and nursing babies is cool as hell...but the rest of the time? Like the 70% of your adult life you aren't going to be doing those things?

Being a girl can SUCK IT.

SUCK IT.

Why are there all these books dedicated to helping teenage girls navigate the wonderful world of womanhood, but there is literally nothing out there to help us figure out what the hell happened to our bodies this time?

Why?

Riddle me that.

I can't curl up in a ball on the couch and watch Steel Magnolias today as much as I want to laugh at Skeeter, then cry when Shelby dies, then ugly cry after the funeral, I can't.

I have too dang much stuff to do today.

Besides, I got a bag of mint dark chocolate bark in my fair trade box o'free stuff this week and it's got my name all over it. Which is good. We're out of chocolate chips. Some raging bitch ate them all last month.

You can buy it here. You know you want some.
This shit might save lives today, you guys.

Who am I kidding?

It will save lives.

For real.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Nerdsday - The best of the best of the internet this week

Sometimes I need to laugh.

So I watch this. And I laugh so hard that I cry and almost pee my pants.

Today, I had a cheese steak. Then I got a Walkman.


I groove to Kanye's new stuff.

Darth Vader is bad, and his assistant is a mouse. 

When you stop laughing about that (and good luck...I've seen it like 7 times and still cry), watch this.


We went to the zoo the weekend before last, and I found this.


I think they got tired of people asking them what they say.

No, really. WTF does the fox say? I must know.

Halloween is coming, so you should check out Batdad if you haven't seen him yet.


I snorted when they were running for the bus.

I found this.


And this.


And this.


And this.


Okay, maybe I bought that.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The truths we learn in the end

In the days and weeks after my father died, there were these moments of clarity. They came without warning, without rhyme or reason. They just came. 

When they did, there was this sudden and instantaneous realization about something profound in my life. About some experience that had occurred, about something I had always believed, about something I never understood until that moment when it all came into clear focus.

And when it did it was so overwhelming, so obvious, that I wondered how it was that I hadn't seen it before. 

Except that there was no way that I could have. 

I wasn't equipped with the same life experiences before that moment. 

Perhaps there were even moments before that one where the truth was shown to me and I hadn't seen it, maybe because I couldn't yet. Maybe because it wouldn't have made sense yet. Maybe because there was no way that I could have understood it in the place I was in then.

I don't know what this all means really.

Losing a parent is one of the most life-altering experiences, even if it doesn't actually change all that much as far as your day to day life goes. It is life altering because so much of what defines us is the fact that we are the child of someone, even when we are adults. When we aren't anymore, it changes things. It changes them more than I anticipated.

Losing them both now, even more so.

I wrote about this phenomenon a little bit after my father died. I've discussed it at length with some of my friends, the members of this formerly parented adults trying to make sense of it all club that we've been forced to join against our will.

It was different with my father when he died, it all was. But there are so many parallels in ways that I have to wonder what they mean. Do they mean anything? Am I just reaching to find some connection because I want so badly for it to exist? 

There are no answers, obviously. Just questions.

Death has a way of answering some questions with definiteness, but it asks far more that can never be answered.

I know this.

Both of my parents were officially on hospice for the same length of time, though in vastly different circumstances. They both died on a Thursday. 

Many of the things that happened the day he went happened the day she did. 

Even though I was with him and I was over a thousand miles away from her when she took her last breath. Even then.

I can't explain it.

It doesn't make sense.

Maybe it isn't supposed to.

And that is one of the lessons I have learned this time around, one of the things that has become clearer in the past five days.

Maybe things just aren't supposed to make sense. Maybe I will never understand the things that happened, but maybe I'm not supposed to. Maybe what I've been taught by all of this is that I need to make peace with the unknowns in life. 

The other lesson that has come to me in these moments of clarity is that we can never really ever know what someone else is facing. We can never know their struggles, their situations, their internal battles, the reasons they do what they do. The only information we ever have is what we see, what we hear. If that information isn't first hand, it's hardly reliable at all. Even if it is first hand, it's never the full picture because it can't be, simply for the fact that we are not them and they are not us.

