Trying

Conditions must be ideal for me to sit down and put words on paper and, regrettably, that is rarely the case. It is never quiet or easy to concentrate. The dogs will distract me with their wild carrying on. This winter has been longer than usual and they, like their humans, have cabin fever. They jump, growl and chew on each other, always at my feet, in what I am sure is part of a concerted effort to drive me mad. My three-year-old granddaughter brings me much joy but she is at my house for the better part of the week and she has a lot to talk about. There is no time for my brain to refresh after she falls asleep at night and when she goes home, I will sit for hours in the quiet, trying to get my thoughts together until eventually I will fall crash, exhausted in mind and body.

I made a desk of the dining room table and here I sit for hours, staring out the window at the road and the house in the field beyond it, as if it were my muse. In a snowstorm, their cedar shake cabin looks like ‘Little House on the Prairie’, smoke billowing out the chimney, simple and cozy. If I go to the living room in the morning- to the couch and the morning news, I will be sucked in and will spend my day rocking to and fro, right there for a good part of the day, if not until bedtime. If I get up and sit at the table, if my playlist reads my mood, if the weather is nice enough for the dogs to go outside and if I have minimal distractions, I can sit at that table typing all day and into the night. Unfortunately, trying to create the correct atmosphere is enough to send me to the couch. This is a new routine for me and I am trying. I am putting effort into trying and that is more than can be said for the previous 13 years. In my defense, I thought I was trying all those years but the bar is set remarkably low for people like me, which is stigmatizing in its own way. I am also trying to train my family into this new routine, that part is harder. I don’t think it is possible for them to know what this means to me, this writing. It looks like sitting and listening to music to them but to me it is my life, my future and my well-being. This is everything to me. I think my husband’s hope is that this will keep me busy for a while and help me in some obtuse way and he is down for that but, as always, my family expects me to be ready at their beck and call. ‘Do I have clean socks? What’s for supper? I need a ride. Can so and so come over? I want to have a LAN party, we’re having a Marvel marathon-do we have food? Why is it so cold? Are you going to light the wood stove? Do I have to make the trek, from the basement up the hill to the lean-to behind the garage, with that crappy yard wagon and its falling off wheels, to get wood? Can somebody else PLEASE wash a damn dish? Why do we have a dishwasher? Can ANYONE ELSE load it? Turn on the washer? Are my appliances so complicated that no-one else can run them? No-one can crinkle up some paper or strike a match? The dogs are on a schedule- why am I the only one who knows it? The vacuum is not that hard to operate. What do you mean WE are going to spring clean this weekend? No. Is it spring? Can’t we wait till it is? PLEASE!!! What about what I am doing? That thought doesn’t ever seem to enter anyone’s mind but mine. To them, I am always available, all that is required is my presence.

What happened this week is that I slept. I went to bed early and I slept late. Later than I wanted to on more than one day. Earlier than I wanted to on more than one evening. I don’t do this. I don’t like to sleep. My biggest sleep goal is to get the 8 recommended hours. Not 15…My husband is thrilled! Encouraging me to sleep more…” That’s great, baby, you need to get some rest.” I feel like saying- “Screw you-this is how you get rid of me- if I sleep all day and night, you don’t have to deal with me and if I could get a moment’s peace around here, I wouldn’t be exhausted but nobody gives a shit as long as I do EVERYTHING for you people.”

That’s not true.  They do care. They care because they have seen me at my worst and they don’t want to see it again for whatever reasons they have. Their reasons are probably different than mine, but just as real. The fact is, I don’t like to sleep. I don’t like to sleep until 2 in the afternoon and I don’t like to go to bed at 8. I feel like my day is wasted, that there are opportunities missed. I get angry. I get angry at myself and take it out on others. That is exactly what happened this week. I tend to get upset when others take advantage of my time even when I am not in some cycle or another. I was already mad at myself for sleeping too much.

I waited in the parking lot an extra 45 minutes at the school for my son on Tuesday because they decided to start their SAT testing a half hour late but told students they couldn’t use their phones to let their parents know. I do not even agree with SAT or any other ‘assessment’ testing. Wednesday mornings they usually start school an hour later than the rest of the week, but because of the amount of snow days we’ve had this year they have been using that hour as make up time. This week they decided not to take advantage of that but AGAIN, they decided not to tell parents, we found out when the bus did not come at its usual time. I raged at our country store Tuesday, (which I have personally boycotted for years at a time) because, once again, I walked in and there was a line but no clerk in sight. It didn’t help that the nosiest bitch in town was in front of me in line and it didn’t help when she asked me what was wrong, like she cared, and I turned to her, spitting, ‘Don’t f@%$^&^ talk to me.’, to which she responded, “What is going on?”, again pretending to care, so she could spread it around. Then I responded. She got exactly what she wanted. Venom. Word spreads fast in a town of 3,000. I am sure my husband and his family have heard the version she is spreading and they will take her side, because I am just ‘crazy’. That store is boycotted again.

