Quarantine and isolation provide a perfect time for self-retrospection. Often, we avoid participating in an honest self-inventory for various reasons. Possibly, this process is something you have never experienced, or even heard of. Sometimes we are afraid because traumatic experiences aren’t something anybody would enjoy reliving. Often times, denial plays a gigantic role in our reluctance of reflection.
With too much time to think, I’ve thought back over my life ranging from my first memories throughout my current age. Each life-changing event is bookmarked in my brain and I’m ready to dig through them. My life has been far from ordinary so stick around for all the foolishness of my teens, the traumatic grief of my late twenties and early thirties, my seriously psychotic forties, and finally my adventure back to normalcy.
Feel free to stick around and enjoy some seriously candid crazy stories.
Who else has difficulty finding interesting things to write? Lately, I’ve been suffering from a severe case of writer’s block. Several times throughout the last months ideas have popped into my mind, usually at night, and I forget them by morning. One goal for the month of June is to keep a notepad beside the bed so I record these ideas for the next day.
Part of my problem is finding my voice. I tend to be sarcastic and I’m never sure how these snarks come across in writing. However, one rule of writing is find your voice. If people don’t like it I suppose they don’t have to read it, right?
Not too long ago I stumbled across a post on The Truth, a blog I follow. The name of the post is The Truth Register (True Confessions). The blog’s author, The Free Thinker, invites others to confess some of their truths. The thought was something different so I thought, why not write a few down. Below, you’ll find my True Confessions.
1. I am terrified of spiders. Terrified to the point it is an actual phobia. My brother-in-law lived three houses down from us many years ago and one night three wolf-spiders were in the kitchen jumping at each other. I had my six-month-old with me and ran to the backroom to call my brother-in-law. He came, took care of the problem, and hasn’t let me live it down in the last 26 years.
2. I love thunderstorms as long as the tornados keep to themselves.
3. I’m pretty sure I was meant to be a mermaid. I LOVE the water.
4. I’m an avid reader of many genres.
These are honest truths and, yes, I am still terrified of spiders. I’m also a verified and admitted people pleaser, which feeds into my issues with writer’s block. Also, I do suffer from paranoia. Always a nice personality trait to add to everything else. All-in-all I laugh off most things, my family questions my sanity. I can’t say I blame them.
My coping mechanisms are lacking though, for the most part, they work for me.
In closing, I have no idea what to title this post because I have honestly just written a bunch of crap. A scary peek into my brain and thought processes. While I can follow my train of thought, I doubt others are so lucky!
I’m here hiding in my bedroom because I am a little scared, slightly mentally drained, and angry as hell. My bedroom is my safe space and my pup makes me smile. It is a place I can come and get away from my day, rest a little, maybe watch TV or read a book, and recharge. Everyone should have a safe place where they can be themselves and not have to pretend to be happy, excited, joyful, or any other feeling.
When I was much younger I took a baseball bat to the back of my bedroom door because… well, I don’t even remember except to say I must have been angry. These days, I have an abundance of pillows to throw, punch, and scream into. A much less destructive coping mechanism. What it lacks in force it makes up for in fury. Today, I am here because I don’t have any idea what else to do.
Posting about the most talked-about disease in the world was never my intention but at the root of my emotions is a tiny particle of the unknown. I not only suffer from mental illness but also have lupus, RA, and fibromyalgia which firmly places me into the “high-risk” category and it sucks. Most days I am fine chilling around the house but, just like a child, somebody tells me to isolate myself and I want to be among the crowds. Hmmm… if only I knew where the crowds were because everything is either shut down or pick up your food and leave.
My mother is ill and my sister and I are worried about her. Is it just some nasty virus other than COVID19? Is she going to be okay? What if my dad gets it? I last talked to Mom a bit ago and all her x-rays and blood work are normal so she will continue with the antibiotic prescribed and I am certain she will feel better in a few days. When every other article I read is about this dreaded virus, one can’t help but wonder.
My oldest daughter is pregnant and I am going to be a hmmm… some other word than grandma… but I am super excited. However, she falls into the high-risk group of virus prey. She’ll be fine, the baby will be fine, and her wife will be fine; they are just having to spend their birthdays cooped up inside their home.
