Daily Archives: February 17, 2015

I Hate People

I’m not sure why I always seem to find myself in these situations, or how I always attract this particular kind of person, but it seems like it’s always the crazy people who are drawn to me, and who I have an inability to repel. Not that there’s anything wrong with crazy people, since I’m crazy too, but I really… Read more →

Under Review

Returned to a letter in my mailbox today. Another disability review from social security. I just had one in 2012, I don’t remember them doing them this often in prior years. I did not see this one coming so soon, but there is a reason I fear my mailbox. Rather than my usual immediate “the sky is falling, I am choking to death” panic attack, I just took a beat.(Mainly because the cats were yapping for food and my kid was yapping for food and I had to pee and my heart was starting to pound so loud I couldn’t hear my voice if words did come out.)
Then the REAL anxiety swirled in.
Because I know this one page form to fill out is just the beginning of a months long anxiety fest while a bunch of people who don’t understand mental illness try to grasp it. I will not breathe for months to come while it’s determined if my disability is legitimate. I think it is, and I think these blog entries prove how precarious and unstable my mentality is.
I want to be well. I don’t want to ever go through this anxiety of having to prove my illness again. Working would be less stressful. Unfortunately, demand by employers is not high for people who are only stable and clear headed a few months of the year.

It is so hard to portray mental illness to those who don’t have it. Especially with the drive thru doctor appointments and ever changing meds, sleep disturbances, rising anxieties, and mood swings.
People see you’re dressed and out and about, you must be A-Okay.
They don’t see how it all turns on a dime, how you are going through the motions. They don’t realize that even “fun” activities are hellish. You’re upright and walking, you must be great.
And I have actually had people say, “You take care of a kid, you can’t be that bad off.”
Makes me remember an episode of Forensic Files where this man was bludgeoned with ax and had no clue he was mortally wounded, he got up, made his breakfast, went outside to fetch the paper, locked himself out, found the spare key, then he went inside and keeled over. Something about the part of the brain that is automated memory of daily routine.
And my low functioning days are nothing if not a product of this.
I am fortunate my kid has lower standards than employers for she doesn’t care if mommy goes out in pajamas, doesn’t wear a bra or bathe for days at a time, or can’t remember something she did five minutes ago.
I mean, it goes a long way to say, I’ve volunteered for things and never been asked to do so again because for whatever reason, I was not up to the challenge. That’s beyond sad.

So…In addition to getting little sleep, having anxiety and paranoia that cripple me most days, and the abrupt mood crashes that put me in “I wish I’d just die” land…My stability of income is now in the hands of some review committee who can contact a doctor who spends all of five minutes a month with me.
I LIVE this, it seems so unfair for everything to hinge on such frivolous determinations.
The fact I can’t even go out for a meal or visit friends without it becoming this anxiety filled experience tells me all I need to know. That and the days when I spontaneously combust into tears I can’t even explain.
Stability is not my middle name.
Truth be told, I have tried to find work. I even submitted some writing samples in hopes maybe I could get paid for doing a mental health blog.
I was rejected and it wasn’t because I’m not a good writer.
It’s because I can’t stay on topic.

Which I have talked to the shrink about and he keeps saying it’s all anxiety yet he has done nothing to quell the anxiety and by increasing my prozac dose to once a day instead of twice, I am experiencing the night time depressions where it’s like the floor falling out from under me.
So do I claim I am “doing Better”, “the same”, “or worse.”
I mean, I face perjury charges if I lie.
And I am obviously not better but I’m not the same either, but I’ve been much worse.
What’s the right answer?
Have I discussed employment with my doctor? Um I told him I can’t even think of getting a job because I am rejected even for volunteer work, I am so…messed up.
Should I just print this page out and send them a copy?

I’m at a loss. I just know, I am definitely worse than I was last time I was reviewed. When your idea of a successful day is bathing and putting on a bra…Well, that sounds like depression even if you are out of bed.
For now…I breathe. I am in for a long haul and I won’t rest until I know one way or another. Which last time meant eight months of paperwork, seeing their psychologist, waiting…
Not good for an anxiety disorder rampant like mine.

