Monthly Archives: March 2013

But What is Bipolar Like?

I’ve been catching up with a friend this week, and she was curious to know about bipolar. The reasons why aren’t of particular import — as long as someone wants to educate themselves on the subject, I am happy to offer my experiences and insights. And I figure, it’s probably a good thing to post here too:

scarlet_q‘For me, it was just trying to hunker down and make it day to day without exploding on too many people. I couldn’t do anything in the Air Force because I would have lost my clearance (you can’t have bipolar and top secret, as stupid as that is). I sobered up about a year after moving here, and then just kept hunkering down. I know I wasn’t okay ’cause I kept having to take months off of work because I couldn’t even deal with being around my family (work was, and is currently, at my in-law’s house). It wasn’t until after my daughter was born that I finally found the strength to try to push through for the diagnosis.

Before that, yeah, I’d had friends tell me that they thought I was bipolar, but before moving here, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Once I got here to the UK… I don’t really know what took me so long to getting around to asking for help.

I guess it was as I said before — there’s a big control factor in it. If you don’t have any spoons (, then you absolutely 500% do not have the resources to deal with being dismissed or treated like you’re an attention-seeker. Add in the American phobia of pharmaceuticals after our generation has been told at length that meds will make you a zombie, would you want to risk losing control to lose who you are? Better to deal with the internal rapids, because they are your own (it seems). There is almost a pride to know that you have made it another day on your own steam while your brain tried to kill you (and I do not dramatize there – to live with bipolar is to live with your brain trying to kill you. End of).

I will say that in my favour, I made a commitment from an early age to self-awareness and self-improvement. Obviously, we can only do so much with ourselves, and we can miss the forest for the trees, but it helped me get by. And when the time came that I was… happy? ready, then. Ready to make a commitment to diagnosis and treatment, I made it happen as quickly as I could manage with my lack of resources.’

As I wrote this for my friend, I am happy to share it with you guys for the same reason — I am doing my best to take my brain dysfunction and use it to show what it’s like to live with bipolar. This friend had some understanding from other friends, and while there is a lot of same across those that have bipolar, there are so many different flavours of it, and as individuals, we all have our own story of life with our constant ‘companion’.  So explains some of the past novel with mine, hee hee.


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My Mother and Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish

Some non-Jewish people know what Kaddish is.  Some Jewish people also know what Kaddish is.  I would guess that more Jewish people don’t than do, because of the secularization of the Jewish people due to the Holocaust and subsequent rush to blend in with whatever dominant culture we found ourselves washed ashore in, those who escaped the ovens.

Kaddish, for those who don’t know, is a Jewish prayer that is an integral part of observant Jewish life.  It is best known as the “prayer for the dead,” although death is never mentioned in the prayer itself.  It is, in fact, a joyous song of praise, enumerating the awesome powers and grace of the Almighty.  It is indeed said at Jewish funerals and at each of the three daily communal prayers, on behalf of the departed, for eleven months.  But it is also said many times during each prayer service, as a marker that divides the different segments of the service.  There are wonderful mystical reasons for this, having to do with elevating the congregation up through the layers of world upon world that lead to complete unification with God.  Most religious Jews don’t know these things, but say the prayers by rote.   Much knowledge has been lost in the years of our physical and spiritual exile.

My parents are among the first-generation children of immigrant parents from Russia and Poland who escaped the Holocaust as children, and had no religious background whatsoever.  Correction: my father’s father was the child of a Hassidic rabbi from Prussia, and his mother was the daughter of a rabbi in the Ukraine.  Both were sent out of their respective countries as children, experiencing exploitation and multitudinous horrors on their way to New York City, where they met and became members of the Communist Party, rejecting their religion out of bitterness; so my father was brought up without religion, to endure antisemitism on a strictly genetic/racial basis.

My mother was raised in a mildly religious environment, but it never really rubbed off on her.  She came away with a few legends and fears, but quickly learned how to cook pork ounce she was out of her culturally kosher home, throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

My mother likes to throw things out.  She threw out her rudimentary Judaism once she was free of the parental home.  She likes to keep a tidy house, so she throws out anything that seems out of place.  She has thrown me out many times.  I have kept coming back, out of a childish wish that she would all of a sudden become the Good Fairy Mother, but that has not happened yet and as she is 86 and I am nearing 60, I don’t think it is likely to happen.

