Health & Healing

30 Day Writing Challenge – Days 10-13: 4 Day Catch-up

Day 10: If you had 3 wishes…
Day 11: If I were 16 again, this is one decision I’d change.
Day 12: I’m going to do this amazing thing today. It will…
Day 13: What is something you’ve said that you wish you said differently?

Four days’ worth of prompts. What happened? The prompts for days 10, 11, and 12 were a little late and I was otherwise occupied. Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I wrote a letter to my mom, who committed suicide when I was 12. It was a day of grieving. I let the tears flow and didn’t try to stifle them. It was a difficult thing, but, I did it. Today has been a day of recovering from a week caught in the limbo land of my ex – too long of a story there. Someday I’ll tell it . . . maybe. I also collaborated on creating a Numbers spreadsheet for a game app I play. That was fun and felt somewhat productive. I also dealt with some medical service issues for my youngest. Another long story that I will be telling sometime soon, I think. I dozed a bit off and on, washed accumulated dishes, and that’s about it. So, here I am looking at these prompts and feeling a bit overwhelmed and stymied.

However, I am reminding myself that I don’t have to write profoundly or perfectly. Nor does it have to be a pretty little package of poetry or prose. The writing itself is what’s important, right now, as I work toward developing my writing muscle and mental habit. So, here I go.

Day 10: If I had 3 wishes…

  1. I had a couple of people who would come in and help me deal with ALL the clutter, mostly paper, that I’ve accumulated over the years. I moved into the place I’m at now almost nine years ago. I still have unpacked boxes and crates filling my bedroom and hall closets and completely filling up the space under my bed. I want to have all the stuff sorted into the donate, discard, and keep categories. Then, I want all the “keep” stuff totally organized . . . I just don’t want to be the one doing it, or at least not doing it by myself. Just the thought is overwhelming and my brain starts shutting down at the thought of it all.
  2. I had a personal trainer/nutritionist to work with me until I could get my kitchen and schedule overhauled to enable me to take better care of my health by developing habits, establishing routines, and learning how to meal plan, prep, and shop for myself, while also dealing with the Binge Eating Disorder/Depression that make self-care in these ways so challenging.
  3. I had a life/writing coach and editor to help me figure out the steps and process of gathering, organizing, and editing my writing in a way so I can write some books. I have been told I need to publish my writing and that I should write a biography. I want to do these two things, I just really don’t know where to start.

Day 11: If I were 16 again, this is one decision I’d change.

I’ve really been thinking about this one a lot. 16 was a pivotal year for me. Pretty much every decision I made led me to be the person I am today and led to the children and grandchildren I have. If I could make changes and still be guaranteed to have the same family I have today, just with fewer difficulties and more functionality, then I would stay in school and not run away from home with a man who was 14 years older than me, a con artist, and the father of my first child. I’ll have to write about this at more length in the future. Suffice it to say, any change I would make would wipe out the life I have today and the people in it. That’s not worth making things look the way I wanted them to back then.

Day 12: I’m going to do this amazing thing today. It will…

I did the amazing thing yesterday. I wrote the letter to my mom. I grieved for her and for myself. I hunted for and found a poem I had written to her at a time when I was struggling with my own mental health as a young, single, depressed mom. It eased some of the emotional weight and pressure I’ve been harboring for a very long time. I felt better for it.

Day 13: What is something you’ve said that you wish you said differently?

I wish I could say things to my youngest daughter in ways that don’t trigger her fears and anxiety. She experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. She’s very literal. She’s scared of the dark and when she’s exposed to things in our culture that most people can differentiate between reality and fantasy, she can’t. She fully believes that Chucky, Pennywise, and Momo are real and will come to get her in the dark. She also has behavior issues from emotional dysregulation. During those times when she acts out in extreme ways, she attributes them to an aspect she calls Moonlight. She speaks of it as if Moonlight is in control of these destructive behaviors and actions. I struggle with understanding whether Moonlight is an actual manifestation of something additional going on with her mental health or if she’s a construct she uses to scapegoat and avoid taking responsibility for her actions. Both of these things often frustrate and exasperate me and I speak dismissively, with impatience, doubt, or frustration. None of those things are helpful in any context with neurotypical people. With her and her autism, they are really detrimental and get in the way of us being able to have constructive and positive interactions.

How was that for a four day catch-up wrap-up?

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Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

We never really had a chance to grow in a relationship together. You were gone from my life too soon. Before that, you were busy battling your inner demons on your own, unbeknownst to me. All I know is that we never had a chance to grow together and learn who the other was, firsthand.

