hard!!

It's Not Always About You (Me)

Dear Me,

I know you’ve spent many years perfecting your sick and crazy-making thinking patterns. I know you come by it honestly and that it’s hard for you to stop and think things through sometimes. I get it.

But, maybe now is a good time to talk about some things currently happening that you might be fooled into thinking are about you. For example –

1. When your husband comes home, tired and a little cranky, it is because he had a really long day at work and then a two hour commute in traffic. It’s not because you didn’t fold his Tshirts the ‘right’ way or do the dishes by five or because you look ugly. It’s not about you.

2. When you run out of milk over night and there is none for cereal in the morning, it’s because PEOPLE DRINK IT and then it goes away. See how that works? It’s not because you are a terrible wife/mother. Also? Other people are perfectly able to purchase milk and bring it home. You are not the only one that has, you know, arms and legs.

3. When you hear that friends in another state got together and you weren’t invited, it’s probably because you don’t live on the east coast in the same city as them. It’s not because you suck and they hate you and think you’re ugly and stupid. Seriously. It’s not about you. Feel free to make your own friend get-togethers where you live. (I did! Yay for me!)

4. When someone you are very close to, that you love immensely, that you would die for, tells you something about a horrifying experience that happened a few years ago, they are upset because of what happened to them. They are not mad at you. They are not telling you it is your fault. They aren’t even asking you to fix it. Seriously, can you think of anything more self-centered than taking someone’s hellish situation and making it all about you? No, you can’t. So, sit there and listen and empathize and bear witness to the horror and love them as much as you can. Don’t turn it on yourself make it an excuse to self-medicate or self-harm. Be smart and strong. It’s not about you.

5. When the weather turns ugly and it rains and stays cloudy for days, it is not because the entire universe is conspiring to keep you down. It’s because that is WHAT WEATHER DOES sometimes. So, throw on a sweater and your comfy slippers with a good cup of coffee and try to enjoy a little snuggle time.

I hope this has been helpful and that you keep it close by in case you need an easy reference sheet for upcoming situations. I have faith in you. I believe you can do it.

Lots of love,
Me

PS. You aren’t ugly and stupid. Next time we’ll discuss how negative thinking can influence your day.

Biding Time

~start here~

My alarm goes off and the first thing I think is, aaaaaaaah crap, I have to do this again? This getting up thing? Gaaaaaaah.

I review the reasons my life is so hard including gems like having to use an automatic dishwasher to clean my dishes. Ugh. And having so many clothes, they barely fit in the closet. Boo hoo. And who could forget having to shower in hot water in an inside bathroom? Using pear scented body soap and 9$ a bottle shampoo? Woe is me.

I make the coffee, sit down to check email and Facebook and Flickr and Twitter and express a desire to own cowboy boots. Cute, supple ones. And maybe red.

Finally (sigh) I begin to work and try and make sense of the notes I scribbled sometime between 2:15 and 3:45 am early this morning for the screenplay I’m working on. Wearing my slipper socks (I wish I owned these in a size 10) on my pedicure-neglected feet propped up on the ottoman which is covered with the red and black Navajo designed wall carpet that hung on my dad’s office wall for over 20 years, that I now own because I out-whined a sibling a few years ago, I note the heat turning on and pull my sweater a little closer to my neck.

Staring at the screen, I begin to review the first world problems that I’ve almost allowed to ruin my morning while Iceland is completely falling apart and people are scared, angry and rioting in the streets. And insane government officials try to lie and corrupt. And helpless animals are paying for the very definition of people with too much time on their hands.

And then I remember I live in the USA where we just elected Obama and I feel like I’ve actually received too many presents at Christmas and it’s almost garish and greedy.

I sip my coffee and begin to type.

~fin~

(In case you wanted to check out my pores and sunspots and the luggage under my eyes, I’ve provided this photo:)

leah_jan_09

Hookah

We’re completely out of the old house. Turned the keys in and everything. I sincerely hope we don’t have to do any moving again for a long, long time.

The new house has a small deck built into the side yard. It’s all by itself and has a view if the neighbors would cut their tree down. I’m sure at one time the view was awesome.

Before we were even moved into the house, Devon claimed the deck. He has a hookah and likes to smoke with his friends a few nights a week. I used to smoke. At some times I smoked a lot. And it took me about 14 tries to really kick it. I still will have the occasional clove cigarette one or two times a year with friends but the day in and day out of smoking is gone and good riddance. It takes so much to be a dedicated smoker.

Anyway, I go back and forth over whether I’m being a good mom or not when it comes to the hookah. It’s fun to go outside and talk to Dev and his friends. I see him more now than I used to and when he moves out on his own in a few months, I’ll see him hardly at all since he’ll undoubtedly move the hookah to the new house. But am i reinforcing a bad habit? Am I telling him that I think smoking is good? I’ve even tried the hookah myself. Am I setting a bad example?

