Safe and Sound

Gizmo
We had a major scare and a miracle here this week.

I’ve been hanging on by my fingernails, riding the hormonal roller coaster, and I’ve gotten into a bit of a rhythm. I’ve discovered that if I take a sleeping pill at 8 and then take a 2 hour bath, I can actually fall asleep and get through the night. That’s really what it takes. After two solid months of weeping on the shower floor at 2 in the morning, I’ve cracked it.

But because I am hard headed, I keep thinking that I won’t always need that much caretaking just to fall asleep through the hot flashes and night sweats. So I decide to skip the sleeping pill, watch an extra couple of shows, and then I’m staring at the ceiling and hating everything. And I have to just stop trying to overachieve in the hormone endurance race and just do what it takes to get through it.

During all those long nights of thrashing around and exasperated sighing and whimpering into the shower tile, my fat boy cat Gizzy has been my companion. He’s not as demonstrative as my dear departed Cheetara was, despite all my work he won’t let me snuggle him while I sleep, but he is steadfast. When I can’t lie still he perches at my feet, keeping watch. When I finally collapse he saunters up the bed, plopping himself down between me and Bear like a jealous child trying to ensure there are no future children taking his place. And when I wake up in the morning, his fluff is the first thing that greets me.

This big dumb lunk is a longhaired gorgeous persian mix. I am always trying to hold him down to comb the mats out of his fur, and yet he won’t be deterred: he thinks he’s an outdoor cat. He wants to play outside with Atti every day and typically I let him. He never ventures far, he just rolls around in the dirt and suns his belly, and when I call them to come inside they both come grudgingly. But Friday night, Gizmo didn’t come in.

There have been a couple of other times when he went on a bit of a walkabout, so I tried not to panic. We live in an area where there aren’t many places he could go and not a ton of traffic to worry about, the real threat would be from other animals and I just wasn’t going to think about that. So I tucked Atti and myself in bed and told myself we’d hear Gizzy whining for breakfast in the morning.

But he wasn’t there. We checked with the neighbors, we drove through the neighborhood, and he wasn’t there Sunday. I was calling shelters and monitoring websites and he wasn’t there Monday. By yesterday, Bear and I were trying to resign ourselves to the thought that he was gone.

Yesterday a dear friend of mine had to say goodbye to her dog after a long illness and deterioration. I could barely offer her sympathy because I was working so so hard at being in denial about Gizzy. I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t face losing my sweet fat dummy in the middle of hormone hell, but there was nothing left to try.

Then last night I asked Bear to go out to the shed to grab some scrap wood for a craft project. After a minute I heard him scream my name in a way I’d never heard before. I thought I needed to call an ambulance. But instead of some bloody stump, Bear comes in holding a ragged and shellshocked ball of white fluff.

Somehow he had gotten himself locked in the shed. And he was trapped there for three or four days. In heat that was over 90 degrees, with no food or water.

We don’t know how he did it, we don’t even go over to that side of the yard very often so it’s not like we shut him in there when we weren’t paying attention, and Atti can’t get over there so it’s not like he did it. Maybe he found some little entrance he could get into but not back out of? Maybe the wind blew the door shut? But I don’t think the door was open in the first place? It’s a total mystery.

Also a mystery? How our sweet Gizzy managed to survive four days without food or water in a sweltering shed. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t needed that scrap wood. We never get over there, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it all worked out the way it did and Gizzy was returned to us, thinner, dehydrated, skittish, but whole.

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Sprout

Sprout

This was my Mother’s Day present from Atti, and it’s a pretty fitting metaphor for what I’m up to right now.

Remember when I talked about Therapeutic Boredom? And how being forced to slow down because of all the crazy hormones was forcing me to learn stuff? I had no idea.

I work really really hard at being emotionally healthy, I think that’s clear. And most days I feel like I’m pretty on top of things in that department. I know when to rest and when to push and what cues to listen to, and I make it a real priority. That’s how somebody can come from my kind of background and wind up as the person I am. A lot of really hard scary emotional work.

