Dear Trump Supporter: How Are You Still Defending The Indefensible?

source: Twitter

It’s 12:00 on a Friday, I have nowhere to be, and I’m laid up with a migraine.  So naturally I’m passing the hours by thinking about…. Donald Trump.

In all fairness, I try not to talk or write about the president too often.  It’s as frustrating as all hell, it’s not considered polite dinner conversation, and John Pavlovitz is doing an amazing job saying all the things I want to say in a more eloquent way than I could ever say them.

But this just needs to be asked, because I’m genuinely and deeply baffled.

How do you keep defending him?

It feels like that question should have been preceded with a nicety like, “With all due respect,”  but I just couldn’t make myself do it.  Because the thing is, I don’t respect a decision to support the president.  I don’t.  I know it’s not very PC to say that, and God knows I often talk about the importance of respect myself.  But the fact is, while I respect a LOT of people and ideas and opinions that are different than my own, I just can’t respect unkindness.

Or misogyny.

Or bigotry.

Or arrogance.

Or name-calling.

I can’t respect a man who brags about sexual assault.  I can’t respect a man who spends his days disgustingly disparaging everyone who disagrees with him on Twitter.  I just can’t do it.  And the thing I can’t stop thinking about, the thing I keep wondering, is: Do you, Trump supporter, respect those things?  Are they okay with you?  Do you find those traits to be admirable? Do you find this man to be someone to emulate?

Those (mostly) rhetorical questions are for all of you, but most especially for my fellow Christ-followers.  Because I can not, not for the life of me, understand how someone who purportedly wants to live like Jesus lived, could defend and support a man who does everything but.  Donald Trump is like the universe and God and the spaghetti monster all got their collective little heads together, and asked, “Okay, who can we think of that’s the LEAST Christ-like candidate out there?”  And in walks Donald Trump.  And they saw that they’d done their job, and they delivered him on a platter… and the people just ate him up.  Lock, stock, and barrel.

And the rest of us stand with our mouths open, and say, “Wait.  WHAT?  What just happened?”

Because it makes absolutely no sense.  It makes no sense how otherwise kind, compassionate, and reasonable people could buy what he was selling.  It makes no sense how they could overlook what kind of person he is.  What kind of person he continues to be.  What kind of person he’s proud to be.  Because make no mistake.  Donald Trump isn’t just a regular flawed human being who’s made some errors in judgment but is doing his best to right his wrongs.

He’s a man who takes great pride in doing, and saying, horrible things.  He’s not your savior.  He’s the antithesis of a savior… a person who would not only let you drown, but laugh at you while he watches.

So again I have to ask, how can you keep defending him?   Defending his actions?  His words?  His demeanor?

There’s a saying that goes, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”  My friends, Donald Trump has shown you who he is.  Not just once, but over and over again.

And I’m confused and I’m tired and I’m angry and I’m sad.  I want to believe – I have to believe – that there is an explanation.  I want to understand, but I’m afraid that there IS no understanding.  There is simply no understanding the defense of a man like Donald Trump.

So I think my question is really this:

Do you truly not see the kind of person he is?  Or do you simply not care?  Because as far as I can tell, at this point in time, those are the only two possible explanations.

 

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Filed under politics, rant

Unschooling, As Told Through Pie

Everett (14 at the time of this writing) loves to bake.  He really enjoys cooking too, but baking is his first love.  He’s always been fascinated with baking, ever since he was little, and he’s continually adding to his baking bucket list.

Last night he baked his first pie.  It was a cherry pie, with homemade crust and everything.  Now, I’m not even typically a big fan of cherry pie…. but it was amazing.  Like, I had-to-stop-myself-from-licking-the plate amazing.  Flaky crust, delicious filling that was not too sweet and not too tart, and cooked to absolute perfection.

I credit unschooling.

There is a danger among eager parents and unschoolers, particularly when they’re just starting out, to take their kids’ interests and sort of steamroll over them… looking to force a preconceived notion of learning, or simply overloading them with information.   With the very best of intentions, parents will bombard the child with resources, with loosely related subjects, or with ways that their interest can teach them math or history or social studies.

This often backfires in a big way, squashes the child’s natural love of learning, and makes them lose interest all together.

The beauty of unschooling is that you have the time and the space to let their interests unfold and expand naturally.  You can support them and encourage them without feeling the need to push.  Without feeling the need to create arbitrary constraints or conditions on their learning.  Without feeling the need to turn it into an artificial “teaching moment.”

When unschooling is done well, living and learning are seamless.   Life is play.  Life is work.  Life is learning.  There is no separating the day or the moment into math, or science, or history.  It’s all intertwined, and it’s all there for the taking.

Which brings me back to Everett and his pie.

He has learned a lot through his baking, and he will continue to do so.  He’s learned practical skills as well as stretched a creative muscle that can serve him well in all sorts of different pursuits.  For our part, we’re constantly buying him his requested ingredients, answering his questions, and supporting the interest in any way we can.  Our job is to act not as teachers, but as partners and facilitators.  But one of the most important things we can do for him, and for all of our kids, is to give them space to play and figure things out and experiment on their own.  Sometimes the best thing to do is just trust the process, give them the appropriate amount of freedom, and then get out of their way.

If we’d seen his interest in baking, and grabbed onto it too tightly, we very well could have pushed him away from it completely.  Instead, he’s organically moved through the basics to more and more complicated projects.  He’s not intimated by new things, and he places no limits on his abilities.

The really cool part?  I get to watch.  It is truly one of my favorite parts about unschooling.  I get to be there.  I get to see the skills develop, and the light bulbs go off, and the pride of accomplishment settling in.  We’ve designed our lives in such a way that our kids have the time and space to pursue their interests with no arbitrary time constraints, and no parent-imposed hierarchy.  Everett’s baking is as important as Tegan’s acting as is important as Paxton’s music as is important as Spencer’s yard work.  If they wanted to spend a whole entire day, or a whole entire month, on one specific thing …. it would be welcomed and encouraged.

