Day 14 of 365: Midlife Health Reboot

Sharon’s succulent skull.

Two weeks into my Midlife Health Reboot and my back has gone out, I’ve experienced some really low days, done more exercise than usual, employed some DBT skills to drink a little less, still drank way more than stated goals, have eaten too much cheese but otherwise have been eating really well and healthily.

Today I weighed myself and have gained 1 lb. I’m choosing to see this as inspiration to keep moving forward. On the plus side, my scooter jacket fits a little better than it did last summer when I bought it.

Chillin with my birds makes me happy. Beijing and I watched an episode of Scott and Bailey.

My chicks, my dog, my regular cats, and my foster kittens have collectively represented quite a lot work this past week but I love animals so much that I view it as work worth doing. Still, my senior dog spends an awful lot of time entering a room then freezing in place and staring at me as though I must have the answer to why she ended up standing there OR that obviously I haven’t fed her in weeks (2 minutes ago) and I find this constant intense staring at me unnerving. She also barks at me incessantly some mornings starting between 4:40 am and 5:15 and ending when I feed her at 6am. Or earlier if I reach the end of my patience. But I get it Chick, being old is weird and painful.

Berkeley and Emery’s diarrhea has returned and is really bad. They’ve started medication again. My chicks aren’t doing anything requiring particularly challenging work but I’ve been spending a lot of time holding them to tame them.

Philip and I have been working on their coop and run because chicks grow up in the blink of an eye.

I’ve gotten out in the garden again and it felt FANTASTIC.

Look what I found in my garden: miner’s lettuce! An enchanted wild edible from my childhood.

I didn’t plant this. Finding it when I was weeding was like running into a loved old friend or a favorite forgotten treasure. I weeded around it and am hoping it will thrive and then re-seed itself. I love tiny flowers! Super tiny flowers are so sweet, they lure you into a lilliputian world of magic. I don’t really believe in magic in the literal sense but in the sense that these tiny flowers can pull a giant down to examine and delight in their delicate forms is surely practical magic?

When I was a kid we had miner’s lettuce growing under a very old tree in the very back of our back yard, right across the path from our chicken coop (which is now an apartment) and I would take my barbies for picnics under that tree and I’d take pictures of them dressed in their smarmy late 70’s best attire and I would occasionally eat a few leaves of miner’s lettuce. I remember that tree being a walnut but I realize now as an adult very familiar with walnut trees that that can’t be true. I’ll ask my mom.  Anyway, it gave me such a rush of pleasure to find that volunteer in my garden last night. So add that to my master list of “pleasant events to do or remember doing”: FINDING MINER’S LETTUCE IN MY GARDEN.

We’re drinking some hibiscus rosehip tea with astragalus that I chilled in the fridge and next up is this fine spring brew:

Cleavers, peppermint, and calendula spring tonic tea from the bottom.

I’ll be chilling this to drink as iced tea.

Before I close this post, to keep myself accountable to myself, I will now do (for the first time in about a billion years) exercises I’m supposed to be doing to support my arthritic knee and hip… (save this space).

Okay – I did 5 exercises. That’s the first time in ages and it must become a building block to this health reboot of mine. I can’t help my circulation and heart health if I can’t move due to arthritis pain. I’m told that doing these strengthening exercises will alleviate the pain even though the cartilage in my left knee is half gone (1/2 of knee is bone on bone). It seems so hard to believe but until I actually do it for a long period of time – how will I know? And any kind of body strengthening is going to be great for my over-all health even if it doesn’t do what they promise it will do.

I’m going to log out now and clean up my kitchen and eat some cottage cheese with pineapple and watch murder documentaries and hold my chicks and drink iced chai that I made.

 

Days 4-7 of 365: Midlife Health Reboot

 

Ravioli with beets at Mother in Sacramento.

For four days in a row I got some exercise. You know, because every person on earth says that good health means daily exercise. Ever since breaking my stupid-ass hip this has become a nightmare for my body. I’m feeling bitter right now because it felt good to get moving. I love walking. I love being active. And after four days of being active (and taking ibuprofin before-hand as directed by my various docs) my back is out. My experience for the last 14 years is that I get punished over and over and over again with awful pain of one kind or another every time I exercise. My back has been especially effected since the arthritis in my left knee got bad. The surgeon who I originally consulted with said that increased back problems are common with arthritis in hips and knees because you compensate for the pain and throw yourself out of alignment.

You know what’s tedious and boring? This topic. But it’s germane to my goals.

I refuse to regret walking over Tower Bridge on my brief stay in Sacramento.

What I’m going to have to do is focus on doing strengthening exercises every day for my knees, my back, and my hip. I will take a short walk tomorrow with a friend and not push it.

I’d like to go on record as being so fucking depressed by the state of my body I feel so angry that I tripped and fell 14 years ago because the impact on my health and my life has been shockingly huge.

Watching TV now requires glasses. This is me last night trying to ignore the back pain.

Anger noted and logged. What I know is that this year is going to take a lot of work and that doesn’t mean pushing myself all the time – it means PACING myself. Just as with my mental health, it’s something you work on every day and working on it a little bit every day is how you keep the progress coming. There will be bursts of inspiration and pushing beyond limits, of course. But one key is going to be to ignore most advice from others because while meaning well – most people don’t know all the details that matter because they aren’t my doctors or me.

