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

Posts tagged ‘Disability’

Brave

I’ve been watching American Idol this season, because it’s the (cue stadium announcer voice) FINAL SEASON. I admit to having a love/hate relationship with the show, and can honestly say that if it hadn’t been for the invention of the DVR I probably would have given up on it a long time ago. That fast forward button is what kept me watching (or not watching) through parades of idiots hoping for their fifteen minutes, through Paula, Ellen, and Kara refusing to say anything meaningful, through Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, and Niki Minaj forgetting to speak English, and through the endless vitriol and narcissism that is Simon Cowell.  I can honestly say that the show today is much improved and I am a bit sad to see it go.

I am also thankful that little fast forward button helped see me through til the end, because I think I am witnessing something great this season, and I would have missed it if that little button hadn’t saved me from all the trash that came before.  I can only imagine what you’re thinking of me right now.  Greatness and Reality television are not synonymous by any stretch of the imagination. And music is subjective, so how dare I tell you that these particular singers are “Great”.  But it’s not the talent that is making it great, and its not the game show format.  I’m seeing something unexpected from the land of all that is fake and vapid and cookie cutter.  I’m seeing BRAVERY shine out of the television, and I am surprised and humbled by it.

 Leaving an abusive man is HARD. Being okay with it is even harder. Twenty-five years later I can barely talk about what happened to me; but, LaPorsha,she OWNS her story, she OWNS her strength, and she KNOWS she deserves someone who likes the things about her that she likes: “my hair, and my church, and my singin'”.  On her home visit she told the women at her former shelter that she sang Mary J. Blige’s No More Drama “for us” and I choked up a bit because I heard my name in that “us”.  Even if LaPorsha didn’t have the hair (that glorious hair!) and the voice, she would still be blessed with strength and bravery.  And the crazy thing is, she isn’t the only one!

LaPorsha has been on my radar from the beginning (with that hair, she may be on NORAD’s radar 😉 ) because her story touched my heart. But when they had the artists tell something about how they came to be artists I didn’t fast forward (probably because I was eating) and I heard something that totally shocked me. Dalton (aka Billy Joe Armstrong 20 some years ago) was talking about how as a kid he would “Feel everything so much more than other kids”. He went on to say that at nine years old he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I couldn’t believe my ears. I actually hit the REWIND button and listened again. Yep, he said bipolar disorder. Wow. Just, WOW.  That may not sound like a big deal to a neurotypical person,  but admitting that you’re bipolar to anyone, let alone millions of people is incredibly brave. I have still told very few of the people I see every day.  I never told anyone at the job I had for almost six years. I told TWO people in my Master’s program, and only one was a professor and she DID use it against me.   The stigma attached to mental illness is real, and its scary. I have a Masters in counseling, and I will never get hired in this town because everyone knows I’m a client. That’s just life. BUT,    since that sound bite Dalton has talked candidly about his disorder, including a conversation with the artist Sia where she states that she is also bipolar, which is truly amazing and a huge step forward for everyone out there dealing with a mental illness and hiding it. We all need to be as brave as Dalton, and as Sia, if we want the stigma to go away. I aim to try harder. This illness is not something to be embarrassed about: It makes me the person I am as much as my blue eyes and my sweet tooth and my inability to get up early and that’s totally fine.

Just a quick step onto my soap box: Bipolar disorder is a disease that unfairly strikes creative minds. There’s even a book about it: Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament  by Kay Redfield Jamison. Entertainers of all kinds have kept this illness a secret and self-medicated with whatever they could get their hands on rather than face the stigma attached to having a mental illness. Far too many brilliant artists have left us too soon, and we wonder why?   Using words like crazy, messed-up, not right, off their rocker, psycho, etc. makes you part of the stigma, and could be keeping someone from seeking help they desperately need.

And because Idol is “pulling out all the stops” for their final season, the brave moments don’t end with Dalton Rappatone.  I have no words for the beauty and pain of Kelly Clarkson’s Piece by Piece, or for how hard it must have been to sing that song, on that stage, while being that pregnant. And hats off to Keith, Harry, and Ryan for being guys who can let real emotion show. Oh, THE FEELS!!!!

 

 

 

 

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?

