Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Quiet

Quiet

I am afraid of quiet.

When the house is calm

My brain is not.

There is so much noise

Racket in my head.

What to do today?

Why are you not productive?

Why are you worthless?

 I can’t silence the sound of the negative.

Silence the hurt and the pain.

The grief that resurfaces.

A motherless child

Afraid of the chatter.

The quiet opens the door

I play music and TV

Just to drown out the sounds.

The hushed tones scare me

The monsters wait for me

In the quiet.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Paragon

“Time to eat!” my mother called.
I heard her words but I had made a vow to myself that I was going to finish this book before the night was over. I was sprawled across my bed reading as fast I could letting my imagination take me to places I had never been before.
I hated my reality and so you could always find me lost in a book trying to escape the cramped quarters, trying to survive in a house full of people.
There were 9 of us. 6 girls and 3 boys. My parents resources were limited but they did everything they could to feed us and take care of us.
Because of this, when my mother said the food was ready to eat, you needed to be in the kitchen getting your plate.
I, lost in my imagination, wasn’t ready to come back to the real world. I laid there with my nose in a book for another hour.
Finally, I came up for air and decide that I was hungry now and wanted something to eat. My mother was in the kitchen washing dishes when I arrived searching for food.  My mom used to have this huge pot that we called the Jeffrey Dahmer pot. Okay, I know that may sound sick and creepy, but this pot was big enough to cook a body in.  This was the pot that she used to cook pounds and pounds of spaghetti. Well, that night was spaghetti night and inside the pot was nothing but remnants of spaghetti that was long gone.
I was confused.
I went to my mother and I asked her, “Where is my food?”
For a second she didn’t comprehend what I was saying.
 I asked again.
“Momma, did you take my food out?”
She finally realized what I was saying.
“You didn’t eat?” she asked.
I shook my head no.
With all the kids running around eating and making plates, she overlooked the fact that there was one kid missing.
I could see her shoulders slump and a look of sadness tugged at her beautiful features. I could tell she felt bad about the situation. She sighed and walked over to the oven. She pulled out a plate of spaghetti. It was her plate that she had sat aside for herself. She handed it to me. I knew what this gesture meant. This was all the food left. If I ate this, she wouldn’t have anything to eat.
I ate the food and my mother didn’t eat. I always remembered that. There may have been other times that she didn’t eat but I remembered that time because it meant so much to me. I almost wanted to give it back to her but I was a kid and I was hungry so I ate it.

My mother was a paragon of integrity, motherhood and self sacrifice. She is a person I model every day of my life. She always sacrificed for her 9 children until the day she died. We never had much money but she made sure we had everything we needed even if that meant she would go without.
I am the mother I am because of her. When my daughter had issues with anyone, she always knew that she could come to me and we would figure things out. I was always there for them.
My mother is dead and gone and yet she influences me every day. As I parent, I think about my parents and in particular my mother.
Did she suffer from a mental illness? Yes, I believe she did. Did that stop her from being the best mom she knew how to be? No it did not. 
She shows me that even though I have Bipolar disorder, I can still be a good and decent human being. I can be a great mother, wife and friend and not end up on a 20/20 about me murdering someone and using “Bipolar disorder” as a defense.

I am a walking example that this diagnosis is not the end. It is only the beginning of a new chapter in your life. I am ready to fill that new chapter with love faith, family and new adventures. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Outside

On the outside, my life seemed perfect. . I had no reason to complain. I lived a pretty successful life compared to where I had come from. I had a loving husband, beautiful smart talented daughters and the opportunity to pursue my dream as a writer.
On the inside, everything was hanging by an incredibly thin thread. The slightest breeze would send everything crumbling down. One false move and everyone would see it was all a facade and inside I was a mess.
I had come to terms with the fact that deep down I was a fraud and unfit for these people I called my family and friends. I lived knowing that if I let anyone get too close or see too much they would know and I would be alone. It was one of the reason I didn’t feel I had close friends. My husband had friends from kindergarten, friends that have stuck by him since he had memories but I was stuck envying him.
Outside, I seemed to have it all together. On the inside I was spiraling down and had no way of pulling myself back again. I did a good job of hiding what I was going through. At least I thought I was doing a good job.
 I went in to talk to my psychologists. I was telling her about the pills and the effects they had on me when something told me to just mention about my shopping issue. I began to just casually talk about my problem with shopping.

