Do You Hear Me Now?

I read a story today that… unfortunately, I believed. The title was “Plane Crew Nearly Lets Passenger Die Because They Couldn’t Believe A Black Woman Was A Doctor”. You can read the full article here. The just of it is she was discriminated against because she didn’t look like a doctor. The flight attendants were rude to say the least and potentially dangerous. I can’t even imagine a situation where I’d volunteer medical advice or intervention without the proper “credentials”. What were they thinking?!

Natalie didn’t look the part of an addict, either. She had the behaviors for sure but just by looking at her, you probably wouldn’t pick up on it. She had expensive taste. Ever since I can remember… What kind of kid orders LOBSTER and escargot? Anyway…

I feel like at least some part of the the world’s population needs remedial kindergarten classes. Hold up a photo of an African American. “Doctor” I would say while pointing at the pic. Hold up a photo of Nat “Addict”. Either forget any stereotype you have or, if that’s not possible, imagine everyone you know in every role you can think of. It is possible. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around “us” being able to send men to the moon, to Mars, wherever but still question whether or black woman can be a doctor? WTF dude.

I guess it’s bothering me more than it normally would because of the chilly reception I’ve gotten from most everyone I talk to about the expo. More specifically, about hanging a freaking flier on their community board or slip them into the break room for anyone to see.

“We don’t do anything like that”

Like what? Like nothing? Just wait until I leave to throw it away if it bothers you… Lie to me. Make me think for a second or two that I might make a difference to someone. (I’m getting super tired, I can tell because I know I’m making a difference and I’m letting the little things get to me). Take the Go Fund Me page for example. Tons and tons of requests for money to cover anything from a dream vacation to funeral expenses. A surgery or a gift to start out married life right. The pet section is heart wrenching. People as a whole have a soft spot for animals, many of them valuing the life of an animal over the the quality of living for a human.

So. New campaign strategy. Help raise money to keep our animals with their humans! Pets need to be taken care of, who will do it once the addict is gone? I don’t want them (or anyone) to suffer through that… What’da think?

Maybe this will help. Natalie Patterson’s spoken word poem, “I Know Someone” is an emotional offering of sympathy and understanding.

We’ve GOT TO STOP THE STIGMA that goes along with drug addictions & mental health issues. It is my job, my goal to keep peoples’ focus and attention on love. Loving yourself, loving others, being decent and kind… and I can’t do it alone.

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New Arrival!

Meet Noah.

He arrived today from Waverly, MN.

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to bring him home but the cosmos were in alignment and everything worked out… I didn’t even have to sell my soul, so bonus.

I ordered him on Monday or Tuesday and I tracked that package like I was a storm chaser on the heels of a hurricane. I even sat outside on the curb for a while, hoping I’d meet the UPS driver before he brought the package into the office. After a couple of hours, I figured I should be more productive. So I worked on cleaning out our den.

I grabbed a stack of papers and in the shuffle, out fell the card Natalie had written to go along with the flowers she sent after Noah passed.

My eyes glazed over and my brain went numb.

I remembered it was a Saturday. The bouquet was sitting on our doorstep, waiting for us when we got home. I thought it was a mistake. I barely glanced at the flowers, looking only for the attached card. I wanted to make sure they got to the right person…

“Words cannot express the hurt I feel for the loss of Noah. Hope these will bring some beauty into your world at such a time of sadness. I love you with all my heart. Natalie.”

I was beside myself all over again.

Why? God, Why BOTH of them? Why so close together? WHY?

And in the end, it doesn’t matter why. There’s no changing it. There will be no answers until I am with them. And I have to find a way to be ok with that… not ok they’re gone but accept it, otherwise I won’t be able to go on.

I cried until I couldn’t breathe and then I got into the shower. I let the hot water pelt my neck and back. I imagined God crying with me. Bathing me in his tears.

When I got out of the shower, Don had a box from UPS in his hands.

He cut through all the tape and the hard to remove packing.

Under butter yellow tissue paper and wrapped in a green receiving blanket was Noah.

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He took my breath away. I was almost afraid to pick him up… but I did. I gently lifted him from the cardboard box and unwrapped the blanket. I held him to my chest, still clutching my towel in one hand, baby in the other. I started to sway as my eyes got hot again, filling with tears.

Along with Noah, a change of clothes, a hat and a birth certificate with the name Noah was included.

I had to leave. I had an appointment at 3:00 and it was close to that already.

“What do you think of him” Don asked me in the car.

“Think? I’m trying not to think about it. When I do, I feel weird. Self conscious. Silly. Unstable. But when I held him and rocked him, I FELT peaceful. I felt right…”

“I just don’t want you to um, I don’t know how to say it… I’m afraid I’ll come home one day and you’ll say ‘guess what Noah did today'”.

I laughed. “No, I don’t think you have to worry about that. And, if you catch me trying to nurse him? Take him away from me, please.”

He chuckled, very uncomfortably.

So, we’ll see how it goes. He’s a beautiful baby DOLL and it fills my heart up to even look at him. I hope he becomes a resource as tomorrow is Thursday. Again. God how I HATE Thursdays. It will be 8 weeks tomorrow. Getting harder to pretend she’s on a vacation…

How about you? How do you or have you coped with grief and losses? Does anything REALLY help? Let me know in the comments below!