And other than what it takes to live with my mental illnesses, I feel like I’m pretty sorted. The stuff of my childhood doesn’t grieve me like it used to. Entire weeks will go by without me thinking about what used to cause me tremendous pain. I didn’t see a breakthrough coming because I didn’t think I needed a breakthrough.

But apparently I did. And forgive me for vague blogging again, but for once it’s too personal to blog about. I didn’t think I would have a limit, but what do you know? I do!

It’s actually all great news. Once upon a time I would have come up against something that brought the grief back and I would have taken to my bed for a week. This time, I actually feel better. I feel like a literal weight is off of me. I feel proud of myself for being strong and brave enough to face hard things, and proud that I can use the tools I’ve acquired to take care of myself. I’ve been meditating, and taking long baths, and seeking quiet and candlelight, and making myself as physically relaxed and comfortable as I can be so that I can do the hard interior work of facing the worst, darkest, most terrifying corners and scrubbing them clean.

This might sound twisted, but I’m actually enjoying it. My body is not healthy enough to let me use it to feel powerful. No marathons or unassisted births for me. But this? This feels powerful. I am healing myself with the power of my own mind. I am sorting through old scripts, beliefs that don’t serve me, things that other people believe about me that I don’t, casting them all away, and watching as it’s so effective I feel it physically.

I don’t know why it is I seem to need hard horrible times to learn lessons, but I do. At least I can be grateful I’m learning the lessons. Maybe then I’ll never need to go through this again.

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Atti goes Boom

Atti in the fountain

Atti and I were out running errands together, and like any six year old boy he was testing my patience. We were in Bath and Body Works picking up some presents for Bear’s staff, so I had him in his wheelchair and had the unenviable job of trying to shop, listen to saleswomen, keep an eye on my kid, and block the doorway against a sudden sprint to the parking lot. Imagine a six year old with the bodily experience of a toddler. That’s what I’ve got. Experimenting with independence, learning consequences, asserting his will, but with twenty extra pounds and wheels.

One of Atti’s early therapists drilled it in to me that I can’t treat him like he’s made of glass. His body is no more vulnerable than anyone else’s, he just can’t control it. In fact, he’s actually MORE impervious to pain than a typical kid because of the way his nerves don’t talk to his brain. This kid bounces.

So it’s a running joke with all of my mom friends that I blithely sip my cocoa while they’re nervously hovering afraid he’s going to fall off his chair. In the words of that therapist: “:shrug: Then he’ll learn not to do that.”

Of course, the rest of the world didn’t get that memo.

At Bath and Body Works I was loading the car while Atti was in his wheelchair on the sidewalk. I was talking him through watching where he was going, looking out for the curb, being patient until I could help him, but like most kids, he didn’t listen. He saw the wheelchair ramp and decided to try and do it all by himself, but one of his wheels went off the curb and he fell forward into the parking lot right on his little face.

Experienced moms know, this sucks. When you’re talking skinned knees and not blood or broken things, it sucks way more for mom than it does for the kid. You have to console your child, you feel the typical “I let my baby get hurt” guilt, but since it’s just skinned knees and everyone’s fine it becomes one more pain in the neck hassle you have to deal with in your day. If it was serious you’d drop everything and run to the doctor. But since it’s not serious it’s just aggravating.

But when your kid is in a wheelchair, the world thinks that every fall is serious. When Atti fell over he started crying, but I knew it was an angry cry, not a hurt cry. So because the day had already been long and there were still four more errands that had to get run I was frustrated. And then I saw the people running and I had to put on my show for the public. People were sprinting from across the parking lot, a lady ran out of the store with her basket she dropped in the middle of the sidewalk, all because a kid fell from a sitting position onto the ground. The wheelchair makes it look scary.