I remember once reading about a woman who was charged with a fraudulent disability claim because she posted a picture on Facebook of herself in a swimsuit at the beach.
So if I have a good day or two, I’m a fraud?
And frankly even my “good” days are riddled with mood swings and anxiety attacks and paranoia so do I even have good days or just days I manage to get through?
All I want is to be honest about my condition.
Honesty, unfortunately, does not always mean the truth is seen and understood.

So…I fill out the paperwork and live in agonizing anxiety (more) until I know yay or nay. Just when I dropped my guard and thought it couldn’t get worse…
Ha, it did.
My lizard brain may help me go through the motions of routine, but my mentally ill brain…is going to give me another ulcer.


This Is My Brave Now – A Guest Post by Kitt O’Malley

Thank you, Jennifer Marshall for featuring my guest post on This is My Brave: This Is My Brave Now – A Guest Post by Kitt O’Malley. This is My Brave as I write these words. This is My Brave as I blog…

Can’t Do A Thing About The @#$%^ Weather!

When last I posted, I was lamenting the fact that the weather was dashing my plans to make a quick run to Michigan and retrieve my new RV (don’t look at the price, I got one that was a demo and much MUCH cheaper, but exactly the same thing!).

As it turned out, I couldn’t have gone anyway because the flights got so snarled up due to heavy snows and ice storms that no one was flying anywhere.  Up here on my mountain, there were a few inches of snow topped with a crunchy layer of ice.  No way I could even have made it to the airport, so I canceled my flight last night.  That turned out to be the wrong thing to do, because since I never checked in for the flight, I had to pay for it even though it ended up being canceled.  Go figure.  Better than being stuck in the damn airport for who knows how long, anyway.

But never mind the flight–my most urgent issue with the weather has to do with my arthritic joints.  Every time I move my right shoulder it goes “clunk.”  Sometimes the clunk is accompanied by a grating sort of pain, and sometimes not.  I have a touch (OK, maybe more than a touch) of fear when that happens, because my dad (may he rest in peace) had similar clunks that just got worse and worse.  I’m sure that’s what will happen with mine, because so far I’m following in his arthritic footsteps.  Too bad I didn’t inherit his artistic talent and drive to make art, along with the arthritis!

Last night was a busy one as I searched for a comfortable position for my arthritic neck.  No rest for the weary.  So today I’m yawning.  I hope I’ll get some sleep tonight.

I can’t take most pain meds, as they either cause me to stop breathing or to itch.  I don’t know which is worse.  If I stopped breathing suddenly, that would make the pain go away, but from prior experience I can tell you that the road to apnea is fraught with much wheezing and gurgling.  I would probably panic and make use of the dreaded Epi-Pen, the epinephrine auto-injector with a needle the size of an elephant’s trunk. Then I’d be back at square one, except now with a large bleeding hole in my thigh.

So I’m ingesting as much turmeric as I can stomach, which does help, and slathering my homemade Frankincense Oil concoction all over my shoulder and neck.  My hair is greasy with it, but since I can’t get down my icy dirt driveway and no one can get up it either, I have no worries about being seen with straw-hair.

I am grateful that the power has stayed on, and the propane seems to be holding out.  I got a $600 delivery just before it precipitated; but then the temperatures dropped into the single digits with winds that blew off part of the roof of my shed, so I have no idea how much fuel I have left.  I’m not going out to the tank and risking busting my arse on the slippery stairs.  The salt I spread before the storm merely melted some of the snow; and it froze back up, creating a skating rink on my stairs.  Fuck it, I say.  I turned the heat down to 65 and put on another layer of silk underwear.  That’s the best, I’ve found, because it adds warmth without bulk and you can layer it without feeling like the Michelin Tire Man.

michelin

 

I’ve been using my time somewhat productively.  For some reason, even though I spend most days holed up away from the world, for the past couple of days I’ve been noticing what a horrid cluttered mess I live in. It’s actually bothering me.

Even more astonishing: I’ve been doing something about it!  Going through piles of papers–I am ashamed to say that I am finding things in my “action necessary” pile that date back to 2013…sigh…I need a personal secretary.  A volunteer, because after the RV I can’t pay anybody.

I do still have a little whisky, though, so at leastI can offer a bit of merriment in the evenings.  Alcoholics will have to make do with tea.  I have a lot of tea, ranging from strong black stuff to the delicious mint I’m sipping now.  That’s how it goes around here: tea in the daytime, whisky and smokes at night.  I’m single and I do what I want!

