Anyone? anyone? anyone? (echo, echo echo)

Anyone? anyone? anyone? (echo, echo echo).

Anyone? anyone? anyone? (echo, echo echo)

bad mommy

I saw this the other day on my Facebook post.  I laughed initially, until I looked again.  I looked over at my kids…they are great.  They are also human, which means I don’t like them everyday.  Most of the time, they make me smile, laugh, and shake my head in wonder.  Sometimes I watch them, just watching them in their own world, they do not know that I am there.  These are the moments on which I reflect the most.   Moments when they believe no one is looking and I catch a glimpse of the people they are becoming.  Their play and non-verbal demonstrations tell me much about them.

They make me smile, even writing that last sentence about their play made me smile.  HOWEVER, there are moments that I watch them, hear them speak, or notice their interactions and I wonder….who are these people?  Then I cock my head and wonder even more…Who in the WORLD sent these creatures home with me?  I am still only like 15, right?  23 if I am lucky, right?  Who thought is was wise to bundle a wiggly, wrinkled, wailing, humanoid and hand it to me to raise?

Please tell me there are others out there feeling the same way.  I stepped (and still do step) around a cluttered house, believing that if anyone were to drop by, they would call social services based on the status of my livingroom.  I struggled with feeling like I should stay at home, yet yearning for “real” people conversation.  I could not breastfeed my first son, but was able to make enough to bottle.  That lasted until acid reflux for him and exhaustion for me set in and formula was our next step.  Different formula after different formula….ever smelt soy formula in spit up form?  Once is enough.

As young teachers, with little income and bills to catch up, we grudgingly applied and qualified for WIC.  I hung my head the first time I purchased the acceptable groceries.  Here I was, a teacher, pillar of a community and I was relying on something else to help me.  The shame I felt was immense, but the relief I felt to be able to pay off some medical bills incurred during my son’s birth outweighed shame.  No one tells you about those early days…the crying, the screaming, the stages–ear infections, diapers, diapers and the laundry….all piles up and the instances of real thought escapes amidst Baby Beethoven.  AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH.  No one mentions those days.

We only hear the baby smell is incredible, the cooing, giggles, grabbing fingers, and each milestone are out-of-this-world!  Do not get me wrong….These are incredible and can reduce a mom to joyful tears in seconds.  Those are highlights that make you want to capture that moment in time and freeze it….then reality hits as your boy wonder sprays you in the face-again.

We muddle through….another comes along, making room in your heart where you thought for sure there was no way you could love another human being as much as the first.  Again, someone it’s a good idea to send another one home with you.  I guess it would be bad to leave them in the crib at the hospital–right?

Life bumps along and finally you settle into a makeshift routine.  You flip-flop between knowing somehow you are doing an ok job and the utter fear that the children will end up on a counselor’s couch somewhere.

Then, it happens.  Something so unexpected throws a wrench into it all.  Maybe it is a diagnosis, a special need, a situation that erupts into something you never thought possible.  All of those happened in the young age stages of my boys–one in particular.

Ok, I will not concentrate on that.  What I will comment on is….well reality.  We women, we do a number on ourselves and one another.  If it is not comments about what we do or don’t do….what we feed our children (ramen noodles or organic mac-n-cheese) or what programs our children attend. Come upon  a fellow mom in stores (did you know Target or the horrid Wal-Mart is nicest to shop in the wee hours of the night or when bats fly at night?) who look bedraggled and harried, and yet paste on a smile and greet one another warmly.  Probe a little deeper than the famed, “how are you?  (insert giggling hug or kiss on the cheek here) and you’ll see another picture completely.  You’ll see the tired lines, hear the taxi trips  with multiple children (half who are not even hers), watch the posts of gaggles of children beginning the forays into slumber parties and  boy gatherings (they don’t have slumber parties….I dunno, I am just starting here).  Under all that is the question…”Am I the only one feeling such and such?”  Am I the only one too tired at night to do snuggles and prayers?  Tell me there are others so exhausted that the heart is not in to reading one more story or singing one more song, but you do anyway because there may not be another.  Tell me that others worry about friends, clothes, reputation, and whether they will be in a terrible accident.  Comfort me that others watch great grades come in, knowing that character is of far more worth, yet celebrate those accomplishments.  Tell me it’s ok to struggle with wanting them to be at the top, not slipping, yet knowing the “other stuff” is soooooo more important.  Remind me that moms all over fret over soft drinks….and cupcakes for breakfast ( if you tell anyone…..so help me!).  Convince me that it’s ok for a mom to smell jeans to make sure they still have another day left in them and recycling towels from one kid to another to save at least 1 load of laundry.  Funny, I just told my 2 that very statement as I walked in to see 5 wash cloths used, the bathtub full of soapy water, and the rim cluttered with 2 rows of matchbox cars.  Tell me this stage passes…that I will miss it, cause now I don’t believe you.  Forgive me that I want this stage to end, but that I feel guilty knowing this stage WILL pass.