I still need to work on my wise mind statements. I had to miss the last day of my DBT class due to my back. I think I’ll check out some DBT apps tomorrow and see if any of them are intuitive to me.

For things that bring me pleasure I submit trying new restaurants in new places and this weekend I got my chicks! They get big so fast that I got them Saturday and already they’re developing tail feathers. I’ve missed having chickens so I’m excited to finally be getting a new flock!

This is Lima (as in: Peru). She’s a Speckled Sussex and is 5 days old today.

Having Chickens brings me a great deal of joy. I love the noises they make, I love holding them and feeling their silky feathers, I love watching them take dust baths and strut around looking for tasty scraps. I love it when they follow me around the garden and I love the fresh eggs. Hanging out with chickens was one of the happiest parts of my childhood.

I have to go ice my back again and take more Ibuprofin so I’m logging off for tonight.

Day 2 of 365: Midlife Health Reboot

small succulent plant with bright purple flowers blooming against a wall
Pretty succulent plant seen on my evening walk in the neighborhood.

Today was all about doing my DBT homework which was doing pleasant activities and going through the list of pleasant activities handout and seeing how many of those things I could be adding into my life. If this doesn’t sound like therapy to you – that’s because it seems so weird to purposely put pleasant things on your daily agenda. But if you’ve ever been mired or paralyzed by anxiety and/or depression or other destabilizing emotional issues – you know that sometimes we forget to do all the little unharmful things we enjoy and stick mostly to the more harmful methods of coping. If that wasn’t true, you wouldn’t be in therapy like me and wouldn’t be interested in this shit anyway.

Better Than Bullets, image of small succulent plant blooming against a wall, bright purple flowers
Does anyone of my generation find it pleasant to think about their retirement? You mean like how I’ll be wheeling Pippa all over town in my shopping cart?

In the handout the teachers gave us there are 275 “pleasant events” listed just to give us an idea of what kind of things we might not remember to do/think about when we’re stressed. I found 84 of those things copacetic and also on the list were a bunch of things that actually cause me enormous stress. I’m absolutely aware that the point of the list is that we’re all different and this is just a jumping off point in making my own list.

It’s entirely possible that some people find going to class reunions pleasant while I would rather have a splinter shoved in my eye.

I stopped to take pictures of these wildflowers which I’ve concluded are some kind of tiny calendula.

I’m going to make my own list of 50 pleasant events that are personal to me (in no particular order). If you’re following along and wanna participate – please do! But first, a couple more pictures from today’s adventures.

This is a “pesto” made from kale, chard, and collards that turned out really nice!
Me, doing 2 of my fave things: riding my Vespa and stopping to admire some flowers.

Angelina’s 50 Pleasant Events List:

1.  Driving my Vespa through the countryside or through pretty neighborhoods

2.  Fostering kittens

3. Going out to dinner with Philip and Max

4. Going out to happy hour with my sister

5. Staying in hotels and watching cable TV

6. Hanging out with close friends

7. Cooking

8. Spotting wildflowers everywhere I go

9. Gardening

10. Seeing the local wild turkeys drift through neighborhoods and chatting with them

11. Watching serial killer documentaries

12. Walking barefoot in the garden on a hot day

13. Wading in ice cold ocean water/walking along the beach with ice cold waves washing over my feet

14. Remembering happy trips: Vespa ride to Oregon, family trip to SLC, Glasgow with Zeke and Tara

15. Driving through countryside with Philip

16. The smell of onions being sauteed wafting through neighborhoods in early evening

17. Sitting on our porch when it’s warm out and waving to neighbors, just hanging out

18. Having a nice hot cup of strong British tea with milk and sugar.

19. First cup of coffee in the morning

20. Listening to the sounds of nature whilst not being accosted by arachnids with personal space issues.

21. Taking walks through the neighborhood

22. The sounds of doves cooing in the neighborhood

23. Falling asleep to familiar television shows

24. Sharing my food and potions and projects with friends

25. Being included/invited to things even though I often don’t participate

26. Sitting at a vintage desk typing just about anything

27. Making lists of – just about anything

28. Kittens falling asleep on me

29. Talking with my kid

30. Playing with essential oils and herbs and potions

31. Foraging for food and herbs

32. Processing large quantities of food for preserving

33. Growing flowers I can cut and bring inside

34. Caring for my roses

35. Being in nature (without doing anything extreme like hiking or spelunking or getting killed by serial killers. Just hanging out on a slope on a mountain is peaceful)

36. Hanging out with chickens

37. Wading in a really fucking ice cold creek on a really hot day

38. Making things for other people

39. Cleaning house (but NOT laundry, laundry can go fuck itself)

40. Open windows on a warm but slightly breezy day

41. Being absolutely still and thinking absolutely nothing – listening to the sounds all around me (doubles as a mindfulness exercise)

42. Eating really amazing food

43.  Opera music

44. Hanging around tidepools chatting up the urchins, starfish, and barnacles

45. The hot dry herby smell of the California hills in summer

46. Helping animals, caring for animals, rescuing animals

47. The sting of nettles (no really, it’s peculiar and I rather like it)

48. Reaching personal goals I’ve set for myself

49. Writing (fiction, nonfiction, bullshit, journals)

50. Showing kindness to people whether it costs me a lot or a little or nothing

It’s time for me to go drink some tea. So here’s my check-in with my goals:

I took a short evening walk

I ate really vibrant healthy food that made me feel good inside

I worked on my DBT homework by stopping to take pictures of wildflowers on my way to the store which is something I really love (taking pictures of wildflowers/all flowers) and by spending time thinking about all the activities that bring me a sense of well being (big or tiny, it all counts).

