mental health

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.

Every Day I Write The Book

It’s so hard to write right now. I’m doing boring things like going to therapy and working on my feelings. I thought about slapping up another photo and calling it a day but then I thought I’d push myself and just see what happens.

I go to therapy every other week. This week we talked about creating some kind of schedule for myself. One of my goals is to get a job and contribute more consistently financially to my partnership but right now, the mere thought of having a job kind of makes me panic. Mostly because I’m currently sleeping about 14 hours per day. My thyroid medication needs to be upped and I get my blood drawn tomorrow. But even when that is taken care of and I’m back to waking up and going to bed at normal times, I still don’t have any kind of consistent schedule.

I’m also afraid to drive very far. Since I’ve been back on medication, something weird has been going on with my eyes and I can’t focus very well out of my left eye. It makes me skittish on the road and that is just not creating a very good driving environment. Additionally, crowds are still making me nervous and I don’t want to leave the house. I worry I’m becoming a recluse.

So, back to therapy – I’m supposed to create a schedule that includes getting out of the house for a good amount of time per day which means I have to drive and be around other people. I think it’s good to move past my comfort level and make some positive changes. It also scares me quite a bit.

I can’t get over this huge amount of guilt that I’m not earning enough money but because I’m not ready for a job yet, Joe is helping me be creative and think of other ways to contribute to our partnership. There are endless things to be done around the house but I don’t think of them right now. There have been times when I’ve been really up on things but right now is not one of them. So he’s going to help me make a list of tasks to be done around the house so I can plan them out when I’m making my schedule for the week. I’m hoping it not only keeps me on some kind of schedule but it also helps me feel like I’m contributing and assuages some of this guilt.

Man, this is probably a really boring post. But it’s all I have in me today. But really this is what is going on in my life right now. I’m relearning how to be a functioning part of my marriage and life in general. I’m kind of amazed when I look back at how I was even just a year ago, at how different I was. My last low manic phase really did a number on me and I hope to never repeat that kind of low depression again.

The News Fit To Snooze

Today I went to Costco for the first time in about 4 years. I’d forgotten the sheer magnitude of stuff that resides inside. And it reminded me of the movie Idiocracy and how they portray the future.

We got a pizza. Let me preface my next comment by saying I don’t care for pizza. I’ve had lots of bad pizza in my life. Every so often a pizza will look good and I’ll think – Hey! I wouldn’t mind eating some pizza right now! – and I surprise myself when that happens. But anyway, we got one of the huge Costco pizzas and I was decidedly looking forward to it. And it was the single most disgusting pizza I’ve ever eaten two bites of. The crust was bitter and the cheese tasted off and the sauce might have been ok but it was really hard to tell under the bitter and the off. Why two bites? Because I really couldn’t believe the first one. I thought it couldn’t really be that bad. But it was. So, that ought to do me for another 3 years. We threw the rest away. The recently emptied trashcan is now halfway full of gross pizza.

In other news, my body is made of lead today. I’m having difficulty simply walking and keeping upright. I started a new medication, Wellbutrin, a few days ago and so far, I’m tired, which is the opposite of what is supposed to happen I think. The sucky thing about new medications is that you have to wade through the bad ones for a few weeks before you move on. So it could be weeks of knuckle dragging and drooling.

If you wanted a Tshirt, you’ve got approximately a few more days to order. There have been enough people get one to put the order in at any time, so let’s say the cut-off is Sunday night.

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.

In No Particular Order

>We have friends coming this weekend. Yippee!
>I hope everyone knows how much I love my kids and my last entry was not supposed to mean otherwise.
>My ex did mention he was looking for work to me before my son mentioned it. It was the ‘far away’ part and the ‘back where I used to live’ part that got to me.
>Need some design work done? Ask me.
>I vote the weekend starts tonight.
>The word ‘autumnal’ makes me very happy. I say it over and over like a mantra.
>The Crazy is ebbing and flowing.
>I feel confined in a box. A smaller box than I used to be in. The highs are less high and the lows are less low. I dream about feeling the highs. I suppose some part of me misses it.
>I also dream about chain smoking and self-harming and eating disorders. So far not much of that has made it to the daytime hours.
>I’m sleeping better and longer than I have in years.
>I’m waking up at 7am every morning. Sleeping in is a thing of the past.
>I’m thinking mostly in lists and the rest of the time in ‘writing conversation’ style in my head. Pretty much all the time. Like right now.
>I would like to invite you over for a cup of coffee and crochet. I promise to talk in complete sentences. Mostly.
>If you are one of the people that couldn’t find me after I redesigned my homepage: sorry and I added a link now. Future employers will just have to be won over by my brilliant smile and critique me on my writing style more than content.

