Recovery

Conflicted: April 2021 NaPoWriMo Day five

Exhausted
Brain dead
Thinking and walking through molasses

Overwhelmed
Mixed emotions
Scattered thoughts, discombobulated

Anxious
Breaking down
So much to push through and fight

Fearful
Poor health
Self-care to care for others

Hopeful
Fingers crossed
Aspirations may soon be met

Loved
Generations together
Smiles and laughter ‘midst the angst

I decided not to use a prompt today. I just ended my work week after about two weeks off. Weekend graveyards is a tough schedule and I seldom get 3-4 hours of sleep between shifts. So, my brain couldn’t process the complexity of the prompt.

My laptop gave up the ghost and won’t turn on. So, my writing will now be done using the phone app. *sigh*

My posts will probably be shorter.

Renovating: April 2021 NaPoWriMo, Day four

Visit @SpaceLiminalBot on Twitter to see more liminal spaces.

Today’s prompt on NaPoWriMo.net was to choose a photo of a liminal space from @SpaceLiminalBot on Twitter and write about it.

Confession, I had no idea what liminal meant. When I looked it up I learned that it’s about the ambiguity of being in a transitional state. Neither here, nor there, but somehow occupying the borders of both spaces. Now that I know what it means, I can honestly say that it’s the story of my life.

From childhood forward
My mind active and yearning
Voracious, needy

Guidance lost too soon
Bottled grief. I was unmoored
‘Tween loss and anger

A runaway teen
Trauma and disappointment
New life comes forth

On the road again
No peace, no rest, nowhere home
Life saved from cruel death

Back where I started
Family ties bind and gag
Beginning again

In my element
Learning and aching to grow
Success! Feeling hope

Upward and onward
Fast forward to my limit
Falling and spinning

A life not taken
Ungrounded, always a risk
Begets a new life

I spent decades lost
Throwing away loved ones
Relationships burned

Scrabbling from the pit
Trapped in a cocoon of mind
My health overwhelmed

Hard recovery
Love’s faith in community
Investing in me

Beginning again
Not alone but supported
Still renovating

Transitions: April 2021 NaPoWriMo, Day three

I love you, in a sweet, soft, sigh
From the mouth that once
Pierced my heart
With painful words of hate

Embraced in arms
Firm with soothing assurance
Used to pound fists
Of punishment on my back

Eyes warm with love
Their gaze brightly meeting mine
Used to glare in anger
Over nothing I understood

Soft lips kiss my cheek
In tender sentiment
Had cursed me
In angst and turmoil

Intelligence and curiosity
Shine in the beauty of
My neurodivergent
Tweenager


You may have thought this was describing the cycles of an abusive relationship, at first.

You’re not wrong. But, there’s a lot more to it than that.

In this case, the “abuser” was my child. My brilliant, creative, and inquisitive child, who happens to have an autistic brain.

There was a time before the identification of the autism, when I was struggling so hard, as a mom…mostly due to my mental health and relationship problems with her father.

I have attachment disorder due to the emotional neglect I experienced from infancy onward. Nursing her until she weaned herself was one of the most challenging choices I ever made. Especially since her “period of PURPLE crying” lasted the first five months of her life. She was essentially inconsolable. I was the only one who could hold or soothe her, even a little bit…much to her father’s angst and anger.

Then, one day I was no longer the preferred parent.

The first time she called me a bitch she was two.

Fast forward to her fifth birthday when all hell broke loose between her sister and father. That event was this camel’s straw and I left, taking her with me three days later.

For the past seven years we have been in almost constant conflict. Yelling, name calling, hitting, kicking, scratching, and biting. multiple meltdowns a day. There were days I hated being her parent.

Anger, frustration, guilt, and helplessness were my constant states of mind. My spirit felt defeated.

Then pandemic. I got my first real job in nearly 8 years. Then distance learning. I changed my shift to weekend grayards so I could support her school. Going back to middle school was something you couldn’t have paid me to do. Thanks to COVID-19 I did it for free.

Then Winter Break…two weeks of not having to login. I stopped fighting her. It was destroying us.