“So, it is just getting out of control.” I said. Not thinking that anything could be done about it.
She seemed concerned. My admission seemed to give her pause.
“Do you find yourself shopping even when you know that you can’t afford to or when you know you don’t have the money to?”
I nodded.
“Does it happen after bouts of depression?”
I nodded.
“Hmmm…” she said.
Now I was anxious and wondering when I could leave so I could take my Xanax medication.
“I’m looking at all your other symptoms and other issues you are having and I am thinking you may have bipolar II disorder.”

I knew my eyes were as round as saucers. Bipolar II? What the hell does that mean? I remember in college I had a roommate that was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. She was a very sweet girl and I loved having her as a roommate but there were times when she would sleep all day. She would fall asleep at night and would not wake until about 6 pm or 7 pm the next evening. I would poke her to make sure she had not died in her sleep. When she was awake she would be extra bubbly and full of energy. Sometimes she would go home for the weekend and just not come back on Monday. By Tuesday I would call her mom to make sure she was alright.
Wednesday she would sneak in our room while I was in class and leave me notes apologizing and telling me she was so sorry that she made me worry.
I remembered her and it was strange how much I missed her as a friend when she eventually dropped out of school and never came back. I don’t really like a lot of people but I really liked her. Maybe our connection was because we were both going through the same tough depression and being away from home for the first time was particularly hard.
I remember when I came home and told my oldest daughter that I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I thought they were going to freak out or be as shocked as I was. She kind of nodded and said “I figured that was what they were going to say.”
I was even more shocked. It seemed my family thought that I was Bipolar before my doctors even discovered it. They could see my downward spiral, my mood swings, my sudden urges to rearrange the entire house and then my depressions where I would just sit on the couch for weeks and not shower.  Then I would decide to go and buy fabric and sew things all over the house and start making the kids clothes.
They were already figuring out what could be driving me before I was told by professionals.

It was because of them and my husband that I got the help I needed. On the inside my world was falling apart and though a bipolar II disorder diagnosis was not what I was expecting or what I needed…it was a relief to know what was wrong with me. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

No Sleep

Sleep is a necessity. It is a necessity that I neglected to take advantage of. I didn’t sleep for years and it only aided and added to my depression and sometimes to my mania.
It became worse when my mother died in 2010. It always took me a long time to fall asleep. When my head hits the pillow it takes me at least 20 minutes to calm the storm that swirls around in my head thinking about the next day and all the things I did wrong. Eventually I would began to think about my mother and grief would push me out of the bed and force me to find something to do to keep my mind off the pain.
Not sleeping made me feel bad all the time. It made my depression worse. It is hard to be a good mom when you’re not sleeping. I would go to bed at 4 am and then up at 6 am to get the kids ready and off to school. Then I would pass out from exhaustion waking up to find my youngest child who I stayed home with sitting on my back eating chips. Instead of taking her places and having fun with her, I was sleeping while she sat alone.

Instead of depression, sometimes it would lead to extreme mania. When I am having a manic episode nothing really matters. I only have time to focus on these projects. I would neglect the needs of my family and friends thinking erroneously that it was helping them in the long run.
I would become so energetic that I would get these grandiose ideas that felt I needed to implement right at that second. I have been known to take on more projects than I could handle. I started a publishing company; a body scrubs company, a jewelry making and selling company and a holiday basket company. Only one of these companies that made money was my publishing company. The rest were just hemorrhaging money.  It was taking a toll on my family because on the weekends I was always gone to craft fairs selling my items.
On top of spending all my time working on these projects I was taking care of the household and not sleeping. I would be up at all hours of the night making scrubs, writing, making jewelry and playing candy crush.
Anything other than sleeping.
I also started making websites, a cooking blog and three writing blogs. I maintained seven social media sites and I spent all my time doing that.
I thought, “These projects are going to make so much money my family is going to be so happy.” That is never the case.
Besides my writing, nothing else really made that much money and I was taking savings from my family. It took my husband sitting me down and making me keep all my receipts and keeping track of it all. That is when I realized none of it was worth it.
That doesn’t stop me the next time. Then instead of starting new businesses, I start three or four novels at once. I burn all the energy and would have nothing left for my family.
Sleep wasn’t a priority.
Eventually it began to change my body’s sense of time. I began to consider day time as the time I slept and night time as the time I worked and ate. It caused me to gain weight and I was miserable. The weight gain only began to make me depressed but I no longer felt good about myself.

