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. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jump

I was a full grown adult when I learned to swim. Oh, I mean a full grown adult who was married with three kids when I learned to swim. My irrational anxiety induced fear of drowning in water that came up to my neck…water I could stand up in and it would only come to my chin kept me from learning.

Eventually, because my kids were learning and I didn’t want to have that fear anymore, I paid an instructor through the city to teach me how to swim. It took a lot for me to talk my brain out of panicking every  time I entered the water. I learned to float on my back and it took another two weeks before I could learn to float on my stomach.

One thing I noticed every time I went for lessons was that my swim instructor would always jump into the water. She jumped in without a care in the world. I on the other hand would ease in gently still afraid of going completely under water.

I realized that the way I entered the pool was how I entered my life. I was never spontaneous or adventurous. I was always cautious. It also reminded me when I played poker in college. I was incredibly good at Texas Hold ‘em poker but I was still very cautious. My husband was the “I’m all in!” type and I was more “let’s just bet a little at a time” type. I never wanted to take a substantial risk.

33 years of this and I realize…I’m bored with always playing it safe. I hate that my anxiety keeps me from just letting go and having some fun. When I am having a manic episode sometimes I am able to throw caution to the wind and have some fun, but mania “fun and uninhibited pleasure” normally always leads to regret and depression. I never make the best decisions when I’m manic.

My goal is to purposefully make the decision to do something not in my little box of comfort. I want to engage in an activity I would not normally do yet something that I would not regret. I just got that opportunity when my friend invited me on a Girl’s weekend in Las Vegas.

My friend would be driving me and a few other ladies to Vegas in her van. I was down to have some fun without my kids or my husband, It sounded wonderful that I would only have me to take care of for a weekend. The trip to Las Vegas was not the anxiety inducing part of the adventure. Oh no! The problem is that I have to drive to Santa Clarita and meet up with my friend before we head to Vegas.

I may never have mentioned this before but…I am TERRIFIED of driving through the mountains. I was born and raised in Indiana. There are no mountains in Indiana so I fear driving through them. Whenever we go to LA or anywhere in southern California, I always make my husband drive.

My brain tells me “You are literally going to die. You are going to fall of the mountain and die. That is your fate.”


However, I’m doing it guys. I am driving alone to Santa Clarita and I’m going to Las Vegas. It is hard to shut my brain up and to get rid of the thoughts of failure or doom. I live with those types of thoughts on a daily basis but I am tired of being bored with my life and want to jump in the pool. I want to jump in despite the fear I have. 


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Invest

My husband and I spend a lot of time discussing our investment and what we should do with our money. To be honest, usually he discusses it while I drift off into my own brain thinking about the next thing I have to wash, clean, prepare or take care of.

My mind is a battlefield. And I spend most of my day maneuvering through it to make sure my kids are taken care of, my husband has what he needs, my friends have my support until there is not much left for me to hold onto.

While I listened to my husband discuss investing our finances, I realized that I spend little time investing in myself. I spend a good portion of my time investing in those around me whether it is time, money, support or an ear to listen. I based my worth on how much I can help others. Maybe if I helped everyone else, that will make me happy. 

I discussed this with my therapist. I feel that I am only worth something when I can give to others. If I give to others then maybe they will remember me and just maybe they will appreciate me and see me as someone they can rely on and someone worthy to be a part of this world. So, I give and give and give. I give to charities, I give to my family and I give to strangers on the street. I give money, time and emotional currency. There is no limit to what I will give and how much of it I will hand over to the first one to ask me. 

I have always felt that if I didn’t give everything that I had in me I would not be loved. No one would care about me or bother with me. Yes…it is me trying to buy love. Even from strangers. 

I don’t have to tell you that too much of a good thing can be bad, bad, bad. Too much giving left me depleted, especially when some of those I gave to didn’t give in return. Not that that was the reason I gave in the first place.  I gave to the people in my life because I wanted to be there for them and support them in any way that I could.  I did this…I do this without wanting anything in return. Yet if I do not take care of myself I won’t replenish my stock and will not have anything left to give.

The point I want to make if this. It wouldn’t be selfish of me if I dedicated some time to invest in my hopes, dreams and desires for a change. The more I enrich myself, the more I have to give. I also have to learn that giving does dictate my worth. I am already worthy of love by just being me. I do not need to buy my stake in this universe and I do not need to buy people’s love and affection. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Human

There is a song that I love by the singer/songwriter Christina Perri.  It’s called “Human”. In the song she expresses how she can do and accomplish many things. However, she is not a machine. She can only do so much.

When I am suffering from a manic episode, I can feel super human. I feel an urge to accomplish my mile long to-do list all in one day. When I am engulfed in a bout of hypomania, it’s difficult for me to see that I’m only human and not a machine. I have limitations that I find difficult to understand.