We can never really know.

In accepting this truth, in acknowledging the fact that our perception is far more limited than we ever thought it to be, there has to come compassion. I think it's required of us to be more patient, more understanding, more loving, more tolerant, more forgiving of others once we realize that we'll never ever know what we think we do, what we should. It requires us to trust one another more, give one another the benefit of the doubt, have more faith in others, believe that they are doing the right thing in that moment for the right reasons, even if we don't understand, especially if we don't understand.

Our parents, they never stop teaching us these lessons, even when they aren't actually here anymore. Maybe they tried. Maybe we just didn't hear them before. Maybe we listen more now. 

Maybe it doesn't make sense, but maybe it isn't supposed to.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the yes really, there was another shooting edition

Howdy, folks.

I haven't been around here much lately.

Well, that's not exactly true. I've been writing, just not in this form. There is a lot of stuff going on inside my head, but not much of it is suitable for viewing.

Get your head out of the gutter. Wink, wink.

Honestly, though, I'm generally easily distracted anyway, but the last week has been remarkably bad because there is so much else going on.

Seriously, don't wave anything shiny within a mile radius of me right now.

I should get to the ranting because we all know that is why you are here.

Can We Have a Moment of Silence?
A very close friend was in a horrible car accident over the weekend. He's not so much a friend as he is my pseudo-brother. He's my brother's best friend. He's the guy who stuck around through everything. He's the guy who is always there for you whenever you need him.

He also puts up with my incessant teasing of him, and throws it right back at me.

Anyhow, he wrapped his car around a tree. His actual brother was the first one on scene, and I just want to hug them both for everything they have seen, everything that has happened, the kind of stuff that you can't just erase from your memories. Bad stuff.

This friend, he's still here by some miracle, but he'll have a long road ahead to recover. A very long road.

That car that he wrecked?

A cherry condition classic muscle car.

One that he just bought a few months ago.

Oh man, seeing the pictures of that beauty before he totaled it hurt.

Can we just have a moment of silence for that fine ass automobile?

You know I'm going to give him crap about that once he's better. I mean, I'll let him heal and stuff first...but it's on.

In all seriousness, though...please drive carefully. Please.

School shootings, the media and everything else
It happened.

Again.

Yesterday, a 12 year old boy took a handgun from his parents and brought it to school. Before turning it on himself, he killed a teacher and shot two other students. 

This all happened close, too close, for a friend of mine. A friend of hers was fired at during the incident and it all went down just miles from her home. You can read her post at World's Worst Moms here, and I urge you to.

What happened inside that building was bad enough, but what happened afterwards in the first hours especially, indicate that our society has many problems in addition to the fact that 12 year olds can access weapons and kill people.

The media swarmed over the story like a moth to a flame almost instantly. Speculation long ago replaced reporting, and the rush to be first has the effect of diminishing accuracy to the point that it almost doesn't exist anymore.

The speculation that always happens immediately after these kind of events seems to ignore the fact that there are actual human beings involved. People who have been shot or killed, children who have witnessed things that will haunt them for the rest of their lives, family members waiting at home unable to reach those that they knew were in the building.

As fast as the speculation begins, the posturing does. Those who use these tragedies as soapboxes for or against gun control, who spin it within mere seconds to fit whatever their position is. Who can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that people are dead and their families haven't even been notified yet.

We need to stop allowing these events to be made into circuses. We need to stop the urge to seek information that no one has immediately. We need to turn off the goddamn television and give the investigators time to gather evidence, give the families time to be notified and grieve before a microphone is shoved in their face because "the people" demand answers.

If the good people of the nation could unglue themselves from the screen, could shut it off, it would communicate to these so-called news outlets that their rushed, rude, often wrong reporting isn't what we want or need and they would stop.

We want news. Not spin or guesses or posturing. We don't care who is first if they are wrong.

Give people a hot second to cope with what is happening before the circus comes to town.

Finally, this.


