Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

preexisting conditions

i read a post recently by The Bloggess.  if you’re not reading her blog, shame on you.  she is quite possibly the funniest and most honest woman on the internet.  in the post, titled “Coming Out”, she links to an amazing video on YouTube by a man named Michael Kimber in which he calls on those affected by mental illness to speak up and fight against the stigma that silences their suffering and prevents them from seeking and receiving the treatment they need to recover.

after reading her post and a number of posts that other bloggers have written to speak up about their own mental illness i debated writing my own story.  the whole point of this video is a call to action but it’s still scary to put it all in words with Labels and Diagnoses even though i’ve written about my struggles with insomnia and postpartum depression before.  i just posted a facebook status about my saggy post-pregnancy boobs, for crying out loud, but speaking up about my crazy brain is still tough.  i still wonder if people i know In Real Life (who don’t know the whole story, or who may not understand mental illness) read my blog and would be frightened or confused or judgmental.  yes, most of all it’s the judgment that frightens me.

so here it is.  here are the Labels i currently have or have had during the course of the past ten years since i first sought treatment for the Crazy; had i gotten help during the college years there certainly would have been a diagnosis of major depressive episode as well. but these afflictions are just part of me, they are definitely not the whole of me and right now i’ve got them pretty well managed.  i am so thankful that my OB/GYN was very supportive of me staying on medication during pregnancy and after my son’s birth so i did not have any postpartum depression this time around.  that alone is a huge testament to the power and necessity of medication, and speaks volumes about the need for open and honest communication about the prevalence of mental illness and the need for appropriate treatment.

i will likely be on medication, even if it’s just a small dose, every day for the rest of my life and i am okay with that.  my brain wiring is just a little wonky and needs a few extra chemicals to get the neurotransmitters firing the way they are supposed to.  i know i am not alone; there are millions of people out there who are also battling a sometimes-Crazy brain.  my hope is that someday everyone who needs treatment will get it without fear of judgment, or denied insurance, and without being made to feel as if they are flawed or broken.  i am speaking up and i hope you will too, and i hope that we can all listen to those who are brave enough to share their struggles so that someday soon we can finally de-stigmatize mental illness.

 

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January 27, 2011

the best show that no one is watching

friday night lights.

i want every single person i know and love to watch this show, for no other reason than that they will understand why i can’t shut up about it and why i am already mourning the finale before it has even aired.  it is simply incredible.  the characters, the stories, the acting, the way it’s filmed.  incredible.

the thing i love about this show is that you don’t hear much about it.  it doesn’t get a lot of press.  it seems like it doesn’t have a huge audience but everyone, and i mean everyone, who does watch it is absolutely nuts about it.  people who don’t watch it don’t know what they’re missing, people who do watch it love it.  the downside of the lack-of-press is that it’s going off the air after five seasons.  i’m not handling this well at all.

whenever i mention my obsession for friday night lights i hear the same thing; “isn’t it just about football?”  to those people, i just want to make clear, oh. my. god.  it is SO not just about football.   i had the same reservations, i’m ashamed to admit now, for the first season-and-a-half (don’t worry, i caught up later) when my husband tried to get me to watch it with him.  “ugh,” i thought, “more football? no thanks.”  i married a sports fanatic so i get enough football already, thankyouverymuch, but then i watched it and lord help me if i wasn’t hooked.  it became our own friday night ritual to snuggle in bed together and watch every episode.  we had to switch our date-night to wednesdays after we got DirecTv (they air the season before NBC gets its hands on it) but it is still our main show and the highlight of our week.

we just finished tonight’s episode.  only two more to go before it is all over.  the story lines are all wrapping up, the final game of the season is upon us.  i’m praying for a miracle that would allow the show to go on for another season and preparing myself for the finale.  if you’re a fan of the show, i love you.  if you’ve never seen it, i ask you to feast your eyes on this photo of Tim Riggins and then ask yourself why the hell you’re not watching?