And now it’s time to get back to reading my mail from a couple of years ago.  Who knows, there could be a check for $50,000 hiding among the junk mail!  My luck, it would have expired, like some of the coupons and offers I’ve already unearthed.

Oh shoot, I can’t worry about that.  My neck hurts too much.  Did I show you the excellent hard shell bionic brace the spine people gave me?  No?  Maybe next time.

I can’t quite tell which hurts worse, the brace cutting into the back of my skull, or my neck without the brace.

But it looks really cool on.  That’s what I used to tell the fancy ladies who came into the Michigan Avenue high fashion boutique I worked in, the winter quarter I had to take off from undergraduate school in Chicago, to make money for tuition: “This Armani is a fabulous piece.  The rack doesn’t nearly do it justice.  It looks incredible on!”  Then once you got it on her, of course it needed the belt, the bag, the necklace, the earrings–accessorize!  That’s where you made your money, the accessories.

So I have developed an entire line of accessories to go with the Amazing Bionic Neck Brace–scarves, mostly, because that’s really all you can do with a neck brace, but since I have a vast collection of scarves and hats, it comes out looking rather…surreal, like an alien sister to the Michelin Tire Man.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I got fired from the Michigan Avenue Boutique (right across the street from Tiffany’s!) because I couldn’t sell water in the desert, let alone high fashion when I myself owned a total of two outfits, very worn and tatty.  Now I have piles of clothes.  They are lying around in laundry baskets littering up the place.  Most of them are also falling apart. Some date from the 1980’s when I was three sizes smaller.  “Oh, maybe I’ll get back into them someday,” I think to myself.

Between you and me, I rather doubt it.  Maybe I should make a pile to take to the resale shop.  But how can I part with them, when each one holds so much history?  This is the shirt I wore when we went to the Grand Canyon.  This natty pair of slacks is the one I wore on my first date, two husbands ago.  Never mind that they only fit up to my ankles.  Now that I am eating healthy food (after I finish this bag of potato chips), it’s possible that…oh darn, I’ve ripped them!  A whole chapter of my life, gone!

I must get back to the pile of mail.


Clone Wars

clonesThis is one of our assignments from Blogging 101. We had to pick a writing prompt and go for it. I wound up with something like “If you could clone yourself, how would you divide yourself up?”

Wow, I love this prompt! This sounds like a great idea. What could be better? The only problem might be bedtime. I’m not sure I’d have enough beds and all for these people. But then, they’d probably just construct their own beds, right? So here we go. Let’s start off this clone party with the:

PERSONAL APPEARANCE CLONE: Boy, do I need this one. This clone makes sure I look my very best and then some. She loves to go clothes and make-up shopping. She actually has a couple of sales clerks at her favorite clothing stores who call her when new things come in she might like. She makes sure she does a 6 step face care routine morning and night. Her teeth are always flossed, even after restaurant meals. Every inch of her is appropriately moisturized. She goes in for facials, massages, nails, and hair color on a strict schedule. She knows how to apply just the right amount of make-up. Her closet is a thing of beauty and is well organized. She makes sure a perfect outfit is put out for the next day. She wears earrings! She showers!

HUSBAND, KIDS, AND FAMILY CLONE: This clone spends lots of quality time with everyone. She knows all extended family members’ birthdays and comes up with an appropriate well wrapped gift for all occasions. She makes her own Christmas bows. She hikes with her husband and loves to spend time with his friends. If there is a need, she happily plays poker or pitches in to play trivia. She adores rocks and baseball cards. She has her own Star Trek uniform and happily wears it to weirdo conventions. She travels everywhere her husband wants to go. She loves to take her young adult children places. She does all the asking, arranging, and paying. They travel together. She enthusiastically decorates her kids’ apartments as needed. She entertains everyone’s friends. She has intimate meaningful conversations with everyone on a regular basis. (uh-huh).

