Pain

I can see clearly now…or not

I’ve been using reading glasses for a couple of years now. My eyes have been getting more and more blurry over the past several years. Yet, every eye exam results in a very mild prescription, for a complex combo of issues which include astigmatism and far-sightedness.

I haven’t been able to afford glasses. The last pair I got were covered by my church…up to the cost of a single lens prescription. The progressives were going to cost an additional $200, which I had no way of covering. So, I chose the middle…not thinking it just meant that I was getting what I basically already had without glasses. Silly me.

So, yesterday, I had the opportunity to get an eye exam that will result in a good pair of prescription glasses, sponsored through a partnership between Dress for Success and Myoptic Optometry. For the first time I can remember, I found out the true reason for my blurry vision, which fluctuates in degrees.

Dry eye Syndrome, aka Chronic Dry Eye.

Yay.

Another health thing that won’t be going away.

Fibromyalgia…✔️
Diabetes (2)…✔️
Hypothyroidism…✔️
Bipolar (2)…✔️
Depression…✔️
PTSD…✔️
Chronic Insomnia…✔️

and now…Dry Eye Syndrome…✔️

I can’t really complain. I mean, any one of these things could be so much worse. Plus, there are so many people going through things and dealing with much more major issues.

It’s just that the combination of these things is collectively overwhelming… especially if you factor in the depression’s ability to make everything else seem and feel worse than it is.

Add a night of the worst insomnia I’ve experienced in awhile, and I’m hurting and exhausted. I’ve got a ton of stuff to get done today and all I can do is lie here and be a lump.

Nap time before 9 am.

Thanks for “listening” to me whine. I’ll write something more interesting next time…maybe.

Being depressed and helping others

I’m learning to be honest with myself and others about the current state of depression I’m experiencing. I’m learning something else, too.

I used to believe that I can’t truly be of service to others who are struggling, if I’m struggling, too. Like somehow my brokenness and woundedness means I have no right and no basis for reaching out to help others who are experiencing struggles of their own.

It’s a “relapse” in my mental health recovery process, except it really isn’t. There’s an idea that being in relapse makes one’s knowledge and understanding of what recovery is somehow invalid and insignificant. However, when it comes to mental health, all it ever is is symptom management and a kind of remission. At least that’s true for me.

The brain, which is atypical, continues to be the brain it is. I was reminded of this a few months ago, when I was being very productive, feeling very good about myself, sleeping less than my already minimal sleep, and full of “grand ideas” about how I was going to go about changing my life and circumstances.

I’m as well medicated as I can be and still be cognitively and physically functional. However, I was concerned that I was experiencing a degree of hypomania. It was actually serving me in constructive ways, but, I couldn’t shake the worry that this would end like all the other times – of which there have been too many for me to remember over the past 40 years. I was fearful of the potentially impending period of depression that would follow. Especially considering that I was also entering my “traumaversary season.”

I expressed that concern to a trusted friend and mentor. He reminded me that, regardless of how well medicated I am or how many behavior modification methods and tools I have learned and acquired over the past five years, my bipolar brain, is still a bipolar brain. I needed to recognize that I may be experiencing hypomanic symptoms, but they weren’t anywhere near as severe as in the past and that the depression that might follow wouldn’t necessarily be as bad as in the past either. Plus, I do have tools and I have learned healthy coping strategies, as well as increased self-awareness.

There’s also an idea that experiencing symptoms means I lack the capacity to help others. As if being symptomatic is a weakness that, by definition, consumes all my functionality and diminishes my ability and capacity to do more than survive the symptoms.

To a degree, and in some circumstances, both of these things can be true, however, they aren’t absolute.

I am struggling with significant symptoms of depression. The depression is exacerbated by current circumstances and situations beyond my ability to control, but are inherently part of me and what I’m having to come to terms with. These things are emotionally and mentally exhausting and draining.

Yet, I’m still functioning. I’m not doing all the things that are supposedly normative for neurotypical folks: keeping a clean home, staying on top of nutrition, and generally sociable. However, I’m taking tax prep classes and attending them instead of giving up because the depression and overwhelm have gotten in the way of doing homework. I am still attending my Peer Support Specialist Training and being fully engaged with the class and processes, even when they trigger stuff. I’m still taking care of personal hygiene (mostly). I even followed through with a job interview and was offered a job.

I’m also in or near tears a lot of the time. I’m experiencing the negative voices/thoughts of self-criticism, self-doubt, and self-hate. I barely have the energy to do the things to care for my child and my dog, but I’m still doing them.

In the midst of all of this, through honest conversations, allowing the tears to fall and be seen by others, and sharing the struggles, others are letting me know that I’m helping them. They don’t feel so alone. Seeing me fight and recognizing the little “wins” offers hope and insight for themselves.

So, I’ve decided that if the depression, hypomania, and anxiety are going to fuck with me and my life, I’m going to put them to good use.