I decided that waiting for f2f school to start again was the thing to do. We aren’t the only family or special needs family not being able to make it work.

We started having conversations…mostly about her art and online activities with her preferred programs. We also discussed as many aspects of LGBTQ+ gender identities and sexual orientations as I am familiar with and researched others. Overall, things starting getting better with us. She’s much less combative and exponentially more affectionate, both verbally and physically.

“Mommy, I think quarantine has been good for us.”

Rising from beneath: April 2021 NaPoWriMo, Day two

Today’s prompt is inspired by Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” It’s based on our own personal journeys. What might our experiences be if we took a different path?

No matter how many times I wanted or tried to veer from the path I was on, I wasn’t able to. Having travelled this far, I realize I don’t want to have taken a route other than the one I’ve been on.

Why?

People. My children and my grandchildren might not exist. Or, if they did, they wouldn’t be who they are. I wouldn’t have or know the people in my life, not the way they are now.

My life has always been challenging and full of stress. It’s made who I am. There’s more work to be done. I like who I’m becoming.

Rising from Beneath

I was told I could be anything I wanted…
But I wasn’t taught how and
I never met anyone who was.

I was told that if I had knowledge I would have power.
Helplessness was all I knew…
despite my accumulated information

I was told, “Aim high! Shoot for the stars.”
From my depths my aim was as high as other’s low.
I shot just to see the stars.

Years of climbing, fighting, struggling
Always landing back in the hole
Anchored by the trauma of my past.

Cycles of poverty and neglect,
Generations repeating the past.
Lord, let me be the last.

Breaking through, crawling out
Eyes blinded by daylight
Skin scorched by the sun.

Someone (not Churchill) admonished one and all,
“if you’re going through hell, keep going. It’s no place to stop.”
no longer energized, yet, here I am…still going.

I think it’s a good fight. It’s been a hard one.
Redemption, restoration, rebuilding
Self and relationships once lost.

Constantly feeling weak and lost
Continually infused with life’s breath,
Molded by refining love.

But wait, there’s more…so much more
Five decades to grow up.
Here’s hoping for another 3-5.

New battles rise up,
New fears to face.
The war against self goes on.

More to see, more to be.
My future resides with me.
My path lives in me.

NaPoWriMo 2021

Many of you may know that this month is NaPoWriMo month, National Poetry Writing Month. I was reminded of it this is very day, when I went to read the blog post of someone who started following me today. Thank you for joining me, Brenda! You can find Brenda and her NaPoWriMo contribution for today, The Dragon and the Fairies, just click the link.

Some of you may have seen some of my poetry in my past blog entries. Although I haven’t written any poetry in I don’t know how long. I miss it. I miss it a lot.

I was first introduced to writing poetry in middle school. I was a TAG student. For those of you who do not know what that is, TAG stands for Talented and Gifted…not something I saw myself as then.

Anyway, we had a term on poetry. My least favorite teacher, who normally taught social studies, wound up teaching us to write poetry for that term. We had to create a book of our own original poetry.

My book had two wooden covers with the pages of poetry bound in between them with yarn, I believe. I had hand drawn a unicorn or something like that on the cover of the book I don’t remember any of the poems and I no longer have the book. However I can see what the book look like in my mind’s eye. I didn’t think it was that good. And I never really thought of it again.

Many years later I found poetry again as part of my college career. I took an intro to poetry class and that’s when I fell in love with it. I loved the different forms of poetry how it could be visually artistic as well as the beautiful imagery created by the words themselves.

One author whose work spoke to me and which I resonated with on a fundamental level was Sylvia Plath. This is the first poem of hers I remember reading:

Metaphors
I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house.
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

I immediately knew what these metaphors represented. If you don’t know or if you would like a brief analysis of the poem, please click the link in the title.

Beauteous fractals
Above and beyond the call
Winter’s final wail

The first prompt from the national poetry writing month website for this April, was to write about a piece of art. Now, I don’t have access to a whole lot of art. I’m not a fan of looking at famous art online. I don’t believe it gives it justice. This image is an original painting on a 4×6 canvas by a friend of mine. She did this basically uncommissioned. She’s an amazing artist. Not only did she do this on commission, she did five others at the same time. The most amazing thing about this piece of artwork is that she created it while her home had been without electricity for a week. You can see some of her other art at

The reason it had been without electricity for a week was the same reason why I actually commissioned the piece from her. The electricity was out due to a major snowstorm in Portland that took place in February. I like to call it the Valentine’s Day Snowpocalypse of 2021.

