Tag Archives: friends
I have been rubbish about checking in here… sorry about that. But like, most of my problems these days have been physical rather than mental. Even with having been putting up with a bullying situation in my social group, the stress and upset in response to that has been minimal and within ‘normal’ tolerance.
My body, on the other hand, is fired. My chronic fatigue levels are so high that I don’t really manage to blog anything but my daily blog. That includes reading other blogs — I still care, but I don’t have the spoons to act on it really. I can wish for a miracle and hope that it will improve somehow, but I’ve been dealing with it for 21 years, and it tends to keep getting worse. Add in my back pain, which has existed nearly as long (and since I was a stick figure of a teenager), and I’ve got the walking stick style down pat.
I still would say I have a pretty good quality of life though. I still get my knitting and gaming done. I still get my ‘required’ daily writing done. I don’t murder the children, I am productive at work — but all of that takes most of what I have. I can’t say that I’m regretful or upset though, because like… that’s wasting spoons I don’t have. I certainly hope that it comes around (see paragraph previous, redux, blah blah blah).
So, what does it mean for around here? I don’t know. I’m not closing down the blog or the network, even if they’re both getting neglected. I firmly believe that both are still important, and it’s more a matter of finding a way to work this space and you lovely people back in, because even if I’m not wasting time on regret, I still miss you folk. But we’ll see.
For now, I scoot.
My favorite furry friend Beyoncé has passed away. I found her upon my return home from work this past Wednesday. She was a beautiful, gentle, black and white kitty. Her sister, Sage, passed a year ago. The first month without Sage Beyoncé was lost. She bellowed into our long hallway once the lights went out for the night. It was heart wrenching. But, we also had the opportunity to watch her blossom into herself. I say that because Sage pretty much ran the show at our house. With no alpha personality to share space with, Beyoncé changed from an introvert to an extrovert. She suddenly demanded my attention. Demanded when to be fed and even became a picky eater. Expected to be pet in a certain way. She was now the princess of her domain. But, honestly, she just wanted to be loved wholeheartedly.
I loved her as she would allow. We rescued her and her sister at about 2 months old. We were later told Beyonce was the “runt” of the litter. She certainly acquiesced to her domineering sister. Beyoncé was sitting on my lap once, which was rare. I mean neither of these cats enjoyed being picked up. I don’t think they experienced much socialization those first two months. Anyway, I digress. Beyoncé and I were enjoying a moment and Sage jumped up and swatted her away. Just like that B slinked off. Just so you know, I didn’t oblige Sage and swatted her away accordingly. Its not like we weren’t a happy household. We truly were as a foursome. But there seemed to be some unwritten cat rules.
As miss B gained confidence she even went outside. A big deal considering sticking her nose out the back screen door caused anxiety. Slowly, if we kept the escape door (aka backdoor) open she might venture 1-2 feet. She had to know she could go back inside at anytime. In her own time, Beyoncé came to enjoy venturing in the backyard. She sat amongst the plants in our garden. Most recently she flopped in front of the tomato plants and I called her the tomato whisperer. Like into the summer nights she would sit below the stars only coming to my call. I had a special way of calling her name. She wouldn’t come in for my husband.
Funny enough, she started to love mornings outside. Before I had to go to work. I would let her out, but not ten minutes later she wanted in. Then wanted back out. In the span of an hour I probably let her in and out 5-6 times. It was almost a game. I willingly played along. I felt she deserved it.
In the last months of her life she stopped eating much. She was thin. People would jokingly ask if I fed her. Of course I put food out everyday, she just wasn’t all that interested. She seemed okay, though had to work a little harder to breathe. We did take her to the vet and were told she had a small tumor. I hesitate to say we aren’t ones to put a kitty through testing that would only give us a timeframe, not necessarily a solution. So we brought her back home and loved her more.
Our cats have continual flea issues and I have tried to be vigilant. In an effort to relieve Beyoncé of nefarious scratching I opted to put flea medicine on her. I don’t think her system was strong enough for the medicine. This I didn’t know. I wanted her to be free from pain. Perhaps it helped in terms of fleas, but not in terms of her strength to handle the chemicals.
I left for work on Wednesday morning full of worry. I could see she was struggling. I was hoping the medicine was coursing through her system and it was a temporary reaction. I didn’t think she wouldn’t make it through the day but felt her time in my life was dwindling. She had signs and symptoms of her sisters passing. Seeing her sprawled on the floor obviously vying for her last breath was heart breaking. I wish so much I had one more day. Or even knew I had only one more day. I would have spoiled her rotten.
