Tsunami Warning

Even when my kid has a good day, it can be a tough day for me.

Doctors continue to remind me that an additional diagnosis is pending in the years ahead. And even though they can’t say yet what it is, the likely possibilities are talked about, candidly. I appreciate the candor. It’s also an emotional rollercoaster.

It’s like someone telling you that the asthma your kid is experiencing and getting treated for right now is likely going to be later diagnosed as tuberculosis, emphysema or lung cancer. And you believe the doctors. You are grateful they are on your kid’s case. You see the symptoms and know that there isn’t really anything you can do to prevent the forthcoming diagnosis.

It makes you wonder what kind of life your kid will have. It makes you wonder what kind of life you will have. It makes you remember the importance of practicing the discipline of being present and how absolutely difficult that discipline is to practice on any given day – especially when a tsunami warning has been issued.

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Deeper Than You Think and Gasping For Air

Have you ever been in a boat or even on a bridge or near a pool and looked at the water and assumed you know how deep the water is?  I know in my experience, the water is usually deeper thank I think it’s going to be, especially if I can see the bottom. Standing, or more accurately, treading water in 8 feet of water, I discover that 8 feet of water is much deeper than it looks from the surface.

Someone recently suggested to me that because they don’t observe me cry or react typically that I don’t feel as deeply as others. That is such a hard thing to hear. Not only because it isn’t true but because it is another wound. I feel like I’ve spent a lifetime dealing with people not knowing what drowning looks like.

Sometimes I feel like my adult life has been all about getting my head above water so I can gasp for air. Sometimes I feel like my loved ones have been sunning themselves on the beach or, in some cases, they have dumped a bucket of water over me while I silently sink further and further beneath the surface.

I don’t expect anyone else to “fix” these things for me. I didn’t share any of this as an excuse for how or why I behave or don’t behave or communicate or don’t communicate the things I do. This is just my attempt to continue to save myself from drowning and to keep gasping for air.

The Secret Keepers

Quoting the blogger, “This message is not just for survivors of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse but for people who have been victimized as adults as well. Even if you haven’t been directly affected by abuse, someone you know might need to be reached by this so please share this post.” In this case, I’ll do as I’m told.

Mended Musings

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I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to ask you to share this post. Reblog it, share it on Facebook, tweet it. Someone out there needs to hear this message today. Even if you think you don’t know anyone who has been abused. Even if you don’t read the entire post.

About a month ago I was asked by Dawn at WTF words, thoughts, feelings to contribute an essay for an anthology that she and Joyelle are creating for parents who are survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse (learn more at https://www.facebook.com/TriggerPointsAnthology).

I submitted my essay but I also want to shine a bigger spotlight on this project because I fear that they may not get many submissions. Not because it’s not a worthy cause or because there aren’t enough people out there to contribute but because survivors of abuse are secret…

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Scuba (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus)

I became a certified scuba diver in 1998. After months of feeling like I might drown and/or am underwater, and after a particularly bad visit with some family members, I am realizing that I have been in possession of a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. I am still here. I am alive. I am not drowning. I don’t want to drown and, in fact, I am still swimming.

Ironically, it was the uninvited (and unqualified) assessment of my mental health that helped me see all this. My family member called my best friends, concerned that I had “changed.” She, of course, postured herself as a most qualified and compassionate rescue diver, suggesting that I was in deep water and would not be able to get myself back to the surface. She even went so far as to suggest to them that I perhaps need a decompression chamber and should be in a hospital myself.

This, coming from a woman who has never, ever gone scuba diving and given her ginger quality (she has red hair and very fair skin) she hardly ever goes to the beach let alone in the water. She has never participated in therapy herself and yet she had the audacity to say she is disappointed with my therapist (whom she has never met) because I haven’t been put on medication. So, even though she has never opened even a magazine about scuba diving, she was going to be “helpful” by saying she knows how much air I have left in that rebreather tank of mine.

Just so you all know, I am in therapy and have been for years, even paying out pocket for the last year (since I have been unemployed – another difficulty I am navigating right now). In response to my therapist’s recommendation, I made an appointment with my primary care physician to get – among other things – an evaluation to determine if starting an anti-depressant is something I should consider. The results of that conversation? Nah. Not unless I really want to.

Why not? 1) I am not as depressed as I thought I was. I was comparing myself to myself at different times in my life and, yes, I am depressed. Who wouldn’t have reactive depression? But when comparing myself to other places on can be the spectrum of depression… 2) I am not only doing a lot of things “right” for myself, there are many other things I can continue to do for my own emotional well-being. Like exercising. Getting a dog. Spending more time with friends. All of which I have begun doing more. Plus… 3) It is finally not freezing where I live. The sun has been occasionally shining and the temperatures are sometimes in the 70s. 4) Did I mention I got a dog? A puppy actually. American Cocker Spaniel. While he is like having a baby again, Luna and I are totally in love with him.

Anyway, my relative never sat me down over my favorite cup of coffee and said, “I’d like to talk to you about how concerned I am about you since you have so much going on (Luna’s hospitalizations; your unemployment; the pending trial with your ex-husband). No. She came to my house, refused to share when she was planning to leave, and felt my questions about her itinerary were an invasion of her privacy (how ironic!) and responded as if I was being disrespectful.

I was being disrespectful for making sure my family didn’t suck my tank dry?

The gift about getting angry is that it reminds us we are alive and that we have power. I told them they needed to leave. They did and they took their “life boat” of self-righteousness with them.

