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.

 

 

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Feelings of Okay-ish-ness

capable

I think this is part of the human condition, rather than a function of mental illness (or wellness, for that matter).  We try so very hard to maintain a baseline, and sometimes it floats away from us, due to circumstances not within our control.

Let’s face it…very little is within our control, and especially others’ behavior and inactions and lives — those are exquisitely beyond our control.  And that little fact can drive me a bit mad.  I have the tendency to want to loop my lasso over the horns of every bull and drag it to the ground, and this is simply insanity and I cannot sustain it over the long haul.  I can (and do) work on my own issues, but I cannot *fix* or even (in most cases) alter the path of others’ behavior.

I have been quiet for the past couple weeks, simply living life, and struggling to live it on the terms which are required of me.  There is so much suffering around me and I want to reach out and heal it, but when I do, I often leave myself with scars.  I cannot help you, without being affected myself, and I am not always in a position where I can afford to be affected by anything other than my own complicated existence.

In the past few weeks, my focus has been on living in the moment, general mindfulness, willingness, practicing opposite to emotion.  In other words, Rosa is doing some hard work right about now, and sometimes when I am doing that, I have to disappear a little bit.  Because words are hard to come by, and there have been other challenges that I haven’t wanted to put a spotlight on — very real, very concrete and physical challenges that I don’t know how to wrap my own tired mind around, nevertheless explain them to someone else.

I miss blogging when I don’t do it, but it is necessary for me to shut down, or maybe even reboot my brain every once in awhile.  I haven’t been talking about it, but in the past month I have been dealing with a new mental health diagnosis, the confirmation of a new chronic physical illness, a septic system that is no longer working, the death of an aunt, worries about family members, and with all the recent rain, a basement that is full of water and must be pumped every couple of hours (and the ruin of my HVAC system and hot water heater, with the first wave of rain).

A lot going on, yes, but I am managing because I am living in the moment and not allowing myself to think too far outside of where I am right now.  I also don’t want to feel like I am complaining, because I really do have a great deal to be thankful for.  The challenges keep pouring in on my head, but I continue to have hope and faith that things will work out for the best.  That fact, that I still have hope and faith even with the storms of drama around me, is near-miraculous, as my general tendency (once-upon-a-time) would be to catastrophize and live in panic.  I don’t want to do that anymore, and I actually refuse to do that anymore.

some days are betterwill write more about the new physical and mental health diagnoses at some point, and at another  point I might take a moment to complain about my failed septic/HVAC/basement disasters.  For today, though, I just want to be grateful for things like my LarBear, family, friends, and for my new-found sense of hope and ok-ish-ness.

 

The Sharp Pointy Things in Life

Whether you live with a mental illness or not, there are all sorts of events, large and small, that happen in life, that can sometimes come along and poke at the protective bubble you hold around your mind, your heart, your spirit…and sometimes, the bubble can burst.

I have been experiencing quite stable mental health for a briefly extended period, but the sharp pointy things in life today have me feeling quite down.  I have been furiously patching holes and strengthening weak spots and doing the time-honored “keep as busy as possible” routine.  Some days, that is just not enough.

I have been without one of my medications for two doses, without another for one dose.  This might not seem like a big deal, but, to me, it is HUGE.  A few missed doses can send me in a tailspin.  A few missed doses can mean the difference between a productive and upcoming Christmas-ing weekend, and a weekend spent hiding out in my couch bunker.

Still, I’m trying and pushing through.  I had the piss-poor idea to get on Facebook about an hour ago, wherein I learned of the sudden death of a former co-worker, made all the more sad because linked to that page, was the page of the obituary two years ago of her fiance, who I was also friends with at my last job.  He was killed in the line of duty on the police force.  I’m not sure what happened to her.  I know they both had very small children, and I know they both seemed like really nice and special people.

Of course, that also got me thinking about my former life working in the women’s prison, and working in mental health in general…and there was a pang in my chest and a tear in my eye and I clicked all of that mess shut and shoved it under the figurative bed.

Sadness, angst, horrific things on Facebook.  Sometimes I wonder why I belong.  Sometimes I wonder why every sad animal abuse story is on my feed, or why I pay any attention to the news.  It is distressing often, upsetting frequently.  And then there are the people, and the things they post, and the fact that I am often just shaking my head, thinking, “Hmmm, why do I even ASSOCIATE with these people?  People that could say these things, do these things, are interested in these things.”

I really think sometimes that Facebook brings out the worst in people.  I do find great inspirational sayings and funny things often, but the negative…wow, sometimes I think it really outweighs the good.

People often say, you must be careful what goes into your head.  This is why I don’t read certain books, don’t read certain magazines, listen to certain types of music, speak with certain people (at least very often).  I am, in general, very vigilant about what I feed my brain.

Except Facebook.  I let it in, every time, even when it punishes me for doing so.

Today has not been the best day.  I have fought all day to get a few prescriptions filled, and have had just ridiculous anxiety about the fact that I can’t seem to get them all taken care of.  The sharp pointy things of the day have deflated my balloon.

