A heartfelt thank you to you all for all the support and comments today. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I’ve read all of them multiple times.
Ended up taking John out to dinner tonite who was quite a bit better. We shared a huge bear hug before we left and he just kept thanking me for caring about him and loving him and being “such a good sister”. I’m telling you, that boy man melts my heart.
We went for Swedish comfort food and had a long talk over dinner about this crappy program. He is ok with bailing on it if they don’t shape up, quickly. Frankly I was ready to ditch them today but texted with Dr. Yasinski who kind of talked me off the ledge and suggested we wait just a little longer for a variety of well thought out reasons. I trust him. In many ways he’s the only person I trust who’s been involved in John’s care so his recommendation made sense to me.
I do see us eventually landing in his care ultimately but have to kind of take some steps to get there.
So we’ll wait it out but I’m drafting a letter to the other Psychiatrist about the events over these last few days to let them know, in writing, how they’ve dropped the ball repeatedly on John. I’m a big believer in documentation. All those years as an RN are still with me I guess.
Anyway, I’m hunkering down on this stormy night, watching Project Runway, eating my tart frozen yogurt that I love and letting the stress of this day melt off of me.
Just wanted to extend some love and appreciation before this day ends.
I really need to take a good hard look at myself. I really need to make some hard changes in my life.
I am honestly just sick and tired of thinking about these things and writing about these things and talking about these things.
I feel stuck in some kind of trap that is probably of my own making that I need to find my way out of. Where’s the damn trap door???
I feel like I’m either fighting for my brother or fleeing from my brother to keep my sanity.
What I do know, without doubt, is I’m fighting harder for his well being that he’s fighting for himself.
This is something I’ve struggled with in so many areas of my life. I’ve learned to manage it pretty well when it comes to my business after essentially a 24 year boot camp. I wasn’t a quick learner. I’ve even discharged clients and referred them out for this reason. Yes, my peace of mind is more important than being paid for that dynamic.
This ACT Team is still on probation and it remains to be seen how well they will perform. I get so tired of these big sales pitches about programs and then, they fizzle before they’d taken off. This is the public sector. I guess you do get what you pay for. I still hold Dr. Yasinski in my mind as an option but we would also need to build a team of other providers in addition to him which, again, is a full time job for awhile.
John was transferred to this program two days ago. We were told he’d have 24/7 access to case managers should he have a need. He left there after that transfer without one of his heavy duty antipsychotic meds being filled because of some “preauthorization” issue. No one (but me) ever followed up on this so as of today, he’s completely out of this medication. This major medication that isn’t to be played around with.
We both called multiple times yesterday and left messages and heard nothing back. Fail.
He’s been seen by none of these multi disciplinary case managers we met two days ago nor has even one called him to set up an appointment to work with him. Fail.
I finally tracked down the coordinator who we’d met with this week and shared all of this with her, along with my concerns that their “med check” visits, really the only service he’s gotten from this “intensive” team in two days which involves someone coming to the house and watching him take his meds for a couple minutes, requiring him to take his bedtime meds at 5pm.
Which means he’s in bed sleeping by 5:30 because, being such strong tranquilizers, they knock him out. That’s insane. Fail.
Not only did I get much of a solution for that (“well that’s when we do our med checks”) but this coordinator had no solution for me about the medication that John is now OUT OF and literally said “well he may have to go cold turkey off that if we can’t get preauthorized”. Medication prescribed by their very clinic, by the Dr. who is on the premises. FAIL.
Here’s me, grinding my jaw, trying to be nice, trying to not make waves saying “I’m a trained Psychiatric Nurse, he cannot go off that medication cold turkey”.
And what I got back was “our Dr. is out of the office til next week”. “Then who is covering for him?” (for God’s sake, this is an INTENSIVE PROGRAM!!!).
See what I’m talking about?
I pushed this issue (as was necessary) and she went to speak with the Dr. who ordered it, who is RIGHT THERE IN THE SAME BUILDING WITH HER, and got it approved.
But do you see the degree I am continually fighting , fighting, fighting to get John’s basic needs met?
While he’s laying over there on my couch, doing nothing. “I’m having a bad day” he says.
