Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Anonymous Annual Blog of Winter Holiday Familial Hostility, Part Two

Is there still any turkey left?   That must have been some dry-assed white meat.  Kind of like yours truly.  Anyway, here is another round of gut-wrenchingly funny and excruciatingly bittersweet holiday greetings from the readers, edited with hilarity by yours truly.   You guys make me look good, and we all know it's better to look good than to feel good.  Namaste, you Nutjobs, you.  Without futher ado . . .
The Ultimate Leftover Thanksgiving Sandwich

I am eternally grateful for my fussy-faced husband for finally stopping the 30 pack of beer a day habit. Thank you also for the fine case of genital warts.

(Guess he wasn't that fussy-faced after all)

Fuck you all very much for eating all my cheese-dip and jalapeƱos and blaming it on the two-year-old.

(I hope he's potty-trained because that diaper will be insanity.)

I am thankful that I have enough self-control not to get all stabby with my fork when my sister's boyfriend chews with his mouth open and food drops out of his mouth.

(That's pretty gross.  If you're not using that fork, may I?)

No mom, you cannot pray my gay away. I'm afraid my sexuality doesn't quite work like that. So! Who wants pie?

(I do!  A big gay piece of pie!  And kisses!)

Daughter-in-Law -- go right back out the front door you came in and keep on walking.  You’re a lazy slob who does absolutely nothing for your family.  My son owns his own business and works 16 hours a day all while taking care of your daughter. You need to go home to your Minecraft family and have them cook you Thanksgiving dinner.

(Could that happen?  That would be fucking awesome.)

Eat, and get the fuck out so I continuing drinking this memory out of my mind.

(Oh, Barkeep <rattles ice in empty glass> )

You are all immature, selfish assholes and I would rather eat ramen by myself. Your children are not cute. They are monsters you have created.

(Preach.  And don't forget the scrambled egg in the ramen.  Because protein.)

I'm glad you're all here to hear this together. I'm leaving my husband, and I never ever want him to come home or to be close to him and all I ever want to do is drink when all of you are around so fuck you. My lawyer and I are going to take half of your money.

(And then I'm going to pay my lawyer with the other half.)

Stop telling me how to raise my kids when I'm raising yours. Stop telling me I'm doing it wrong!

(Back off, bitch, I got this.)

Ten fucking years, you sorry son of a bitch. I have supported you, rewritten my dreams, raised children alone through four fucking deployments and now you say you don't want to be married to me anymore? You say YOU HAVE NO MOTIVATION TO SAVE OUR MARRIAGE?  Fuck you.

(Now we have no motivation to cancel that hitman.)

I just want full blown Tourette’s to sink in at the dinner table. CAN YOU PLEASE PASS THE MASHED POTATOES SO I CAN SHOVE THEM UP YOUR ASS!  PIECE OF SHIT ASSHOLE DRUNK MOTHER FUCKER CUNT!!!

(So many doctors miss that Tourette's diagnosis the first time around.)

I love each of you but if you got off your ass and washed a dish I'd love you more.

(Just one from each of you would do it, I think.)

Well, another year without a loved one here. Prison does that to families. We can only trudge on and hope no one else gets locked up this year. But at least we can all be thankful another criminal is off the streets. We miss you, Cousin Craig. I hope you got the soap on the rope I sent.

(Soap on a rope is funny in and of itself, but the prison thing was inspired.)

No, mom didn't love you more than anyone. She hated us all the same.

(Bazinga.)

Stop wearing men's basketball shorts and t-shirts everywhere, you're a 53 year old teacher. Lose the mullet.

(Every family has that one guy  . . . .)

Thanks for showing up empty handed. I couldn't find anything better to do with my holiday than to cook for you ungrateful, mooching, sorry ass fat fucks. Happy Thanksgiving.

(Something tells me they really DGAF about what you just said.  Wasted words -- so frustrating.)

Thank you to Diesel fuel and my Mercedes’ longevity for making this drama-free Thanksgiving possible, far, far away from the people who make me need Ativan.

(Poetry.)

To my mother in law: You are a narcissistic bitch who raised a couple of man-infants. Nice work.

("Narcissistic" is a word that gets a lot of airplay this time of year.)

As you all know, a year ago today I was inpatient for depression and suicidal ideation. As you also know, not one of you were there for me. Despite that, I have gotten much better. I am NOT going to pretend that I have my shit together. But I'm getting there. Pass the wine!

(Next year in Jerusalem!  Wait.  Wrong holiday.)

Thanks for leaving me with so much guilt I can't breathe when I sit next to you.

(I felt that in my soul, no sarcastic)

Kids, I just want to say how fucking disappointed I am in all three of you.  I know you listened to your father when he said "It's all in her head, she's a psycho.” Fuck off. Love, Mom.

(APPLAUSE)

I'd like to thank my mom who no longer speaks to me. I raised myself and YOU lost out. This is the last time I give you any power.

(STANDING OVATION)

Please tell me again that I'm such a bad parent for keeping my child and raising him and giving him everything he needs, not wants, NEEDS to succeed in life, when you’re only 24 and have had so many abortions your cooter is gonna fall out?

(Crap.  Could that really happen?)