Remind me that I am not alone…remind me that so many more are out there…believing they fumble and bumble and knock over card houses by one wrong step backward–sorry boys. Grab my hand and encourage me that I am not messing them up completely, that if they are already on the counselor couches, that means I am aware enough to know that I do not have it all figured out.  That all my training in pastoral care does not entitle me to counsel my children, but to love them.  Hug me and whisper in my ear that you, too, look  in the mirror and shake your head, praying these wiggly creatures are growing and thriving and will be wonder filled men and women.  Put your arm around my shoulders and offer to take a walk or two down the block, or a hit off the boxed wine in the fridge (moscato….hhhhm).  Tell me it’s ok that someday I want to stop buying consignment for myself and not feel guilty for a Saturday mani/pedi.  Proclaim with me that these wonderful creatures capture my heart, my mind, and my soul–turning my emotions from mush to elation to pits and back again.

Grab the microphone–wherever it may be….tap the top….check to make sure the horrid squeal does not exist….and YELL!!!! HELLO?  Is anyone, Is ANYone, is ANYONE out there?

Yes, yes I am…….

shalom.

cahl

Cling Wrap

Cling Wrap.

Cling Wrap

You know, I hate cling wrap. The plastic stuff that comes in the yellow box with the little saw teeth thing on the side…You’re supposed to rip off a perfect sheet of clingy stuff and wrap it neatly around whatever left over is sitting before you. Screw that. I never rip off the right amount, it folds itself in a weird configuration, never seals the stupid leftover, and I throw the damn stuff on the floor…instead I go in search of at least one plastic lid that will fit the blasted butter container I have repurposed. I hate cling wrap–it distracts me from the task at hand, making me concentrate on something I am never going to master. I wind up pissed at the wrap for not fitting, myself for being sucked in to the madness again, the leftovers for not being consumed, and the junk drawer for not having the needed lid.

Quite productive, eh?  NOT.

So, cling wrap, what are you smokin now?  Well, in recent reflection I discovered another addiction which I admit I am not fond of admitting.  I cling, cling, cling to the past–with everything that I have.  I also cling to a supposed future that I cannot see, touch, feel, admit, or understand.  Yet, cling I do.

Just like the stupid container….I know darn well that no matter how many times I wrestle with cling wrap, I will never get it to do what I want.  BINGO.  That just hit me.  No matter how many times I hash, hash, and rehash a past, it will not change.  The outcome has come and gone, it was what it was….move on?  Uh, no—not me.  I bring the damn container full of its contents..sometimes spilling over the rim–sometimes barely enough to save, and try to fit another lid or another strip of flimsy plastic over top.  Will this change it?  Will it change the current situation?  No, not in the least.

I shove the container into the fridge, unwrapped and open to the ravages of the chill of the environment, believing that it will survive.  Next time I go looking for it to satisfy my hunger in the here and now, I find it cruddy, crusty, and crude.  There is nothing that can resurrect what it once was.

Just like past hurts, ideas, philosophies, or ways of living; I dredge them up, trying to apply the same systemic sickness to a current situation, and find it ill-fitting.  Why should I be surprised?  It did not fit well in the first place.  I hated it then, what makes me think that today, decades later it would be any different?  Bang my head, I continue.  The answer is irritatingly simple–or not so simple exactly.