They are getting to learn in the way I’d always wished I could learn myself:  In a way that makes sense for them.  Not for me, not for their father, not for a teacher, but for them.

If I could only give one piece of advice when it came to uschooling, it would be this:

Let them live.  Let them play.  Let them learn.  And for goodness sake, let them make pie.

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Moving And The Bipolar Brain

I am dashing this post off quickly, the deal I made with myself that I could only write as long as my coffee lasts. Today is our last official day in this house. We closed on our sale yesterday, and we close on the new house today. When Mike gets home from work, we’ll bring over our first load of stuff (and get our first look at the house as its new owners!), and we’ve rented the U-Haul for tomorrow.

This has been a wild ride. Yesterday, after I finally got to the point in packing where it felt like we were almost done, was the first day I let myself get a little bit excited. Daunted – do you have any idea how much stuff a family can accumulated over twelve years?! – but excited. As I wrote in my last post, MOVING IS STRESSFUL. And it occurred to me yesterday, as I was bawling to a friend about how overwhelmed I was, that my bipolar does not help.

So listen, I don’t want to be, “Oh, it’s HARDER for me than most people!” But, well, I really think it’s harder for me than for most people. For a myriad of reasons, really, but for two big reasons in particular.

1) Lack of predictable routine.  One of my biggest triggers (perhaps tied for first place with people who are condescending) is when my schedule is all out of whack.  Even happy occasions, like the vacation we took a couple of weeks ago, are HUGELY stressful.  It’s not that every day needs to be exactly the same, but more like I need to know in advance  what the day is going to entail so that I can adjust.  I need to take my morning meds at this time, my evening meds at this time, I need to go to bed at the right hour, I need to have enough time alone.  When sleep is short, like it has been lately, I start to unravel.  Throw in unknowns that come with packing and showings and contractors and appraisals and inspections and dates that are up in the air, and I struggle not to fall apart.  And I get that it would be stressful to a lot of people (indeed, stressful to MOST people), but perhaps not to the level of, “OH MY GOD I NEED TO SEE MY DOCTOR. MY MEDS NEED ADJUSTING. I CAN’T HANDLE THIS.  NO, IT’S NOT YOUR MEDS, IT’S JUST STRESS.  YOU’RE OKAY. YOU’RE OKAY. YOU’RE OKAY.” Ad infinitum, day after day. It has taken a LOT of positive self-talk to get through, as well as so, so much reassurance from my trusted people that tell me, “It’ll be okay.  YOU will be okay.”

2) The emotions.  And yes, I wrote about this in my last post too, but it can’t be overstated.  My emotions are RAW.  I mean, bipolar is a mood disorder… my emotions are usually raw.  But right now?  They’re like exposed nerves, excruciatingly painful to even the slightest touch.  All the packing and sorting and emotional letting go has been devastating to my equilibrium, laying bare everything I’ve carefully kept hidden.  I’m an open wound.  (And, again, I’m usually an open wound), but at the moment that open wound is gaping.  And boy howdy is that sucker bleeding. I’m on a hair trigger, angry one minute, consumed with grief the next, getting my feelings hurt at the slightest provocation, paranoid about every last spoken word, gesture, and relationship (the latter of which probably has more to do with the BPD than bipolar, which is… a post for another day)  But suffice it to say, the emotions have been intense.  Preparing to leave this house has been intense.  Buying a new one has been intense.

And don’t get me wrong.  I love the new the house.  I’m excited to move into it and start making it home.  But in the meantime… I’m struggling.  I will be okay!  But I’m struggling.

I am thankful for (in no particular order)

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Having an amazing realtor who made it all as smooth as possible
  • Having friends who’ve let me boo-hoo all over them when it got to be too much
  • Calming tools I’ve learned in therapy, to get myself out of my head, back into reality, and back into the present.  (And in the present there are no problems to solve)
  • A family who really does try to get it

We are so close!  So, so close.

My coffee mug is almost empty, there are clean clothes to be folded, and last minute odds and ends to be packed.  I can do it.  I can do tomorrow too, complete with all its craziness.

And when all is said and done, it’ll just be another little blip.  Another tiny notch in the totem pole that says, “Here was this thing.  It was hard, but I did it.”

P.S.  My blog just recently got a spot in this Top Ten Parenting Blogs About Bipolar list. (Which is pretty cool, and the reason I was inspired to write about bipolar today).  Check out the rest of the list!  And if you want to support my work, Patreon is a great way to do that.  You can pledge as little as $1, and help feed my prolific coffee habit to keep me writing.

See you from the NEW HOUSE soon!!

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Filed under bipolar, life

packing. moving. healing.

A start

So if you follow me on any of my social media accounts (handy-dandy buttons are right over there on your right if you don’t), or if you know me in 3D life, you know we’re in the middle of moving.

Moving. Is. Exhausting. The kind of exhausting that you feel in every pore of your body.

But I’ll get back to that.

This move is one that’s been a long time coming.  For those who don’t want the story, and want the quick little primer:  We bought this house in 2006 as an investment.  It was never meant to be a long term home, or really a home at all.  We were going to completely remodel it (which we did), live in it temporarily (temporarily is such a relative term!), and then flip it.  But… because this is life, and because we’re us, this is when the market completely tanked, home values dropped into the toilet, and we went upside down in our mortgage almost overnight.   Now, in 2018, we’re finally able to sell.  Our little short term investment lasted us 12 years.

Now, I’m convinced that there’s never actually a good time to move.  It’s a massively huge, stressful undertaking, no matter when you do it.  But doing it right now??  While it was a good time when it came to the real estate market, it was decidedly NOT a good time otherwise.  We’re in the final stages of planning our conference, which has had far more than its normal share of hiccups; I just finished another semester of school last week; I’m dealing with the changes and side effects that come with adjusting 27 medications (Not really 27.  But it might as well be)  Oh. And.  We’re leaving on an 11 day road trip TOMORROW, less than one month before we close… just because Mike happened to have a work thing, and we happened to think it’d be a good idea to tag along and see the sights.  All the stress, all the emotions, all the fatigue, wrapped in a neatly labeled banker’s box and tied with a bow.