I am without furry friends. Unconditional love buckets. Sometimes a reason to get out of bed. A distraction from my head. Company. I have cried. Waves of emotion wash over me. It’s too quiet in the house. I cleaned her area and removed food bowls, water, litter box. I miss her only being willing to eat if I pet her at the same time. I mean, really, I always have 5 minutes To spare. I miss calling her name as I walk through the front door…Beeeeeyonceeeeeeeeee!
We provided Sage and Beyonce a safe loving home. I know they felt that. In return I felt their love. Rest in piece my favorite furry friends. I will forever miss you.
I’m 36. I just finished reading an article from a woman that is 45 to the 30 something mothers of young children. I read that article and I have read many more like it. They are wonderful and most of the time spot on. What you don’t here about much is the 30 somethings will grown or almost grown kids.
I had my oldest a month after I turned 18. So if you can do math he is now 18. And graduated and going to college(in town here, but still). Then I have a 13 and 12 year old. I’m not done parenting by any stretch but it’s definitely a vastly different world than having toddlers or infants. My sister, who will be 35 in July had a 10 y/o, a 3y/o, and a 6 month old. We are at completely seperate ends of the parenting cycle.
While there’s nothing wrong with that I do often feel alone. In a world where people are waiting later and later to have children. I had mine early. My daughter will graduate when I am 42. While it’s exciting to think my husband and I will finally be able to do more together without anyone else. It isn’t something that I know anything about.
I have always been a mother. I have never been an adult person without children. And while kids growing up and moving out of has different so many emotions balled up together. For me it just kind of makes me paralyzed. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to act. I don’t even know how to think without kids being involved. Every decision that’s made includes them.
I am that 45 year old woman looking at people my own age and saying. You WILL miss this. It WILL get better. It will change and the things driving you mad right now will change into being terrified of your kids making decisions for themselves. I know so many things about kids. About how they act and the things they do. And I try to share as much as I can. I see the mother with three kids in the back of her van and feel compelled to say “you’re gonna make it. It will be ok.”
Not that any of this is wrong or bad but it’s very different. I also have a step daughter who is grown with her own kids. Not to many people my age know what it’s like to try to love and help someone who is already adult with their own children. So I know things. I know that your children will make decisions that break your heart. I know that parenting a grown up is vastly different and requires a lot of thought and consciousness of what you say and do. I know that teenagers will get mad at you, and stay mad at you no matter how much you do for them. I know that sometimes you have to make very difficult choices in order to protect your child from him or her self. And I know that as you start to realize you are getting your life back. You carry around in the pit of your stomach a fear and worry that never completely goes away.
I’m 36. I don’t have a lot of people my age that can relate because they all have young children. I am 36 and know things that Mommas in their 40’s know. I am 36 and my sister, who’s 18 months younger than me, can’t really relate to anything that is happening in my life right now. I’m 36 and I feel like I have already lived a lifetime. A lifetime of love and of laughter. A lifetime of pain and anguish. A lifetime of trying to help teach and guide my children into being the people that they should be. A lifetime of putting myself in the back burner to the point that I woke up one day and there was no you left for me to use that back burner. So it’s my time or our time. And I don’t know what to do with it. Because I still have 2 that have several years to go I still don’t know the feeling of not having someone know where I am or what I am doing. But they are old enough that I can do things without them. And that means that there is more time for me. I find myself wondering what that means. I don’t really know what to do with my time. For the most part every minute or of everyday has been full of others wants and needs. I wasn’t able to sit and watch a movie because someone always needed something. Or they were fighting or any number of other things. When you start being a Mom before your ever really an adult you don’t get to decide what you want to do. You don’t get to do things and not worry about someone else. You can’t just decide to pick up and go somewhere or do something. I didn’t go to my first real concert until I was late 20’s. Not because I didn’t have someone to watch my kids but because they are my kids. And while all parents need a break from time to time I never felt right asking others to watch my kids on a regular basis.
So here I sit at 36. With the knowledge of people much older than me and people around me that don’t necessarily believe me when I tell them things. I have already been through the years where I thought I was a bad Mom, ALL THE TIME!!!! I have come out in the other side and as I watched my son walk across that stage this year and get his high school diploma. I knew that I did good. I knew that if I never do anything else I made an actual real impact on his life. I knew then that it doesn’t matter how old you are. Or how you choose to raise your kids. It’s the love and life lessons you help them learn that ultimately leave an imprint on everything that they do. Ya I started young. Yes, there were those who I’m sure believed I would fail. At raising my son. At staying married. At being the person I need to be for my step daughter. But I have done ALL those things. They aren’t in the future they are RIGHT NOW!! And I get to be proud and I get to let a little bit of that fear go because I know that if the only thing they ever learned from me is love. That’s enough. So even though I’m 36 and once again hitting a milestone long before this around me. I KNOW that I have something to give. And I know that I have living proof that I made a difference.