My mother has two sides: childlike, and childish.  Her childlike side is quite charming.  She is filled with wonder at a pair of redbirds on a bush, deer in the yard, a squirrel sitting on a railing eating corn she has put out for it.  She adores her cat with something approaching sexual love.

On the other hand, when tired or vexed she will burst into childish tantrums, cursing and belittling, mocking, slamming doors and kicking the dog.  And throwing things out.

The other day she was in a childish mood, a mild one, and concentrating on throwing things out.  She can’t throw me out at the moment, because she needs my help with my invalid father, but she can throw his things out, and that’s what she was up to.  I happened along just as Allen Ginsberg’s volume of poetry Kaddish was hitting the dust bin.

“Why are you throwing that out?” I asked.  I noted that their once voluminous library seemed to have shrunken, and wondered how many old friends of my youth had gone the way that Kaddish seemed destined.

Kaddish,” she shuddered, twisting her face in horror.  I got it.  Kaddish, the “prayer for the dead.”  Death is lingering around our house now.  In a way it is a marvel: every new day a gift, if my father is still living.  Nevertheless it is a spectre hovering, palpable to all.  I understand: Kaddish is an unwelcome resident here.  I fished it out of the waste basket and dusted it off.

“I’ve never read this,” I remarked.

“Take it,” she said. “Get it out of this house.”

I did.  I took it to The Studio, my father’s old studio where I now reside.  And began to read.  On the first page, Ginsberg is mourning his mother’s death, pacing his living room and saying Kaddish aloud, alone, which is something one is never supposed to do because the prayer is so powerful it could be damaging without the power of ten people to say it.  But there he is, the power of his grief holding him safe in his living room, crying out loud the poem of God’s greatness to the Universe.

His mother died of insanity.  It struck her like a brick to the head when Ginsberg was a young child, and he spent his childhood accompanying her on trains and buses from one institution to another, until she finally ended up in Bellevue, the end of the line, and when countless shock treatments failed, the lobotomy.  She quickly grew old, and died at the age of 60.  My age.

He never gave up on his mother, and he never stopped loving her.  His family spiralled into collective dysfunction around her.  But it seemed to me that somehow he was able to extract, and treasure, the remnants of the delightful, dignified woman his mother once was, and carry that in his heart always.  It made me smile and cry.

I have never been able to feel that way about my mother.  Perhaps it has something to do with the stories she likes to tell about how I was such an idiot as a baby to climb out of my crib and fall onto a radiator, necessitating a trip to the emergency room; or another time, when, at seven months of age I disrupted dinner by climbing into a cupboard and getting hold of a bottle of Tabasco Sauce, which I somehow got all over me, burning my skin and prompting another visit to the emergency room.

These things, and more, might explain why I recoil at her touch, and why I break into a cold sweat at the sound of her voice.

Reading Ginsberg caused me to go inside and feel what I would feel when at last my mother dies (which is not likely to be for a very long time, given the longevity of her branch of the family, who often live to be 100 or more).

What did I feel then, when I went inside?

Relief, yes.  And grief: for the mother I never had.

The hangover that is surviving one more week of mental illness

I am sans spawn this morning. My dad showed up at 7 pm last night and asked if they could keep her overnight so she could go on an Easter egg hunt at their church this morning. They’d been talking about it for awhile, so other than the surprise timing, it was fine. It’s been months since I’ve had a break and I always feel guilty when I get one, but she is with her grandparents and she has fun with them, so it’s all good. Though getting a good night’s sleep was weird. It happens almost never.

Another week survived. I feel hungover. Not the kind of hangover that signifies you had a good time prior to it. Life hangover. It was  such a stressful week I didn’t think it would ever end or that the pressure would ever be off of me. Now it is and I am up and functioning but I’m a bit of a zombie going through the motions. It feels hollow. No joy, just functioning.

I have been trying to explain it to the shrink and counselor for awhile now. How my mood may go up for a bit and my functionality is high, but I still don’t feel alive. I still don’t enjoy life. I still can’t see a light at the end of the blackened tunnel (and if I do, it’s probably just an oncoming train.)