And let me just say right here, before I go any further?  There is a reason that moving consistently shows up on top five lists of most stressful life events.  Right up there with losing a job, getting a divorce, and even having a death in the family.  It’s no joke.

Because here’s the thing.  Packing up a house you’ve lived in for 12 years is really, really hard.  It’s hard in the sense that it’s physically demanding, gross, sweaty, dusty work (which I realize does not reflect well on our house-keeping skills), but even more than that, it’s emotionally hard.  It’s mentally hard.  It’s like…. it’s like therapy, on speed, in Disneyland, on the fourth of July.  It hurts down to the center of your bones.  It’s conflicting work too, because at the same time that you’re having to tell yourself that it’s all just unnecessary “stuff” – and let it be known that we threw out dozens, DOZENS, of bags of old junk – you’re also brutally reminded that it’s not just stuff.  It’s memories.  It’s nostalgia.  It’s happiness.  It’s sadness.  It’s regret.  It’s touching these little pieces of your past that brings you back to the time at the place with the person with a visceral energy that’s so real it almost makes it hard to breathe.   Over.  And over.  And over again.  It hurts.  Moving hurts.

It’s about healing.  And it’s about finally letting go.  It’s about forcing yourself to finally let it go.

It’s painful.  The gifts from the people you’re no longer friends with.  The photos of the relatives that are no longer on this earth.

It’s puzzling.  WHY do I still have this coupon for Honey Bunches of Oats from 2007?

It’s exhausting.  It’s bittersweet.  The tiny shoes.  The baby blankets.  The little hats.  The photos. The early drawings.  The handmade Mothers’ Day cards.

It hurts.

Every single thing you lay your hands on, whether it gets lovingly packed, passed on to someone else, or is destined for the land fill… it’s all part of your story.  Every single bit of it.  For better or worse it all went into the elaborate tapestry that is today.  It all had meaning, no matter how vague, no matter how obscure.  Yes, it’s just stuff.  But it’s stuff with a history.   A rich one.  One that you must revisit, bit by bit by bit.

We had a big box that was tucked away in one of our lower kitchen cabinets.   It was affectionately referred to as… well, “the box”.  Whenever we had unexpected company coming, or otherwise had to pick up in a hurry, any sort of paperwork, mail, etc, got tossed in the box.  I don’t know how long it was there, but it was long enough to be falling apart.  One whole side had fallen away under the weight of its contents, the entire thing was sagging, and it had somehow expanded to include the space inside the box, as well as all the area surrounding it.

A couple of weeks ago, we dumped the box out on the table and started sorting.  We came across a Christmas card, and in it was a picture of one of the boys’ friends from what seems like a lifetime ago.  I’m not sure of the exact date, but it was at least 9 or 10 years old.  It’s a bittersweet picture, because we have not been friends with that family since probably very shortly after the photo was taken.   I don’t know what happened.  It was one of those weird life things in which we never found closure.  We were friends – good friends even – and then one day they left Paxton’s birthday party without saying goodbye, and never spoke to us again.  They just stopped being our friends.  I wondered for a long time what had happened at that party;  I wondered for a long time what could have been so egregious that she couldn’t answer an email, that we couldn’t have talked it out.  But I still don’t know.

And fast forward to today, and here’s this smiling face of a little boy who is now very likely in college.

We pinned it up on my bulletin board, because we thought it would be funny, and because we wanted to see how long it would take Mike to notice it.  It’s not unusual for us to pin pictures up there, though usually they’re the random headshots of people from political advertisements or real estate fliers.  (Is that weird?)  It amuses us, in any case.  This picture though… while not painful exactly, it made me… uncomfortable.  It made me think of the past.  Not just of them, but of every lost friendship I’d ever had ever.

And I’m so glad we put it up there.

I’ve walked by that photo every day for weeks now, and it’s come to stand for something important.  It stands for healing.  It stands for letting go.  It stands as a reminder that I can make it through the icky parts of life.  It stands as a reminder that I can do hard things.  It stands for one chapter ending, and another chapter (a good one!  an exciting one!) beginning.   A chapter that – no matter how very stressful it is to get there – I’m very much looking forward to.

New beginnings.  It stands for new beginnings.

And for a handful of really big reasons, and about a hundred and twenty seven little ones, I really need a new beginning.

When I finally get rid of that picture… that picture of the boy that was once lovingly sent in a Christmas card… When I get rid of that picture?  I’ll finally be ready.

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Filed under about me, life, memories, Uncategorized

What If You’re Wrong About Depression?

Depression is a mind game. If you stop thinking about it then it will eventually go away.

I read that on Instagram this morning, but I see the same comment in various iterations on a daily basis.

Just think positively!

Look at all you have to be thankful for!

Step out of the darkness and into the light!

Well meaning, to be sure, but it’s not as simple as that.  It’s just not.

And we could debate all day about the causes and treatments of depression, and whether or not it’s even a real thing.  It’s a chemical imbalance.  No, it’s all in your head (side note, I saw a cute meme that retorted with something along the lines of, “Well where do you expect it to be, in my kidney?”)  It’s all just a state of mind.  It can be fixed with diet.  You just need more sunshine.  You just need drugs.  Drugs make it worse.  You need therapy.  Psychiatry is just a bunch of pseudo-science quackery.  Just stop thinking about it.

Etc

Etc

Etc

But the thing is, for the purposes of my point here, none of the above really matters.  It doesn’t.  Because just pretend for a second, just for a second, that you’re wrong, and that the person in question truly CAN’T just positively think their way out of depression.  Do you know what comments like yours do to a person with depression?  They minimize them.  They invalidate them.  They make them feel – when they are already at their most desperately lowest point – that they’re doing something wrong.  They make them feel worthless, and they make them even less likely to seek help.

At best, comments like these are annoyances… thinly veiled insults wrapped in a pretty bow of concern.

