Thursday, May 28, 2015

Perspective

If you had approached my bedroom window fifteen minutes ago, to take a look at the weather, you might have seen three bright yellow goldfinches dart away.  You  may have taken a look at the finch feeder and seen a bright yellow goldfinch having a leisurely lunch.

But here's what I saw.

I love goldfinches.  We used to get them at our feeders way back when we first moved into this house, when A was 3 and B wasn't here yet.  I haven't seen goldfinches at our feeders since we moved back from California in 2003.

This last week has been difficult and tumultous and last night I slept about an hour.  I went back to bed after Brad went to work and managed a few more hours of fitful sleep.  As I was getting ready to go to my class this afternoon, I walked over to window and a flurry of bright yellow caught my eye.  I looked down at the feeder with tears in my eyes and watched the remaining finch calmly eating his heart out and heard God whisper "I see you."

This morning I am praising God for finches, and for the blessing that needed a twelve year wait to reach its full power.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Think, please, for five seconds before this comes out of your mouth, ever.

The conversation goes like this:

Person A:  Yes, I was sexually abused as a child.

Person B: I suspect your abuser was also abused.

Person B is very well meaning.  Person B is alluding to the "well known fact" that abused kids become abusers.

Person B is clearly not thinking about what they have just implied to be true about Person A.  Person B is not meaning to put Person A into that "abused kids become abusers" equation, but I can promise you, Person A is doing it.

Just don't say it.  Ever.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

I Have Some Things To Say.

Mental illness vs let's say, cancer.

1.    Consider the differences in these two statements:

a.  I am mentally ill.
b. I have cancer.

From now on, I choose the second phrasing.  I have a mental illness.

2.   Interesting statistic, that has something to do with how stigmatized mental illness is, in this society, but also, to be fair, a bit to do with how weird Facebook can be. 

I post a link, on Facebook,  to a blog entry talking about Brad's cancer.  48 people "like" it, 5 people comment.

I post a joke on Facebook.  25 people "like" it, 3 people comment.

I post a link, on Facebook, to a blog entry talking about  the mental illness that I have.  9 likes,
9 comments.

3.  Brad and I were ill at the same time.  No-one ever suggested to Brad that my mental illness might be a "nice distraction" from his cancer.

4.  No-one ever suggested that Brad try not to think about his cancer so much, or that he was suffering more than he needed to because he was letting treatment take up too much space in his life.

IS THIS THE BEST WE CAN DO, AS A SOCIETY?

Perfectly lovely, well-meaning people who love me and want the best for me have said these things to me.  I have been urged not to talk about my mental illness because I will get hurt.  I have been encouraged to take up new hobbies, to stop thinking about it so much, to pray for guidance as to how to move on.

THESE ARE NOT HELPFUL THINGS.

I have to say - I am beyond fortunate.  I am surrounded by people who care about me, who listen to me when it gets weird, who will answer the phone and know I am not myself, and have a conversation with a traumatized 5 year old part if that's what's needed.  I have a long list of friends I can call when I'm struggling, who will not bat an eye, who will drop everything, who will circle the wagons for me.  And I have those, partially, because I have awesome friends, but also because I'll talk to anybody about anything if I feel like I'm being prompted to, and because I think I know more about mental illness than I did five years ago, and I feel like more people need to understand what it's like.  I spoke up about my illness because that's who I am.

But what about the people who can't speak up?  Who are too ashamed to admit that they're not okay? 

And why did I just write an entire paragraph defending myself for talking about the mental illness that I have?  Why do I feel like that's necessary? It shouldn't be.  The dialogue around mental illness should go like this:

You.  Depressed person.  Suicidal person, who is convinced your family will be better off without you.  Your brain is lying to you.  You are not fatally flawed or irretrievably broken. Some people get cancer, a horrible disease, to be sure, but one that people understand, at least somewhat.  Some people get a mental illness, an ugly messy invisible torment.  You didn't do this to yourself.  Find a way to talk.  There will be less judgement than you expect.  One word, one sentence - ask for help.  Write it down if you have to, and slip it under someone's door.  Suicide is a tsunami of torment for those left behind.   A recurring tsunami.  Your spouse will think they are to blame.  So will your children.  So will your parents.  Sure, it's going to be hard work to heal, but you don't have to do all that work today.  All you have to do today is find a way to say "help."

And help will come.

Friday, April 17, 2015

and speaking of birthdays ...


I Go Back To May 1937 - Poem by Sharon Olds

Play Poem Video I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks,
the wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips aglow in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it—she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you have not heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips, like chips of flint, as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

(http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/i-go-back-to-may-1937/)


My father would have turned 82 today.