I resented and despised you for so long. Since I was already that resentful, angry, confused, lost little girl, I was numb when I learned of your suicide. The women around me were wailing and crying. I knew they thought I was wrong for not crying, too. So, I manufactured the tears that would keep me “safe” from their stares of condemnation. My grief was an empty, hollow thing, amorphous and disconnected.

It’s been walled away for such a long time. I don’t think I believed it really existed. Though, there have been times it seeped through the cracks and manifested.

The first time was eight or nine months after that fateful night.

There was a boy who I’d started a friendship with, once school started that year. 7th grade is hard enough. But, I was the new kid, again. My saving grace was that it was everyone’s first day at the new school. So, I made a friend a little easier than all the times before. Anyway, I told him about you and what you had done. I don’t remember how he reacted to that news.

I do know that I rather quickly fell out of favor. But, that probably had more to do with my highly reactive emotions and physical attacks toward anyone, any boy, I thought was teasing and making fun of me…mostly for being fat. Anyway, by the end of the school year, I had one friend…and it wasn’t Jason.

There was one girl, Cathy, who was friendly to everyone. I wanted her friendship, but didn’t know how to be a friend. So, I hovered on the fringes. One day, in the cafeteria. I wanted to talk to her. She was surrounded by others, including Jason. He got irritated by my presence and said something rude, telling me to go away. I told him to go to Hell.

“I’ve already been there…and your mother’s just fine.”

For the first time, my tears for you were real. Of course, I only let the walls of the bathroom stall see them. Then, I pushed them away. Later that day, I marched to Jason’s house and basically threatened his life if he ever talked about you again. But that was pretty much the last time you were part of my childhood.

The next time, I was about 22 and going through my first nervous breakdown. I saw your face, instead of my own, in the bathroom mirror. Obviously, I was more than a little freaked out. So, I did what I do. I wrote it out in the form of a poem:

The Dolphin and The Sea

I saw your face this morning,
as I peered into the glass.
I was startled into yearning,
and knew I had to ask.

I reached beyond the present,
deep into the past;
to find the answer, so unpleasant,
to discover peace at last.

Why did you leave? Where did you go?
I had no chance to tell you all I wanted you to know.

You were my heroine. You were my bane.
You were bright and shining, and not quite sane.

You were full of madness, yet masked it well.
You hid your sadness, ’til your wall fell.

Once that happened, there was no hope.
You were so frightened, you could not cope.

I turned from you as you turned toward me.
I disappointed you. You disappointed me.

I never intended to be your disciple.
I never intended to repeat your strife.
The time has come to break the cycle.
It is time for me to separate from your life.

Though your time on earth is ended,
You are still a part of me.
You and I are spirits, kindred,
as the dolphin and the sea.

The point is, I miss you. I always have, even though I didn’t know it. I miss not having a mom I can turn to when my heart is hurting because I see my kids struggling and I want to ask you how you did it…except, you didn’t. You couldn’t. I know that, if you could have made other choices, you would have.

But, I did learn from you. You taught me to never give up on myself and to never leave my kids behind, no matter how lost, alone, confused, and overwhelmed I became. You also taught me that no matter how angry, mean, and rejecting my kids were, to never let them go.

Those lessons have paid off. I’m turning 50 in a few weeks, Momma. 50. Can you believe it? You didn’t make it to 29. My kids are 32, 25, and 10. I have three grandkids: 5, 4, and 1.

It hasn’t been easy. It’s still hard today. But, it’s getting better. My oldest, who was so wounded by me and who basically disowned me seven years ago, called the other day. (We both worked hard and reconnected over the past several years.) Anyway, he called me to tell me he realized and is glad that I never left them. I get to have a relationship with my adult daughter and her three children. I’m actively parenting a brilliant, challenging daughter who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum.

I’m sorry the Depression robbed you of so much. I hope you know how much you gave to me and to the world. I’m here. Your grandchildren are here. Your great-grandchildren are here. None of us would be, if you hadn’t been first. I miss you. I love you.

Forever your daughter,
Me

30 Day Writing Challenge – Days 8 & 9: Learning to Soar

Day 8 – What’s next?
Day 9 – How would your life be different if you were intentional about ___________?

I sat and considered, “What next?”
I was baffled and confused,
directionless and faltering.
Then, life happened
and I stopped thinking about it.

“Rolling with the punches;”
Taking life “one day at a time;”
Living “step by step,” and
“Putting one foot in front of the other,”
have been my mantras for survival.

Guess what? I have survived…my past, my life.
I’m good at surviving, but I am beyond just that.
I’m past these mantras. They’ve served me well.
They hinder me, now. They’re holding me back.
It’s time to learn new rhythms, new words.

What if I take a risk and choose to do
something more than get by?
What if I “step up and step out” and
“grab for the brass ring;”
“live each day by choice, not by chance?