If I can continue to dredge and mull, trying to remake the past, I don’t have to concentrate on making today fit.  Scratch that.  I don’t have to examine how I might fit in this time and in this place…I don’t have to confront the fact that what I am doing may not cover the container either.  I can relax (huh?) in knowing subconsciously that when I look for the leftovers later, they will be spoiled.  I can nod my head, satisfied (sickened) that what has always been will be the current outcome.  I don’t have to admit that things could be any different.  I can cling to what I know to be true, whether it is spoiled or not.  How sick is that?

One example I can readily think of is the tradition of Holidays.  It is no secret that I hate Holidays…most of them actually.  I hate the getting dressed up, (even tho I am a snazzy dresser) waxing poetic and smiling–oh so glad to be around throngs of family who may or may not be putting up a fantastic act of fakeness.  Let’s forget the fact that I am doing the same thing….fake it till ya make it, right?  Well, one thing that I do not carry into the here and now is that of tradition–or even an excitement for celebration.

Note that I have 2 young boys, my family that I can teach, love, and tailor any way I believe–(as long as it does not destroy everyone in its path)  Because in my past, there were few if any traditions, this forces me to slip an ill-fitting cover over the present and what a holiday could be.  Be aware that I said COULD be….(note that ME!)  So, instead of embracing creating a new reality, I sit, mucking in the past, refusing to move myself forward toward a new reality.  Not only do I get smug satisfaction that what was has now visited the present, I do not have to risk anything new.  Realize too, that my children know nothing different from what happens for them in the here and now.  Forget that I have the chance to create new traditions based on who we are as a family and focused on what we believe is important.  Thus I can continue to stir the embers of a past that pissed me off then, and still pisses me off today…because the stupid wrap never fit.

Why pissed?  I knew the container held or could hold something wonderful—a chance to share something not only now after consumption, but in the future–if well-preserved.  Since that was never the case, I resign to the fact that it would never be.  Addicted to clinging to a past that never fit, and will never fit…and truthfully, I never wanted it to.

DUH!!!  So, I push away anyone who might be offering a new main course, challenging me to discard leftovers which have long since dried out or gone moldy.  Really?  I want to pick up the green fuzzy bowl and ingest spoiled remains?  I want to subject my children to the same?  NOOOOOO!!!! I scream inwardly that was never my intent.  It wasn’t?  Isn’t it easier to leave things as they are, not venturing  into foreign land?  Isn’t it easier to stay safe behind a spoiling crumb of past than to feast on turkey and all the trimmings?

This year I attempted a couple moments…they did not fail dismally.  True, I do not have much of a frame of reference to change tradition..but I made an effort.  I worked on building gingerbread houses with my children and my neighbors ( their children are like kids of my own).  After taking a spill on the ice, I proceeded to break into pieces the makings of our house.  The fear of failing in that moment was so present, I almost turned around and went home.  There stood my children, waiting to head toward what I had promised.  Do I let them down, resorting to that which is comfortable for me?

I walked into the unknown and the outcome was not horrendous.  I did not create perfect houses, we made a mess, but there was laughter….a new container was offered to me and I accepted.

Cling to the mold?  Wrap up the scraps of a meal previously consumed?  Accept and feast on a new reality, offered warm, comforting, and in the present?  This time, I feasted.

Shalom,

I am an Addict

I am an Addict.

I am an Addict

There is no way to sugar coat this reality.  I am a drug addict.  I am not ashamed to admit this, but am not addicted in the way you may be thinking.  I am addicted to drugs, that is the truth.

I have taken anti-depressant medications coupled with anti anxiety meds for quite some time now.  As anyone who takes medications like this will tell you, sometimes it takes a bit to get the dosage and the combination correct.  What worked months ago, may not work in the present, for whatever reason.  Constant awareness of body and mind has to  be a top priority as well as continual conversation with the doctors in charge of care.