Let me pause here in case I sound totally callous. Atti’s fall was roughly the equivalent of a kid sitting on a swing not in motion, and falling out onto their stomach. This happens on playgrounds everyday so frequently that notes don’t even get sent home about it. I asked my mom friends what they do in this situation and they said, “I say, ‘whoops! hop up!’ so they know it’s no big deal.” I’m talking your typical kid learning how to use their body and not paying attention kind of fall. And since Atti fell in his chair, the chair takes most of the impact.

But to people who don’t see wheelchairs every day, it’s terrifying. So then it becomes about their emergency, not my son’s.

Atti was pissed off that he fell over. He was mad he didn’t navigate the wheelchair ramp by himself, but he was WAY MORE upset that a crowd of people were standing around gawking at his humiliation. So he’s screaming and crying because he’s embarrassed, but the crowd of people think he’s crying because he’s hurt and want to help the little disabled boy and his mom, and I want to tell them all to shoo and let me tend to the hurt feelings of my little guy. Atti won’t stop crying until they go away, and they won’t go away until Atti stops crying.

In that moment I feel the burden of representation. That’s my show for the public: the educator. The charming and approachable advocate of disability. The adorable little boy who makes disability not so scary. And in that moment when I want to tell them all to go away I think about my little friends whose disabilities carry disfigurements that make the world not so kind to them. I think of the kids without parents who can force a path in the world for them. I think about all the people with disabilities who are invisible to the rest of the world, who are pushed aside, who are unwelcome in public, who are vulnerable, and I think that doing a little education is not such a burden.

So while my child is crying I’m explaining Cerebral Palsy to the crowd. I’m helping them understand Atti’s speech and that he’s telling us how mad he is he fell on the ground. I’m showing them his chair and how lightweight it is. And inside I’m torn between wanting to respond to these people’s kindness with kindness of my own, and just shoving them aside to tend to my child.

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Feeling Rebirthed

Easter 2014
We had a quiet Easter over here. Just the three of us with a no-frills ham dinner, matching clothes courtesy of Old Navy so I didn’t even have to work at that, the first hour of church and then a visit to Bear’s work to check in on the patients and spend the holiday with his work family, then home for a nap. It was exactly the speed I’m running right now.

Last week I went in to get my second shot of Lupron and they couldn’t give it to me. The medicine got recalled and they didn’t have any new stuff. They seemed to feel that the dose I got didn’t apply to the recall, but I’m wondering if that’s why things have been so different this time. Why my emotions are on overdrive and completely disconnected from my brain, why I’m still feeling pain a month in, why I’m still living with the worst of the endo symptoms and the worst of the Lupron symptoms at the same time.

But all this time being forced off my feet has been so good for me in so many ways. I’m a big believer in what Joyce Carol Oates calls “Therapeutic Boredom.” That it’s only in the still and quiet times that healing can take place and discoveries can come to light. I’ve made a whole bunch of changes behind the scenes that are too inside baseball to bother talking about since they won’t change much about the blog but change everything about my workload. I’ve spent time examining my goals to see if what I’m spending my time on is what I really truly want out of life or if it’s where I’m spending my time because it’s “enough” for me. I’ve asked myself if I’m doing what I really want to be doing or if I’m doing things as a distraction from taking the risks I really want to be taking. And I’ve found some new horizons for myself.

Like I said, all this vague blogging won’t change a ton here, and it’s all too early to discuss even if it would, but I’m writing about it because I feel like I’m not alone.

I worked at a M&A firm back in the early 2000’s, and when the economy dropped our work dribbled away from a crazy torrent to a whole lot of nothing. My boss at the time called me into her office to talk to me about how much time I was spending on the internet and she said something that’s stuck with me, “We have to be careful not to let the work expand to fill our time. We have to let our time expand our work.” It was a great reminder then to use our slow time productively and to work just as hard in the slow times as I did in the fast times. But I also think about it a lot in my motherhood.

I can get so obsessed with getting a recipe right that I go a whole week without making dinner for my family. I can take something like a Halloween costume and make it as time consuming and important as the Oscars. I can have a big idea or a big dream and put it off for months or years while I work on holiday decorations or printables. None of those things are invalid or wrong by themselves, but they are a distraction if they’re not what I truly want for myself.

