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

Posts tagged ‘Life’

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!!!!

 

 

 

 

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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?

Bah, Humbug!

Christmas mug

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. Not just because of presents, although they were awesome, but because it really was a magical time. When you grow up in the church you get lots of time to anticipate Christmas while practicing for the Christmas Eve program at school, and doing Advent calendars, and finally moving into the New Testament in religion class. When your parents work for your church and a Lutheran college you get even more anticipation with extra services and Christmas concerts and recitals and your dad practicing Christmas hymns on the piano (and Christmas hymns are just Christmas carols so it’s kind of like having your own piano bar accompanist for the holidays).  Lutherans are similar to Catholics in some ways, but not when it comes to singing, we LOVE to sing, and Christmas services are a great time to be a kid in a Lutheran church, so many awesome songs: Joy to the World, Angels we Have Heard on High, Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, and if you’re lucky, Go! Tell it on the Mountain. And of course there were cookies and homemade candy. My mom baked, my mom’s piano students baked for her, people at church baked for dad, even some of his students gave him baked goods. The wealth of sweets at Christmas was truly amazing. But Christmas Eve was the best. The program was always in the evening at our church, and there were fancy Christmas dresses (My mom made the most amazing Gunne Sax dress by hand one year: I’ll never forget it, it had big leg of mutton sleeves, and a ribbon and lace edged neckline with a row of tiny buttons with loops down the front–making that dress was the first time I heard my mom swear, but it was fantastic.) and hair-dos, and my brother even had to wear a tie. The  programs themselves  all kind of run together: (except one where I had a big coughing fit up front and had to leave in front of everyone, childhood strep reared its ugly head again) there were carols and Luke chapter 2 and Mary and Joseph. And on our way out one of the church elders would give each kid a white paper bag full of candy and an orange.   My brother and sister and I would wait for our dad to be done playing the postlude and packing up his organ shoes while our mom took the other car home;  we’d take a drive around to look at Christmas lights on the way home. When we got to our house we’d walk in to our family room where the tree was and it would be lit and the presents would be there,  like Santa had actually been there while we were at church. It took us years to figure out that it had been first my grandparents, and then my mom, who put the presents under the tree while we “looked at lights”. And even after we knew, and had moved several times, we would drop my mom off after church, drive around for a while, and come home to presents under the tree. It’s just one of our traditions.

Then I met my husband, and Christmas with his family is a WHOLE other deal. It involves piles and piles of presents and even more alcohol.  The first few years all the booze made things pretty funny; then I started to notice the bickering and veiled insults that went with it.  As years went on and life brought tragedies the insults became less veiled and the bickering got meaner. There’s still a lot of presents though. There are so many presents that one year my  husband’s cousin accidentally threw out the leather gloves I got her with the trash because she didn’t see them (and then complained to my husband’s grandmother that I didn’t get her anything).  My husband’s mom wraps stuff and then doesn’t remember what it is or who it’s for. She also wraps things for herself. There’s no real thoughtfulness to the gifts themselves, I don’t think, because my husband has gotten the same sweatshirt two years in a row (two identical sweatshirts, two separate Christmases) as well as a pile of other shirts that he will never wear. I’ve received a lotion from my mother in law that I had given her the previous year, and one that my husband’s grandmother had given her previously. My kids receive all kinds of things that don’t remotely interest them or that are completely not age appropriate. They are always yelled at for not saying “thank you” enough,  and so am I, but I think we’re just stunned by some of the craziness of it all.