And to that I said “if you don’t invest in your own life, then I’m stopping pushing you”. I’m either pushing him to go to classes, go take a walk, make a phone call to find out something about, say, that medication issue. And he lays on the couch telling me “I’m having a bad day”. How luxurious he gets to have “bad days” and not advocate for himself. Yet I have to keep reminding myself that he is very capable when he wants to be. He got himself in the last two days to Urgent Care, an ER, a CT scan, a Dr. , stores to buy cigarettes and various fast food places which I also can’t seem to mitigate. There are just so many areas of dysfunction you have to choose your battles.
I’m moving him today to my Dad’s. He left to go over there just now.
I have to pull back. I’m going to lose my mind with all of this fighting fighting fighting pushing lighting fires trying trying trying to save my brother who does not seem that invested in saving himself. Or much of anyone else for that matter. I’m treading water holding a life saver trying to toss it out in the open sea. To someone who’s just floating and staring at me like “huh?”. I need to start swimming. Swimming for shore. I’ll just leave that life saver right here and see if it gets picked up. Terrifying.
The tears finally came when I started reminding him that he’s the same person who went to every furniture store in Phoenix shopping for our Sedona home, who found that house, who wanted to go to Sedona with me, who went to movies with me, who enjoyed this…that….this was just a few short months ago.
I pleaded with him “WHERE IS MY BROTHER???”
“I don’t know” he said.
It’s utterly heartbreaking. That’s one of many adjectives of what it is.
I don’t know if he will make it on his own. I have to turn him over to this incompetent disappointing new ACT Team.
I have to see if he has a chance for rising with them.
I have to find my own life again. Can you imagine how hard it is to turn this off in my head? Even when I have a day off like yesterday and do something fun for myself like getting my hair cut and meeting two friends for wine and food and a little pub crawl? I do my best to not talk about this but it’s been so consuming it’s so hard to not think about or find other things to talk about.
I was so happy, so relieved, so whatevered, to hear my hair dresser’s long story of a dramatic story that had gone on in her life. Please, anything, anything to pull my mind off this unending dramatic nightmare.
John breaks my heart as he sadly walks out of my house saying “well you have a good day”. I get sympathetic to his sweetness over and over again and then I put up my gloves for him.
He might choose a marginally functioning life where, without constant pushing, he lives his life between his patio smoking, alone, to his couch, laying down, alone. He may end up back in the hospital. He may fall right through the cracks of this “intensive program” which to me seems more like a series of cracks than any kind of foundation. He might get suicidal again, he might get totally psychotic again, he might he might he might….I seem to be the one person, other than Dr. Yasinski who’s invested in the “he might get very functional again”. It’s so sad.
I’ve been thinking a lot about first impressions lately.
I have to say it. This is a bad one for the ACT Team. That anyone working with the mentally ill would, for any reason, ever, in any situation other than stranded on a desert island, think that taking someone off their major meds “cold turkey”, meds that they need, is any kind of viable option. Over “insurance authorization”. That is terrifying and defined certain things to me.
I don’t know how long we will give this program and need to think about that.
I have to let go. I have to let go. I have to let go. I have to let go. I have to let go.
I feel like I’ve lost my only surviving sibling. Again.
Well good news and bad news. Mostly good though I think.
John was transferred to the ACT Team yesterday. This is a highly structured, intensive team to support and monitor people who are very unstable with their symptoms. We were lucky to get him in it as they have a limited number of participants. It was the revolving hospitalizations and the severity of symptoms at the last one that qualified him. The case manager at his program submitted him for this service as I had no knowledge of it at all until it was presented.
We had our first meeting yesterday with members of the team–his new Psychiatrist, the manager of the case managers and his former CM. I have to say I had to retract my fangs as I was not cool at all with being left dangling with basically no services for two solid weeks after John was discharged from the hospital and not doing well here at my house. It’s been tenuous at best, draining at worst and sometimes outright scary.
But a hissing sound is generally not a good first impression. I did let them know though, that we brought on an independent psychiatrist as we had no other options during those two weeks and John wasn’t doing well. They seemed surprised. I was like “well, what options did we have?”. Sometimes a first impression where someone is kind of already owing you, is ok (hey Mya and I got free facials on Monday for that reason).
John’s been focused on this bladder issue all week now and it’s mostly all he can talk about. He’s jumped from Urgent Care to Urgent Care, a CT Scan yesterday, his primary Dr. yesterday and nothing seems to be turning up. It’s hard to know if this is a real issue or psychosomatic as he tends toward that as well. It just seems never ending. One head is cut off and a two more sprout.