So with this slow down I’ve been forced to take, I’ve been asking myself some hard questions and reshuffling my priorities. And then a funny thing happened. I rediscovered my love for what I’ve been doing all along. I longed to come back here and talk through all my thoughts, I felt my creativity revving back up, but I also found the drive to tackle the big dreams. I had just let things get out of order and putting everything back where it belonged helped me rediscover my love and enthusiasm for all of it.

So hopefully soon I’ll have the big dreams far enough along to share, but in the meantime I still have some great things coming up. I’ve finally begun tackling the Master Bedroom makeover I’ve had as a crafty goal for more years than I can count and I have some pretty amazing results to share with you. And a whole new attitude while I do it.

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Year of Pleasures: Miss Fisher Mysteries

Miss Fisher's Mysteries

While I’ve been coping with all my body’s craziness over here, exacerbated by periods of high emotion and the colds my generous germy son keeps giving me, I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to be still. Which is always a major battle for me, no matter how bad I feel. A major help has been discovering Miss Fisher’s Mysteries. I cannot stop watching this show.

Phryne Fisher (pronounced FRY-nee) is a modern woman of Australia in the 20’s. She drinks, listens to jazz music, and wears skirts that show her kneecaps. And because of her experiences losing a sister at a young age and serving in the war, she’s also unafraid to tackle the most heinous crimes.

This show is adorable and wonderful and makes me so happy, and also makes me want to wear cloches everywhere I go. The first season is available on Netflix Instant Streaming, but the second season isn’t available in the US yet.

And that’s when I made my next great discovery. Acorn.tv. You sign up there and get a free 30 days to watch all the British television you can stand. After the 30 days it’s $5 a month but at the rate I’m going through episodes I won’t need it.

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Hormone Crazy

Hello my dear friends. Thanks for being so patient with me during my unexpected hiatus. And thank you ever so much to those of you who emailed to check up on me. You folks are good people and the world is better because of you. Thank you for your kindness to a lady from the internet.

I’ve gotten walloped by a bunch of bad things in a row and I just plain reached the end of my resources. The final straw was starting this new course of medication. It’s not new to me, this is my third round of Lupron and it’s been a miracle drug for me every time, but this time around is totally different. Lupron often comes with some pretty gnarly side effects, and until now I’ve been lucky enough to largely avoid them. But this time? Holy crap. My brain has been snatched and replaced with that of a 12 year old girl. It is marinating in hormones so powerful that I cry because I’m lonely when my family is in the room, I cry because I love them so much, and then I cry again because I miss Atti when he’s asleep. I cry because it’s raining, I rage because I have a food craving I can’t satisfy, I laugh hysterically at how ridiculous I am, and then I cry at how ridiculous I am. I’m weak and lightheaded with hot flashes that keep me up all night and then fatigue that nails me to the couch all day.

These three weeks were exactly what I needed – the permission to just deal with what I need to deal with and to disappear for a while. I’m not yet over the worst of it – I get a shot every month and I’m hoping that the second shot will bring me a little equilibrium – so I’m still going to have to take things a little easier than I used to, but at least I’m rested now and not at such a low emotional ebb. And who knows, maybe at the end of all this I’ll not only be healthy, but manage to get a little baby out of it all too.

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Welcome Back Endometriosis. You weren’t missed.

Pills
I’ve had to come to a tough realization over the last couple of weeks: The endo is back.

It never truly goes away. Whenever I finish a course of the drugs that put me through menopause I start right back up with the slow growth process. Eventually I have to admit that midol won’t get me through my period. And then slowly I’ll go from having one bad pain day to having a bad pain week when I’m on my period. And then eventually I’ll have pain around the time of ovulation. And now I have to admit that I’m having pain every day.

This really blows.