It became clear this past fall that the meds I was on were not doing the trick.  In order to make a move to a more stable med regimen, I needed to wean off of one med in order to take another one.  There are a number of meds that cannot and should not be quit “cold turkey.”  Extreme care and caution has to be taken to make sure that there are no big time reactions.

Cymbalta is one of those meds which cannot be quit rapidly…one that has to be monitored with dosages lowered at a rate that the body can handle.  No matter how slow you go, the impacts are still there.

I had been on Cymbalta for quite some time and really had no idea how I was supposed to feel.  I felt no different than any other day.  The decision was made to do some tweaking…first I had to wean off of it.

I have never thought myself addicted to anything, not really.  I mean I like my Diet Coke, but I choose to drink that.  If I decided to stop, I could and would.  This was a a purposeful removal of something the body was using and something the mind knew it needed.  Whether it was working to its highest level is inconsequential.  The body had it, needed it, and wanted it.  To deprive the body of this would prove harder than I expected.

I was instructed to wean off at a slow pace, but was also warned that some days would be tough.  Oh my goodness.  Never have I felt more at a loss and on the edge of a dark hole than I did at that time.  I felt constantly agitated, irritable, on edge, borderline bitchy all the time.  I could hear myself saying things, thinking this was not me saying these things, and I could not stop.  I screamed in my head…STOP STOP STOP, this is not you!  Then I would feel bad for saying and doing things I could not control.  There were times I could not stop the thoughts in my head…could not tell whether I was coming or going or how I was going to feel hour-by-hour.

Physically I felt worse than I had in a long time.  My stomach ached all the time, headaches were worse than ever, nothing tasted good, I did not want to eat, could not sleep…the list was endless.  I look horrid, I acted worse.

As my body continued to release the medication and my body attempted to reset, the cravings kicked in full force.  These were not food cravings.  These were the intense desires to feel leveled out..to feel normal-at least the normal I felt when I was on the drug.  I would hold the remaining pills in the bottle, my hand shaking, willing myself not to take one….I attempted half doses….and yes.  There were times I told no one and took one to make it through.  I felt guilty and sneaky for doing so.  I hated the fact that I could feel so out of whack by the removal of one med. I was angry that my body needed it, my mind demanded it, and it felt like I was powerless to stop what I was feeling.

After the physical, the mental mess I was in was not something I anticipated.  I could not form a coherent thought and did not want to.   I wanted to scream and yell and throw every kind of temper tantrum known to man…and in some ways I did.  There were times I did not recognize the person looking back at me, I know others felt the same.  knowing that made me hate myself and how I felt even more.  I could not control it.  I craved to feel level.  So, I caved.  I gave in…then some light broke through.

I was under the watchful eyes of my doctor, her staff and nurses were incredible to me and for me.  They kept close tabs on me, asking my symptoms, let me talk some frustrations out and told me that I would get through it.  I wanted to quit many times.  I wanted to swear and tell everyone around me that I didn’t give a damn about anyone and I would say and do what I wanted.  There were times my skin itched, my mind ached, I could not tell if what I dreamt was real or hallucination….it was hell.

A couple of people finally asked what in the world was happening.  I had told no one except my dr what was happening.  I broke down and told them I was going through a med withdrawal and I could not tell when it would be over.  They looked at me with such relief and concern…I did not expect that response.  I expected them to hate me, I certainly did not like the person I was becoming.  Out of care, they asked why I had not said something before, why did I think I had to go through it alone?  Why did I possibly think that no one would care or want to help me.  Instead of making me feel small and weak, they were there to bolster me, to lend me their strength and love.  They loved me no matter how nasty I became.  In fact, they showed me more grace, knowing that what was happening was temporary.  They checked in on me, they asked questions, they did not leave me alone.  I made it through.  I could not have done it without that collective care.

Sooooo many people do not have that.  I have never been addicted to alcohol or other recreational drugs, painkillers, gambling, or other addictions.  I do not know what that feels like….but I do.  I do know what feeling deprived of something the mind and body needs to feel normal…or at least the normal I understood.  I know what it feels like to be alone, or at least feel like I am alone.  I know what it feels like to sneak around, to have almost every waking moment consumed with how I could get a hit.  What could I do….how can I get it…will anyone know if I sneak one?  Will it matter?  Maybe this is not that big a deal.  Maybe they are wrong, maybe I do need this.  How can I possibly be addicted, that happens to “those” people.