Today he tells me he thinks he needs to be admitted to the hospital over his bladder issues yet he went to see his Dr. yesterday and barely discussed it it seems. Shaking my head. I just can’t hold his hand through every. single. moment/crisis/whatever. Now he tells me he’s going to the Emergency Room. This is not an uncommon occurrence. Last month it was a heart attack (totally negative). I don’t know how to assess any of this. Maybe he needs to go that distance to find out he really has no problems.
Thankfully, I think I can start moving to the back seat now as this team is very comprehensive. They have several case managers who specialize in various issues from housing (not a problem) to transportation (might be a problem) to Vocational rehab/volunteerism to home management to I don’t remember what else. There’s a whole room filled with cubicles of them and we met probably 8 case managers yesterday who will all be working with John in some capacity. This is a hard place for someone to fall through the cracks as they staff each participant every morning vs. the prior program just the ones who “have needs”.
The bad news is we can’t use Dr. Yasinski with this program at all. 😦 He came for another home visit this week and I’m telling you, as a former Psych RN, I’ve not seen a Dr. so up on meds and all of their interactions. I would love him to be able to manage John’s meds but we’d have to give up this whole team to get that and he needs these services. Plus, having a handsome man show up on my doorstep was a bonus-it doesn’t happen much these days. lol I just had to say that. That’s horrible isn’t it? I feel so bad, I feel just so shallow saying that, objectifying this medical professional can’t you tell? 😉
Really he’s super nice and caring and competent as well as handsome
Here is a video of Dr. Yasinski talking about the Colorado shooting on the local news that gives you an idea of how caring he is for mentally ill people. I like how he starts this interview with reassuring the public at large re: this tragedy.
Just wanted to give a little plug to Dr. Yasinski who’s been extremely supportive to John and especially me over the last few weeks. I’ll miss him but glad to know he’s out there should we need him.
I get this boundary as the ACT Team is so closely knit that it doesn’t make sense to have outside members. And I think the Psychiatrist (female) will be good. She made changes yesterday that made sense to me.
Part of what they offer, at least for the first month or two, are twice daily home visits. Yes you heard that right, twice DAILY. They will check in on John morning and evening and watch him take his meds and check his home environment, mental status, everything like that. Basically what I’ve been doing 24/7. The kicker is, he had to take his nighttime meds last night at 5pm. So he was asleep in bed by 6. That’s not right. We have to figure that one out. Who wants to go to bed at 6:00pm?
The next task is moving him back to my Dad’s which dovetails that. I really don’t relish the notion of people coming and going from my house at least twice a day. Some days he will get other home visits from his primary case manager or people to check on his house management, things like that. They say intensive and they mean it. Where were they, oh, about six months ago before this revolving hospitalization business happened? Oh well, everything in it’s own time.
I need to set about relinquishing my control over this whole situation, turning it over to them, turning it over to John and finding a way back to my own life. It’s hard to think of moving him back to my Dad’s but I have to. It’s just three minutes away but still. I’m sure all you parents out there reading this who have children, understand this conflict distinctly.
I realized the other day as I was doing an inventory of my life and stress, that a year and a half ago basically, I became a parent with a special needs child overnight at age 52. When I look at the dark circles under my eyes, the way none of my clothes fit, the irritation I often go through, I can put it in perspective. My easy breezy life turned on a dime and honestly with all I’ve gone through in this life, I’m not sure how I’ve gotten through all of this phase. But here we are, putting one foot in front of the other and doing pretty well.
I’m ready to find my life again. I’m beyond ready.
Oh, the histrionics!
And I know I need to pull off that band aid and know John will be protected and well managed and take off the case manager, care giver, nurse, Dr., etc etc. hat and become the sister. Whatever that looks like.
In the spirit of taking off those hats, I’m giving myself a new one today. I have the day off and am getting my hair cut. I mean a significant hair cut. I don’t know why I’m obsessing about cutting my hair short but I’m going to. This is what I’m taking to my stylist today and we’ll see what comes out.
I’m also going super blonde again, like this pic and hopefully I will walk out with the same necklace and body and look exactly like this girl. 😉
All I know is I have the day off today and I’m going to do some things for me that I enjoy.
After of course making a few phone calls to the new team and whoever else I might need to speak to to manage this transition.
Then we need to let go and see how well we can both fly.