I tried a new recipe while watching serial killer docs.

I did some deep breathing.

And I’m not drinking alcohol tonight.

 

 

 

 

Day 1 of 365: Midlife Health Reboot

Mug shot taken March 13, 2019.

This is the start line, a moment I want to bookmark for myself so that I can look back later to see how far I’ve come.  Because from here on out the only thing I’m going to be working on in my life is getting my health back – until I achieve the goals I’ve set for myself.

All last year I worked on getting my emotional and mental stability back and after a year of therapy I’m in such a better place than when I started.  I’m still in therapy and I’m going to need to stick with it a little longer to help me reach my health goals. I couldn’t even begin to address my physical health goals until I got help with my emotional and mental deterioration.

I couldn’t write this blog while it served as a tool for releasing the mental Kraken from the deep dark waters of my mental illness.

For anyone not in the know – I got diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder this time last year. This is in addition to existing PTSD, Generalized Anxiety, and Major Depression.  The diagnosis, though not expected, wasn’t actually a total surprise. Getting that specific diagnosis gave me a much better idea of what kind of therapy would best address my mental state.

My therapist has been using IFS therapy which has been profoundly helpful and I’m taking my second DBT short course  right now to help support the other therapy.  For DBT to work you have to actually practice it daily. It helps you develop better personal discipline but also requires you to actually use what discipline you already have available to build from.

Me and foster kitten Emery on March 13, 2019.

PLEASE DO NOT OFFER ME ANY DIET OR HEALTH ADVICE AT ANY TIME. UNLESS I SPECIFICALLY ASK A PERSON FOR IT, I DON’T WANT IT.

I didn’t have the courage to weigh myself today but I can, from recent weighings, guess that my weight right now is at 280+/- a couple of pounds.

I have high blood pressure.

I have high triglycerides.

I have bad arthritis in one knee and milder arthritis in my other knee and hips. This causes much pain when I try to be physically active. Sometimes just causes pain, period.

I drink too much alcohol (definitely do NOT ask for details on this – or try to advise me in any way)

THE GOALS FOR THE NEXT 12 MONTHS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Lose between 80-100lbs in the next 12 months (need to lose 100 but understand it might take longer than a year)

Rein back my alcohol consumption to moderate levels (I know what this means for me but am not going to share that detail for self protective reasons)

Continue to increase vibrancy and variety of diet. Work on portion control and over-all calories. Cook more of the food that makes me feel truly good (mostly Mediterranean style vegetarian food)

Do exercises every day to strengthen the muscles around the knees and hips to reduce arthritic pain as per PT people have suggested.

Continue to work on emotional regulation to support these goals.

Mindfulness/DBT/selfcare practices today:

I vacuumed even though I wanted to avoid it because I knew it would make me feel better if I did.

I did an assortment of other household chores as well. I took quite a few breaks, but it felt good when I could see the difference and FEEL it too.

I made a pitcher of my own blend of hibiscus iced tea for later.

I also made a pitcher of my own blend of chai for icing and while it simmered I did an exercise of being completely present and deep breathing the wonderful spicy steam. It was both grounding and uplifting.

I put makeup on.

I kept reapplying my roll-on essential oil blend Veranda because it makes me feel calm. That’s one of the tools in my DBT box of tools.

I’m off to make a salad for dinner and watch serial killer documentaries. Maybe drink tea. Definitely not drinking any alcohol tonight.

XO

Handling Disappointment Without Self-Abuse

I’m not going to abuse myself any more. I will quash the vitriol I’ve learned to lavish myself with and replace it with a shower of freshly opened carnations warmed in the sun of my garden. I will replace it with the hunger of a bird just out of winter looking for early spring seeds. I will replace it with the love and nourishment I’ve given to the people who’ve abused me.

The words that seep insidiously into my heart every time I think I’ve failed myself or others aren’t MY words. I heard them said to me so often I believed them.  When I stopped being told how small and weak and stupid and slow I was – the part of me that believed I deserved to be punished for every infraction of character, misstep, and stumble stepped up to the task and has been making sure I keep punishing myself just as I deserve ever since.

This is the worst part of abuse. The way you carry on the work of abusers against yourself long after they’re gone or you walk away – their voices live on inside of you.  But now their voice is your voice and you can’t run away from it or scrub it out of you. The longevity and strength of self loathing and self abuse is tremendous.

You can’t undo that shit in a day. Or a month. Sometimes it takes years of painstakingly removing abusive statements you used to think of as truths with a sharp knife, one by one. Sometimes it feels endless. But the amazing thing is that putting that time in will begin to clear your head enough that you can start putting other things in it, better things, wonderful things. Do the work even when it feels like nothing’s changing and you’ll turn a corner. You’ll make a mistake one day and instead of telling yourself your a real piece of shit human, you’ll look at your mistake, figure out how to fix it, and move on.

And if you still feel bad about it you’ll remind yourself that it’s okay to make mistakes because everyone does and that you’ll learn from it and become stronger and better for it if you choose to.

You might not even notice it at first but when you do it’s like growing your flight feathers back.