Winter bites

http://www.keloland.com/weather/alerts/index.cfm?z=SDZ006

It’s official: we have our first winter storm watch.  Sigh.  I’m not ready. I’m never ready. I’ve lived here since 1996 (which was the worst winter in 100 years) and every year it’s hard to wrap my mind around winter. It’s just so LONG here.  There’s a good chance that the snow we get on Monday will still be here in April, and that’s a bit depressing. So is the fact that we regularly get more inches of snow than I am tall. I’m not ready mentally. I think for the most part we are actually ready physically. We got new siding and windows over the summer so our house is toasty. And my car has a remote start and 4 wheel drive, so I can get around in just about anything. Our snow blower works (I know that a snow blower isn’t a necessary thing everywhere, but it is here). I have a few more things to do in the chickens’ house tomorrow and then I think we’re all ready for a snow storm. I suppose I should go to the grocery store, but I’m going to try to avoid it.  It’s so funny, people hear the words “winter storm” and they flock to the store like they just heard of the coming apocalypse, even though they’ve lived here their whole lives, we live in town,  and they know that worst case scenario they’ll be stuck for 12 hours.  It’s just ingrained in everyone: winter storm = buy bread and milk, just in case. Oh that reminds me, I need coffee, because that is one thing I absolutely couldn’t survive a winter storm without.

My daughter is brushing my hair while I type. It’s not as pleasant as it sounds because my hair is evil and full of snarls. So it will be relaxing for a few seconds and then all of sudden “ouch”.  I’m just going to let her keep doing it though, because at least she’s not doing an “experiment” in my kitchen. She informed me that the whole top of my head is gray hair. I suppose it has been a while since I’ve been to the hairdresser. I normally have blond put in all over to hide the gray (my natural color is sort of brown) but I haven’t had it done in a while because its expensive and honestly, no one sees me. Sadly, my daughter isn’t the only person to imply that I’ve let myself go. I ran into a friend of my husband’s at the grocery store and he commented on my hair and no make-up saying he was “concerned” because I never used to go out like that. And while its true, I didn’t, I don’t know that it was his–or anyone’s–place to comment on it.  I don’t think it’s a huge big deal: If you know you’re going to go home and clean up chicken poop you don’t put a whole lot of effort into your appearance.  I can look nice if I need to, I just don’t think there are that many occasions where I really need to these days.

So before I go shop for snow pants for myself (weird, right?), I wanted to share this:  http://aeon.co/magazine/health/the-shame-of-poor-teeth-in-a-rich-world/?Src=longreads

I came across it the other day and it really spoke to me, because I, like a lot of disabled and retired people, do not have dental insurance. I haven’t for years, so I have “Pennsatucky” teeth too. Not from meth use (although I have been asked about that at the dentist!) or lack of brushing them. Just water without fluoride growing up and a LOT of strep infections and antibiotic use as a child. It’s not something that bothers me a ton, unless one of them hurts, but whenever I’m asked “what would you do if you won the lottery?” my first answer is always: Fix my teeth.

Exhausted by it all

Today is a tired day. I slept into the afternoon after the kids went to school, and I dragged through laundry and chicken chores. My Adderall and coffee were just no help at all. Some days are just tired days.

Honestly, it’s probably stress.  There is a lot going on here. I’ve been delving into the past, and relationship stuff, but the reality is there is a lot happening under my nose that I would rather not deal with. My son has autism, as I’ve mentioned before. And he’s 18. So we’re in the process of becoming his legal guardians because he is not capable of making most decisions on his own.  He doesn’t really understand money beyond getting stuff at concession stands and using Target and Amazon gift cards he gets for his birthday. He’d never go to the doctor if we didn’t make him, because he’s terrified of them. He doesn’t drive because he doesn’t see well and also because I highly doubt he has the judgment necessary to do so. He has a very hard time telling the difference between what happens in a movie or on TV and what is appropriate for real life.

