Monday, December 24, 2012

About patience...

I'm struggling lately.
Having been given nearly every diagnosis in the book at one point or another, it's difficult to pinpoint what is actually the cause of all my crazy.  There are normally two or three big visits from a major depression each year, and I spend about a week being unbearable before I'm able to get back on my feet again, and function like a "normal" human being.
Well, "normal" for us, anyhow.

These episodes are familiar, and we know how to navigate them without a whole lot of headache, most of the time.

This is different.  Lots.
And if I'm being honest, I'm a little scared.

I'm lucky.  I'm surrounded by compassionate and understanding friends, and an *extremely* caring and supportive husband.  Extremely.

This poor man has held down the fort on more than one occasion, sometimes while working two jobs.  He wrangles the kids.  He cooks meals.  He is patient and compassionate, against my irrational outburst-ing and hysteria.  He's taken care of all the holiday preparations, wrapping gifts and maintaining calm when something ridiculous sets off my weird behavior.

He's patient.  It's the greatest thing a person could possibly do for me.  It's the greatest thing anyone can do for a mentally ill person, and probably the hardest.  There have been people in my life who struggle in similar ways, and I've had to walk away from them, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently, because I physically do not have the patience for their nonsense.  For their mood swings.  For their ridiculous and unpredictable behavior.  For their hurtful outbursts.   Even when I know it is the fault of a weirdly-wired brain, and not because they're just huge dickheads, I've still needed to walk away.  Because it's fucking hard dealing with people like that.

But he stays.  With endless comfort and a never-ending supply of patience.  Patience when I certainly do not deserve it.  When I'm screaming and bawling and throwing things around our bedroom like a lunatic.  He stays.

I've been on both sides of the fence.  I've lived in situations where my issues were ridiculed, where I was punished and belittled for things I could not control, and where I was basically treated very, very poorly by people who were supposed to love and support me.  I was given lots and lots of drugs, in an effort to coat the problem, and shut me the fuck up.  When they didn't work, I was trucked off to the doctor again for new drugs, in an ongoing effort to disguise me as a "regular" person.
I want to be "regular."  I am not.  And it isn't fun sometimes.  But it's ok.  And I'm ok like this.

Having someone supportive to help shoulder the burden is tremendous.  Having someone promise and deliver endless love, endless support, and endless physical help is an enormous weight off of me, as it is for anyone who deals with these sorts of issues.  Doing it alone is hard.  Doing it alone is very, very hard.  Doing it alone is sometimes impossible.  I honestly don't know where I might be, or if I might be, if it weren't for the incredible support of the man I married.

It's important for me to share these things, because I know what it's like from both sides.  I know how it feels to look at a crazy person and think, "why doesn't that asshole just stop acting like an asshole?"  I know what it's like to look at someone's absurd behavior and think "the rest of the world manages to handle their shit...why don't you?"  I know what it's like to pass judgment and be infuriated with someone who won't simply pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and do something about their sad state of affairs.  

I know what it's like to be the crazy person, surrounded in finger pointers and head shakers.  I know what it's like to be in the middle of a frightening episode, with absolutely no control over your behavior, while people look on and shame you.  Ridicule you.  Blame you.  

And I know what it's like to receive endless support, attempts at understanding, and unconditional love.
This is, by far, the very best way to be helpful to a person in that situation.
To remember that she's not screaming because she's an asshole.
To remember that she would stop crying if she could.
To remember that she avoided your phone call because of a phobia, and not because she's a thoughtless prick.
To remember that she can't come to your party, because she knows she'll freak the fuck out as soon as she gets there, making everyone uncomfortable.

And to love them anyway.

I'm not embarrassed, not really.  Not most of the time.
However, when things are bad, I am.  I know it's not my fault, and I know I'm not alone.  But I'm embarrassed.  I'm frightened and embarrassed, and nothing takes the sting out of those things like genuine concern and support from the people to whom I'm closest.
It won't cure me.  But it certainly takes away the added burden of feeling like an outcast.
And, likewise, nothing compounds such a burden like being made to feel inferior, unloved, and blamed for one's mental illness.  I can't stress this enough.

We all know someone who struggles, whether we know it or not.  Someone in your life, right now, is dealing with these very issues.  And that someone desperately needs your support.  Your love.  Your patience.  My god, above anything else, they need your patience.  And when you've run out of patience to give, they need more still.

It is ok to ask them "what do you need?  What can I do?"
And it is ok to say "I know this isn't your fault, but this is too much for me right now."