I came home yesterday from my lovely overnight spa stay summit with my work colleague Mya, after confronting a rattlesnake and poking it, room service breakfast and mimosas and receiving free facials and smoothies at the World class spa due to a big error they made (yay us!) only to land back in a new crisis with my brother. I don’t need to go in to details other than to say his bladder has shut down so we are still sorting that out. It just seems never ending, jumping from one issue to the next.
first pic he looked dead on the sidewalk/second after I poked him with a stick
we decided he was digesting his dinner (just like we were)- he was very lethargic
Luckily our new Dr. came and did a home visit today, ordered a medication for Alfonse to hopefully open things up (hasn’t worked yet) and offered support. And tomorrow at 8:30, finally, we’ve made it through these last two weeks without much of a safety net to engage him with his new support team tomorrow. I have to say, it’s not been easy but we made it.
We meet his new Dr., case manager and who knows else. I hope they are a whole lot better than the lame last team he got stuck with was assigned.
I just hope we can find some sense of a baseline that doesn’t involve crisis here very soon. Either way I head out on a 10 day vacation in just less than two weeks so he’s got to have a functional team around him by then.
Good news is he’s not hearing voices and not depressed and he and I are bonded again after a whole lot of frustration brewing between us.
These things take time. Yet it seems often like all of my time is taken up with this crisis management.
I also made another big decision yesterday to seriously downsize a big charitable project I’d created and been at the helm of for the last three years. I can’t do the things I once at least thought I could do before John came out to live here. I have to have places in my life where I’m not managing and putting out fires. Sometimes all I feel like I’m doing is breathing smoke.
It’s interesting when you’re a high functioning person who takes care of a lot of things for a lot of people and you decide to set boundaries–on yourself first I mean. Anger plays a big role. Sometimes you need the anger to just be able to set the boundary. Sometimes you need to get so angry to just know you need to set the boundary. Sometimes you get angry because you’ve had to set the boundary. Sometimes setting the boundary generates anger in others.
I’ve experienced pretty much every facet of that fiery diamond lately. So I guess anger can be our friend. Sigh….
Mya and I hashed and rehashed so many elements of our lives involving a similar theme of how to manage energy, where to maintain focus, how to take care of ourselves in a world filled with caring for others. We both had at least one major lightbulb moment where the clouds parted and the answer was clear as a sunny Arizona day.
For just over twenty four hours I’d call that productive. We also called our Work Spa Summit necessary and annual. We also decided no opening of emails or checking cell phones until we actually get home. Learning as we go.
I came home, pondering all of our talks and our decisions and our self care and remembered this children’s story my sister often referenced.
Maybe you’ve heard of The Little Red Hen. I’m sure most of you can relate to it.
I’m not eating wheat these days but I’m still working on learning more and more about eating my own bread, just like the Hen.
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
— David Whyte
I’m starting it right off with David Whyte’s words today, because, I am.
I have some things to say and it’s been a few days since I’ve gone off on a rambling rant. It’s Sunday morning, I have my strong coffee right next to me and a head full of ideas stimulated from that exhilarating shower I just took.
Everything is waiting for you, Whyte says.
But my rant is about this. You have to reach out and take it.
I’ve been living for nearly two weeks now, again, with my home basically converted in to a transitional living home at best and Psychiatric hospital at worse. I’m not going to whine again about how the various systems let us down over and over again because that’s just boring and I’m sick of my own voice in and and out of my head talking about it.
I’m tired of breathing life in to other people.
There I just said it.
I was born to do that, I’m good at doing that, I’ve lived a life that has trained me for that and yet I really want to do something else.
Here’s the thing. You see a person gasping for breath and you have a full lung capacity going on. What do you do? You naturally give them one of yours.
It’s very insidious and crafty this thing of co dependence because it sometimes takes days or months or years to realize you’ve stopped breathing your own breath. And someone else is surviving because of your infusions.
But you realize it, you do. And often, once you do, you’ve so run out of oxygen yourself that even figuring out how you got to that point is a mountain to climb, much less hoisting yourself out of the hole. It’s a sticky wicket that ensnares you, just like that black widow I found this weekend in Sedona. I was wondering why she showed up, what message she had for me within inches of my still healing leg wound. I was wondering why I had to kill her.
She had the red violin on her underbelly–shudder
As I write this I’m starting to see the triumphance in that decision to say NO to that lurking danger and her sticky web and her thousands of eggs (did you know each pod can hold up to 400 eggs each?).
I am tired of getting trapped and stuck!!!!!!!
