Dear Gramps

I have read of such loss lately, Gramps, and just like it always does, any loss (whether it’s mine or my family’s or the guy down the road or my good friend losing her dog or a tragic ending in a book) reminds me of the late August night, almost 12 years ago, when Big Dawg came and picked me up in a raging thunderstorm to go see you one last time.

I remember I was on a low-carb diet at the time, and I had just started eating dinner — flank steak and broccoli and salad.  I still can’t use that particular seasoning rub to this day, without nearly breaking down in my kitchen.  I don’t remember exactly what was said, but whatever was said, I had hopes in my head that I was going to get to talk to you again and hear your scratchy and gruff voice say my name, Rosie.

It didn’t turn out that way.  You were wrapped in a white sheet from head to toe and on a gurney and I touched your chest and put my face close to yours and my whole world exploded and, while I don’t remember the exact details, I remember hearing a howling noise and then realizing that noise was me and shutting my eyes tight and saying something about how I had just seen you a few days before and you had been FINE.  FINE, DAMMIT.

I turned back around because I wanted to kiss your cheek before they took you away, but I was in a big empty room, just me and QoB and BD and some nursing staff.  I couldn’t tolerate that I had ruined my chance to say goodbye to you by getting overly emotional.  Whoever thought it was a good idea to wheel you off at that point was obviously a person that did not know me deeply.

The next week was a blur.  I tried to go into work, failed miserably.  Everyone around me was a complete wreck.  I can remember going through pictures to put up at the memorial service and I remember breaking down into tears time and time again.  Hysterical tears, hot tears, fast-moving, and unforgiving tears.

I still don’t remember much of that time, but I do know that I think of you all the time.  The wounds have healed over some, but I still have regret.  That I didn’t see you often enough or say thank you enough or stop by with a box of Cheez-its (our special favorite) just to say hi.  It was so hard being around Grandma, I just wanted my Grandpa back, the one who gardened on his knees for hours on end, even when he could barely walk, and the Grandpa that taught me how to drive by having me take back-roads from Topeka to Silver Lake at every opportunity.

The grandpa after the apartment with Sparky was sad, when he had to live with grandma again, when he didn’t feel as good physically, when PTSD from his time in the Navy rattled him as it never had before, when he couldn’t drive, couldn’t walk, couldn’t do whatever the hell it was he wanted to do.  Because he was like that, he was a man who did whatever he pleased.  If he wanted to whip up a bunch of refrigerator pickles, then he was going to do it, and if he felt like taking a drive or going to all of your basketball games (even though he could barely walk), then that is what he was going to do.

I find that every year that passes, I lose more of my memories of him.  Some are extremely fresh in my mind, some not so much.  In a day or maybe a week where there has been so much loss, the pang to my heart from Grandpa being gone is next-to-unbearable.  Should I be over this MUCH better 12 years down the road, yes.  I don’t need anyone to tell me that.  Some things are really hard, and this is one of those really hard things.  Every loss reminds me of him, and everytime I think of him, I am frightened by how much I don’t remember.

I hope you are proud of me, Grandpa, up on that big pontoon boat in the sky, and I am pretty sure you are.  Sometimes when I don’t feel like being tough, I think about your life and it gives me strength.  I hope you would be happy for me, too.  I have found love and love conquers all, and I know that you knew that.  It is still a month and several days until the anniversary of your death, but I wanted to be the first one to say how I miss you so, and how I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the love you poured into me when you were here.  I know you weren’t into religion or going to church, but I do believe that you and Sparky (and Mom’s childhood dogs) are out there somewhere, catching crappie after crappie, and moving around with the legs and back of a 16-year-old.

Always, Forever, Amen.  I love you.

 

 

Wordlessly Zen Wednesday

Pictures are all taken in QoB’s backyard.  After a hard day yesterday, I knew I needed to take a time-out and appreciate the world around me.  Along with an excellent mom-visit, I was able to enjoy sitting outside in her backyard oasis:

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Before I know it, this whole area will be in bloom.  My mom can make anything grow, and has the patience and knowledge and creativity to make a beautiful space out of anything.  I can’t wait to post pictures again in just a few weeks.