After that, still Tuesday, I got into a huge blowout with my son because I was watching my grand-daughter so he and his significant other could go to work. She has a habit of NOT working. I saw a post on Facebook that she was tagged in, about how for 4 years in a row she went to eat at Fat Boy’s, a seasonal drive-in, on this day. After I picked up her baby at 7 that morning so she could get ready and go to work. She made it 3 days that I know of at this job. It is her average. I love my grand-baby. I credit her for bringing me joy. I truly believe she is the biggest gift in my life. She makes me laugh. I love watching her learn about the world around her and I love teaching her about it. I love her snuggles and cuddles. I love watching her for my own benefit, never mind hers or her parents.  She has all she wants here and we would gladly give her anything she asked for. Everything she does makes me happy. Even when she’s bad. I laugh. She loves me unconditionally and this has been an unintended lifesaver. She has reminded me that the world can be pure.  That there is joy everywhere, in things little and big.

This is NOT the first time her mother has done this to me or my son but it is the LAST time she will do it to me. We should have heeded her own mothers warning, the first day we met, that she was a user and would use him and me and anyone she can. I just thought she was her own ‘crazy’. Clearly, she was frustrated in her own way. There is a lot of winter in this state, and it does its own thing to everyone. I drove to their house after finding out she was gallivanting instead of working, ready to tell her exactly what a piece of shit I thought she was. All the way there all I could think was that she was NOT using me again, and I intended to make that clear. In the loudest, nastiest way possible. Something came over me as I turned onto the road leading to their driveway and I pulled over to the side of the road and tried to take a few deep breaths. I don’t know if you have tried this, but it is practically impossible to take deep, slow breaths when you are insane with anger. I was a volcano and the lava was already spewing. I prayed,” Please God, help me to use the right words because I can’t do this right without you.” That is all I could pray. Anger was driving me forward. I pulled up the next few feet until I was at the end of their driveway. She wasn’t HOME!! I got the message, laughed to myself and said, “Ok, God, I get it…” I drove down the block to my sister’s house, visited for an hour or so, and then left to go home. I did drive back by my son’s house but the driveway remained empty. Meant to be…

I’m still angry but I became more resolute. Put on my big girl panties, so to speak. I had to turn my mind. This is difficult. She was not the original source of my frustration so I must become resolute not only in my dealings with her but with my family. My heart is closed for now. I have done this only a few times during my life. It is not easy to close myself off from people but I must for my own protection. My husband claims it is a visible change, that he can see it in my face. Must be all that disassociating I practiced so well… My son says she needs help and I agree, but if she has ‘issues’ and her own diagnosis, I can’t help her. She needs to want that. Nobody else can do it for her. This frustrates me because I wonder if his patience with her is patience that he learned dealing with me. I don’t want him to need to have that much patience with her. I would rather he cut his losses and try for some peace and happiness in his life. I don’t WANT him in a relationship with someone like me his entire adult life. I don’t want this for any of my children. Is that bad? Is that stigma? The stigma of one mentally ill person against another? Well, if anyone knows about it, I do. At least I am not an uneducated, insufferable fool acting like I know. I know I should be the LAST person judging her, but maybe I see it better…That is not an excuse, I’m trying to reason it out for myself. I have no patience with ignored mental illness. Ignored by the afflicted or those near them. Undiagnosed is one thing. If you are trying your best and you are struggling, great. I’m here for you, I will do everything in my power. Will I watch the ones I love around you suffer because you refuse to get help and all the SHIT gets dumped at my doorstep? NO. For now, though, I will do my best to kill her with kindness, like my Momma keeps saying. I will rally my thinking around those Alabama and North Carolina years in my past and I will smile and say,” Bless your heart…”, with a big smile.

