Ramble

My stomach is the worst!

I really thought that by this point I wouldn’t be writing about it anymore.  At least, less  At least, it wouldn’t be throwing me flareups that wipe out whole days of my life every so often. 

I planned to go to my first musical event this past weekend…a cover band of a group I love, at my favorite bar.  Did I make it?  No, of course not.  Why, oh why, would my pyloric muscle ever allow such things?!  FUN?! NEVER!!

So, after feeling salty about that all day on Sunday, I woke up feeling a little better this morning, but also tired of worrying about my health.  However, I am making major health strides despite my stupid stomach.  For one, my sciatica is much improved due to the exercises I have been doing.  And speaking of exercise and diet related things, I am officially the thinnest I have ever been in my entire life.  I don’t suggest my diet of protein shakes and jello, but hey, it got results, I guess.  I do indeed fit into that bathing suit I mentioned some months ago.  That’s a nice thing.

I mean, I really still don’t give a crap about my weight but it’s nice to accomplish a goal, y’know?

And then the other health thing, in which I attempt to quit smoking.  Again.  They say the average smoker quits seven times before the big one…if that’s so I’m plugging along on attempt number five right now.  Hopefully it’s a good, long run.  In the meantime, I’m on the patch and having crazy dreams.  No, don’t tell me to take it off at night…I often wake up in the night wanting a smoke, so I have to keep it on then,  The dreams are actually mostly fun, not scary or anything, but the realism is something of a brain tease.

So, I’m losing weight and quitting smoking and still my stomach insists on behaving the way it does every time I try to do something fun.  One doc says it’s a fluke.  Another doc says it takes time for it to heal.  I don’t think either of them know what they’re talking about anymore.

I’m sitting in my desk with a pain in my shoulder as I type because I am simply not used to sitting at my desk and typing, as I have been away from the writing for so long.  My blog is in shambles, my poetry practically nonexistent, and while I did drop 350 words in the WIP the other day, that’s it for months now.  But this morning I found a poem.

Just a little something about a fish that I wrote while out one afternoon and forgot about.  Just a note on my phone, that I polished up and put into pretty words and saved in my poetry file.  It gave me a little hope, much like the fishies I wrote the poem about do.

That’s what I need to do!  Go fishing.

Anyway…thanks for listening to my ramble today.  There wasn’t much else on the agenda and I just had to get all these little thoughts out of my mind.

Happy Monday.

Fluke

So, it’s been a bit, and that has to do with only one thing, which is my stomach.  Of course.

I planned this great trip for my birthday.  My parents and sister and friends were all coming down to celebrate at my favorite place, Allegany State Park!  Camping and hiking and fishing and bonfires…what could go wrong??

Friday was ok.  I did a little fishing with Mark, then Carey arrived, and we tried to make a fire but couldn’t really get it going.  We went to bed early…big day tomorrow, and all that.

Saturday. Party day, and I spent it in the back of the cabin, vomiting.  Everyone else says they had a good time, which is helpful for my depression, but not by much.  No, that took a major hit as I laid in Olean General Hospital and realized that I actually applied for a job last week.  Like an idiot.  Like an idiot with a working digestive system.

Olean Gen was adorable, by the way.  Note that I am used to a massive city hospital with a warehouse-style emergency department that has like 62 beds.  This place had probably 12 rooms and a handful or carts, and when they told me they were very busy I was worried for a six hour wait, as per usual at Mercy up by my house.  Alas, no, that just meant they were putting me in a hall bed.  I haven’t gotten so lucky as to get a hall bed at Mercy in years!

The nurses were wonderful, and the doctor was a peach.  I am used to docs who come in and say “Here’s the thing were doing,” then they do it.  This man asked me if we could do the thing…asked me.  That means a lot, really.

Anyway, after a couple of hours and a couple of bags of saline, I was back in the cabin, sleeping.  I woke up to Carey leaving and mild nausea.  I realized I lost my sunglasses, so I drove to Salamanca and bought a new pair.  We returned to the cabin and just kind of hung around…I still felt terrible, worse as the day went on.

Went home early Monday morning, felt like death.

Tuesday, back at Mercy.  The usual question presents itself: when are you getting your surgery?  Dude…I DID.

On Friday I was feeling much better and went to the doctor.  They tell me, it’s a fluke.  They tell me it was stress-induced.  Prescription:  less stress.  Ha!