I don’t understand why I can’t  bounce back. But something in my chemistry changed after pregnancy (the birth was the easy part) and now I just feel devoid of the warm fuzzy feelings. And that’s not my norm because before at least for a few months of the year after the seasonal affect lifted and I went semi manic, things were wondermous.

I wonder sometimes if my kid doesn’t deserve better than a mom who for all intents and purposes is sleepwalking through life without a touch of joy. I am for the most part content…But happiness continues to elude me. What will that do to her mind? Because my mother was always up and down, more down than up, and it was not a fun life for a kid. I  guess the difference is I am aware of my problems and trying to get help and better myself for my kid. My mom just denied and wallowed.

The counselor once again spewed sunshine about how impressive it is that I am doing so well after switching back to xanax.(I still think the klonopin was having an adverse affect and making me psychotic.) She got to see me on a morning my mood was good. Because shortly after I saw her, it crashed and went into “quiet and broody” and I was antsy to not be around people.

Which of course meant last night my phone was blowing up from R and his wife inviting me and Spook over for drinks and pizza. I uh, developed a hearing problem in which I uh ignored the phone. I appreciate them thinking of us, I really do, and had it not been such a horrid week for me, I might have gone. But I just needed to decompress. I feel guilty now but last night it was like NOOOOO, no more people.

Weird thing is, I don’t mind being with my kid. It’s not that I don’t consider her a person, it’s just different with her. I chose to have her, so whether my mood is amenable to company is not relevant. Others, though, I didn’t choose to bring them into my life therefore it is within my rights to be a hermit and shun contact.

I dunno, I am a hot mess.

Now I need to dig through 6 loads of unfolded laundry for clothes, go get some cat litter, then come back and clean my kid’s room out of toys she no longer plays with. It’s a fucking disaster in there. I am gonna be hauling bags out to the shed for two solid hours. Yay. But I have been itching to do it for weeks now and it was impossible with her here, so I must get on it. I gotta go get cat litter, so the trip into the petri dish cannot be avoided.

Then I am going to vegetate and get my strength reserves up because tomorrow is Easter at my mom’s and who knows how many chunks of my ass she is going to sink her fangs into. I need to steel myself.

Ugh, like yesterday morning, I am beginning to feel a little nauseous. Not sure what that is about. Stress?

Or just a life hangover.

I know the doctor and counselor thinks it’s impressive that I am ambling about in a semi lucid daze accomplishing things but…I want more out of life than being a coherent zombie. Is that really asking too much?


Irritability, Triggered

I’m experiencing a lot of irritability lately. Like way more than usual, more than I expect, more than is reasonable. …

Continue reading »

Better Than (Isn’t Cured)

Living with bipolar can sometimes leave a person feeling isolated.I’ve known all of my life that something wasn’t quite right. Even from a young age, I felt out of sync with everyone around me. As I got older, this widened to a larger and larger gap, to the point where I felt stranded on an island by myself. The reverberations of my mood instability, I understand, was frightening, a turn-off; why would anyone want to subject themselves to such if they could avoid it? And of course, how does one close the gap once it has yawned open so widely?

For that, and many other reasons, getting my bipolar diagnosis was a godsend. Knowing what made me tick officially, plus gave me the tools to rein in the violence of my moods. It has been nothing short of brilliant in knowing that the most recent relationships I’ve developed have no idea of how bad it used to be. It’s brilliant that I don’t have to sit back and watch me scare people away because the way everything felt was so overwhelming that a leaf in a river current had a better chance of survival.

That doesn’t mean that I’m cured, though. Bipolar isn’t exactly something that one can wave a magic wand at and make disappear. Even though my meds are just about to a point where my swings are very slow and less brutal, I know that they’ll never fully go away. Not that I don’t want to know the feelings of ups and downs… I just want them more manageable, bite-sized, not the life-encompassing hell that was undiagnosed and untreated bipolar. I want to have as normal a life as possible, same as anyone else. I think it’s getting there, slowly; there’s a lot of avoidance I have to train out of myself for the nth time. And it’s still no guarantee that the bipolar won’t adapt and find a new way to shiv me in the back; it’s done it before, and it will find new ways to get at me. I know this, and grump at my brain for trying to shoot me in the foot before I can even try to walk. Good thing I’m extremely stubborn, right?