I'm not wasting my time.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Day After

This is the first day of after.

The first day after she is gone. The first day that I am officially an orphan, though that word seems wrong for this situation. It's strange, this place. 

After.

I knew it was coming. We all did. 

There comes a point when a physical being can take no more, when it pauses at the end, when it is done.

Knowing that it was coming, though, didn't help in that moment.

A wave of sudden grief hit me yesterday. The tears that had refused to come before all wanted out at the same time. 

She was not in a good place, she hadn't been for a very long time. She was lost in this world without him. She wasn't even sure she wanted to be here. 

She is in a better place now. She is with him, of that I am certain. She is free from pain and disability and all the confines that kept her from happiness and joy while she was here. 

I know all this. My mind knows it. My heart knows it. My soul knows it.

I was ready for this.

I wished, oh how I wished, that it would come sooner for her. That it could all be over and done and she could be free again. 

It sounds disingenuous to feel relief when someone you love dies, but relief is there. The relief is there because watching someone you love suffer mentally, emotionally, physically is excruciating, especially when there is nothing you can do to help. 

I was prepared to feel relief. I was prepared to feel grief. 

I was not prepared for the magnitude of either. 

I don't think that anything can prepare you for it.

The truth is that I said goodbye to her more than once. I've been preparing myself for this for a long time now. We almost lost her a few times in the past few years. I've kissed her more than once, not knowing if it would be for the last time. I've told her I love her, not even knowing if she could hear me, so often. I feel like I've been saying goodbye to her for over two years.

The last time, though, was really the last.

I've been almost conditioned by the past to believe that it isn't. That she'll pull through somehow. That this isn't really it. That there has been some kind of mistake or miscommunication. 

There hasn't. 

This time it is real.

This time it is really over.

This time she is really gone.

This time she isn't coming back.

I hope that she finds peace, that she is whole again and happier than she ever could have been here. 

I hope that she knows that we love her, that we all love her, that we always loved her.

I hope.

Rest, Mama.

I love you.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Raising Compassionate Children

I tend not to hold back on my opinions about society. When bad things happen, when people treat others unkindly, when selfishness and paranoia are allowed to infiltrate our collective minds, when we stop caring about other people, no good can come of it. I've written about it many times before.

And yet, this is, sadly, the world we live in these days.

We live in a world where food stamps are cut but corporate subsidies aren't. Where the poorest of the poor are told to find another way, but CEOs make millions of dollars, and we don't blink an eye.

We live in a world where anyone with an internet connection can spend hours endlessly tormenting other people. Where fat-shaming and bullying and hatred and racism are spewed all over social media. We live in a world where websites exist for insecure teenage girls to post pictures and have people vote about whether they are hot or not. Where girls who have been victims of rape are tortured again online, where children are driven to suicide.

Infants are naturally selfish, purely as a survival mechanism. Toddlers fully believe that the world revolves around them, because it is all they can perceive. As children get older, they begin to understand that what they do and say has an affect on other people. They begin to sympathize. They begin to develop compassion. They begin to develop the ability to empathize.

Or at least, they are capable of it. They won't necessarily learn these things if they aren't taught to, if the elements of life which connect them to others are not encouraged and fostered. It is more difficult for some to learn, particularly if they have conditions which interfere with the development of empathy - and with those children, it's even more critical that we model, that we shape, that we teach. With all children, they need to be taught.  If they aren't taught, these abilities stagnate, they don't develop fully.

Then they hit adolescence, another typically self-centered time in life, and we shove a cell phone in their hands, give them unfettered access to the internet, and convince ourselves that we have done enough. We wonder what went wrong when that child is implicated in cyberbullying or destroying property or rape.

We live in a world where adults are just as bad, if not worse. They step on each other, they use people. The me me me me me nature of the world we occupy means that instant gratification is more important than integrity, that I am always more important than you, that the ends always justify the means.

Even if they don't.

Even if they never did.

We convince ourselves that what we do is okay, when we know it isn't.