I disappointed myself today but as the usual self-punishment recording began to play I knocked the needle off the groove and have instead been talking to myself with kindness and patience. I’ve been listening to a different part of myself tonight. The part that keeps the lamps lit on dark nights. The part that insists I grow more carnations because they make me ridiculously happy because I loved smelling them in my mother’s garden when I was a kid. (The garden in the house I loved so much as a kid that I still dream about it today like it’s a person.) I’m listening to the part of myself that knows I won’t be “fixed” in a day, a month, or even a few months but knows that the changes will come on slowly and steadily as long as I keep doing the work.

Tonight I’m listening to the part of myself that knows my true worth.

 

This Dirty Laundry Might Be Covered in BPD

I’ve been in a continually deteriorating mental and emotional state since my brother’s death. Actually, I was already on a slow decline before that but that marked the point at which I started to feel more and more powerless to fix it, fix me, make the good choices, keep up with proper self care, and a whole lot of repressed rage began to rise from the deep. This week I finally got over my fear of returning to the Kaiser psyche department to ask for the help I desperately need.

If you know me pretty well or even really well you may think that my “falling apart” isn’t real dire since I haven’t gone on drunken binges in bad bars, cheated on my husband, stayed in bed for weeks at a time, or show any visible signs of mental and emotional distress. But if you know me really well, especially if you have at any time in our acquaintance read a good amount of posts on this blog, you should have heard me say many times that I’m a master at hiding what’s going on inside of me and lying to you all about it in order to protect myself from anyone hurting me. If you’ve paid any real attention, the signs are ALWAYS evident in my writing or in my complete absence from writing. Or my incredibly emotional verbal vomit.

I’ll say it again: I learned when I was pretty young that if I tell people how I really feel, what I’m really thinking, or if I’m honest about what I do to myself quietly just out of sight – people don’t know what to do with that shit. They look at you like you’re a walking disease. AT LEAST THAT’S WHAT I SEE AND BELIEVE THEY’RE DOING. I used to tell friends the truth and the awkward silences were the worst. The worst. They made me feel like a piece of scab that just fell off a dead person’s body. Then I’d shrivel up into my hideous self and want to die. I’d want to get the fuck out of my body and be fucking done with human beings. Be done with this whole crappy festival of shit that life is in which I have no place.

I learned when I was pretty young that people hurt you more if you’re honest with them about who you are, what you’re really feeling, about the urges you’re suppressing, about the things that make you angry, the things that make you not trust them. So I learned to bottle that fucking toxic shit up inside  myself where it periodically claws its way out of my mouth and then I have to spend time doing damage control – apologizing to people for the hurt I caused them or the inconveniences I’ve caused them by suddenly bowing out of commitments or plans. Or for being a thoughtless asshole.

Half the things I think would be/have been so hurtful to people I love and value that I spend a lot of energy trying to work around core beliefs that would lose me friends and loved ones. I say that out loud all the time on social media, in person, on my blog. I say “I’m specifically not saying what I’m thinking right now because it would hurt so many of you” and a bunch of people chime in and say it wouldn’t hurt them but I know they don’t know. And because I love and value quite a lot of people around me I’m motivated not to hurt them. But this shit is constantly boiling up and exploding inside me so it hurts me and I don’t want to be in my body any more and I want to not exist because this shit is so awful and I can’t take any more of this extreme noise in my head and these emotions that don’t fit in my corporeal self.

If I let my truest real thoughts on things out I don’t think there’s a person I know who wouldn’t feel alienated or hurt. And I don’t have these thoughts or beliefs because I’m a truly bad person. I’m not. I think my core beliefs about the world, about humans, about life came out of the mud of my early life experiences. And I can’t openly discuss some of the most formative and damaging things without hurting people I love too. So I’m constantly trying to say things in the least hurtful way I can.

I’m willing to bet that if people I know are reading this some of them are thinking “She’s wrong, her opinions might be different than mine but they won’t offend me” and you want to know what those opinions are.

My psyche appointment this week went really well. My new doc has referred me to dialectical behavioral therapy classes, long term individual therapy, a new med, and eventually wants me to do some EMDR. She also told me she thinks I have Borderline Personality Disorder. So this week I’ve taken a crash course on BPD and learned a ton and also have that feeling when someone finally figures out what all this awful toxic shit is that lives inside of you and tells you there’s a therapy that can help it and so for right now I’m living and breathing this new information and basically doing a personal assessment of what the new doc said. Does this really fit? Is this really how I am? Except that mostly I’ve just been reading the DSM (4 and 5) and watching lectures and vlogs and going “Oh holy fuck!” and “Whoa – shit! THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL PEOPLE THIS WHOLE TIME AND HOW COME MY FIRST DOC DIDN’T EXPLAIN HIS NOTES ‘PERSONALITY ISSUES’ 15 YEARS AGO BECAUSE THIS WAS IN FRONT OF HIM AND OH MY GOD I FINALLY UNDERSTAND WHY HE SAID THAT AND WHAT HE MEANT!”

Friends and family have questioned this diagnosis.  I haven’t ever been arrested or gotten in physical fights with everyone around me or screamed and yelled at them or overdosed on drugs or prostituted myself or been homeless or broken laws or been promiscuous or lost control in any of the obvious ways most people with BPD do. I get that I don’t present as a person with BPD on the surface. However, when I was younger I had showed a lot more of the acting out behaviors associated with BPD. And then I learned that I was lonelier acting out than I was shoving that shit deep down inside me where no one but me has to fucking look at the abyss of fear, anger, disappointment, loneliness, distrust, anxiety, hugeness of emotions.