Ten Things of Thankful: Coping Skills Edition

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Through living most of the last twenty years of my life with Bipolar Disorder and PTSD, I have picked up a trick or an idea or a method that works to help calm the pain inside my addled head.  Much of it is learned from DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), a lot of it is common sense, and so much more came to me through the process of trial and error.

Captain Jack is right — it is often how you think about a problem, and your attitude toward a “problem,” that is the issue.  While I don’t often think of these skills after the storm has passed, when I am in the thick, I am really thankful for the ten random things listed below that help me get through:

  1.  An extreme attempt to change body temperature.  From going and standing out in the winter air in shorts and a t-shirt, to a cold compress to the back of the neck, this is my number one go-to coping method.  It also works in the form of a super-hot shower, a super-cold shower, frozen bag of peas behind the knees.  I don’t know the science, but the temperature change trick almost always snaps me out of hysteria.
  2. Coloring or doodling.  I have several “adult” coloring books and a seriously large collection of markers, pens, colored pencils, crayons.  This is becoming a more popular choice among many anxious people, and has even turned into a big of a “fad.”  The thing about this “fad” is that is REALLY works.  If you can get yourself coloring or doodling, you will find that you can turn your mind over much more easily than if you are just sitting and angsting.
  3. Phone a friend.  Not just for “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, this coping strategy works especially if you have one person in your life that can talk to you for five minutes and bring you outside yourself.  For me, this person is usually my dad and sometimes my mom.  They both know me well, and often five minutes after picking up the phone, I am mostly calmed down, or at least I have a plan to calm down.
  4. Get a hug.  A hug, or really any physical contact, can be helpful.  LarBear knows that if I am really upset and he rubs my neck or my back, that I can start to calm down.  There is something reassuring about human touch, something that makes us not feel so alone.  Sometimes I can calm down if LarBear simply sits and holds my hand for awhile, even if he says nothing.
  5. Get up and move.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  In the midst of hysterics, its tough to get up and do anything, but I find that if I can even get up and do a little pacing, or, even better, find a small area of the house to organize (like a drawer or a shelf…think small!), I can calm myself.
  6. Five senses meditation.  This is a great grounding exercise and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Out loud, name five things you can see, five things you can touch, five things you can taste, five things you can smell, five things you can hear, five things you can feel.
  7. Get it in writing.  Blogging is great for anxiety, but journaling or even free-writing can be helpful.  I have numerous written pages, where I have been extremely anxious, and have put pen to paper for a set amount of time (usually five minutes) and written down things as they flew through my brain.  It is an excellent way of letting thoughts go on down the road.
  8. Mind your breath.  After the temperature-change exercise, the thing I do most to calm down is to focus on my breath.  There are many ways to do it, but my favorite is to do a breath in to the count of five and a breath out to the count of seven.  You might have to play with it to see what works for you, but if you can put all attention on your breath, you may be able to calm yourself that way.
  9. Hug a tree.  No, seriously, I mean it.  Go outside and hug a tree.  Panicked, anxious, sobbing your eyes out?  Go hug a tree.  This is a very grounding exercise, and, similarly, sitting or laying in the grass can be almost as helpful.  Concentrate on the textures and feelings through your hands or on  your legs.
  10. PRN medication.  As an opportunity of last resort, after I have tried all of these things, or if I have tried several and none are working, I will take a teensy dose of Klonopin.  I don’t do it everyday anymore, or even every other day.  It is meant for short-term, very occasional use, and I really don’t think there is anything wrong with using that tool in my toolbox, as long as I am not abusing it.

Do you have any coping skills that you use, that I haven’t mentioned?  I would love to hear from you and have a blog post full of what works for everyone!  In the meantime, as a PLUS-1, maybe take a few minutes and put a Ten Things of Thankful list on your own blog.  ‘Till next time!

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Ten Things of Thankful — Found It!

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With a little push to my brain, and fingers flying fast over Google Search, I remembered the key words that I needed to find this prompt last week (that I unfortunately couldn’t find until about five minutes ago), and am now back in business doing a link-up for thankfulness.  Woot!