HOUSE, CRAFTS, COOKING, CAR CLONE: This one washes that car every week whether it needs it or not. She tries to select something clever from Pinterest once a week or so and create it. (She can often give these to the other clone to give as gifts). Her meals are wonderful. She provides a hot and varied breakfast no matter when people leave the house. Lunches are packed for all who require them. Once again, she uses Pinterest to get ideas for creative lunches. She serves a great meal every night with cloth napkins. Sunday dinners are special and she drags out the good china and silver for this. A fresh salad is served with every dinner and plenty of vegetables are on hand if someone doesn’t like meat. The house is of course, clean, but more importantly, a thing to behold. The colors are soothing and everyone instantly feels welcome. There’s not a pet hair anywhere. (The pets are shaved weekly!) All sheets and towels and rugs match. Her kitchen towels all have a color theme.

TRAVEL CLONE: This one just travels. She has a budget, sure, but it is generous. She plans, organizes, invites friends to go along if desired, and makes sure things run smoothly. She keeps a running list of places to visit. She does have matching luggage. She has no fear of flying. She has a great camera and uses it. She creates photo books for people as gifts. She has a large map in her work area with little colored pins in it so you know where she has been. I would travel like this girl.

HEALTH, EXERCISE, EATING RIGHT CLONE: This one immediately loses weight so she looks good in gym clothes. She works out at the gym one hour per day in the morning. She later walks a couple of miles with a dog in tow. She eats lots of those vegetables that are available from the other clone. She does NOT eat sugar or drink diet soda. She sees all doctors needed promptly. She behaves herself.

RELIGION, CHARITY, AND VOLUNTEER CLONE: This clone is a nice one. She never misses church and goes to a study one day during the week. She works at the food bank. She reads the Bible and does her devotional reading every day. She does not like “50 Shades of Grey”. She celebrates each religious holiday to the fullest. She networks with other women of like mind and rarely lays on the couch.

ENTERTAINMENT CLONE: This one is sort of a slug. She lays on the couch and binge watches shows. She also does the same with audiobooks. She pays attention to what is in town and will go to see concerts and plays that interest her. She sees all new movies promptly if they have decent reviews. By the time the Academy Awards have come around, she has seen all of the ones nominated for best picture. She also hikes, plays mini-golf, and bowls. (Okay, maybe she could expand a bit here….)

WRITING AND FRIEND CLONE: This one writes as much as she wants. The only other job she has is to keep up a good relationship with her friends, which is easy because they are all nice people. She attends writers’ seminars and things and generally has a good time. She is a loyal friend, keeps up with all the kids and grandkids of friends, and makes a fuss over friends’ birthdays.

BIPOLAR CLONE: Oh, crap! I forgot about her. She spends her time getting depressed and laying on the couch. She cries. She organizes and takes all her medicine. She sees her psych doctors. She goes to her support group. When she feels good, she gives presentations on mental illness to various groups. She also gets manic. When she does, she doesn’t need all these other clones cause she does it all herself. She also writes a BLOG!

So there you have it…the many clones of Lily:)

tuesdays with sorry

I keep having very basic and blatant anxiety dreams at the moment. I believe that dreams are simply mental detritus – and it doesn’t take a genius to understand why anxiety is invading right now. I think phenergan is giving me truly evil headaches; I reckon I’ve now tested that enough to stop and try something else for sleep. As well as the headaches, it leaves me groggy. I woke this morning, took a paracetamol, stood under a hot shower for ages to relieve neck muscles etc a bit and then stayed awake long enough to eat, before I fell asleep again. Now I’m a bit less groggy and headachy.

Some high(low)lights of my current emotional landscape are misery and bad temper. I blame the temper on the headache, my last dream and the nasty wind howling outside right now. Wtf has it got to howl about anyway? The misery is partly situational and partly neurological.

Last year, nextofkin worked out that within seven years, all of the maternal side of our family were dead. Obviously that excludes the two of us; it also includes one really, really, really strangely useless uncle. He’s kind of like trying to relate to a porcupine, but without the snuggle factor. Anyway.

We both grow terse and taciturn when we are very unhappy, so our conversations go something like this:
You ok?
Shit, you?
Yeah.
And then silence is resumed for a little while. Fortunately we are similar enough to read each other’s silences, even though we are on different continents. It’s a quietly companionable misery and it stems from the fact that nextofkin and I (besides being close) both nursed my mother through her (shockingly fast) dying and death.