It’s that last one that is getting us into trouble at school. He has absolutely no filter at all. And he may be developmentally delayed, but he’s still a moody teenager. SO, when something gets on his nerves at school it’s entirely possible that he will let fly a string of expletives or threaten to “kill you while you sleep” or attempt to punch or kick you. Which is bad. He’s not actually violent by nature I don’t think, or mean. He just is kind of a parrot. He repeats things he hears or sees and he tends to do it in context, like a parrot who says “good morning” in the morning or “hello” when the phone rings. He’s always been like that, but it wasn’t so bad when he watched Toy Story or Aladdin over and over again. But his tastes have changed as he’s gotten older, so there’s a lot more anime and video games, and even though I have parental controls on EVERYTHING, and really limit what he’s allowed to watch or play, there’s a lot more violence and threatening language in things rated PG than you realize. People say “I’m going to kill you” all the time on TV, because everyone knows that it’s a joke. And kids on TV hit each other and trip each other all the time, because physical comedy is funny. But none of that is funny in real life, and he just does not get that. And YouTube is impossible to control. You have to either block it completely or hope he watches appropriate things. He LOVES to watch video game play-through videos on YouTube, which you would think wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because he only watches games he’s allowed to play. But even those games rated E or E-10  are usually narrated by some of the most foul-mouthed people I have ever heard (And I swear like a sailor on occasion!) and he just does not get that you can’t talk to people like that in real life. Or if he does, he doesn’t have the impulse control to stop things coming out of his mouth.

He usually knows after he’s said something that he’s going to be in trouble, but often times that just causes things to escalate because he doesn’t WANT to be in trouble (that usually results in losing his electronics at home, which he hates). When that happens he will lash out and hit whoever’s closest, or the kid in his class that he doesn’t like. So this week we’ve had a couple of incidents, one of which was pretty bad. He had a bad morning at home and I took his stuff away and said he could have it back as long as his day was good. Well it started good, and then he told someone to F-off, so he got sent to his alternative classroom per his behavior plan and all seemed well until someone decided to talk to him about it. Then he got mad and picked up a dumbbell used for PT and raised it at the teacher’s aide like he was going to hit her. So he’s basically been in in-school suspension since Monday, and things didn’t go much better when he was let back into the classroom this afternoon.

There’s a lot more to it than a week’s worth of behavior of course. There have been a lot of medications over the years, and we have a therapist and a psychiatrist.  We didn’t have this much trouble in elementary or middle school, but the environment at the high school is just not comfortable. It’s one of those buildings that just FEELS oppressive when you walk in, and if I notice that I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone on constant sensory overload. And we haven’t had much luck with teachers or curriculum at the high school, so I think he’s bored and I know he hates the job training that they’re doing (cleaning the cafeteria after lunch, not a job he’d ever choose). So right now I’m torn about school for him. Technically the district is responsible for him until he’s 21, and I had always planned on leaving him in school ’til then, but now I’m questioning if it’s the right place for him. He’s 18, he doesn’t have to be there and if he hurts someone, even accidentally, he could end up arrested or in a state facility which is certainly not what I want for him. And I know that won’t happen at home. I don’t know what he’ll do all day at home, but at least everyone will be safe. Too much to think about for sure. I do have plans to talk with Adult Services, but I’m pretty aware of what’s available in our town and its not really geared toward people on the autistic spectrum at this point. So we’ll see.

Alex

So yeah, it’s a tired day here.

Swirling brain

Sooo.  I thought I was done until after Christmas, but then CT happened and now this morning my kids’ school went on lock-down and I just have a bad case of swirling brain.  That’s what I call it, I think the technical term is “racing thoughts” and all of us bi-polar people get them I guess.  All I know is there is more STUFF in my head than fits, and it makes me rather surly, so I’m going to try to get it out in an orderly fashion.

First of all, I wasn’t going to talk about the Newtown shootings.  I just wasn’t.  I have a daughter in 2nd grade and she truly is a miracle baby and I just can’t even wrap my head around someone doing that to her.  SO I won’t.  I know that’s kind of Scarlett O’Hara thinking, but I just will not think about it if I can help it.

I will however argue til I’m blue in the face about the fact that we need tougher gun control laws.  I think that as our country has become more owned by special interest lobbies regulation of everything protecting the average person has casually–in the name of freedom, no less–gone by the wayside. And the NRA is unfortunately the biggest of the special interest groups.  They spend BILLIONS of dollars every year scaring people into believing that there is an imminent, Nazi-style,  government take-over and that owning a gun will save them from such a fate; their dues and donations foster racial unrest by convincing white America that every brown and black person has an illegally obtained firearm so they must own 10 legally obtained firearms “for protection”.   And are we safer? No.  Because gun violence occurs in homes, between people who know each other.  Because children think guns are like on TV and video games and raid their parents’ arsenals’ and take them to school and to the park and to their rooms.   And does the NRA care that accidents happen? That suicides happen?  That Newtown happened?  Not really.  Do I think that there will actually be a change in gun laws?  Not really.  But I firmly believe that there should be.