But at their worst?  They can be the very last thread on someone’s already rapidly fraying rope.   This is going to sound harsh, but your comment could literally mean the difference between a person’s choosing to tread water another day, or letting the rope slip through their fingers.

I think that of all the ways we hurt each other as human beings (and boy howdy, are we good at hurting one another), one of the worst is simply when we don’t see each other.  When we don’t listen.  When we tell each other, through actions and inactions both that we don’t matter.  That our feelings and experiences are not valid.  Are not real.

IT HURTS TO BE MINIMIZED.

In fact, at this moment in time, I can think of few things that hurt more.  I’ve always known that I was more sensitive to this feeling than most people, and I only recently learned why.  In a lovely twist of irony (because what is life if not a giant example of irony?) deciding to open up about this painful facet of my life earned me nothing more than more flippant dismissal.  “Pfft. Oh, that.  We all feel like that.  That’s just being a human.”  So now?  Once again, I feel unsafe sharing.

IT HURTS TO BE MINIMIZED.

Be kind.

If you’re wrong about this (and hell, even if you’re right), you need to know your words matter.  Your words hurt, not help.  Because even IF you’re right?  Even if the depressed person CAN just think they’re way to happiness?  At that moment, that moment that they’re choosing to invite you in… they’re not okay.  What they feel is real.  They need your friendship, they need your love, they need your support.  What they do not need is for you to tell them that they’re wrong to feel what they feel, that they’re wrong to not have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and fixed it already.

If someone had (fill in the blank with a physical illness – cancer, diabetes, meningitis, asthma) would you tell them it would go away if they would just hurry up and stop thinking about it already?  I’m guessing you probably wouldn’t.  You know that illnesses, from the common cold to leukemia, are complex.  That they’re unique and multi-faceted and require different approaches for each individual person.  You realize this.  You respect this.

It’s 2018.  Can we please start giving mental illnesses the same consideration?

I have written a lot about mental health, especially over the past two years, but this issue is one of the most important, and one of the most personal.  Ironically (see above comment about irony), I’m doing well at the moment.  I’m in balance.  Which is… unexpected, given everything that I have going on right now.  I feel good.  But when that changes – and it will change, because that’s the beautiful cyclical nature of mental illness – please don’t tell me I just need to stop thinking about it.  Please don’t minimize me.  Please don’t tell me what I’m feeling isn’t real.

As anyone with depression can tell you, it’s real.  If nothing else, it starts and ends with being REAL.

P.S.  I just posted an update over on Patreon if you want to know what’s going on in my 3D life at the moment.  🙂  It is set to public, so you don’t need to be a Patron to read it.

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Filed under bipolar, depression, kindness, life, mania, mental health, rant

After The Wiping Days Are Over

Too many years ago

“I’m all done!”

It came from inside one of the bathroom stalls…. a sweet, tiny, sing-song voice that made my uterus hurt just to hear it.

It wasn’t one of mine.  We’re many many years removed from requiring any bathroom help.  But as I stood there, taking my time as the warm water washed the soap off my hands, I couldn’t help but smile.  The mom of the owner of the little voice was momentarily distracted with a sibling, so after a beat the voice rang out again, this time with a little more urgency.

“I’m all dooo-ne!”

For a minute, I just hung there, suspended somewhere between my nostalgia and the truth.  Hadn’t my kids just been that tiny?  The truth is, at 21, nearly 18, 14, and 10, my kids are far beyond any descriptions of tiny.  A full half of them are no longer technically kids at all.  Two are taller than me, one’s on his way, and my “baby” just turned double-digits 4 months ago.

It’s perhaps one of the biggest parenting cliches.  “It goes so fast.  Enjoy every minute!”

Except, it’s true.  It’s really really true.  And the nostalgia that hit me in the bathroom, the unlikeliest of places, nearly took my breath away.  It really does go that fast.  

And it’s so dang filled with beauty.  And pain.  And memories of times that you sometimes wish you could freeze, and sometimes wish you could skip over.  Parenting is like life, but…. condensed.  Until the good times and beautiful times and times that bring you to your knees come rushing back to your consciousness one day in the bathroom of your daughter’s theater.

It goes so fast. 

And don’t get me wrong.  Having older kids is its own kind of wonderful.  There are a host of new things to look forward to,  and exciting things to enjoy to be sure.  But my kids…. my sweet, funny, intelligent, fierce kids just don’t need me in the same way that they used to.  And that’s really its own kind of bittersweet mourning.

So today I’m thinking of that mom.  The mom of the sweet little bathroom singer who needed help wiping.  Are you stressed?  Had you been running around crazy all morning worrying about lack of sleep and diaper bags and sippy cups and getting everyone into their car seats? Mom to mom, I get it.  I do.  It’s tiring!  Some days, it’s downright, to your very bones, exhausting.

And my humble advice, summed up to the very best of my ability:  Soak in those good days, breathe on the shitty ones, and know – really truly, deeply know – that it really does go by in the blink of an eye.

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Faking It

So, the other day I was complaining to a friend about my statistics class.  The class hadn’t even started yet now that I think about it, but I’d read the syllabus and the individual modules and learning objectives and I was…. overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed before I’d even started.  (This is my second go-around with Statistics, by the by.  I’d taken it a hundred years ago in my first foray at college, and I ended up taking it pass/fail so it wouldn’t bring down my GPA.)

Anyway.

I complained to my friend, and she said:  “You can do it!”

Me:  “I’m not so sure.”

Friend:  “Fake it till you make it?”

Me:  ::Sigh::  “Sometimes it feels like that’s my whole life.”

Just last week, a mom I’d recently met through Tegan’s play was chatting with me while we washed our hands at the bathroom sink.  “You have four kids?  How do you do it?  You’re so calm!”

I don’t even remember what I said in response, but what I did not say was the truth:  That whatever calmness she saw was through the aid of pharmaceuticals and faking, in equal measure.

Like many depressed people I know, I’ve gotten really good at “smiling depression.”  Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside.  Putting on a (if I do say so myself), reasonable or even impressive display of happy.  Of friendly.  Of normal.  I smiled a lot last week.  I also went to sleep crying at least two or three nights, and woke up crying just as many.