I had to work that weekend. I was on foot and having to take public transportation. And it snowed and iced over enough that the buses stopped running as did the trains. Since I am an essential worker, I had to be at work regardless of the weather. the only way I got there and back home for a couple of days was due to my supervisor and his four wheel drive vehicle. After that weekend I wanted to do something special to think my supervisor and to commemorate the events we had all lived through. That’s why I asked her to do a piece of art.

Trying to care for me

In the five years between these two photos:
I stopped being employed;
I left a two decade toxic relationship;
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, diabetes, bipolar disorder, and cPTSD;
My youngest child was identified as experiencing High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder;
Two grandchildren were born;
Relationships with my two adult children have been restored and improved; and I’m navigating the ongoing process of co-parenting with the ex.

I guess, my adult daughter could be right about vampire DNA 😂
02/24/2021 – In the four years since the above collage photo, I’ve become grandma to two more grandchildren (4 GRANDKIDS! 😲 🤯); Fought time and time again to stabilize from hypomania & depression; worked my @$$ off to get employment ready; completed two vocational programs simultaneously; and became employed during a pandemic…all in the midst of chronic turmoil and drama.

The smile hides depression and self-loathing…a severe lack of self-esteem and sense of futility. The hair and angle of the pic hide the double chin and side padding of obesity. You can’t see the fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, type 2 diabetes, PTSD, Bipolar 2 Disorder, and Binge Eating Disorder. Yet, I look healthier and happier than ever before… according to an FB friend.

I wrote about being functionally depressed and nothing has really changed. I still pretty much only venture forth from my dwelling are occasional grocery shopping trips and to to work. My ADLs (Activities of daily living) are sporadic – personal hygiene is taken care of whenever I have to leave the apartment or I feel too disgusted by myself. Nutrition is not a frequent thing…I may or may not eat 2 Baked Lays single serve bags of chips for breakfast or dinner. One thing has improved – I’m not waking up gasping, choking and feeling like I may have had a heart attack because I’m using my C-pap machine to deal with the sleep apnea again.

Despite the depression, I did a thing and I took a risk. I applied for a Full-time position within the organization I am currently employed with. It’s a Peer Support position, which I completed my training, with flying colors, just as the COVID shutdown started last year. I just emailed the department that manages such things to ensure my application has been received. It has been received and submitted to the hiring manager.

I’m also reaching out or responding to opportunities to connect with people I’m connected to through my faith community. I’m participating in a book study of Rich Villodas, The Deeply Formed Life. I participate in our weekly Zoom service. Right now we’re discussing how it might look when we start meeting again, since some of our faith family isn’t able to engage and participate often unless it’s remotely. I submitted some ideas, which were favorably received.

Partially because of the diabetes, I’ve decided to join a couple of my friends on a menu planning journey next month. I’m in no way prepared. The logistics of my life are chaotic and kind of overwhelming. So, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to make it a complete success. However, I reminded myself “progress not perfection.” That made my inner perfectionist cringe in horror.

To that end, I decided to focus on breakfast. Simple, quick, easy diabetic friendly breakfasts I can prep primarily in the microwave. The first recipe I found was Breakfast Burrito in a Jar on Diabetic Foodie. Since I don’t have jars, I followed the link to the next breakfast, Mexican Microwave Scramble.

Between the Depression, Hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia, as well as circumstances in my life, I’m really fatigued & low energy. I’m not sure how I’m still functioning at all. I just know that no matter how close I come, giving up isn’t an option.

How are you doing? For real, sometime sharing helps.

Health Scare

01/13/2021

You can’t tell from my picture above, but I have sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, out of whack cholesterol, am 150-175 lbs overweight, half Hispanic, and over 50. It seems my blood pressure, which has always been really good, is on the rise and that I probably have what is the very earliest stages of fatty liver syndrome. Apparently, all these factors make me a really great candidate for a heart attack.