The result? I usually end up depressed and overwhelmed. When people ask me to stretch and bend to accommodate them, I usually do…feeling that I must be more that what I am. I don’t say “No, I already have too much on my plate.” I just go and do and refuse to breathe or take a break.

I’m too ashamed to let other people know that I’m only human. I bleed when I get hurt, I get overwhelmed, I am easily embarrassed and most importantly I just need a break from the world sometimes. I feel like this makes me a bad mother, wife and a bad friend if I don’t go beyond my own human capabilities.



I am learning now that it’s okay to take time out for myself. Falling apart and feeling overwhelmed are what makes me human and being human is a beautiful thing. Just because I have these feelings does not make me less of a mom, a wife or a friend. I will not break , I am not fragile. I am only human and I will persist. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grow

You’re never too old to grow.  It took a lemon tree to reinforce that in my mind.
I’ve never been excited about flowers or plants growing in my yard. When I see flowers and fruit trees I think of insects. I hate insects of all kinds and I include butterflies in that lineup.
Recently I moved and discovered I now have growing in my backyard is a lemon tree and an Oroblanco tree. I was apprehensive about the plants when we first moved. I had no intention of going anywhere near them. I was hoping that the gardener would take care of them and I wouldn’t have to bother.
Then the trees started to get fruit. My family was delighted. I remember the day I actually went out there and stared at the trees. I just glared at them not sure what to do. So many thoughts went through my head.

Lemons from my tree.
Are there bugs on the trees?
What kind of weird insects would these trees attract?
Do insects burrow inside of these types of fruit?
Will picking these fruit bring bugs into my house.
Are the fruit safe to eat?
Will we die if we eat them?

My family had no such worries. They tried the Oroblancos (a fruit we had no idea existed) and they used the lemons to make lemonade. I tried to hide my fears. The thought of having the fruit in my house made me uncomfortable and feel out of control. Normally when I get that way my anxiety starts to peak. After awhile my fear began to subside. I began myself to use and eat the fruit. That may seem like a small feat but it was huge for me.
Oroblancos (sweet grapefruit)
Those trees in their growth helped me to grow as well. The fruit trees gave me the courage to move outside of my comfort zone and ignore the paranoid thoughts that plague me. Living with Bipolar disorder and anxiety makes me much more cautious than I want to be. It makes me hesitant to branch out and envelop myself in the world around me.
My fear of stepping into situations that make me uncomfortable consumes me most of the time. It stifled my growth and my ability to reach for or to want for more than what I have now.

It’s never too late to grow. With fruits from a lemon tree I have grown. Though it was a tiny bit every opportunity I have to move forward I will take. It is a step forward in my process with my mental illness. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Freedom (In honor of Black History Month)

I suffer from social anxiety disorder. Social Anxiety disorder is a condition when I fear situations where I may be judged. I am constantly worried of being embarrassed, humiliating myself, offending someone and being offended by someone and not having the courage to stick up for myself.  I tend to spend way too much time over analyzing my performance after social interactions. Because of this I tend to avoid social interactions if I can.
When I was in middle school I didn’t have a choice. My teacher required, for black history month, that we find a poem or a story to read in front of the class. It had to be about freedom and how to obtain it. We needed to find something that encapsulated the civil rights movement and present that to the teacher and the class. I began to get anxiety afraid that I would not be able to pull this off. The thought of presenting in front of the class brought about a wave of nausea and uncertainty.
Yet, I was a nerd and receiving an A on this project became paramount. I needed to get over my social anxiety in this instance and I needed to do it as soon as possible. So I searched and searched until I found the perfect poem. I knew it was the right fit when I found it. 
This is the poem…



MIDWAY, by Naomi Long Madgett

I've come this far to freedom and I won't turn back
I'm climbing to the highway from my old dirt track
I'm coming and I'm going
And I'm stretching and I'm growing
And I'll reap what I've been sowing or my skin's not black
I've prayed and slaved and waited and I've sung my song
You've bled me and you've starved me but I've still grown strong
You've lashed me and you've treed me
And you've everything but freed me
But in time you'll know you need me and it won't be long.

I've seen the daylight breaking high above the bough
I've found my destination and I've made my vow;
so whether you abhor me
Or deride me or ignore me
Mighty mountains loom before me and I won't stop now.

It empowered me to get in front of the class and present my poem with power and strength. Civil rights and black empowerment was the purpose of this poem but for me it meant more. My social anxiety is a hard thing to live with and this poem showed me that I could accomplish things despite the hardships. It meant more than being black or being proud of my blackness but that I could stand up for myself and overcome in many ways in my life.
“And I’ll reap what I’ve been sowing…” showed me that if I wanted a different outcome in life I had to reap it. In that moment I felt free, in that moment, from my social anxiety.

 In case you were wondering I received an A+ grade