I'm a mentally ill person raising another mentally ill person. With chickens.

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Critic

Critical:  adjective 1. inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily.

So, when I decided to do this challenge I was pretty excited about having the weekends off in case I needed to catch up, but I honestly didn’t anticipate being behind on the second day. Sigh.  I didn’t use that as an excuse to quit though. I’m going to write today’s letter and get on with it, nothing bad will happen.   It’s not life or death, it’s a self-imposed challenge. Calm down.  Once I was a musician, and I was the same way about playing, too.  I suspect that is at least partly why I could only advance so far: because there came a point where I needed to be able to play through mistakes in order to grow, and I just could NOT.  If I flubbed a note-on the piano or the flute-I absolutely had to fix it. Performing is about “the show must go on” and I am just not capable of that.

It’s weird that I can be such a perfectionist.  I am NOT a perfectionist about everything.  My house is barely  avoiding being an episode of hoarders, and I am NEVER early to anything.  But following rules for performing or for writing or for really anything others will see (I don’t have people over) is something I’m hard on myself about.  Writing takes me a LONG time some days:   I want every word to be just the right word, every sentence to have just the write tone, every paragraph to  flow just the right way into the next one.  That isn’t easy at all,  and my internal critic is pickier than any of you, dear readers, could ever be.

I’m trying to move past the perfectionism as a writer, at least a little. I try to remind myself that putting my own words on the page is not the same as reading and interpreting notes put on a staff by someone else.  My inner critic is slowly learning to be nicer about what finds its way to the page, which is nice, because my words on the page are just a voice looking for a safe space to be heard.

Now, if that inner critic would start to say something about my HOUSE then maybe we could actually have people over.

Link

Back in the saddle again

Starting April 1st, since I haven’t been able to get myself back on the blogging track for a while, I am going to take the A to Z challenge.  Every weekday in April I am going to write about a new topic starting with a new letter of the alphabet. Saturdays and Sundays are free (or in my case probably time to hand in late “assignments”). That comes out to 26 days.  I hope that in spite of obstacles like blogging from my phone, and some serious inertia I can complete all of the days. I think it would be good for me to feel like I had some purpose again, and I definitely need something to keep me busy. There are  no length requirements, so some days may just be a quick sentence or two, but I figure that is still getting “back on the horse”.   Some people give themselves a theme for all 26 letters of the alphabet, but since I’m an A to Z challenge virgin I am not going to try to do that.  I will most likely ramble on about myself and my family and my chickens (dogs, bunnies, garden, etc.) as usual.  Sometimes I am as surprised at what ends up on the page as you are, dear reader.

Did “what on earth do you write for ‘X’?”cross your mind?  That is one of the easiest letters:  The X-Files. I heart me some David Duchovny circa 1998 thank you ver 

Grrrrr

annoyed right this second I don’t really have words. (Ok, I have them, but none of them are appropriate.) I was almost done with Blogging 101 assignment about following other blogs and being neighborly, and I left this page to go get address of one the blogs I follow and came back and no post, no draft, no nothing. I suppose that is why my phone really isn’t great for this, but I HATE my laptop, and my daughter was using her computer.

This new update has me a bit baffled as well, but that’s probably because I’m old. Anyway, so far I’m not finding this “class” to be great for getting my groove back. Mostly it’s making me feel like the kooky non-trad who drives the regular college kids crazy.

An introduction

I signed up for Blogging 101 this month, to get my groove back, and the first assignment is to introduce myself. You would think that would be easy at my age, but it isn’t. I always hated it in college when professors  made you go around the room and say something about yourself.  I think they just do that to waste time, and in a half-assed attempt to remember your name. Even graduate school professors do this which is just silly. I was a grad assistant and I did NOT make my students do this.