Which leads me to my morning.  So shortly after my kids got to school we got School Reach messages (robocalls from our kids’ school).  The first one was from the high school where my son is:  It said that they were on administrative lockdown because of “Facebook posts and a suspicious person”.  The next one was from my daughter’s elementary school saying they were also on administrative lockdown.  These calls, in an attempt to be reassuring I guess, said not to call the school or to come get your child because everything was fine.  Seriously?????  Who would possibly believe that????  About 45 minutes later we got a call from elementary school saying lockdown was over, still don’t call or pick up our children.  Fifteen minutes after that, similar from the HS with emphasis on Aberdeen Police Department having been at the school.  If you knew anything about our police department (officer fired in January for hitting a house with his police car!) you would not find that very reassuring.  And they said they were just going to continue as normal.  GRRRRR.  Seriously, no one was doing much today. just do an early release.    This is a town FULL of guns.  Literally bursting at the seams with them.  Everyone hunts, and dead everything with fur is worth money even if you can’t eat it.  The trap shooting scores are in the paper next to the bowling and softball scores.  GUNS are everywhere.  And every kid has an arsenal they can raid (its scarier when you call it an arsenal, which is what it is!) so if you know a kid wants to go down in flames and take the school with him, AND its the day before Christmas break, fucking call the day.  I know you’re worried about future snow days, but have some priorities!

ANYWAY.  I realize I’m running long, and not making a ton of sense (although I feel MUCH better, thanks)  but I do need to say a word about mental health.  Actually I need to say this:  I do not use racial slurs, or the R word.  I do not use crass names for people of other sexual orientations.  I would like the same courtesy extended to myself please. You do not get to call me crazy, or nuts, or a nutjob, or a whack job, or whacko, or bonkers, or insane (unless you’re my lawyer) or disturbed, or a freakazoid, or a weirdo, or anything else that pops into your mind.  I might call myself any number of those things because I am actually mentally ill, and when I do it its self-deprecating humor.  When you do it, its rude.

Shut up about it already

Blah.  I am in a dull grey sort of mood.  I don’t quite know where to start today, but I feel like I better do something because yesterday I didn’t write anything.  And because I’m currently sharing computer with super gaming addict spouse who will be home soon and then opportunity will be lost for the day.  But blah is about all I have to say.  Sigh.

Last night I was in the mood to rant, but I’m kinda over it now I think.  Here’s the thing:  A lot of the people I know act like I should go back to work, or are super put-out by my disability and medicare.

I won my disability case.  AGAIN.  I was on disability before, for like 10 years.  I went back to work and school because husband complained constantly that my check wasn’t big enough.  Well of course it wasn’t, I’d been a student for most of my life, and I’d been fired from every real job I’d had.  THEN I made too much money (at my part-time job????) to keep said check and its accompanying benefits and got kicked off of disability and had to reapply for it BECAUSE even though I have a Master’s degree now (husband enjoyed student loan checks when starting his business) I’m never going to be a good employee or get hired by anyone here.  I almost didn’t graduate more than once (in both undergraduate and graduate degrees).  I took incompletes and changed internship sites because I couldn’t get a long; I honestly graduated by the skin of my teeth.  And while I’m fairly decent at doing the actual counseling work (I think) I will never ever be able to keep up with the paper work.   On top of that, this is a very small community and I am what’s considered an SPMI (Severely and Persistently Mentally Ill) client.  Everyone in the field knows that, they talk. So who is realistically going to hire me?

I am not going back to work.  I’m not going to jeopardize the small disability check that I just won AGAIN (it is not easy to win a disability case based on a mental illness because you LOOK fine) and the medicare that I desperately need, because other people are unhappy with their financial situations.  I am sorry that you don’t think its fair, but you know what?  I don’t think its fair either.  I would much rather be going to work from 9-5 every day like everyone else.  I had planned on having a career too, you know.  And I would really enjoy having my own money and not having my husband be my payee because I’m not considered responsible.  I don’t think its fair that my brain doesn’t work like everyone elses and only goes warp speed or not at all.  And I really don’t think its fair that my life is almost completely controlled by meds (that are eating my stomach and killing my brain): too much of this and I’m like a 6-year-old with a sugar rush and too little of that and I’m a two-toed sloth.  I can’t make decisions about anything, I’m overwhelmed by everything, and I have almost no control over my own life.  So I am tired of all the “she gets money for free” and “she doesn’t work because she’s lazy” and “when are you going back to work?” shit.   Talk to me about it’s not fair when you want to trade brains.  Otherwise, shut up about it already.

