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?

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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.

I Sing Because I’m Free

It will be two weeks this Wednesday that my Grandma passed.  I feel like I am still dealing with the aftermath, but things get better every day.  I went back to Mass this past Sunday and it was really helpful.  I wish I had taken RCIA this past fall, but there’s always next year.  I guess I just wasn’t ready at the time.

My buddy, Pond Princess, has loaned me her rosary and I am learning to pray it.  I find it very soothing and like the prayers I am meditating on are being heard.  I just keep praying for God to make me willing, and to help me to turn things over to Him.  In some ways, I am very willing, in other ways, very willful.  It is a daily struggle to take things as they come, without trying to orchestrate my own life.  It’s all about letting go and floating.

I have been trying all I can do to use the skills that DBT has given me.  I am staying busy, and working constantly at turning my mind from the pain.  I accomplished a lot over the weekend, and that feels good.  I am also using sacred self and trying to take care of myself.  My sleep and eating has been out of whack, but I know that will settle down if I just get back into my routine.  It’s the getting there that’s the hard part.

Prayers for Pond Princess’ mom and more for my family, as it seems we keep going through the death and dying of our loved ones.  If you don’t pray, give some thought or light a candle for us.  My family and I feel loved and blessed by all of our friends, and I know that right now we are leaning hard on all of you.

Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount, His Eyes are On the Sparrow