Above all else, kindness.  And when that kindness has run out, more kindness.  And more and more.  And love.

And patience.  Because sometimes, I will act like an asshole.  Sometimes I will act irrationally.  Sometimes, I will be wrong.  I will be mean.  I will be impossible.

And it's in those moments that I, and every person like me, need your love more than ever.

Love each other.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God isn't allowed in here.

I really want to talk about something.  Something that will probably ruffle feathers, and upset a few people.  Which is the very super honestly last last last thing I want.  I am desperate for unity and connection between us all, and I accept that going against the grain is difficult for many of us to tolerate.  But I need to go against the grain.  I need to ask questions, and I need to try and understand.  Because I don't.  I don't understand.  I want to.  I want the "right" answers as much as the next person.  But no answers can come to us unless we first ask the questions.  I need to ask questions.  I hope you will still be with me when I'm thru.  Because this is difficult, and I am honestly kind of nervous about the backlash.  But here goes.

First, this.
Nearly every person I know has suggested something similar during the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Connecticut.  It's a beautiful thought.  Let God in where God is needed, and bad things won't happen.  At least, not as many bad things.
But there are things about this specific concept that make me uncomfortable.  I hope God and his followers will bear with me while I dive into what I already know is a sensitive subject.

First of all, it's god.  If we're agreeing that the concept of this God in particular is the one from the Bible, the all-seeing, all-knowing, loving yet vengeful god, who is literally capable of creating a universe in just shy of a week, something tells me that the silly little laws we make and abide by down here on earth are truly laughable to a being with powers as great as his.
He can make oceans full of fish.
He can make snow-capped mountains and the Grand Canyon.
He can make an endless supply of people, and their dogs, and their SUVs.
He can put a baby inside of a woman who's never known the touch of a man, and create a savior for the whole wretched lot of us, so that all we have to do is say we're sorry, and we're instantly forgiven.
That's a pretty damn powerful God.

The point of this is not to question whether God, or at least the God within that specific concept, is real.  For the sake of this post, assume that he is.  Assume that the Bible is accurate, and that everything we've learned about God is the truth.

Which forces me to ask this question.

How is God not "allowed" in school?  Or anywhere, for that matter?

Whether we create and enforce laws regarding where God is and is not allowed, or whether we don't, what in the hell does that matter as far as God is concerned?  What stops a person from praying silently at his or her desk?  What stops a person from bringing one from bringing one's belief and love of God with one, wherever one chooses to go?  What stops a person from choosing to reach out in love and compassion toward another human being?

If the claim is that God created everything, *everything* in less than seven days, how is it that we're then expected to believe that the walls of a school building are impenetrable by that same God?  There are those who would suggest that God does respect our laws, and therefore stays out where he isn't wanted.  So, does that then mean that God ignores the prayers of anyone inside such a place?  If God is banned from schools by the law, does God then stop hearing the pleas of the christian people who find themselves inside such a place?  Should one of my children choose to follow the teachings of Christianity, would God ignore their prayers because this is an "unafilliated" house?  A Pagan house?  A heathens house?

I am also struggling to believe why we think prayer stops bullets.
Admittedly, I do not keep up with world news.  But don't Iraqi children pray at school?  How many of them have we bombed?  God was allowed in their school, in their homes, in their churches and streets.  And we have intentionally destroyed all of those things at some point.  "But theirs is the wrong God!"  Yeah, I personally know someone who has said those very words to me.  They're wrong.  Their prayers are wrong.  Their beliefs are wrong.  Ok.  If that's true, does that mean that Bible God ignores the prayers of all those innocent children, who have been brainwashed to believe in, and pray to Quran God?

The problem is not lack of prayer.  The problem is not lack of God.  The problem is lack of humanity.  We have been lead to believe that we are consumers.  We have been lead to believe that the "rat race" is the norm.  We have been conditioned to accept violence and heartlessness as a way of life.  We are distant from each other.  It has nothing to do with God.  It has nothing to do with prayer.  We need one another, and we have forgotten that.  We need compassion and love, and we have forgotten that.  We need patience and helping hands, and we have begun to see such things as weaknesses to be shamed.

My concept of "god" is admittedly different from the majority of the people I know and associate with on a daily basis.  I understand and accept that a person with "no religion" asking God-themed questions probably makes a lot of you pretty upset.  I'm sorry, and it's truly not my intention.

The truth is, I do have religion.  I do have spirituality.  I do have an idea of where I think we came from, and why, and I have ideas about what will happen to us when we die.  Beautiful, hopeful ideas.  But those ideas are not the Bible.  Those ideas are not God.  Those ideas are not religious.  And it leads me to ask questions in tough places, where logic does not offer the answer.