I feel ok now, but it was a huge blow to my mental health, not just physical.  I am still upset, because last week I put out an application for a job, and that’s a really big deal for me.  To think that I am still battling this full-force is just not acceptable.  I have been waiting for it to be over for so long.

But maybe it is.  Maybe, doc says, when I come back in a few months I won’t have had any problems, and they will declare the surgery as working.  I just have to cut down on the stress.

Oh, if only I knew how.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Today is Friday, not Thursday., when I usually update, because I have been living in a fog all week, trying to adapt to my new schedule.  The day got away from me yesterday, and almost did today, as well.  I have a few moments now, though, so here we are.

May is Mental Health Awareness month.  Since we are smack dab in the middle of it, I thought I would take this time to discuss my own personal journey with mental health…but then the illness piece kicked in and blanked out my brain. 

See, I first came down with depression when I was about 9 years old.  Anxiety shortly followed, then trichotillomania, further manifesting into some vicious obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I went untreated until I was eighteen.  Throw a pile of PTSD on that, and you have yourself a whopping case of mental illness.

Since my adolescence, I have also had diabetes.  But I tell you what, I have yet to have someone tell me to “get over” being diabetic, or that if I “think positive,” or “try yoga,” or “get some more sleep,” then my Hemoglobin A1C will go down.  Yet all these things have fallen from the mouths of those who were trying to “help” me with my mental health.  It’s just further proof of the stigma.

So many people hide their mental illness because they are afraid of what others will think of it, and I want you to know that anyone who doesn’t treat your mental health on the same playing field as your physical health is an idiot.  Yes, I can absolutely die from diabetes.  And yes, I can absolutely die from depression, as well.

Every year I walk in the Out of the Darkness walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I do this so I don’t die, guys.  I do this so that every year I can celebrate the fact that I made it ANOTHER YEAR.  It’s not unlike other walks, where you have supporters, those who have lost loved ones, and those who are still fighting.  I am one of those people still fighting, and I’m always going to be, because Major Depressive Disorder is a bitch.

People are a lot more open today then they were 20 years ago when I first started therapy.  At least this much is true, but still I feel that we as a society judge mental illness far more harshly than physical illnesses.  It’s almost like we are blamed for it, as if we have done something to deserve it, or we are seen as “less-than.”  You’ll notice that no one ever feels that way about a cancer patient.  No one says they must’ve brought that cancer on themselves, or it’s in their power to control that cancer.  Listen, if I knew how to control my serotonin levels on my own with some superpower, don’t you think I’d be doing it?

I’ve been depressed this week, because I haven’t been very active since surgery and also, it’s been a little lonely without Mark around…our schedule is still not meshing.  I am, of course, looking for my silver linings, which come in the form of the ability to start hiking again next week with Kevin, and…drumroll…SAHAR IS HERE!!  My nearest and dearest drove up from Ohio to see me and I am thrilled.  In fact, I’m going to wrap this up now because she is on her way over.  But my point here is that despite being depressed, I am finding things to look forward to, thus making myself happier.  It’s one of the many items in the emotional toolbox that I have been constructing for the past 20 years.

Also, break a stigma!  Don’t let anyone tell you you’re lesser because you have a mental illness!  You are a strong and special warrior and you should be treated as such!

Complaint Form to the Universe

I would love to update you on some thrilling adventure I have had recently, or new thing I have discovered, or adorable anecdote from the kiddos.  I would love to tell you about my writing endeavors, and my fishing encounters, and my glorious days of feeling well and wonderful.

I ain’t got any of that.

I can’t tell you how many times I was in the emergency room last week.  I don’t remember.  I know one day it was twice…so that was two craploads of drugs pumped into me that made me completely forget the following day.  And on Sunday night, I found myself trapped under plastic sheeting as they put in a central line, after two hours of trying to find a vein that hadn’t scarred over.  Yesterday I felt better, but also generally like someone hit me with a truck, and then kicked me in the chest for good measure.

I had great plans for this weekend and I was sick the whole time, which sucked because we had the girls and I promised them we would go fishing.  Instead, I was sleeping or puking.  It’s things like this that take a mental toll, too, because then you feel like a disappointment to other people.  Like, my mom made this lovely Irish breakfast for all of us Sunday morning and I immediately vomited it up, thus ending what looked like it might have been a good day.  It’s just depressing.