Crazy 2.0

When I wrote my oh-so-very desperate and angsty entry a few weeks back, it would be fair to say that my mind was not functioning on all cylinders. It would also be fair to say that today I’m functioning on a little more than half and that is a nice improvement.

I wasn’t thinking beyond anything when I wrote it. What I mean to say is, whatever aftermath might occur was not even on my mind a tiny bit. Within 24 hours, I realized that there might be some kind of backlash, and that realization was mostly due to my husband bringing up the possibility. But I decided to not remove it or change it because up until that point, I don’t think I’ve ever removed a post and I didn’t want to start then. It feels like messing with history.

A few months ago, someone I follow online wrote on Twitter that they were considering suicide. I immediately unfriended them on Twitter. I didn’t even think about it. I think it was a physical/mental reaction to The Crazy. I wanted to be a little more removed from it. Especially as I was feeling myself getting sucked down as it was, all on my own. I didn’t feel strong enough to help someone else so I removed the relationship. I still read this person’s blog, however, because I didn’t want to lose contact all together.

I bring this up because I’ve noticed that since that post, approximately half my daily visitors have left, about a third of my daily subscribers have dropped me and I’ve had only 2 advertisers. I’m not shocked. I’m just noticing.

I suppose it’s not much different than when you walk down the sidewalk in the city, busy going someplace from someplace and you see that homeless person asking for change or the couple loudly fighting or the parent yanking their kid too hard by the arm – you just keep walking and look the other way, quickly considering whether you would be better served crossing the street to get by them or if you just plow ahead, eyes looking straight. You might even wonder for a split second if there is possibly something you could do or say that might help the situation but in the same second decide no, there really probably isn’t. You’re just going to have to feel uncomfortable for as long as you are around that element.

The web brings us so much closer together but I don’t know if anything has really changed. We’re a few keystrokes away but just as far emotionally if we want or need to be. It was sad to see some people that I considered friends drop me from friend lists but I can totally understand it. Now that the initial sting has worn off, I’m not pining away for the readers who left Leahpeah any more than I’m beating myself up for writing what I wrote. It happened. And that’s pretty much it. I have to use this medium to write what I need to write. Otherwise, there is no point to this personal blogging thing. But I am glad to have RealMental as a place to put some of the deeper mental issues.

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.

RealMental.org

For a very long time, I’ve wanted a place on the internet where I could talk about mental health issues with other people in an open and loving manner. I kept looking even though I couldn’t find it. My blog has served somewhat for this, but I talk about so many other things in here, that it’s just not quite the same thing.

At Blogher, Jess and I started talking about a ‘project’ together. Something online. Somewhere we could talk about parenting issues and mental health issues and somewhere around the third time she said, ‘Leah? So, are you ready to do this?‘, I realized, Holy Cow. This is the place I’ve been looking for, only I’m going to be creating it instead of finding it.

RealMental.org is a home of sorts. It’s a place where everyone is welcome who wishes to explore what it means to have a mental disorder, be in a relationship with someone who has a mental disorder and all the other things that go along with that including medication, depression and self-help techniques. My greatest hope is to break down barriers and remove the stigma attached to the words Mental Illness, because they are just words. And it’s real people living those things and trying to cope with those things and it’s hard and they (and I) just want others to understand and not judge.

If you are someone who has something to share and no place to put it, please consider our RealMental home your home as well. Email me and we’ll talk.

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.

Somethin' Funky Up In Here

After every time-consuming or effort-extracting event, I go through a letdown. I’m not sure if it’s organic, chemical, physical or psychological or probably a combination of them all, but it’s as if my body says, ‘Whew! Ok, let’s hibernate and possibly get sick for a bit!’ after which I cry for a few days and endure a cold or other illness. Is it possible I actually DO catch a cold or other illness? Or am I just incredibly spent and want to sleep so my body invents an ailment? Inquiring minds wanna know.

Warning – this may be one of the most painful entries ever as far the segue goes. My brain is cloudy and I can barely remember how to speak ACTUAL WORDS such as CAR and PAINT and CLOSE WINDOW when someone comes to the door. Leave now or forever hold your peace.