Memories of the cousin who died the month before my mother did, have begun to emerge more strongly. There wasn’t time to grieve her two years ago. I haven’t grieved my godmother either. I think those are the only two out of too many where there just wasn’t enough time. I miss the dog that died a few months after my mother and the one that died the other day. Those facts, plus some additional trauma, are the reason for a lot of my current sadness and the changes in my entire approach to life.

Sometimes writing it down teaches me stuff and opens my mind a bit, sometimes writing is an effective distraction. As long as I’m writing, I’m not always feeling. In fact, I am usually (but not always) emotionless while I write. My mind can get very chilly and precise at times.

image

It’s boring listening to other people’s dreams, but my last one was such an obvious psychological workout session, that I’m going to outline it here, in case I need it.

I was supposed to visit my psychiatrist one evening; I drove till I didn’t recognise anything and it got dark. At some stage I was running through a train, begging people for directions. I finally turned back and went to the psychiatrist’s rooms and in the process, morning had broken. She was immensely helpful and caring and I felt better. Then I realised I had lost my car keys and also forgotten where I lived. I said, “it’s near Vredehoek, I think it starts with an E”. In the meantime, renovations on the consulting rooms had begun and they were off limits, but after some pleading, my psychiatrist and one of the receptionists went to look. They returned white faced, the psychiatrist’s bleeding hand in a bandage. They said they it was too dangerous to look any further. I searched all over some odd rooms with no luck and tried to think of who I could ask to hot wire the car. Someone must have done so – I drove home minus the keys. And then all sorts of frustrations and complications dogged me, plus some horrible misunderstandings between my mother and I. I was still freaked about the missing keys.

And then I woke and informed myself repeatedly that it was only a dream.

Surprise

I was paging through my laptop last night and found a file marked “Poems”.  I opened up the file and discovered a group of poems I didn’t even remember writing. They all date from AFER I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, probably written between 2006 and 2010, when my laptop battery died.  I paged through them and was very surprised at what I had managed to produce.  Again, there was manic poetry, depressed poetry, and poetry from somewhere in the middle. The first installment this morning is titled “Crazy Days”

Crazy Days

Singing Lou Bega’s Mambo no. 5

With a drink in my hand

And not a care on my mind

Surrounded by people

Laughing and having a good time

Margaritaville at its best

The sun rises through the sky

And soon bakes the shore

With noonday heat

That drives everyone inside

To the coolness of the siesta

In shadows and shady trees

But not me.

I continue to sing

As the sun beats down

The hell with the sunscreen

The burn of the sand

Or the glare on my eyes

And I party on

Through the night until

I’ve drunk everyone under

The tables and bongoed

The conga lines for every

Party in the place

Until I limbo my last

Under the lowest stick

I can find .

I feel my spine snap

I  lay on my back

As the sky spins above me.

(I don’t know why I associate drinking and dancing with mania.  Maybe my Southern Baptist upbringing coming out in me.)


3:00AM

Kitty-Filled Life

It’s a little after 3:00AM now.  I’ve been up since 1:30 after four hours of sleep—despite my never-fail sleep cocktail of Xanax and Benadryl.  It’s February.

The one good thing about nights like this, when rapid cycling and mixed states turn my days and nights inside out, is that I don’t have to worry about getting up to go to work.  I remember, years ago, trying to talk myself back to sleep. Before any diagnosis told me this might be part of my “normal,” before doctors, and my work ethic, and the State agreed that I was no longer employable, I fretted over my sleeplessness and dreaded the morning.  I know most of us have had nights where we finally drop off at 5:00 in the morning only to have the alarm go off at 6:00.  It’s a horrible, rock-in-the-gut feeling.

Now I just get up.  Open the windows to let the cold, fresh air wash the stale taste of insomnia out of the apartment, stick my favorite mug in the microwave and sip chai while I putter on the computer.  In a few minutes, I’ll close the windows and pull out my plush throw, rearrange the cats on my chair, and read for a while.  When I get sleepy, I’ll go back to bed.  It doesn’t matter anymore when that happens.

That freedom is exquisite.  The absence of that particular stress is like a Christmas present, an emotional gift card that keeps on giving.  It makes the discomfort of this spell easier to bear.