Devon is over 18 so in my mind, it’s his choice whether to smoke or not and I’m glad it’s not cigarettes. I’m glad it’s an occasional thing and legal as opposed to him and his friends drinking beers or something I’d have moral and ethical qualms about. But, I still worry. Knowing what we know about lung cancer it seems wrong to facilitate and/or participate. Except I don’t really feel bad about it. And it sure is nice having him around.

Medication

I’ve been tired. 14-16 hours of sleep a day tired. I thought it had to be my thyroid but those numbers came back perfect. Not just good – perfect. Which kind of leaves depression as the only culprit. The only thing is that I don’t feel particularly sad. I’m not weepy. I just have negative drive or something. Like sleeping sounds soooo much better than anything else. Ever. And it’s such a drain to do anything like go to the grocery store or put away the clothes. My arms are heavy. My brain is not sharp. I’m dull.

My therapist says I need to go back to my shrink and tell her I need an increase in my medication. Only I don’t want to because I don’t want to be on ANY medication and getting on more sounds so awful and so sad that I resist. And sleep.

It’s funny how often I think I don’t need to be on meds. I think about it almost daily and decide that actually, no, I don’t need them. I take them because I choose to but I could get off them if I wanted to. And then I think, how about tomorrow? Tomorrow sounds good. And then tomorrow rolls around and I’ll mention something to Joe about how I think I might not, in fact, need to be on meds and it’s not until I see his face that I realize I’ve just done it again. I’ve talked myself out of medication when we’ve already decided that I NEED TO BE ON MEDICATION like, a million times.

When I go to to the shrink, I’ll think – this time I’ll ask her if she thinks I can get off my meds because I don’t need them anymore. Her response? ‘How many times are you going to ask me that, Leah? You’ve asked me that almost every time you’ve come in the past few months.’ And I don’t believe her because I swear I JUST HAD the idea this one time but why would she lie?

Celebrity Rehab

My latest television obsession is Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. It’s like watching Surreal Life and Intervention at the same time. The celebrities are mostly washed-up as far as stardom goes but most seem to really want to make a change in their life. The exception being Jeff Conaway whose slurred mumblings, seizures, DTs and vomiting spells STILL don’t create the fire under his seat to want to change. Also, the Baldwin brother drives me batty with all his creepy ‘I’m the therapist, too’ talk and guilt trips he tries to put on other people. It’s obvious he’s been to a lot of therapy and he knows how to talk the talk but he just doesn’t do it well. He doesn’t really know how to help people, he just knows how to make them feel guilty.

I watch Celebrity Rehab with the same fervor that I watch Intervention or any documentary on eating disorders – I’m reminding myself where I don’t want to be. I’m living proof that you can overcome addictions of many kinds and there is something about watching other people go through the experience that is so compelling to me. I think it’s the same kind of reaffirmation you get from going to AA meetings. It’s good to see people working to overcome and working through their shit.

Dr. Drew’s (who you may know from Loveline) approach reminds me of many of the good doctors and therapists that I’ve been lucky enough to know over the years. He’s straight to the point, no holds barred but all with an air of confidence that you can do it! He centers the patients within a few moments of talking with them and you can immediately see where the reality TV wears off and the real therapy begins.

So much of life (for many people) is avoiding real feelings and situations. And once you start avoiding with drugs or something else, the something else starts to take over and I don’t think you know when it stops being something you do ‘for fun’ and it begins to be something you can’t stop doing. But, one day, you wake up and can’t remember the last weekend or weeknight for that matter that you didn’t get high or get smashed or go home with a random stranger or a friend with benefits and you’re broke and broken and you start to feel in your gut that maybe, just maybe, your life is not really in your control anymore. And then you score some Meth or Coke and forget all about it for a few more hours.

Watching these sex, drug and alcohol addicts coming to a place where they can see how to make changes is absolutely fascinating to me. As is watching them backslide and then try again. I remember it all.

I have nights where I can’t sleep because I’m remembering some of those times where I was willing to do just about anything to score some drugs and I didn’t care who I hurt or what it cost me. I cringe and say some forgiveness affirmations to myself and I try to shut out the visual images in my brain and fall asleep. But usually, it takes a long time to move on from those thoughts to something else. My addiction times have really scarred me and I have no fail-safe way to really and actually forgive myself for all the damage I did. I know it’s not healthy to dwell on it and I know it’s not helping me. But I can’t figure out how to let it go.

Always Me

I feel the need to rove. To travel. To roam the planet. I’ve had these feelings before and I’m sure I’ll get them again. Over and over again. It’s an itch under my skin that I just can’t get to because my fingernails are too short or my arms aren’t long enough to reach.

I want to go to Paris. Or down the street. Back to see my parents or my sister. I want to go to the beach and the movies and walk the rows at Target.

Remember when you used to drive down the freeway with the radio turned up and your favorite song playing and you’d look out the window and see miles of glittery dark and twisted tape? Someone had thrown it out the window – what was maybe their favorite tape or maybe their most unfavorite – and the wind had blown it into one very long glittery streamer. And you saw it out of the corner of your eye and wondered for a fleeting moment what tape it was. Country? Pop? Chicago 17? But the Patsy Cline playing in your car was so much better than anything out there on the ground that you let it go and went back to munching on sunflower seeds and drinking Dr. Pepper and singing along at the top of your lungs even though you aren’t that great of a singer.