MIL: You are a self-centered narcissistic bitch. We are never speaking to you again.

(She probably didn't hear you so it's just as well.)

It would be really nice to actually be invited to dinner instead of having to call around asking which family member is hosting this year and then inviting myself.

(Oh honey, I wish I knew you IRL because I would totally invite you -- before Halloween, even.)

You are a rotten, abusive, piece of shit husband. And I am planning on divorcing your ass as soon as I can find the nastiest shark lawyer on the planet.

(Hit me up, I know someone.)

I feel guilty for feeling depressed when I have so much.

(I am hugging you so very tight right now with my mind.)

Don't be so goddamn judgmental. Happy Thanksgiving!

(And God bless us, every one.  Cheers!)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Annual Anonymous Winter Holiday Blog of Familial Hostility, Part One

Last year, I invited the readers to post what they wished they could say at the holiday table when it came time to say what they were thankful for.  Then it became clear that people were reluctant to do that in public with their names attached (and rightly so, as you will soon see).  So, I thought, hey, how about an anonymous forum where people could PM me and I would post their thoughts on the page? The response was overwhelming and I decided to take all the PMs and turn them into The Anonymous Thanksgiving Blog of Family Hostility.  An online Airing of the Grievances, if you will.  Two hundred and thirty-seven messages later (and about twelve hours of editing, laughing, crying, agonizing, and rejoicing), I came up with the first of probably three segments.  I think we have enough to take us through to New Year's.  And I'm toying with the idea of a monthly sweep.  Almost all of the PMs ended with:  "I feel so much better."  And some even said, "You don't have to post it, just to write it was enough."

So I'm dusted off last year's offering and added a few more.  Before I get to the messages themselves, I have a few observations about what people wrote to me.  There were a few common themes, and to conserve space and time, I'll summarize them rather than post every message.   People were thankful for their meds.  And booze.  (But please, not in combination because death.)  People were glad they only had to do this once a year.   Other people were glad they didn't have to do Thanksgiving with <person> any more, due to death, divorce, etc.  People wished for drama-free holidays, and were thankful that either distance or meds or booze or time passing or what have you were making that possible.   Something that resonated with me:  People were thankful to family members who taught them what NOT to do with their lives, in their personal relationships, as parents, as sons and daughters.  

Many people were witty, some on purpose.  Some of the funny ones were unintentional, that corkscrew to the gut.  You smile until you realize THAT REALLY HAPPENED.  Celebratory post-rant passing of food was a theme.  There was lots of profanity because awesome.  Some people edited their profanity, and I corrected the euphemisms.  Some messages really needed some good swears, so I added them.  (THAT was fun.  Who knew Gramma had such a mouth?)    

(As usual, I hope you'll enjoy my parenthetical assholery.  In BOLD, you guys.  All the best assholery is in BOLD.)




I'm thankful I'm only forced to spend two days a year with my sister-in-law.

(Surely we can whittle that down to one.)

I'm thankful for the booze, pie and xanax that will make the day tolerable. And that there aren't more people in the family that I have to pretend to like.

(Seriously.   Walking advertisements for birth control, the lot of them.)

I really want to say I am thankful I have decided to leave your mentally abusive ass after 20 years. I’m not sure how, but I am done. Thankful that I will have a life of my own next Thanksgiving.

(Your keyboard to God's ears.)

As soon as grandma dies, I'm not coming to this stupid dinner any more.

(She's the only one I really like.)

I’m just here for the food.

(And even that's not all that great.)

Spending the holidays with "family" always brings out my deepest wish -- that I was adopted.

(Good one.)

I hate Thanksgiving food. Mom, your house is fucking hot! And my brother is an asshat.

(Seriously, Mom.  It's called a thermostat.  Thermasshat.  Okay, I'm going.)

To my lovely family: I have worked hard to shop for, plan and prepare this feast for us. You applauded my efforts with a rousing chorus of "Is it ready yet?” After we all eat ourselves into a stupor, do not (once again) decide it’s time to grab your shit and leave me with all the clean-up.  Because, seriously, for Christmas I might just make a big fat saliva pie for you all.

(My favorite kind.)

To my baby sister...you're a spoiled rotten 29-year-old woman, engaged to the wrong man and we all know it. You need to get your priorities straight and remember your sisters will always be here for you when your future husband is long gone.

(Because family can't get a pre-nup.)

Here's to the tryptophan kicking in before somebody mentions politics and religion.

(And by "tryptophan" you mean "Sominex")

Next year y’all need to come up with some cash cause I'm tired of spending $300 on Thanksgiving. Does it occur to you bitches that now I'm broke so we need leftovers?

(Yeah, pony up.  Losers.)

Why are you all such a bunch of unhappy, miserable bitches?

(It's a fair question.)

YOU are not the star of this show. The rest of us are here to enjoy a nice meal and conversation. Stop throwing around the threat that you are going to cut us out of your will if you’re not made the center of attention. We already know you have! Touche!

(En garde, motherfucker.)

I love you kids, but if given the opportunity to go back in time, I would NEVER have married your father or had any of you.   I would just have had goldfish -- when you get tired of them it's not illegal to flush them.

(NOW you tell me.)

Thank you, God, for my mother-in-law FINALLY showing her true colors at her job so now they know what she's really like. A bitch.