I write so much about gentle parenting.  I dismantle all the common mainstream ways of doing things, and I wax poetic about how we can do things better.  I don’t write about the fact that as of late my patience and emotional reserve have been so shot that it is taking all of my energy not to snap at my kids just for … talking, or for making any sort of noise, or for being in my space.  I don’t write about the fact that I’m currently so completely flummoxed about an issue I’m having with one of my children that I’m immobilized.  That I haven’t the slightest CLUE how to handle it.

I’m good at faking.

Some days are hard.

Some days are really, really hard.

I am, as I write, and as I stand before you, the proverbial man behind the curtain.  Pay no attention to him.  Listen to my booming, confident voice!  Listen to my authority!  Listen to my wisdom!

And know, that sometimes, I am faking it.  That I am broken.  That I am scared.  That I, like so many of the rest of us, struggle with not knowing what the hell I’m doing on any given day of the week.  That sometimes, I feel like an impostor in my own life.

I’m good at faking.

My one consolation is in knowing that all of us, at one time or another, at least a little, have faked it.  Faked the happy, the confidence, the friendliness, the conversation.  Faked the fact that we were completely capable of interacting like a normal person when we really just wanted to be home, in bed, with the covers pulled over our head.  Just like my friend suggested, we fake it until we make it.

Today I have things to do.  I have people to see.  I have to put on pants.  I have to have conversations.  I have to be okay. I have to smile and make the right faces and say the right things. And I’ll do it!

And I’ll be faking it.

Because between you and me, right now, in this moment?  I’m tired.  Deep, deep in my bones exhausted.  Mentally, physically, emotionally spent.  At the present time, I am not okay.

But you know what?  Sometimes being not okay is okay too. Sometimes the answer lies not in faking it, but in raw, brutal honesty.  Right now, I’m not okay.

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Filed under about me, anxiety, bipolar, depression, life

What Do Your Kids Own?

With one of his all-time favorite possessions. Photo credit: Angela Morgan

We are currently in the middle of getting our house ready to sell.  Which means a lot of different things, but mostly means a whole heck of a lot of sorting, culling, packing, and organizing 12 years worth of accumulated… stuff.  And if you’ve ever sold a house, or moved in general, you know that this is hard work.  Not just hard, but exhausting.  Physically, mentally, deep-in-your-bones exhausting.  There is a reason that moving is so often cited as one of the top most stressful life events.

But I digress.

So we’re packing and sorting and throwing out bags upon bags upon bags full of trash. The kids have all helped out with assorted general projects around the house. but they’ve mostly been tasked with dealing with their own rooms:  decluttering, tidying up, getting rid of what they no longer want or need, and packing anything that they don’t need at the moment but still want to keep and move to the new house. Their father and I offer opinions or help when it’s asked for or relevant… but far and away, the decisions are ultimately theirs.  Because, well, because it’s their stuff.  Everything in their rooms, from clothes, to games, to books, to phones, to electronics belongs to them.  And that holds true whether it was purchased by us, gifted by someone else, or bought with their own money.

There’s a very strange dichotomy that exists amidst the conventional parenting world that goes something like this:

“My kids don’t own anything.  *I pay for the house, *I pay the bills, *I buy their things.  Therefore, it all belongs to me.”  (Which, by the same token, would also mean that myself and all my fellow stay-at-home moms also technically own nothing.)

AND, at the same time:

“This house belongs to them too.  They need to help keep it clean.  They need to show pride of ownership.  They have to take better care of their things.”

So… which one is it?  (Hold that thought. I’ll get back to that)

There is a ubiquitous need by most of society to view children as lesser humans.  If they’re treated like people at all, they’re treated as people with less rights, less of a voice, less importance.  They’re treated like they are ours to own, and ours to control.  This is evident in a myriad of ways, but for the sake of the conversation at hand:  It always makes me shake my head a little (or a lot) when I see parents posting about the contracts that they make their teens sign when they “give” them cell phones (give, by the way, is in quotes because it’s not really giving if it’s so damn conditional.  At best, it’s a loan, with a whole hell of a lot of strings attached). Our interactions with our kids should not be transactions, but beyond that…. how is a kid to learn how 1) take pride of ownership and 2) make responsible decisions with a phone that is not even theirs?  How do you learn to trust them if you do not give them the space to show you that they can be trusted?  Not because of a fear that you’re going to punish them and take their phone away if you don’t… but because of a genuine, intrinsic desire to act from a place of their own personal sense of right and wrong.  How do they learn about privacy, about healthy boundaries, and about autonomy if they’re literally not given the opportunity to do so?  Not to mention the fact that demanding passwords, reading texts, and checking history is a pretty surefire way to ensure that your kids learn to get really good at hiding things, and really unlikely to share when or if they do run into trouble.

DISCLAIMER (If you’re just skimming, please stop and read this)

A few complaints that I get a lot, particularly when it comes to things like cell phones:

Kids need guidance!  Yes.  Absolutely.  They do.  Which is why I’ve never said, in this or any other post, that they do not.  Further, different ages need different amounts of guidance.  As kids get older, they are going to need less and less interference.  JUST AS MUCH COMMUNICATION, but less interference.  There are age appropriate ways to help ANY aged child navigate the line of responsible ownership while still giving them the guidance they need.

But the internet is DANGEROUS!  Well, sure.  The internet can be dangerous.  So can the public school yard.  So can the work place.  So can a night club.  All the more reason to work WITH your children when it comes to things like technology.  Not against them.