I am not completely opposed to the idea of prayer.  Not really.  I am a firm believer in the power of pure intent, focused positive attention, and our own ability to affect changes with our intentions and emotions.  I will never ask you not to pray for me.  I will never ask you not to pray near me.  Sometimes, albeit a rare event, I will even opt to pray with you.  Yes, me.  Sending my Pagan prayers and my earthy intentions up into the universe for your God to hear.

I will also burn my candles.  I will set my intentions and meditate on the positive and the peaceful.  I will sage my house and my children and my self.  I will just sit, and think.

But, even as ridiculous, wishful and heathen as that all sounds, it is what is close to my heart.  It is what I believe to be effective, and it is what I choose for myself.  It can't stop bullets.  But it does help me to be the kind of person who seeks compassion and love for all of us.  All of us.  

Even the man who abused me.
Even my mother.
Even my mean third grade teacher.
Even the members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Even the mass murderers and sociopaths who are capable of the horrible acts we've seen them carry out.
Love.  For all.  Because more love will *never* be the wrong answer.

And regardless of the rules and regulations that are sent down from the people who find themselves in imaginary power, I will continue to believe those things.  I will continue to practice (to the very best of my endlessly inadequate ability) compassion, love, patience.  I will continue to meditate, to focus on peace, and to think on unity.  No law will stop me.  No mandate is capable of keeping me from bringing that with me wherever I go.  No politically-correct argument for or against my beliefs will stop me from believing them, from practicing them, and from sharing love and compassion to the very best of my ability.

I would like to think that God, in any concept, would be capable of the same, and that he certainly doesn't need my permission to visit a church, a school, a veteran's memorial.  I would like to think that God, and the infinite love I'm told he has, can penetrate the laws of man, and hear my prayer regardless of the building I happen to be in.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

I owe someone an apology.

We all have them.
The people in our lives that make us cringe.

One of those people happens to be a member of my family.
Somebody with whom I have nothing in common but DNA, and the love of mutual family members.

I am not a person who enjoys creating conflict, or directly confronting a person when I think they've gone too far.  I can get pretty cranky sometimes, and puff out my chest now and then, but at the base of things, I'm really just a peace-hungry hippie who just wants us all to be friends.  I genuinely don't want to fight with you.  Even if I think you're the biggest douche bag on the face of the planet, I truly want to be able to get along with you.

The person in question is not the biggest douche bag on the earth.  Not in the least.  And I have known my fair share of douche bags.

But dammit.  What he said was wrong.  What he said was hypocritical.  What he said defied everything he claimed to stand for.  It was heartless, thoughtless, and it was the personification of everything that's wrong with the world.  It lacked compassion.  It lacked empathy.  It lacked any sense of decent humanity...
And it had nothing to do with me.

Nothing whatsoever.
It was really and truly, none of my goddamned business.

Whether this person chooses to fart rainbows and hug the world, or whether this person chooses to drag around a dark cloud of gloom wherever he goes, that's his choice to make.  It is his right to decide how to live his life, as it is the right of all of us.

I reacted in anger and confrontation toward what I viewed as "wrong" behavior.  I threw down the gauntlet and flashed my fighting teeth.  I called this person on all his bullshit.  I felt morally superior.  I told and retold the story to my husband, seeking confirmation of my supreme rightness...

And then I felt guilty. 
How on earth do I expect to spread love in the world, when I am capable of reacting with such nastiness?  If I greet negativity with more negativity, how am I not simply compounding the problem?  How does a string of hateful words change anything?
It doesn't.
It didn't.
I know in the end that this person didn't pause to reflect on what I said for one second, because he was probably busy being furious and upset by the things I'd said.  Even if I believe I did have a point, it was completely lost amid the flurry of antagonistic and mean words.  And name-calling.  *cringe*

Eeeh...did I do that?  
I don't believe I was wrong.  I still believe what I said was true.  I still believe this person to be hypocritical and judgmental.  I still believe that more love and more patience is always the right way to go.  But I will never prove any of that to anyone, including myself, if I am reactive and combative.  And until I learn that lesson, and until I honor every person's place within his or her own journey, I will only continue to rob myself of my own happiness and contentment. 

I suppose a person can choose to wallow in the present, or to learn the lessons that life seeks to teach us.  I don't want to wallow, and I don't want to be the kind of person who can never admit to mistakes or misjudgments.  I don't want to be the kind of person incapable of apologies or flexibility.  I'm the kind of person who wants to learn, and who wants to grow, and who wants to be an example of the world I'd like to live in.  And that can't happen until I admit when I step in it.