(Just between us, I knew it all along.)

To my parents: I've had enough of your irresponsibility and immaturity. You've ruined enough of my holidays; thanks to you guys, I haven't had a happy memory of a holiday since I don't know when. Go screw yourself. Take your guilt trips, your drama, your alcohol, and your negativity and go away.

(I went with the Oxford comma on this one.  Judges?)

I don't want to hear you bitch and moan about my mother anymore, because you are the dumbass that married her lying and cheating ass not once but twice.

(Twice.  Fucking *twice.*  Come on!)

As cold as it sounds, I'd like to tell my daughter’s mother-in-law to shut the fuck up and die already. She has cancer and every minute of the past seven years they have catered to her needs because she's dying. Buy the fucking farm or move on.

(It does sound cold.  But you did warn us.)

Why did you marry that bastard?

(Well?  We're waiting.)

To my brother: I'm sick of Thanksgiving Day drama during which the police have shown up to arrest you, you've made our mother cry, and you've gotten high and upset your son and mine. And this year you are bringing a girlfriend?   Give me a break.   FFS

(Whoa, dude, way to front-load that holiday weekend.)

I'm thankful my wife is no longer in my life.   I'm thankful I will be spending my Thanksgiving alone, instead of being with all the drama stars from her family.  I'm VERY thankful for my Klonopin.

(This one's going out to Roche Pharmeceuticals -- y'all rock.)

To my ex-husband -- thanks for being the ultimate asshole. The upside, I've lost 65 pounds and I look fucking great. SO SUCK IT, ALL OF YOU. Sincerely, Your Smokin' Hot Ex Wife Who Was Always Too Good For You

(I did not write this.  But I could have.  Except I only lost 20 pounds.  Beautiful.)

Your kids are ugly, your turkey is dry, the Christmas grab is stupid, if you actually looked for a job you'd find one, nobody here likes you!

(And let's be honest.  Can you blame them?)

I'm thankful I left the selfish, shallow asshole I spent far too much of my life with. I'm thankful I'm not married to the racist, misogynistic asshole whose house I'll be eating dinner at and I'm ever so thankful this dysfunctional day happens only once a year.

(I will definitely drink to any toast with "misogynistic" in it.)

You are all grown, though you act like a bunch of kids. Be grateful for what you have.  Some folks are cold and hungry, yet they don't complain. Your sister is the one you say has mental illness, but she is the only one that has her shit together.

(Lunatics are the true poets, and you know it.  Bam.)

I can't stand any of you. Really. I would be happier eating a turkey sandwich alone with a glass of wine watching mindless TV, than have to spend one minute with any of you.  And discipline your kids.  FFS.

(Agreed on all counts.  FFS indeed.)

Do you think for once someone could ask what's going on in MY life? Just because your job rules your life and it's all about you, doesn't mean my kids and I don't exist.

(You know, a lot of Narcissistic Personality Disorder gets diagnosed during the holidays.)

I would like to thank my mother-in-law for raising a selfish, alcoholic man child that has no concept of money, and my husband for wasting eleven years of my life. Cheers!

(In other words, MIL, you should have swallowed.)

So there you have it, boys and girls.  There's plenty of Familial Hostility for seconds, but finish your plate and let's open some presents.   Wait, that's next month.    Ugh.  See you on the therapy couch.  As if.

Look for Part Two next week.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Discovering the Savings Bonds

Once upon a time there was a woman who found a fat stack of her
husband's savings bonds in a paper bag on the shelf of the walk-in closet.  She scooped them up and hid them away because she was in the middle of divorce proceedings.  Because she lives in a community property state, each party owns half of all the assets (and liabilities) they acquired during the marriage.  Her please-would-he-sign-the-goddamn-papers-already-so-he-would-be-her-ex had a tendency to move money around even though he is enjoined from doing so under something called a "temporary QDRO," which he claimed not to understand.

So, to protect her half of the small fortune, she hid the savings bonds, so well that even she couldn't find them, and now, instead of having half a small fortune, she has lost the entire thing, because now she will have to reimburse him for the loss of his half.  The money will have to come from her half of the proceeds from the sale of the house, because she has no ready cash.   She had been trying to keep the house, even though that would be extreme folly because the cost of living in their area is exorbitant.  But events such as the disappearance of the savings bonds have coalesced, almost conspiratorially, to force her to face the inevitable.  She insists that they wait until June.  She is resolute that they not disrupt her son's sophomore year of high school.  But come summer, the house will be sold.

Until then, she is limping emotionally, marking time, sharing a roof with her ex, to the consternation of her therapist, her attorney, her boss, and her internet community, over 100,000 strong.  It's a Herculean task to maintain the distance she needs to heal and grow.  To take the straw of the painful lessons she has learned and, squaring shoulders full of false bravado, spin it into the gold that surely must be her due when this nightmare finally recedes.

Yesterday her ex found the savings bonds, a miracle that inspired the woman to write a blog piece to tell everyone on the internet about her relief.  She has never had friends in real life that she truly felt comfortable talk to.  Not coincidentally, her isolation has worsened almost in lockstep with the mudslide of her intolerable personal life.   And so she spends hours daily writing for strangers, entertaining and inspiring them (their words) as she surfs the waves of her treacherous, disordered moods.

