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

Posts tagged ‘Friendship’

Cranky old lady

I’m having trouble finding any focus today.
The day started with a call from my daughter’s teacher. Apparently she attempted to forge my signature on a behavior slip yesterday rather than show it to me. My signature is illegible, but still distinctly mine so her teacher caught her. And then she talked back to him again. I don’t know what’s gotten into her, but I am NOT happy. She’s also been tardy 18 times this year which is ridiculous as we live right by her school. I’m pretty sure the problem with that is the neighbors: they live next door but they don’t walk. I have no idea why, the parking in front of our school is riduculous. It’s actually faster to walk, but the girls next door don’t so she doesn’t want to either. Drives me crazy. I don’t know what’s up with the behavior. I know she doesn’t really like her teacher, and that none of her friends are in her class, but she’s never been rude or disrespectful before. I think I will check in with the pediatrician about her medication, but she shouldn’t really need an increase yet. It’s a bit disturbing. But she got herself grounded all weekend, so maybe that will help change her tune. I hate to admit it, but I’m kind of annoyed with my neighbor about this one too. Audrey was supposed to have a different teacher this year, but my neighbor requested her and requested that Audrey not be in her daughter’s class (my neighbor shouldn’t piss off her friends if she doesn’t want me to know things) so we got moved to our current teacher at the last minute. And really it’s fine, she’s learning and her grades are good, she’s just bored. I’m not excusing her behavior at all, I just wonder if we’d be in this situation with a more dynamic teacher. But my neighbor complains A LOT, so when she asks for something, she usually gets it. Thankfully they aren’t in dance this year, so at least that’s fun to go to again.  I wonder when I became this person who gets caught up in neighborhood drama? It’s certainly not what I intended for myself. Another thing that makes me wonder if that’s why I’ve become so reclusive? Because the whole “mama drama” (as my other neighbor puts it) thing really isn’t me so I just hide in my house.

I did go out last night, with our friend from out of town and his wife. My husband and another couple went too. It was mostly fun. It was definitely nice to see our friend who I haven’t seen in person since 2004 I think. He was just leaving for his graduate program then, now he has his PhD and does something with computers that no one else understands, and of course makes a ton of money. I always said that he would be the one person we knew that would get rich, so that’s fun. We were reminded of our friend that we lost back in 2008 to suicide, and of our friend who moved and has basically cut himself off from the rest of us, which is sad too. But the reminiscing was nice, and the catching up was fun. I sort of wish my one friend had stayed home though. She just doesn’t know when to not talk! or when to let conversations be about someone else. And she’s a mental health professional!!! Our friendship is one of those that worked very well when I was younger and partied a lot, and was fine from a distance too, but now that she lives here again I kind of question how much we really have in common still. But maybe that’s just me too. I am a bit of a cranky old lady.
Tomorrow is my son’s first appointment with his new psychiatrist, who is also my psychiatrist. I’m glad for the change, but I wish the appointment wasn’t in the morning!

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?

As my son would say: f* off

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/10/29/holding-my-son-with-autism-accountable/

So this has been making the rounds of my Facebook page today. And I am a bit irked by it, but I’m not sure I’m irked by the article or by the people who are posting it. One of the them doesn’t have kids, she just works with developmentally disabled adults, which is totally not the same thing. The other two have autistic kids, but are also besties with my son’s teacher who I really have an issue with.  So I kind of question if they’re really thinking the article has something good to say, or if they just want to stick it to parents who they don’t agree with. One of them is the my son’s former middle school teacher, (and I would say my former friend, because I haven’t spent time with her in almost a year) and she tends to think a lot of  parents let their kids “get away” with too much stuff.  I have real issues with people telling me, or anyone else, how to parent. You don’t live in my house, you don’t live with what I live with every day, so don’t think you know how to do what I do and certainly don’t think you can do it better.

It’s not that I believe my son with autism SHOULDN’T be held accountable for his actions, of course he should. But who gets to define that accountability? I don’t limit my son’s screen time normally, that’s not a battle I’m going to have, but I do set parental controls on what he’s allowed to watch and I only allow certain video games into the house. I don’t much care if he swears randomly, but I don’t like to be called names or told to F* off. If he chooses to get angry and break something of his I figure going without whatever it was he broke is consequence enough so I don’t do anything further.