I’m trying to be more conscious of how winter torques my bipolar disorder.  Fellow blogger-friend, Kitt O’Malley (and what a foin Irish name, that is) just posted a clinical piece about the relationship between BP and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  It was the first thing I read when I sat down with my chai.  (Synchronicity is alive and well in my spinny corner of the world.)  It’s always nice to know I’m not alone in my otherness, that there are folks who go through the same kinds of extra grief this time of year, that a committee somewhere labeled it.

It’s the little things that help me keep going when I really don’t want to, little comforts, little efforts.  I give my light box one more try and sit down to make a card—like the one at the top of this post.  I haul my ass to the laundromat, normally a place I love, but now just one more chore I can’t quite accomplish.  But I do it, and the gentle rhythm of the dryers, the warm scent of clean, comforts me.  I let Richard Armitage read to me in the car, his facile voice assuming dozens of characters in a novelization of Hamlet, and it comforts me.

Now the chai and the soothing motion of fingers on a keyboard, the wandering off to read a bit of Rumi, the quiet trust of my sleeping cats all conspire with the space I’ve made for acceptance.  I feel sleep sliding up behind me.  It’s 5AM, and I don’t own an alarm clock anymore.

There is always something to be grateful for.


With Purple Hair

On December 2, 2014 my family and friends received a bit of a shock.  Without telling anyone - not my husband, best friend, or children - I dyed somewhere between six and eight inches of my hair purple (actually, my amazing hairdresser did).  Bright purple.  Troll doll purple.
Troll doll with purple hair
Me with purple hair
Reactions varied.  My husband and my best friend both loved it.  My kids had mixed reactions; mostly I think they just needed time to adjust.  My son worried that it increased the chances that I would hurt myself (I had received a diagnosis of Bipolar 2 shortly before this, although I'd had symptoms for years, and have a history of self-harm).  We got through that.  They adjusted.  Everyone adjusted.  And even though people were surprised, there seemed to be a general, "Oh, that's just something Robin would do" attitude.

They asked why.  I said it was just time.

The reasons are many.  First let me say, I'm color-blind.  I've done various things in shades of red in my hair many times in the past.  It has to be very bright in order for me to see the red in my brown hair.  When it fades, which it does very quickly, I can't see it anymore.  Other people can and they still comment on how great it looks, but I can't.  And that bothers me.  I dye my hair for my own entertainment.  For my own pleasure.  Because I like the way it looks to me.  That effect is nullified when I can't see it.  And that's a lot of money to like what I see for only a few days.

Also, a part of me has always wanted to do something bold and shocking with my hair.  I'm generally only rebellious in subtle ways.  I'm not really a whole-head-purple or shaved-head person.  I'm more of a comes-out-with-a-couple-washes purple-streak-for-Halloween person.  But for some reason, it was just time.

And purple has never been a favorite color of mine.  But since my daughter was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation a couple of years ago and purple is the color of Chiari awareness, it's grown on me.  Purple has a special place in my heart now.

My hair has gone through many phases as it's faded.  My hairdresser told me it would, but I wasn't quite prepared for it.  When it lost the very intense brightness I was sad.  But then I saw all the variation emerging and it became fun on a different level.  It became My Little Pony purple.
My Little Pony with variegated purple hair
Me with variegated purple hair
Truthfully, once it got to this stage I still only saw it as purple.  My husband would point out where it was purple, where it was blue, and where it was pink - but it just looked purple to me.

And, see, that's part of the point.  While I couldn't see all those colors, I could see the purple.  Every step of the way I could see the different color from what it used to be.  That made me happy.

Then it faded more and my friend told me it looked like Meryl Streep's hair in Into the Woods.
Meryl Streep
Me
Seriously, how can you go wrong when you're being compared to Meryl Streep?  Even if it's when she's playing a witch.  (By the way, that's one of my favorite semi-recent photos of myself.  My hair looks good.  You can't see the bags under my eyes or my double chin.  It'll be my profile picture for a good, long time.)

That was about a month ago now.  It's faded a lot more.  There is definite white showing through.  Since we had to bleach my hair in order to dye it, just letting my hair go back to its natural color isn't going to happen.  Without the color my head would look like the hoof of a Clydesdale.
Clydesdale hooves
My bleached hair before the purple
It's time for something new.  Tomorrow I'll be getting it colored again.