The steadfast weight she currently carries varies in density with her mercurial state of mind, but the discovery of the savings bonds has lightened it, at least a little, at least for now.  And now, buoyed by this relief, galvanized by it, she lifts her head, and shuts her Chromebook for a few hours, and resumes chipping away, task by task, at the monolith that stands between her and the fulfillment that she knows is hers to claim, with trepidation, with hope, and ultimately, with joy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Minutes Timed Writing Ready Go

Here's one of those stream of consciousness dealies.  I'm just going to write for five minutes straight and see what comes of it.  I promised you Nutjobs a funny blog about court and I do want to put that together.  I made some notes on my phone during The Proceedings (tm) or should it be My Day in Court (tm) but quite honestly (and sheepishly) I never saw the inside of the courtroom.  The attys went in, one BAMF, one jackwagon, proving that birds of a feather truly are BAMFs and jackwagons, respectively.

Anyway, the attorneys went in and dicked around for a while.  We had sent our draft agreement over to their side on Friday, but Dick Brain, Esquire, wouldn't read it over the weekend and so was pretty much useless during The Proceedings (tm).  All that really happened was we agreed to sit together again in two weeks, by which time Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Douche would presumably have a response to our proposal.

There was a lot more but I'm having trouble clearing more than five minutes at a time to concentrate on some real writing.  Meantime I wanted to kind of catch you up because I know some of you are actually interested in these shenanigans that you think are really happening to a real-life person that I apparently have convinced you that I am.  ; )

And that's five.  Well, actually it was eight, but Mahalo crawled under the covers and was being super cute, so of course I had to stop and take a photo.

Namaste, good people.  Thanks for hanging around and whatnot considering, as it's been pointed out several times lately, I'm kind of an asshole a lot of the time.  Funny tho, I think.  That Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Douche was inspired.
 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

There Is Nothing Like Nothing

Sitting on my bed with my electronics to comfort me, I strain to hear the voices.  The Gamer is helping Mr. K set up a movie he wants to download from Amazon Prime.  I’m getting ready to get my feelings hurt, because I already begged my him for a mom-son date, and he turned me down.  He was nice about it, but it was very clear.  He’s a teenager, and teenagers get to tell their parents they’d rather not hang out with them, even (and maybe especially) if their home life is painful, awkward madness.  I get it.  I encourage it, in fact.  I applaud him implicitly.  

If he ends up sitting down to watch the movie, there are two ways I can take it.  One is that he genuinely wants to spend time with Mr. K.  And that’s  . . . okay.  The other is that he doesn’t want to, but he doesn’t want to hurt his dad’s feelings. And that’s . . .  not okay.  He should not have to adjust his behavior to accommodate a whiny self-pitying passive-aggressive drunk.   He’s a perceptive kid.  We used to call him “sensitive,” but that has a pejorative connotation.  I prefer “perceptive.”  “Intuitive” is another good word.   Judging by the long silences that punctuate his end of the conversation, I conclude that he is at least two clicks shy of thrilled at the moment, and I feel my face clench into the scowl I wear whenever I get wind of his dad’s attempts at provoking him with guilt.

From another room, I can’t tell for sure whether Mr. K. has been drinking, though he probably has.  He’s been drinking steadily (or unsteadily, see what I did there?) every night since he slipped a week ago Sunday, heralding two weeks’ home from rehab.  Two weeks of neither calling his sponsor nor going to meetings.  But it’s not my job to know about any of this.  In fact, it’s my job to make a concerted effort NOT to know, not to care, not to measure, not to assess, not to hypothesize, not to conclude,   

He comes to my doorway, and I see that it’s incontrovertible.  If not drunk, then certainly he’s been drinking, he holds himself very carefully, very straight and still.  He makes an effort to speak distinctly, but the words come out thick and dull, as though the effort it took not to slur them took their meaning away.  “Where are the savings bonds?” he asks, following up on an idea he had about how to pay down his personal debt with community funds.   An idea that I will report with dispatch to my new attorney.    Upon filing for divorce, something called a “quadro,” or Qualified Domestic Relations Order, goes into effect.  The one-line story on that is “Don’t fucking move money around until the judge says you can, motherfucker.”  So, no, I found the precious savings bonds and squirreled them away.  Not turning them over until I have to, or until I remember where I hid them.  Oopsie.  

The scene is fraught with awkwardness, him standing in the doorway, casting about the room, slowly, not sure what he’s looking for, or even what he’s seeing.

Mr. K.:  I'd just like to know one thing.
Me:  What's that?
Mr. K:  Why do you hate me so much?
Me:  I don't hate you.  I nothing you.
Mr. K:  I'd rather you hated me.
Me:  I feel sorry for you, how's that.  Best I can do under the circumstances.  

Long, slow, painful silence.  He looks at me imploringly.  I look back at him, impassive, measured.  

Stalemate.

Don’t drink and go to meetings.  Keep it simple, stupid.  Keep coming back.  It works if you work it.  One day at a time, first things first, easy does it.  I know it all, from years of Ala-Teen, then Al-Anon, always the loved one, the daughter, the sister, wringing my hands from the sidelines, watching the drunk try to get sober much as the mother watches the child learn to ride the bike without training wheels.