My issue with his teacher is that she puts him in situations where she knows he is going to fail.  She’s a die-hard ABA believer (Applied Behavior Analysis for those who don’t speak autism) and one of the tenets of that is to provoke a behavior over and over again so you can correct it. I think that is complete B.S. and I also don’t think that research backs up ABA (I can prove that if you want, but not right this second), but people who believe in it are like hard-core evangelicals or Tea Party radicals, you can’t convince them of anything else. So she continuously puts my son in situations that make him unhappy. He already doesn’t like gym class, and then she put the one kid he has never gotten along with in the gym class with him, so guess where a lot of his behaviors happen?  His first year at the high school he had a job doing laundry, which he liked, but when this teacher came she wanted everyone to do the same job (its part of the vocational element of the program I guess) because its easier for her to supervise so they cleaned the cafeteria after lunch. Alex does NOT like this, so we had behavior issues there last year until I pitched a fit at our IEP meeting, but he’s back there again this year, and still having behavior issues there. I called the job “demeaning” in our meeting last year, and the principal got mad at me, but I didn’t mean that custodial work was demeaning in general, I meant being forced to do it when you don’t want to because that’s all people think you’re capable of is demeaning. I still think that, and if that is the only kind of job skill he’s going to be taught, then I question what we’re doing there anymore.

The article says:  “Now is the time to give him every tool he needs to be calm, happy and productive as he grows into an adult.” and I do agree with that completely, but I don’t know that he is getting the right tools at school and I don’t know that he ever will. I do know that if your kid is practically non-verbal, or has no manners, or if you don’t have kids, then maybe you are not who I want to hear about accountability from.

Crabby pants

I got asked yesterday if I was going to host Thanksgiving this year.  I used to host it every year, for a fairly large group of people. I think I’ve done it around 15 times. Maybe not quite that many, but it’s got to be close.  And I used to really enjoy it.  It started as just our family and a friend who didn’t want to attend his family’s dinner and then it grew into the no-relatives or after-relatives celebration. Many years it was preceded by a Wednesday night out on the town. But last year I cancelled about a week before. I had honestly wanted to cancel the year before because my daughter had been sick the week of Thanksgiving, but everyone freaked out about where they would go so I hosted anyway, but last year I just didn’t want to. Alex had been having a really rough time at school including getting suspended and the people who were my friends and supposed to be on my side when it came to this sort of thing were decidedly NOT, so I didn’t want to spend time with them. One of my other friends had been recently fired and was showing up at my house unannounced whenever she felt like it and I really didn’t want to schedule a day with her either. Throw in friend whose boyfriend I don’t like and friend whose kid I don’t like and hosting really just wasn’t something I wanted to take on last year at all. So I didn’t. I think my husband and kids were a little disappointed, because it usually is a pretty big party. But I was super relieved.  I enjoyed just being able to cook what I wanted and not having to referee my three women friends who don’t really like each other while finding something my friend’s picky teenager will eat, and keeping another teenager from being bored while keeping my own teenager from driving people crazy talking about super hero movies and star wars.  It was so nice not to have to be “on” all day, you know? So I don’t know if I’ll host this year. Just thinking about it kind of makes my stomach hurt.

Since last Thanksgiving I sort of had a wake-up call about how I spend my time, too. My friends would probably say that’s about when I started acting “weird” or “depressed”. But that’s not really what happened. I just realized that I didn’t want to spend my time doing things I didn’t really enjoy. And I don’t really enjoy drinking anymore (kind of weird, actually, as I used to be quite the wine snob) especially not getting drunk and that’s basically all my one friend does for fun (she seriously just uploaded a picture of drinks to her Facebook five minutes ago). And I don’t enjoy people who only talk about themselves and make everything about them, and I don’t enjoy people who make themselves a martyr all the time, and I REALLY don’t enjoy people who feel the need to make themselves smarter or better at my expense (even if the think they’re being helpful). So around Thanksgiving last year I started spending a lot less time with people. I accepted fewer invitations to hang out at people’s houses or to go out for coffee and I started shopping on my own. And I actually like it quite a bit. Now everyone calls me a hermit because I “never” go out. But I do, I just go on my own. Or I go places with Audrey, which is usually more fun than most grown-ups I know anyway.