And I stepped in it.

Truth be told, the person in question is not someone I want in my life.  But that will never be a good enough excuse for my reaction.  I am genuinely regretful of the way I lost my cool, and lashed out at another person making their way down their own path.  I am sorry.  

I want us all to find our way.  And we won't, if we keep acting like I did.
Spread the love, people.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My intimate loss, and my secret happiness

We've got two kids.  Silly and sensitive little people, who test my patience, and show me how big love is on a daily basis.

One of them is cool and collected, way too caught up in being a teenager to allow us to see how silly he is.  Every now and then, he slips, and we find ourselves tangled in fits of laughter, unable to collect ourselves for several minutes.  Those moments are the best moments, and remind me of the funny little fella who sat on my lap in his diaper, smacking the air out of my cheeks and sending us both into fits of hysterical laughter, as his little round tooth peeked out from behind his drooling baby lips :)  And now he's grown into a man, towering over me and making it difficult to fathom that he ever lived inside my belly.  He's a builder and a thinker.  And tho he can sometimes be a colossal asshole, he's still the nicest kid you will ever meet.  Someone will have to meet very high standards to be "good enough" for our baby boy.

The other is a wacky, uninhibited thing, who is constantly singing, or painting, or banging away on the old dusty piano downstairs.  She needs hugs and attention and approval, or she can become very, very, very volatile.  She's very much a stereotypical "girl", but also insists that swords and stick horses and dirt on one's face are "girl" things.  She wears her emotions on her sleeve, and won't hesitate to let you know when you've crushed her little spirit.  So don't be a d-bag, because she will tell on you.  She loves the sound of her own voice, and when she is around, there is constant singing.  Constant.  Singing.  She doesn't want chemicals in her food, and the fastest way to her heart is to bring her an earth-conscious gift such as an organic apple or a hand-sewn grocery bag.  Someone will have to meet very high standards to be "good enough" for our baby girl.

And we are a family, happily, and completely.  Things are very even, and balanced, and perfect in our house.  Two boys.  Two girls.  Everyone gets a vote.  Everyone adds something.

Between the two pregnancies, there was a third.  A baby that never joined us...
And I'm going to talk about that right now.


Our son was four months old.  We were still learning our way around as parents.  We were still trying to figure out how to do everything "right" and probably failing miserably.  We were young, and still thought that the doctors and grown ups around us knew better than we did.  We were struggling to do what we were told was right, and figure out how to balance those things with what we felt was right.  It wasn't easy.  We fought each other, and we fought our baby and we fought our own feelings, in order to do what we thought was best for him.  So we let him "cry it out."  We gave him bottles instead of breasts because "he isn't getting enough to eat."  We were exhausted.  And so, probably, was our baby.  Postpartum depression had me pinned beneath it's black grip, and I struggled nightly with horrible visions, desperate thoughts, and resentment.  Because this wasn't supposed to be what having a baby was like.
But we were managing.  My mother helped the best way she knew how, and I was grateful.  My husband had begun working on the road, and it was hard being away from him.  Having my mother there to help me, and to remind me that all my wacky feelings were normal was a tremendous help.  Even when I want to punch her teeth down her throat, I can still take a little comfort in knowing that she was there during that time.  I was able to bond so closely with my sweet baby, and to understand that everything was going to be ok...eventually...and that I just had to get thru the first initial rough patch.  I would look back at this experience later, much much later, and see how far I'd come.

And then it happened.  I began to get symptoms of pregnancy once again, and because I'd just gone thru it, it was all still fresh in my mind, and I knew.
I went to the local pharmacy and bought a can of baby formula, and a pregnancy test.  The woman behind the counter giggled and said "oh, are we hoping for another already?" 

No.  Not in the least.  Not in my worst nightmare.  No.  More.  Babies.  Ever.


We did not make a prenatal appointment.  I did not begin taking vitamins.  I did not even quit smoking this time.  Somehow I had convinced myself that if I pretended it wasn't happening, it wouldn't.  I put my baby boy to my breast and pretended that it would always just be him and I, and that no other babies would try to infiltrate our perfect little circle of love.  Because they couldn't.  How on earth could I love another baby the way I loved this one?  How could I look at a different face against my breast and not feel resentment.  Or worse.  How could I ever feel anything for another baby.  It was impossible, and I knew it was impossible.