But I’ve never done this with a spouse.  A former spouse.  I guess they say “a loved one,” but he’s not loved, at least by me.  I have anger and resentment and horror and fear.  I even have pity sometimes, which I know he senses.  And loathes.  He’s the only one who’s allowed to do that.

No.  If I’m not going to love him, then he’ll settle for hate.  Hate he can understand; pity makes his skin crawl.   But what I really have for him is nothing.  And as far as he’s concerned, nothing is the worst.  Nothing is the vacuum that remains after all that other nonsense finally subsides.   Nothing is the final blow, the realization that he is all alone with his disease, his addiction, his ultimate lover.   And maybe nothing will be what propels him either up or down the ladder of his recovery.  But it’s not my job, it’s not my call, it’s nothing to do with me.  

Nothing.  

Nothing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Stupid Hallmark is Stupid: Mother's Day 2014

I recognize it the second I hear it. The excited, enthusiastic tone of someone who has tied everything in the universe into one nice neat package with a nice neat bow.   "The numbers and words relate together in ways we're not even aware of.  Look at the ad for Hulu on that bus.  Hear how that sounds.  Hu. Lu.  Perfect example.  There are no coincidences.  That word has two syllables.  And each syllable has two letters.  I can't believe you're not getting this.  It all comes down to the power of two.  It's called 'binary code' for a reason.  One and zero, mom,  One and zero.  That is all.'"  

I look with horror at my daughter in the passenger seat and hear my voice come out of her mouth.  The day I have feared, the possibility that I have dreaded.  It's here now.  It's happening now.  Full-blown mania.  Two syllables, one hyphen.  Full. Blown.

My first thought is logistical.  I need to get her some help.  Nigh impossible because although things are improving between us, and through meditation and the passage of time I am cultivating forgiveness, learning to let go, to feel compassion for her instead of resentment, our relationship is broken.  Even in the best of times, she is stubborn, and defiant, and prideful.  It will be like tiptoeing through a minefield to nudge her gently in the direction of a psychiatrist, a diagnosis, some meds.  My second thought is suffused with dismay.  I am going to have to enlist the aid of her dad, my ex-husband, in this project.

Two thoughts here:  One is that he will apply the crippling denial that has killed my love for him, kept him from getting well, to the situation I see rambling next to me, sweeping her arms and banging them against the dashboard in her exuberance, her insistence that her theory applies to sociology as well:  The relationship between men and women is based on the fundamental power struggle, caused by the opposition of two forces, yin and yang, "See, mom, two again, see where this is going?"  The fact that some of her rambling is based on fact doesn't comfort me.  That's how it begins, discovering of an underlying truth of nature, extrapolating and relating and connecting, seeing symbolism everywhere, another example and another, the perceived brilliance of the insight fuels its momentum.   Here is more evidence that bipolar disorder, or at least the predisposition to it, is genetic.  With a rueful half-mile, I observe that she'll get no argument from me on that power struggle.  With us, it's been an intractable battle for 25 years.

The second thought cascades from the first, that here is more evidence that my condition, or at least the predisposition to it, is genetic.  And here is more grist for the mill of blame that I am responsible for everything that has happened, the destruction of our family is my fault because of my illness and my inability to manage it, despite medication and therapy and dogged determination to get it right.   Neatly side-stepping the implication that he has encouraged the disaster through ignorance and indifference, fueled by his refusal to confront his own pathology.

I have to wrap this post up for now.  I woke too early this morning (like mother, like daughter, there's the other half of that rueful smile).  I have a two-hour drive ahead of me.  My younger daughter, PreMed, has invited me to spend the day with her at college where there is "a hippie-dippie fest, mom, there will be a massage chairs, and the booth that sells the sandalwood body lotion I know you love, and a drum circle, and we can day-drink mimosas out of a wineskin, and sober you up in time for your drive home."  

For now PreMed has not evinced the pattern of symptoms that led to my downfall, and now apparently, her sister's.  Maybe it's just that she's been able to translate that energy into success and achievement, her brilliant insight into compassion.  I'll go spend the day with her and soak up some of her goodness, and bottle it, store it to bring home like the sandalwood lotion.  I'm going to need every ounce of the strength she can spare for the battles and logistics of the coming weeks and months as I attempt to corral her sister to get help and to get well, and as I run between the raindrops of her father's blame, shame, guilt and denial.

Namaste, Nutjobs.  Namaste, PreMed.  Namaste, Troubled.

Namaste, Hallmark.  Your stupid holiday is stupid.




Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May 2014 - Mental Health Awareness Month

Too much?  Ya think?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month which is incredibly good timing because it coincides with me needing to recycle last year's blog post announcing Mental Health Awareness Month.    Dumb luck or what?

So here's an oldie but goodie that I post every year to try and keep it real for everybody and I hope you'll like it but I probably won't notice if you don't because I'm hanging on this emotional rollercoaster ride at the moment by a very thin thread.  Because OH BY THE WAY I'm amending my Petition from Legal Separation to Dissolution which is the D she wants in "She Wants the D" (a friend told me).  But you should totes be aware of mental health and PAY ATTENTION  because it sucks being blamed for being sick.  You just never know what's going on with someone so just don't assume.  Unless you see me wandering around in the supermarket in my bathrobe.  Because then you should assume that you need to take my elbow gently but firmly and lead me back to the car and drive me home.  But I digress. Surprise.