Healing Expressions: Restorative Art

Yesterday, I was blessed with the privilege of attending a Therapeutic Collage Workshop, offered by Therapeutic Arts Facilitator, Lani Kent, of Healing Expressions, located in Vancouver, WA. Going into the workshop, I wasn’t sure how doing collage can be therapeutic, but, when Lani shared her story and her process, I saw how it can be another way to express and explore experiences, thoughts, and emotions. It can give the unspoken and unspeakable a voice and be a powerful part of one’s healing process.

Lani’s art both speaks from and to the soul. You can view her gallery here. You can also find her on Facebook.

img_7297When we arrived to the workshop, we were greeted by Lani and chose our seats. Each setting had a folder and a small gift packet with a Blessing Card attached to it. Each table had small displays of Lani’s collage art.

She had a very long table almost overflowing with magazines and had lined the perimeter of the room with more of her collage work.

After she had shared her story and experience with Restorative Art and how it had helped her on her personal journey of healing and recovery, she invited us to wander the room and select any of her pieces that drew our attention, in either and inviting way, or even one that repelled.

img_7296-1

At that point she gave us instruction and time to reflect. Then, she explained how to go about the process of collecting the elements we would use in making our own collages.

I confess that I just started tearing into magazines and collected way more than I could use. I collected so many possibilities, that I probably only had time to cut out elements from 1/3 of the material I had collected. I suspect that I have enough leftover magazine pages to make several more than the two I did make.

We were encouraged to write the date and what we were experiencing during this time period, whether it was about what we were doing with the collages in that moment or in the greater context of our lives. Lani counseled that we may not know or fully understand the meaning of our collages, at first. That we may come back to them multiple times throughout our journey and learn more about ourselves, from ourselves, in this way.

As I said, I did two. I’m only going to show one, here. The other one requires some processing and unpacking with my therapist. Both of them do, actually. However, I think the symbolism of the one I’m posting here is probably a very universal theme. Though, when I researched the symbolism I learned some deeper meaning and insight into what this could be saying.

Please let me know how this speaks to you, if it does

Full Circle

I’m still struggling to write cohesively about all the things going through my mind. Through some random circumstance, I came across this poem I wrote a little over a year ago. Another version of my origin story.


Lying here crying over you,
As I promised I would not do.
Forgetting to my own self be true.
Reacting like a kid without a clue.

I’m too old to be doing this;
telling myself, you I would not miss.
Forgetting as I remember your kiss.
Reminded by your ghost dis.

When will these voices cease?
How do I gain release?
My mind, I need to quiesce.
My soul is seeking deep peace.

You’re not what this is truly about.
You’ve triggered all my fear and doubt.
You’ve broken my resolve so stout.
I just want to scream and shout.

In my infancy it all began
when I thought my father so quicky ran.
Teaching me not to depend on a man.
Relationship was not part of my plan.

Then, a kiss, unbidden.
A “love” to keep hidden.
Right by wrong overridden.
In society ’twas forbidden.

Rejection turned to twisted revenge.
My mom sought avidly to avenge.
Her sanity began to unhinge,
darkening her spirit more than a tinge.

Understanding nothing at my age.
Inner pain turned to outward rage.
Her brokenness I could not gauge.
Her torment she sought to assuage

Burdened by her own embattled past;
that agony, that pain could not last.
A deep darkness so wide and vast,
Unburdened with a final blast.

All this before I was a teen,
shaped into a spirit so mean.
Attempting to affect a stoic mien
inevitably set the scene:

A life repeatedly caught in love’s mirage,
built entirely through self-sabotage.
I see each one lost in a montage.
Unsure if I can withstand the barrage.

Full circle…I’m back to you.
Missing what you say and do.
I fell, despite what we both knew.
My heart stolen, lost to your coup.

©️2018 lem

I got nuthin’ – free write

I had no cohesive thoughts about what to write for today’s post, day 16 of The Ultimate Blog Challenge. I know daily prompts are emailed, I just don’t get them, for some reason. So, what you get is a brain dump. Continue reading at your own risk. I have no idea what’s about to come out.


I’m on new meds…rather different meds. At least I’m supposed to be. I keep forgetting to take the iron. Liquid iron is an interesting thing. I need to figure out where to put it to where I’ll most likely remember to take it.

Or, maybe I forgot to take it last night because I subconsciously don’t want to take it because I was nauseated most of the day after taking it for the first time the night before.

Anyway, different thyroid med, different iron med, and brand new vitamin D. These changes are supposed to help mitigate the fatigue I’ve been experiencing.

Sleep would help with that, I’m sure. But, 30 years of disrupted sleep catches up to you.

Yes, I have sleep apnea…but not 30 years ago. Yes, there’s often a 10 year old Cling On, in bed next to me…but not for the first 20 years.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when I was 20, and one of the symptoms the doctor used to identify it was sleep disturbance.