The thing is, that poem up there?  the part that reads "you are going to bad things to children"?  That's only part of who he was.  Most days, right now, that's the loudest part of who he was, but the good stuff is still there, waiting it's turn.  I don't need to define him.  I need to define myself, who I am before God, and do you know what I really truly deeply hope for? I hope he reconciled things with God, sometime before that heart attack, so that some day, when we meet in heaven, all this earthly stuff will have fallen away, and the strongest thing between us is forgiveness.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Today is a great day.

And here's why today is a great day:

It's Brad's birthday, and he is still here to celebrate it.

Thank you, God.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Owning My Own Story

(this post discusses my particular brand of mental illness directly.  In the future I will identify posts of this nature with this:

** D.I.D. Post ** )

A few days ago, I sent J (the psychologist) an email entitled "Peace, hard-won and tenuous."  I've been thinking about the concept of peace on the inside a great deal since then. 

The "insider" headcount varies on an almost daily basis.  It's easiest for me to remember that there are layers of hurt to be healed, and that new insiders will bring similar needs.  It is, at this point in my own healinig process, sometimes easy to forget there are insiders at all.  The interesting thing is that it is actually more helpful to remember they're there.  If I wake up in the middle of the night terrified - it's tempting to beat myself up for revisiting that particular issue.  If I remember, however, that the terror is likely coming from an insider who is just now showing themselves - I can extend grace to that part much more easily. 

I have been surprised, in the past few weeks, at the quality of peace that's come with some very simple things.

One session with J, I sat on the floor, colouring, for the entire session.  I don't think the insider who was colouring had very much to say - I did almost all of the talking and processing that day.  I noticed after the session that I was calmer than I'd been in several days, and that there was very little insider agitation being broadcast as well.  (They hang out in a park, inside my head.  Imaginary and yet ... :)  I check in periodically to see how we're all doing, and when I checked in that day, everyone was calm and quiet.)

And then this weekend, looking for something to read before bed, I happened upon a free Kindle copy of Mrs. Mike.  I had completely forgotten about this book but I read it as a young teen and loved it, and so I downloaded and re-read it.  Again - the quality and depth of calm I experienced as a result was noteworthy, as was the quality and depth of calm in the park.

I think maybe it's related to places of safety.  I did not feel safe much, ever, growing up. How did I check out?  Reading, or absorbed in something creative.  Parts who come online now have a lot to process - the body is no longer the body they remember.  They feel like they're 10 or 6 or 8 or 15 but they're being asked to participate in the life of a 53 year old woman who isn't afraid of any of the things they are afraid of, and they're being asked to believe me (and other parts who are in the process of healing) that they're safe.

I think colouring, reading, being creative, is a way of bringing places of safety that they trust forward into the here and now, a way of easing these hurting memory keepers into this present day, this present life where they can feel what they need to feel, and heal.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

The moon

I have some extremely dark memories, of a long-ago moonlit night.  The sight of a full moon behind bare branches can be, has meant, an instant panic attack for the past few years.

Discussing this in therapy one day, I told J "I just work hard to remind myself that that was then, this is now."

"It would be nice," J mused "if the moon could somehow come to mean something restorative."

And then she left it with me, as she does.

Several months later I came across a poem written by Barbara Kingsolver that I had copied into my journal during the first weeks of memory surfacing.  Here's a bit of it:

Remember the moon survives
    For Pamela

Remember the moon survives,
draws herself out crescent thin,
a curved woman. Untouchable,
she bends around the shadow
that pushes itself against her, and she

waits.

later on in the poem, these lines:

 You are the one who knows, behind
the rising, falling tide
of shadow, the moon is always

whole.

So I have been working with the knee-jerk terror, for several months now.  When I see the moon, the crescent moon, the waxing moon, the waning moon, the half-moon, I whisper "Remember the moon survives.  The moon is always whole."

Last night there was a lunar eclipse.  I set my alarm so I could wake up and watch it disappear, watch the bright face of the moon disappear into shadow.  I woke Brad up so he could hold me and I talked about Barbara's poem and I whispered "Courage." to the moon and when it finally disappeared, I fell asleep, deeply, peacefully, because I know it will be back tonight, because I know the moon survives the waves and cycles of dark.

And so I know it for myself, the light returns, and the full moon is testament, monument to the cyclical nature of healing and recovery and tonight?  Tonight when I see the full moon, she will whisper that word back to me.

Courage.