For now though, I will bow to my gratitude that I have friendships gained since diagnosis that are practically unaffected by my bipolar. I will be grateful that I’m still progressing in a better direction. ‘Cause really, if I don’t appreciate the crap out of the good times as they spring up, the bad side of things has won… and screw that bastid. *nods firmly*


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Good Timing

First off, hello to people coming by for the first time, or perhaps the first time in a long time due to the revamp. I’ve been well chuffed with the positive feedback I’ve received, and not only ’cause it validated a bathroom epiphany. It’s mainly good because I feel that it better explains this blog, and my desire to share my life with bipolar to those who choose to come by and read (and perhaps, if I’m lucky, you’ll go and tell friends and share the sharing or something).

The reason the timing is so fortuitous is because, as irony demands, I’m starting this four-day weekend as sick as can be. My husband is the passing-on-the-germs culprit, but I don’t hold it against him. I would rather not be able to empathise with his illness of the past week and a half, but I guess I’m going to have to. It’s pretty bad; I’ve got the urge to crawl back into bed. That is not a common thing for me; me sick resembles me hale in that I’ll still pull myself up to my desk and pootle around online. Beds are only for sleeping for me (well, and that one other thing), so it takes a ridiculous level of puny to make me want to spend awake-ish time there.

I also started my slightly elevated dose of Seroquel last night. I laughed when I opened my bag from the pharmacy, as the three different values I needed were all different brands. I don’t really care as long as it’s the right medicine in the right dose in the right sort of releasing, but it amused me nonetheless. I can’t say at this juncture whether or not it’s particularly useful. The head cold, for one, and the newness of the mild increase for another. I’m still going to try to subscribe to optimism about it all, because it sure beats self-flagellation (as much as bipolar loves doing that, I’m busting my ass to pwn such reactions to things).

I think I will go try to find a beverage now, and see if I can get the room to stop spinning a bit.


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Stress purge

I went. I struggled. I conquered. I got that dude’s wifi set up and it only took three days. Yay me. I felt pretty good about it  but I told R to never ever do that to me again. ASK first and I will tell you what is within my skill base. Though it was nice when the client said he liked my persistence and R was being my cheerleader. Ok, it was also uncomfortable since I handle put downs better than praise, but that’s a whole other post on how screwed up I am in the head.

Had a panic attack at the convenience store while getting R a pack of smokes. Two girls came in-you know, the skinny well dressed chatty girls- and they said something about pants…and I immediately felt my heart skyrocket in my chest, and looked at my pants, programmed for a long time to think everyone is talking about me and insulting me. (Yeah, bullying is harmless, it leaves no marks on a person’s psyche. My ass!)

My mood was stable.

My nerves were not. The traffic thing has gotten pretty bad. I am so scared of having an accident I am going to have one, I swear. But when my senses get overloaded with too much activity going on simultaneously and my brain can’t process it all adequately…It leads to an anxiety attack from hell. Which is not good while driving.

The shop was pretty busy today. Oddly, the ringing phone bothered me more than the customers coming in. I just don’t like phones, they make me nervous. Though I kept waiting for wifi guy to call and tell me something went wrong…That is how little faith I have in myself and things working out for the best.

Came home. Immediately dumped a pitcher of tea on the kitchen floor. My kid was screeching at me over not being able to find her Dora phone. The cats wanted fed. My phone was ringing. And that’[s when it hit me. THIS is the price I pay for daring to have a decent day and feeling good and hopeful. Karma bites me on the ass.

I dealt.

One problem at a time.

Now…she is asleep, everything other laundry folding is done, and I can breathe. After this week, I am not sure I remember how to breathe.

Tomorrow I see sunshine spewer. I have had two good sessions in a row with her, so I am girding my loins for the inevitable off day when her mood clashes with mine and I walk out feeling shittier and more pissed off than when I went in. Maybe I will be surprised. It’s something to hope for, me being wrong. It’s also not a bad thing to anticipate the worst rather than get kicked in the face with it.

Easter weekend. Ugh. Family thing Sunday. With my mom and my sister’s assortment of friends who invade every family get together so that it’s not family at all. I’d love to skip it. I’[m doing the eggs and basket thing for my kid, but otherwise, I just don’t care. I have few days to destress and having to spend part of one of them with my mom stressing me out kind of pisses me off.