So to the 30 something moms. Please know that there will be a day when you too can say “I made a difference”. When you can say the love my children learned came from me. When you too will know that while it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, it’s also the very best thing you have done. And that is true for everyone of us that chooses our kids and puts in the time it takes to love them. And to teach them that if they know nothing else they know their mother loves them.
Thanks for reading. Be blessed! And kiss those babies!!
Yesterday, I said my last good-bye to Mark Stringer, the minister at First Unitarian Church of Des Moines. He told us six months ago that he was leaving the ministry, and I’ve been grieving ever since.
It’s weird—we never had a private conversation, just exchanged a few words as I shook his hand on Sunday on my way out the door. But in the three years that I’ve been going to First Unitarian, I’ve been able to share enough of my story with him to make a connection.
No, that’s not quite right. I felt connected to him.
From the first service I attended, I knew this guy got it. His sermons seemed like extensions of my therapy sessions, filled with the importance of mindfulness, compassion, acceptance, and awareness of our own realities. He made me laugh and cry—usually at the same time. Finally, after searching for years, I’d found a spiritual home and someone who spoke to the things that mattered to me.
PTSD makes me vulnerable to abandonment-thinking. Bipolar disorder distorts any thinking into darker twists of hopelessness. I knew I needed to work this through or I’d probably never go back to the church once he was gone.
So, I attended every Sunday service (once I was recovered enough from my last bronchial bomb). I cried ( okay, sobbed) through each one of them, Kleenex box clutched tight. I made myself look him in the eye after our hug at the door and thank him for the opportunity to do this work. Some mornings I was too verklempt to say the words, but Mark would hold my watery gaze and say, “I understand.”
While I grieved, I also noted every friend at church who sought me out, every acquaintance who grinned when our eyes met. I forced myself to see that FU (you gotta love a church with those initials) offered me real community and relationships beyond Mark. I made a point of wandering around after services to find people I knew and admired in order to weave another thread into our connection.
Yesterday we held his celebratory Farewell Tour at the performing arts theater of one of the city’s high-end high schools (very lovely). We needed room enough for the whole congregation to honor Mark’s sixteen years of service. He came to us straight from theological school and is moving on to be the Executive Director of the Iowa ACLU.
I wept like everyone else, touched by his words and deeds (he performed the first same-sex marriage in Iowa), amazed at all he and the church had accomplished (doubled the membership and increased FU’s legislative presence on issues of justice). But, my tears were of joy and gratitude, not grief. I spent yesterday talking to my friends, making sure I told the speakers and the choir now much they moved me, and asking questions about the ministerial search process. I did what I set out to do—I said good-bye well.
It might be good for me to get involved in the Search process, since who “ministers” to me is so very important. But, I’m tucking that thought away until I learn more. Will the various committees be able to use a bipolar member who lives an hour away and who may not be able to follow through? Can I allow myself to be that vulnerable? Can I get involved and accept my limitations?
It wouldn’t be an Adventure without some mystery and a little risk.
Here’s the first sermon I heard Mark deliver. Seventeen minutes is an eternity in blogland, but it might be worth your while.
You and your horse. His strength and beauty. Your knowledge and patience and determination and understanding and love. That’s what fuses the two of you onto this marvelous partnership that makes you wonder, “What can heaven…
Brenda was a friend to my husband and me for many long years. We partied with her, and talked with her, and grieved with her and supported her when her marriage ended.
I became closer to her than Dan had, although he had met her first. Then we grew apart. Then I heard that she had given up on me. I wrote, asking for one more chance.
I’ve written before about the friends I’ve lost due to my bipolar disorder (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-2W) – the pain and loss I sometimes still feel, my unsuccessful attempts to apologize or rebuild the relationships, the continuing rejection, the knowledge that those important people are gone from my life forever.
But this time, the rejection didn’t seem to bother me as much.
Why? I wondered.
I know that people sometimes do drift apart, and there was an element of that in the death of the relationship.
I knew that I had refused many invitations and stood her up many times. But apparently, when I did show up, I brought along an extra person, “my misery.” It seems like a trap: don’t accept an invitation, or be unwelcome when I do because of my constant companion, which I was unable to just leave at home. In those days, and sometimes still, the Black Dog was always with me. But Brenda saw it as something she couldn’t compete with, something that was always more important to me than she was.
In a sense that was true, though I didn’t see it as a competition. It wasn’t like I valued my disorder more than I valued her. Feeling miserable was important to me, in the sense that it seemed ever-present, but it was important to me in a bad way – the thing that dragged me down, the thing I fought against, the thing that did make my life a misery. But it was a misery I could not put down, much as I wanted to, even for people I cared about. At the depth of my depression, it was simply a part of me. I am sometimes amazed that I came through it with any friends left. But I have.