My hands are tingling from holding the phone…yes, I mostly use my phone to write my blogs. That’s because I usually write in the middle of the night, when it’s dark and I can’t sleep, but the child who cannot sleep alone is asleep next to me. Also, for about three years, I didn’t have a computer. Now that I have one, I forget about using it a lot.

Anyway, the numbing and tingling has been happening for as long as the sleep disturbance has been a thing. Yes, I have diabetes, but, I wasn’t even pre-diabetic when I was 20. It was another symptom used to diagnose fibromyalgia…as was the fatigue, and seemingly rootless aches and pains.

My research found that often people with a history of trauma developed it. I also found out that, at the time, it wasn’t usually diagnosed until someone was in their 40’s. Of course, I didn’t do the research until 10 years after the initial diagnosis.

Why? Because I was a single mom, in college, trying to change my life and my destiny. So, I forgot about it. Poor memory is another fibromyalgia thing. Except, it’s also a trauma thing.

Something I’ve noticed is that my fibro symptoms have greatly diminished over the past five and a half years, as I’ve been in therapy and actively working on my mental health, including getting a diagnosis of and getting treatment for PTSD.

I wonder if, in my case, maybe the fibromyalgia is primarily trauma-based. I know that isn’t always the case for everyone who is diagnosed with it. I mean, I’d experienced plenty of trauma by the time I was 20: sexual, emotional, psychological, and physical. It wasn’t all at once and it wasn’t the same people for each kind.

It makes me pause and question if I had been diagnosed and treated for PTSD back then, would I still feel like a mental and emotional basket case most of the time. I mean, what’s past is past, I know. I’m just curious if there’s a connection between trauma and fibromyalgia, then couldn’t doctors screen for trauma and refer for mental health services.


Ok. I didn’t expect that. Now, I’m sleepy again and dozing off. So, I’ll close for now.

Not Alone

I seem to be straying from my original intent to focus on my job readiness journey this month. But, perhaps not. Today, I’m talking about mental health.

Here’s why: If you’re struggling with mental illness or emotional instability OR you have a loved one who is OR you have experienced trauma OR any combination of the aforementioned, you need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I want you to know that, despite however weak, fragile, overwhelmed, and incapable you may feel right now, you are one of the strongest, most courageous people you know.

Feeling the way you feel, experiencing anxiety, depression, hyper-reactivity, mania, having compulsive self-harming behaviors, experiencing suicidal thoughts, or any other “wrong” thing does not mean you are “less than,” unworthy, insignificant, or “damaged beyond repair.”

You see, I’ve been there. Some days I’m still there. I have friends and family who have been or are there. I’ve known those who didn’t make it and know those who make it one day at a time, if not moment by moment.

Last night I had the privilege to speak with another mom, who is facing and navigating challenges similar to those I have experienced – some of which I’ve come out on the other side of and some that will ever be with me. A history of physical and mental trauma, mental illness, and parenting a child with mental health and behavioral challenges through childhood and into adulthood.

Feelings of loneliness, isolation, despair, and thoughts of permanently packing it in are all things I’m more than familiar with and gave me the empathy she needed. I was able to listen with understanding. I had knowledge of resources and professionals better equipped to help her than I am to offer her. I was able to share some of my stories, giving her hope and shoring up her faith.

By the end of the call, we had established a rapport and a bond borne of shared experience and the knowledge that neither of us is alone in our struggle. She seemed genuinely hopeful, a 180 degree turnaround from where she was when we first began talking.

My lived experience of surviving trauma and mental illness has equipped me to be of service to others who are living through similar things. Even though I still have my struggles and even though I’ll never be “fully” healed and recovered, I’m far enough along that I have something good to offer.

I have a friend who says, “God doesn’t waste a wound.”

While I am not of the belief that God punishes and wounds us by causing trauma and devastation in our lives, I do believe he is present in and with us throughout these things. Furthermore, I believe that, if we are able to participate in the healing process, he redeems our personal tragedies in ways that can bring good.

This is what I want to do with my life. I want to walk alongside others on this healing and recovery journey, bolstering them up when they’re walk is shaky and help them stand back up, dust off, and get going again.

That’s what it’s about, right?

We all stumble. We all fall. We all get exhausted, worn down, and overwhelmed. We all need a little help getting by.

Now, due to several factors, prior student debt to a private institution being chief among them, going back to college isn’t a feasible option. Especially if I want to start working ASAP.

What I CAN do is get a certification to be a Mental Health Peer Support Specialist.

I didn’t get into the certification training I wanted to, this go around. But, I’m only getting started and there are other things I can do while I figure out how to access the training I need.

Today I start a Peer to Peer class put on by NAMI – the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It will help me be less isolated on my own journey and add to my toolbox of coping skills.

Wish me luck!

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