NaBloPoMo: Better late than never

Well I was supposed to start writing last week, but first my oldest killed my computer and then I had company so better late than never I suppose.  And honestly, I don’t know when I’ve ever done anything on time, so why would I want to start now?  My friend is doing NaNoWriMo which I truly admire.  I’ve always  wanted to be a writer, but the thought of a novel is way to intimidating to consider.  I consider myself more of an Ann Landers/Dear Abby type writer than a novelist type.  I need a prompt to get anything done, and I LOVE to hand out advice.  (Hence the Counseling degree, which is going to great use.)  Anyway, I’m back at it after a year away from blogging, or writing of any kind at all.  Mostly things are the same, except I won my disability case so I am OFFICALLY crazy and getting paid for it.  Yay me.  I won based on the mental illness, the judge disregarded my digestive issues.  I find that somewhat amusing because the mental illness makes me really fun most of the time (hypomania, gotta love it) but the digestive stuff is really really hard to live with.  Strange standards these guys have, but whatever, after 18 months of fighting I’m disabled and getting a check again.

So I mentioned I need a prompt, and its true, I do.  And I saw a fun one today:  Write a letter to your 14-year-old self.  Interesting task since I’m 40 and that was a completely different life ago, but I’ll give it a shot:

Dear Fourteen year old Julie,

Please believe me when I tell you that boys are absolutely nothing like in the movies or in books.  I know that you love Sweet Valley High and all those teen romance novels, and you think that Footloose and Girls Just Want to Have Fun are the greatest movies ever, but you need to broaden your horizons and read and watch things that are dark.  Because you are going to get hurt.  Boys aren’t that nice.  Even the ones that are supposed to be–like the ones from church– just aren’t. I know you go to a religious school and no one has told you anything except that sex is for having babies, but trust me when I tell you it is SOOOOOO much more complicated than that. Boys want to have sex with you because they are chemically driven to have sex with as many people as possible in their lifetime.  You want to have sex with boys because you think you have an emotional bond with them and that sex cements that bond.  That’s basically how boy/girl brains are different.    Boys do NOT think you are the most fascinating person in the world and they do not really want to spend an entire day doing nothing with you.  Ferris Bueller is great but he does not exist in real life.  Same goes for Lloyd Dobbler.  I know that you will not believe this because you believe in romance and that everybody has a “one”  but try to at least consider the possibility that the boy trying to stick his hand up your skirt really doesn’t care what book you’re reading or what your parents do for a living.

And those things matter.  Who you are as a person–not an object–matters.  Spend less time worrying about boys and relationships and more time figuring out yourself.  You ARE smart.  I know right now everyone things that you aren’t, because you have a big loud personality and you think before you speak (work on that!) but you are smarter than you are given credit for and you are talented.  Figure out who YOU want to be and stop trying to be who your parents are.  You actually think psychology is interesting and you are surrounded by dysfunctional family and you have great people skills.  Do what YOU want to do, don’t just pick a career path because you’re too lazy to figure yourself out so you do what your parents do.  Same goes for your college choice.  Pick smart, not easy.  You will have many opportunities, pick the best one, do the research even though its boring.

LISTEN to that nagging voice in the back of your head.  It is usually right and you almost always regret it when you don’t.  If the situation feels wrong or uncomfortable, get out!  If you think you’re making a bad choice, you probably are.  Listen.

Find a person to talk to.  You are going to need a therapist (not a pastor, and not someone too emotional).  It will help you not be an angry adult and help you understand that your parents weren’t actually perfect.  It will also help with the identity issue that will always be there.

Finally, and these seem small, but they’re not:  Find a form of exercise that you like and take care of your teeth.   You are so much more beautiful than you realize (it is not vain to value yourself, just ignore those people) but you need to take care of yourself or you will regret it.  Also, smoking is bad bad bad!

Love,

40 year old you.