The element missing in all of this is a simple one, and it is the most beautiful solution to so much of what ails the world today.

We need to learn compassion. We need to learn empathy. We need to remember how to care about other people again.

We need to relearn these lessons if we've forgotten them ourselves, and then we need to teach our children.

We need to look up from our phones long enough to make eye contact with other people, the ones we know and the ones we don't.

We need to see people, really see them. We need to sympathize. We need to remove ourselves from our place in life, even if just momentarily, to imagine what it would be like if we were them.

Sounds easy enough, right? It is not as easy as you would think to live with integrity and kindness in a world structured for the selfish. It takes discipline. It requires love.

So, how do we do it?

Here are some of my ideas, and they can apply to children and adults. If we all did some of these things, if we all learned to stop the rush to judgment and instead tried to understand, what a different place the world could be.

- Disconnect and re-engage. Remove all electronic devices, ban them if you must (that goes for the parents too). Eat meals together. Play board games. Hike. Go for walks. Do something, anything, that requires human interaction and isn't immediately tweeted to the rest of the world. Communicate to your spouse, to your children, that their time is important to you, that they are important to you, that it is all more important than whatever is going on in the online world. Your most important work in the world takes place at home. Never forget that.

- Volunteer. Donating money is great, but work is a better teacher for children. Time and effort given to someone else with no expectation of anything in return is essential to fostering compassion. We must understand that no matter how bad our situation may be right now, someone out there needs more help than we do, and that we can find a way to help them. There are so few opportunities in our society any more for actual, hard work, but it wouldn't take long to find someone around you who could use a few extra hands. Elderly neighbors may need yard work done. Nonprofits may need landscape work or painting assistance. After the flood here, there are miles and miles of trails that need to be rebuilt. The value of blood, sweat and tears cannot be taught with words alone, they must be experienced.

- Donate. We collect things in this country. We have an abundance of things. When you clean out those closets, when you decide to replace something worn or outgrown, put it in a box and take your children with you to donate it to a shelter, to an agency that can use it, to a non-profit donation center. Make them carry the box. Make them help. We do a food drive at least once a year for a local charity with our girl scouts. Physically have them collect the food, turn over the donation. They will understand more that it helps someone if they are a part of it. Take their old bikes to groups that collect and redistribute them at the holidays.

- Angel Trees. From the time my oldest was a baby, we have tried to make sure we do at least one angel tree donation a year. Allow the kids to choose the tag, take them shopping, have them wrap it, have them bring it back. Tell them what it is for, that there are children who may only receive this one item for the holidays, that they are fortunate, that they need to make sure they give to others.

- Pay it forward. When someone gives you the gift of kindness, pay it forward. Enthusiastically tell your children what someone did for you, then plan out ways that you can surprise someone else with a gesture of kindness. If you can make it an anonymous act of kindness, even better, because you will be teaching them true altruism - the notion of doing good with no expectation of thanks in return.

- Spend time with animals. For some children, animals bring out their innate compassion more than people do. For almost all children, the lessons to be learned from caring for an animal are vital moving forward in life, learning how to be responsible not just for themselves, but for another life.

- Spend time with people of all ages. If you aren't close in proximity to family, or you don't have a large family or circle of friends that spans many generations, find a way to get your kids around those who've seen the calendars change more. There is a wisdom and patience that can be passed on by our senior citizens more than anything we can teach them. Kids will learn compassion around both babies and the elderly for many of the same reasons: those with mobility issues need more time, that sometimes people need rest, that sometimes you can spend hours reading books and telling stories.

- Share and reach out. Not just with siblings, but with classmates. With friends. With the girl who always seems hungry at school but never has a snack. Encourage them to reach out to children who are new, who struggle with communication, who have special needs. Teach them that what sometimes appears as anger and hostility can just be that a child is frustrated and just wants a friend. Teach them to stand up for others. To speak out, not just for themselves, but for those who can't or won't.

