I’m back after two days of utter exhaustion and a degree of depression/full on crankiness. Pretty sure I got spun in to that state by all the head banging I did for hours on Tuesday followed by another session yesterday dealing with the mental health system for John. I don’t want to keep going on and on but I do want to document our struggles because I intend to take it to a higher level and just want to have a chronology to rely back on. I also know that they are reading here, at least some of them, and I hope they do (not that I think most of them care but it just feels good to know someone’s getting called out and knows it sometimes).
First of all, John is doing well right now. Fingers crossed this continues through the holiday as we will be all together in Sedona for a significant period of time.
I don’t know about the rest of you but something that just gets under my skin are issues around injustice. Particularly injustice toward those who can’t defend themselves (the infirm, animals etc). It makes me absolutely nuts. I tend to gravitate toward using my helping in the world time around these themes. I won’t dwell on the recent issues with Alfonse but just to say, we have a young new attorney helping out in our attorney’s office who worked in the mental health system here for years before going to law school. So he knows the AZ system inside and out. He spent a lot of time on the phone with me this week and I can’t forget this exchange. I said to him “I feel sometimes like I’m getting paranoid myself thinking these people are now actually trying to sabotage my brother’s mental health status by blocking him from receiving services now–not just not providing the services but actually setting out to block him from receiving any elsewhere”. This attorney responded (paraphrasing) “you’re not paranoid. I suspect that’s exactly what’s happening. I saw it time and time again. A squeaky wheel calls them out on their incompetence and then they get sort of targeted and punished”.
Yes, he sure did say that. Punished.
That just makes me want to bawl. Again, what has happened to these people? Did they ever, at any point in their career, care about the population they are hired to help?
It was validating to hear those words and he just said “You’ve been hitting that delicate balance most advocates go through–not calling them out on their not providing what they are there to provide vs. calling them out then getting targeted”. Either way, it’s just hideous. I just said “they messed with the wrong family if they think I will sit back and let them neglect or worse yet, harm my brother”.
The problem is we have to keep him engaged in the public system for groups and classes that are with other mentally ill people because that is his peer group. Completely mainstreaming John is not a smart idea. We can’t deny he has a major mental illness and needs to be around peers who also relate. The public system is where these people are. I have high hopes for this clinic Wellness City where, so far, we’ve been treated with kindness and respect, they have an active community and he will enroll in there asap. The problem is, the ACT Team removed him from the mental health system entirely, having him sign a form that says not one word about doing that but effectively accomplished that. This is the kind of thing that I mean about punishment. He was not clearly informed nor did he understand these ramifications. He just thought he was removing himself from their
cesspool program but lo and behold he closed his entire case through signing that paper they placed in front of him knowing that’s exactly what he would be doing. Now they don’t have an appt. until Jan. 17 to get him back reenrolled. It’s just all so damn frustrating and designed to keep people sick and get them sicker I believe. There are systems, as hard as it is to believe, that are in fact designed to keep participants from getting well–some of them are called Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies but I digress, sort of. It’s just so hard to wrap my head around but living inside this with him all these months I’m getting the clear picture of the blackness that exists out there.
And my brother is the sweetest most deserving person you could ever meet. I’m not, I’m a pitbull when it comes to protecting people I care about and I do have fangs that have a mind of their own sometimes and will arise in these kinds of situations, but not my brother. He’s like an innocent child. How do these people sleep at night? Seriously?
Enough of that, I’m getting myself worked up again.
I fell in to a state of exhaustion the last two days triggered I’m sure from all of that head banging and also just from ….well, Christmas.
I didn’t even realize this year was the 25th anniversary of Cindy’s death until a producer from the Ricki Lake Show told me as I breathlessly fast-walked down a sidewalk in Central Phoenix heading for the Arias courtroom last Spring. He indicated it was part of the reason they wanted me on the show–that anniversary. I remember stopping in my tracks, doing the math and saying “you’re right, it’s 25 years”.
Not exactly something you want to call a milestone but I guess it is. I’ve survived 25 years since she was taken that Christmas in 1988. We all have. It’s kind of hard to believe.
I’ve said it before and say it again, grief is an unpredictable mistress. It will let you slide when you most expect her visit then land on your doorstep with all of her suitcases and carryons when you think you’re just breezing along with your life. She hit me hard this week. I had a hard time even staying awake yesterday, in fact I took an afternoon nap and would have stayed in bed had I not had plans that evening.
Like with the trap my brother landed in that has no clear exits, grief can just squeeze you in to itself and hold you there making you it’s own sometimes. For as long as it wants to until you surrender.