But no one who knows me can honestly say they haven’t noticed that my moods turn on a fucking dime and that those mood swings are a daily and hourly thing. Even I can’t hide my shit that well, and anyway just look through my facebook time line and all the evidence of constantly shifting moods is right there. Documented for all to see.

I’m up one minute then I have a two minute conversation with some asshat on Twitter who reminds me of my time in McMinnville and suddenly I’m sunk in the trauma of my terrible loneliness of living there and I’m upset as though it all happened yesterday instead of six years ago. Then two hours later I get distracted by the mild weather and I start feeling good again or Philip is late coming home and I’m texting him and he doesn’t respond within five minutes and I’m in angry/anxiety mode and I’m not texting him every minute because I don’t want to make him angry with me and I don’t want him to know how I’m already angry because he isn’t answering my text THE MINUTE I SEND IT. I stifle my feelings and I try to work through them because I know they aren’t rational or reasonable. I know this so I fidget and try not to notice that he hasn’t answered my text in 26 minutes (yes, I’m always counting the minutes even though I don’t like to admit it) and when he finally gets back to me I try not to lose my shit at him because I know this is my crazy-ass bullshit and I usually don’t lose my shit on him.

Except for when I do. And not that long ago I lost it on him AND my friend Sid (and peripherally) my friend Denis too because Philip went out with Denis and then wasn’t answering my texts and then when he finally answered them he mentioned our friend Sid was there too and I can’t even remember the circs that made me so upset but I felt betrayed by them all for excluding me and for not responding to my texts and I was so angry and betrayed and even while I tried to control those feelings I couldn’t. I lashed out. Then I went out to dinner by myself to my favorite place and ordered my favorite meal and the whole time I’m so fucking angry and hurt and I cried in public while I ate and that made me feel worse because then I wanted to hurt myself. I wanted to punch myself or take my intestines out of my body and let them drag behind me as I crawled back home.

For ME that experience was horrible and it took me a long time to come back down from that emotional place and though I didn’t hurt myself, because I’ve worked hard not to act on those urges, I felt like a disgusting worthless piece of shit for having freaked out on Philip and our friends. These are friends I love like family. I was full of shame for my behavior and the shame I felt was worse than the anger and hurt that made me lash out. That shame is like a soul scouring pad and the mental and emotional flagellation that follows any acting out on my part is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I work so hard not to lash out and instead I shove that shit as deep as it can go.

I’ve got a lot I need to spill because it’s like the lights got turned on in my dungeon and now I can see all the leeches crawling up my legs and the shit on the walls and I’ve got to put things in their proper place because I think now is the time a lot of pieces of my mental health come together and I can potentially clear the way for a better rest of my life.

Letter to Self: Your Place at the Table

The thing about now is that it instantly slips into the past the second you register it in your cornea and your brain. Now barely exists and yet it’s the most important fraction of time in our lives. What you feel now is going to change. Change is one of the few constants in life. Yeah, you want to shout out for change to fuck itself. You seem determined to undermine yourself just as soon as you understand on a cellular level how desperately you need to change. I understand. It’s really important that you know I’ve been there where you are now. I’m offering no judgement against you.

Your value isn’t contingent on being perfect, being wise, being healthy, or being happy. So push all that crap off the table and start over. Your value is contingent only on evolving into the best self you can be. Not as you’re tempted to compare yourself to others. Others don’t matter here. Here is where you build your own damn yardstick. You did this a long time ago. You did this when you first felt yourself slipping out of your own skin in shame and degradation. You sat up, you realized that the yardstick you’d been measuring yourself against was a fucking joke, a horsehair whip to make you bleed. A horsehair whip you took from trusted hands that told you you deserved it and you had no reason not to believe it.

You sat up and broke that horsehair whip in half and threw all the empty yardsticks in the trash and began to build your own. Remember how long it took you to do that? Years. It wasn’t overnight. It was like remaking yourself in a new image. In a new frame. You had to hammer yourself into it every day, remind yourself that you weren’t the worthless piece of shit you heard others say of you. You sat up and demanded your place at the table of life, with your own silverware, your own place card. And it took so much strength to make demands instead of accepting life as an invisible spirit.

Things feel as bad as they did back then but you got through that. You need to remember that you got through it stronger than you started off. It wasn’t because of anyone else. You wanted to die almost every day but you hung on because you had a wildflower’s roots clinging to the cosmos through the poorest soil. All of this is to say that you’re there again and the only way you’re going to move forward is if you sit up and demand your place at the table.

I Lie to Everyone Some of the Time

sky in my head

Don’t care where anyone else sleeps on their conscience. I can only ask myself how I got to this thought, this feeling, this judgement, and then ask myself if it’s who I am, if I died 60 seconds from now “Is this who I am, is this how memory will record me?” and cast my shadow against the wailing wall for all to pick at, discuss, and cruelly dissect. Because humans, no matter how evolved we become, are still creatures limited by our state of flesh and blood.

When I crumple in a heap of indigestible feelings and thoughts I would rather die than anyone see my face on which everything is writ in smudged chalk and ancient language. I would rather die than explain myself to other humans, but humans intrude cheerily and with love, so I lie to them with good cheer and equal love and everyone moves forward exactly one centimeter towards no gain.