- Teaching empathy to those with conditions that make it more difficult to develop it at all present a special challenge. Often, even with adults, the best way to teach compassion, to teach empathy is to pose a hypothetical question whenever a choice about treating other presents itself. Turn the situation on its heels and ask them how would you feel if ____________? Some children and adults simply can't conceptualize it any other way. They need to make it personal, they need to think about it in terms of how they would feel in that situation, so teach them to immediately ask themselves this question.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sunshine After the Storm, a.k.a. the book I co- wrote but don't want anyone to need

I'm a walking contradiction sometimes, so bear with me.

Several years ago now, I started to finally share the story of my miscarriage, of the diagnosis of infertility that ended up being completely wrong.

Sharing that story, and some of the other experiences in my life, have brought many amazing people into my circle. A while back, one of them, Alexa Bigwarfe, contacted me asking if I might be interested in this project she was working on.

A book.

A book about grief.


Specifically a book for grieving mothers who have lost their children, however they have lost them, written by those of us who have been there.

I said yes immediately, threw out some names of other writers I knew who had stories to tell that I thought should be included.

Then I stared at the computer screen for a long time.

A very long time.

Though I had shared the story before, this time I had to write it not just for me, but for them. All the people out there who might someday read it.

It took a few weeks to work up the courage to do it, and when I finally did get to it, there were tears. Many tears. It has been a long time now since I lost her, but when you open up a vein like that, it all comes back and hits you all over again.

I sent it off, then we waited through edits and drafts and finally the book was live.

It is out now.

If you are interested, if you've experienced infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a child, I would recommend it for one reason and one reason only: that you will know that even if it feels like the most isolating experience of your life, you are not alone. There are other mothers walking this earth without the children who should be here, and we hear you.

The book is available for free electronic download through tomorrow. It will be available to purchase as an ebook after that, and the print copy can be ordered now as well. 

I wasn't prepared for the emotional onslaught the release of the book would bring.

I'm conflicted, to say the least.

It took me a good long while to articulate my feelings about this earlier today when my therapist asked me what was going on. I am glad that I participated in this project, but I hate that it exists. I hate that it needs to exist.

It feels wrong to promote a book about grief, because anyone seeking this book out won't be doing it for a happy reason.

It feels wrong to be excited about something that still hurts me all these years later, even if my story is probably one of the mildest in the book.

It feels wrong.

If no one ever had to read this book, my heart would be filled with joy.

If no mother ever needed to seek comfort in the words of someone who understood the pain she is feeling right now, my soul would be rejoicing.

Everyone who reads this book, aside from those doing it just because they know one of us, or the therapists or medical professionals who read it to understand, will be reading this book because they joined a club no one wants to belong to.

And that breaks my heart.

It is my sincerest hope that this anthology we've created helps someone out there, that somehow our words can rise up from the pages and wrap her in love and acknowledgement, that she won't feel alone, that she will know that we understand.

xoxo

Mental Health Awareness ~ The Creative Beauty of the Bipolar Mind, by Anonymous

Today's post is being generously and courageously shared by someone I've come to know over the past few months through the wonders of Facebook. She is a tremendously creative spirit, and she reached out to me last week about possibly sharing a piece of her with you all. I was thrilled for many reasons, not the least of which is my own personal fascination with the artistic mind.

With much love and respect, her words and her art.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I always thought it was just “mood swings”…. I didn’t think I needed a diagnosis, but… I got one in my mid-twenties. I wasn’t really surprised, in fact… I expected SOMEthing to be “wrong” with me. I knew that the rapid state at which my mind spun wasn’t very healthy, and I wanted someone to recognize that.

I have been in therapy for much of my life, it has been a life saver for me- in so many ways. I started SERIOUS therapy for my “issues” when I was….somewhere in my mid-twenties. I saw her for 3 years to cope with my behaviors, stress, kids, life, school, and anything else that came up. I knew SOMEthing needed to change with me, therapy was an option- so… I took it.