My youngest daughter just came home from Oklahoma City today and walked into an entirely new set of rules. Yes, we are conserving food, which means you eat left-overs. Oh, and she’s 19, so yes, she can cook for herself. Showering every day is not an option. She opts for every other day, but for all of our health, I have instated a once a day showering rule. Hands must be washed with soap and water, sanitized, and any surface used must also be sanitized. No exceptions.
Honestly, I usually use soap and water to wipe down the counters because I’m not a huge believer in overusing antibacterial cleaners on the regular because they do cause damage. And, if you think months down the road we won’t see a super-bacteria that cannot be treated with everyday antibiotics, my friend, you are mistaken. For now, however, I have jumped upon the good antibacterial ship.
But what I am most angry about is how far behind the USA is in dealing with this disaster that bounded for our borders on every passenger plane, cargo plane, and cargo ship coming from China and every other part of the world. Hear me… the USA was not, is not, and never will be immune to illnesses borne in other places. There should have been plenty of tests ready from the word go. Our hospitals should not have to conserve tests for only those who meet the criteria, one of which is traveling outside the country. HUGE NEWS: COVID19 is now inside our borders. A person only has to travel down the street to get it. Our country should not fall at the bottom of civilized countries in healthcare.
According to the Health Care Index by Country, we fall at 30th behind countries such as Qatar (18th), Isreal (19th), Ecuador (26th), Mexico (27th), Lithuania (29th), and the USA (30th).* Numbeo 2020
I’m not debating insurance here, only our healthcare. “…the Commonwealth Fund has rated the U.S. healthcare system as the worst among the 11 developed nations it analyzed as part of an evaluation conducted every three years.” This is a Newsweek article published in 2017. * Newsweek 2017
So, yes, I am depressed, anxious, angry, and annoyed with this whole mess as I imagine others are also.
Now that my rant is done, I’m going to shower, do a bit of yoga and deep breathing, and watch something indulgent on television. My suggestion to all who are feeling a bit like I do is to get it out, make your feelings known (constructively), and do what you can to move forward into the next phase of self-isolating and social-distancing. However, there is always some equally as indulgent social media sites to peruse. My oldest prefers a Shih Tzu page on Facebook. Me, I love to watch Trevor Noah whether it is on the Daily Show or his stand-up comedies on Netflix. As for the younger daughter, TikTok (me shaking my head and rolling my eyes). The hubby is all about his video games.
Whatever it is you do, make it positive, and even when you feel alone, know you are never alone in this big crazy world!
The world needs some formal training about mental illnesses and the lifetime of “people afflicted with these diseases suffer.” Truly, I’m tired of hearing “You have to understand it’s their culture to believe you just get over it” or “You can’t change anyone but yourself and your reactions.” Damn, I’m so freaking aware of these two things I could recite them if I was comatose.
Lack of compassion from said individuals is perfectly okay and something I should just ignore? When family members watch me take my medications at night and repeatedly say, “There you go taking medicines you don’t need,” it is a soul-shattering statement that translates as “You’re a druggie.” People who refuse to acknowledge that sleep is a huge component in mental healthcare; however, these people have attended doctors’ appointments, watched me spend a week in an inpatient psych unit, experienced me when I am at my worst and hallucinating.
In the years since 2015, and especially since 2018, I have worked my ass off to overcome multiple phobias and strengthen my mental fitness. Because I appear better a majority of the time, many think that means I am cured. Hear this: There is NO cure for extreme mental illnesses. There are only treatments. There will be relapses, this week has been one of the worst I’ve had in months, but instead of support, I get “You keep taking medicines you don’t need.” Here’s an idea, become a licensed psychiatrist and I will consider your recommendations at that time. What nobody understands is, by saying things like this, they are doing more harm than good.
Why you ask? Because I value this person’s opinion more than anyone else’s, I stopped taking many of my medications. Guess what, I’m willing to bet my guilt and stupidity is to blame for this relapse. MY guilt and MY stupidity. I know better than to try to take myself off medications, there is no one to blame but me, and what an ego boost that is.
I recognize many people do not know the harm they are doing by making these types of statements. Oddly enough, my psychiatrist is of the same culture as my family members, so the “that’s just their culture” doesn’t ring true to me.
Today, I am angry, hurt, and deeply heart-broken. I have nothing else to add.
