anxiety

Two minutes

Two minutes.

That seems like such a short time.

Unless those two minutes are for standing up and talking to a group of people. Especially if the subject is me, myself, and I.

Then, those two minutes feel like two hours.

I have four weeks to prepare this little speech to present to my class as part of my final requirements, in order to graduate and obtain my Certificate of Completion for Peer Support Specialist Training.

Two minutes.

How is that possibly enough time to explain my lived experience with mental health challenges, what I bring to the job, why I want to do it, and why I’ll be good at it?

Two minutes.

How in the world am I supposed to remember a two minute speech when I don’t remember what I was going to say two seconds ago?

Two minutes.

The time stretches and constricts, like a rubber band.

I’ve survived this long. I’ll survive two minutes.

Finding Truth

Some days, it is hard
Opening my eyes to see
I am good enough

There are times it’s hard
Stopping critical voices
Words I tell myself

Often difficult
Gathering my scattered thoughts
I am herding cats

Easily confused
Feeling all the emotions
My soul overwhelmed

Distinguishing truth
Letting go of the old lies
Settling in what’s real

Giving myself grace
All of me acceptable
I am good enough

To the me I used to be

As many of you may know, yesterday was October 31st. Some cultures celebrate it as a sacred day, others don’t celebrate it at all. In my corner of the world it is celebrated as a fun, commercialized way of being in brief community with neighbors you don’t know, with children in costume knocking on doors and acceptably begging for candy, while caregivers observe from a short distance…aka Halloween. (It’s also a way for those same caregivers to get their own sugar rush when they tax the candy haul.)

Anyway, that only has passing connection to why I’m writing today.

Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. For some of us who blog, this is Nano Poblano – “the World’s Least-Official November Blog Challenge”

I won’t be writing a post a day, as I have attempted in other challenges. Instead, I’m committing to 10 posts this month. I’ll also be linking to 10 other posts this month.

Welcome to my first post of the month. Now, back to what I was writing about.

Last night I shared the requisite costume pic of my youngest, who will be 11 in a little over a month.

She looks older, huh? Sooo not ready for that.

When I woke up this morning, there were many “ūüĎć” and a few “‚ô•ÔłŹ.” The last “like” was from a guy who had attended the same high school as I did. Just about the only interactions we have are reading and occasionally clicking our reaction to each other’s posts. But, he posts nice pictures of nature and other things I find mildly interesting. We reconnected at our 30 year class reunion a couple of years ago.

He may or may not remember, but, we had previously connected on FB back in 2010 or 2011, when I first joined the ‘book. It ended after a contentious interaction when the world didn’t end according to the 2012 Mayan Calendar predictions.

Depression had its hold on me and I posted some joke about being disappointed that the predictions had been wrong. He took exception to that and expressed his disagreement and disapproval.

That triggered anxiety and activated my defensiveness. I felt attacked. I was shaky and feeling threatened for no apparent reason. That was about the time another h.s. acquaintance and I got in conflict over something else, entirely.

I reactively “purged” my FB account, hoping to deactivate my hypervigilant hypersensitivity of the moment. I remember that I still felt threatened in some vague, amorphous way.

Some of that stemmed from my desire and need to be understood and accepted. However, I equated being understood with being agreed with and being accepted meant being justified and approved of. Anything else felt like I was under attack and unsafe.

I still don’t really understand the root reasons I experience anxiety around feeling rejected and not acceptable. I guess that hearkens back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with a sense of belonging being a basic need.

All I know, is that my gut clenched, my breathing got shallow, and my heart hammered when I saw the guy at our class reunion. Our online disagreement had such an impact on me. I wanted to avoid him and hide, because I was certain he would remember our interaction and be judging me by it.

Chances are he doesn’t remember that interaction. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t be connected today. If he does remember, it likely doesn’t matter to him one way or the other. Regardless, the fact is that a molehill had been amplified to seem like a mountain, and, I think it’s possible that interaction will stay with me for a long time.

Part of me looks back on that time and sees the degree and type of reactivity and judges past me harshly. However, there’s a bigger part of me that understands and accepts who I was back then.