I understand that this is how it will always be. Even if I were to tell all the secrets and expose all my arteries to the light – this is how it will always be. Hanging onto minutes like lifelines, waiting for the tide to turn, waiting for the waves to choke out idle curiosity. Can’t abide the casual eye on my aspirating valves, slowing to death under the weight of a nightlife I can’t control or escape. I’d sooner choke on the seaweed tangling around my feet than swim to the surface of this fight.

I lie all the time, every day. Whether it’s wrong or not depends entirely on how far into my world you’re entrenched. That I lie to everyone for my own protection is an incontrovertible fact. White or black is only one way of looking at it. Survival or death is another way. I lie to everyone. There is no one I don’t lie to about the core of my life experience. I parse out dark truths as much as those around me can handle them but never all at once, never more than a patchwork of truth. No matter what I say, there’s more I’m holding back.

We’re all masters at subterfuge, my spirit family. Almost everyone in my tribe knows better than to share whole truths. Our survival depends on the art of half truths and making other people feel good about our chances of survival. We spend most of our time making sure the people around us are as comfortable as they can be, we lure them into hope like mermaids calling sailors to cliffs that look like pillows of marshmallow gold.

I want to let the flesh fall and the bones talk. I want to walk the creeks with my veins open and my truth available to every curious mind. I want to share all this shit with everyone who thinks they’re ready for it, who wants to know, to understand, but –

I have a responsibility to tread lightly around humans more tender than myself, humans who still feel hope, who burst with spiritual optimism. I have a responsibility not to crush them with my darkness.

I have optimism too, but it’s darker and older and isn’t rainbows, unicorns, bunnies, innocence, mercy, or love.

My optimism is bloody survival. It’s war anthems being sung by the dead when there’s no one living left to rejoice in winning. My optimism is that the earth will reinvent itself without humans and be better and healthier for it. My optimism is that we will all be here forever as gasses and soil and sand.

This is good enough for me.

This is good enough for all of us.

 

Mental Health Awareness Day

the nails

I don’t know a time when I wasn’t different. I have always lived in a world slightly removed from everyone else’s world. I looked mostly normal when I was little. Except for the distinctly GoodWill flavor of my attire mixed with home-haircuts that distinctly marked me as the daughter of a hippie mom more than anything else could have done. Later I dressed like an 80 year old who just discovered T-shirts and black eyeliner. The older I got the less normal I looked.

That’s merely window dressing. It’s window dressing that got bottles and rocks thrown at me from cars, that got jocks to spit on and throw fire crackers at my locker while I was still standing next to it. But still, window dressing compared to the world inside of me that was like living inside one of those 3-D post cards of Jesus and kittens.

Any person who says “Isn’t everyone a little crazy?” is either in deep denial or aren’t at all out of the normal range of human behaviors. People who say “Everyone gets anxious and depressed sometimes” isn’t exactly wrong but clearly don’t understand what it is to be suicidal and unable to live next to super tall trees that have a slightly leaning appearance. No one who’s truly different suggests such “aren’t we all the same?” bullshit. Because when the chips are down it’s us different people who stand out like neon signs in a post apocalyptic landscape that say “VULNERABLE DISASTER THAT MIGHT BITE”. It’s us truly different people who get beat up by people who are supposed to love us because we don’t feel we matter enough to stand up against the abuse. It’s us truly different people who get crucified on the pillar of societal abnormalities to be feared because others know we’re running on a different operating system that unfortunately sparks their darkest fears.

Everyone’s “the same” until we’re not. And I’m not the same. I hear everyone in the world crying sometimes. I hear murders happen, I hear the lonely retching into the void. I crumple into a ball of unworthiness at moments others call triumphs. I’m tuned into the world on a different frequency than a lot of other people. I’m mentally ill.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “Don’t let labels define you” or “Stop seeing yourself defined by illness” and I understand where people are coming from who say this shit. I do. They aren’t coming from a place where their brain has shaped their emotional landscape by not producing enough of the right chemicals to maintain balance or, as is often the case, their brain isn’t efficient at transmitting chemical signals to the nervous system so closely linked with our sense of well being. When your illness is connected to the heart, the spirit, and the mind simultaneously it throws all three into a maelstrom of  chaos. What I know is that they lack a full understanding of what it is to not only be ME, but to belong to the greater community of mentally ill people that make up my world, that make up my tribe.

Many of us are creative forces to be reckoned with. We see things the well regulated mind can’t see. We hear global music, music in the stars, music in the vascular systems of human beings. We understand the minutiae of life intimately and can tell you things you saw but didn’t understand because we’re seeing things from a different balcony. This is the gift in the illness. We hear, see, smell, feel, and empathize in ways other human beings generally aren’t capable of and when we’re able to apply it we create the world’s art, music, stories, and philosophy. We are formidable in this way.

But these gifts come with an intense price. In general we’re more vulnerable to abuse than most other groups of people. In addition to being more vulnerable to violence against us we’re vulnerable to self harm more than any other segment of the population on the planet. We are exponentially more likely to hurt or kill ourselves than we are to hurt or kill others. Mental illness has a death rate.

Most people have lost someone to suicide.