Those people, indeed.

I was sooo lucky.  I had people, when I let them in, who rallied in and around me and saw me through that time.  There are tons of people who suffer silently, never saying a word and beat themselves up for what is happening.  They continue muddling through.  Or they refuse to admit that there may be a problem, unable to take steps to remedy it.

I was so lucky.  I do not know what it looks like to battle an addiction that has been there for decades.  I  do not know how it feels to try and try again…hoping that this time it will work.  I do understand how quickly an addiction takes hold, how strongly it grips mind, body, soul.  I know what it is to feel powerless, succumbing to something stronger than myself, forgetting that I am stronger than this drug.  I do not know what it means to sacrifice everything and lose everything to keep a norm.  I am so thankful I have not had that experience.  My heart breaks in a new way for anyone wrestling with any kind of addiction…it does not matter what it is.  I know what dark and twisty feels like and I know what it means for people to pull me through.  I am lucky.

I am also lucky to know this side of me.  I am thankful to catch a glimpse of what a world encased in addiction looks like.  It is not a place I would wish on anyone.  It is not a place anyone would want to camp.  It is not a place that people hope to get to and remain, no one wants to lose control of themselves.  I think most of us would just like the chance to escape or dull a pain that exists, for whatever reason.  I think many of us wonder what it feels like to feel good…laughingly, lovingly, ridiculously good.

I do not have the answers, but my eyes are open, my mind is cleared….I understand…if only for a moment.  I will remain today and always, Addicted.

Hush hush

Hush hush.

Hush hush

It has been 3 years since I heard the door close on a children’s behavioral unit and left my son there for assessment and diagnosis.  It was the singularly the most scared and vulnerable I have ever felt.  Even though I knew these doctor and nurses well, I had been working with them for half a year as a chaplain, I could not control what went on behind those doors.  I was powerless.

Many of us feel the same way.  The diseases and illnesses that attack us every day sometimes render us powerless.  One thought continues to plague me though.  I have watched as tons of my friends, and as I age, tons of my classmates battle the ravages of cancer….an all consuming claim on mind, body, and soul.  I watch as people I know fight and fight, and rally, and win.  God Bless them!

I have also watched as tragedy upon violent tragedy happen across the US in our public places—schools, malls, movie theatres.  The list seems endless.  I have watched as the number of people without homes increase, I ask myself why.  I watch the news as violent events happen and the first comment made is “oh, they must have some kind of mental illness”  I have watched as people will do things which people do not like.  The response is almost always, “oh, they must have some “issues””

Wait!  How come no one treats other illness as a hush hush swear word?  It’s not as though depression is on the same level as “The name which shall not be spoken”  By the way, it’s Voldemort.  See, I said it and the world did not come to a screeching halt.  Good thing!  Whew!  I thought I was a goner there!  😉

Seriously though.  I want to unpack this concept a bit.  We are so accustomed to hearing of the battles of the seeable illnesses.  As well we should.  The fight is real, it is fierce, and requires everthing of the person diagnosed.  They are not the only ones diagnosed and fighting, it permeates the whole household.  Ok.  If that is the case, let’s transfer that to the illnesses which are not as readily seen.

The rate of persons diagnosed with a mental illness is skyrocketing.  As I pen this I imagine all the instances mental illness   to the top of a list.  How many of us become agitated when the weather turns gloomy for an extended period of time?  Seasonal Affective Disorder… Do any of us suffer anxiety over speaking in public, taking tests, heights….?  Those are better known as a phobias–psychologically defined as a type of anxiety disorder.  This applies to almost every one of us..me included.