I’m not getting ready to go burrow my head in the covers and cry for my mama.  Instead, I’m sitting (as prescribed) in front of my sun lamp, and then I’m going to go to my aqua exercise class.  After that, who knows.  We baked a ham today, and the house smells good.  I am going to focus on that.

I am going to say:  Rosa, how can you possibly be in a bad mood when your house smells of finely roasted pig and you have family that loves you and a boyfriend that would do next to anything to make you feel better?

How, indeed?

Bright and Shiny

That’s me, in the moment.  I just came home from a two-plus hour workout (arms and cardio) and am feeling on top of the world.  My relationship with LarBear is going great, I finally have some non-itch-producing laundry detergent and one load down, I am blogging for the first time in five million eons, and Kizzie is possibly done unearthing moles out of the backyard for today.  Sometimes, its the little things.

Yesterday, the day before, the day before, so on and so on, lots of anxiety.  Actually, lots of anxiety since my last ECT one week before this past Wednesday.  ‘Tis a serious death anniversary week for me, one of my hardest, and it has been just as brutal this year as in years past.  I did get to see QoB last night though and do a little crying on my Momma’s shoulder, which helped immensely, even if she doesn’t realize it.

A lot of the anxiety I am having is also because I am having a really hard time remembering things and am also, at times, extremely confused and almost disoriented.  The beauty of ECT, though, is that I have forgotten a lot of the bad stuff, or, at least the details are not so crisp.  Very few nasty and scary memories still play in my mind as if on a movie screen.  Things are either blurry and hazy or not present at all.  I am hoping some of that stuff never comes back!

I think LarBear and I are going to try going to church this weekend.  Maybe.  No commitments but possibly.  We found one that seems promising, just have to give it a shot.  I have been trying to find things to do to build structure, and that would be one of those things.  I am also going to add DBT groups back in, as well as the good possibility of a water-walking class to go along with the water aerobics I am going to start doing at the YMCA.

Lots of good stuff here.  I hope to be back soon, friends!

Guilt and Shame

The hospice house was tucked in next to a green hill, down a long and winding private blacktop road.  It wasn’t what I had imagined, and it astonished me that I had lived in this town for almost 25 years and didn’t know how to find the house, not even knowing what section of town it was in.

As I parked and got out of my car, I looked at the entrance.  Everything was beautifully and thoughtfully planned out, cared for, tended to.  It was May and there were blooming plants everywhere.  When I came to the door, there was a plaque asking visitors to ring the doorbell.  Everything about this place seemed like a house, not somewhere Medicaid will pay to have you die in peace.

It was an even greater surprise to me that the volunteer who opened the door, was my supervisor from the very first job I ever had in high school.  It was wonderful to see him there, albeit a bit confusing because I never would have thought him to be interested in this type of work.  In “real life,” Charlie was intense and always seemed anxious.  Here at the hospice house, he spoke so quietly I almost didn’t hear him and there was no sound of tension in his voice.

I told him who I was there to see, and he brought me to The Bird Lady’s room.  She looked just as I had seen her last, although much thinner and with a yellowish-grayish cast to her skin.  This was one of her first few days in the hospice house, and she still had her wits about her.  I went over and gave her a big hug, and then noticed her evil sister sitting in the chair across from the bed.

I exchanged pleasantries with her sister, but I was there to make peace with The Bird Lady.  To make peace with who we were to each other in life, and to make peace with the fact that she was days from death.  The evil sister didn’t leave and consistently interrupted our conversation.  The Bird Lady eventually asked her sister to go find her some ice cream, and then I was able to spend a few minutes along with my dear godmother.

I don’t remember well what we talked about, but I do remember I didn’t cry.  I needed to see that she was ready to go, and it was very clear that she was, indeed, ready.  Most of my visit is blurry in my memory, except for a notable scene with her sister.  Something I am ashamed of to this day, something I feel deeply guilty about, something I can never change.

The Bird Lady:  Rose, will you wheel me out to the porch so I can have a cigarette?

Evil Sister:  You know that is against the rules and the nurse will have a fit if they find out.  Rose, you can’t take her out there.  What if she falls?

The Bird Lady:  Rose, will you?

Me:  (looking back and forth between sisters and considering my fear of the rules and my considerable fear of her sister)  I think we should wait until the nurse comes back and ask if it would be okay.  I’m sure they will let you.

The Bird Lady:  (losing control a bit) Dammit, Rose!  I just want to go outside for awhile.

Me:  Your sister scares me, Sondra, and I think we should wait for the nurse.  It shouldn’t be much longer he will pass through.

The Bird Lady:  Rose Talbott!  I have known you your entire life and you have NEVER been scared of ANYTHING!

And thus it went.  My godmother didn’t know the extent of my fear of other people, of the rules, of anything really.  She didn’t know how afraid I was of life in general, and she never would.  What she would know is that I refused to take her outside, as she was literally lying on her deathbed, and I wouldn’t grant that small request.

Denying that request replays this scene in my mind over and over, even years later.  The guilt and shame of it are often more than I can bear.  I could have given her a moment of peace, and I didn’t.  Guilt and shame.