I Have a Mental Illness & a Child with Special Needs

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Welcome to Hell.

This morning my daughter got to school. On time. I didn’t see it on the news, but it was huge. Way more important than that political ticker tape that crawled across the bottom of my TV screen on Super Tuesday interrupting an episode of The Voice.

I was diagnosed with depression at a young age. As I got older, anxiety held depression’s hand as they look long and lustful walks across my body and mind. In my late 20’s, I was also given the label of bipolar. This was a mistake, caught and corrected in my mid 30’s and I went from bipolar to having borderline personality disorder (BPD).

As a society we are taught that labels are bad and mental illness is worse. Having both was like a lifetime supply of misunderstanding, scrutiny and judgement, not to mention what anyone else thought! I was scared. I’d grown up around the attitude of “don’t give it a name, just ignore it. Get more sleep, exercise and eat better, you’ll be fine” but even when I did these things, I wasn’t fine.

When I spent some time researching the symptoms of BPD, I felt for the first time, like someone really understood what I was going through. I was truly grateful to give a name to the part of me that wasn’t me. It eased the weight a little, took some of the sting out of rejection. It explained, to a degree, why I felt so completely abandoned at the end of a school day when all my friends went home. In my mind, I knew it was illogical but no amount of reasoning made it hurt less. Also accounted for, my impulsivity. No, I can’t explain why I have to do it now, I just do!

And because this wasn’t me at the core, I didn’t pay much attention to it, other than to try to make friends with it. I’d joke about being certifiable & claim the title of crazy at any given opportunity…

In understanding my illness, I no longer believed in the mental health stigma. I’m crazy, she’s crazy, we’re all a little crazy, who isn’t? Right?

That was until my daughter was diagnosed with separation anxiety and depression. She was born premature and I wondered how much of our relationship had been affected by the inability to bond right away. She’s been in therapy for nearly five years, with just as many therapists. She has had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) since the first grade and has been labeled an “EBD” kid, Emotionally &/or behaviorally disturbed in some of the school paperwork.

In some senses, it’s a good thing to have the extra resources and supports around her but in others, I feel like a failure. I gave her my illness or I didn’t provide a good enough or happy enough of a life for her. I wasn’t paying close enough attention and when I wasn’t looking, depression snatched her away.

She didn’t want to leave my side (symptom of her separation anxiety) and I felt abandoned when she left me for school (symptom of my BPD) we are quite the pair.

There were tantrums, screaming, crying, kicking and biting. We tried rewards and an earning system. We tried punishment. We tried bribing her. Nothing seemed to help and the behavior got worse. She’d bang her head against the wall, bite her lip bloody and once almost jumped out of the car while it was moving.

Last month my husband and I pleaded with her therapist. “We can’t do this anymore!” It is a physical and mental fight: Every. Single. School day. We literally had to drag her from the house to the car. Once we’d get in the front seats, she’d be out of the back and we’d be chasing her around the car like in the god damn cartoons. Once we’d finally get to school, she wouldn’t get out of the car. We either had to pull her out, first prying her fingers from around a headrest, while she’s hitting and kicking blindly or find someone from the school to help us with her. It took hours. And it was taking its toll. My husband & I fought constantly over who wasn’t doing their part, who yelled more and who slammed more doors, (he did). Accusations starting with “at least I never…” were thrown around like rubber circles in a circus ring toss. We ended up acting like children ourselves.

Now the state is involved.

She’s getting better and she’s still struggling. It’s stressing me out to the point my own sanity comes into question. “Am I doing the right thing?”, “What am I missing?”, “What more can I do?” were all on a loop inside my brain.

Then it happened. It was a Saturday. I was coming off of an extremely busy shift and I had asked her to do three things. Get dressed. Feed the cats and pick up the living room. She had 5 and a half hours to do that and not one of them had been taken care of.

“PLEASE. Feed the cats” I said in an exasperated exhale.

“They don’t have enough food” she said.

“Just give them what we have”

“No. it’s not enough to fill both bowls.”

“I don’t care! Give them the rest of what is left! Can I just not feed you because we don’t have all the foods you want?”

“I’m not doing it!” she screamed.

“FUCK! God damn it. Son of a bitch, mother-fucker!” stomp, stomp, stomp.

I whipped open the cupboard door and gave each cat a full bowl of food, with a little left over. I slammed the cupboard door shut. I retreated to my bedroom and start to close the door. Her face appeared between the door and the frame. “Go away” I said.

She continued to move toward me. “GET OUT!” I yelled and I pushed her. Hard. She stumbled back and hit the linen closet door. The look on her face, sent my stomach to the floor, along with my heart.

Now she tried to slam her door in my face but it bounced back as she flung herself on her bed and cried.

“I’m sorry” I said. I sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her back while telling her I loved her AND I was beyond frustrated. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t handle myself the way I would’ve liked but I needed a time out.

She sobbed and shrank under my touch.

“We both need a timeout” I thought as I went back to my room.

Later that night, as I lay on the couch, she crawled under a blanket and snuggled against me. “I’m sorry too” she said. I kissed the top of her head and we finished the evening watching “our” show, The Golden Girls.

I’d think with as much therapy as I’ve had in my life, I’d be the perfect parent… but of course I still make mistakes and I will continue to make mistakes. I just have to make sure that at the end of the day, there are apologies, a resolve to do better and a goodnight snuggle.