If I go to Target and wander the rows I’ll end up spending money. I don’t want to do that. If I get a plane ticket I’ll spend money and I don’t want to do that. If I drive up the coast I’ll need gas and a place to stay and that costs money and I don’t want to do that.

The video interviews had much more to do with this than anything else I think. Now, after realizing I won’t be doing them, I can see that. Yes, I sincerely wanted to document a part of history and maybe I still will, but, the getting out and away and going somewhere and doing something…..that isn’t here where I am…..that is the thing that I crave.

I take myself everywhere with me, wherever I go. It doesn’t matter how far I ‘get away.’ And I do know that. But I also know that it takes a few days for me to catch up with me and in the meantime? I feel productive and worthwhile. I feel like a real person, whatever that is. And I’m happy.

When I come home, it’s all hot chocolate or a glass of wine on the front stoop and a happy hug to see me. It’s catching up on the news and sifting through the mail and feeling comfortable in my own skin wearing my comfy jeans and a sweatshirt with paint on it. And it all feels so great. The promise of what new projects might happen, as they loom on the horizon.

A few days later it hits me – I’m just me. And I’m home. And I’m always going to be me and things are never going to change. And living in that world of absolutes is what home turns into and I fight it and try not to obsess about it until it becomes so tight, this second skin, so tight. And I just want out. Someplace to go. Some people to see and talk to. Away from me. Before the darkness swallows me up again.

Fruit Salad

I sat at the table opposite my son and wondered not only at his ability to sound just like his father, but also to eat an entire bowl of fruit salad. A bowl that held at least 9 different fruits in their entirety and while I supposed the bite-sized chunks didn’t mind being nestled amongst each other in the plastic bowl, I did suppose they minded being inhaled without a second thought.

“And if Dad moves for his new job, it might be as far as Norway or something. We might spend six months abroad.” He chomped and fiddled his fork into another piece of papaya.

“Norway?” I blinked my eyes a few times. No words were readily available.

“Well, that’s just one idea. He’s also looking for jobs California.”

All the nights I planned with Joe the best way to move here. All the days spent telling ourselves that the sacrifices were worth it – living in this area we can’t afford – because it was close to them. And they needed me close to them. We were so wrong. Even more wrong than I knew last month. Last week. Five minutes ago. But those words weren’t ready to be spoken. So I stared at his jaw, chewing, and said only, “Wow.”

“It might be fun. And even if his new job is in San Diego, the football is great there.” Always thinking about football. It’s important. More important than me to a fifteen-year-old boy. Normal.

“I think what I’m wondering,” I said, “Is why you’re so ready to move after your dad telling me for the past 5 years how important it is for you to be here, in this particular spot, for the schools and the football.”

“Like I said,” he said casually, piercing a strawberry, “they have great schools and football there.”

“Where I used to live.” I stated. “Before I moved here. To be with you.”

“Uh, yes.” And he looked up and met my eyes, for the first time registering what I was getting at.

I maintained eye contact, holding him with my gaze for a moment before dropping it out of kindness. My goal, after all, is not to skewer him like fruit on a fork. “And you never thought of me as a viable home? If your dad moves, you could stay with me and finish high school – that didn’t cross your mind? To stay at this very important school? And football team? With me?”

The squirming was almost invisible, but it was there. He stared at a green grape and pushed it around with the tip of the tine, slowly, in the nearly empty bowl. “No.” And then his eyes met mine and he stared. ‘It didn’t. I don’t know why.” His eyes were slightly shocked and a little wary. And sad. And tired.

“But the football and the schools are great in San Diego, too.” I said quietly and quickly, taking his point of view. To save …what….? The moment? His feelings? “And it might be fun to move. It’s been a while since you have.”

“Ya, it’s kind of like starting over. It might be fun.” And with gusto, he took in the last bite.

Accepting Hell

So, this is it? Really? I can’t quite believe it. I keep asking myself over and over…is this it?

There have been a few days where I got really close to replying to that question with, ‘No, this will not be it.’ and it’s those days that are the worst, as I look for a way out.

The past few months have been insane. Literally. I feel like such a failure as a mother. As a wife. As a proponent of mental health. As a human being. I’ve struggled so hard and fierce, using every, single muscle trying to hold on to reality and then given up, fallen back and tried to accept what reality is and let it fold over what I keep trying to make it.

Reality is that for the rest of my life I’ll be on some kind of medication. Reality is that even though I went through therapy for years and years and then integrated and then brushed the dust off my hands, thinking I was done with the diagnosing and drugs and really hard parts, I will never be done. There is no such thing as done for me when it comes to brain disorders. I will continually have new and fun streaks and variations come out that will need attending to. Drug cocktails that will need adjustment. More weight to gain. More side effects to wade through.