How will my life be different if I
go beyond being “comfortably numb,”
adopt new mantras to live by, and
develop a, “new attitude?”
How can I affect a “change for the better?”

I can’t do this alone and, thankfully, I’m not.
The source of all life, light, and love resides in me.
What if I “seek first” to “watch, fight, and pray?”
What if I anchor myself throughout each day to
rest, walk, and hear by faith, mindful in each moment?

I will find new purpose, faith, and courage.
I will move through the self-doubt and fear.
I will head in a new direction, gaining
confidence along the way.
I will learn to “soar above the waves.”

©️2019 lem

30 Day Writing Challenge- Days 6 & 7: The Past Informs the Future

Prompts
06: When was the last time you _______________?
07: What will life be like for you in 2025?

The last time I really tried to think ahead to 2025, I was graduating from a high school completion program. That was in 1990 . . . 30 years ago. I had a hard time imagining it then, I have a difficult time imagining it now. I couldn’t really figure out why it was so challenging then. Now, I know why. PTSD and “trauma brain,” plus Bipolar II Disorder . . . none of which I was diagnosed with until I was almost 45 years old. Those diagnoses didn’t happen until five years ago.

I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not scared of that number. I’m looking forward to it, as a matter of fact. After five years of therapy and learning about how these things affect the brain, how and why I’ve done many of the things I’ve done, I feel like I’m finally starting to “grow up.” In a way, I’m like that 20-year-old young woman who thought she could bulldoze her way into a different, better life than she’d had before.

I learned early that the only constant in my life was going to be change. Major change. Epic change. Frequent change. Every six months to three years, my life was turned upside down. New people. New places. New schools. New kids. Even new dads. By the time I was six years old, my mother had been married three times and we had made countless moves between Los Angeles, Abilene, Houston, and Birmingham; California, Texas, and Alabama. We sort of stabilized with the third husband for a few years. However, it turned out that he’d married my mom in order to get to me. We moved three times during their marriage and I lived through a year and a half of grooming and a year and half of emotionally manipulative sexual abuse. So, we moved again . . . and again . . . and again. I wound up attending three schools in sixth grade.

That was when we landed in Oregon. (The state I’ve spent most of my life living in and acclimating to.) More upheaval and life altering changes. My mother’s undiagnosed mental health problems came to a head. She surrendered custody of me to her younger brother; he was only 15 years older than me. Then she moved back to Houston and the Depression killed her. At 12 years old I, essentially, became an orphan. I won’t go into details of the next four years. Suffice it to say, there were several more moves and new powers in charge of my life, until I became the child in charge of adult realities, including being a primary caregiver to my baby cousin.

Then, I met the “love of my life.” Another predator. He was 14 years older than me and a professional, low-level con artist. From 16-19, I lived out of cars, hitchhiked across the country, became a teen mom, and learned how to manipulate people into giving me money and other things he wanted. At 19, I was done. When he couldn’t use me anymore, he nearly killed me in front of our two-year-old son and abandoned us. Since that time, I’ve moved a lot more, parented two more children, lived through an 18-year toxic, some would say abusive, relationship, and much more.

When you’ve lived that kind of life, it’s difficult to imagine the next five minutes, let alone the next 30 years. On top of that are the ongoing mental health issues. The Depression aspect of the Bipolar Disorder has always had a strong hold. Today, even after five years of therapy and med management, a lot of days it’s hard to do the self-care basics…tooth brushing, showering, eating nutritious meals, and so on. I’m functional enough to parent in semi-constructive ways and attend my therapy groups and counseling appointments. Mostly, I’m functional for the benefit of others and not for myself. It’s hard to think about what I want for myself beyond being able to get my kid and I to both take a shower.

I know what kind of life I hope to be living in 2025. I want to be more than functional. I want to be mentally and emotionally stable enough to be financially independent. I want to be disciplined and confident enough to at least put forth the effort to pursue my writing in a professional manner. I want to be in a vocation where I’m helping others navigate their way through life with mental health issues. I want to be a fully engaged parent and grandparent. I want to care enough about me to take care of me.

In order to bring those things to fulfillment, I’m committed to keep doing what I’m doing with my mental health recovery process. That’s all I know how to do, for now.

30 Day Writing Challenge- Days 6 & 7: The Past Informs the Future

2019-05-06-and-07SpeakWriteNow30DayChallenge

Prompts
06: When was the last time you _______________?
07: What will life be like for you in 2025?

The last time I really tried to think ahead to 2025, I was graduating from a high school completion program. That was in 1990 . . . 30 years ago. I had a hard time imagining it then, I have a difficult time imagining it now. I couldn’t really figure out why it was so challenging then. Now, I know why. PTSD and “trauma brain,” plus Bipolar II Disorder . . . none of which I was diagnosed with until I was almost 45 years old. Those diagnoses didn’t happen until five years ago.