And then comes Monday, wherein I had plans.  I have reading to do.  I have writing to do.  I have work to do.  But I can’t do a thing.  I can’t sit at the desk long enough, or hold the mouse even, because my arms feel like they weigh 6000 pounds.  The bruises in the crooks of my elbows and on my wrists are aching with each word I type.  The only reason, and I mean the ONLY REASOIN I am even sitting here right now is because I am clinging to a tiny shred of normalcy, and in this moment, that would be my blog.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my grandfather’s death, by the way.  It was a terrible week that I wrote of in detail, and this year has somehow simultaneously flown and dragged without him.  Today we are going to the cemetery to place a wreath on his grave.  I haven’t been to it, yet.  The only grave I visit is Ka, so this is one of those milestone-style things for my anxiety.  Thing is, it doesn’t seem such a big deal to me, at least not as it was a year ago when they went to the cemetery after the services, and I went back to my Gram’s house instead. 

Because, you see, I’m stressed elsewhere.  I’m anxious in other areas.  I’m depressed in a different department.  My stupid, stupid, STUPID stomach.

But soon…soon the phone will ring and I will answer and it will be the scheduler for my surgery and they will tell me help is on the way.

Until then, I’ll dream of the things to come, like not getting sick daily or ending up in the ER monthly because they’re going to blast a hole through my stomach (I mean, that’s not the technical procedure, I just like to tell people that.)  Like the fact I’ll probably lose some weight during my subsequent liquid diet and fit into the bathing suit I bought last summer that was just slightly too small.  Ooooh!  And, of course, once it’s over and I am healed, I am GOING TO CLEVELAND TO SEE SAHAR.  That, of course, is the endgame.

So yeah, this blog entry isn’t much more than my complaint form to the universe, but in case you haven’t noticed, I don’t exactly shy away from the realities of chronic or mental illness, and the stomach issues coupled with the depression it has caused is really weighing on me right now.  I’m not going to sit here and pretend it’s all rainbows and butterflies, because it isn’t.  It never was.  But, some days, like today, are tolerable enough.

Hibernation

Hi!

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been out for a week and a half.  Usually when I miss a day in my blog it’s because I am in the hospital, but this was not the case this week.  I was home, and my stomach was calm.  My brain was not.  It’s still not great.  It’s kind of like when you have the flu, and you start to feel a little better each day.  I’m on day three of feeling a little bit better. 

I was kicking myself this time last week, mad that I hadn’t updated the previous Monday and had nothing to write about then.  I gave myself that Monday “off,” because I felt pretty down, and I wanted to take some time for myself.  So I watched some movies and made soup for lunch and snuggled with my blanket on the couch.  I thought I would feel better Tuesday.  I didn’t.

So last Thursday, I came back to the blog, feeling even lower, because it had been four days and I hadn’t written A THING.  Not my blog, not my WIP, not a poem.  Not so much as a sentence.

I felt slightly better while the kids were here this past weekend, but that all fell apart again Monday morning.  I felt worse than I had the previous Monday.  Blogging was out of the question.

So for the past week and a half, I have pretty much been hibernating in my living room, watching Pretty Little Liars and eating cereal.

I don’t know what my problem was.  It felt almost like I wasn’t taking my meds, even though I was.  And it left as quickly as it came, too.  I told my therapist and she told me not to worry about it unless it happens again, so I won’t.  But I always try to solve the little puzzles and figure out why my brain does what it does, so I tried to solve this mystery.  The best I can come up with is stress.  I handle stress so poorly…it just builds up and then drowns me.  I have been very stressed the past few weeks, and it is compounded stress; months of worries toppling down on me.  I wasn’t taking care of my stress levels like I’m supposed to, and I think it caused me to spiral a little.

After a week or so of self-care, I feel better.  I feel normal.  Maybe even positive, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.  What I need to remember is to take the time for self-care regularly, and not have my stress get so bad that I implode.

Anyway, I’m here and I’m alive and well.  I still haven’t gotten to my WIP, but I just updated my blog, so that’s something.

The Love Remains

I’ve only really personally known one person that killed themselves.

(That’s a harsh way to start a post, huh?)

I’m not going to share his name, because we were only friends for a short time and because of that I somehow feel that his death is not really mine to mourn.  Still, when I logged onto Facebook one day and saw all our mutuals posting tributes on his wall, I cried.  I thought, as I’m sure everyone did, that if he had just reached out…maybe I could have done something.  But we weren’t close.  We worked together for a while, and I was his Secret Santa one year.  Hung out a couple times.  What could I have possibly done, except point him to a suicide hotline?  But maybe that would have been enough.  Who knows? 