I woke up again this morning to my brother giving me the weather report on how depressed he is. Yes, he is. Yes the system sucks and he’s been limited on services since he got out of the hospital. Yes he has to wait two more days to get seen by the Psychiatrist then three more days to get started with his new team. This is all true. So yes, he has to find ways to be resourceful, internally resourceful to get through these days.
I’ve been once again breeding a dependence on me for another person’s well being. And once again reaching that breaking point realizing I’m investing more energy in their recovery than they are themselves. It’s happened over and over again in my life.
Sometimes a tricky bond forms between people which looks like this:
Person A is the identified “weak” person or person in need of help.
Person B is the helper.
Person B has lots of ideas, energy, ingenuity, time etc. and pours them in to Person A to help them get through that rough patch.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Either Person A responds to that jumpstart and is ignited once again and starts maneuvering down the road on their own volition.
Or Person A starts living Person B‘s life, losing their own unique imprint along the way. And sometimes resenting it, understandably.
This, to me, is a tragedy. A tragedy upon a tragedy.
I think each of us has our own unique trajectory and imprint to make on this world in the short years we have to live in it. Once you start becoming defined by someone else or an institution or a plan created for you, then you’ve lost your own place of belonging and you are coasting.
I’ve attracted that second version of Person A my whole life in different forms. I’ll just say it, I have a strong light that projects in to the world. I’ve known this since I was a kid. It just is. It attracts people to me in some kind of magnetic way that I don’t understand and it’s not driven by me.
I hear this description of me over and over so I know it’s true. I know this is something given to me as I came in to this world yet I do have to learn how to manage it. I don’t know how to describe it other than I don’t always feel a lot of energy but I always have this magnetic light around me.
The best relationships I have are with people who are basking in their own light. I feel so energized in their presence. In fact, I’m headed off today to a spa overnight with one of those people, my colleague Mya. She is one of the baddest asses I know for a tiny little person. We co treat together and have not for one second, ever, had a moment of competition or energy imbalance. We just fit. She holds her own and I hold mine. She is fully defined. I’m looking forward to being in that energy today.
Now that I think of it, I’ve surrounded myself in that since I got back from my recharge in Sedona having had dinner last night with my friend Andrea. I’d describe her in the same way. Strong, resilient, holding her own, filled up with herself.
I woke up again this morning in my home to John’s latest rendition of his depression. He reports to me how he feels and what he’s done about it. His choice today was to take a 10 minute walk around the complex. This is good, but it’s not enough for a full day. We do this routine every day now. Him reporting what he’s done, how he feels and me giving him ideas of things to do to manage it.
I’ve spent hours and hours acting as a case manager, coach, therapist, you name it with him since he got out of the hospital, AGAIN, because the services are limited. Calling people who don’t call me back, making plans with and for him, including him in my activities, taking him places, discussing with him options to manage his time while waiting for the services to kick in. All while he sits back and is infused with my energy. I sound angry and I am. At myself.
I don’t realize how I do this until it’s depleted me usually. I’ll just suffice it to say I’ve taken John to many many watering holes and he chooses not to drink. This is not an unusual pattern. Is it depression? His personality? A combination probably. I do know this. He always manages to get his own cigarettes and meals. Always. Things that are priorities to him get done. By him. Independently with no prompting. Sometimes we have to ruthlessly look at things as they are.
People are as low or high functioning sometimes as we deem them to be. I’m mad at myself for filling in so many gaps, once again, depleting my own source. Buying in to his version of “limitation” without acknowledging how functional he is.
On the outside, my getting away on this overnight (which has been planned for weeks and prepaid by the way) might look cruel leaving John alone again. But it also may give him the motivation to find something internal that pulls him out of this slump. We never know what bottom people need to hit to dig deep to find something to turn around. Someone once said to me “if someone is heading for their bottom, get out of their way. The sooner they hit it, the sooner they will start coming back up”.
This is a hard thing when someone has been suicidal. This gets very real.
In the shower this morning I was reflecting on these thoughts. How I’ve fallen in this hole over and over and over again in my life. All the ways it’s shown up, primarily with men.
How humiliated I’ve been dating men who don’t or won’t or can’t give to me. Usually it’s it falls in the “won’t” category. How many relationships I’ve engaged in that most women wouldn’t consider for a moment. How it’s been a joke (but I’m not laughing inside) how many men I’ve been out with who “fall on hard times” “forget their wallet” “oh, there’s a problem with my credit card”. How entire relationships have been formed on a foundation of me providing and them receiving.