When my state went into the “Stay Home, Save Lives” protocols last year…aka quarantine, I was staying with friends. Even though I had my own apartment, I stayed with friends from mid-March through early November. Why? Because a lot of things, but, mostly because I love my family and I’ve worked very damn hard to be able to have a relationship with my adult children that reflects how important family is to me.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2019 my adult daughter’s family became homeless…a few months after she found out she was pregnant with baby number four and had a series of jobs that fell through shortly after she started them. There was remnant rental debt, which had been accrued when she had left her previous apartment to share a house that she genuinely thought and expected to be a safe and stable place to raise her family.

It turned out to not be either safe or stable.

So, her family wound up coming to stay with me and my youngest daughter – who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum and is in active puberty.

Eight human beings and assorted animals in a small, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment.

Yikes!

I was finishing up two vocational training programs: Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist and H & R Block Income Tax Course. The second was to be a “survival/bridge” job until I could get the state certifications and a position for the first. So, I was working face-to-face with the public when the pandemic began. There were three kids under six and an unborn. I couldn’t/didn’t want to risk their health, but I absolutely needed to keep working. So, I stayed with my friends who I would visit on the weekends to give us all a little respite and space.

One of those friends started the year with a stroke in January and blood clots in her lungs in February/March. I wanted to be available for her and her wife, as well. So, it worked. Then, for a couple of good reasons, I left the tax job…I’m really not the one you want going over your finances. I can barely manage my own. It took me another month to find a job in the mental health field that I was qualified for. The pandemic basically ended, for however long, my goal of doing peer work…social distancing and all that.

Four days before starting my new position, my fourth grandchild was born…and her mama nearly died. That was towards the end of April. By the end of May, my friend had two heart attacks within two weeks of each other. The thought that my daughter or that my friend could have died during any of these events weighed heavily on my heart and mind.

In the midst of all of this, I was both consciously and unconsciously “letting my health go.” I’ve felt overwhelmed and out of control. Not having or being in my own space, determining what food comes in, etc. is difficult when health management is primarily about nutrition. There’s a negative feedback loop/cycle that those of us experiencing mental health diagnoses can fall into regarding our physical health. The two are inextricably intertwined. What’s good for my mental health is good for my physical health. What’s bad for my physical health is bad for my mental health. However, like all things in life, it’s not that clear, cut, and dried.

We made it through summer, then, Distance Learning.

My 11 year old child on the “higher functioning” end of the Autism Spectrum was expected to start middle school, doing online classes with the General Education kids, using Zoom to attend four alternating classes, four days a week; Advisory five days a week; and two “specials” a week…as well as expected to do Applied Learning (Independent Study) an additional eight hours a week.

So, I changed my work schedule and dropped my three day shifts for three weekend graveyard shifts. Doing this wound up really messing with my ability to get and stay on track with all my meds. Then, the behavior issues with my kiddo wound up disrupting the household of my friend who’d had all the health events. She didn’t handle seeing and hearing how out of control and physically aggressive my kid could be. It didn’t end well and by the end of the first week of November, I found myself moving back into my apartment.

I love my daughters. I love my grandkids. I value the dad of my grandkids. I tolerate the dog and the cat. However, I really can’t stand living with ANY of them. There’s a super busy and demanding nine month old, a threenager, a five year old supersonic bouncy ball, a six year old happy, gregarious, dance monkey, and an irascible, 12 year old lazy, iPad/My Hero Academia addict with her days and nights reversed. They almost have us outnumbered 2:1 and I don’t think there’s any moment of complete silence in the entire space.

Essentially, my chronic insomnia has gone into overdrive and somewhere, there’s a painting that shows deep, dark lines, sagging, sallow, wrinkled skin and yellowed, bloodshot eyes, with white wisps of hair sticking out of an otherwise bald head that’s showing all the signs you aren’t seeing here of how unwell I actually am. That’s a better explanation for how I look at my age, with my issues than the one my oldest daughter has…that I’m secretly a vampire.