I despise the idea of a person being identified as “toxic.” There I said it. Along with all the other PC terms we have been made aware of, a human being is a person. A human is not disabled, they are people with disabilities. A child is not a bad child, they are children who are acting badly. You see where I am headed.
Plenty of things are toxic: drugs, plants, certain foods, actions, relationships, etc. Nobody wants to believe their actions are toxic to others. We are always looking for someone or something else to blame. Every human is imperfect. Every human is self-centered to some extent; let’s face it, it’s called survival. I realize it is hard for some people to recognize they are flawed, but it is the truth. Our judgments are biased which brings me to the topic of toxicity.
When a person begins referring to another person as toxic, can we take that as the truth? Does this person simply clash with the other person? Could it be dislike and not toxicity? Yes. Always yes until you obtain objective proof that said person’s action is toxic. Even then, though, two people can have a toxic relationship, a persons’ lack of coping skills can be toxic, a persons’ actions can be toxic. And, take it from somebody who truly knows, the person is likely unaware of their issues because they are stuck inside their own head with thoughts and ideations cycling, never ceasing.
By defining that person as toxic, you are doing absolutely nothing to help that person. You are separating yourself from a person that needs help and thereby removing one more resource from their reach. Yes, you must protect yourself and you can do this by not taking a person’s feelings as your own.
You can change your relationship. For example, my oldest daughter moved home for a couple of years after she married and our relationship turned toxic. It was a matter of different belief systems, hard feelings about inconsequential crap, and being cramped in a small house with five people and six dogs. My health, mentally and physically, caused many problems. People would have called me toxic and my actions would have proved them true. Other circumstances helped created a toxic relationship.
My gorgeous daughter moved into her own home and we get along great. There are still moments when we would each like to strangle each other, but those are sporadic and we typically come to an understanding that we don’t have to agree on everything, we need to respect each other and our rights to our own opinions.
By getting us out of a single home, the relationship balanced and few, if any, would refer to our relationship as toxic. That being said, we learned new coping skills. We worked on ourselves. I recognize her work and I hope she can acknowledge my improved coping.
We live in a society where nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Children and adults alike are turning to weapons instead of words. According to the CDC, suicide rates raised 30% from 1999 to 2016. Rash decisions plague both people and businesses. Social media affects mental health, both negatively and occasionally positively. A push of a button sends unfettered and thoughtless words to the world. No effort is made to maintain relationships, to learn appropriate communication and/or coping skills. It is so easy to unfollow, unfriend, and block people who have differing opinions. We attach labels to people we haven’t taken time to know.
Toxicity can loiter into the area of he said/she said. Shades of gray color all people. Blame is assigned helter-skelter and no one is ever completely innocent.
Before we write someone off, let’s try to be patient and understand what is happening. Why is a person behaving in a destructive manner? Is there a possible way they can be helped without endangering your physical or mental health? Can you just listen? Can the relationship be changed instead of dismissed? Have you taken time to complete an honest self-evaluation? Are there actions or reactions you can make to ease tension?
I am not saying there aren’t times when two people shouldn’t be friends. There are times when divorce is the answer.
What I am saying is let’s take a tad bit more time before we issue a cease and desist on a friendship or relationship. It’s all pretty simple. Practice humanitarianism.
Today is January 4, 2020, and you might notice I am only now addressing this new year and new decade. Honestly, it isn’t born of laziness or lack of want, we’ve had a less than perfect holiday season. I will spare you all the details as it is not something I am willing to discuss publicly, only to say we had a death in the family.
Moving on… Today I spoke with my oldest daughter about New Year’s Resolutions and personality types. I doubt anyone will be surprised to know I fit the “Rebel” personality type. Outside of all my wonderfully adorable inadequacies, the foundation of this definition is based on how I feel about resolutions, as in I don’t believe in setting myself up for failure. I prefer mantras to remind me about my goals. Since this method worked during 2019, I think I will continue along this path until it proves as a failure.
I’ve read several self-help books. Brene Brown is one of my favorite gurus. She speaks from earned experience. Mark Manson is another author I read regularly. His approach involves comedy. I am making my way through Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. Soon I will get my hands on While We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreamsby Matthew Walker, Ph.D. I suffer from chronic insomnia and I’m hoping this book contains a magical cure. Every time I pulled a book up on Audible it spoke to me, giving me advice on a current problem in my life.