To be fair, Brenda also blamed her own misery after her divorce as a contributing factor to our parting. Then there would be four of us present – two people and two miseries – and evidently it was too much.
Most perplexing to me, though, was Brenda’s contention that her growing religious fervor and burgeoning political conservatism contributed to her decision to cut ties. I freely admit to being a liberal and to disliking organized religion, but I have friends who feel otherwise and yet remain my friends. There’s lots we agree to disagree on or simply choose not to talk about. Even my mother and I had profound differences but never gave up on each other.
According to Brenda, her religious and political leanings required “personal responsibility” – including responsibility for one’s moods. As she put it, despite her reactive depression, her happiness was a choice. One that she made and I didn’t.
She compared mental illness with high blood pressure and diabetes – conditions that one must take personal responsibility for treating and trying to control. The fact is, I was trying to control my disorder, with therapy, with medication, and once almost with electroshock. I know she knew this, as once we went to the same therapist.
And that’s why I said, “eh” when I got the letter. By Brenda’s own criteria I was doing my best. And that’s all anyone can do. I couldn’t go back and change my misery, or try harder to find relief. And I couldn’t simply choose to be happy, which I don’t believe is possible for most people like me. If you can manage it, more power to you, and to Brenda.
I think what bothered me most about the letter is that Brenda has a degree in psychology and is teaching psychology in college now. I wonder what her students are learning from her.
Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, friends, mental health, mental illness, my experiences, public perception, social skills
While many people enjoy the surprise element (probably the guests do more than the honoree), even neurotypical people can shy away from the practice. Coming home to a darkened house, only to be greeted by bright lights and loud noise, can be an alarming experience.
For a person with bipolar depression, autism spectrum disorder, PTSD, or other mental conditions, it can be a nightmare.
My husband once decided to throw me a small surprise party. We and another couple were cleaning up an old house while a few friends gathered back at home.
One of the people had actively discouraged Dan from having the party. Robert had experienced depression and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), and knew how difficult such an event would be for him. He also knew about my depression and some of the incidents associated with birthday parties in my mind.
For instance, when I was a young teen, my “best friend” and I were supervising a party of younger children. During the game of Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, while I was blindfolded, she kicked me in the ass. Literally. In front of all the kids.
It was the occasion of my first major meltdown. For years afterward, I would not even admit to having a birthday, much less let anyone celebrate it.
Robert had experienced similar traumas involving groups of children, humiliation, and abuse. He was not able to cope with surprise parties and thought I might freak out as well.
Fortunately, decades had gone by since my traumatic party experience. I had been diagnosed and properly medicated and counseled about my issues. Dan knew me well enough to realize that I could tolerate a small, low-key surprise party. And so I did.
Still, Robert was right to be concerned.
Common events at surprise parties are triggers for many people. My friend Joanie has panic attacks when there’s lightning. Would flash photography set her off? I don’t know, but I don’t want to be the one who finds out. If the party is held in a restaurant, a person who hates being singled out in a crowd of strangers may have problems. People hiding in one’s home could cause flashbacks of a home invasion. My startle reflex is hypersensitive and could easily be triggered by sudden, unexpected shouts of “Happy birthday!”
Even opening presents in front of others can be difficult if one is weak in social skills, appropriate facial expressions, or spontaneous conversation.
So how do you give a surprise party for someone with certain types of mental illness?
If you think you must, ask the person what kind of party he or she would prefer, and abide by those wishes. You can suggest a surprise party, with the time and place being the surprises, but again, abide by the person’s wishes.
Prepare a small, low-key surprise rather than a party. Give a present a day or two before the actual date. Pack a slice of cake in the person’s lunch. Or take the person out to lunch. (Warn the restaurant personnel not to march around singing and waving balloons, if you mention that it’s a birthday lunch at all.)
Do not have party games, unless they are non-threatening ones such as mad-libs or trivia. Forget ones involving physical contact like Twister or ones that involve sensory deprivation like Blind Man’s Bluff.
You may wish to avoid serving alcohol, especially if the honoree is on anti-anxiety medications. Booze-fueled parties tend to become loud and rowdy.
Make it short. Personally, spending an hour with a group of four or more, even if they are all my friends, is about all I can take. And then I want a lie-down afterward.
Personally, I could live my life happily without ever having another surprise party thrown for me (even though the one Dan threw would have to be called a success). Nor will I be upset if I never get invited to another surprise party. I’ll be too busy worrying what it might be doing to the honoree to enjoy myself.
Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: being overwhelmed, childhood depression, friends, mental illness, my experiences, parties, psychological pain, social skills, triggers