In the airport coming home, when for some strange reason I decided my hands were invisible and therefore not functional, I neglected to take out my camera so you could all see Miss Arizona USA (not to be confused with the ol’ regular Miss Arizona) sitting and waiting for the flight to, you guessed it, Arizona. Do you know how I know? She had her sash on. Her required sash for all the free airline travel she gets. And if I heard her say it once, I heard her say it a million times (or at least the actual 6 times I DID hear her say it), she is NOT dating Bill M., Preston C., James F., Tony S., Tony L. or Tony Z. I don’t care what those silly men say, she is NOT. (smiling SMILING smiling)

There was a youngish man, guitar out on his lap, sitting next to her and, I kid you not, playing and picking those strings for the entire 90 minutes we waited for the flight. 90 minutes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings songs, a few of which he hummed along with, not so badly. He was so earnest. So very, very earnest and I wanted to stop reading my book for a minute (yes, my hands reappeared and functioned for my book) just to tell him I would enjoy his music more if he would only play a little Dave Matthews or even Patsy Cline, but he would never have heard me, so completely wrapped up in her he was. His adoring eyes never left her face, not even for the Gypsy Kings segment.

The friend referred book I was reading is called God Is Not Great. I’ve struggled with religion since I was a child and it’s only now that I’m realizing it’s alright to say out loud that I might not believe in God. At least not the type of God I was instructed to love and obey as a child. In the scriptures is says ‘By their fruits ye shall know them’ and my problem has always been that what I mostly see is hypocrisy and ways to keep people out in every religion I’ve studied. But not in all my 36 years and not until I read this book did it dawn on me that I didn’t have to keep searching to find the one I wanted to belong to. Because I don’t want to belong to any of them. And man, I’ve had such a sense of peace and relief with that realization.

Speaking of politics (weren’t we? I did warn you…), I’m trying to figure out how to support any candidate that is Christian. After all the wars done in the name of different Gods, the number of people persecuted for being different and the (what I consider to be) faulty reasoning behind it, voting for someone that I know holds those beliefs would be just plain wrong, wouldn’t it?

A number of people I know are having babies, just had a baby or actively trying to have a baby. (Still with me?) I’ve been trying to have a baby. So much so that it took medical intervention to get me to give it a break already. So many miscarriages in so little time are not a good thing and there have been a few not mentioned on this blog. Today, after reading Schmutzie, who I realize had a totally different reason for writing what she did, I had the sudden realization that maybe The Universe has been trying to tell me that maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t be trying to have another child but I couldn’t hear it yet. And then I thought maybe I’d get my tubes tied. And then I almost cried because it sounded like such a wonderful idea. I’ve not ever considered this option before and I’m not in any hurry to go and get it done, but it’s an interesting turn of events, is it not? Life is so fascinating.

My sister comes out with her husband in a few weeks for an entire glorious weekend of nothing to do put poke our toes in the sand. If I tell her I don’t believe in God, will she still love me?

My daughter is 16. (Did your brain just crickety-crack trying to keep up?) Completely and utterly 16 and everything it entails. I would not go back and be 16 for every, single, solitary fat-free and guiltless cheeseburger in all of China, of which there are none, but even if there were. She routinely hurts my feelings to the very depths of my soul as only your daughter can and it’s continually my job as her mother to love her just like she is, right where she’s at, and not make her feel ashamed. Being a parent is one of the frackinist jobs of all time. And yet, I wouldn’t trade it for anything and actually went through hell just to be in this position but I’ve got to learn to give myself permission to have a bad day without self recrimination. Wow, that was an awfully and probably unnecessarily wordy paragraph. Sorry, Mrs. Beasley.

This freelancing and doing the stray article now and again has not brought in the amount of cold, hard cash one might expect. Or, maybe it’s exactly as much as one might expect. All that to say – not much. And I’m feeling the itching in my fingers and in my brain to do something more substantial. There was a job a few months ago that I was excited about but ended up not getting and ever since then, I’ve just not really looked. But I think it’s that time, friends. It’s THAT time. So, Hello Universe – I’d like a winner job, please. Oh, and thanks.

My husband is awesomer than I ever imagined or dared hope.

And also, mashed potatoes with tiny bitso cheddar cheese just might be the best thing since Kindereggs. (Thanks, Jen.)