Now, I will let you in on my not-at-all unique life strategies.
#1. Most importantly – Do unto others as you would have done unto you. This is a fairly universal belief regardless of choice of religion or lack thereof. And, simplistic in its nature, anyone can understand the Golden Rule. If you want to be respected show respect. Want civility, be civil. Want kindness, be kind. Want honestly, speak truthfully and reserve your judgment.
#2. My favorite – Perfection is rare so concentrate on being better than you were yesterday. If that means you are suffering from depression and haven’t gotten out of your pajamas in days, change into day clothes, even if that is a t-shirt and sweats. Strive for a shower the next day. Make your bed the next. If you falter, try again, because you will falter and that is okay.
#3. Great advice – Do the right thing, especially when no one is watching. The example I use with my daughters is, return your grocery cart to the basket lane. If you decide you don’t want an item already in your cart, put it back where you found it. Of course, this mantra is to be applied to much more difficult tasks. Tell the truth even when it’s easier to lie. I suppose, just hold yourself to a high standard. Exceed expectations. It is important to remember, outside of black and white issues, what is right for you in one situation may not be right for others.
#4. Self-awareness – Be wary of judgment. The judgment of others and the judgment of yourself. We all fall victim to gossip. Everyone has moments of self-doubt. Recognize negative thoughts and work to reverse them. Just because everyone “does it” doesn’t make it okay. If we all make an effort to speak kindly the world can become an easier place to live. Be nice to others and be nice to yourself.
While I reread this article, I realized it sounds as if I am preaching and I don’t mean to. However, if something mentioned helps another individual then that is a good thing.
According to The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles..my refusal to set resolutions, to claim they set me up for failure, and some other crap, I am a Rebel. This is okay. The strides I’ve made in the last year are numerous. The last two weeks tested everything I’ve worked to accomplish and for today, I’m still fighting to be better tomorrow.
I came to consciousness one early morning; confused and scared. A nurse called my name and sat me in a chair to do my vital signs. Other individuals, both men and women, wondered around a room with a couple of worn couches, one round table and another longer one sat toward the other end of the room. A counter placed against a wall held a coffee pot and water. Other than the nurses standing behind the nursing station, nothing clearly marked as to where I had slept the night with these strangers.
This room should have been familiar to me as I did my mental health nursing rotation in this facility, specifically, inside this room. Only after talking to my mother on the phone later did I realize I had been committed to the Pavillion, my city’s only in-house psych facility. No recollection of the several days leading to this point existed. Not after I talked to the nurses, the doctors, the counselors, or the patients. Not after I spoke to anyone in my family.
Sketchy pieces of memories from that hospital stay flashed–continue to flash–in my ungrounded mind. The things my family revealed to me frightened me to the core; however, the things other people have told me are suspicious. Skepticism lingers at the edges of my every move, peeking out here or there, like peripheral vision. You catch a glance of something too quick to identify before it disappears again.
What I have been told, that I do not remember, is I was found disoriented with slurred speech. I rode in the ambulance to the hospital where I stayed in the ER for a while. From there I was transferred into a semi-private room where my daughters stayed overnight with me. There are some flashes of this memory I recognize. However, apparently, at some point, and I don’t know when, I begged my family to take me to the cops so I could turn myself in. For what? Hell if I know. Upon my release from the medical hospital, I was asked if I wanted to be admitted to the Pavillion and I said yes. As my oldest daughter said, “That’s when we realized how sick you were.” Apparently, I answered all the “orientation” questions correctly and the healthcare workers diagnosed me as being in my right mind, so off to the Pavillion I went.
**The entire time I stayed at the Pav, nobody could convince me I wasn’t in some sort of experiment or job interview or reality TV show or a torture chamber. I followed the pack to groups, to meals, to bed. I never questioned anything aloud but boy did my mind try to solve all sorts of puzzles. Little arrows carved into tiny tiles on the floor led me to the bathroom and back to my bed again. A book I read said I needed to just lay down and die, so I tried to hold my breath. (Yes, I was a nurse and know you can only hold your breath until you pass out and then you start breathing again. I can tell you that at this time, on this day, as of this moment.)
