Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Teenage Angst

When I got married to Tim, I became a step-mom at the same time. I started out with a 13, 16 and 19-year-old child. I always said it was like baptism by fire. Parenting teens is hard enough, but starting out with them first, I was more than lost. Parenting is like everything else in life that I counsel people about. I help the best I can based on knowledge I’ve gained, but the ability for me to truly help grows exponentially when I have some real-life experience under my belt. I could help a married couple, but much better after marriage. I could help a divorced couple, but better after experiencing one. Same goes with parenting, step-parenting, losing a parent, losing a spouse, etc….

Now I get to parent a teenager (Frankie is 12) that I actually carried in my womb, have sacrificially given my time, energy, money and heart to for his entire life, and love beyond anything I thought possible. Knowing that teens become big jerks 90% of the time to their parents doesn’t make it any easier to endure it. I have clients going through it too and I sympathize with them as well. I can read all the theory I want about why it is developmentally necessary for them to push away from us, but I still hate it.

So there is “normal.” And then you have the added dimensions about the loss we have suffered. It’s an additional dynamic to add to the mix. From my perspective, he is all I have left. From my perspective, I am terribly lonely every night in our home. He and Colin are buds and they laugh their heads off, play sports and games together, and talk a mile a minute. Oh yeah, they also “bond” over being disgusted that they have such a terrible mother.

Now Colin (Colin is 31) will say that it is my head. He thinks I just feel bad about myself and so I imagine they are treating me that way. But I know better. There have been a million people who have observed our home. There has been more than one or two helping professionals that totally agree. There is more than just the “normal” pulling away here. They have anger and an axe to grind. And it’s directed at me. Full force.

It sucks. Most of the time it breaks my heart, but sometimes I find myself getting really angry. Yesterday was like that. A relatively minor incident occurred where my dad and I went to watch Frankie play basketball at his school. He completely ignored us. He didn’t want us there. It embarrassed him. I tried very hard to do all the verbal talking in my head about how this is what teens too. But I was enraged anyway. I sat there on the bleachers with a couple of tears trickling down my face that I couldn’t control. I wanted to shake him.

Frankie is incredibly smart and gifted. And he is an old soul. He gets life in ways that some adults never will. I guess I expect more from him. At his young age, he unfortunately already knows about grief and loss. He has lost four cats, a grandmother he was very close to, and most importantly, his father. So I know he gets that parents and people who love you should NOT be taken for granted. He knows things his peers don’t. But instead of drawing closer, he treats me like he would be much happier if I was gone too. (That is not based solely on this basketball incident, so don’t think I’ve completely lost my marbles.)

Then the shock sets in for me. I couldn’t wait to have Frankie. I wanted a kid so badly that it was agony waiting for him. Then I had a miscarriage, got pregnant with Frankie and had the world’s worst pregnancy the entire nine months. I adored him. We had a close, healthy, unique relationship for eight years of his life. Like any mother, I would take a bullet for my child, lose a limb without even thinking twice. But now I find myself having horrible thoughts. Things like I don’t even like him anymore. Things like maybe I really should disappear for a while and teach him a lesson. And then I’m shocked. I can’t believe it is me that is having those feelings. What the hell has happened to me? To us?

Death. That’s what fucking happened. Four and a half years later and I still don’t know how to fix our family. Shit.


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Why Do People Read Blogs?

One of my students gave me a homework assignment. She asked me to check out PostSecret. I was fascinated by it. She brought in two books and I read them in no time flat. It’s a great concept. People send in a postcard that tells their secret. The author then posts them in an art display, in a book, or online. The only rule is that it must be a secret you have never told anyone about. It reminds me of an old AA slogan: “You are only as sick as your secrets.”

Some of them make you laugh. Some of them gross you out. Most of them make you very sad. I’m sure the idea is that releasing them is cathartic and helps you move on from them. It’s a great concept.

I started thinking about what I would send if I chose to. There are plenty of things I’m not particularly proud of in my life. There are plenty of things I wouldn’t want to advertise. But I get stuck on the part where you can’t have told another person about it.

I’m not a very private person. I suppose that’s obvious when I’ve written two books that are extremely intimate, honest, and raw. I blog every week about things that happen. That is not always to my advantage as being “not private” opens you up to a lot of judgment.