In all honesty…I am not having fits of rage or tears or paranoia (much) now.

My mood seems to be creeping up and staying stable.

There’s room for hope.

Cautious optimism, as my old counselor called it.

I’ll take what I can get after the week from hell.

I’m Thinking of a Change

I am thinking that I might be re-theming and renaming this blog in the near future. I have an idea, so fingers crossed that I can cobble something together that looks nice and explains the change. I’ve got Instant WordPress installed on my laptop here and some themes I might consider, so hopefully I’ll figure something out. I’m a bit nervous at the thought of reinventing the wheel, but I also think that the changes will fit better with the finalized purpose of my blog, being sharing my life with bipolar and all the ‘fun’ that entails.

I’m also wondering if this desire to recreate will end up being a damp squib. After all, while I’m pretty sure I’m not mired in depression, I would still say that there’s some squiggly wiggly not-so-stable that makes doing anything a bit of a crapshoot. Add in the fact that I have absolutely no focus on anything, and I rate my chances of doing much of anything productive as slim to nil. Maybe it’ll be better once I start my slightly enlarged dose of the Seroquel… I guess we will see. I’d definitely rate down my chances based on the four day weekend; I know my tendency to mire in Sims and Sim-like objects is strongly encouraged by so much free time!

Anyways, we’ll see. I still figure anything I do this weekend will still be time well spent. I will count it a victory if I manage something productive like a retheme/rename job here, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t manage anything either. The bipolar in the brainbox gets to do enough of that as-is, so I’ll do my best to not overly encourage it.


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Coming Out Alien

When Eric Le Clown of A Clown On Fire asked me to write something for his mental health oriented blog, Rx Black Box Warnings, I knew what I had to do. I had to Come Out. I’ve come out Bipolar to everyone who Needs To Know. I’ve come out Bisexual to everyone to Needs To Know. But I never felt a need to reveal my Alien Self, until this last bout of random mayhem where a “weird boy” shot up a school and killed innocent babies, and suddenly he’s not just “weird,” he’s “mentally ill;” and the press is going wild with speculation regarding what brand of “mental illness” he has, or rather had, because he is no longer alive. Dean Obeidallah, “a former attorney,” commented on CNN’s website:

[ L]et’s show some anger about the fact that almost 10,000 Americans died in gun violence last year and still Congress hasn’t passed a universal background check to ensure that criminals and mentally ill people can’t legally buy guns. (Emphasis mine.)

Criminals and mentally ill people, in the same sentence: in the same breath. For this moment, I ask you to set aside your personal stance on guns and gun ownership, and just look at the bone-chilling message: criminals and mentally ill people are juxtaposed, separated only by the article of speech “and.”

The “former attorney” was issuing a call to action, that we lay aside our outrage at trivial issues like the size of Kim Kardashian’s behind, or what faux pas Joan Rivers made this time, and turn our attention to serious matters like criminals and mentally ill people. Let us lay aside the issue of whether these two groups of people should or should not be permitted to purchase lethal weapons; let us look instead at the intrinsic meaning in juxtaposing the two in the same gasp.

What do criminals and mentally ill people already have in common?

Marginalization. Stigma. Alienation from “mainstream society.”

Who says the young man who opened fire on the movie theater was mentally ill? The media does.

Who says the young man who opened fire on the school was mentally ill? The media does.

And what did the neighbors, the school chums of both of these young men have to say about them? They were nice young men, they were shy, they were loners, maybe bullied because they were “weird.”

I want to know: is “weirdness” a mental illness? Is it in the DSM?

And what about the rest of us weirdos, who do happen to have DSM diagnoses: does that automatically put us on a level with criminals?

I find this bone-chilling. I am definitely weird, and I am definitely not a criminal; but I find that the recent flurry of feet running to limit the constitutional rights of “weird people” lessens my inclination to disclose my diagnoses to anyone who Does Not Need To Know.

And that makes me even more of an Alien: a Stranger in a Strange Land .(1)

Alien spaceship

Beam me up, Scotty, there’s no intelligent life on this planet.

Alien=Anyone who does not belong in the environment in which they are found

= stranger, unknown
~ interloper, intruder, trespasser
foreigner, outsider

1. Robert A. Heinlein borrowed his title from God, who told Abraham in the Book of Genesis that his people would be “strangers in a land not known to them.”