It took medication and a conscious effort to change. At first I began to take sleeping pills hoping that would help me. That was before my diagnosis. Once I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I was given medication that could only be taken at night and would leave me drowsy. Soon I was going to bed at a normal hour with enough energy to get up in the morning and be productive.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mania

 I sat sobbing one afternoon.
 It was not unlike many other afternoons I must confess.
However, this time I was crying and I actually knew what the hell I was crying about. I was crying uncontrollably and I could not stop. I buried my face in a pillow trying to catch my breath.
There was a spot deep down inside of me that was searing and in pain. That spot was suddenly now exposed and the pain it brought felt unbearable.
My kids were fine, the cats, my husband…everyone was fine. No one n my family had died recently but there I was, laying across my bed crying like there was no tomorrow.
“Hand over your credit cards” was still playing in my head. I kept thinking, what was I going to do without my credit cards?  How was I going to feel better?
My husband didn’t expect this response. He was dumbfounded. I had been spending way too much money and he was trying to save us from total destruction from Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Target.
Through my tears, my brain was logically trying to access the level of the threat. It came to the conclusion that something was wrong here. I shouldn’t be in this much pain over credit cards. I knew that what I was experiencing was a bad response to a sudden jolt of reality.
It was the end of a manic episode for me and I was not taking it very well.
Most people don’t understand what it means to be manic. They assume you are just in good spirits or extraordinarily excited.
When sufferers of Bipolar disorder experience mania they can have an abnormally elevated irritable mood. They have an inflated self esteem, insomnia, extremely talkative, and/or get involved with extremely risky behavior that usually has bad consequences. It can also lead to psychosis and hospitalization.
I experienced all those symptoms except psychosis and hospitalization even though there were occasions my husband entertained the idea of putting me on a 72 hour hold at the hospital. My mania was making me appear psychotic.
Mania was always a welcomed friend after bouts of depression so much so I never realized when it was getting out of hand. When I was manic, I would start to feel better about myself. I tried to give up food as my manic vice, but that only led to other ways to cope.
I began to shop and shop all the time. When my husband would tell me I needed to stop spending money so we could save or have basic necessities, I would try to stop but then I would get that urge and before I knew it I was spending money again.
I know many people say, “I’m a shopaholic.” And yes there are people that love to shop. It becomes a problem when you are spending more than you have and immediately afterward you feel like shit and want to kill yourself. I mean literally kill yourself. End it all because you bout three vases, a scratching post, hundreds of dollars in groceries that were not needed and other things we could live without just to push down the demons of depression.
It is more than just a normal shopping problem. It is a “I have to shop or I might die,” problem. When you have to lie just to buy some curtains you know you have a problem. I would take out credit cards without telling anyone and just spend until I max them out. When I came home I would pray my husband didn’t come home first then I would put everything away. When my husband noticed anything new, I would put it off as something I have had for years that he must have overlooked.
While I was spending the money, I felt amazing. It was like a drug that I was addicted to. It was one of the best feelings ever. I would just grab whatever I wanted and it felt so good. I don’t have expensive taste and that is what I used to explain away my problem. “Well at least I don’t buy Gucci or anything.” Yet, when you’re spending $100 at Dollar Tree on NOTHING you have a problem.
Before my diagnosis, I didn’t understand that this was a part of my disorder. I assumed something was wrong with me but I just thought I was a bad person. I could not explain to my husband why I kept doing this. Why I took out credit card after credit card and lied about it. He assumed I didn’t care and planned to just spend us out of house and home.
Now that we know what is really going on we have begin to curtail my spending together.