Reality is that I should never, ever try to have any more children. It would be irresponsible to do so. Reality is that my kids have it so much better than they even know. Maybe they do know. After all, they chose the life they have now, not living with me. They must have had some internal compass that told them to stay the course at their dad’s. And, good, because life with me is not much of a life. Reality is that my feelings about that, about them and towards them are so huge that they threaten to splinter my mind again and I have a gray area lurking in the background that needs addressing and months and months of work to repair.

Reality is that my husband will be working with me and trying to help keep me stable for the rest of our life together. I have good spots, to be sure. I do some things that are fun, creative, and not always crazy. But more likely than not, those things do intersect with the crazy. And sometimes getting out the Dyson for a long-overdue vacuuming party is preferred to a new project’s birth.

Reality is that my life is hell and I make it hell for those close to me.

I don’t think I’m conveying how disappointed I am accurately. Your emails and letters have been sweet and I do appreciate them. Very much. But not one comes in that I don’t think, ‘They don’t really know who I am.’ If you did, you wouldn’t say the things you do. I am not the person that I thought I was and that I led you all to believe I was. I’m not healed. I’m not better. I’m no authority on anything, least of all mental health. I’m just one more person trying to figure out how to make it another day. One more person just like everyone else in the entire world that struggles with mental disorders. And to all of you? Wow. You inspire me with your getting up every day and trying again. Because I don’t know how long I can do this.

I’ve gone to the psychiatrist and a couple of therapists in the past few weeks and tomorrow I have another one. At one point three weeks ago, I was ready to go to Seattle. That is where Dr. Clancy lives. Dr. Clancy was the one who integrated me and the thought of trying to find someone else here was too daunting. My sister told me to get on a plane immediately. I made plans with a company up there to take a position. But Dr. Clancy’s first opening was mid-November and somehow, no one thought it was a good idea for me to go up there and wait that long. I mean, what good is a job at a great company if you’re crazy? So then it was off to our couple-counselor who suggested some people here in the area and made me promise to call if I started feeling suicidal. As did the other therapist, the psychiatrist and Joe. Which is kind of a joke since if I was really going to kill myself, I wouldn’t call them or anyone. But I couldn’t kill myself, anyway, because no matter how you slice it, it would hurt the kids and that is the last thing I want to do. There is no accident I could contrive that at some point wouldn’t fall apart and prove to be self-inflicted. I’ve thought it through. And, I’ve seen way too many episodes of Law and Order and Without A Trace to think otherwise.

I’m baking. And cooking. This weekend alone I’ve made fish chowder, beef stew, corn bread, butternut and spaghetti squash, apple crisp and Boston Cream pie besides all the normal meals. I’ve made thousands of lists in my head with all the things I need to do. These lists include things like wipe the downstairs bathroom counter, change out the mousetraps, find the canvases in the garage and make tomato sauce and that is four things on a list of a few hundred things. I’ve drawn a million shapes from the television, over and over and over while sitting in front of it, to the lines on the road and the clouds and the mailboxes and the trees when I make a trip to the store for butter. I’ve crocheted hats. Many hats.

One night, I had a dream about the egg sandwiches I was going to make the next day at lunch. It was very vivid and included the print on the paper towel that I used to hold the shells until I threw them out. I dreamed I peeled all the eggs, rinsed them and then separated the yolks from the whites, placing them in two bowls on the counter. Then I carefully took the whites, two at a time, and put them in the small canister for the Bullet. I pushed the cup down quickly, twice, and then dumped the perfectly chopped whites into the bowl with the yolks. I didn’t comment out loud in my dream, but in my mind I was remarking on how perfectly shaped the whites were and how two was the perfect number for everything.

The next afternoon, in real life, Joe was helping me peel the eggs. I got out the Bullet canister and two bowls and started separating the whites and the yolks just like in my dream. He looked at me, first sidelong and then full-on. As he asked what I was doing, I was ashamed. So embarrassed. But I couldn’t stop doing it the way I saw it. I pushed the canister down twice and then dumped the contents in the bowl. They were not chopped perfectly. Far from it. Half of them were mush and the other half were hardly chopped at all. But I kept doing it. And Joe kept trying to be helpful by suggesting ways to load the whites and how about we don’t use that thing at all and just do it the way we always do it? I finally told him that I dreamed about doing it this way and so I was trying it. I did two more whites and then realized it was not going to get any better and that I had to STOP. So I took a spoon and scraped out the mushy whites at the bottom. I turned to Joe and said, ‘You know what’s funny? What’s funny is that I thought doing something the way I dreamed it would be the right way to do it! I listened to something in my dreams!‘ And then I laughed. Hard. Manic. Harsh. And then I started bawling and it took everything I had to pull it together, not get tears or snot in the egg salad and keep making the sandwiches.