(That was, completely coincidentally, the year I started doing the AFSP Out of Darkness Walk.  They read a list of names, and his was on it…I felt my heart drop to my shoe.) 

Last summer, I saw a guy in a crowd that looked like him.  For a second, I thought it was a ghost, that’s how close the resemblance was.  I remembered how I felt when he died…that I lost someone I once called “friend,” and felt powerless.  I don’t feel as powerless now.  I do the walk every year and raise funds to save lives, lives like his.  Lives like mine. 

That helps.

Anyway, after I saw this ghost it got me thinking of people in my life that I have lost contact with.  It’s a lot.  Like…a hell of a lot.  And it is all depression’s fault.  It went and convinced me these people didn’t really care about me in the way I cared about them and kept me from reaching out to maintain friendships that were important to me.  I thought to myself, that if one of these people committed suicide, I would be heartbroken.  I wanted people to know that despite my mental health keeping me from being present, the people I love will always be with me, and can always call on me when they need to.  So, I started sending messages.  About one a month, to people I loved and missed.  When I would see a meme or something that reminded me of someone, instead of just thinking “Gee, I miss so-and-so,” I would send it to them with a message. 

And so, I talked to my college buddies.  I had coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen for three years.  I reconnected with one of my besties from high school.  At Christmas, I sent messages to people I did Xmas shows with when I was in my teens.  I just so happened to message my middle school best friend the night before she got engaged.  Yesterday, I messaged a friend I haven’t seen in at least a decade AND my former therapist.  My point is that I tried to reach out, and good things came of it.

And…

I hope these people know.  I hope all the people I have ever met in my life know…that I am here.  If I loved you before, I have not stopped.  I wrote a play once, and the premise was that love, in all its forms, does not dissipate.  Take a relationship…you may break up, it may be awful, but you loved them once, and that love lives on in your subconscious whether you acknowledge it or not.  Or, someone you’ve had a falling out with…for instance, there is a woman that I’m pretty sure doesn’t like me.  And that’s fine.  She doesn’t have to.  We had a falling out many years ago, and I personally don’t think she’s ever forgiven me.  Again, that’s fine, it’s her prerogative.  Still, if she called me in a panic, I’d summon the part of me that used to be friends with her and run to her aid.  It’s just the kind of person I am, and why I believe that the love remains.

I do not give up on people.  It may seem that way at times, because I fall into depressive episodes that can last anywhere from an hour to five years.  I hate losing my people, be it to distance, time, or circumstance.  I will always, always be here.  Do not hesitate.  I don’t want to hear them read your name at the suicide walk, guys.

And also…maybe I just miss you.

My point is to reconnect.  To try to do something to maintain the relationships that mattered to you, even though the world seems to have gotten in the way.  And if you’re in a really dark place, all the more reason to reach out.  And if you need me, I’m here.

Good Days and Bad Days

Yesterday, I was on the phone with my therapist and she was commending me on how well I deal with my illness.  Every time I’m in the ER, she gets an email, so she has been worried about me these past few weeks.  I told her that the way I see it, I have good days and bad days.  And because I have so many bad days, I strive to make those good days into very good days, which is helping fight my depression in turn.  She was quite proud of this, and told me I was doing great work with my coping skills.

Afterwards, I hung out with Bernie, then Kevin showed up and we made brownies and watched drone footage of abandoned asylums.  After Mark got home, I made pizza and we hung out for a while and watched TV.  I took a nice long shower and went to sleep.  It was a good day.  Maybe even a very good one.

Today I woke up with a stomachache and immediately went full panic attack.  This caused me to throw up, which caused me to panic more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  I took my Xanax and my Zofran and wrapped up in my blanket and begged God for just one more good day.

I fell asleep sitting on the couch, and when I woke up again, I still felt crappy, but I wasn’t vomiting.  I took Mark to work.  I took a drive to the reservation.  I drank a cup of coffee, and when that didn’t come back up, I thanked God for one more good day.

Very good day has yet to be seen.  I still feel a little under the weather, and will likely just stick around the house and do some writing.  Still, a very good day is possible…I will likely work on my outline for NaNo, and maybe my final proof for my chapbook will arrive so I can look that over.  I can send out a few submissions, or if inspiration strikes, write a new poem.