So, here’s my message to the me I used to be:

I love you. You’re not ridiculous and never were. You were living with the results of trauma. You were living without knowledge or understanding of the mental illnesses in your brain. I’m proud of you. You knew your reactions were signs you needed help and you paid attention to those signs. You had the courage to ask for help. You put in the work to change, heal and grow. You had the strength of character to own the consequences of your actions and behaviors from then and before. I’m grateful to you. You made me, me. You’re amazing. Thank you.

Ramble on

A lot’s happened over the past two days and even more is happening today.

On Monday, I attended the orientation session for the Health Careers NW study. It’s a federal research study to determine if providing vocational training in healthcare fields and employment support for low-income people receiving public assistance can help them attain a greater degree of financial self-sufficiency‚Ķuhmmm yeah!

In order to move forward with that process and when I, eventually, obtain a job, I’m going to need to show my Social Security Card. I don’t have it. Rather, it’s (hopefully) lost and buried somewhere in the depths of a very large box full of boxes and bags of papers‚Ķand by very large, I mean a moving box sized to carry several oversized pillows and lightweight items.

Trust me when I say there isn’t enough time or physical space for me to go through it and continue doing the job readiness, mental health recovery, and physical health activities I’m doing.

So, the Employment Specialist who has been working with me through the Social Security Administration’s Supported Employment Demonstration (a different federal research study to determine if people who have been denied Social Security Benefits for disabling conditions can successfully be transitioned back to employment with Employment Supports, Mental Health Case Management, and Physical Healthcare Supports…uhmmm yeah, again!) has been helping me get to and from some of these employment readiness activities I’ve been doing. She went to the orientation with me.

We decided to try to get to a Social Security Office afterward. However, she was on a tight schedule and had already agreed to take me to a store where I could exchange my empty 5 gallon water bottles – it’s too hot to go without decent water. The first place we went was out of water. So, we had to go to a different store.

While walking into that store, I tripped on a curb and went down on my left knee, then rolled onto my back. I managed to avoid going down too hard, thankfully.

By the time the water got replaced, it was too late to go to the Social Security Office. So, we agreed to go Tuesday‚Ķfully expecting at least an hour wait. Lo and behold, we got there and I had less than a 20 minute wait! ūüėģ

I had tried to sign up for the NCRC, which I talked about here. However, I couldn’t just sign myself up. So, I called and spoke to the gal who’d led the Health Careers NW orientation on Monday. Now, I have four hours of testing to do today.

Not looking forward to it.

I tried to do math prep yesterday. I realized that geometry will kill my math score…which will kill my overall rating, since the lowest score determines the final rating.

The perfectionist in me is quite unhappy with that thought. However, the realist in me knows what’s what and that, ultimately, geometry is not a part of my career path and that my other abilities will speak for themselves when the time comes.

So, I decided not to make myself crazier with the math prep.

Later, I had a Volunteer Orientation at NAMI. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It’s a nationwide, peer driven organization offering support, education, and community engagement for those experiencing mental illnesses and their families. Since I want to get into peer work, this is my next logical step.

There are several opportunities for me here: teaching classes, as long as I’ve already taken them myself; Community engagement – speaking at schools, organizations, and businesses about my lived experiences as both a person living with mental illness and a parent/family member of others who have experienced mental illness; operations support, which will have me exercise my office and writing skills.

I start next week. My first volunteer project will be working on updating the local resource guide. The current one is two years old and things change.

I’m really excited about this next phase.

On my way home, I experienced another knee injury. I’m afraid this one was a bit more severe than the first. I’m really hoping that the pain subsides without me having to make another medical appointment.

What happened?

A slightly out of it man got on the bus, chose not to sit down, and neglected to hold himself steady. So, when the bus started to move, he came toppling down onto my lap like a felled tree, his shoulder gouging into the top, inside of my knee, above and to the side of my kneecap.

That’s the leg with the nerve entrapment in my foot and the same knee I’d fallen on the day before. So, now I have some radiating pain going down into my foot. Yay.