The kids were here for the weekend. Their dad went out of town and for some reason, they agreed to come over here instead of having someone in their dad’s family come up and stay with them at their home like they’ve done in the past. It was wonderful to have them here. Truly wonderful. And just around every corner I was about to lose it. I hope they didn’t know, but hell, I think it’s been established that my kids know much more than I give them credit for. It’s not at all impossible that they were very aware that mom was barely there some times. That mom’s face is red because she just got done crying in the bathroom. That mom is so busy in the kitchen because she has no idea what to say to anyone and sitting down for 2 minutes in the living room was just not in the realm of practical. That mom accidentally fell asleep on the couch in the afternoon and is sleeping in until 11am every morning because she is on new drugs that make her so, so tired.

I’m taking Invega for now. The Effexor, which was the sixth mood stabilizer I tried and the only one to work, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, are soon to follow. Do you know what Invega is? It’s for schizophrenia. It’s a paliperidone derivative and when the dose is halved, it’s supposedly good for Bipolar. It’s an anti-psychotic drug.

I’ve been diagnosed with Bipolar twice before and once I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The former I never took seriously because the first time it was called Manic-Depressive Disorder and I knew I was not depressed all the time! So it could not be true! Oh, how much I sometimes miss my former mental health naiveté. The latter diagnosis scared the hell out of me and was given to me mere days before my first mental hospital stay. However, once I was diagnosed with DDNOS, there was no more reason to even look at that one because the dissociative disorder was well enough to keep everyone very, very busy.

Now I don’t even care. Honestly, who cares what the diagnosis is? I’m fucked up and always will be. The End. And that is what I have to accept. But I can’t.

The first night I took my new drugs was so hard. I thought about it all afternoon and evening and the closer it got to bedtime the more out of control I became. I couldn’t stop crying. I cleaned up dinner and bawled. I showered and bawled. I brushed my teeth and bawled. It would have been funny if it wasn’t so awful. And by the time I crawled in bed next to Joe I was a complete mess. I tried to tell him what was so awful about taking the new meds but I don’t think he could understand much of what I said between my gulps for air and wiping the snot off my face. And really, it’s not anything I can explain very well. It is just really, really hard. It represents the rest of my life. It says that I understand that there is no other way, that this is the ONLY WAY to get my brain under control. No amount of coping skills, positive talk, shaping my Universe, affirmations and prayer will change anything. This is it. This is me. This is the rest of my life and I don’t want to be here.

I was also crying because I was petrified. Anti-psychotics are well known for some really tantalizing side-effects like confusion, dizziness, weight gain and ticks/muscle spams, just to name a few. Being known as my kids’ crazy mom is one thing. Being known as their drooling, morbidly obese, dumb as a stick, spasmatic mom who is house-bound and afraid to drive in case she forgets how to get home is something else.

So far, I can tell I’m gaining weight around the middle. All my shirts are tight. I’m slightly dizzy most of the day and so, so tired. I get headaches about once per day. I see odd things out of the corner of my eyes. I’m absent minded and do things like load the coffee maker with the very last coffee in the house which I have just lovingly ground, turn it on and then forget to put the carafe under the spout. Guess what happens when you do that? You get an overflow and coffee grounds all over the counter, down the side of the oven where you can’t really reach and mud all over the floor. And no coffee that morning. I still cry. I still want to do a million things at once. Pretty much the only thing that has changed is that my mind races a little bit less and I’m too apathetic to kill myself. Or, too lazy because I can’t think of a good plan. (DO YOU HAVE A PLAN??) (That’s a joke for anyone who’s ever had suicidal ideation and talked to an authority figure.)

Wow, this post got really long.

Belinda’s husband Alex left a comment on my post on Real Mental the other night where I talked about getting back on drugs. Insights like his, from people who struggle with mental disorders, like all the good people that write me emails and send me letters and frequent Real Mental, are so inspiring. And I know at different times in my life I’ve given some not-too-horrible advice to people. But at the moment? I can’t find any of it. I can’t hear it. I can’t remember it. I feel frustrated and angry and like something was stolen from me. And I know what it was. It was the dream of being well. The story I told myself for so long where I was well, happy and a great mother to my kids. That has been irrevocably taken away from me and there is no way to get it back. All there is left is to accept it.

These past five years have been great and awful. Great because I had this dream to keep me alive and to work towards. It made everything hard worthwhile. I woke up telling myself how great it would be at some point in the future when the kids lived with me half the time or some of the time and how I would get to be their mom. I went to bed telling myself the same story. And every afternoon I told it again. And every hour in between. I feel like I should expound on this for a few more paragraphs just so it’s clear how much this was a part of my life. But, basically, that is all there is – I wanted to be a great mom. And the awful? well, the awful is, because that was my complete focus, I have nothing as a backup plan. My universe literally cracked in half and I don’t know what is next. And this is where the disordered thinking comes in – not only should I have had at least one back up plan, but I should have had some kind of maintenance program going with interval therapy going on and reality checks. But, I’ve been to so much therapy! I know what they’d say! I’ll just tell myself and it’s the same thing, right? Right?? Wrong. If you think you know everything, there is nothing left to learn and no one can tell you anything. If I had been on some kind of program, monthly, bi-monthly, hell, even quarterly and there would have been someone there to tell me WHAT IF then maybe I wouldn’t find myself in dire straits. And if I wouldn’t have taken off right after I was integrated and stayed with Dr. Clancy for a few more months like he wanted me to five years ago, maybe things would be different. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Or maybe things would be just the same. I’ve put off looking at this closely because it was easy to blame all this stuff on other things, like my thyroid. Avoidance and confusion.