Anyway, all of this led up to me waking up from a sleep, which didn’t feel that deep or that long, choking and gasping, barely able to breath, and coughing so hard I had an incontinent moment. It took what felt like forever for me to catch my breath. I felt completely enervated and incapable of doing more than walk to and from the bathroom for the rest of the day. I also wound up with a severe headache that the Excedrin Migraine generally knocks right out, but didn’t really touch. I felt achy and mildly nauseated the rest of the day. Since I often feel these things due to the fibromyalgia (which I forgot to mention above) I didn’t really think too much about it. I was kind of too out of it to think about anything, really.

The next day, I started thinking about what had happened and started doing some research. It seems that the symptoms I just experienced could have been nothing other than a momentary reaction to an apnea event…OR they could be symptoms of a “silent heart attack.” It would seem that is a much more common thing women experience than men. The only way to know for sure is to have the doctor run some tests to see if there’s any damage. So, I sent an electronic message to my doctor.

We’ll see what happens next. I’ll keep you posted.

De’ja’ vu all over again: Recreating the past

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with special needs is hard. Parenting a girl in active adolescence is hard. Parenting from a place of trauma is hard. Parenting an adolescent girl with special needs when all aspects are points of trauma in your history, is beyond hard.

I feel like I’m constantly falling down, constantly lacking, and constantly failing . . . even though I know I’m doing my best. I know I’m a better parent now than I was seven years ago. I’m a better parent now than when my oldest daughter was the age my youngest daughter is now, 12. I’m a better parent than my mother was able to be when I was 12. But, I still don’t feel like I’m a good parent or the parent my child needs and deserves.

The reality is that I am really struggling. I love my child but I don’t like her. I love her so much and want so much good for her, but I find myself resenting her for things she has no control over. I’m so proud of her and amazed by the things she does and how strong and determined to be herself she is. At the same time, I am so incredibly ANGRY at how her strength and determination flatten and steamroll the people around her . . . like me and her nieces and nephew. I love her but I hate being her mother.

That’s awful. I know it is. But, it’s also my truth. It’s a convoluted truth rooted in the trauma, rejection, and abandonment issues between my mother and myself when I was 12 years old. Issues that I will never be able to work with her on because she died . . . committed suicide . . . when I was 12.

My little girl isn’t so little anymore. She turned 12 at the beginning of December. She’s taller than me . . . mostly because, like many children on the Autism Spectrum, she’s a “toe walker.” She travels on her tiptoes. Walking with her feet flat from heel to toe is like an impossibility for her. There was no physical reason for it and we put her through physical and occupational therapy to try to prevent any negative effects from the toe walking. To no avail. Now it’s reaching the point of discomfort and pain for her to not walk on her toes.

I wish I could let her be herself, with her idiosyncracies and quirks, without feeling so beyond frustrated and annoyed. She absolutely refuses to do anything or engage with anyone other than her preferred activities and people who she wants to be around. I feel powerless, especially in light of the societal expectations, rules, and norms regarding parenting and education, especially with children who have special needs. The thing is she doesn’t appear or seem to be autistic to most people. Even her medical evaluation team had difficulty coming to agreement regarding her autism. She’s lived in emotionally traumatic circumstances since conception. So, there are behaviors and reactions that stem from the autism and there are behaviors and reactions that are rooted in her trauma exposure history. Stir in pubescent hormones, in the middle of a pandemic that has everyone acting off and dealing with various types and degrees of trauma, and I have my very own Katie Kaboom.

If the truth be told, I’m probably as much of a Katie Kaboom as my daughter is . . . or at least I feel like I’m on the verge of exploding with her a lot of the time. There’s this surreal sense of loss of control and imminent danger creating a sense of fear of myself and what I’m capable of.

The last memory I have of an interaction between me and my mother lingers on the edges of my consiousness most of thetime when I’m around her.