Kids have to prove they’re responsible before they can own anything!  Tegan, who’s ten, really wanted a hedgehog.  She talked about it for a year, she researched, and she followed a whole bunch of YouTube channels and Instagram accounts to learn about their personalities, their quirks, and their care.   She saved up her money.  I helped her find a reputable breeder. Last year, around her birthday, we bought her the hedgehog (a baby girl she named Oreo), and she bought the habitat and supplies.   Because I’m just as much as an advocate for animals as I am for kids, I don’t believe that any pet should be brought into the house, no matter whose it is, unless there is an adult who is willing to be the Backup Person… the one who will take responsibility for the pet (which, make no mistake, is a new member of the family).  should there ever be a need.  I appointed myself as Oreo’s Backup Person, but she is Tegan’s.  Tegan feeds her.  She changes her cage.  She gets her out to play.  She gives her baths.  Does she need reminders on some of the above occasionally?  Yes.  Does that mean that she’s not responsible enough to own a pet? No!  It means she is young, still learning, and sometimes needs a partner to help.

The way kids learn – the way any of us learn – is by DOING.  And the only way they can learn to be responsible owners is for them to, well. own things.  It’s our job as parents to model appropriate behavior, to partner with them, to keep open lines of communication… and to help them when they’ve made a mistake.  Not punish them.  And that is true whether we are talking about a cell phone, a hedgehog or anything in between.

When kids are acting up in some way, there seems to be a common knee-jerk reaction to take things away from them.  And after all, that’s your right, because you bought them, right?   Well, there are a few problems with that strategy.  1)  It’s not particularly nice.  I don’t take my husband’s things when he behaves in a way that I don’t like.  2)  It doesn’t address the problem at hand.  Sure, it’s easy, but what does it ultimately accomplish?  Not a whole lot besides making your child (rightfully) resentful.  If you find out what the actual issue behind the behavior, you can deal with it directly, rather than applying the quick and arbitrary band-aid of taking things away.  3) It sends an incredibly mixed message, especially if you fall into the trap I mentioned above.  If I were a child, I would be incredibly frustrated, or even straight-up pissed off, if I was told through words and/or actions that I can’t possibly own anything, AND that I somehow also own a little bit of everything?

Adults need help with taking care of their things all the time.  Why should kids be any different?

As so often happens, I just (literally, just a few minutes ago) had a real-life example of the responsibility of ownership.  I recently bought these noise cancelling headphones, which – it needs to be said – are one of the greatest inventions ever.  They have a switch on them that does something to cancel the noise even more, and I always turn it on…. but then have the hardest time remembering to turn it off.  As a result, I’m burning through batteries like crazy.  I just had to put in another new battery, which I’ve had to do far more than I care to admit in the past few weeks.  Is the solution to take them away from me?  Well, no.  The solution is to realize that I’m a human who is thinking about 57 things at once, sometimes forgets things, and needs a reminder of some sort.  So today, I’m trying this:

If that doesn’t work?  I still won’t make myself get rid of them.  I’ll brainstorm, I’ll try something else, I’ll figure it out….. the same way I’d brainstorm, and try something else, and figure it out with my child should a need ever arise.

So.  To get back to the original question:  Which is it?  Do they own nothing, or do they own everything?  Well, because those are two black and white extremes, and life is shades of grey, I actually believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  They are members of the family, and as such we all work together when it comes to keeping up with the house.  They do – like all the rest of us – need to learn pride of ownership, and are encouraged to take care of their things.  But their things are just that:  THEIRS.  And the younger they are, or the more assistance they need, the more involved we are when it comes to care and responsibility.  But we do this by helping, guiding, watching, talking, listening, modeling….

Not by taking away the very thing that they need help learning to manage.

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Filed under gentle parenting, parenting

Katy Perry, We Need To Talk About Consent

ABC/Mark Levine

My daughter is 10 at the time of this writing.  Like me, she is a lover of all things pop culture.  She loves music, she lives for her TV shows, and she is always on top of the latest Next Big Thing.  Along with this comes a lot of admiration for her favorite stars, whether they be from TV, movies, music, or YouTube.  Now, I can’t – and don’t – tell her who she can and cannot look up to.  That’s her choice.  But you can rest assured that I do keep up a continual dialogue about what makes a good role model, what integrity means, and what we can learn from the people in the public eye (for both good and bad.)

Right now, her very favorite is P!nk.  I adore P!nk.  She’s awesome.  She’s all about empowerment.  She’s strong, she stands up for what she believes in, and she’s by all accounts a devoted mother.  She’s also all about being yourself, and not what society says you need to be.  And you guys?  We just saw her in concert a few weeks ago (AMAZING concert, by the way).  She’s almost 40, and she still straps herself to a harness, and flies and does acrobatics – while singing, no less! – way over a crowd of 10’s of thousands of people.  She is a BADASS.

And now here’s Katy Perry.  Up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have a particularly strong opinion about Katy Perry either way.  I have to admit some of her songs are catchy.  And I saw a documentary about her once – I am a total sucker for behind-the-scenes, musician documentaries – and it stirred up some compassion, for sure.  There was one scene where she was in tears, total panic attack mode, right before she had to go onstage and make this grand entrance.  Her marriage was ending, she was emotionally spent, and she didn’t know if she’d be able to do the show.  But she gathered herself, put on a smile, and went out to give a killer performance.  No one knew what had just been taking place backstage, until/unless they saw it on the documentary months later.  It made me gain new respect.

But Katy.

You did something really, really wrong.

In case you missed it, she is a new judge for American Idol.  There was a young man (still a teenager at the time of the audition) who said he’d never had a girlfriend, and therefore had never kissed a girl.  Katy called him up to the judge’s table, inviting him to kiss her on the cheek.  He was embarrassed, clearly, but did he want to kiss her cheek?  I don’t know.  But he obliged, kissed her on the cheek, and she immediately complained, “No, you didn’t even make the smoosh sound!” And then she held out her cheek a second time.  This time, when he went in to kiss her (again, on the cheek), she turned her head at the last second, kissing him on the mouth.  He was so shocked he literally fell over.  Katy threw her arms up in victory like she’d just scored a goal in soccer, the other two judges laughed and whooped it up, and the poor kid was so shaken that he had to ask for a glass of water before he could even perform his audition.  His performance, by the way, was greatly influenced by the whole thing, and his nerves got the better of him.  The judges found this funny; one of them commenting, “He’s still trying to recover from that kiss!”