My thoughts were swamped with it.  I began telling myself that there was no way, that I was incapable of loving another.  That the baby in my belly would grow up feeling second best.  Because it was second best.  Because I loved my boy so viciously that anyone else would just pale in comparison.

For three months I carried that baby around inside of me, bombarding him or her with thoughts of disdain.  Wanting desperately to begin to feel...something...and feeling so very, very nothing.  

I can't love you, baby.  
You won't compare, baby.
And I don't want you, baby. 

And then my body began to change.  I began cramping.  Bleeding.  And then things began to get...grotesque.

Miscarriage is not just an unfortunate word pinned to something terrible that happens to a pregnant woman.  There are verbs, gory verbs, that attach themselves to the body of a mother experiencing a miscarriage.  I began to realize that the baby that was once inside of me was slowly making its way out of me, in a way that would change my view of pregnancy forever.  The things I started to see coming out of my body are things that were never meant to be seen.  Things that were meant to stay inside, protected, until they were done forming into the person they were to become.  I wasn't supposed to see them.
But I did.  I saw them.  I studied them.  I contemplated them from every angle.  Over several days, I struggled with my own emotions, as parts of my pregnancy made their graceless exit from my body.

The doctor confirmed a day or so later.  The pregnancy was lost.  She hugged me, as I sat on the funny table in my paper dress.  "I'm so sorry for your loss."  She put samples of what was left of our baby in a jar, and asked the nurse to label it "products of conception," and sent it off to some laboratory to be tested.  For what, I don't know.
And then she left us there, to deal with the news of our loss.

Was it a loss?  My brain raced, searching frantically for the heavy sense of despair that is supposed to accompany the loss of one's pregnancy.  Where was my sorrow?  Where was my guilt?  Where was my sense of grief and loss.

I didn't have it.  I had relief.
"Your baby is dead."
"Oh, thank goodness!"

This is the feeling that swept over me for weeks and weeks after the doctor had given us the official word.  People would pat my back and offer consolation, and I would do my best to appear slightly bothered, but with an understanding that life would continue.
I felt viscous and uncaring.  I wondered what that meant for the baby I already had, my sweet little boy, whom I adored beyond reason.  I wondered what it meant about me as a person.  Am I a monster?  My baby is dead.  Where is the grief?
Had I willed my baby to die?  Did he or she sense the feelings of resentment and my promises that I would never love him or her?  Can a person really will herself un-pregnant?

I never shed a single tear.  Not one.

As time went on, I just stopped thinking about it.  I heard stories of friends and family members who had lost babies, and who seemed to mourn terribly for their losses.  I listened as friends recounted their desperate attempts to get pregnant and make families, and furrowed my brow in compassion as they lamented their failed attempts.  And still, I wasn't sorry.  I wasn't sad.  My own miscarriage sort of fading into a memory of "just a thing that biggie."

The truth is, I have never been sad.  Not really.  A handful of times I might have stopped to consider the person inside me that almost was, and wonder "what if."  But mostly, it's something I don't think about.  I have never stopped being relieved.  I have never stopped believing that I wasn't going to be able to love that baby.  I have never stopped feeling guilty over my inability to mourn the loss of that person-to-be.  Ever.  In truth, if I had a time machine, I wouldn't change it.  Not in the least.  Not even a little.

What's that say about me?  Lots, I'm sure.
But, I have been able to come to the realization that there is no "right" way to have a miscarriage.  Whether we sob hysterically, or shrug it off like we accidentally left our eggs in the grocery cart, there is no correct reaction.  My relief was no less "right" than the woman who mourns tragically for years.  I have found that this is a common feeling among women who have lost pregnancies.  The feeling of needing to find the right reaction for such a thing.
There is no right feeling.  Mine is likely less popular, and difficult for someone who has grieved heavily for the loss of their pregnancy.  But it is still mine, and so it was the right one for me.

I have allowed myself to stop feeling such guilt over my lack of sadness.  I wasn't sad, and I'm not sad, and my beliefs allow me to realize that if it isn't meant to be, then it won't be.

And in the meantime, I've chosen to think that the baby we lost was our daughter, who decided at that time that we weren't ready to be a family yet, so she waited until we were.  And perhaps that's the secret to my inability to mourn.  Maybe I have decided to feel as if I didn't lose anything.  I just had to wait a little longer for her to decide she was ready to be with us.
There is no right way.  To have a miscarriage.  To lose a loved one.  To experience anything life has to offer.  Our emotions are our own.  Our reactions are right.  Realizing that saves so much time and anguish.