I guess I’ve told a few things about myself already: I went to graduate school, I don’t really like speaking in public, or talking about myself, I taught at least one class, and I’m trying to get my groove back. Also, I seem to have a bit of bad attitude these days. 
I’ll see if I can be a bit more positive. Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be 43 and I’m actually pretty ok with that. Being younger no longer seems like that much fun, and I don’t feel too old for anything. I feel like there’s enough time ahead of me to do and see at least some of the things on my bucket list and I don’t feel like I wasted my youth.
I’m a mother of two: an eighteen-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter. They could not be any more opposite. He is large, always was at the top of the percentile charts, and she is tiny. He likes to stay home, and to watch the same things over and over again, and to talk through movies and shows. She likes to go everywhere, she hardly ever sits still, she likes new things, and when she does watch the tv she doesn’t want anyone to talk. She is a dancer with five practices a week, he avoids exercise like the plague. He is on the autism spectrum, and she has ADHD. They are the joys of my life, and there is never a dull moment at our house.
I’ve been married for 19+ years, it’ll be 20 in July. My husband is not what anyone expected “back in the day”, but he is the perfect match for me. We’ve weathered many unexpected challenges over the years, and I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else by my side. He is never rattled by anything, he’s my rock. And he fixes things, which is something every woman should look for in a man.
I do have an abundance of education I guess. An undergraduate degree in English and a Master’s in Counseling. I’m not using any of it. I’m a stay home mom who gets a disability check every month. Sometimes I’m disappointed by the fact that I’m not working, but I’ve mostly come to terms with it. I have bipolar disorder type 2, and ADHD inattentive type. Those things do not make me a great employee, unfortunately. I’m a creative teacher and counselor, and I’m a good listener. But paperwork? I just get overwhelmed. I’ve never been as sick and exhausted as I was at the end of my counseling internship year. I finished everything and then I slept for roughly ten days. I knew I’d never be able to work like that full time. I did apply for a counseling job, but I’m a client at that agency so it was kind of a long shot. This is a small town, so I probably should have thought about that sort of thing before busting my ass in grad school and wracking up tons of student loans, but you know what they say about hindsight.
I need to find a focus for my blog. I’m not sure what exactly I want to talk about. I think the world has plenty of autism blogs, and plenty of mental illness blogs, and plenty of parenting blogs.  I can’t say what exactli makes my perspective unique, other than it’s mine, and while I hope others find it interesting and entertaining I am not sure what actually sets my voice apart from the masses. Something to continue to ponder, I guess.

Thoughts on purpose

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

–Neil Gaiman

I stumbled across that piece of Neil Gaiman’s commencement address today, and it suited my mood. Partly because I couldn’t really decide what to write about but I didn’t want to skip a day, and partly because of a conversation about mental illness and failure that I had with a friend yesterday.

He brought up the fact that he felt his life was a failure. And usually I can find something positive to say to things like that, but I didn’t want to give him a bunch of BS, so I told him the truth. I struggle with that too. He and I have similar stories: loads of education that was hard-earned, but that is now not going to use because we are at home receiving Social Security Disability benefits. And we need those benefits, because neither one of us can function without medication and regular visits to a psychiatrist. Before I had disability I went without insurance and medication for long periods, two of which ended in the psych ward. That is the reality of mental illness: it has to be treated like any other illness or it’s dangerous. But like any other treatment, psychiatric treatment isn’t without side effects. I’ve had meds that made my weight balloon up, ones that made me constantly nauseous, ones that gave me headaches, ones that gave me “cognitive difficulties”,  ones that kept me awake for days, and ones that made me sleep for days. Finding the right medication combination for a person is really an art, more than a science, and that is one of the things that makes working difficult. The other thing that makes it difficult is the illness itself of course.

I don’t always know that my mood is off. A lot of the time I think something is physically wrong with me because I will be sore or tired or have a stomach ache. But those things can signal depression too. Several of the times I’ve been fired have been for having too many sick days, and that’s more than fair, because I’ve thought I was sick, or maybe stressed myself sick, more times than most people. During my practicum semester at the middle school I had the stomach flu NINE times. And I wasn’t faking, my stomach did act up; I was very stressed out and unhappy and those are conditions that make for all kinds of symptoms to show up. I knew I had a mental illness when I went back for my Master’s, I just underestimated it. I assumed that because things had been quiet for a long time that they would stay quiet.  I hadn’t really challenged myself  in years, and it turned out to be too much. I can run on caffeine and hypomania for a while, but that takes a toll.

I ended up taking a part-time semester after the stomach flu semester and almost didn’t finish my degree. I probably shouldn’t have, seeing how much use it’s getting. But I had plans. That’s where the whole “my life is a failure” thing comes in. I had plans. My friend had plans. Being mentally ill was NOT part of those plans. I don’t know how to tell him his life isn’t a failure because it’s hard to find purpose in mine too.  Yes, I know, I’m a mom and a wife and those are important jobs, but they aren’t all I intended for myself.  In that semester that I cut down to part-time I took a creative writing class in order to still have financial aid and it was the most fun I had throughout my whole Master’s program. It was the most motivated I was too, I actually did assignments ahead of time. It’s been interesting to do this every day, because once in a while I remember little things like that class that was kind of an accident. Maybe it was a “mistake” that I needed to make, so that now, when I’m looking for purpose, I can remember that there’s something I enjoy?