I write this as I watch my oldest son twirl a piece of hair on this forehead as he turns circles on his knees in the middle of the livingroom floor.  Reminds me of the old days with a sit and spin…..only this will go on sporadically for hours, just after he attempts to wrestle our pug—resulting in a scratch on his armpit, which will enrage him….what he will not be able to realize is that it was the wrestling with the dog which brought about the scratch in the first place.  He will not clue in to that.  I watch him everyday.  There are days I cheer as loud as I can (silently) that we have had a good day.  There are other days that I hang my head in near defeat…wondering what more I can do….what I could have possibly done…..if there was a way I could take this from him.  I can’t.  I have my own to manage…..

The frustration, if you will, is when horrible things happen (and they are horrible) and we jump to a conclusion of a mental illness which HAS to explain the whole situation.  Wow!  I was not aware we could do that unless all of the research has proven without a shadow of a doubt, that a mental illness is the sole reason.

Take ADHD.  My son is diagnosed with this.  If you do not believe me, spend a weekend with him without his medicine.  You will be exhausted after 2 hours….guaranteed!

I live and love for this kiddo with all that I am.  He drives me nuts…or rather his illness does.  I can never determine what will set him off in a flurry of activity….I rue the days (many of them) where he is up at the crack of dawn, running around the house screaming because he has too much energy and he does not know what to do.  Mornings are hell.  I do not say that lightly.  His ability to transition and focus his energy makes organization difficult.  Mom does much behind the scenes to smooth over anticipated rough spots and tells no one the worry she holds as report cards or conferences happen each school year.  I cringe when I wonder about his friends at school. Some understand him, embrace him, others claim he is odd and weird, and wash their hands of him.  I cannot control that.  Nor can I control the unspoken hurt I see in his eyes when his younger brother is invited to outings with his own friends…and he is not.  Mom again does much behind the scenes to set up play dates so the situation is a bit easier.

Take the family who struggles with Autism.  The hurt, the frustration, the fatigue, the vigilant watch for a change in communication.  I have watched families lock arms and walk boldly into what that diagnosis means.  One of the awful realities is that often families feel like they have no one to turn to.

The isolation, hurt, frustration, the hope and strength it takes to move forward is incredible.

Ask any of those famillies…ask me if I ever believed that my son would ever hurt anyone—illness or not. When we cannot find an immediate answer to a tragedy, it seems unfair to pin it on one of any number of “explanations.”  Reminds me of the lyrics from “Kill the Beast” in Beauty in the Beast.  “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us.  So, kill the beast.”

I think back on that night 3 years ago and the heartache I felt as I left that hospital.  I watch the facebook posts of fellow parents, some I have met, some I have not, who are bravely walking in worlds which have no road maps.  There is not an easy solution, not a course of meds or surgery which can work in tandem bringing about an end or remission from something.  It is there….everyday no matter the day, holiday, or special event.  What surprises me is how few support methods are available for those in the midst of walking in these worlds of mental illness.

Sit down with a parent of an autistic child, a child with ADHD, bi polar, depression…the list grows.  Sit down with a family of an alzheimer’s relative.  Ask them how they feel watching and waiting, hoping and praying.  Ask them the questions, hear the answers.  Ask those who can articulate what having that illness means…ask them about their world…what does it look like, feel?  What do they hear?

The double diagnosis my son has scares the heck out of me every time I go back to a med check.  In a giggle the psych dr told me last time, “we knew he was one in a million….he is just that.  Every time we think we have it explained, he throws us another curve ball.  He will rival every box we try to put him in, he will never fit a true diagnosis.”   That is great and scary at the same time.  My son is one in a million….yes, yes he is.  There are times, like right now…when I wish he would fit neatly into textbook diagnosis.  It would provide answers and a more complete path of treatment.

For now, we move ahead, thankful that so far we have only had 1 hospital visit in 3 years.  If there need be more, I will not hesitate.  I will never stop advocating for him and others with mental illness.  I will never stop looking for ways for families to seek comfort and strength from one another and others shouldering the same burdens.  I will never stop, in the non-profit in which i work, look for options for those with diagnosed illness to find other options of walking through their illness.  What about the impact of a teaching garden to reduce stress and anxiety—re-focusing energy or providing hands on work which aids communication and learning?

I write each year around this time to honor him….my son, the light of my life–one of 2 reasons I am a better person.

shalom,

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