I wrote this post before I even had a blog.  I was inspired by a friend who had just been diagnosed.  She was in a full-blown manic episode.  Watching her go through that reminded me of what my own episodes were like.   I'm calm enough now to articulate what it feels like to be so brilliant that you can't describe it.  Which is pretty goddamn ironic, if you ask me.


The hallmark of mania for me is how I feel like a superhero.  Creative and brilliant and simply on *fire* with wit and humor.    When I was riding the crest of a manic wave,  I used to say that I didn't need to eat or sleep because I was bionic.  I got really angry with people who said I was wrong to feel that way and that I needed to go to the hospital and take meds so that I wouldn't feel that way any more.   I would get so angry that I would snarl at them and claw and hiss and refuse to get out of the car.  Wouldn't you?  After I was finished the treatment that stopped that wonderful, invincible, genius feeling, I would quit taking my meds cold turkey.  I would carouse until all hours of the night, telling anyone who would listen my bright new ideas that tied up every loose end in the universe with one beautiful bow.   Holding court on the floor of my room in college, knocking over the bong with my expansive sweeps of my arms as I pontificated to my housemates, who thought I was brilliant, but knew I was nuts.  Destroying relationships.  Winning hearts and breaking them. Staying in my room for days, talking to myself and scaring my roommates away.  Ending up in the nut house time and again.

Now I can recognize when that superstar quality starts to burn and I know I have to nip it in the bud.  I let the few people close to me know and I go see the shrink and get extra support and all that good stuff.  It is the hardest thing in the world to voluntarily let go of that genius feeling.  I simply cannot tell you.  But I know that I must.  As great as the high feels, the low is going to be a gut-punch that knocks me flat, even though I know it's coming.  So I take my meds and I gather my loved ones around me and I brace myself.


     
A Beautiful Mind     
The hallmark of a depressive episode for me is not wanting to be here. I don't think about suicide per se.  I don't want to die.  I just want not to be here.  Everything I've done wrong (which is basically everything), every mistake I've made, every conversation gone awry, every wasted opportunity with my kids, my career -- they all gather together in a threatening thundercloud that hovers over me.  The horrible angry voices of what I call "The Committee" begin the litany of exactly how worthless, no, harmful my presence on the planet has been.  As evidence of why I shouldn't be here.  Shouldn't *have been* here.  This whole time.  I just want to curl up as small as possible, until I take up no space.  No one sees me.  I'm not here.


So.  Staying in the middle is a good thing.  Boring and safe.   Learning to feel my feelings, but not too much.  That's a tough one.  Because I feel my feelings.  A lot.  Possibly more than I should, whatever that means.  Apparently there is a normal amount of feeling, though how you could measure it, I don't know.  It certainly doesn't sound very fun to me.


My job is to stay safe.  To have creative energy, but not too much.  And to channel it in ways that make me glad to be here.  And to let it be okay to feel sad, from time to time.  But if "worthless" pops up on the psychic horizon, it's time to blow the whistle.  Time to remember to do the things that help me, in addition to my meds.  Swimming.  Playing music.  Creating this page, working out my thoughts, writing, laughing.  Making people laugh and shake their heads in self-recognition.  And maybe a little relief that they are not alone.


I have a mantra that is blinding in its banality.  It's insultingly simple.  And yet it works for me.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but my mantra comes from a sitcom (yeah, I watch TV, I have teenagers, don't judge) called "How I Met Your Mother."

"When I'm sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead.  True story."


Of course it's not that easy.  But it reminds me that this too shall pass (god I hate that expression, yeah, this too shall pass like a goddamn kidney stone) and I will be awesome again.  Until I'm not.  And so on.  In the meantime, I have a blog.  And a page.   And a lot, I mean, like a metric fuck-ton of friends I've never met.  Who get it.  More than most people I know in real life.  I'll take it.  I mean, what else ya got?


Namaste.  And if you're wondering what that means, suffice to say that we meet in the middle where there's mutual respect and understanding.  We give each other the benefit of the doubt. We forgive ourselves and each other.  We're good to one another.   We don't have a choice. This is it. 

Namaste, you Nutjobs, you.    Happy Mental Health Awareness Month.  

Amateurs.






Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's Nature's Way

How do you describe pain?  A sick feeling in the chest that flows out through the abdomen.  A aneurysm, no, an embolism.  A foreign object making its unwanted way through the circulatory system.  There's a reason we focus the description of our painful emotions on the heart.  The ache of unrequited love, the stabbing anger of betrayal, the claw of longing, the rage of jealousy.  That all happens right here.  She points to her breastbone, rubs her fist in a circle around it, massages it with the ball of her hand.  And dissolves for the thousandth time, the ten thousandth time, into the inexorable tears that feel so good in a twisted way.  The cheesy sayings, so trite, so true, wash away my trouble, wash away my pain, it's a wave that rushes up, out of nowhere, blindsided on the daily by it, after fifty years, still new every time.