I can open the door to my office, finally, blessedly, and let the sunshine in.  I can play my music as loud as I want because my downstairs neighbors are out for the day.  I can light my new candle, and maybe watch something on tv if I get bored.

Every day that I can do these simple things is a win.  So many days of my life are spent in a hospital, or recovering in my bed.  Sometimes it feels like those bad days outnumber the good ones, and that is, at times, unbearable.  But I don’t have a choice, see.  If I’m going to quit something, I have to be pushed to my absolute limit…but there is no limit on your life.  It can go anywhere, so you can’t quit, because what if something great is around the next corner?  And I will tell you, oh so many times in my life, there has been a great thing waiting. 

It’s the first really nice day here in Buffalo.  This Saturday is supposed to be gorgeous, and part of my plan for today is choosing a hiking spot for me and Hubs to hit up this weekend.  I am sitting in my office pecking out this blog, but I am distracted, because I want to be outside.  I think I will clean up the porch and maybe pull a few weeds.  Those are the kind of chores that make me happy, so I will do them as one of those coping mechanisms that my therapist appreciates so much.  The little tasks I give myself keep the depression at bay, and make my day feel worthwhile.  I appreciate each good day, and I strive to make them all into very good days, so I try to accomplish as much as I can, write as much as I can, and love as much as I can.

Someday, all I will have are good days.

That will be the best day of them all.

Dancing in the Dark

Last night, as I was dancing with depression, she said that I had no blog topic for today and that I should just take the day off and stay in bed.  She said a lot of things yesterday, and they all sounded pretty good.  By the end, I found myself huddled under a blanket doing worst-case-scenarios and having a literal screaming match in my head between Sane Brain and Crazy Brain.  After about an hour or so, I took my sleeping pills.  Sane Brain was getting quieter, and tired.  Crazy Brain was raring to go, and needed medical intervention.

When I woke up, I felt a lot better.  I sat down to write, and briefly considered ignoring last night’s darkness, until I realized that it is Mental Health Month.  Two years ago, I wrote a series of blogs about breaking the stigma of mental health, using one of my diagnoses as a jumping off point each week.  I received some lovely feedback from family and friends.  I hope I broke a couple of stigmas for someone.  One can dream.

Anyway, it’s two years later and I write about my mental health all the time, and not just in my blog anymore.  I have had three articles published at Mental Health Crisis Angels, which is a peer support group, mental health blog, and all-around stigma bashing organization.  The first was about my struggles with Severe Anxiety Disorder.  The second, about tips to deal with anxieties, big and small.  And the last was about Trichotillomania, which I developed when I was eleven. 

And then there is my chapbook.  The whole thing is about chronic illness and, by default, depression.  Now, I have had symptoms of depression since I was around 8 years old, but it didn’t go full-blown until I was sixteen and diagnosed with diabetes, which is where my chapbook begins.  Some of the poems in it are new.  Some I wrote 15-20 years ago.  All of them are about battling the depression caused by illness and trauma. 

Then my blog, where I write about mental health on a personal basis.  When I was first diagnosed, I was scared to share my experiences because of what other people would think of me.  I’ve had people call me a liar.  I’ve had people tell me I’m making up symptoms.  I’ve lost friends because I’m “too complicated.”  I’ve had to regain the trust of people I love.  I’ve worried about employers not wanting to hire me.  It seemed for a while that telling people about my illness made me lose them, so why share?

But then one day, about fifteen years ago, I posted something about Trichotillomania.  Just a logo or something from the TLC Learning Center, which was the only resource for TTM at the time.  A friend emailed me: she saw the logo, and decided to take the leap and tell me that she, too, had Trich.  I had known her for years, and had no clue.  She asked me not to tell anyone, as we had many mutual friends, and she was embarrassed.  I understood.  I, too, had been so ashamed of it, once.  However, it was that day that I realized we should not be ashamed-how much easier would my life have been, had I been able to confide in her?  How much less lonely would she have felt, knowing there was not only another person who was going though this, but someone who was already a friend?  Youth could have been a little different for us.  A little less lonely, at least.

Anyway, from that point on, I started sharing my experiences, opinions be damned.  I didn’t want to feel how I felt anymore.  I didn’t want to feel how my friend felt.  I wanted to stand up: for her, for myself, for everyone that was too scared. 

The stigma of mental health is, thankfully, changing rapidly.  Especially in our current climate, when people are getting whacked in the face with anxiety and depression on levels they have never known.  I still find solace in my professional-cynic status; I was anxious and depressed way before this whole shebang.  I will be when it’s over.  Right now, I’m kind of doing well because as I’ve said before, to me, the world has always been on fire.