I haven’t self-harmed in years. Since right before my last mental hospital stay. But it crosses my mind every five minutes. I won’t do it but it’s there. Instead of allowing myself to think of it, I obsess about getting a new tattoo. Where will I put it? What will it look like? Can I just cover up one that I have with a new design? What would that look like after? And then I draw it in my mind for hours.

I obsess about smoking again. About not smoking again. The last time I smoked was at a friend’s home during the summer and my kids saw and that was just a few days before my kids told me that they didn’t want to live with me ever. Never. What if that was the reason they don’t want to? What if I do smoke again and they say to themselves, yep! We knew it. Good thing we picked our dad. But I’ve got to keep my hands busy and I can make only so many hats before I have yarn coming out of my ears and I throw it at the wall and then can’t stop pacing like a caged animal that can’t get out. But, there is no where to go that is away from me.

The mania is so stealthy sometimes. I’ll be feeling so good, like I finally have it together for the morning and I can breathe a little easier and then I realize that I’ve been standing still, staring at the toothpaste in the little basket for who knows how long and wondering why it isn’t moved two inches to the left because THAT IS WHERE IT GOES. And if the toothpaste isn’t right, nothing can be right. And then when I get downstairs, there is a load of laundry from last night still in the washer. This of course means that Joe doesn’t love me because if he did love me, he would have moved it to the dryer so it didn’t go sour and then make me smell it when I go to check it. The sour actually assaults my nose and makes me cry. It’s that harsh to my nose. And it’s so awful, so HUGE that I can’t even think it or explain it. I just cry and then try to figure out how to make it through this god-awful day. Somewhere around lunchtime I’ve decided I have no friends. None. Not a single one. The people I know from high school are nice when I call them but let’s be honest, if I’m always the one calling them first to talk and catch up, if I’m always the one to make first contact and they never do, and they could just keep going years without hearing from me, then who’s friends with who? And who cares and who doesn’t? And why should I call them first anyhow? If they don’t care about me at all. And the same goes for anyone I’ve know in the past five years since I’ve been Healed (just thought I’d capitalize it now that I’m making fun of it) because none of them ever call me first. Why am I always making the extra effort to check in or stop in? Am I that needy? Why am I that needy? No one likes me. And by the time Joe gets home from work I’ve thought of about a million reasons why our relationship will never work out and how we should get divorced immediately and how I’m friendless and no one will ever consider me their best friend in the world. I might as well be dead. Now THAT is fun to come home to. Quite a treat.

A few weeks later, I’ll feel completely opposite. Everyone loves me, or would, if they knew me. I start awesome new projects like writing groups and reading groups and artist groups and mental health groups. Time sometimes eludes me. I’ll feel like it’s been 3 hours but it’s only been long enough for one song on the radio to finish. I’ve just thought of THAT MANY THINGS. Because I’m so awesome. See? Can’t you see how awesome I am? I could travel the world and interview everyone that interests me. I could go overseas and write a travel log. It would sell. Of course it would sell. Why wouldn’t it? I am AWESOME. Sadly, by the time some of the groups come around to needing me to actually do something like be in charge of a meeting, I’ve cycled back down to not feeling worthy of grime on the side of a quarter and I can’t function. I just can’t do it. Everyone will be looking at me and wanting me to say something. You know, because I am in charge.

Finding a job is never easy but in this new reality that I’m living in, I’m well aware that my options are limited. The regular 9-5 job does not work for me. In the years I’ve done it, it’s all I can do. I don’t do anything else besides commute, work and sleep because I can’t factor anything else into the equation. And then after about a year straight of it, I’m burned up and sick and have to quit. I can only ignore it for so long before it demands that I pay attention. And this sucks for many reasons, not the least of which is financial and probably making Joe feel alone and stressed and working 3 jobs so we can survive. I’ve written so much down in this blog over the years that any potential employer will find it and immediately throw my resume in the garbage. I couldn’t change that if I wanted to. But I don’t think I want to. I just have to have some kind of hope that a flexible position exists out there where I will fit in. Where I can make enough money to contribute to my well-being and take some weight off my partner. And if I can’t and that doesn’t happen, that is so unfair. And here we go on the downward slope again on the unfairness of life and how Joe is trapped and will never have a good life.

So, I don’t know how to answer all of your heartfelt questions. I’m fine? Maybe? But not really and never will be? But thanks for caring enough to send me your warm thoughts and wishes and I wish I was fine and could be different for you. And be the person you thought I was. But I’m not. And I don’t know how much I’ll be updating this blog for awhile still. It’s so hard to write the truth right now and I just can’t get into lying on purpose and saying I’m fine or alternately, revealing all the grisly details of the suckage. Instead, go here to see a photo of my bird, Bird, that Alison has made insanely, fiercely awesome to show the true spirit inside him.