Since I’m hurting, sleep is elusive. Which means, I’ll be going into my tests sleep deprived and in pain.

Wish me luck.

Write about a time when‚Ķ

Still feeling blocked. My soul is aching from all the hate and the suffering it’s inflicting on various people groups in my country. I’ve been housebound with a sick child this week and I’m dealing with some mental health stuff triggered by stress and worry about a family situation I have no control over or say in, but impacts me and my youngest child.

I’m determined to follow through with this session of The Ultimate Blog Challenge and write a blog post everyday. I just want whatever I post to be interesting, if not entertaining.

So, I searched for a prompt I could write about substantively. Here’s what I found: Writing Prompts: 60 Ideas You Can Use Today

I chose prompt 21: Write about a time when you or someone you love was scammed.


In some ways, this is my origin story…or one of them.

It was the beginning of my junior year of high school. My life had been upended…again. I was 16.

My uncle, who had been my guardian since just prior to my mother’s suicide four years earlier, had gone through a divorce and a custody battle over my baby cousin. He’d moved me in with my grandmother while he moved forward into a toxic and destructive new relationship.

Meanwhile, my grandmother and I were taking care of my cousin a lot of the time. She was with me so often that, when I was 15, I was often mistaken for her mom.

For whatever reason, I never knew, he moved my grandmother and me back to the place we’d lived when my mom and I had first landed in Portland. It was just down the hill from where his ex-wife was staying and back into the school district I’d been unenrolled from following the breakdown of our not-so-happy little family.

It was homecoming week and I was sneaking into school while other kids were sneaking out.

My uncle was MIA and had failed to do what was necessary to reenroll me in school and, because I was under a guardianship instead of living with my biological parents, I wasn’t allowed to enroll myself.

Contrary to everything pop culture indicates about the adolescent desire to avoid the confines of educational institutions, I WANTED to be in school‚Ķdesperately. You see, I believed that the only way out of poverty and away from the kind of life I’d lived was my intellect and education.

I’d taken the PSAT (Pre Scholastic Aptitude Test) the previous year, as a sophomore. My scores were high enough that I received interest letters from Harvard & Radcliffe and Whitman College. I was also offered my choice of ROTC scholarships‚Ķall contingent upon my graduation from high school.

I was missing half of my first term as a junior and was anxious, angry, and feeling abandoned, again.

That’s when I met him.

At first, I shied away from him. We were living in the place where respectable morphs into disreputable and he was an unknown entity. Strange men were suspect and not to be trusted.

Then, when I was at loose ends one day, I ran into him again. This time, he was with a girl my age. I thought she was his girlfriend. It turned out that they’d moved in right next door. Within a short period of time, they became my port in the storm.

It turned out that she wasn’t his girlfriend, but someone he was helping to get her life back on track. Or that was the story‚Ķand I believed it.

He was 30, passably attractive, and treated me like I was an adult. He listened and talked with me as if what I had to say mattered. He was my safe haven from the drama and paid attention to me when no one else, my uncle, could be bothered. I fell in love.

Within a couple of weeks, I was finally enrolled in school, but I’d missed almost two months of the beginning of the school year and was struggling to catch up. I spent every moment I could next door, getting homework help, friendship, and feeling as normal as I had ever felt.

Things got physical. I initiated. In hindsight, I know I was manipulated to that point. But, I thought it was my idea. He pretended to dissuade me, but, took what I offered anyway.

Then, my uncle decided to show up and assert his authority. Probably because my grandmother had been trying to get me to stop going where I was headed and had reached out to him.

There was a scene right out of an angsty teen drama, where my uncle and I were yelling at each other (cue Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It). “We love each other!” I loudly declared. I don’t remember what was said next, but I got my face slapped. I almost hit back, but, my uncle was holding my 2 yr. old cousin in his arms. He saw the look in my eyes and taunted me, “Go ahead. Hit a man with a baby in his arms.”

Next thing I knew, I was out the door and locked in the bathroom next door. Shortly thereafter, the two men were squared off, outside, and I was on the door stoop, screaming for them to stop.