My therapist, Pam, was a nice woman. We clicked. I trusted her, and I opened up to her. She didn’t push meds, I liked that. I didn’t WANT meds, yet…anyway. During the time I was seeing her (sometimes twice a week) I was actively single. I had already been through a divorce at 22, and my fair share of relationships that weren’t working, this being one of the reasons I initially called her. I wasn’t emotionally healthy, and I wanted to be. I typed up a “cast list” for her, it was a compilation of people who were in my life, affect my life and otherwise need to be mentioned. Most of the people on that list I had slept with at one point. They were all my friends, so… why not? I wasn’t kidding when I said actively single, I dated (a lot). Don’t know what you like until you try it, right? (boy, does that open up a can of worms….)


I started classes at my local community college when I turned 25, I needed to wait until my boys were in school fulltime before I could quit my job and turn over a new leaf. I don’t remember the first time I heard the diagnosis bi-polar disorder in a psychology class I was taking….but- the more I read about it the more it resonated with me. I knew I had “issues”, but… I didn’t realize that “they” had a name.


After 3 years (at the ripe age of….29ish), I decided that it was too much for me. I was experiencing fits of rage, agitated depression, sleepless nights, a sexual appetite that made me think I was a sex addict, and a range of other crap. Pam was on board with me and my decision to try medication. It was never NOT an option, I just wanted to get my own shit together first before I actually walked down that road. So, now it’s time to look for a shrink…..ever tried looking for a shrink that listened to you? (for more than 10 minutes?). My first taste of meds (and a shrink) was a nightmare…. Wellbutrin, they had diagnosed me with…. (not bipolar)…. Something. They weren’t listening to me…. And, it annoyed me. Wellbutrin turned me into a totally different person, a zombie. I didn’t laugh anymore, life wasn’t FUN and EXCITING anymore…. I needed a change. So, I found a new shrink, one that came highly recommended, and… he listened.


Since 2001 I have been painting. That was the year after my brother passed in a very tragic car accident. That was the year I picked up a paintbrush, some oil pastels and a canvas. For 12 years I have been expressing myself though art and writing (however, I haven’t written much since being medicated), but the visual art…. That part I have never lost. Some days I have to fight for it, but… I always won. Or shall I say, the creative side of me always won.

Everyone loves the work I did in 2005. 2005 was one of many emotionally charged years…. Somewhere in the middle of the chaos. I loved the work that I was doing, but… it came at an emotional price. I wasn’t medicated then, my art was coming right out of my head… I lost myself in it every time. I can remember the manic nights- acrylic paint and pen & ink- back and forth, dancing with the media.


Soon after, I began medicating with pharmaceuticals. I was somewhere around 30/31 when I started taking the meds that made me “better”. Lamictal and Abilify. That was my cocktail. Seroquel when I got too manic or had too much anxiety (usually, hand in hand)…. And pot smoking always made me feel better. It also enhanced the creative side of me. Not only did I create art, I also modeled for photographers and fine art classes. I was always looking for a creative outlet, and I opened every door I could. I was just beginning to find ME.

For a few years, the meds did their job, I guess. I was still coping with some emotional issues in my life, luckily, I was still in therapy. I was looking for myself, I didn’t know WHO I was…. I just knew who I didn’t want to be. I had failed in 2 relationships after I stopped being “single”, and was looking for that “healthy” one.

I could tell stories of my role as a as a single mother, as a model, as an artist, as a survivor of domestic violence, or as a crazy as bat shit loon. But… I am here to talk about bipolar. Oh wait, those ARE all parts of me… my past has helped to define me. I have grown tremendously over the past 8 years of meds. However, it’s time. Time for me to remove that aspect of my life, and TRY to cope without them. I am tired, tired of a pill making me feel “better”, I am not sure how it will affect me. I have already (with the help of my shrink) taken myself off one. Now, it’s time for the other to go. However, I am both anxious and worried about how removing myself in the middle of grad school will affect my life.

I used to write incessantly, throwing up on the page, thoughts free flowing from my fingers. Sometimes I barely even stopped to see what I was writing. I didn’t edit, I just let it go.