A Girl Can Only Do So Much

Last weekend I spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to spend my time doing, both employment wise, working for the man, yo, and also the rest of my time. If you know me at all, you know I like to start new projects. Sadly, I don’t have all the resources in my fingertips or in my brain to complete them all by myself. This can be a most frustrating fact sometimes. And other times, like this weekend, I think I would do myself a favor if I let some of them go and quit worrying about them and exerting mental energy towards them because DUDE they probably would have happened by now if they were going to happen.

This post marks the end of Project Cathartic, may you rest in peace. I’ve loved the idea of a place for artist to put their work and share the therapeutic process of creating them and maybe someday that will happen. But, for now, I’m letting it go.

Also, I’ve taken the t shirts down from Zazzle and Cafepress for a bit. I’ve been told they aren’t the best quality. I’m going to look into some other options and then bring them back. In the meantime, if you’ve bought one and are unsatisfied, email me and I’ll buy it back from you. Or, replace it for free when the new ones come out, up to you. Just let me know.

My religious study has been removed as well. And I’m also not working on the video interviews at this time. That one hurts me the most, because I have been so excited about saving the history of the internet though profiles and interviews, but without the support I need, I just can’t do it.

So, goodbye, you awesome and worthy projects. I hope to see you again someday and take you out for a soda. In the meantime, I’m ready to embrace what’s next.

Get Out Of Debt Free Expensive Card

Joe and I have deemed this next 18 months or so our Get Out Of Debt season. We try not to be too hard on ourselves on how we’ve managed to get this way. We’ve both known that this moment would come, we’ve been anticipating it, but there wasn’t a lot we could do about accruing our debt, with the exception of not living where we live. Living near my ex so the kids have the ease of going to one home or the other has been the goal for 5 years. And we’ve done it. But we’ve paid a price to be sure. The trade off was slowly going into more debt a little at a time with occasional spurts of doing it fast when we ran into any issue outside of our very tight budget. Like a new tire for the car or a delayed paycheck.

There was a time a few years ago, when we even had to go to one of those short-loan places to pay the rent. You know the kind – where they charge you about 2745% interest for a week? We had to keep that going for a few months before we were able to break free, and man, that was a rough and expensive patch of time.

Because we’ve been careful to not get credit cards and max them out trying to stay afloat, it’s mostly family, friends and cars that we owe. Without family this past 2 years especially, we never would have made it. I don’t know what people do if they don’t have family. I suppose get into high credit card debt and then become homeless? So, things could be much worse and we’re thankful that they aren’t. But, they are bad enough for us both to be highly motivated to put every cent we can towards paying everything back and off as soon as possible.

I went over the numbers this past weekend and got very brave and actually figured out how much we’ve paid in overdraft fees to the bank in the past year. Add that amount to the money we paid the thieves that run the short-loans and you’ve got a number so high that it makes me want to throw up. It’s over 2k.

It’s expensive to not have enough money. If you have to make that payment so the electricity won’t get turned off and the bank allows it to go through, Thank God, but then charges you a fee for going under your actual balance, you just start accepting that it’s a part of the deal. You add an additional $30 dollars to anything going through that you figure the bank will cover, even though you know your don’t have that much. We got pretty good at identifying what the bank would accept and what they would turn away. Of course, you always run the risk of them turning everything away, which is within their right, and then you feel like an idiot and worse, have to pay additional fees if there was another bank involved and worst, let people down and tempt fraud charges if it happens too often.

WELL, we got tired of this game. And we’re on our way to being debt free. It feels great. It feels great to have a plan and know how to get there. But it’s only possible because we have enough income now. Six months ago, we didn’t and no matter how much we didn’t want to be in such bad shape, there was nothing to be done about it except move to Alabama or somewhere else where the cost of living was low. Which wasn’t something we were willing to do.

I swear it costs a lot to be broke. You miss out on cash-only incentives and lower prices and interest rates on loans. You are forced to take what you can get because you feel so desperate and just want to be able to eat next week. We held many a garage sale on a desperate Saturday.

We’re very thankful. Things are looking up. And it would be even more awesome if I started bringing in more regular money. Hello? Universe?

And Then What?

Every morning I wake up, look myself straight in the mirror and tell myself in no uncertain terms that today, TODAY, I’m going to just keep going and keep doing and not spend a bunch of time getting lost in my head and crying about things I can’t control.

Every morning I tell myself this and every day for the past week or so it makes no difference. I cry on and off anyway. Turns out I’m not that great at lying to myself on purpose, only inadvertently.

Is it lying? When you don’t look or recognize the truth? When I made the decision to leave my first husband, it was the scariest thing I’d ever done in my life thus far. I knew it meant leaving my children but I thought it was just for awhile. I told myself that going away for a time, getting well and then coming back and being able to be a mom was the right choice. I was wrong about the consequences of that decision when it came to my kids. I severely underestimated the impact it would have on the dynamics of our relationships. Of course, I didn’t know any better. I made a choice that saved my life and made it possible to be their mom at all. And that same choice pretty much ensured that I would never be their mom, in the sense that I longed for and made the choice for in the first place.