I had recently turned 12. It was late June or early July, I think. We were living in an old adobe group of single story apartment buildings that had been built to use as military barracks in the 1940’s. Adobe buildings surrounded by asphalt. No trees. No grass. No shade. It was unrelenteningly sunny. The air was still and stuffy. My mom was working as a night janitor with her brother and his wife, who lived in the building catty-corner from ours. While cleaning may have been her job, it wasn’t something that was a priority in our apartment. We were a couple of clutterbugs. So my mom was embarrased for people to see the condition of our apartment. All the doors were shut tight and windows shuttered and covered so no one could see in.

I was hot. The heat was draining and I had no energy to do anything. I just wanted to breathe and I felt like I was suffocating in the stuffy heat of the closed apartment. I didn’t want to go out in the shadeless parking lot/driveway that surrounded the apartments. We had only lived here for three or four, maybe five months. I didn’t have any friends and didn’t have anywhere I could go. I was restless and listless at the same time. I decided to stand in the doorway, with my face pressed against the doorframe on the right, the door pressed against my left cheek, my stocky body filling the area between the door and it’s frame. Nothing visible from the outside.

She was embarrased, exhausted, and overwhelmed . . . I know and recognize this now, but at that time I only thought she was being controlling and unreasonable. It felt like what I needed and wanted didn’t matter to her, even a little bit. She was yelling at me, trying to get me to close the door. I was yelling back, telling her how no one could see inside. I don’t know how long it went on. Not long, I’m sure, but, it felt like it stretched on for a long time, each of us getting angrier and louder. I can’t remember specific words. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if I had called her names or cussed at her.

Suddenly my head was jerked back by my hair and the next thing I remember is that I’m laid out across the sofa and she was sitting on my legs, preventing me from moving. I was yelling at her and trying to kick her off of my legs. Finally, I was able to sit up, bend forward, and I bit her on her thigh as hard as I could until she got up.

I don’t really know what happened after she got up. I know my uncle burst through the door a short while later to check on me. He had seen me standing at the door, then disappear suddenly before the door closed. He was condemning and critical of her. She was crying. Sometime after that, she signed guardianship of me over to him and moved back down to Texas. A few weeks later we got the news that she had committed suicide.

When I’m dealing with my daughter and she’s refusing to do things like, take a shower, let me brush her hair, login to classes, do homework, or anything that isn’t playing Minecraft or drawing on her iPad I feel a rush of overwhelming feelings swirling around: anger, resentment, frustration, shame, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness. Then she starts laying on the insults and declarations of how horrible of a parent I am and how she loves her dad more than he loves me. If I attempt to remove her iPad, she lashes out at me physically – hitting, kicking, scratching, biting.

The roles appear to be switched with me as the mother. But, on a visceral level I don’t feel any more in control or that I matter than I did as a kid going through what I went through with my mom.

Maybe there’s a clue in that. Maybe it’s a hint that she wasn’t feeling in control or that she mattered. We don’t feel in control or that we matter so we do things that are about taking control and power from someone else, not because we want to feel powerful, but because we want to matter and if we don’t feel like we matter, we don’t feel safe. If I don’t matter to those who matter to me, then I don’t feel that my needs can get met. I’m supposed to meet her needs. It’s not her job to meet my needs. It’s not right or fair of me to resent her for this.

Is the resentment about her or is it about resenting that the person whose job it was to meed my needs and who I was supposed to matter too, oppressed and suppressed me instead of take care of me?

I know now that my mother experienced undiagnosed and untreated mental illness – likely Bipolar I with schizopherenic tendencies. She couldn’t help it and it wasn’t her fault. This knowledge and understanding gives framework and context, but, it doesn’t change the feelings and the child who needed protection and nurture still didn’t get protection and nurture. I struggle to protect and nurture myself and I struggle to provide that for my child.

What does it really mean to be emotionally healthy?

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

I’ve been in and out of various forms of therapy since pre-adolescence. I’ve been doing it pretty consistently for the past seven years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to reach a point of being emotionally healthy.

The PTSD has had deep and lasting impacts on both my brain structure and neurochemistry. Bipolar II Disorder means that my brain structure and neurochemistry were already atypical. Both impact emotional health and affect my capacity for instinctively choosing emotionally healthy behavior.