I once dated this man who would be busy until say 9pm most evenings. Then he would come to my house, drink my wine and enjoy the cheese plates I put out, have a romantic evening with me then go home. I remember talking to my friends about this pattern, that I’d not been taken on a date at all with this man. They told me I needed to talk to him about it. That should have been my first clue: telling a man you’re dating that he needs to take you on a date.
The story of the one date he took me on, after this awkward conversation, is something you’d seen in one of those movies starring Kristen Wiig involving a bowling alley in a bad part of town, three games of bowling, no food or drink offered to me and a passive aggressive dinner I insisted on because he wanted to take me “for dinner” to a “dive bar” that served no food. I’m not kidding you. The hideous part of the whole thing was I didn’t break it off immediately after that fiasco! It took me about two more weeks.
I shake my own head at myself.
I know where the roots off all of this comes from, I don’t need to enumerate it here. I do need to set about doing something about it if I’m ever going to find a relationship again, a real relationship. If only my Psychologists’s booking person would call me back…..sigh…
But what I really want to say is this.
We’ve all been through shit in our lives. Some more than others.
I’ve survived the death of my mother at the age of 5, the abuse of my stepmother that I’ve shared extensively here, my one life raft, my sister’s homicide, a terrible terrible anxiety disorder with depression and all involved in that and on and on. Yet…I’m still living my own trajectory.
I will say I navigated most of those life situations on my own. I sought out resources to help me and took advantage of them. I really didn’t have anyone pushing me or handing me out anything.
One of the main reasons I held resentment toward my stepmother for cutting me out of her Will is because I spent thousands of my own money in therapy undoing the damage she inflicted. Even though we were estranged at the time of her death, I’ll just say it. She owed me at least that.
But I have gained strength by knowing I bought and paid for my own recovery.
I don’t crawl back and let my life be defined by someone else or wait for some arc to be built so I can board it and start sailing. I set about swimming.
So sometimes I lose patience with the “I can’ts” of the world.
If you lead with your limitation, you will be defined by your limitation. But don’t expect a life that is your own or creative or fulfilling. Expect a life that is limited.
And, frankly, I don’t want to join you there. I will support you from afar but I need to stop being a life support system.
Because what happens is I do get drug down. It happens. And I do start to dim and feel my own light suffer. Like what’s happened over the last week.
And that is not what I am on this planet to experience.
I will share this which everyone who is suffering from this “I can’t” mentality should see:
Who are you, who am I to not be triumphant?
Even if you can’t find your bootstraps to grab yourself up by, if someone else puts them right in your hands, who are you not to at least grasp them?
I’m sure many of you have read this but it’s worth a revisit:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson
On that note, John just announced to me that he’s going to the gym. Good! We are both changing how we do this. It’s not me dragging him to the gym, it’s him making a decision and following up on it. Just like he decides to drive himself to the Indian Reservation to get cigarettes.
Sometimes it’s like ripping off a bandaid and feels kind of heartless to cut someone off from your energy supply if you’ve had them on your life support for too long.
Yet it allows them to find their own breath. Or not. But it’s the only chance they’ve got. The only chance you’ve got.
With that all being said I’m going to pack for an overnight getaway. This is how I keep my sanity these days. Physically removing myself from my own home which is some form of Psychiatric facility to get some clear oxygen. Some might say I need to learn to set boundaries for myself to be able to breathe in my own home like this but there’s only so much change a personality can undergo. I am born to bond, some are born to detach.
Sometimes balancing our own traits is the best we can do while letting our light shine in the world.
And shine I intend to do.
I welcome anyone to bask in it but please, find your own light and we will both have a much brighter time.
(I don’t know why this entire post showed up in italics and no time to figure it out..so there it is!)
I say as I extract this two by four embedded in my forehead.
Let me back up a minute.
Last week sometime I got this email from my local independent bookstore, the one that people travel from all over the sprawling Phoenix metropolitan area to get to, the one that’s five minutes up the road from me, that one. It was their weekly promotion of who’s coming to do book signings and other tidbits going on at the store.
I saw this announcement right here:
7PM WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21 Mark Epstein: The Trauma of Everyday Life
Psychiatrist Mark Epstein, author of Thoughts Without a Thinker, visits with his new book The Trauma of Everyday Life.