Aside from the obvious, pain hurts and that sucks, it’s hard to manage my life when I have to be on serious pain killers. Right now I have to wake up and rush through any work that requires my faculties. Any writing, any thinking, any interviews or public speaking, I have to do it all while gritting my teeth until I have to cry uncle and go take the drugs. And then I have to deal with all the guilt and shame that comes along with chronic illness – feeling like a waste of space, feeling guilty for being a burden, feeling intense intense shame over being stoned in front of Atticus and not present for him. Every day I have to decide, do I want to be in pain? Or do I want to be functional? Which is a higher priority? And because a mom taking prescription drugs is such a ridiculous cliche, I try as hard as I can to never let people see me medicated. I’ll talk about it publicly on my own terms, but I don’t ever want a teacher or bus driver to see me altered. And I obviously never drive on medication – duh – which puts another crimp in my life management plans. No trips to Target for diapers or to the grocery store when the fridge is empty.

But what I’m really struggling with right now is the fear. I’m afraid it will get as bad as it was in my 20’s when I was completely disabled. Back when I first started blogging because I was on pain medication every minute I was awake and I could go weeks without talking to a human besides Bear. I lost a decade already to this disease, it’s terrifying to contemplate going back there.

Of course, this time I actually have health insurance. I have a doctor who doesn’t think I’m crazy or that periods are supposed to hurt. I have a treatment plan in place and I just have to wait until the medicine is available at the right time in my cycle. It shouldn’t be much longer before I’m complaining about hot flashes and food cravings again.

But for today, I’m mourning. I’m mourning my own limitations, I’m mourning the pain I feel and all the emotions that come with that, and I’m mourning that I can’t be the kind of mom I want to be. I guess the good thing is that in just a little while the pain medication will kick in and I’ll find it all hilarious.

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How to cope with suicide

Atticus looking at the light

Someone close to us killed himself two weeks ago, and we spent the end of last week traveling down and attending the funeral. It is tragic and heartbreaking, but out of respect for the family I’m not going to talk about that. Instead, I want to talk about how to cope in the aftermath.

As someone who struggles openly with mental illness, I want to speak for those who commit suicide.

There have been times in my life with the threat of suicide was very very real. Times when I had a plan and the only thing that kept me from enacting it was people who helped me when I reached out to them. So I feel like I can speak from experience when I say: no one does this because they’re thinking rationally. Teenagers have their own unique dilemmas that threaten suicide, but if we’re talking adults? They do this because the disease they are living with – depression, bipolar disorder, addiction – has overcome them. It’s the disease that ends their life. Suicide was just the form it took.

That distinction is crucial in every way. When we process a loss, we all go through the anger stage. This is a normal and healthy part of processing our grief and isn’t something to be avoided. But when it’s suicide that complicates that loss, the anger stage contains a specific component that blames the loved one. We talk about the person “giving up” or say they “couldn’t cope.” That they’ve abandoned their family or sneer that suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Well, sometimes that problem is temporary – the problems that often affect teen suicides can be temporary – but sometimes it isn’t. Mental illness and addiction are not temporary. And if someone dies from suicide after a struggle with a permanent problem like that, it’s not because they couldn’t cope. It’s because the treatment failed.

If someone had cancer, and they had good care from doctors and fought through chemotherapy and they still died, we would never say it was because they couldn’t cope or lament that they weren’t stronger or criticize them for being selfish. We would say the treatment failed. That despite every effort the cancer did not respond to chemotherapy and it took their life. That’s how we need to treat mental illness and addiction. (I keep saying mental illness and addiction because I want to pay special attention to addiction. It is, in fact, a mental illness and should be taken every bit as seriously.)

I am extremely lucky because in a nation where it is far from the norm, I have had access to mental health care including prescription medications. And I’m lucky again because the medications work, and I am absolutely diligent about staying healthy with the help of supportive family and friends. Not everyone has that string of luck.

We have no real treatment for addiction. There is no medical treatment, there is no cure. We have some excellent therapeutic tools, but we have no way to change brain chemistry or structure in a way that consistently and reliably counteracts addiction. Which means that every person you know who is sober and living with addiction is performing a mind over matter feat of strength that should humble us to our core. Unless we can use our mind to lower our cholesterol or blood pressure, how dare we judge an addict whose disease ends their life?