So happy Mental Health Month to all of you.  It isn’t just those of us who live with mental illness that need to be celebrated and lifted up right now.  It’s all of us, because we are having a worldwide mental health crisis, whether we acknowledge it or not.   

Please please please, stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy.

And So It Begins.

At the end of August, I finished the assembly of my chapbook.  I thought, as I always think with these things, that is was crap, so I sent it off to be read by my few trusted readers and the reviews came back raving.  So, the bravery that lives deep inside me came out to play, and it sent my little book off to a few prospective publishers.

In my search, I came across one company that I particularly liked.  They’re local, which delights me, and have published a couple books by a poet I like.  I did a little research on them and found that they were accredited though the Better Business Bureau, and a member of the Association of American Publishers.  The reviews I found were all 5 stars.  The interviews I read with the editor were good.  The articles I found about upcoming releases were great.  So, in October, I sent an inquiry to them as to whether or not they published chapbooks.

In January, I received a response, telling me that my book sounded interesting and to forward my manuscript for review.  The review process, they said, would take about three weeks.

Months passed.

A little over a week ago I decided to write an inquiry letter, which was stressful as I have never done such a thing.  Usually I log my submissions and let them sit there until I hear back, but I was on pins and needles over this particular publishing company.  I figured out how to sound polite and professional and sent a little note asking if they received my book and were still reviewing it, and wishing them all good health.

On April 20th, I received a reply: “It would be my pleasure to help you publish your poetry.”

After more research and discussion, it came to my attention that this was a hybrid press.  Meaning, it’s sort of a cross between traditional publishing and self-publishing.  I do have to pay certain fees, which bummed me out at first.  But then I made a pros and cons list.  Yes, it would cost a little money, but it’s a good way to get your first book out there, and establish your portfolio.  Plus, I have complete control over the design and layout.  And on top of that, I look at it as a learning experience-I’d pay for school, wouldn’t I?  And in the end, I will have my book, and be able to sell it, and make that money back.  I went to Mark with my concerns, afraid to ask him to finance me when we have so many other things that need our financial attention.  His reply?  “I’d pay anything to hold your book in my hands.”

So, here is my official announcement that I am in the process of publishing my chapbook with the press I wanted most.  I am already working on it and learning about the development.  I am excited.

I asked my goddaughter if I could use a photo she took for the cover, and she obliged.  When the publisher sent me the mock-up of the cover and interior document, that was probably the moment that the shock finally wore off.

See, I didn’t really believe it for a bit.  I didn’t believe that someone wanted to publish my stuff.  I was trying to talk myself out of it (“well, it’s a hybrid press so do they really like it, or do they just want my money?”) while Mark was trying to talk me into it (“people do not publish books they cannot sell and make money off-they think it’s good enough to sell.”)  Sahar helped, too, pointing out that I was getting more for my money, given the services offered and the effort and cost of self-publishing.  And it should be noted that submission periods for chapbooks are few and far between, so theoretically I could be querying this for years.  No.  That’s too much.  And yet, even after the decision was made, I didn’t believe it.

I didn’t believe it until I saw the cover.  Until I saw the page layout.  Then it became real.

Still, there exists that unbelieving part of me that just knows something will go wrong.  The money will fall though.  The finished product won’t be what I see in my head.  No one will buy it.

I talk myself into these worst-case scenarios, and I know it’s because of my anxiety.  I know it’s false, because mental illness is a liar, and everything will get worked out in the end.  So, despite my fears I will make this happen, and actualize one of my dreams.  The whole book is about fighting depression and anxiety-maybe I should take a note from my own page, and fight against all these voices in my head that tell me it isn’t good enough.  There is another voice, quiet yet persistent, that insists I am doing the right thing.  She is joyous and excited, and I hardly ever let her out to see the sun, but I hear her nonetheless.  It’s that voice I have to listen to, not those loud and demanding ones that say I’ll never do anything I set out to accomplish.  Those voices are wrong.  It is the small voice, always pushing me, always celebrating my accomplishments, that I need to pass the microphone to.

Anyway, in closing, I’m publishing my first book.  I’m scared, I’m excited…I’m hoping you buy it.