2001

At the edge of the water- I sit- listen to the cracking of the waves....

the sky filled with grey- and the wind picking up speed. I can feel

dampness in the air- ready to explode down like a sheet of broken glass.

I can feel the moisture on my skin- it feels good- as the air is so

heavy- it needs to be cut. Patiently I wait for the rain to come, all

the while- I hold a stone in the palm of my hand. Projecting all of my

worries into it, feeling the energy of the dusk in my hands cascading

around the magick that I am creating.



At last- the rain falls... I raise my head to feel it fall on my face-

like warm tears... and then- a drop falls as if I was crying- and it

reminds me of my loss- and how I should heal. It felt as if my brother

were crying alongside of me - holding me- and keeping me strong.



With all of the energy I could muster- I lunge the stone into the

ocean, letting the current take all the worries away... and to deal with

them as it must.



I step away from the sea- looking into her- and all her glory....

feeling the rain in my clothes.... and smiling..... a small bit of sun

peeks through the clouds- and for a moment I could see beyond them- into

what I had been searching for....



I walked in the rain.... feeling a sense of clarity about what I must

do... and how I must achieve it- and knowing that I will always have my

brother at my side to guide me.



His death brought out my life... and the lives of so many others... and

as much as it hurts to say- had it not been for his spirit finding his

path - I would still be sitting on mine, instead of walking it with

pride.


2002

inside

wanting to scream

loud

and cry

and fight

and want

and have



Outside

laughing

smiling

loving

being



I see what I want

I see what I need

I can hold it in my mind

and it's screaming to me

I can see it

almost touch it

but stop


desperately looking

for that place

peace

of mind

of soul

looking

searching

yearning

hoping



missing

something

feeling it inside

outside

always



solitude

from the chaos

the suspect

the bullshit



in myself

in the room

in the mind

in my life



almost touching

what I need

for inner sanctity

the essence

of my being

yet afraid to embrace

what it really means



chaos

dysfunction

eruption

without it



days

weeks

months

each day a step to it

each hour a thought of it

each minute a way to get it



too many thoughts

close the mind

to the voices

to the funk

to the dreams



reality

sets in

and

reality

bites



2005
Life is full of would ofs and could ofs and should ofs, that is where people begin to regret, and really, think about what is going on in their lives, at least, one would hope. It’s full of things that distract us from the big picture, the larger things in life that really do matter. Instead of focusing on the tiny details that get lost in the mix. Unfortunately. it’s the tiny details , hundreds of them, thousands of them, times infinity that snowball, to make up what we call the big picture.

Hundreds of seconds of moments in time that we either run through aimlessly with no real direction, but just trying to move forward, as if somehow we will have another glorious moment- that *one* we are looking for…the pot at the end of the rainbow. And, in all reality, once that one moment is gone, there is no taking it back, there is no rewind button in this thing called life, and we can only hope that we have used most of our moments wisely, and with thought and sometimes deliberation, to form our paths, to lay the stones that will rest under our feet as we walk.

The art of free flow writing, to drop your pen onto a piece of stark white paper , allowing it so glide across, forming letters and words and sentences, and maybe it’s not even legible, but, if you stare at it long enough, you begin to see the dance that ensued. The dance between your mind and your hand, the pen and the paper. It’s hardly a dance I’d be willing to abandon, not even if my fingers do seem to guide themselves as they tap around the keyboard. Sometimes my words come fast, and furious, those are the times I wish for an old fashioned typewriter, so that the rhythmic tones of the keys penetrate the air…other times, I am stuck looking at a blank screen, with nothing to say. You can’t doodle with a keyboard, and sometimes starting the process is much like cranking up an old engine using the action of the pen, the turning of the gears, to get it started.

I miss writing. I miss poetry and prose and real life meanderings on the paper. I hope to regain that again, but… without the chaos in my mind.