It took medication and lots of work. It took cutting up credit cards, paying them off and closing accounts to get me and my family back on track. We still have credit cards that need to be paid off from my manic shopping and spending. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Language

Languages are beautiful.
I spent over six years studying Spanish and I have a desire to learn Italian and French. I love and respect all of the many languages of the world.
With that being said, it is also imperative I point out how important good communication is between two parties. When two people do not speak the same language it is difficult to have good communication.
Good communication is especially important when you are lying naked and vulnerable on a massage table and the masseuse has no idea what you are saying. And…that masseuse has torture devices as fingers.
If you thought I was going to go into something profound about the history of language or something you would be wrong. I am here merely to tell you about an encounter I had on my birthday.
My husband got me a gift and as you can tell it was a trip to get a massage. It was a local place near us. I had been there before and rather enjoyed myself. Why wouldn’t I go again?
This time they hired someone new or she was new to me. I noticed when I came in to pay she didn’t speak English very well. She was a short Asian lady with short dark hair. As I said before, I only studied Spanish in school so I knew we had a slight hiccup.
I shrugged it off and thought, I don’t like to talk when I am getting a massage and what she has to do shouldn’t require much talking on her part so we should be ok. I went into the room and stripped down to my underwear. I got on the table, placed the sheet on me and laid on my chest making sure I left my back exposed.
She entered after and started some music. The soft sound of the waves crashing into the sandy beaches played through the speakers. It was a calming and relaxing sound and I settled in, anticipating a nice relaxing massage.
Then it began.
She began to knead me like I was dough and she wanted to reshape me into something else. I winced in pain as she focused on my upper back. I didn’t say anything at first. I thought, maybe it will get better. There could be some kinks she needs to get out.
Suddenly she did a move on my back that sent sharp pains throughout my body and that was enough.
I sat up.
“Stop! Stop!” I said.
She froze.
“Softer, please!”
She looked confused eyes wide.
I took a deep breath.
“Please, a little softer.”
She nodded.
Then the torture began again. Just a tiny, tiny bit softer.
“Please, softer.” I said trying not to sound too mean.
“It’s okay?” she asked.
No, it wasn’t okay, but I didn’t know what to do. I was already naked, the fee had been paid and I knew she couldn’t understand what I was saying.
“Yes, it’s okay,” I answered and lay back on the bed.
When the painful massage was over, she left room to let me dress. I started to redress thinking I’m going to need a massage to make me feel better about the massage I just had. Suddenly I heard a knock on the door.
“I’m not ready,” I said standing in only my pants and bra.
Of course she doesn’t understand me because she can’t speak English very well. So, she just walks right in and begins clearing the sheets off the table.
I sighed, dressed and exited. I left her a tip anyway.  If leaving me battered and bruised was what I had wanted…she did an amazing job.

So, that was my story about language barriers and how I ended up with a sore back the morning after my birthday.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Kittens

Grief is a difficult thing to overcome. My mother died in 2010 and in the next five years I would lose many more relatives that I was close to. Grief was all consuming at one time and I was pushed into a downward spiral of depression.

Good thing for me I have a service cat that helps me with my anxiety and my depression.
My Service Cat named Pat

When my mother died she was in possession of something that I have always loved and would always pull me out of my depression. She was the owner of a three week old kitten. It was the cutest kitten that I had ever seen. He was tiny and orange and tan in color. He was still attached to his mother and had not been weaned yet.

It was one thing that my mother and I had in common. We both held a strong bond with kittens and cats and could not see our lives without having one wandering and lying around the house. When I was little my mom bought me an expensive encyclopedia about cats and the different breeds. I studied it and learned all about cats and their behavior.

The stray cats in the neighborhood were fed by my mother and me. Even if it was the last slice of bologna in our poor house I would feed it to the neighborhood cats. I would wake up in the morning
and find cats waiting outside my window for me to feed them.

The last conversation I had with my mother was a call from her about the three week old kitten she had. I had just been home that weekend and was able to hold and cuddle with the kitty. We talked awhile and then we ended the call. That was a Tuesday. That Sunday she was gone and I was left with the kitten that I named after her.

Since her death he has been my service cat. Whenever I think of her or miss her I cuddle with him. He is also attuned to my anxiety and when I am sad. If I show the least bit of anxiety he comes over and rubs my leg with his head. 

That is why I love kittens and cats. It was why I adopted another cat a year after we moved here from Indiana. Now, he is no service cat. He for the most part drives me crazy. But, my cats are good at pulling me out of my depression on some days and those days when they can’t pull me out of it, they are there when I cry to comfort me and to cuddle.