In therapy, we talk about the difference between secrecy and privacy. Privacy is considered healthy, secrecy carries the possibility of not-so-healthy. It’s related to the difference between guilt and shame. Sometimes secrets are linked to shame.

Anyhow, I’m getting off topic.

I recognize that most people are much more private than I am. I try to respect that. When I started writing the book, we hired a publishing lawyer. I was advised to change all the names in the book except for mine, Tim’s and our pets. Even though most of the people in the books are portrayed positively, it doesn’t matter. The wisest thing was to change names across the board. She told me to do the same with the blogs, and to keep them consistent.

You learn little tricks along the way. Sometimes you just say generic things like “my friend’s husband” so no names are necessary. I have quite a spreadsheet of name changes now from over the years. I have to keep track because I can’t possibly remember and keep them all straight. Some people really enjoy following their “character” as I write. Once I even changed the gender of my friend and he never lets me forget that.

Then there was that time period when a former guy from my life started following my blog and commenting. He changed his name and gender so I didn’t figure out it was him for a while. That felt different. It didn’t feel like fun, it felt dishonest and cowardly. He wouldn’t talk to me in “real life” and actually blocked me from contact. But he could contact me as much as he wanted under his false identity.

I’ve had other issues come up as well. Friends of friends of friends read the blog. They read it and forget the names have been changed. They assume they know who I am talking about and it causes problems. “Was that you? What were you doing that for?” and things like that. I’ve actually had conflict over things like this and it infuriates me.

I don’t even know what to do about it. I’ve said several times in my blogs (and the books) that names are changed. How tedious would it be if I started every single entry with a reminder to the reader that the names are not necessarily the names of actual people? I would get sick of writing it for sure.

But the more important issue, is why is this even an issue?

That got me thinking about why some of the people who are reading the blog are even reading it. I know a handful of them that read it, and am fairly certain they don’t like me. They don’t respect me or the way I live my life. And I suspect if that’s the case, they aren’t too thrilled about the idea that someone they do like is involved in my life. So why are they reading it?

Some people read because they do love me. Or they loved Tim. They care and want to support me and my family. Lots of people read who have never met me/us. I would like to think some of those people actually like my writing. And my deepest hope, is that some people read because they find hope and inspiration. The whole point is to be brave enough to speak the truth, then still find a way to move on. Every time someone is helped by a lecture, a blog, or a book, that means something good has come from something tragic. And that makes it a tiny bit easier to move on, one small step at a time

I’m truly not afraid of people disagreeing with me. But when you aren’t a very private person, people tend to forget that it still requires a certain amount of courage and bravery to put yourself out there. I am still extremely vulnerable when I choose to write.

Unfortunately, there are people who read so they can keep an eye on my life. They want to continue to judge me. They feel compelled to be my personal critic. And the people who are in my life. Sometimes, I lose patience with it.

Bottom line, no one has to read it. And as much as I want followers and readers to get the messages out there, I would rather have you not read it if your purpose is make trouble for me or the people in my life. Life could be much, much, much worse. But still, I think I’ve been through plenty. I’ve had enough heartache for one middle-aged woman. I don’t write so I can invite more.

I write so I can keep my head up. So other people can be inspired. So I can keep processing my life. So I can still have a voice in a world where I often feel so invisible.

Thanks to acupuncture and the lessening of the lead-like depression I have been under, I have weathered the critics. But I’m asking the critics to stop anyways. If you’ve read my books or my blogs for very long, you can take comfort in knowing there isn’t a human being out there who could be more critical of me than I am of myself. So rest easy, I’ve got that part covered.

And yet the other side of that? I think I’ve done a pretty good job with some pretty tough shit tossed my way. So there!