Trauma, Epstein says, does not just happen to a few unlucky people; it is the bedrock of our psychology. Here, he explains how trauma can be transformational and used for the mind’s own development. When we regard trauma with this perspective — understanding that suffering is universal and without logic — our pain connects us to the world on a more fundamental level. The way out of pain is through it. Epstein’s discovery begins in his analysis of the life of Buddha, looking to how the death of his mother informed his path and teachings. Epstein also looks to the traumas, large and small, that he, his patients, and many of the fellow sojourners and teachers he encounters as a psychiatrist and Buddhist share. He argues that trauma, if it doesn’t destroy us, wakes us up to both the mind’s capacity and to the suffering of others.
I was immediately drawn to this event. I deal with trauma in my practice, I’ve experienced trauma throughout my life, I read books about trauma, I treat Vets with PTSD and I live with my brother who’s life has been and continues to be trauma filled.
I wrote the date down in my appointment book and planned to go.
The next day or so I checked my mailbox and there was an envelope from my Dad. I wasn’t expecting anything so was surprised and intrigued about what he might be sending me.
When I opened the envelope, there was a newspaper clipping folded up inside.
An article written by the same author about his book.
Ok, I may be naive in some respects but I know signs when I see them. Now what I do with them is another story but I do notice these things.
These last couple of days have been rough. Alfonse has been going through a rough patch. Thankfully he was placed in a new more intensive program through the mental health service he’s plugged in to. We didn’t ask for it, his team just placed him on it because of the recent hospitalizations. What I don’t appreciate, not one bit at all, though is this: he can’t get in to it for two weeks. So they deem him acute enough to require much more intensive intervention and monitoring (which will be great) but leave him with zero services, in limbo, directly from the hospital for two weeks. Talk about a crack the size of the Grand Canyon.
So we’ve been navigating this time together. The medication for his psychotic symptoms is still working but the depression has started lifting it’s dark head again. We’ve been managing as best we can and need to just hang on until next Wednesday when the new program kicks in. We’ve both called and asked what may be available in the interim (nothing). I came home two nights ago to find him on the phone talking to a volunteer on a hotline. We both laughed later when he told me she was telling him more about HER problems than listening to his.
He’s been doing a lot of laying on the couch talking about how depressed he feels. I do a lot of calling people and trying to get him moving in to something, anything while worrying. While neglecting anything about myself.
I will go with him to the appointment next Wed. and tell the Team exactly what these two weeks, in this vulnerable moment, has been like for us. Scary, draining, confusing to name just a few adjectives. How about pointless and irresponsible?
Depression of course isn’t contagious but this has had an impact on me too. How could it not? I’m with him nearly 24/7. I worry. I try to keep him distracted. But mental illness is a formidable enemy and one that will remind you who is boss when it wants to dominate. We’re hanging in there. But honestly, it’s not a picnic right now. It feels like if it’s not one thing, it’s another. We get about five minutes of “stability” and back on the roller coaster. It’s exhausting.
One of my clients came in yesterday venting about how his daughter had relapsed this week. He and his wife are very involved with NA and he talked to me at length about how they’ve had to learn to put their own oxygen masks on and how those weekly meetings keep them focused and sane. The timing of this sharing was not lost on me. I got even more semi depressed acknowledging how, once again, I’ve put my focus on managing John’s life and so little investment in to my own. It’s an easy trap to fall in to. My client was a clear mirror to look in to.
I came home from work with plans to attend this book event but was sincerely exhausted. I really wanted to put on my jammies, work on my craft project and watch some of my Scandal marathon I’m embroiled in.
But those breadcrumbs kept gnawing at me. What will I miss if I don’t go? Just how lazy can I be? I need to find my own carved out life in the middle of all of this no matter how tired I am.
I decided to go and to tell John I wouldn’t be home for the evening, that he was on his own for awhile. He was ok with it and seemed better. He figured out his own dinner plans and was fine. Evenings are generally better for him.
As I drove to the bookstore I had the distinct thought that I would see or meet someone there who I was supposed to run in to. To keep my eyes open. That maybe it wasn’t just about the author or the book but that I was being put in this place in this time for a reason.
So I kept my eyes open.
The parking lot was packed. I got one of the very last seats available fifteen minutes before the event was to start. Good for them/him for getting such a good turnout.
The bookstore owner kept coming out and asking if there were any open seats, for people to raise their hands. People were pouring in.