Ten months ago my faith community stood beside me and supported me in my mental health recovery journey. They chose to pay for me to go through trauma recovery therapy, so I could better deal with the myriad of intense psychological and emotional stressors in my life. Past trauma is something I’ve been minimizing, avoiding, and denying most of my life. Dusting it off, picking it up, looking it in the eye, and examining it is not even close to easy. What is easy is distancing and distracting myself, even as I try to face it.

Last week I had a Telehealth appointment, which turned into an audio only appointment because of my dying phone. Since there’s no unoccupied space in my apartment and the sanctuary of a vehicle no longer exists, I walked to a coffee shop that has a large, covered, outdoor seating area. It also happens to be the socially distanced gathering place for the neighborhood dog owners and their dogs to hang out. I sat as far away as I could so as to be heard by my therapist and not heard by the community of strangers. Fun times.

I was telling her what happened the night I dropped my phone. I had gone over to my friends’ house, where I had been living from March – November, to pick up Christmas gifts for my grandkids. While I was there, the woman who had been my first friend from a DBT group I had been part of in 2018/2019, absented herself and had no interaction with me. Her wife indicated that I could try to communicate with her, but I would probably be unsuccessful. The wife is now my primary friend.

I have a lot of sad and mad feelings about this relationship break. However, when I was discussing what happened that night with my therapist, my brain fixated on the broken phone, as if that was the source of my difficult emotions. I was completely aware that’s what I was doing, but couldn’t seem to stop it. So, I said out loud that my brain was wanting to focus more on the phone than the lost friendship.

We discussed that for a bit. We drilled down some and identified some roots in prior relationships with important women in my life, starting with my mother, that ended in rejection and abandonment. Still a lot to unpack there, but both my therapist and I recognize that I’m stretched to capacity to address more trauma at this point. With that agreement in place, the question becomes, “what direction do we go and what do we work on?”

Since I’ve made some significantly bad decisions in the past several months which were decidedly co-dependent, avoidant, and risky and the outcomes of these decisions have increased the emotional, physical, and financial stress on me, thus maxing out my capacity for doing the more in depth trauma work, I figure I need to work on making emotionally healthy choices when faced with situations where my trauma responses have been triggered. I think that’s the only way to clear the path for me to do the deeper work.

My therapist suggested that my lack of emotionally healthy response is more likely rooted in the fact that I’ve never been around emotionally healthy people making emotionally healthy choices and that, while it may be possible for me to come to an understanding of what it means to be emotionally healthy, I may continually deal with an inability to operate with that same understanding. To which I responded that is why I said learning the behavior that comes from being emotionally healthy can be learned, even when the emotions aren’t healthy.

I think of it like reverse engineering good emotional health. Learning to act “as if” I am an emotionally healthy person, might enable me to become an emotionally healthy person.

I think I just found my focus for this year.

2021, the year I become an emotionally healthy responder.

Communication Interrupted and other mishaps

I find myself without a functional phone . . . again. This is the third time within a year.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ve been working on financial independence from the ex. It’s another step in my seven year transition from being completely enmeshed and codependent with him after an 18 year relationship and still stuck with him in my life because we share a child, who happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.

When we split at the end of 2013. . . my decision, not his . . . my phone service remained on his plan because I was 100% reliant on him for financial support and had a lot of reasons to remain dependent on him. The majority of those reasons centered around physical and mental health issues and conditions.

The end of 2019 brought some significant changes in his circumstances and I knew I had to regain financial independence. It took me six months of hard work and accessing community resources to training and employment support services. I finished 2019 employed by a well known tax preparation service. My plan had been to work for them while I completed training for becoming a Peer Support and Wellness Specialist in the mental/behavioral health field. Alas, I wasn’t cut out to work in that industry or setting. I left that position in mid-March 2020, right after COVID social distancing and “stay home, stay safe” protocols were put in place. It took about a month before I found another position. This time working for a behavioral healthcare organization. YAY!

I knew this was the foot in the door to establish a career in the mental health field. I knew I would fight tooth and nail to maintain this job, even though I was terrified that I would struggle with my mental health, as in the past, and not be able to sustain and maintain the position. I was offered a choice between full-time and part-time. I opted for the part-time position. It was the right choice.