So I thought today would be a good time to reflect on what I've learned in the last two and a half months.

As much as I pondered this, (and it was planned for more than two weeks before I did it) I didn't think through all the ramifications.  I was prepared for the way my family, friends, parents, neighbors, and ward (parish) members might react.  I wasn't prepared for the way strangers would react.  They either stared or refused to look at me.  Except the younger ones.  The ones my kids' ages and younger would come right out and comment on it or just move past it.  The ones my age and older either glared at me (seriously?) or glanced and then turned away quickly (while sneaking secret looks when they thought they were out of my field of vision). 

I get it.  Especially when it was bright purple it was a bit shocking.  But some of the looks I got, many in fact, felt like judgments.  Like me having purple hair meant I was a certain type of person who believed a certain type of things and acted in a certain type of way.  And worse, like it was something to be embarrassed about.  My daughter (who shaved her head almost two years ago in support of her sister who was having brain surgery) said she went through similar things.  In fact, she was flat out told to hide her head more than once.

Let me tell you something, judgy-judgers, most of you would be hard pressed to find more conservative people than me and my daughter.  We are both very active in our church and attend every week.  Neither of us has a tattoo.  Neither of us has ever done drugs or had illicit sex.  Neither of us has been to jail.  We both vote in every election and take that right/responsibility seriously.  In fact, neither of us has even ever had a ticket.  By most measurements of the world, we are quite boring.  We just did something fun with our hair.

The other thing I wasn't prepared for was how I would feel about these reactions.  It's not that I care so much about how others feel about how I look, although the first time (when I was completely unprepared for it) I felt very self-conscious and couldn't wait to get back to the safety of my own home.

No, the reactions of other people served to point out how public this experience was.

Okay, so that should have been obvious before I did it, but it wasn't.  I dyed my hair the way I did for me.  I wanted it to be distinctly different from my natural hair.  I wanted the lift it would give me in the middle of winter.  I wanted the fun of that little bit of rebellion.  But I was irritated by the fact that I couldn't do this fun thing - that I couldn't play - without the whole world watching.

I went to a high school basketball game a week or so after I had it done.  I don't know how many people fit in our gym, maybe a couple hundred.  But as I walked in and felt the eyes of so many people on me I realized I was the only person in the room with purple hair.  I don't think I've ever felt so much in the spotlight as I did in that moment.  And it was not something I enjoyed.  I prefer to blend into the crowd.  That moment kind of freaked me out.

But I've adjusted.  I've acclimated to the new temperature of the waters.  As I prepare for the next color, I'm ready for whatever it brings.  Because I've been there before and the personal joy it brings me is well worth the cost.

With Purple Hair

On December 2, 2014 my family and friends received a bit of a shock.  Without telling anyone - not my husband, best friend, or children - I dyed somewhere between six and eight inches of my hair purple (actually, my amazing hairdresser did).  Bright purple.  Troll doll purple.
Troll doll with purple hair
Me with purple hair
Reactions varied.  My husband and my best friend both loved it.  My kids had mixed reactions; mostly I think they just needed time to adjust.  My son worried that it increased the chances that I would hurt myself (I had received a diagnosis of Bipolar 2 shortly before this, although I'd had symptoms for years, and have a history of self-harm).  We got through that.  They adjusted.  Everyone adjusted.  And even though people were surprised, there seemed to be a general, "Oh, that's just something Robin would do" attitude.

They asked why.  I said it was just time.

The reasons are many.  First let me say, I'm color-blind.  I've done various things in shades of red in my hair many times in the past.  It has to be very bright in order for me to see the red in my brown hair.  When it fades, which it does very quickly, I can't see it anymore.  Other people can and they still comment on how great it looks, but I can't.  And that bothers me.  I dye my hair for my own entertainment.  For my own pleasure.  Because I like the way it looks to me.  That effect is nullified when I can't see it.  And that's a lot of money to like what I see for only a few days.

Also, a part of me has always wanted to do something bold and shocking with my hair.  I'm generally only rebellious in subtle ways.  I'm not really a whole-head-purple or shaved-head person.  I'm more of a comes-out-with-a-couple-washes purple-streak-for-Halloween person.  But for some reason, it was just time.