Of Grief and Friendship

Hubs asked me a question that knocked me on my butt the other day.  “What were you doing at 23?”  I had literally no idea.  I couldn’t come up with one single thing that happened in 2006.  He knew where he was: “jumping.”  Jobs, women, substances, etc.  My sister Bernie is 23 today, and I wonder if 13 years from now she too will wonder what the hell she was up to.  Probably not.  She has a nice healthy brain that hasn’t been controlled for years by anti-depressants.

There’s some time I have lost.  I can’t pinpoint much of my twenties, not just 23.  I also have no recollection of third grade, which occurred right after my grandmother died. It’s not like the drugs I was using were recreational, aside from some occasional marijuana, and I was never a big drinker, so really I think I have to blame that old cocktail of trauma and psych meds.  I asked my mother what I was doing in 2006.

She told me that’s the year my aunt Ka died, and then the floodgates opened.

I handle death very well and very poorly at the same time.  Poorly in that when it’s someone very close to me, I will block out a lot of the time surrounding their passing.  I honestly don’t remember most funerals I have been to.  I also hate going to wakes, as they cause instant panic attacks.  On the other hand, someone will pass away and I will grieve quickly, which is nice. I unfortunately do this by picturing them on a sunny island somewhere for an extended period of time. 

Ka has been in the Philippines for 13 years.

I vividly remember the night she died.  It was Christmas day, and I had cooked dinner for my family.  She was in the hospital and it would be the first year she wasn’t with us, but I was going to go see her after dinner.  My parents called and said they wouldn’t be home in time and to eat without them.  It was strange.  Then after dinner, as I was serving dessert, Dad called and said to come to the hospital right away.  When we got there and he told me she was unresponsive and unlikely to make it through the night, I ran to the bathroom and threw up Christmas dinner.

That night Jaime and Molly and I went out for milkshakes.  They had a vigil the following day at the convent, as Ka was a Sister of Mercy (a nun, in laymen’s terms.)  My friend Katy sat next to me and held my hand.  The next night there was a wake.  I remember many of my friends coming and that got me through it, but I had a big panic attack beforehand.  Afterwards my friend Tom took me out to a party.  The following day was the funeral, and I sobbed over her coffin, then ran crying from the church.  I remember Christina, my best friend from youth, coming and sitting with me in the reception area during the Mass.  I had other friends around me as well.

The point is that my friends are the ones who got me though that, who made it so I could let go to the best of my abilities and send Ka off to the Philippines of my mind.  I went back into my LiveJournal to see what I was doing in 2006, and one thing is prevalent: friendship.  I was spending a lot of time with a lot of amazing people.

That was the year my aunt Mary and I went to New Jersey to meet Kevin Smith.  That was a year of many parties and Jackdaw concerts with Katy, Rick, and Tom.  The year me and Kev got acupuncture.  Endless Wednesday night get-together with Jaime, Andy, Molly, Chelsea, Steve, and Will.  Mad Yellow Sun concerts with Nick and Doug.  The list goes on.  The point is that I was at a low point and didn’t even realize it, and these people were there for me though it all.

Sadly, life, she moves on.  My friends are now scattered to the winds.  Andy and Christina live on different continents.  Katy, Will, Nick, and Doug live in different states.  The friends that I still have here have careers and families and lives to live, just like me, so it’s very hard to keep in touch, and eventually we all move on.

I put a meme on Facebook a while back about missing the bonds I used to have with people.  From that meme, I got an inside joke from my buddy Dennis, a message from Christina with plans to see each other when she’s next on this side of the planet, a coffee date with Chelsea, and plans to meet up with Lissa and Joe, my friends from college. 

Sometimes you just need to say “Hey-I miss your face.”

This is a weird post, as we went from death to friendship.  But what really gets us though death?  Our friends.  Sometimes our family can’t be there for us because they are grieving too, but our friends pick up that slack.  I blocked 2006 because of death, but I reopened that door while reading about my friends.  You, my random reader, don’t know these people, so you’re unaware, but trust me when I tell you that I have been very lucky in the good friend’s department.  They had the power to heal what was hurting in me when I didn’t even realize I needed to be healed.

I have been making a conscious effort to keep up with the people I love for the past few months.  Between my mother’s injury and my father’s radiation, I have been holding the people that matter a little closer, thinking of them a little more often, and trying to reconnect.  So, if you’re reading this and you’re an old friend of mine, please know I love you, and I miss you, and I will always be grateful for your place in my life. 

Call me.  Seriously.  Whenever.