The fact is, all this BULLSHIT will fill my mind until it turns foggy. Until I can’t think or DO anything. Most of this happened on Tuesday but ruined my week. A week I can’t get back.  I become so worn out that even when I am awake, I am sleeping. Then, suddenly, an entire week or month or year is missing from my life and I can’t get it back… I don’t have enough time left in my life for that at this point. Words screamed and feelings run amok, are things that can’t be put back in the can. Time wasted now, doesn’t return later. Sometimes my biggest desire is just to run. Run far and away. I want to get in the car and keep driving until I am somewhere new and all anyone sees in me is just another friendly face. No bi-polar, no PTSD, no checkered past…clean…fresh.

None of this addresses the issue of time that I wish I had. Closing my heart is only necessary when having it open will continue hurting me. I must start saying no. I should say it even when I want to say yes. If you are poisoning me, I need going to tell you that I am aware of it. I can’t let it keep happening. I need my time alone and the quiet. I need to find a balance between the housework and the rest of my life. Between my family and my mind. Between life outside these four walls and the life within. I somehow must create, out of whole cloth, a world in which I can practice self-care while caring for my family. I need to create a family that knows that, even though I am here and present, I am doing something for myself right now and could you please try to understand that this is something that will hopefully benefit all of us in the long run. I’m trying. Please leave me alone and let me try.

Radio Silence

Since I was a child, music had been inside me. It is what had saved me all along. It rescued me from many bleak moments and situations with its fighting lyrics and beats. It was what blocked out the inner horror of the childhood I had been living. It blocked out scary noises and bumps in the night and somehow corralled every terror and fright inside me and quieted them. I could be a different me if I focused and sang. I could feel myself be lifted away from the hell I was in and carried to a lighter place inside me. I used music to escape my life. Every song was like a little story in itself. Each one could either make you happy, sad or melancholy. There were songs you could scream along with when you were angry and ones you could cry to if you were sad. I listened to music in my room, on my headphones and in the car, I would fall asleep listening to the sounds of the top 40 and at 6 a.m. music would gently wake me.  I knew classic rock, pop and country. I would play disco and the “Battle of New Orleans.” I had my favorites of and I knew them all by heart. Notes and lyrics would carry me away and for three minutes I was somewhere else, in a world of my own creation. It was a place inhabited only by me and the only place I knew I was safe. No one could follow me in, I had a secret door and I was the only person who could open it. I know that the reason I survived my childhood was because of music. It was always there when I needed it to take me away so I could escape for a while. It was my ONLY coping mechanism. Besides forgetting..

After my second admission, which was technically for bipolar depression- but I think the hospital’s decision to admit me probably had a lot more to do with my admission that  my husband had hired someone to kill me and that they had been following me around for days trying to find the best place to perform the deed than that I couldn’t stop crying. This statement drew quite the look from my sister in law, who had kindly driven me to the emergency room and agreed to stay with me for the time being. I’m sure the stories were flying around her dinner table that night and for many nights after. I’m sure they did because I still get the looks now. They don’t say anything to me about me being”sick.” It’s just the looks they give me, like nothing I say can be trusted. Same old, same old…..

I’m not sure I came out of the hospital alive that time. I couldn’t smile, I couldn’t feel anything inside me. No feelings- not sad, not mad, not happy- just blank. I spent time staring at the walls, rocking in my seat, talking to myself, acting just the way the patients at ST. Mary’s did that freaked me out so badly. I had told myself that would never be me..Never say never…I spent a lot of time trying to discern what was fact and what was fiction in my mind. I did need my husband to take care of me during that time and he was patient and kind and observant and gave everything of himself that he had to give. I needed him. I couldn’t form my own thoughts, I couldn’t remember to get out of bed , clean my house or brush my teeth. I needed to be reminded to do anything, everything. There was no more music in my life. I wondered why people even wasted there time turning on the radio. There is no real music now anyway. Not music that means anything. It’s all just fluff. Riding in the car, I rode in silence because anything extra was just too much noise in my head. My mind was so busy with itself that any extra noise was more than I could bear. I could call them the silent years, but there was more noise in my head than any orchestra could make. I just couldn’t hear what it was saying….

Last year-after 5 long years- in 2017-the music began coming back. It started coming through to me in my sleep, every day waking with a song lyric in my head. Finally I began to get up and play the song I woke with, then it was songs from my childhood the 70’s, classic rock and some disco, then the music from my teens-Prince, Bruce Springsteen. Then it was Pink songs- and slowly, oh so slowly, my life began to come back. Then I grasped onto it like a lifesaver and held on for dear life, knowing that the music was going to pull me free. With the music releasing my spirit, somehow I began to get flashes of memories and to feel an inkling here and there of who I used to be. I didn’t realize how silent it was until the sound began to come back. The memories that it brought were not always happy. More often than not they weren’t. They were dirty and hard and traumatic. When I get the flashbacks now I get them written down in the hopes of exorcising them.