It’s like the worst case of ironic turn of play ever and I still haven’t quite come to terms with it. I expect my face will be blotchy and my eyes will be swollen when I wake up for the next few weeks like they have been for the past few weeks. I’m in mourning for this thing, this Mom, this idea of what it would be like that will not ever come to pass. By the time my children are old enough to make decisions about how they want our relationship to be, it will be something new and not what I imagined. It will be fine. It will be perfect and just how it should be. Just not what I was hoping, planning and working for.

I’ve missed out on so much of their young lives and I’m going to miss out on much of their teen lives. Here’s hoping I get to be included in more of their adult lives.

Acceptance

On Wednesday, the kids go back to their dad’s home. I get them back a few days later for about a week. It’s all even-steven around here this summer. And that will be my last week for a long time and we’ll be back to Wednesday after school ’til 9pm and three weekends out of four a month.

At the beginning of the summer, I told the kids that we would try this half-and-half thing out. Just see how it goes. Just see if they like it. Just try it! You might like it! They reluctantly agreed. And I’ve been keeping an eye out for problems. Issues. What have yous. And for the most part, I think it’s worked. But that concern, that heavy sigh on trading day, that frustration at not having the right gear at the right time – it’s not gone away for them, despite my planning. You just can’t plan and remember everything.

I watch my boys grabbing clothes, sports equipment, Mp3 players, computer games and other things that you don’t think about. Daily use items that it’s not really possible to have at both houses. You can get two of things to a certain extent but there are some things that you just have one of and you only need one of and only want one of. I watch them try to think of everything so we don’t have to go back or make a special trip. And we always forget a few things, even when we make lists. Carrying everything back and forth is laborious enough without the forgetting part.

Finally, a few days in, things start moving smoothly and everything that’s needed is at our home. And then it’s trading day again and we do the same routine in reverse. With deep sighs.

My daughter is a bit different. She’s older, more mobile. If she forgets something, she just takes her car to go get it. There is an occasional sigh or two but it’s not as audible. It’s different for her because she’s never really moved in here like her brothers have. Yes, she is the first to decorate her room, but her heart doesn’t live here. She refused and has held her ground. She’ll stay a few nights but just as often she’s sleeping at a friend’s home or back at her dad’s. She comes and goes as she wants, which I suppose is fine and age appropriate. Her reasons are different than the boys. For her, it’s less a stress of logistics and more the fear of our relationship changing. We talked about it again just the other night. Me giving her curfews and talking to her as a mother would – no go. She wants us to be friends and she wants me to be the one she can confide in. If I’m her Mom, she can’t tell me all her secrets because I become The Mom. But if things between us don’t change, she tells me everything and I stay in the loop. I hardly know what to fight for anymore. Perhaps I need to stop fighting all together. What does John say? “Love more, fear less. Float more, steer less.” It’s the fighting part that gets me so tired.

School starts in a few weeks and things will go back to how they were. It’s not best for the boys to be stressed about where their stuff is. It’s not best for them to not have a centralized location, a place where they instinctively call home, a place where they are expected and needed and don’t have to think about – it just is home. I wanted so badly for it to work. For there to be two equal homes. Two places where they blend in and feel needed and fit and don’t have to think about, but that is not the case and something has to give. And that ends up being me.

It’s kind of like when the company goes through the firings during downsizing for the good of the company. Last one to be hired is the first one to go. The Kids At Their Dad’s Regime has been standing the longest, or at least as long as any of them remember. The Kids At Their Mom’s Regime came along later and thus is what gets cut. To hear them tell it, I just up and left one day and then another day, later on, decided to come back for whatever reason. It’s been ingrained in them and no matter how many times we talk about it or they ask me and I tell them again what happened, it’s just in their heads that way and it doesn’t change. That is their reality. And that is what I have to work with.

This is all the underneath stuff. The guts of the thing, if you will. The underpinnings that somehow allow the top layers to work and function. And the upper levels are all fine. The kids come over and sometimes stay the night. We laugh and hang out and play games. I run them places. We tease each other and hug and sit on the couch and eat popcorn. All the top layer things in our lives are fine. As long as I don’t want to be their mother, things are fine. As long as I remember to shut that part up and not resent that I don’t get to nurture them and do That Thing, whatever it is, things are fine. They shouldn’t be ashamed to feel how they feel. It’s my job, as their mother that loves them, to make it fine for them to be how they need to be and accommodate our relationships so they are comfortable and get everything they need. I’m the adult and must be selfless to some degree and allow them to call their dad and his wife ‘My parents’ to their friends and talk to me about their step mom as ‘my mom’ and not show how much it stings and eats away at my heart.

As long as I remember that the most important things are that they feel loved and have their needs met and are safe, everything is fine for them. But most of the time, it hurts me like hell.

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