Blaming a victim of suicide for being weak reinforces the stigma surrounding mental health and feeds into the diseased mind that tells us the world would be better off without us, that we’re too much of a burden on our loved ones, that we shouldn’t reach out for help, that we’re not capable of coping.

But it also is a tragedy for the people left behind.

Your loved ones didn’t commit suicide because you didn’t love them enough. They didn’t commit suicide because they didn’t love *you* enough. They didn’t do it because you enforced boundaries or consequences or to teach you a lesson. They did it because the disease overwhelmed them and the treatment failed.

No other cause of death has us feeling so guilty. We wouldn’t tell ourselves that if we had put up with the cancer better than our loved ones would have survived. If only they loved us more they wouldn’t have been overcome by the tumors. If we had loved them better than they never would have gotten cancer in the first place. All of those thoughts are absurd, but when you replace cancer with addiction, they are commonplace.

Mental illness is a disease. Addiction is a disease. And losing someone to it is tragic, but it does not make them, or us, weak. All we can do is rest in the knowledge that their fight is over and try to leave room in our hearts for the knowledge that whatever length of time they managed to fight this disease was heroic.

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Growing up is breaking my heart

Atti's growing up

Whenever we stay at Grandma’s house, we all sleep in one big bed. It’s a luxury I treasure since we don’t do it at home – early mornings and places to get mean we actually need sleep, which we can never count on when Atti’s in the bed. This most recent trip I went down with Atti by myself while Bear stayed behind to work, so I had a big queen bed to myself and a snuggly little guy. It was heaven.

I snuck into bed after he had been asleep for a few hours and turned on the lamp so I could get in some hard-won reading time. In the lamplight I curled over to cuddle up to my boy, took one look at him slumbering there, and my heart snapped in half.

When he’s sleeping Atti looks so little to me. I can always see the baby still lingering around the edges. But with his mouth open wide enough for me to see the gaps in his teeth – gaps from his jaw and mouth getting too big for his little baby teeth – I felt that baby disappear forever.

Atti will be six this week. Six.

Every birthday has me feeling maudlin and sentimental, but this one is getting to be a bit much. He got his haircut and I cried. He wears jeans and t-shirts and looks like a big kid and I cry. He brings home school work and notes from his teacher and I cry. No mom is ever ‘ready’ for their baby to grow up, but right now? I’m taking it especially hard.

I think it’s the infertility. Each year that goes by without a sibling for him feels like I’m further and further out on that tail of statistical improbability. Each year older makes it harder, and less likely, that I’ll ever get to have another baby. I have to not only accept the fact that my baby is growing up, I have to try and face that this might be my only shot at motherhood.

Before I had Atti I always tried to hold a place in my heart for people suffering through secondary infertility, but it was always an exercise in radical empathy. Deep deep down, I really believed they didn’t have a right to ache like I did. They got to be a mom. They shouldn’t be greedy. But now I know so so so much better. For one thing, I know that pain is not relative, and anyone who tries to rank “appropriate” pain is just a jerk. But I also know what happens to your heart when you open it up enough to be a mom. I feel like this raw pulsing organ, running around with arms outstretched begging for someone to let me love them. I feel like I have no defenses. Like my vulnerability is wandering unsupervised through the world and I can never again pretend to be hard and closed off and impenetrable. My achilles heel is riding around on wheels and pushing his hair out of his eyes.

As hard as it was to not be a mom, and it was so so hard, it’s also, and a different kind of hard, to not get to be the kind of mom you want to be. Either way I had my coping devices. Pre-parenthood it was pursuing careers and education, taking advantage of my freedom, closing myself off to the world of babies and kids and putting all my attention on the adult world. Now it is wrapping myself up in my sweet little guy, getting kisses from him even if it means I have to trick him into playing a game where he gets to smash his face into my lips. I see now that there’s really no comparing the two. Being a mom of one doesn’t erase the pain of infertility, even as you enjoy every moment of it. Just like being independent and having opportunity doesn’t erase the pain of not having children, even as you enjoy every moment of that. It’s hard and it’s great. Full of silver linings and wonderful joys and also full of sorrow. It’s both at the same time.