I tend to jump in to creative projects when I’m down like that as it’s one form of medicine that both distracts me and opens my brain in a new way and then I often end up with something I feel good about on the other end.
Night before last I made a small tree honoring Travis Alexander and Cindy. I have written before about the astounding similarities in the two of them–both 30 when they were murdered, both lived in the same city, both murdered by sociopaths who carefully planned and covered it up after conning them, both were killed in nearly identical ways, both left to be found by someone else and on and on….
No wonder I got so sucked in to that trial.
I’ve gotten to know Travis’ siblings, some quite well. So I made this little tree to send one of them which seems like something that could decorate a gravesite but it will end up wherever it lands. It has a lot of personal meaning to me this little tree and it did make me feel a lot better after making it. It’s sitting on my porch right now waiting to be picked up by the mail carrier. As is the bag of my sweet spicy nuts I made ten thousand of this Christmas. They turned out pretty good (burp!).
Last night I was invited to go over to Amy’s and make cookies with her kids. I was driving over there, exhausted, thinking of how I was going to explain I couldn’t stay long, that we’d make this one batch then I’d have to leave. I was just that flattened, emotionally drained and physically spent.
When I got there though, being with her girls, with Amy I perked right up and ended up staying for hours. We exchanged all of our Christmas gifts (I got SO MANY cool things like a cactus garden and Tim Gunn’s memoir..yay!), watched Project Runway, had dinner and of course made our cookies. It ended up being just what the Dr. ordered as I felt a whole lot better when I got home and this morning didn’t wake up with that terrible feeling of dread I’ve been fighting for a few days. While trying to perk myself up making plans and doing fun things. That feeling, when attached to you, is damn stubborn and wants to keep reminding you it’s still there, waiting. Waiting to be acknowledged I guess.
When I got home last night I ran in to the best article I’ve ever read about grief. I’m going to share it here. Here is an excerpt that really spoke to me:
If instead of pretending we are okay, we would take the time to wail, to weep, to scream, to wander the woods day after day holding hands with our sadness, loving it into remission so it doesn’t turn cold inside of us, gripping us intermittently in the icy fingers of depression. That’s not what grief is meant to do.
Grief has a way of showing you just how deep your aliveness goes. It’s a dagger shoved down your throat, its handle bulging like an Adam’s apple protruding from your neck, edges pressed against both lungs, creating a long, slow bleed in your chest that rolls down the edges of your life, and you get to handle that any fucking way you want.
If you have been sitting on old grief from your childhood, your failed relationships, the loss of a family pet when you were nine, and any other losses you were unable to honor in the past, this left-over grief will also come through the broken damn. Let it.
“Grief does not change you… It reveals you.” ~ John Green
And herein lies the gift that cannot die. It changes the course of your life forever. If you allow yourself the chance to feel it for as long as you need to — even if it is for the rest of your life — you will be guided by it. You will become someone it would have been impossible for you to be, and in this way your loved one lives on, in you.
Read the whole thing. I want to know this woman. She speaks a language I understand and want to speak more boldly myself.
I’m just going to leave this post on that note so we can all ponder these thoughts together.
I’m doing ok. I really am. I’m looking forward to our Christmas Eve Dickens dinner party we are planning, our pizza Elf movie party this Sat. with four of our Sedona friends at our house and putting up our tree up there this weekend. When I think about it, I think it’s a pretty damn big miracle I can look forward to anything around the holidays. Ever. I still don’t send out Christmas cards anymore. That ended in 1988 and never kicked in again.
I am sincerely looking forward to it all this year…and to my heart opening wider to my family and taking the risks that I have to take to get there too.
And I’m grieving, acutely grieving again all at the same time.
And I’m going to take care of myself in a very deliberate way. Extreme self care is what I told my hair stylist/friend this week.
That’s the name of the game right now and I’m gonna play it.
Now I gotta run and get to the gym and a mani/pedi.
Hope you are all feeling everything you are feeling right now and that’s the most honest wish I can offer up today. For me and for you.
2 thoughts on “still swimming”
So much to say, so few words that would be adequate. I can only guess how lost/alone John must have felt before coming to be near you. How wonderful that you were chosen to be his sister.
Ahhhhh, Katie, sigh; that Grief now has a deeper and more important meaning for me. Thank you for all your sharing and unknowingly walking beside me through some tough emotions. You have touched so many, and I do hope life’s blessings will come to you in abundance.
Thank you, KCL for sharing..the Christmas tree is beautiful..such a lovely tribute! Thank you also for sharing the article on grief. Wishing you and your family peace.