She buries her face, not in her hands, but more profoundly than that, more like surrender really, into her bent forearms, cradling her head, wrapping herself up tight, the only comfort a solitary person can offer herself.   No one can do this with her.  She is all alone.   She takes brave, deep breaths, and shudders on the exhale, trying to muffle the sadness as it ripples through her.  Her friends sleep across the hall of thin walls.  They are worried about her.  She stays at work so late, then the gym, then the tutoring center to pick up her son.  She goes home finally after everyone's in bed, so she doesn't have to see their kindly questioning concerned faces.

She turns into the cul-de-sac and rolls up to the house.  Through the parted curtains she sees her ex-husband, talking with someone, her daughter probably, in that pedantic way he has, as though he were instructing, not lecturing exactly, but he has an irritating, condescending way of speaking. He knows more than you, so he has to be right.  Has all his answers ready to go, favorite book, favorite movie, or at least his top five, his top ten.  Let's see who can name more Oscar-winners.  Who won Best Actress in what year, for which role?   Now she sees him losing confidence, faltering, maybe even reeling, from the blow her departure has dealt him.  

She had dinner this evening with some friends and there was an endocrinologist there.  Even though she knew it was rude, she couldn't help herself and pumped the woman for information, for validation.  

Q.  Could someone with two bouts of acute pancreatitis in three years continue to drink?   
A.  No.  Telling the patient that it would be okay to drink would be malpractice.  
Q.  And could "the patient" just up and keel over at any moment?  
A.  Possibly.  But he needs to stop drinking immediately or he will definitely die soon.  

Maybe some day she will see him finally capitulate, abandon the stubborn denial, and ask for help.  Or maybe he'll drink himself to death.  It could go either way.  And either way, not her problem.  Not her fault.  Really and finally.

Through the parted curtains she sees her former life, wrenched from her by the people who were supposed to love her best in the world.  A life that she worked so hard at pretending she loved. Decades spent trying to fix what was wrong, to deflect blame, to dodge guilt, and failing at all of it.

The embolism of pain makes her slump over the steering wheel, the wind knocked out of her.  That life is gone, and with a mixture of relief and trepidation she considers the new one that remains to be forged.  She bids her son good night and watches him walk up to front porch and sidle in through a door barely open so as not to let the dogs out.    With a profound sigh, she releases the brake and steers the car out of the cul-de-sac, away from the stabbing anger of betrayal, the claw of longing, into the rest of her life, a vacuum waiting to be filled with the worthwhile things she brings from her past and the terrifying and wonderful things she will craft for herself from the wreckage of the last twenty years.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day - aka Amateur Night

I want to write a Valentine's Day blog.  I want to have something to say about Valentine's Day other than how much it sucks.  Once again, a holiday designed to make you feel like a loser if you don't have all the appropriate gear.  Starting with a lover.

Even when I was married, I didn't like Valentine's Day.  Too much pressure.  Is anyone going to live up to the plans we make for them in our heads?  Wouldn't it be great if x and then perfect if y.  If he could intuit my fantasy and make it happen without a word between us.  Destined to fail.  Unless you date yourself, it's not going to be exactly the way you want it.  And even then, you're kind of hit or miss.

I have the unique perspective of having had pretty much all the different Valentine's Day scenarios there are.  I was the kid in second grade, making valentines for all the kids in the class but forgetting one boy.  They passed out a list and I lost it.  Sorry, Bill.  It didn't have candy in it so big whoop.

Then I was in high school, no boyfriend, scorning all the Valentine's Day shenanigans because superior.  More like smug, actually.  I was probably getting high in the smoking lounge (can you imagine having something like that today?) before heading off to Honors English.  I had range but no boyfriend.  No magic on Valentine's Day or other day.

When I finally did get a boyfriend, Valentine's Day was nothing special, although I vaguely recall an erotic drawing, maybe of me, maybe of the previous girlfriend over whom he was not yet.

I started dating my ex three days after Valentine's Day, so we had a whole year before Valentine's Day reared its ugly, awkward head.  Privately, I though it would be cool if he proposed, but he didn't, so that was yet another disappointment.  After we did get married, he would dutifully bring home flowers and we would go through the motions, but by then I was so disinterested in him that it felt like a chore to muster up the appropriate responses.   I had set impossible hurdles to jump over that we couldn't have afforded even if he had thought of them, weekend trips to the wine country, or his and hers massages and an hour wrapped in towels with cucumber slices over our eyes.

Please let me tell you that all of these perceived deficiencies were mine and mine alone, and before you begin a sermon about being glad for what you have, let me hasten to add that I was grateful to have a partner to perform these rituals with, with whom I had what passed for love.  I even felt it most of the time.

Then there was the Mother-of-the-Year Olympics, with each mother trying to outdo the rest with elaborate valentines for the class that they had clearly made themselves, because calligraphy was not one of the electives offered in kindergarten.