A few years ago, after driving on glare ice for a large part of the trip to the Twin Cities, we said no more. We were going to spend Christmas in our own home, so our kids could have their own tree and not be dragged all over during their break. And we made that happen for a couple of years. And then we got the “but  I might  not be here next year” speech from my husband’s grandmother, so we agreed to go in for Christmas Eve 2012, even though I had had stomach surgery three weeks prior and Alex came down with the stomach flu two days before were supposed to leave. We should have stayed home, because the night we checked into the hotel my daughter threw up ALL OVER. And the next day I cooked for everyone anyway, a prime rib that I couldn’t even swallow yet because my stomach was still healing. (Only my husband’s step dad thought this was odd, and he helped me in the kitchen all day.)  Right before they started in on presents I realized I did NOT feel good and had my husband take me back to the hotel.  That was the start of my near death experience. My  surgery (a Nissen Fundoplication) makes it so NOTHING goes up your esophagus: great for getting rid of acid reflux, bad if you get the stomach flu from your kids. So I went from being in a little pain to being absolutely convinced I was going to die. and I was out of anti-nausea drugs. All I wanted was to get some Zofran so I would stop wanting to hurl and not being able to, and stop feeling so much pain. But did we go to the ER or urgent care? NO. My husband took his grandmother tile shopping at Home Depot because that was super urgent. Then he visited his dad who was feeling neglected. By the time I went to the ER when we got home 3 days later they were like “what took you so long?” but all of the sutures held and there was no bleeding. So I was miserable but lucky.

But I’m done.  I will not be talked in to any more Christmases that I don’t want to participate in. If it’s just me and the dogs and the chickens I’m cool with that. At least that’s genuine.

My tree

A bit silly

So today was pretty quiet until this evening. Everybody was gone for a chunk of the afternoon, taking my mother-in-law to the airport. She’s in Phoenix until Spring. Since she doesn’t baby-sit like a normal grandmother, likes to tell me how awful my house looks, and demands very specific gifts while being the original re-gifter I’m fine with that. I don’t dislike her exactly, she’s just not a person I would spend time with if she wasn’t my husband’s mother. She’s much either to deal with from a distance, that’s for sure.

My husband and daughter went pheasant hunting after the airport. I’m kind of surprised she wanted to go with since it’s pretty cold out, but I guess she had fun. I don’t know how I feel about her hunting, but so far she doesn’t have a gun, she just walks with him so right now it’s ok. Also, they haven’t actually gotten any birds yet, so I’m not sure she’ll still like it after she sees the dead pheasant.  I don’t mind walking around in the country with my husband and the dog either, but I’m not fond of dead birds,  so no pheasant hunting for me.

She came home with a headache. She gets them once in a while, and unfortunately migraines run in my husband’s dad’s family, so that concerns me a bit.  Hearing loss also runs in his dad’s family, but so far none of the grandkids seem to have ended up with it, which is lucky, but very nice.

So this evening I went out to check on my hens and change their water (I only have one heated dish, and it gets pretty nasty) and I noticed that Thelma was acting weird and not eating. So after checking her out I thought that it might be Egg Yolk Peritonitis (where the egg ends up in their abdomen and gets infected) and decided to try treating it with Flagyl because I have a whole bunch of that and it’s one of the few things that works. Not having a chicken vet is hard, because you’re always kind of guessing, but when I called my vet-who is a FARM vet-his office said they didn’t do chickens because “they’re just chickens, there’s no money in them”, which I guess is true. They’re $1.75 at the feed store, but that doesn’t change how attached to them you get. Anyway, after looking at several chicken sites (thank you Poultry Pedia and BYC) I decided on Flagyl and figured out the dosage; the thing is, Flagyl is the foulest (ha, ha, I’m punny) tasting stuff on the planet and Thelma  hates being handled so this was not going to be easy.   And it wasn’t, it was like the WWE in my chicken coop.   If she improves I get to do it for the next five days, yay.

So then there’s my dog. This is Roxy. She needs a Twelve-Step program. She is normally a very well-trained and well-behaved dog. But she is addicted to sugary foods, particularly Twizzlers and donuts. When she’s in the same room with them she forgets all of her training and turns into a thief. She can surf a counter in complete silence, leaving no evidence of her crime except the empty package. Currently she is in doggy jail (her kennel) for stealing five cinnamon sugar donuts which are absolutely not going to agree with her as she normally eats grain-free food. And guess who has to sleep with stinky butt?!? Don’t be fooled by that face, she is an addict and everyone knows you can’t trust a junkie.

Roxy under cover

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.

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.

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.