Shame on Katy Perry.

Shame on the other judges for laughing and encouraging.

Shame on ABC for using this footage as advertisement, again and again and again.

Because let’s be clear on a couple of things here:

1) If the situation had been reversed, and it had been one of the male judges kissing a young female contestant… we all would have seen in for what it was:  sexual harassment.  He likely would not have had a job the next day.

2) She abused her power and her celebrity to take advantage of someone in a sexual way, which is never okay.

3) Despite those who argue “chill, it was just a kiss!”, kisses are intimate.  Yes, there are different kinds of kisses, that connote different things:  The kiss between a parent and child; the kiss between friends and relatives; the kiss between lovers.  But no matter the kiss in question, it is intimate.  It is personal.  It requires and demands consent from both parties.  Katy Perry kissed someone on the lips (someone who, it should be noted, was barely a legal adult) without his consent.  That is the very definition of sexual harassment – at a minimum.  Some would say sexual assault.   And it was applauded!

I don’t care that it was “all in good fun.”  I don’t care that it was Katy Perry.  Does she just assume that anyone should be happy to receive a kiss from her??  I don’t want a kiss from Katy Perry.  And this young man didn’t want one either.  Which should bother us.  A LOT.  And it’s backwards and disturbing that we need to reverse the roles in order to understand the severity and the ramifications of what she did.  If it had been a male judge?  We would have been horrified.  We would have had an immediate, visceral, angry reaction.

It’s intensely disturbing that I need to say this, but consent matters, no matter your gender.

What Katy Perry did was wrong.  The fact that people are laughing about it, applauding it, thinking that this young man should consider himself lucky: that’s wrong too.  Full stop.

I find it sad and ironic that in today’s current climate, when we are finally calling out all the men for their actions, that we’re not doing the same for women.

Consent goes in both directions.

Every time, in every situation.

If there is ever to be any change, we at the very least need to have some consistency.  It really does nothing for our cause if we (rightly) chastise men for their crimes, but somehow excuse women… because, what?  Because they’re Katy Perry?  Because this boy should be counting his lucky stars that this famous pop star gave him his first kiss on the lips?  It doesn’t work that way.  We need to be standing up, again and again, and saying “no more” to sexual harassment, no matter the gender of the person doing the harassing.

 

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Filed under headlines

Therapy Ends. Chapter Two Begins.

 

The beauty is I’m learning how to face my beast
Starting now to find some peace
Set myself free

Today, I don’t have to fall apart
I don’t have to be afraid
I don’t have to let the damage consume me,
My shadow see through me

Fear in itself
Will reel you in
And spit you out over and over again
Believe in yourself and you will walk

Fear in itself
Will use you up and break you down
like you were never enough

I used to fall but now I get back up

~Fear, Blue October

On May 23rd, 2016, I walked into therapy for the first time.  I’d seen a doctor, been diagnosed, and started meds  just a few weeks before that, but it’s that first day of therapy that I really remember.  Partly because I’d spent the better part of my adult life actively hating the very idea of therapy (I thought therapy was WEIRD.  I still think therapy’s weird.  My mind reels at the fact that there’s this human just walking around out there knowing my deepest darkest secrets, the ugliest parts of my psyche, my biggest fears, and my greatest aspirations.  All the big things, and all the little things, and everything in between.)  But even more than that was just the fact that, well, I was terrified.  Like, more terrified than I’d ever been of anything.  Ever.  The end.

I wore my “Coffee is My Spirit Animal” t-shirt that day, because it was a favorite, and it made me less nervous.  I also had on pretty much every beaded bracelet I owned, for the same reason.  They gave me as much confidence and courage as possible on a day when I was having trouble mustering either one.  My fingernails were painted a very dark brown, a new favorite color (aptly) called Espresso.

I was scared.  So, so scared.

And now, I’m remembering.  Remembering it all with a detail and acuity that is making it hard to breathe.  You know how people say their life flashes before their eyes right before they die?  Well, it’s kind of like that, but … the opposite.  I’m not about to die.  I’m about to live.

Therapy obviously wasn’t my whole life, but it was a very big part of it, at least for the past 21 months.

And I hated it.  I did.  I hated therapy.  And I don’t feel bad saying that, because I never exactly made it a secret (to anyone, but least of all to my therapist).  Therapy was hard.  It hurt.  It brought me to my knees.  I spent more time being mad at my therapist than I think I’ve ever been at anyone that I wasn’t related to in my entire life.  Usually just because he was right, and said what I needed to hear but didn’t want to hear… but very occasionally for reasons that I felt were justified.  I got my feelings hurt.  I got my toes stepped on.  I constantly feared I was doing it “wrong”… that I’d say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, and that I’d screw up this professional relationship just as adeptly as I’d screwed up my personal relationships.  I wanted to quit so badly.  I wanted to quit all the time.  I fantasized about just not showing up one day, and sometimes accompanied said fantasy with a scathing letter just for good measure.  Some weeks, making myself drive to therapy took every single ounce of willpower in my body.  And some weeks?  Some weeks I had no willpower left.  I had nothing left.

Because it had broken me.  Make no mistake: therapy broke me.

But.

It also put me back together.  It healed me.  It made me stronger.  It taught me things (about myself, about the people around me, about life) that no self-help book in the world ever could.   And it was cyclical, in that it made me filled with gratitude – SO VERY MUCH GRATITUDE – and then frustration, and then stubbornness, and then anger, and then gratitude some more.

Last summer was my first try at leaving, but it didn’t take.  The timing was …. off,  I was spiraling into a deep depression even as we were trying to pick an end date, and my whole life just crashed and burned in what very nearly culminated in a hospital stay.

And I’m glad it happened.

I am.  I’m glad for it, and I’m glad for the hard, and for the very very hard, sessions that followed.  I just had more things to learn.  And I needed that time, and I needed those lessons.  It was all part of my story.