I went into my appointment. Things calmed down and my uncle eventually left. I snuck back out and went next door. We knew we wouldn’t be able to be together if things stayed as they were. The next day, we left.

Three months after we left, he got picked up on a parole violation. A month later I found out I was pregnant. A few months after lat, I turned 17. He was released, then, we were on the run, again. Almost a year after we’d first run away, our son was born.

We spent a little over three years hitchhiking across the country and living out of cars. We put notes up in rest areas and told people stories about our circumstances designed to manipulate them into giving us money, food, and shelter. He was a low level scam artist and I became his apprentice.

Two weeks before Christmas of 1988, a little over a month after our son turned two, I’d had enough. I was 19 and over it all. I was done and he knew it. He disappeared for a week with that month’s welfare allotment. The shelter we’d been staying in either needed the monthly “rent” – money they set aside to save enough for move in expenses – or we had to go. They gave me our “deposit” back so I could try to find someplace for us to go.

Somehow, he knew to come back that night. We fought. He wanted the money and I wasn’t going to give it to him. He almost killed me in front of our son, but, stopped short for some reason. Then, he left. I never saw him again.

His love was a scam that changed my life forever.

Blocked

I feel like my brain went on vacation and forgot to take me with it. There’s just a hodgepodge of feelings, thoughts, and experiences from the past several weeks, swirling in my psyche. I didn’t really know what or how to write about it. So, I started where I was and followed where it led.


When my mind is blank
and my vision dim;
my heart is heavy
and my soul is grim.

When my words are lost
and my mouth silent;
my lungs are empty
and feelings are violent.

Avoid and evade
the sorrow and pain.
Numb the body
Disconnect the brain.

This half life
I do not want.
Yet, in this moment
my will is daunt.

The tank is empty.
The drive is gone.
It’s time to rest
and wait the dawn.

Open the heart
and clear the mind;
heal the soul
and mend the blind.

Love lives in me,
a spiritual well
I forget to drink,
my thirst to quell.

Reach deep within
Touch the eternal
Connect with love
Fraternal

Grasp the vine
In him abide
Mind, heart, soul
Full life betide.

Day 2 Blah blah blah

Another day of nothing of import to write about. I have a sick kiddo at home. I’m stressed about family issues that aren’t my problem, I have no control over, and can do nothing about. My thoughts are scattered. The fatigue levels are still bad‚Ķbarely functioned yesterday.

I rescheduled the meeting with the employment specialist‚Ķagain and missed my mental health socialization’s group potluck.

I did make it to my first acupuncture appointment in probably eight or nine years. Barely. For some reason I hadn’t set my notifications correctly and didn’t get out of bed until 8:25 and the appointment was for 9:00. I made it by 8:43. It turned out that all systems were down and they didn’t get me in until 20 minutes past appointment time.

I’ve canceled one appointment and rescheduled another that were still on today’s calendar. There’s one thing left and I do need to attend that one. So, I’ll figure that out. Probably have her hang out at home and have the neighbor be available to her.

The worry and stress I’m feeling about the family situation has triggered the binge eating‚Ķand I haven’t been fighting it. I’m not usually a sweets person, but, glazed old fashioned donuts aren’t safe.

I’m partly future tripping about what choices my family members will take in reaction to dealing with their toxic circumstances. The fear of losing relationship with these very important people because of someone else’s toxicity has me in near tears when I think about it. It also raises some pretty ugly thoughts about this other person. I don’t like being in either a sad/fearful state or in a bitter/angry state. So, I’m defaulting to the numbness of food and fatigue.

It’s hard on the creative process.

It’s frustrating when you’re chugging along, writing effortlessly (mostly) then, suddenly, someone pulls the switch, redirecting your path, and you wind up in the empty container yard.

What to do?

Yesterday was a brain dump that came out relatively acceptable in form and function. Today is a meandering mishmash of whiny angst. Let’s see if I can do something better for tomorrow.

Maybe I can collaborate with someone else and do an interview. I know it’s short notice, but, maybe something will gel.

How are you doing and how do you handle roadblocks in your creative process?