#33

January 24, 2011

playing catch up

I wrote in my journal the other night:

going, going, going, but never gone. perpetually in the state of getting there, but never actually arriving at a destination.

I feel like life, these days, is all about spinning wheels. every day is pretty much just like the one that came before, and quite likely to be much the same as the one that comes next. this isn’t a complaint; spinning wheels isn’t necessarily a bad thing. the circuit is pleasant enough, and I am a fan of routine and predictability in general, but there are days when I get to bedtime and feel a sense of frustration at having not accomplished anything notable that day beyond feeding, diapering, entertaining two children. hell, there are days that simply making it to bedtime is a victory.

but I feel like I could be (should be?) doing more. and I’m not just referring to laundry, though that would be a good place to start. i look at other blogs and feel a sense of ineptitude. these other moms with their spotless, catalog-decorated houses with organized and labelled junk-drawers, showcasing their craft projects and culinary creations (in well-staged, perfectly lit photographs, naturally), tackling their lifelists with gusto and passion, canning food cultivated from their own backyard garden, homeschooling their kiddos, and still managing to shower and brush their hair every single day. I realize that these moms only show the slice of life that they choose to present to their audience, and underneath the glossy exterior they too (possibly?) have shamefully disorganized closets that burst forth upon opening, threatening to rain down an avalanche of wrapping paper tubes and never-used camping supplies. but that’s not the side we see, right? that’s not the life we’re trying to emulate in the short 24 hours we have each day. it’s hard to feel victorious when you can’t even tackle last week’s laundry and your husband is eating cereal for dinner again because last night’s dishes haven’t been washed yet.

how do real moms do it? not the perfectly coiffed moms behind sparkling, pretty blogs, but real moms who are just trying to manage the day-to-day to-do list of a normal family while simultaneously maintaining their sanity? help.

January 15, 2011

hold on, hi! how are you?

i just found out that it’s National De-Lurking Day!  don’t be shy.  no more hiding in the shadows, come out and say hi.  introduce yourself.  who are you?  may i take your coat?  what can i get you to drink?

January 12, 2011

right now i am

spending entirely too much brain space thinking about rearranging furniture in my living room, light fixtures, and curtains.

irritated by the cut on my finger – i forgot that i had thrown a knife in the sudsy water in the sink while hand-washing baby bottles.  slice! whoops.

beginning to think about garden planning for this summer, lamenting the errors we made last year as first-timers

getting ready to hop in bed with a good book…  starting with the letter C, if you were wondering, for my goal of reading through the alphabet.  i’m not going in order.

reminding myself that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  ’tis better to bite your tongue now than feel ashamed of your words later.

proud of myself for being dedicated to my goal of improving my physical fitness, but that Step class at the gym last night is haunting me through my calf muscles today.

feeling unfocused.

January 11, 2011

we used to have a dog

used to. past tense.

i’ve hesitated to share this story, because i know how stories about dogs and the decision to no longer have dogs can get people riled up.  i worry about judgment, but i have to share this story because it’s part of my story.

i’ve written about rudy before.  last month, about a week before christmas, we had to put rudy to sleep.  rudy had severe issues with dog-aggression and, more recently, food-aggression.  more than one dog-loving friend had repeatedly commented that if dogs could be diagnosed with mental illness, rudy would meet the criteria for schizophrenia for sure.  for more than six years we worked with her, trained her, and made accommodations for her to keep her safe, keep us safe, and keep others safe.  she was anxious and unpredictable no matter what we did.  it was exhausting and stressful to live with her, but we did it anyway because she was part of our family.

but the problem became so bad that for the past few years she wasn’t really part of the family.  we had to separate her from the kiddos whenever food was around.  for those of you with kids you know that this is pretty much all the time, with the snacks and the juice and the crumbs and whatnot.  we also separated her from other dogs, which meant no park visits during peak hours, no doggy daycare, no playtime with dogs in the neighborhood.  dogs are social creatures but her behavior demanded that her social interaction be severely limited.  it sucked for her and it sucked for us.  it was really no way for a dog to live.