Chicken Sh*%

Ugh, today is the first day I’ve really had a hard time getting motivated to write anything. Or do anything for that matter. I just want to sleep and watch bad TV.  Maybe it’s the weather, which is not pretty.

snowy yard That’s my yard under between 4-6 inches of snow, which is now blowing around all over the place.  We actually did work outside yesterday before it started snowing, but obviously we missed a few things, like the table and chairs and the tiki torches. Oops. We did put insulation in the chicken’s coop (it’s the blue and white shed) and put plastic around their run. There are still some bugs to be worked out in the coop, because a little snow found its way inside the front doors and into their run. I opened the door to their fun for a while today, but they wouldn’t go out there, probably because the snow was right by their little door, and chickens are snow blind so they were most likely scared. I’ve spent most of my day worrying about them, honestly, because it is COLD. And because they aren’t usually confined all day and they don’t get along very well. I suppose they will have to learn, winter here is LONG. I have read a lot about chickens in winter, and some people don’t heat their coops or insulate them or anything. Even in Canada! They claim that chickens adapt, which I suppose is true, they’ve been on the planet, and domesticated, for thousand’s of years. But these chickens are my babies! So I’m worried, and I added insulation and a heat lamp, and I’m probably going to order a larger, safer heat source before the temperature drops below zero later this week (yuck!). I did get three eggs today, and found them before they were frozen, so that’s good, I guess. One of my big red chickens is sneezing which makes me nervous as chickens have very sensitive respiratory systems, but I don’t want to give her any medication until I have a better idea what the problem is. Keeping chickens is fun, but it can be a bit of an all-consuming hobby too. And like parenting blogs and websites, there are a million chicken blogs and websites out there too, most of which don’t agree with each other. I mostly use Backyard Chickens and The Chicken Chick for information, because if I start looking around much more I get overwhelmed. I have a friend in North Dakota that has been kind of a chicken mentor for me too, which is nice, because most of my friends think I’m a crazy person with the chickens.  I have no Me and Bernieidea what they’re talking about.

Sorry, that was probably more about chickens than you ever wanted to hear, but that’s where my head is at today. I’m a little worried because I have been sleeping a ton. It could just be the time of year. I know from experience that Spring and Fall are not good times of year for me as far as my mood goes, so maybe it’s just a seasonal low, but it’s frustrating to be so tired all the time. The doctor’s office said I need to exercise more, which I’m sure is true, but I am getting more exercise with the chicken chores than I have in the past. And I seem to have lost weight, because my clothes and bras fit better than they have. So who knows? Mood disorders are weird, and just when you think you’ve got it managed something new comes along.

NaBloPoMo Take 2

Marshmellow

So its been awhile. But I figured it was time to attempt to get back in the game, and what better motivation than NaBloPoMo.  I tell you what, just getting started today was overwhelming and I almost called it quits.  So many badges and sign-ups and “post here’s and prompts! It’s enough to drive a person right back out the door (or away from the keyboard). But after a couple of attempts at adding the badge I gave up and decided I had better just start or I’ll never get any actual words on the page. And ultimately that is the goal: words on the page. I made myself a little more accountable this year, and announced my NaBloPoMo intentions in a Facebook group. It’s actually a health group, but I decided this counts as a mental health goal, and I really do need SOMEBODY keeping an eye on me, because I don’t really trust myself to stick with it otherwise.  And I do think writing again is important for my mental health.  I think I have lost my “voice” somewhere along the way and am just going through the motions every day.  Not going through them very well, I might add, as my house currently resembles an episode of Hoarders again.

For awhile I did okay at setting a schedule/daily goals for myself around the house, but I have given up for the most part. It’s such a thankless job, you know? And it never, EVER ends.  The minute the laundry is done the chute is full. The second you pick up one room you can’t walk through the next one. Immediately after you load the dishwasher the sink is full again. The instant you finish cooking they’re hungry again and right as you put the last grocery away there’s “nothing to eat”.  I just can not for the life of me see the point of any of it.  It was easier when they were babies, babies are so HAPPY when they’re fed and changed and they snuggle and smile at you and you want to do anything to see that smile!  And when they got a little bigger and I worried about them putting stuff in their mouths and choking or getting hurt I was much more careful around the house too.  But now they’re 9 and 18 (yes he has autism, so its kind of like having a big 10-year-old, but still, technically he’s an adult) and I feel like a maid and a personal chef and a taxi driver more than the mom a lot of the time and quite honestly I’ve kind of just quit.  I know there are people out there who get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from a spotless home and organized linen closets, but there is just no way I will ever be that person.

I got to thinking about this because my husband’s mom was texting me at midnight last night about how the state of my house keeps her up at night.  And it took every single ounce of my will power (and that is not something I have a lot of) to tell her that it was probably the vodka keeping her awake at night more than my house. She’s obsessed with STUFF, that woman. Getting stuff, organizing stuff, “selling” stuff (I don’t know that she actually sells much of anything, but she has little booths at places and an Ebay account), knowing how much stuff is worth.  Stuff is kind of her thing, stuff and vodka.  She raised my husband in a very clean, almost sterile, house full of stuff. But she wasn’t into mom stuff like attending sporting events or school activities or helping with homework or just hanging out with him. So it kind of irritates me (okay it a lot irritates me) when she tells me how worried about my kids she is because my house is messy.  Because yeah, its messy, but I’m still there for the important stuff and my kids don’t doubt for a second that they’re loved. They think I’m weird, and they are every bit as messy as I am, but they know that at the end of the day I’m there for them no matter what, and that no stuff is more important than they are.

Weird, so NOT where I expected this to go. Funny how that happens..