Its been kind of interesting, this distancing. I think there is a lot of talk of me being depressed, but I’ve checked in with the doctor about it a few times and she doesn’t think so, and I don’t either. I’m actually pretty comfortable with myself. I don’t feel like I need anyone’s attention or approval, I can just do what I want. I definitely don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I mean how many stories about boyfriends or drunken escapades does a person really need to hear anyway?  It’s not that I’m incapable of listening and being a friend when someone needs truly needs one. I just resent having my time wasted. If you don’t want my input don’t tell me how mad you are at your boyfriend (who you have gotten back together with more times than I can count). And don’t assume that, at 40+, I am interested in your sex life. And keep your backhanded concern: “I just don’t know how you manage on one income” to yourself as well. Maybe I am turning into a crabby old lady? If so, I guess I’m fine with that.

Daisy and I

I want the fairytale

I think between my dad and John Hughes my idea of men has always been completely off.  I had unrealistic expectations, you know? I expected there to be respect and chivalry and friendship and grand romantic gestures (Hello! Jake Ryan at the end of Sixteen Candles!) and that just is not what life handed me.

A little background on me, maybe? I have a Master’s of Science degree in Counseling and a Bachelor of Arts in English Education, both from the University that is across the street from me. But I don’t consider that the REAL place I went to college. It’s where I finished after I married for the second time and had a baby, but I started at Concordia University, Chicago and when I say “when I was in college” that’s where I’m talking about.  That’s where I had all the usual college experiences: first keg party, first time getting drunk, first hang-over, first sex, first and only marijuana use. I found out later that most people did those things in high school, but I went to a religious boarding school so that’s not how I rolled. I had some not so usual college experiences there too. I was engaged to not one, but TWO different guys, and then eloped with a third.  ( You could say I was after an MRS degree.)  I was raped in college, which unfortunately isn’t all that unusual, but IS unexpected at a Lutheran college. Actually the first man I was engaged to, and the one I eloped with, both turned violent, so that’s not something you expect from a man raised in the church and attending a church college either. It’s interesting, or maybe ironic, that my parents felt very safe sending me from my small hometown to school in Chicago because it was a Lutheran school. Ultimately campus was probably one of the least safe places in the city for me, but that’s not really the school’s fault. I made some pretty poor choices in who I spent time with. I was suffering from the delusion that every bad boy had a heart of gold underneath it all (curse you John Bender!). I was really naïve about boys and their motives, and like my parents,  I trusted people because they went to church.

I should clarify that I did date in high school, it wasn’t an all girls school or anything. But I dated the same guy from my Sophomore year until my Senior year.  He used to say “expectation is the greatest predictor” and I would have to say that I got did get VERY realistic ideas about relationships–or my future relationships anyway– from him: He taught me how to put up with shit most of the time because once in a while something good might happen.  I think at first he thought I was someone whom he could enlighten with his wisdom and occasionally make out with more than he thought of me as a girlfriend.  Our relationship was odd.  Honestly, there were a lot of times he wasn’t very nice to me. BUT, once in a while, out of the blue, he’d get the perfect birthday present, or look absolutely stunned when I came down the stairs for prom, or show up to surprise me, or send the cutest anniversary poem.  And when we were apart during the summers he wrote me a letter EVERY SINGLE DAY. Every one.  They weren’t mushy, “I miss you” letters, just this-is-what-I-did-today letters, but they were funny and thoughtful and the best part of my day all summer long.   He had some hang-ups, though. For example: when I visited him at his college he had his own room and the opportunity to have sex presented itself; I was MORE than willing (three years is a LONG time!) and he absolutely refused.  He made me feel like there was something wrong with me for wanting to sleep with him (even though our many, MANY make-out sessions rarely left him “unsatisfied”).  I don’t really know why I thought being considered less worthy and less intelligent was ok. I suspect because I was always waiting for that flash of “good stuff” that was hiding underneath, and because I thought back then that every relation ship would ultimately be like the fairytale I imagined my parents had.  I blame my dad and John Hughes.

220px-JohnHughes

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.