Hate is a bad thing, but I have a LOT of it right now

Yeah, I couldn’t come up with a better title. I went back to do that router set up today, only to find out he bought the thing a year ago and it required a firmware upgrade which the tech I spoke to told me “could fix the problem or destroy the router, it’s a delicate process.” I advise him to either buy a new modem (BELKIN) or find someone more adept with Linksys. (You suck, Linksys, talk about convoluted set up and lack of support!) All that time wasted over Firmware. Over something they  don’t even have adequate support for or otherwise a simple firmware install would not be rocket science that could corrupt the whole router.

He got the Belkin. I went back. I got the wifi up. My netbook connected just fine, desktop was on line.

NOT his laptop.

Fuck you, Vista, you piece of crap. More homework for me and another trip tomorrow all because R had to have faith in me. Fuck him, too.

My mom called as I was going to do the housecall. Which sans Vista would have taken fifteen minutes. Since the guy wanted it fixed NOW (can’t say I blame him) I was over 70 minutes getting my kid, and my mom did not veil her anger. I may not get paid, but damn it, if you need me to leave early, ahead of time is kind of mandatory as I can’t drop everything at that precise moment unless I want to be labeled a flake again, which I am trying NOT to do. Cripes.

The car kept dying on me, no reason why.

Almost got hit by some jackhole yapping on a cell phone.

I didn’t take a xanax before I left this morning and by the time I remembered, I found out I had NONE in my pillcase in my purse.

So I was in total freak out mode.

And while immediate freak out has subsided now that I am home and meds are on board, I am still feeling like a jackass with the iq of pocket lint thanks to R volunteering my services. This makes me look incompetent, when in fact, I am merely ignorant. It’s easy to work with computer systems you are familiar with. Since I don’t (would NEVER) own Vista, and took back my Linksys the same day I bought it due to it being a pain in the ass (my Belkin was set up in 15 minutes), this is unfamiliar territory on all fronts. Because believe it or not, all these little differences in computer settings and OS and router installation and security settings and internet access type- it all makes a huge difference. I have already found three pages of Vista-wifi connectivity problems and I’ve been home 20 minutes. FFS, how can I anticipate this shit and perform properly when I don’t have the information to begin with? Throw in some panic attacks and an impatient client…

Yeah, this worked out well.

Fuck it all.

I am trying to view it as a learning experience and gathering intel, but it has had me feeling like shit for two straight days and I am fed up. I got the damn wifi working, why can’t people deal with their own fucking OS issues? Well, I would have more sympathy if it were anything but Vista. And thus far the two people R has volunteered me to “help” with their pcs…have Vista. It’s like a fuck you from the computer universe. Last time I felt this clusterfucked I was running Windows ME. Migraine Edition.

And what does any of this have to do with mental illness?

The anxiety involved has taken a toll. On my mental state, on my nerves, on my self esteem, on my motivation. I am trying so hard to keep an open positive outlook, to try very hard to get it right, to not hold grudges or let my anxiety cripple me…

But after I get this done, R and I are having a little chat. If he’s just going to continue to do shit like this, then I am out of there. It’s not like I’m losing a paycheck or benefits, or well, anything. It sounds petty, but honestly, if something controls your consciousness to this extent and stresses you out this much, it’s not a healthy thing. Just because someone was a paramedic you don’t ask them to perform brain surgery. Well, just because I can do some computer stuff doesn’t mean I can do it all.

At the end of it all though…

I have my kid. She makes me laugh. Her new thing is “You’re going to jail!” Unless thinking bad things is a crime now, I don’t think so, pumpkin. I hate when the bad thoughts take over. Usually happens when I am on stress overload. It’s hard to find one positive thing when everything currently going on is freaking you out and making you feel (and think) you should just kill yourself because you’re a total failure.

But I’m not a failure as a mom. I suck at discipline (imagine that, I make grown men cry and destroy their psyches!) but I have done pretty well with her. As tough as juggling it all gets, I would not trade her for anything, even if at least once a week I hear “How could you have fallen for all his (her dad’s) lies, are you stupid?”)

Yes, apparently, loving someone makes you stupid.

But to regret him would be to regret Spooky and I simply don’t.


Time to feed my kid.

And ponder some more about my own complete ineptitude.