I am 38 years old this year. I have lived a full life. One of hope, joy and happiness. I have also lived lives that only one can dream of- of fury and rage and hopelessness. I am a survivor of many things, and first being the demons in my mind. I am creating happy art these days, full of hope and faith and love.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the national parks, racial slurs and mental health edition

I'm going to try and dig deep for this one today, you guys.

I'm sad.

I'm distracted.

I'm having a hard time focusing on anything for more than a few seconds.

I'll try my best to get riled up and angry for you all though, because that's what you're here for...and let's be honest, Tuesday wouldn't be Tuesday without a good rant.

Off we go.

Can We Stop With The Bullshit About The National Parks Already???
I would ask whether the politicians posturing in front of cameras beside signs to closed national parks and monuments actually believe that their constituents will buy the lie that they aren't themselves responsible for the closing, but sadly some of those constituents actually seem to be falling for it.


Congress is the reason the parks and monuments are closed. Not the President.

Congress refused to pass spending bills to fund the federal government. Not the President.

Congress alone has the ability to stop the shutdown. Not the President.

Congress has to approve all spending. Not the President.

Whether they want to try and pass legislation to alter the structure or funding of the Affordable Care Act is one thing, (which they have done repeatedly and failed for lack of votes), but the shutdown itself is a consequence of a Congressional failure to pass the spending bills. Instead of respecting how the legislature is supposed to work, instead of accepting defeat and moving on to the next issue, the powers that be in the House decided to make a point, and were willing to shut the government down to do it. Now we edge toward default as well.

The NIH is closed. The CDC is closed in parts. The NOAA site is down. WIC is out of money in several states. In the overall scheme of things, these closures are impacting lives, but those agencies don't have anything impressive to stand in front of for a photo op, so instead the very leaders who shut the government down are staging themselves at the gates of closed monuments to make a glaring point of hypocrisy.

Lay the responsibility at the feet of those who did this and don't believe the last thing you saw on television.

If You Say "It's Not Racist", It Probably Is...
It's time for the people of this great nation to pull their heads out of their asses. We don't have professional sports franchises named The Queers, The Fatties, The N*ggers, The W*tbacks, The Crackers, The Pussies or The Ch*nks, do we?  Why not???

BECAUSE IT WOULD BE OFFENSIVE.

The name of the NFL team based in D.C., the Redskins, is offensive. It has always been offensive. The word alone is offensive.  It was offensive when the very racist owner of the team chose it. It is offensive now.

This isn't a new discussion.

This isn't a new problem.

I don't care how long the team has been named this. I don't care how much money is invested in the logos and marketing. I don't care if people believe that it's somehow not demeaning. I don't care.

It's wrong.

We live in a country full of historical revisionists, those who like to tell and believe only the stories that show our past in the most positive light. The truth is vastly different than the version most of us were taught in school. Just yesterday, we were told to "celebrate" Columbus Day. I refuse to celebrate a man like him, regardless of what the history books tell me to believe, just like I refuse to refer to a group of grown men playing a game by a racial slur.

If we are to believe in notions like equality and freedom, we need to also believe that racial stereotypes and the negative connotations they carry are wrong.

We need to stop believing that because we've always done it this way is good enough reason to keep doing anything.

We need to be better than this.

Mental Illness Can Suck It
No, seriously. I'm really freaking tired of this crap.

When you look at my family tree, then take a teeny tiny step back, what you'll see is this gigantic forest of dysfunction.

It's up there in the branches above me. It's dangling from the ones below me. It weaves in and out of the leaves like a vine of poison.

It has hurt me. It has hurt those I love. It hurts many of them still. It hurts me still.

It comes in so many forms, from so many places.

Sometimes it can be managed.

Sometimes the disease itself is what prevents the management of it.

Sometimes we can see it coming.

Sometimes we can't.

Sometimes we push it away, we refuse to admit it.

Sometimes because of that denial, we make everything worse.

Sometimes in that process we create new mental illnesses for ourselves and others.

Sometimes we just want a break.

Sometimes we just want medium.

Sometimes we just want stable.

Sometimes we just want happy.

Sometimes we just want it all to go away.

Today is one of those days.

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