To be clear, I am aware I need help. I am stuck between a rock and a hard place and I want to get out. I see it’s going to take time to do so. I also know that I need to conserve the air I have. And once I get myself unstuck, I can make an emergency ascent if necessary. I’ve not only been trained, I have done it before. And I’m not alone. I know I have people at the surface who know I’m down here and want to help me. Someone dropped a fresh tank of air for me. I don’t know how they did it but I got it and I’m gonna use it to get out of here and back to the surface.

Underwater

When Luna was hospitalized the first time, it felt like a crisis but it also felt slightly validating. Like, I knew her struggles were extreme and the fact that a team of people had decided she should be admitted to a locked ward where she would receive more intense care and evaluation made me feel, well, supported. I felt affirmed. I felt vindicated, as if I were RIGHT.

When Luna was hospitalized the second time, about four months later, she was violent. It felt more traumatic. Since she went back to the hospital only 5 days after seeing her father, it also seemed like the connection between her dis-regulation and her visits to see him had become obvious. I felt sad, exhausted and like I was never going to be able to fully move on from the trauma I had experienced when I was married to Steve because I kept being asked to talk about it as context for Luna’s experience(s). I became discouraged.

Luna’s third hospitalization, just three months after the second and a mere few weeks ago, was preceded by a very specific and calmly communicated suicide threat. I honestly felt almost… detached about it. I felt – and in many ways still feel – numb about it. I felt overwhelmed. Victimized. Hopeless. It was very clear that Luna’s struggles weren’t just about the things she experienced with me when I was married. Luna has real struggles and will be dealing with them for a long time.

I’ve effectively withdrawn from many of my friendships. I’ve become so depressed I went to see my own doctor to be evaluated for antidepressants. I’ve been so sad. So angry.  So negative. So fearful.  I’m convinced that nothing is going to get better. It’s only going to get worse.

When a home is “underwater,” the homeowner is stuck. Either the homeowner must 1) continue making the mortgage payments, 2) give the bank – in cash – the difference between the amount of the mortgage and the amount the house is worth before being able to sell it 3) let the house go into foreclosure. Those are the options.

When homeowners have regular income, continue to make payments and want to stay in the house long term, it’s not so big a deal when a home is underwater. The market fluctuates so it is likely that the value of the home will again increase at some point. But when a homeowner has been laid off and doesn’t have income and wants to move, having a home that is underwater is discouraging and depressing.

When we are literally underwater, our visibility is often compromised (even in the best of circumstances we can’t usually see as far as we can on the surface) but our ability to hear noise is enhanced. Sounds that would normally be undetectable are easily detected when under water.

I’m underwater. I don’t understand why I’m not trying to gasp for air. I’m not drowning but I also don’t seem to have any inclination to try to get to the surface. I feel like I’m just waiting for foreclosure. I’m hearing the underwater “ping” of inevitability.

Not Waving but Drowning

I do not feel like a piece of glass being made smooth and beautiful by the surf.

I believe I was once beautiful and I used to feel like I was a broken beautiful thing, being tumbled about in the surf, getting my jagged edges rounded out.

Right now, however, I feel more like an empty soda can. I am filling up with water and not only am I having a hard time staying afloat, I am actually thinking about letting the water fill up the void so I can submerge and sink to the bottom, where it’s desolate and quiet and I won’t have to feel anything any more. Either that or someone should recycle me.

Luna is the only thing that is giving me purpose right now.  I know friends who would be worried, “What if you didn’t have Luna?” If I didn’t have Luna, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in. If she had never been born, I would be living in an alternate universe. And if she had been born but weren’t with me, for some reason, I would be investing everything I have to get her back and make sure she was ok.

I am currently investing everything I have to keep her with me and make sure she is ok.

Yesterday, I told a friend that I don’t think I do anything well. He literally laughed. I know his laughter was out of love. He sees me much differently than I see myself right now. It reminds me of the line of poetry, “I was much further out than you thought. And not waving, but drowning.”

Blog for Mental Health 2014

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”

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I grew up in a family unofficially experiencing anxiety, depression and PTSD. I married into a family with undiagnosed anxiety, depression and addiction. (I left that marriage almost a decade ago.)  I have a daughter who has been diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD.  Sometimes I struggle with anxiety, depression and PTSD.

My daughter has been hospitalized, twice, for struggles related to PTSD. Both instances were in middle school and were preceded by  a visit with her father. My sister has been hospitalized, twice, for struggles related to PTSD. Her first admission was in high school. She was admitted again as an adult, before she married my brother-in-law. My grandmother was hospitalized sometime in or after high school, before she married my grandfather.

I am working on learning how to share as candidly as possible while preserving the privacy of my family. I guess this is where I acknowledge that I’m writing under the alias Elaine J. Demeter. Similarly, I will use a set of aliases to refer to the people I know and love in my life.

Obviously, I come from a long line of mental illnesses and emotional disorders and yet when my daughter was diagnosed, I overwhelmed, frustrated felt very alone. Who am I kidding? I still feel all those things. It is especially difficult when something she experiences because of her PTSD ends up triggering my own PTSD. It is difficult and lonely and one of the things I am most committed to getting through.

It has been a mere three weeks since I learned about this endeavor. In that short time I have been able to find more blogs than I can possibly read and, perhaps more importantly, bloggers bravely sharing their experiences and stories with candor and creativity. I am connected to more resources and more people on the very issues I was seeking community and, dare I say, camaraderie.

We don’t have to be alone.

We are not alone.

Visit A Canvas of the Minds for more information about The Blog For Mental Health 2014, including information on how to participate yourself.