I didn’t realize until recently that there are other times I’ve lost music and with distance I can see that the times I did were not good times. No matter what my family thinks, whether they think I am well or crazy, whether they think I’m wasting my time writing or should be doing something they consider more productive, I will take it with a grain of salt and know that I am on the path God put me on. It will take something a lot bigger than some second guessing of me by my family to deter me.

Suffocating Under Good Intentions

“Do we need to adjust your meds?” Every time I hear these words, whether from my doc or my husband or any other person who thinks they know the inner workings of my mind better than I do myself, I immediately let out an exacerbated sigh and think to myself, “Why can’t they just let me be happy?” Or a little down or a little energetic? A little less sleepy than usual? Why can’t I make grand plans for myself without being “sick?” It’s not like I’m going to build a spaceship or anything. If I decide to rearrange the furniture and stay up late playing games on my phone why can’t it just be that? Other people do these things on a regular basis and never get questioned, as if they’re off their rocker, about it by anyone.  Those are the so called ‘normal’ people. Maybe I’m just extra tired this week and I want to stay in my bed for 5 days, so what? Give me a minute then. If I’m still in the same spot in a month perhaps you should be concerned.  Why is there always a question mark after every decision I make? There is always a well meaning, “Do you think you are ready for that? ” or “Maybe you should take a break right now and get a little rest.” Don’t forget to eat, are you drinking enough water? How can I convince these people around me that I am not sick? That I won’t freak out in the grocery store because there are too many people or because someone looks at me sideways? Will my husband always watch me out of the corner of his eye, standing at a distance in public because he is unsure of me, and in case I start rambling or screaming at strangers he doesn’t want to be in the fallout zone. Will I never be allowed to drive any distance by myself or make a decision of my own and then just go out and DO it?

The boyfriend that I had during that first admission became my husband four years later. We have since been through another admission, that one for depression, and we have fought many battles, real and imagined . This May will be our 9th wedding anniversary. Since my last admission in 2012, he has driven me to all my monthly doctors appointments. He has given me baths and washed my hair when I couldn’t do it myself. He has dressed me, made sure I took a few bites of a little something at least once a day. He has kept our cell phone provider in business by calling me 45 times a day to see what I was doing or to remind me of something I needed to do. He has been the sole breadwinner for most of our time together. He was a father to the four boys I brought with me into our marriage. He built us our beautiful dream castle and still managed to find time for fishing and stock car races so he could relax himself. I owe my life to him. Literally. I owe everything I have to him. He is the angel that God sent me. I am forever his and I will be eternally grateful. His devotion and the care he has given me exceeded ALL my expectation.

But I don’t know how to get him to stand down. I feel good right now, and no one believes me. I guess a person with a mood disorder shouldn’t be trusted to know their own moods. I have wanted to write since I was in high school 30 years ago and I took a crooked path but here I am. I feel that I am following the path that God set for me. Finally! I have a somewhat formed plan in my mind and I’m not letting anything stand in my way this time. My kids are grown and mostly out of the house so I see it as my time now, I’ve been waiting all my life and I’m ready but all around me there is resistance. I’m hearing it from my husband, “Don’t put yourself out there too much, everyone can see that, you know..-Are you sure you want your family to see that…?? Maybe you should start small..Blah, blah, blah.. Two weeks ago my doc said she was worried I was becoming increasingly hypo manic and increased my meds, “Just to be safe, you know how fast you tend to cycle…” Yada, Yada… It feels like stigma is sitting on the couch next to me eating pistachios and every time I want to say something, I have to check it, reel it in some, test my line and end up tasting not the big nasty Northern Pike that I have on line, but what amounts to be the bait fish, little and cute, but its not sustenance.

I can’t live wrapped in the bubble wrap they rolled around me. In this padded house they built for me.  I can’t breathe. I can’t see the sun. I want to be happy and sing a song and dance in my kitchen without having someone say, “OH NO!, I’ll call the doctor.” I know everyone from my family to my doctors have all meant well as far as my treatment is concerned but I think now it’s time for them to let go of the reins and see what happens. Maybe I will be able to control it. What’s wrong with a little hypo-mania anyway? It’s one of my favorite places to be.. I may just fly.