Because the thing is, I’m not afraid of the darkness anymore. Therapy taught me not to be afraid anymore (Full disclosure:  Certain things do still touch on that fear.  When a celebrity dies by suicide?  It breaks that most tender part of my heart like none other.) But I’m stronger now.  I have tools now.  I know – like really, truly, deeply in my soul know – that even when the darkness comes, that I’ll eventually see the light again.  That I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.  That I can keep breathing.  That I can keep myself grounded in the moment.  That I can ignore and question and re-frame all the negative thoughts in my head.  That I am NOT those thoughts…. no matter how much my brain or the world or the other people in my life try to make me believe otherwise.  That those are just old stories, and that I can choose not to listen to them.  I can choose not to give them power.

I’m okay now.  But you know what? I’m better than okay.  Because for the first time in my life, in my whole life, I accept me.  I like me, warts and bruised broken bits and all.  And really, those warts and bruised broken bits?  They’re beautiful, because they’ve made me “me”.  They’ve brought me here.  They’ve made me strong.

I believe I can do the thing now.  And it doesn’t even matter what the “thing” is.  I believe I can do it.

I believe in me.

I believe I’m enough.

I’ve learned about the importance of self-compassion in these past 21 months.  And of the importance of self-forgiveness (sweet baby Jesus, that’s a big one for me.)  I’ve learned what awareness looks like, and what a huge step that is in and of itself.  I’ve learned to take responsibility for me, and for MY issues, and leave everyone else to deal with their own.  I’ve learned to say, “no”, and I’ve learned to stop trying to please everyone else. I’ve learned to respond with curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love (or C.O.A.L., just one of many such tidy little acronyms that I used to decry as cheesy, but now turn to again and again.)  I’ve learned practical steps for panic attacks, for those negative voices that just. won’t. shut. up., and for taking care of myself even when I really really really don’t want to.  I’ve learned to question the validity of what my brain is trying to tell me at any given time, I’ve learned to stop taking everything so seriously, and I’ve learned that no matter how many times my brain fights me on this:  IT IS NOT ALWAYS MY FAULT.

Therapy didn’t cure me, this much is true.  There’s no cure for bipolar.  But there’s also no cure for… life.  It’s going to have its hard moments, and it’s going to have its REALLY hard moments.  It’s going to have its “No.  Screw you.  I’m not getting out of my bed/putting on my pants/stopping feeling sorry for myself”  moments. But my God, it’s also going to have its beautiful moments! Its exquisitely perfect-in-all-their-imperfectly-gloriousness moments.  I think of those moments sometimes.  Of those perfectly beautiful moments of the past two years that I quite literally could have missed had I not kept going to therapy.  I’m still here.  I’m still here on the planet.  Which is a multifaceted accomplishment to be sure, but therapy played such a big role in that puzzle.  A role so big, that fills me with a gratitude so great that I almost don’t know what to do with it.  What are the words?  There can’t possibly be the right words, can there?

My life tends to be one big example of irony, so now, right at the moment of the end of therapy, I’m finding myself in a bit of a downward rather than upward swing.  But unlike last summer, I’m not afraid of it.  I’m not.  I know that I’m strong. I know that I will see the light again.  And if I have to come back to that sentence a million times to remind me, I will.  I’ll see the light again.

I’m excited for it.

I’m hopeful.

I’m optimistic (which, by the way, is a word that was not in my vocabulary for.. oh, 44 years)

I owe that, and so very much more, to therapy.  And while I’ve consciously used the general term “therapy” rather than the more personal, and more accurate, “my therapist”, I can’t close this out without correcting that.  I mainly kept things generic because I didn’t feel like crying just yet, and there was zero chance at all that I could write this without crying.

Tony.  My therapist’s name is Tony.  He taught me more than anyone’s ever taught me.  And he taught me the most important things, because, I mean…. what’s more important than LIFE?  I was a slow study sometimes too, and a stubborn one, and a… well, did you get the part about how angry I was all the time?  It must be noted though, that despite all the hard work, and the frustration, and the yuck factor, that there were days I actually enjoyed.  A lot of them in fact.  It feels important that I note that, lest you get the idea that it was 21 months of utter misery.  It wasn’t.  There were days we laughed, often at ourselves.  Days we bonded over silly things like Seinfeld.  Days I was allowed to see little bits of Human Tony instead of just Therapist Tony (those were some of my favorites).  Days we celebrated one of my small victories.  Days we celebrated my really big victories.  Days that I truly felt and knew and believed that he believed in me, that he believed I could do it, and that he believed that I could do it well.  Not because it was his job, and not because I was paying him to be there, but because human to human, he just DID.  I told him not too long ago that I wished that privacy laws didn’t preclude him from having a wall of success stories… because I really wanna see my face up there.  I want him to be able to tell people (again, in a vague way because… laws):  here was this girl who didn’t think she could do the thing …. BUT SHE DID.

It was a Very. Big. Deal.  It was all a big deal. It was a big deal that I did it, and it is a very, very big deal that it has ended.  Because the whole point has always been to get me to a place where I didn’t feel I needed therapy anymore.

And we did that.  I’m there.

Today, on March 6th, 2018, I walked out of that therapy office for the last time.

And I got in my car, turned on my music (which is always on shuffle), and in one final, serendipitous, post-therapy gift from the universe, the song that started playing was, “I’m Not Broken Anymore.”  I was fully prepared to cry… but all I could do was smile.

And now?  Now I take what I learned – and what I worked so hard at; and will continue to work so hard at – and I move forward.  Move on to the next chapter of my life, and whatever that may bring.  And I’ll do it with the deepest and sincerest and most life-long gratitude to Tony, who not only helped me learn how to have a good quality of life, but who quite literally also saved it.

____________________________________________

 

If your mental health isn’t what it should be please know when to seek professional help

If you’re having thoughts of suicide, call the crisis helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

You can also text START to 741-741 if you’d rather text than speak with someone on the phone

If you’re in imminent danger to yourself, PLEASE go to the ER.

You’re loved, and you’re worth it.

 

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Filed under about me, anxiety, bipolar, depression, gratitude, health, mania, mental health