I’m going to be 50 next month. I’m not scared of that number. I’m looking forward to it, as a matter of fact. After five years of therapy and learning about how these things affect the brain, how and why I’ve done many of the things I’ve done, I feel like I’m finally starting to “grow up.” In a way, I’m like that 20-year-old young woman who thought she could bulldoze her way into a different, better life than she’d had before.

I learned early that the only constant in my life was going to be change. Major change. Epic change. Frequent change. Every six months to three years, my life was turned upside down. New people. New places. New schools. New kids. Even new dads. By the time I was six years old, my mother had been married three times and we had made countless moves between Los Angeles, Abilene, Houston, and Birmingham; California, Texas, and Alabama. We sort of stabilized with the third husband for a few years. However, it turned out that he’d married my mom in order to get to me. We moved three times during their marriage and I lived through a year and a half of grooming and a year and half of emotionally manipulative sexual abuse. So, we moved again . . . and again . . . and again. I wound up attending three schools in sixth grade.

That was when we landed in Oregon. (The state I’ve spent most of my life living in and acclimating to.) More upheaval and life altering changes. My mother’s undiagnosed mental health problems came to a head. She surrendered custody of me to her younger brother; he was only 15 years older than me. Then she moved back to Houston and the Depression killed her. At 12 years old I, essentially, became an orphan. I won’t go into details of the next four years. Suffice it to say, there were several more moves and new powers in charge of my life, until I became the child in charge of adult realities, including being a primary caregiver to my baby cousin.

Then, I met the “love of my life.” Another predator. He was 14 years older than me and a professional, low-level con artist. From 16-19, I lived out of cars, hitchhiked across the country, became a teen mom, and learned how to manipulate people into giving me money and other things he wanted. At 19, I was done. When he couldn’t use me anymore, he nearly killed me in front of our two-year-old son and abandoned us. Since that time, I’ve moved a lot more, parented two more children, lived through an 18-year toxic, some would say abusive, relationship, and much more.

When you’ve lived that kind of life, it’s difficult to imagine the next five minutes, let alone the next 30 years. On top of that are the ongoing mental health issues. The Depression aspect of the Bipolar Disorder has always had a strong hold. Today, even after five years of therapy and med management, a lot of days it’s hard to do the self-care basics…tooth brushing, showering, eating nutritious meals, and so on. I’m functional enough to parent in semi-constructive ways and attend my therapy groups and counseling appointments. Mostly, I’m functional for the benefit of others and not for myself. It’s hard to think about what I want for myself beyond being able to get my kid and I to both take a shower.

I know what kind of life I hope to be living in 2025. I want to be more than functional. I want to be mentally and emotionally stable enough to be financially independent. I want to be disciplined and confident enough to at least put forth the effort to pursue my writing in a professional manner. I want to be in a vocation where I’m helping others navigate their way through life with mental health issues. I want to be a fully engaged parent and grandparent. I want to care enough about me to take care of me.

In order to bring those things to fulfillment, I’m committed to keep doing what I’m doing with my mental health recovery process. That’s all I know how to do, for now.

30 Day Writing Challenge-Day 2: I Am Enough

Today’s prompt: What are you ready to give up or get rid of?

I Am Enough

These words and voices in my head
These critical, self-shaming thoughts
Haunting my days, disturbing my nights
Telling me I’m too weak and not tough

I’ve been told and it’s been said
To stop “shoulding” myself with “oughts”
Quit beating myself up in one-sided fights
Letting go of these things is rough

Let go I must, that I may move ahead
Move forward knowing I’m not ersatz
Release these burdens, soar to eagles’ heights
‘Til the fear and shame fall away as slough

Past time for the old me to be shed
Untangle the twists and knots
Put new dreams and hopes in my sights
I can do this, If I believe I’m enough

©️ 2019 lem

Becoming Me

I’ve spent so much time being broken
I’ve believed the lies unspoken
My faith barely a token

With pain, my life’s been fraught
Begetting the misery I’ve wrought
Yet, others see what I cannot

Within me they see a light
Which keeps me in the fight
Making hope shine bright

In me is seen an appeal
This I do not see or feel
But, it’s not any less real

To borrow words, not my own
Beauty from ashes is shown
When love is known

Light through the wound
Radiates when I’m attuned
No longer cocooned

Not wrapped in guilt and shame
Letting go of self-blame
I and my life are not the same

My psyche is healing
Fighting the panicked feeling
I’m coping, I’m dealing

There’s more than just surviving
More than frustrated striving
I want to be thriving

Lord, heal my eyes to see
Teach me how to be
Guide me to . . . me