months ago, before baby boy was born, we had rudy evaluated by a behaviorist to see if she would be considered adoptable, even though we had already been told by the rescue organizations and no-kill shelters that she didn’t meet their criteria, given her history of aggression.  she failed.  big time.  she lunged, snarling and snapping, at the evaluator who tried to remove the bowl of food during the test.  we were given two choices: take her home with us and deal with her, or have her euthanized.  we brought her home.  and then we had a baby.  adjustment to life with a newborn is stressful enough by itself, but even more stressful when dealing with a psychotic dog.  but, surprisingly enough, rudy was awesome with the baby.  she tolerated his probing fingers in her ears and mouth and on her tail.  she allowed him to climb on her.  she rolled over to expose her belly to be caressed by his drool-covered fingers.  i stated time and time again that rudy’s saving grace was that she was good with kids.

until she wasn’t.

a bit of history:  she had (possibly?) snapped at our daughter (or maybe at me?) once before when avery was ten months old or so.  avery had a piece of paper in her mouth and when i went to remove it rudy growled and made a slight lunge in our direction.  it was unprecedented, the dog showing aggression toward the baby or toward me, so i didn’t know what to make of it. was it really aggression?  maybe she was protecting the baby?  maybe she thought the paper was food?  who knows.  either way, we definitely stepped up our vigilance at that point.  that was in 2008.

and then last month…rudy’s saving grace?  gone.  the food aggression with the kiddos became an issue, and it wasn’t just food, it was the baby boy’s spit-up.  she decided that his regurgitated milk, his vomit, was her food.  it wasn’t simply an issue of separating her from the kids at mealtime; she became aggressive over his pool of milk that he spit up hours after his bottle.  he spit, she lunged for it, he put his hand on her head, she bared her teeth and growled.  i jumped up and grabbed her to move her away from the baby and she growled and snapped at me.

grace.  gone.  game over.

i took her in that afternoon and had her put to sleep.  it was sad and i cried, but when it came down to my children’s safety or my dog’s life it wasn’t even a question.  i know there are dog lovers out there who probably think i am evil or heartless, but my baby’s beautiful face is precious and i could no longer risk having my unpredictable dog in the same space as my kids.  i struggled for years with rudy’s behavior but she crossed a line and there was no other alternative.

i dream about her almost every night but during my waking hours i feel relieved.  the stress of managing her unpredictable behavior has been lifted.  it was not a decision we made thoughtlessly; we exhausted all other options but in the end the choice was made for us, really.

so that’s the end of rudy’s story, i guess.  she was sweet and loving and wanted to please, but there was just something crazy in her head that she couldn’t help and we couldn’t fix.

January 7, 2011

finding my One Word: 2011

i’m feeling surly lately.  sort of like, “knock knock.”  “who’s there?”  “fuck you.”

if you were to ask me today what 2011 holds in store, i’d say it’s the year of Bullshit Intolerance.  i just don’t have patience for it.  i want to cultivate the relationships, the interests, and creative pursuits that fuel me, and cut loose all the dead weight that adds little or no value to my life.  unload the crap.  focus on what matters.  release myself from activities and friendships that drain me and devote myself to the ones that are wholly fulfilling.  Bullshit Intolerance isn’t really a particularly inspiring standpoint.

it feels somewhat heartless and selfish when i look at it objectively, especially when i identify specifically the people that i want need to unload, but i’m feeling kinda pissy and for now i’m going to embrace it.

with the new year and the customary making of resolutions there is a lot of buzz about identifying a word that resonates with you and making that Your Word for the year; a word to guide you, a word to focus on, a word to define your intentions.  i chose the word simplify last year and i’m still working on really living that word.  i will continue to focus on finding simplicity this year but i’m still working to find my One Little Word for 2011.  so maybe it’s a combination of simplicity and authenticity:  being who i am, doing what i want to do, and saying, “that’s just not going to work for me” to the things and people that distract me from what matters most.