And purple has never been a favorite color of mine.  But since my daughter was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation a couple of years ago and purple is the color of Chiari awareness, it's grown on me.  Purple has a special place in my heart now.

My hair has gone through many phases as it's faded.  My hairdresser told me it would, but I wasn't quite prepared for it.  When it lost the very intense brightness I was sad.  But then I saw all the variation emerging and it became fun on a different level.  It became My Little Pony purple.
My Little Pony with variegated purple hair
Me with variegated purple hair
Truthfully, once it got to this stage I still only saw it as purple.  My husband would point out where it was purple, where it was blue, and where it was pink - but it just looked purple to me.

And, see, that's part of the point.  While I couldn't see all those colors, I could see the purple.  Every step of the way I could see the different color from what it used to be.  That made me happy.

Then it faded more and my friend told me it looked like Meryl Streep's hair in Into the Woods.
Meryl Streep
Me
Seriously, how can you go wrong when you're being compared to Meryl Streep?  Even if it's when she's playing a witch.  (By the way, that's one of my favorite semi-recent photos of myself.  My hair looks good.  You can't see the bags under my eyes or my double chin.  It'll be my profile picture for a good, long time.)

That was about a month ago now.  It's faded a lot more.  There is definite white showing through.  Since we had to bleach my hair in order to dye it, just letting my hair go back to its natural color isn't going to happen.  Without the color my head would look like the hoof of a Clydesdale.
Clydesdale hooves
My bleached hair before the purple
It's time for something new.  Tomorrow I'll be getting it colored again.

So I thought today would be a good time to reflect on what I've learned in the last two and a half months.

As much as I pondered this, (and it was planned for more than two weeks before I did it) I didn't think through all the ramifications.  I was prepared for the way my family, friends, parents, neighbors, and ward (parish) members might react.  I wasn't prepared for the way strangers would react.  They either stared or refused to look at me.  Except the younger ones.  The ones my kids' ages and younger would come right out and comment on it or just move past it.  The ones my age and older either glared at me (seriously?) or glanced and then turned away quickly (while sneaking secret looks when they thought they were out of my field of vision). 

I get it.  Especially when it was bright purple it was a bit shocking.  But some of the looks I got, many in fact, felt like judgments.  Like me having purple hair meant I was a certain type of person who believed a certain type of things and acted in a certain type of way.  And worse, like it was something to be embarrassed about.  My daughter (who shaved her head almost two years ago in support of her sister who was having brain surgery) said she went through similar things.  In fact, she was flat out told to hide her head more than once.

Let me tell you something, judgy-judgers, most of you would be hard pressed to find more conservative people than me and my daughter.  We are both very active in our church and attend every week.  Neither of us has a tattoo.  Neither of us has ever done drugs or had illicit sex.  Neither of us has been to jail.  We both vote in every election and take that right/responsibility seriously.  In fact, neither of us has even ever had a ticket.  By most measurements of the world, we are quite boring.  We just did something fun with our hair.

The other thing I wasn't prepared for was how I would feel about these reactions.  It's not that I care so much about how others feel about how I look, although the first time (when I was completely unprepared for it) I felt very self-conscious and couldn't wait to get back to the safety of my own home.

No, the reactions of other people served to point out how public this experience was.

Okay, so that should have been obvious before I did it, but it wasn't.  I dyed my hair the way I did for me.  I wanted it to be distinctly different from my natural hair.  I wanted the lift it would give me in the middle of winter.  I wanted the fun of that little bit of rebellion.  But I was irritated by the fact that I couldn't do this fun thing - that I couldn't play - without the whole world watching.

I went to a high school basketball game a week or so after I had it done.  I don't know how many people fit in our gym, maybe a couple hundred.  But as I walked in and felt the eyes of so many people on me I realized I was the only person in the room with purple hair.  I don't think I've ever felt so much in the spotlight as I did in that moment.  And it was not something I enjoyed.  I prefer to blend into the crowd.  That moment kind of freaked me out.

But I've adjusted.  I've acclimated to the new temperature of the waters.  As I prepare for the next color, I'm ready for whatever it brings.  Because I've been there before and the personal joy it brings me is well worth the cost.