I struggle with suicidal ideation. No matter how good my life is at any point this is something I struggle with. I can’t imagine living life without this struggle. My attachment to life is less vigorous than my attachment to truth. I would rather tell the truth and die than lie and live. I live with a constant juxtaposition between loving the details of life, loving certain people I meet, and not wanting to feel the pain of hearing all the torture and death across the planet every day. I can’t shut the pain of the world out unless I die. Medication dulls it, mercifully, I might be dead already without it. But it can’t shut out all the world’s pain playing on my mental radio.

I have heard many people suggest mental illness is curable through will power, gut health, diet, plenty of exercise, positive thinking, and just getting the fuck over it. As though it was a bad boyfriend one can simply stop calling in the middle of the night. FUCK YOU ALL WHO THINK THAT.

FUCK YOU.

We’re the people who bring you your own hearts in the form of music, art, and dreams.

Some of my tribe are so severely affected that we can’t even understand what they’re seeing or feeling. And you know what? They need the rest of us to protect them and to continue to look for answers to unlock their voices, their dreams, their loves, and their spirits. It isn’t that they’re evil, it’s just that we don’t know enough to translate what worlds they’re seeing into without us. They’re reacting to stiumulae we can’t see but that’s real.

If you don’t believe that then I know you aren’t US. But you could, if you tried, learn to understand us and how much of a reflection we are of your deeper self.

Today was Mental Illness Awareness Day. Being mentally ill is many things, the only thing it isn’t is shameful. I neither glorify nor hate my mental illness. It is a part of me that I can never disengage from without dying. I treat my brain like any other organ and do what I can to maintain the best health possible – but I accept that my brain doesn’t function efficiently or normally. My life has become exponentially better accepting the limitations of my brain and my nervous system.

The most important thing I’ve learned is this:

MENTAL ILLNESS ISN’T A PERSONAL FAILING. NO ONE ASKS FOR OR DESERVES TO BE MENTALLY ILL. SOME OF US ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND GIFTS IN OUR ILLNESS AND SOME OF US ARE JUST LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE ALIVE AND TO  BE LOVED.

The best thing all of us can do is keep this conversation going. Those of us who can come out into the light must do so not only for ourselves but also for those who aren’t safe enough to do so.

When I got my official diagnosis in 2001, I was deeply relieved. I told a neighbor friend of mine how happy I was to finally have validation that I had serious mental illness and she said “Not everyone is as open minded as I am, you probably shouldn’t tell anyone else this”. I felt like a leper. It was a shock. It hadn’t occurred to  me that something I felt so good about could be looked on with such prejudice as this. I took me and my imaginary sores and flaking skin to my cave of solitude and wanted to die. Just a little bit. As I always do when someone points out my otherliness. But an unexpected pride rose in me. I always knew I was different. I always knew my brain was on a different track than others were on. I made a decision that I’ve stuck with ever since.

I decided that I would never hide my mental illness or feel ashamed of myself for it. I’ve never looked back.

I also stopped talking to that particular neighbor because: FUCK HER AND HER FUCKING IGNORANCE.

I didn’t choose to be mentally ill but I wouldn’t choose to be mentally average now if I could. I’ll take the torture with the enlightenment. I don’t know if I’ll last as long as a mentally normative person, but I’m not sorry for my challenge or my possibly shortened lifespan.

Please join me, tribe, in celebrating the gifts of our illness while simultaneously fighting for better treatments, understanding, and appreciation. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL TO ME.

#MentalHealthAwarenessDay

This is Like That Scene in Spirited Away

peeling paint

You know that scene where the giant stinky spirit comes into the bathhouse and Chihiro has to clean him and she washes and washes and washes him and the stink is so bad but eventually she finds something stuck to him and pulls it out and all this human trash comes spilling out and it turns out he’s quite small once all the trash is cleaned from him? That’s my head right now.

In an effort to purge my head of some noise I will now let thoughts fall randomly from my head. There may or may not be a strong theme with what comes out.

SPOILER ALERT: THERE’S A STRONG THEME HERE

If I were to measure Trump using his own yardstick of beauty which he freely applies to women as thought they’re cattle up for auction, he would be a big fat toupeed ZERO.

I wonder if Trump inspects the gums and teeth of all the women he sleeps with?

Men who seek sex with virgins a) creep me the fuck out and b) are almost never virgins themselves and c) probably raised on religion and/or d) are pedophiles because finding virgin adults is rare.

There is no greater turn-off than a man telling me how to behave so that he or other men will find me more “attractive” or more “pleasing” or – just go fuck your damn selves you giant syphilitic dicks!  This includes telling women to “smile more” or telling them when to open or shut their legs, or telling them to wear more skirts, or telling them how to behave so men won’t feel threatened, or – my god, this list is endless and it just gets worse and sicker.

(Purging is so important- I forget how much I need to do this)

I don’t tell men how to dress or act or behave. Except for my son. I do tell my son how to behave like a good human being. I don’t ever give him gender specific advice though. I never say stupid toxic shit like “Be a man about this!” or “Boys don’t cry” or “To attract women you should be Ryan Gosling”.

I think it’s best to follow this rule (it’s good for everyone): if the advice you’re giving to a woman isn’t advice you’d ever give to a man, then don’t give it. Men who tell women to “smile more”, have you ever in your life told another man to “smile more”? If you have, then you’re just a jerk all around. People don’t like being told to smile more. Makes them want to punch you. But in my life I can’t count how many times a man has told me to “smile more” and how many times I’ve heard the same advice being dished out to other women by men. Yet I have never once overheard a man telling another man to smile more. That right there is misogyny, for anyone who can’t recognize it.