**Everybody watched me, observed my every move, I actually thought at some point the patients were implants to trigger my paranoia. And, still to this day, I am unsure of what I experienced. The questions are always there, creeping and filling my head with doubt. Why was that one always on the phone? Why was that one asking me questions he already knew? Why did they sit outside my room at night and discuss me? How did paperwork from 2006 get hung up around the unit in 2015? So many questions that I don’t have the answers to and may never know the answers. Without a concrete memory, there is nothing tying me to the situation.
The attending psychiatrist found me to be partially catatonic at the Pav and wouldn’t release me until “I asked to go home with a smile.” This, I remember vividly. Maybe because I have never been so scared or wanted to go home so bad in all my life. Maybe because asking to go home and smiling seemed like an impossible fete.
I’ve seen my medical records from the medical hospital and know they also characterized me as catatonic. I also know I had not tried to commit suicide or overdosed on anything because I have my medical records from that day, and my medical records from the next several times I showed up at the emergency room. Only benzodiazepines showed up in a minuscule amount and since I was prescribed Xanax, it stands to reason that the test would show positive. I am afraid to peruse my records from the Pav because I’m not certain I will believe them.
**Once home, every sound bothered me. My husband’s video games talked to me. My dogs weren’t really my dogs. People drove by to check on me. The house was booby-trapped so I could only move and touch certain things. I always saw “messages” on the television. My lack of concentration kept me from reading. The fear of what I saw kept me from reading, writing, or much of anything else. People who called my phone were decidedly not real. Appointments magically changed dates. My family continuously played a game by moving their feet around.
And so much more.
Honestly, my family didn’t know how to communicate with me, so they side-eyed me, talked to me in soft whispers, and treated me as if I was truly insane. They all say they never met with one of my counselors, nurses, or doctors and were left in the dark as what to do with me.
These bouts of paranoia continue to plague me, though I am stronger now than I have been in many years, I recognize my thought processes and can usually turn them around before falling into Alice’s rabbit hole.
My last episode happened in May of this year. My husband knew something was off and so did my oldest daughter. I made a doctor’s appointment that brought about skeptical feelings. They wanted a urine sample and I was unable to give them one. Once we got to the emergency room, when they pulled me back three hours later, they plied me with normal saline and a urine sample was obtained. This incident nearly had me begging to go back to the Pavillion again. A place I promised I would never enter again as a patient.
So many memories. The scariest yet to come.
Maybe my most terrifying delusion of hallucination involved my sister and her wife who flew up to make certain I wasn’t being “a drain on society.” To make certain I was making some “positive efforts and functioning as a normal human.” They trapped me in my room threatening to take me back home with them where they would track everything I did on the computer, cell phone, or reading tablets
I’m not sure where this scenario came from, but, my sister and her wife had found a way to turn me into a piece of cloth that would blow with the wind and eventually, the cloth would deteriorate until I was, literally, nothing more than a piece of sand and my existence was erased from all of history. No birth record, no baptism certificate, no marriage certificate, no children, no husband–only a grain of sand. Nothing more.
When I come to my senses, I recognized how impossible it would be to turn me into a piece of cloth, but people, hear this; in the middle of a psychotic event, everything feels real. My sister and I don’t have an unhealthy relationship. We are friends, my family all just took a vacation and we stayed with them. Nothing abnormal happened.
To put all this succinctly, I was fucking scared. (I don’t apologize for the language, because come on people, there’s no other way to describe this experience.)
Again, this routine would return several times over the next few years; it still returns presently. There is a single commonality among every “episode.” I always have a urinary tract infection when these things happen. After over four years of this, I find that too pretty of a package tied up with a bow. I have read study after study talking about how UTIs can cause major psychoses but after everything I have been through, my brain refuses to fall for such an easy answer.
I’ve been free from these spells for over six months. While this is positive, there is also a tickle in my mind wondering when the next hallucinations will strike.
I am much better now. I can write about it and talk about it but most people don’t get my dark sense of humor. Every breath I take is another second of life that cannot be wasted.
*As I’ve mentioned before, the things I write are my experiences and mine alone. Each person in my family has their own stories but those I cannot tell.