One of the first things I did was switch my phone over to my own phone service account. It was a fully paid for device and I was able to enter into the service agreement without a monthly fee for a new phone. YAY! again. Then, a month or so later, I left my phone at a service deli counter at a local grocery store and had to contract with the phone provider to get a new phone. I got the least expensive one with the lowest monthly fee, but still wound up practically doubling my phone bill. Not happy about that.

Then, another month or so later, I engaged with someone who I allowed to scam me, wound up with an exorbitant bill I couldn’t afford and had to give up my phone plan, with my phone not fully paid for. So, once again, I was without phone service. It took another few weeks before I was able to purchase and unlocked phone and go with a pre-paid phone service provider. Thank God I bought the warranty because I dropped it face down on a concrete landing and the screen shattered on Christmas Eve. I can get a refund or replacement, not sure which they will do, but, I have to send the phone back first. It was still functional, so I decided to slap a screen protector on it to keep it from shattering more and protect my fingers from the broken screen.

On New Year’s Day I discovered that the charging port of the phone was damaged. Now it’s basically dead and I can’t charge it enough to do a factory reset on it before sending it back. I can’t afford to get a replacement at the moment. Which means I’m out of communication with significant people . . . for the second time since October.

That’s not the only sad saga on my journey of independence. Transportation is the other.

I was staying with friends when the shelter-in orders came down. Basically I became one of those unintended, long-term houseguests. These friends had two vehicles and generously allowed me to use one or the other of them and gave me rides whenever I needed them. I was living with them when I obtained my current employment. It was becoming a burden on them to help me get to and from work. I reached out to my faith community and was gifted with a used but well cared for 2002 Ford Focus. They knew there was an issue with the cooling system and that the radiator had to be frequently refilled and told me as much. But, they didn’t know for sure what the issue was.

The first time it overheated on me and stopped working was on a freeway on-ramp. One of the friends I was staying with rescued me and referred me to her long standing mechanic. He examined it and found out it had a bad thermostat. Simple fix. Less than a week later, another issue came up and it overheated again. He didn’t charge for another diagnostic. At that time, he found another, more in depth repair that needed to be made. I can’t remember the specifics. It cost me $300. Fortunately, the Employment Specialist I was working with managed to get it reimbursed.

When he completed that repair, he kept the car an extra day so he could really test drive it and make sure that all was good. It wasn’t. It turned out it had a cracked head. A $1,500 repair. I managed to come up with the first $500. However, all the money I planned on putting toward the remainder, kept getting spent on urgent (and not so urgent) expenses. So, my car is sitting in his back lot. Thankfully, he’s a good guy and isn’t charging me storage fees. It’s been there since the end of May or so.

Fast forward to November. The long-term houseguest issue was fine until I wound up having to manage my youngest daughter’s distance learning while in my friend’s home. My child is beyond challenging. Not only is she on the “high functioning” area of the Autism Spectrum, she also has Oppositional Defiance Disorder. She regularly becomes verbally abusive and physically violent with me. This put a strain on things. Add to that fact that my friend is the stoic, hold it in, don’t talk about an issue until the molehill is a mountain type. So, things came to a head and I wound up having to move out and back into my apartment. So, I lost access to transportation and I don’t know when I’ll be able to . . . or if I’ll be able to . . . do relationship repair.

Why hadn’t I moved back into my apartment sooner? Well, my oldest daughter’s family of six had lost their housing right after Thanksgiving 2019 and didn’t have anywhere to go. So, they had to stay with me. Eight people and a couple of pets in a small 2 bedroom apartment wasn’t working out because my autistic child wasn’t safe to be around my young grandchildren due to her violent tendencies. She had gone to stay with her father in February. When she and I had to move back into my apartment with my other daughter’s family it was a strain.

Fortunately, one of the strains that was lifted was transportation because my adult daughter had a van I could use to get to and from work and grocery shopping.

Then, she lost her job. So, she and I started Door Dashing on December 1st. This went on until we got into a car accident on Christmas Day. Now, her van is also living at the mechanic’s lot, along with my car.

No phone. No car.

Happy New Year.