No matter what the circumstances surrounding it are, it is always heartbreaking to want to love and not have an opportunity to give it.

I’ll be celebrating Atti’s birthday with him later this week, but today I’m grieving. Every bit of independence our kids achieve is us mom’s putting ourselves more and more out of a job. That’s tough for all of us. But it feels especially bitter and only a little sweet to me today. I love being a mom more than anything else. I want another chance.

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Mental Illness at Christmas time

Christmas Takedown
The holidays are a tough time to have wonky brain chemistry. The few hours of daylight, the pressure to be happy happy happy, the family get togethers that often remind you of how screwed up things are, it all gets to be too much for a depressed brain to deal with.

My brain is a complicated mix of brain chemistry and conditioned behaviors and the way things work together is sometimes awesome, and sometimes decidedly not. Since I have both Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder, sometimes those things combine like the Wonder Twins and I get creativity, energy, and focus. Other times I can’t pick up the phone or leave my house.

During Christmas time I tend to be more manic than anything else, and I think that’s mostly because of this blog right here and the big plans I commit myself to every year. Mania can be provoked by creating the right conditions, and for me that’s stress, deadlines, and a lot of work. So right up until Christmas Day I’m humming along, fingers flying, making and making and making and not bothered in the least by the sun going down at 4 o’clock.

It’s right after Christmas Day, when the work stops, when most people are relaxing with their families and taking time off, that I start the slide down to the depressed pole. And typically I stay there throughout most of winter. Looking through the archives, you’ll never find the New Year greeted with the ferociousness of Christmas. I often don’t even get my New Year’s projects up until February, because it takes that long to navigate through the molasses of depression that closes in as the last of the wrapping paper is thrown away.

This year we were slow to end Christmas. One cold, and then another cold on top of that cold, and then the stomach flu, meant that we were not exactly on top of our game. I think I finally have to admit that my Christmas cards are not going out this year, despite paying for a photo shoot and getting my favorite picture ever, because on top of the epic string of sickness I also had my local Costco lose my print order not once, but twice. I was not letting go this year, hoping that it wasn’t too late to get those out, and then just yesterday I finally had to face facts. The cards weren’t getting out, my house needed to be cleaned, and it was time to face the New Year.

But of course, going so big for Christmas means that it’s a big process to take it down. And this is where the OCD became a real problem. Boxes stacked up everywhere, pine needles and glitter on every surface, a huge pile of dried sap on my wood floors, trying to keep Atti away from stacks of boxes threatening to crush him, and the chaos – the total swirling chaos. Last night when it became clear we were not going to get Christmas cleaned up before it was time for bed I had an honest to goodness panic attack. Not a “Oh dear, I’m finding this stressful!” moment. A hyperventilating, weeping, clutching at my heart, panic attack at the thought of having that chaos in my house while I slept.

But I’m not new at this. I did what I’ve come to think of as “working the program.” (Which is recovery speak for any of you friends who aren’t Anonymous :wink wink:) I took my medication, I spent some time meditating on the scripts I want running through my head, I exercised some self-care. So I think in this sordid tale of mental illness, this is what I’d like to tell my friends walking this road with me. I got through it. I did sleep. I got up this morning and I got to work and I did it. I’m typing this in a clean house, with a clean and orderly garage full of decorations waiting for next year’s celebration of abundance. I’ve got a list of New Year’s plans on a notepad next to me and I’m looking out my window at my giant dog basking in the winter sunshine.

In the midst of the suffering, it’s hard to think anything will ever be OK again. But it will be. We can do this. These are the hard months, but they’re not impossible. Batten down the hatches, commit to health, and let’s get through this together.

Christmas Card 2013

New Year Card 2013

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