Thursday, July 26, 2012

I’ll never forget when she took me to the Benjamin Franklin store.  The imitation stained glass hummingbirds were shimmering in the sun.  It was hot out then.  I was staying with her for a week while my parents were in Germany.  We rode in her truck and sang along to Dolly Parton, me only pretending to know the words.

She bought me and my brother Count Chocula cereal.  Her husband had salted peanuts in a giant jar near his recliner.  She had a woodpecker toothpick grabber on her counter.  When you pushed his beak down, he would grab a toothpick.  When you’re six, that is really something.
Her basement was scary.  I never liked going down there but if you wanted to play with the Lincoln Logs you had to.  She had poker chips, old spools, antique keys, and an automatic card shuffler that she let me play with.  She never yelled at me for making too much noise and although I was a quiet girl, she called me her little chatterbox.

She lived on a lake where I made mud pies and every once in a while she would give me a minnow to play with.  I was careful with the minnow, rolling it the tin full of muddy water.
When I was older, she built a cabin.  I went on the roof with my dad and he let me hammer in a shingle.  There was plenty of space to wander around and an outhouse.  In the cabin she told stories, we listened to the Indian radio station, and played countless games of Scrabble.

We are both older now.  Life is not fair, but has been especially been harsh towards her.  Her body has been encumbered with the effects of Rheumatoid Arthritis for years.  Ever since I have known her, anyway.  She has carried on with more physical pain than anyone I have ever met.  She has also carried on with a stoic sense of humor and a brave front.  Her life has been full, in the face of physical limitations.
She has been fighting particularly hard these last few weeks after an ugly car accident, never wavering.  I don’t know what makes her stronger than the rest of us.  I don’t know if she has been fighting her whole life and it is her innate instinct.  I don’t know if it is her resolve.  I don’t know if it is her faith.  I don’t know if she understands something we don’t.  Maybe it’s a combination.

I know she is getting better.  I know before too long, she will get back to enjoying nature because that is her nature.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I am learning to work harder and smarter at mental health.  Four years after diagnosis, I think I am finally getting it figured out.  It can be arduous having to self monitor all the time.  Truthfully, when I have my setbacks it is because I get so tired of having to constantly scrutinize moods and what is normal (or habitual) for me. 

It is a lot of work to compare what my moods and actions are to those around me in a particular setting.  It hurts when everyone is in slow motion and I am turning like a pinwheel.  It’s devastating when I am sad and everyone else’s life goes on.  Comparing is necessary to keep me in check, but comparing is a reminder that I am not like them.

My husband and I made the choice a couple of years ago to be open and honest about my mental illness.  Keeping a secret on top of everything just seemed like too much.  Bipolar II and General Anxiety Disorder.  Sometimes getting that reality out of my mouth is easier than others.  It depends where I am at (mentally), where I am at (physically), and who I am speaking with.

People have been overwhelmingly nice and speak about their experiences with loved ones who struggle with mental illness.  They make me okay with things; it’s been an amazing experience.  I don’t know why this was so surprising to me.

Some people don’t understand.   I have lost friends and have been disappointed by relationships I thought were more genuine than they turned out to be.  Sometimes people look at struggle as a character flaw.  I don’t know if I want people in my life who don’t struggle.

The good ones know the certainty of my heart and the strength of my character. 

You learn who your friends are.  You learn who sticks it out.  They understand if you drop out of the world for months at a time and they forgive times when you are agitated and times when you just aren’t quite yourself.

It is a strange thing to have your mind turn against your body, to have your body rebel against its own nature.  And it is difficult to explain to people.  You feel foreign, like you don’t fit anywhere.  The world gets a bit lonely.

I have recently begun to notice the more honestly I chat with people, the more connected I feel to the kindness in the world.  Chance encounters now have more depth.

It’s brave to have heart.

To have had the possibility to understand myself better through others is a gift I am very thankful for.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Showing Up

Things are good.  Well, my things are good.  Other people’s stuff is not so good.  Those other people are my people. 

My tribe.

My folks get tough when the tough gets going.  We rally.  We show up.  We hug and eat hotdish in church basements.  Just being there is highly valued.  You visit the sick and bury the dead.  Period.  End of sentence.

When shit goes down, you show up.

My life is very happy and mellow in Colorado.  I have a good job, a few good friends, and Bobaloo.  I get to be alone quite a bit.  I feel detached from the place I am from, but not the people.  I welcome the autonomy and calmness of my life.

I go back and emotions get triggered.  Being around the people I love most is overwhelming.  All of my awkwardness creeps out and to ease it, I have a few cocktails.  Traveling, too many cocktails, and not enough sleep can bring on mania or at the very least tremendous anxiety.

By the end of the trip I am in shutdown mode.  It is exhausting being on the airplane and knowing you have to pick up the pieces again once it lands.

Showing up.

Showing up means losing my shit.

Shit I’ve worked really hard on.

Is it selfish not showing up to preserve your own peace of mind?