I noticed an empty seat in front of me and the woman clearly saving it. I hoped the person she was saving it for showed up as those seats were at a premium and she fiercely guarded it with her purse.
Just moments before the author came out, I saw the wavy haired woman ahead turn around with a face of relief and recognition as clearly her friend had arrived. Oddly I exhaled a little deeper right along with her like somehow I was part of that scene. The waiting game.
As her friend climbed through the packed row to her seat I instantly felt a mix of embarrassment and comfort and my own spark of recognition.
The woman who took that seat right in front of me in that packed house was my Psychologist who I’d been seeing for counseling all last Fall. The one I’d just kind of stopped going to when my life got crazy attending the Travis Alexander trial and just had no time for anything anymore.
At least that’s my identifiable excuse.
I wanted and didn’t want her to recognize me. I wondered if she felt abandoned because I cancelled my last scheduled appointment and then just never scheduled again. I wondered if she had a bad feeling about me for that in any way. I wondered if it would be awkward if she saw me.
Yet I sat through that entire talk about trauma, the whole reason I went to see her as she specializes in a form of therapy that’s all about trauma that I’d specifically sought out, right behind her realizing “oh that’s who I was supposed to see here”.
At the end of the talk, I folded up my chair and put it to the side as they instructed us and could have just left. But I saw my dear Psychologist standing there and approached her, deciding this was my moment of Truth.
Know what? She didn’t recognize me. My hair is different now and I’ve packed on some pounds or maybe it’s just that my own spark is so dim at the moment, she just couldn’t see me. I had to tell her who I was. Now I saw this woman weekly all last Fall and it’s only been a few months but I guess I’m just not myself right now. I get it.
She told me she’d been wondering about me. I told her how the breadcrumbs had been laid down for me to get there, how I had a feeling I was going to see or meet someone there, how she sat right in front of me.
How I was calling in the morning to make an appointment.
She hugged me and I got tears and I knew it’s time. Time for me to dig deep in to myself again. Time for me to take my finger off the pause button of what we started last Fall.
It’s time for me to have my own life.
In that spirit, I woke up this morning also knowing something else.
I’m going up to Sedona as we’d planned, but by myself, for the next two days.
John had decided yesterday that he didn’t feel like taking a road trip, that it would be too stressful. So I shelved the whole idea.
I’ve been helping him non stop since he got out of the hospital. Setting him up on his Ipad and the internet (Facebook, Meetup, recipes etc–I have taken that horse straight to many watering holes), taking him out places, making sure he has daily plans, calling people on his behalf most of my mornings, including him in most everything I do, structuring my life, once again, around my house becoming a version of a Psychiatric facility.
I need a break. He will be fine. He has people to call and he can call me as I’m just up the road. I have to remind myself that he lived on his own for 15 years before coming out here. Through all of his ups and downs. Hovering over him every single moment of every single day is strangling me now.
He has his plan for today and for tomorrow and will get by.
I have my plan. I just need to get on the road, by myself, and clear my head. And read my new book I bought at the bookstore last night. Ashley Judd’s memoir.
A beautiful, strong, creative, talented, capable woman who’s not had it easy in life. And who decided to bravely write about it. I started it last night.
As Dr. Epstein said last night in his talk “sometimes the best way to start resolving trauma is to find ways to not feel so alone in it” (I’m paraphrasing but that’s what he said essentially).
Ashley, it’s you and me and some red rocks for a couple of days.
Alfonse will be fine.
Now excuse me, I need to make a call and get myself an appointment for next week.
I never really feel as good as when I’m immersed in a creative project.
I remember an OT at the Psych Unit describing her role and she said something like “a Psychiatrist will tell you you aren’t doing anything because you’re depressed. An OT will tell you you’re depressed because you’re not doing anything”.
That always stuck in my mind. When I’ve been bummed out or going through a break up or just going through a down patch, starting a new creative project seems to pull me right out of it (NOT saying this is a remedy for anyone suffering severe depression, I’m just talking about life’s ups and downs).
It ignites that right brain and you lose time and I find myself constantly thinking about my project, excited about all it’s phases. I’m always kind of sad when it’s completed.
I’m not telling you what right now but here is a sneak peek in to my current project that I spent a few hours on yesterday. I still have kind of a long way to go but it will be worth it. It’s so damn hot in Arizona right now that finding something to do inside is critical.
I painted over 200 of these suckers (some are upside down here) and have about 100 more to go. Stay tuned. 🙂