**These paragraphs are filled with imagery and my experience inside a psychotic break.
Title: Ninth House: Alex Cross #1
Series: Alex Cross
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Macmillan: Flatiron Books
Publishing Year: 2019
Purchased: Barnes & Noble (Brick and Mortar)
Image and blurb attributed to Goodreads
The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
My Thoughts:Ninth House has many conflicting reviews. I will go on record as saying I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Bardugo’s newest novel. The bevy of characters fascinated me, especially since the author consistently added to each of the characters’ stories. Every turn of the page brought surprises, shocks, and awes. My heart pounded, pulse raced, and head ached from the whiplash unleashed.
Major Character Overview:
Galaxy Stern (AKA-Alex Stern): An odd addition to Yale. At 20 years of age, one of the deans found her in a hospital and insisted she go to Yale on a full scholarship. When she enrolled she had only a GED, but she possessed other skills the university desperately needed. Her past was littered with trouble and inconsistencies. As the narrator, she proved to be unreliable. Secrets encased her, hiding her self-apprehension. All Alex’s mysterious enigma slowly fades as her reality is unveiled, piece by piece.
Daniel Arlington (AKA-Darlington): As the leader of the Lethe House he had a duty to watch over eight other houses, all possessing some type of paranormal abilities. His official title: the Virgil. A perfect specimen of Yale University’s college life. He spoke many languages, learned everything possible about the Lethe, took his duty as a student and a Virgil seriously, and resented Alex.
Pamela Dawes (AKA-Dawes): Dawes served the Lethe as the Oculus, according to Darlington, “[She] keeps everything running and ensures I [Darlington] don’t make too big a fool of myself.” Dawes and Alex have a tenuous relationship throughout the book. Dawes’s occlusive ways and her attachment to Tarot cards helped separate her from others.
My Thoughts: While there are many other important characters, these are the three that advance the mysterious plotline throughout the chapters. Ninth House was my baptism into Leigh Bardugo’s writing and reading this around Halloween built the suspense and the horror of the prognostications performed by the eight other houses. The cast of characters each has secrets and you can never think you know anything about anyone. Their personalities and anything assumed can change with the flip of a page.
There are a few flaws in the writing and I’m not particularly fond of the back and forth from present to past and past to present because it muddles the clarity. Especially since you are dropped into the middle of the action and are then forced to look to the past, the present, and the future. As one fellow bookstagrammer said, “it was completely unnecessary.” Once I acclimated myself, the story flowed and I became invested in the characters, the houses, the Lethe house history, and the grays. More than one mystery is presented, a few are solved, and many more are left unanswered.
I thought of a million things to say about this novel, but all of them are cliche. Ms. Bardugo’s writing beguiled and enraptured me within the pages of this wonderfully dark, mysterious, and horrifying suspense. While this author’s other novels are strongly categorized as Young Adult, Ninth House is for mature readers due to violence and vocabulary.
A definite 5/5 star read for me. The hype behind this book was huge. If you’ve read Ninth Houseleave me a comment and tell me how you felt about this crazy story.
My life is amazing. It is full of people who love and care about me, I’ve been married twenty-five years this month, I have two beautiful grown daughters–almost 19 and 24–who brighten my days, my parents are still married and support me in many ways, we own our home, two furbabies drive me crazy but make my days more enjoyable, we aren’t hurting for anything, save our son who died in 2003 at the age of five. This is the trigger that sets everything in motion.
A parent should never have to see their children die. Simply put, it just isn’t fair.
A parent’s mourning never ends and I wish I could say it gets easier, but for me, it hasn’t. Memories plague my mind. They also warm my soul.
Depression has always been a part of my adult life, even before the death of our son. However, the trauma and tragedy of his passing triggered an entirely different set of symptoms. My ability to continue on with life stopped. A year later I lost a great job, one I loved with all my heart and soul. Yes, I went on to get an even better job, but eventually, I lost that one too. This would become a cycle until the day I couldn’t fathom walking outside of my house and into a workplace.
The day DJ, my son, left this earth to meet his Maker I was taking a final exam for my Community Nursing course. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. We were presenting projects for our exam and the class ran late. Three of my best friends and I jumped into my car and headed for home. My husband called and told me I had to get to the hospital as soon as possible and provided very little information other than something was deathly wrong with our son. Without thinking, I turned on my hazard lights and stepped on the gas pedal.
Any police officers could follow me to the hospital and give me a ticket there.