Grief Anniversaries Compounding More Grief

I am so glad this weekend is over.  I’m glad DSB’s surgery is over and now everything is on the steady with that.  I’m glad I have the first round of inventory entered into the computer.  I beyond love love love my dishwasher for enabling me to keep a very clean kitchen at all times, although it was constantly being cooked in by a very messy DSB.  I am thankful for Klonopin, even though I get tired of taking it.  But mostly, I am just glad the first five days of 2014 are over, because I don’t think I could take much more.

I have spent more time today crying and boo-hooing and angsting and sobbing and catastrophizing today than I care to spend in about a month.  I mean, the waterworks will just not shut off.  The negative tapes were churning away in my head and I just felt so sad and hopeless.  And I couldn’t figure out why.

And I’m not saying this is the only reason, but it is likely a factor.  My grandmother died two years ago yesterday, and today would have been her birthday.  I wasn’t particularly close to my grandmother, but it was her death two years ago that sent me over the deep end.  I firmly believe that I probably wouldn’t have taken such a nosedive if that terrible timing hadn’t ended up the way it did.

I have a lot of my grandparents’ furniture in my house.  I bought some new silverware yesterday, and I cried when I found some of my grandparents’ old silverware tucked underneath some more current items.  Cheap steak knives is what they are.  Except they don’t look cheap.  And are probably not.  They were Grandpa’s and thinking about him and those steak knives brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Isn’t it awful how grief compounds grief?  I’m over my grandmother being dead, and it’s only been a couple of years.  My grandpa is a whole ‘nother story.  He died in 2004 to be exact.  He died exactly 14 days after my 25th birthday.  I distinctly remember that I was on the Atkins diet at that time, and I heard the call right as I was starting to eat a steak dinner.  I couldn’t ever eat that particular blend of seasonings again.

There was a huge thunderstorm going on and I can remember the Big Dawg picking me up and taking me to the Assisted Living place where my grandparents had been living.  There was a big empty room, and Grandpa was on a stretcher, all wrapped up in white sheets.  And I totally lost it.

And I still do lose it, thinking of him.  I think of all the things I wish he had been able to see, to do.  I wish he had been able to meet DSB, to go fishing again, to make terrible soup, to hold his favorite dog, to see my sister get married and have her little boy.  He has so much to be proud of, and I can’t help but think that he absolutely MUST be up there looking over.  I don’t know how I would or could go on if at least some part of me didn’t believe that.

And maybe that’s strange to not know if there is a God, but to be certain there is a heaven.  I really don’t care.  I pray rarely, but I do talk to Grandpa, and the Bird Lady.  And I really do think sometimes they answer me back.  And I light a little candle and I send a thought, and that’s enough for me.  So that’s what I’m going to go do.  Light a candle.  Take a Klonopin.  Pray for dreamless sleep.

Amen.

Go Home

Sometimes, when I’m out and about, I get this feeling that I just don’t want to go home yet.  It’s almost a sense that there is something bad waiting for me there.  Don’t get me wrong, there really isn’t.  DSB is kind and sweet and the pups are the best.  But still, sometimes, I don’t want to go home.

On occasion, I don’t want to go home because I don’t want to interact.  I would rather think and be still and not have to utter a word, even if it was only one word. There are times that I don’t want to go home because I don’t want to face my poor housekeeping.  Other times, I just don’t wanna.

Today in particular, I didn’t want to go home.  I wanted to go see my mom and talk to her.  DSB and I had stopped by my godparents’ home, now vacant, with the Bird Lady dead and my godfather in a nursing home.  I have some happy memories of that place, and it reminded me and I remembered and now I feel sad.

I also was reminded of the year I spent there with Dr. Love, a year of near-constant bickering and arguing and passive-agressiveness and almost no love.  I feel sick when I think about that relationship.  It should have never happened.  But, it did.  I have to deal with that and those memories, and that made me sad and anxious and mad.

So, we did end up coming almost directly home from there.  I feel almost sick over today, when there is so much to be grateful for, which makes me feel even the more sick that I feel this way.

DSB saw his doctor and the cancer has not spread.  They are going to remove his left kidney, but he’ll be fine.  No chemo, no radiation, just a short hospital visit and about a month’s recovery time.

I saw my orthopedic specialist who informed me that my foot has healed completely and perfectly, and that I am in pain because I need to wean myself off the boot instead of trying to do everything all at once without it.

So, two happy, good, awesome things happened today.  I am not appreciating it and I hate that.

I feel as if I may cry, I feel as if I may throw a chair out the window.  I also feel as if I may just get naked and go huddle into the fetal position in bed and not come out until today has passed.

This isn’t fair.  I can’t let my emotions get hijacked like that.  I should have been on higher alert, or something.  I should feel positive and happy and relieved.  Instead, I feel anxious, sad, and angry.  I can’t see the good for the bad and that just isn’t fair to DSB.  I need to snap the fuck out of this ASAP before something truly dire does happen, like breaking all the glass windows out in my sunroom.  Because that sounds pretty good about now.