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Icicles

I was talking to my graphic artist and asked him what I should blog about. He said icicles because he hates them. The snow and cold is kicking his butt like it is for everyone in this area. He knocks the icicles down and they just come back. But it made me think about things in our life that we have to do over and over again. Here is Frankie and one of the pictures from the Snow-vember storm:
Dave

You might remember the pictures on my blog from that storm. I had water leaks in four rooms. I had the contractor AND the roofer come out and check things out. I thought I was being smart. I knew not to spend the money fixing the interior of the house until the problem was fixed on the outside. BOTH guys told me it was a fluke. There was nothing wrong with the roof and unless there was seven feet of snow again, I was safe to fix the inside.
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That is a photo of the new leaks across my kitchen ceiling. Talk about doing things over and over. Thirteen hundred bucks thrown away from fixing it the first time. I could have screamed. Or fainted. Or both.

I know you have seen pictures of the kittens we got for Christmas. I wanted to add joy and life to our dead house. Well, they have certainly added to our lives. Ringworm, that is. Long-haired Herbie had to go back to the shelter for treatment for three to four weeks. We are treating Matilda here at home and hoping Taffy, the dog doesn’t get it. Did I mention that Frankie, myself, and our dear friend, Karen got it? We are all in treatment too. I won’t send you pictures of that. I called in the reinforcements and several of my friends came and helped me sterilize the house. Vacuumed all three floors. Shampooed all three floors. Washed over 20 loads of laundry- literally. And cloroxed every surface, all three floors. Let’s just hope we don’t repeat that one again. And did I mention that I have the best friends ever?

Just a little side note to add to the Match stories. I was emailing a guy back and forth on Saturday for quite a while. Then he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was sterilizing my house because of ringworm. He never wrote back again. HA! Coward.

But you know what? I swear that acupuncture must be working. It was one hell of a stressful week with truckloads of drama to boot. But I didn’t crawl under my bed once. Not once. I didn’t get admitted to a hospital. I didn’t cry and fear I wouldn’t stop. I just dealt with all of it. All of it.

Poking yourself with needles over and over again seems like a pretty insane thing to do. But I tell you what. I plan to repeat that cycle as many as times as necessary ‘cuz the proof is in the pudding!


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Courage and Willingness

My friend Summer gave me a pack of gratitude cards for Christmas. She thought they would be helpful for me on Thursdays when I didn’t have a blog idea. They are written by Julia Cameron. I broke it open today and read about “synchronicity,” which describes looking for the card being just what you need for that day, being aware of how it dovetails with other messages and thoughts you are receiving.

The first card said, “I have the courage to desire my good…” I had just returned from my spiritual direction session, where we talked about praying things like, “Make me willing to be willing.” Very similar idea. And that conversation was sparked by a thought that hit me hard over the weekend.

I recently started acupuncture treatments. I know little about it theory wise, but I know that I haven’t tried it before. And I know I’ve read and heard about some great successes with long-term depression. The critic in me thinks I am just grasping at another straw to get me out of my life-long funk. The optimist in me thinks what is the alternative? The alternative is to accept that life is as good as it gets. For me, life has been waking up every morning feeling like I have a large quantity of lead on my chest, literally weighing me down. It makes getting up each day a very tall order. Well, I refuse to accept that is my life and how it is going to be. So in spite of the expense and my skepticism, I “signed on” for acupuncture.

It hit me over the weekend that I needed to start praying something new. For those of you that haven’t struggled with depression, it may sound a bit nutty to you. Those of you that have, will probably completely get this. I started to pray that if the depression truly begins to leave, that I would be in a place where I am genuinely ready to accept a life without it.

That might sound crazy, but I can’t remember a time when I haven’t had that dark cloud hanging over my head. My identity has been “the depressed one” for so long, that I can’t imagine who I would be without it. The doc didn’t need to hear my long, sad story. She just wanted the summary. That is this: I’ve struggled with depression since about age 21. I’ve managed it with medication quite well for over 20 years. But the last four years have kicked my ass and I find I’m no longer able to manage it.

She seems confident that treatment is going to help. She even thinks I won’t need medication at all when she is done. Really? I’ve used it for over 25 years. I don’t even have a vision for that.

That’s why I’m praying my new prayer. If a life without depression is on its way, I want to recognize it when it comes. I don’t want to sabotage it. I want to embrace it.

Synchronicity? Yep. I came up with my prayer/task all on my own. Then my spiritual director confirmed it with, “being willing to be willing.” Then my gratitude card confirmed it with, “having the courage to desire my good.”

BRING IT ON!!