So because the point of this post is to get down the the nitty-gritty right away, let’s talk about what was keeping me thankful and grateful this week:

  1. Sunlamps, and the realization that I do NOT have to keep skipping out on my psychiatrist.  I am supposed to go in when I am feeling bad or off, so that is what I will do!
  2. The knowledge that a dear friend’s Thanksgiving went much better this year than in year’s past.
  3. Knowing that volunteering ourselves to go to the big shindig for the Big Dawg’s side of the family probably got him out and away from the TV and a frozen dinner.
  4. Was able to see my nephew and really bond over the last week, and have plans to see him again on Wednesday.
  5. Much less discord between LarBear and I, which I attribute to both of us listening more, communicating more, and being more patient…also thanks to therapy, for the both of us.
  6. The YMCA pass Dad is providing LarBear and I.  I did water walking yesterday and am very sore, but determined to keep up with it.
  7. A little extra money (I hope) to get caught up on buying some personal hygiene items.
  8. Two happy, healthy dogs
  9. It appears the new infusion that LarBear is taking for Crohn’s is working.
  10. Starting to have relationship again with stepdad

 

 

This Week in Gratitude

I used to do a link-up that was a 10-things of thankful, and I did quite enjoy doing it every weekend.  The format has changed now, and I can’t find any linkups, so I decided that at the end of every week, I will go out on my own and do a gratitude post.  There are so many things out there to be thankful for, yet it is easy to not bring them to one’s consciousness in a mindful way.  SO, this is part DBT exercise, part because-I-wanna exercise, and mostly because I want to remember the good stuff, for when the time are NOT so good.

Without further adeiu:

  1.  This week, I am thankful for the four-cup coffee pot my mom purchased for me.  I had a huge coffeepot before, and the result was always that I would drink the entire contents every morning, which would leave me sick.  Ok, so yes, no self-control.  To remedy the situation, I gave up caffeine, but have started to miss it oh-so-much, so this is the solution.  The theory — the less coffee that is made, the less I will drink.
  2. LarBear has been a champ this week (well, every week), but especially this week, with helping me get a caffeine fix every morning even when there was no coffee pot.  I’m not sure why a large coffee at McDonald’s must cost $1.95, but it is clear we will be saving money now with brewing it at home.  Oh, and LarBear can avoid going out in 25 degree weather, all for the sake of a cup of coffee.  I think he will appreciate that!
  3. The very small mouse problem that started a couple weeks ago in my basement (this is what happens when you live in the country), is no more, after Mom’s boyfriend hooked us up with some poison.  I placed it carefully where the dogs couldn’t get to it and there has not been one sign of a mouse ever since.
  4. I am thankful that I have found it within myself to continue to work on giving second chances and third chances and fourth chances to people in my life who, well, may not deserve it (from the outside looking in).  It can be really hard to give up on someone who has been around your entire life, although not impossible.
  5. In a related thankfulness/gratitude moment, I am grateful that I can still see the good in most people, even when it is buried very deep below the surface.
  6. I am excited about Thanksgiving plans, getting to see the Big Dawg’s side of the family, and possibly going to see my maternal grandfather’s side of the family a few days after the big Turkey Day.
  7. Somewhat related, I am very grateful that I am *with it* enough to think about doing these things, and being around all of these people (that I am not used to).  Baby steps, Rosa.
  8. I am grateful basketball season is upon us, and I have already made it to two games at the local college.  Go Bods!
  9. I am thankful for interpersonal communication effectiveness skills learned in DBT, as it seems like LarBear and I get clearer with each other every day, and my other relationships continue to improve, as well.
  10. I am grateful/thankful/proud that I have cranked out almost one post every other day for over a week, and don’t feel any signs of slowing down yet.  I am grateful people still read, still comment, still like, and still listen, even after all this time.  Some of my favorite people are my online blog friends, and I am glad I didn’t mess that up too terribly with my extended absence.

What are you grateful for this week?  Making these lists may seem a bit mundane now, but they are very helpful to look back on in the future when things might not be so rosy.  I know they have helped me tremendously!