The reverse is true. If the advice you’re giving a man isn’t advice you’d ever give to a woman, then don’t give it. Also, generally speaking, don’t give advice to people unless they ask you for it.

DON’T GIVE ADVICE TO PEOPLE UNLESS THEY ASK FOR IT.

For example, when writers talk about the difficulty they’re having with a project, more often than not they aren’t asking for advice from whoever’s randomly passing by on social media or in person, they’re hoping for commiseration. Most writers I know actually ask other writers for advice when that’s what they want. Why is that so hard to grasp?

I don’t understand how come so many atheists and non-Catholics are so riled up any time someone says they like Pope Francis. I’m seeing so many people pointing out that he isn’t perfect, disappointment that he’s met with conservative Christians during this trip to the United States. Why do people expect other people to be either all good or all bad? I like Pope Francis because he’s really saying some radical things for a Pope to say. Good things. Things I actually believe in. But just because I like him doesn’t mean I automatically think he’s above criticism or mistakes or that he’s ANYTHING OTHER THAN A RELIGIOUS LEADER AND A FALLIBLE HUMAN BEING. I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in the Papacy. What I understand is that he’s still a Catholic and still is leading millions of people who are also Catholic which means I don’t agree with a lot of what they believe in. There are things that not even the most liberal Pope is going to be able to change or even want to change about the church he leads because if he wanted to change the Catholic church that much HE WOULDN’T BE THE POPE.

Who the fuck cares if he met with Kim Davis? Do you all imagine his point in meeting with her was to congratulate her? I suspect that she represents a person in need of guidance. But even so, I really don’t give a fuck. The fact that he met with a person I think is horrible doesn’t invalidate the good things he HAS done and the good examples he HAS made through his own actions.

I don’t need reminding that all humans are human. All humans are capable of mad fuckery. I don’t even LIKE humans. Popes are people I usually dislike for their ridiculous pomposity and conservatism. Seeing a pope not wear those robes of state for every public gathering is refreshing. Hearing a Pope talking about not hating gay people and firing Bishops who have focused all their energies on anti-gay agendas – these are unheard of things for a Pope to say or do until now. So yeah, even I am impressed because compared to all the Popes that came before Francis, he’s pretty radical.

BUT HE’S STILL A CATHOLIC POPE WHO IS BEHOLDEN TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. So obviously you can’t expect him to remove the ban on contraception. It would be phenomenal if he did and I’d like him better if he did. But he’s the goddamn Pope, people.

Why is it that whenever a human does something noteworthy and people note it there is a huge inevitable wave of people crying out “BUT THEY DON’T HAVE A PERFECT RECORD AS A HUMAN BEING SO HOW CAN YOU ADMIRE THEM?!”?

Listen you little lump-nuggets, do YOU have a perfect record as a human being? I sure don’t. Don’t you sometimes think that when you do something that was challenging or new for you and positive it’s okay for people to admire you for it even though you don’t have a perfect record as a human being? I do. I think it’s okay to applaud people for improving on themselves or improving on an institution even if they haven’t done all the improving possible. It’s okay to note good actions by people who also do questionable things. It’s also okay to note when generally good people do bad things.

Positive feedback is very important to making a difference in the world. If all you do as a human being is point out what’s bad in the world and what you don’t like and what’s wrong, then you’re missing half the arsenal of change. Yes, the bad and the ugly must be pointed out and said out loud and addressed in order to bring light to the dark. But the other part of it is that when someone does something good or something good has happened – we also need to applaud it and say “YES! More of this!” and “I like this change!” and “This person did something admirable after being a total douche-pickle. Hey person I used to call a “douche-pickle”, I like this thing you did, maybe you’re not such a douche-pickle anymore” Why? Because encouraging behaviors and actions that you like and make you feel good or help the world in a positive way encourage people to do MORE good, not less. People need to know they’re going in a good direction. Nearly all species on earth respond to a positive feedback loop.

Humans have really gotten stuck in a negative feedback loop. You all can do whatever you want but I’m going to still praise imperfect human beings when they do good things for beings outside of themselves and/or the planet. I’m going to praise imperfect beings when they shed a little light somewhere. Even if it isn’t epic. It’s a given they’ve probably done things I don’t agree with. So I’m not going to listen to any of you when you point out to me that someone I’ve praised isn’t perfect. I’m going to point to myself and say “I’m imperfect too” and then I’m going to probably flip you off.

I’m still sick of this old (but active) chestnut: people who think logically aren’t emotional. Logic itself isn’t emotion, of course, but a language equation. But using logic doesn’t require one to be unemotional. You can be full of emotional outrage and still make a logical argument. Critical thinking is a skill that anyone can learn and apply regardless of their level of emotional involvement in a subject under debate.

Logic doesn’t belong more to one gender or another. It belongs to anyone who has critical thinking as part of their educational curriculum and who actively practice it. it’s a complete fallacy that men are generally (and naturally) more logical than women. It’s also a fallacy that men are generally (and naturally) less emotional than women.

Now I’m late getting going on my sewing projects but I feel much better for having purged so much bullshit that’s been accumulating in my head and heart. Things making me angry and itchy and depressed. This only dips in the surface of a deep well, but at least it’s a start.