So now I have come full circle, having the first real Valentine's Day without a lover in 30 years.  Once again, being alone on a holiday doesn't bother me as much as the perception that other people have of how sad I must be and how pitiful it is.  So they assuage their consciences by including me in whatever they have going on.  Valentine's Day is the worst for this as you might imagine.  It's a day and more importantly, a night when people worry if you're okay, which you totally are until they ask you (thank you Schroedinger or is it Heisenberg?)  Which is why I'm going to spend Valentine's Day with 135,000 of my closest friends on Facebook, jamming to good music, pulling up our chairs and having a simply lovely time being Nutjobs together for Flirtation Friday, and far more important, pitchers and catchers report to start spring training.

I'm all about priorities.





Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Worst Thing About Depression

The worst thing about depression is knowing that it will never really go away. Even if it subsides periodically.  Even as much progress as you think you're making.  Even as much progress as you really ARE making. It's always been with you. It always will be with you.  It's like looking down the tube of your life and knowing that you are always going to feel this way. This too shall pass?  I’m sorry, that’s incorrect. This too shan't pass.  It never has and it never will.   Nice try, though.  Good guess. Thanks for playing.  We have some lovely parting gifts.

When it gets really bad, there’s the familiar response.  Wanting to curl up as small as possible. Under my bed.  Under my desk at work.  Tucked away in the furthest recess I can find. Backed up against a wall in the corner.  Please.  You don't see me.   I take up no space because I’M NOT HERE.  I don’t want to die, exactly.  I don’t want to kill myself.  I just want to NOT BE HERE. Marking time till the next thing I dread is over.   So I can just please stop. Stop thinking about everything I fucked up simply because I was there to fuck it up.  My kids, my marriage, my husband’s life.  Ruining everything for everyone.  

All my kids' memories will be bad ones.  They will go to therapy and talk about all the things I did that made them feel horrible about themselves.  All the things they learned from me that are fucked up, measuring other people with the same impossible yardstick I use on myself, hating other people because I hate myself, making fun of them because ultimately I am the most ridiculous thing of all.  

The Gamer:  Mom, why aren’t you coming with us to the party?
Troubled:  Mom won’t go to the party because she hates people.
Me:  Hey, I don’t hate people!  I just prefer them when they’re not around.
PreMed:   Good thing we got Caller ID because this way, at least we know who was calling when Mom didn’t answer it.
Me:  Let them leave a voicemail!  Who talks on the phone, anyway?  

Remind me to tell you about the time a pushy acquaintance that I never liked wanted to see the progress on the remodel we were doing on the house.  How I let the call go to the machine (this was back in the day).  How she left three messages in the space of an hour, are you home, can I come by?   Finally, and I don’t know how people have the balls to do stuff like this, she just showed up, turning her minivan into the cul-de-sac and pulling up to the house.The kids and I were in the great room. They were watching TV and I don’t know what I was doing.   But I saw right away that it wouldn’t be enough for me to go to my room and hide, my first instinct, always. She would see the kids in the window and ask them to get me and then what?

I’m not proud of what happened next.  “Get down, get down, come over here, hide behind the couch with Mommy,  Jennifer’s here but I don’t want her to come in, let’s pretend we’re not here.”    I hid from my friend like Anne Fucking Frank and I made my kids hide with me until she got back in her car and drove away.   We laugh about it now.  But WTAF.  Grist for the therapy mill if ever I saw it. My mother, the narcissistic misanthrope.

Though self-taught from a young age, and even with a natural aptitude,  I can't seem to get this depression gig right.  Depressed people talk about not being able to get out of bed.   As much as I would prefer to crawl back under the covers in the tight little ball that I covet, I simply cannot.  I can't stay in bed because I'm petrified that my complete and utter failure will be revealed.    I can’t stay in bed because there would be yet another example of what’s wrong with me.  I can’t stay in bed because I have to get up and do more, try harder, be better.   I can’t stay in bed because my superego is a harsh mistress and the switch she wields is swift and sharp.  I can’t stay in bed because panic, masquerading as hope, pretending to be courage, compels me, propels me, and I hurtle out of bed, already exhausted before the day has begun.

Even though I understand that the universe finds me flawed at the cellular level, I like to think that I that I hide it really well.   How arrogant is that!  People tell me all the time how clever I am, how witty.  How I express what they are feeling in just the right way. How much I've helped them.  I always joke "that's a tragic and near-fatal case of the blind leading the blind."  I'm thrilled that anyone gets something out of this nonsense.  But I'm also dismayed.  I'm a sham.  How have you people not seen this yet? Your failure to recognize my failure diminishes us both.

It's so much a piece of me that I have never thought to question it. Only in the last few years has it dawned on me that other people don’t live this way.  Other people aren’t just waiting for time to pass until it’s over or wishing they weren’t here or fantasizing about putting a revolver in their mouths or driving off a cliff.   I have started at least a dozen times to tell someone, anyone, that I feel this way and realize just in time, “Hey, Self!  That’s suicide ideation which means 72 hours that you just can’t spare right now! And who knows how many more days, weeks maybe, after that?”   

So, no.  That’s crazy.  Who would do that?  Not this Nutjob right here, my friends.  Uh-uh.  Not me.  No way.  I’ll just keep plugging away, writing this blog, listening to music, cracking wise on my Facebook page, and looking down the tube of my life knowing that even when I’m feeling good, better than good, magnificent even, I’m always going to have this thing, this depression, this horrible self-loathing that has grown, in the cruelest of ironies, into the most profound friendship I could ever hope to have.