We shot past cars, only stopping at a red light to let one of my friends out so she could jump in the car with her mom. She was heading out of town in just a few hours.
Even as I think about it now, my heart races and my stomach fills with pterodactyl sized butterflies. Horror washed over me as we entered the emergency room and were escorted to a private family room–reserved for the worst cases. My son had stopped breathing while taking a nap. The paramedics were able to restart his pulse but he had to be put on a ventilator.
Things you should know about my son:
He was born 15 weeks early, weighing 1 lb 5 oz.
His first home was the NICU unit at the trauma hospital. He lived there for three months.
His lungs were not fully matured and he spent about six weeks on the ventilator.
One of the ventilators vibrated fiercely to keep his lungs expanded.
This caused him to have a bleed in his brain.
At age 3 he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy (actually, we knew this much earlier but, at the time, cerebral palsy could not be diagnosed until age 3.)
His fine motor skills were the most affected. He rolled, crawled, pulled himself up on anything he could reach, he even climbed. He talked, laughed, and cried. He smiled and made friends with anyone he came into contact with, except his physical therapist. She made him work and he loved being babied.
With the brain bleed came many surgeries: the insertion of a VP shunt into his head to relieve any extra pressure, a permanent feeding tube, a fundoplication–a type of hiatal hernia operation–two more surgeries to replace the initial shunt and another to add a second shunt.
He had seizures. He had headaches. He projectile vomited for the first three years of his life.
Even with all of these issues, he loved fiercely and unconditionally. He taught us all many lessons about life. And today, as I write this, I am smiling at the memories.
My son always had an experienced caretaker near. If my husband or I weren’t home, he had grandparents. He also had, at the age of three, a personal assistant. I roll my eyes thinking how he twisted the two girls around his finger. One of the PAs had put him down for a nap ten minutes previous to my husband coming home and found him only minutes later.
To shorten this lead-in to the tumultuous times ahead, he walked into God’s arms that night in the spring of 2003. Our hearts shattered, our family shattered, my daughters suffered more grief than any child should.
Woot! Woot! I am back from my first vacation in years. My parents, my youngest daughter (18), and I went to visit my sister in Austin, Texas. Everything fell together perfectly and we were able to escape five inches of snow in the Texas Panhandle. Sadly, the National Weather Service is predicting more of the cold, wet stuff overnight on Tuesday and I can’t run this time.
This weekend put some things in perspective for me that I have been fighting for more years than I can count. Mental health is a touchy subject for many and also filled with unanswered questions because the brain functions in a mysterious manner. The brain can trick its self into believing false information and the product can be anything from low self-esteem to fully formed hallucinations. Unfortunately, traumas–both past and present–trigger these episodes and can result in unsafe behavior, suicidal ideations, and subsequent hospitalizations.
While my experience is unique, as everyone’s is, I have become consciously aware of other people’s experiences and protective of others fighting a life-long battle. I did not plan to write this post quite yet; but, over the weekend, someone I have come to respect because of their public stance and advocacy of mental health appears to be in the midst of a suspected breakdown. My point is to explain my experiences and educate others about how a dysfunctional brain behaves. Irradically, obviously.
In 2015 my mom found me at my home disoriented and what doctors would later describe as near catatonic. It is necessary for me to stress that I was not high, over-drugged, or chemically altered at this time. After my oldest daughter arrived at my house, she and my mom decided I needed to go to the hospital and that an ambulance should transport me. Leaving my home via stretcher is the last thing I would remember until I awoke at our psychiatric care facility. Family later described the terrifying events that lead to my admission.
As of this moment, I’m not sure my family realizes the terror that accompanies complete memory loss. And, I am positive I do not understand the utter fear they suffered finding me in my deteriorated condition. Mental health affects all aspects of a person’s life. Family, friends, and other loved ones live the horrors along with the affected individual. For me, that was two daughters, a loving husband, two supporting parents, and many other extended family members. I have no lack of love or support. In many ways, people would be surprised at the level of function my perfectly unfunctional family operates.
The only story I can tell from a place of self-awareness and self-acceptance is my own. I hope you’ll join me on a journey of understanding.
I began this post with the idea of approaching everything in one long-winded message. Realization dawned on me and I am going to step into a series of posts, each covering my experiences, thoughts, and feelings.