It takes a village: I can’t do this alone

I have a lot of complex issues and the conditions of my life aren’t exactly conducive to accomplishing self-care activities.

Here’s the laundry list:

  • Single parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum
  • Dependent on ex to pay the bills and basic necessities
  • Subsisting on less than $100/mo and $350/mo SNAP benefits, aka food stamps
  • A support person for adult daughter and her family with three children under four – depending on availability
  • In treatment and recovery from PTSD & Bipolar Disorder
  • Fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, diabetes

As you might imagine, I feel overwhelmed and isolated much of the time.

The isolation exacerbates the intensity of the overwhelm from all the challenges.

In the past, I lived by the mantra, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”

I became the go to problem solver and rescuer of those around me.

A lifetime of living that way is what led me to where I am…a 258 lb woman under 50 with diabetes, high cholesterol, unable to maintain employment, dependent on government assistance and the ex.

I have very good whys for changing my health style by exercising and improving nutrition.

However, those whys aren’t motivating when the overwhelm kicks in and takes over my brain. They just add to it and make it worse.

This is where I need community. I need a village of support people. I need a network and a safety net for the times when I’m going to backslide, cheat, or start to give up.

I need to feel the hope and inspiration from the success stories of others who’ve gone before me. I need the camaraderie of those in the trenches, marching beside me. I need the cheers of those who believe in me. I need others not yet where I am who I can offer my experience, hope, and strength to.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with these needs. I’m almost positive that we all need these kinds of connections…which is more than challenging in the culture and society we live in today.

Everyone has their own laundry lists, their own challenges, and maybe even their own sense of being isolated.

What, then, is a person to do, especially when making the kind of changes I am making and can’t afford to join the weight loss programs and organizations?

I started online with my social networks on Facebook & Instagram.

I also did a little research and discovered Spark People. In the two days I’ve been engaged on the site, I’ve discovered tools (food/exercise tracker), information regarding making the healthy changes and sticking with them, as well as all the things I listed above. All for free.

I’ve found my tribe in a virtual village.

What does your tribe look like?


Gratitude: Exchanging complaining for appreciation

I’ve missed writing. I’ve started multiple posts over the past three months or so, only to get interrupted by something external or by my own internal distractions, like the pain, fatigue, and depression. Often, it has been a combination of both. I’ve gotten tired of being in complaint mode and chronicling the challenges, painful circumstances, and conflicted relationships I’m in. I want to be someone other than the one with the chronic issues.

I mean, they’re chronic for goodness’ sake! How much can be said about them? Who wants to hear about it all the time? Not me, that’s for sure. I’m sick of saying it. I’m sick of reading my own words about it. Since that has been where my head and heart have been at, my writing has suffered and been non-existent.

Hopefully, that’s about to change.

If you have a Facebook account, your November News Feed of other people’s status updates may have been filled with, or interspersed with, daily or weekly posts of “friends” posting things they are thankful for. Perhaps not. However, mine definitely was.

I personally know many of the people who were practicing thankfulness. It astounded me to see that people I know who are experiencing mental and physical health issues, divorces, death of loved ones, financial crisis, relationship conflicts, job loss, and other life calamities were identifying things to be thankful for in their lives. Often, multiple items on this list were going on at the same time or had overlapped during this year, much like the things I deal with on a consistent basis.

How is it that they could do this in sincerity and joy while experiencing the other things? How can they take their minds and emotions off of the struggles and the storms and rejoice in the brief sun breaks and rainbows?

It’s time for this Eeyore to explore other ways of being in this life and this world.

A handout received from Bridge City Community Church's Marc Schelske on 11/30/13

A handout received from Bridge City Community Church’s Marc Schelske on 11/30/13

I’ve realized that acceptance is not enough. I have learned to accept that I cannot change other people and their words, actions, attitudes, choices, perceptions, or interpretations of their experiences. I have come to accept that I am who I am, all of me; past & present, pleasant & unpleasant, constructive & destructive, functional & dysfunctional – at least I’m a lot more accepting of them and myself than I was a year or two ago. I’m still a work in progress on the acceptance thing.

I’ve reached the point where I accept that the situations and circumstances of my life and the world around me are as they are, regardless of my preference or comfort level. I accept and understand my contributions to these things which are and own that I’m living in the reality I created.

I have matured, grown, and changed. Some of the relational conflicts are diminished, new relationships and external engagements are being formed. However, the depression slump that I went into during September and am beginning to emerge from now, has been fairly heinous to go through, because I was still missing a critical component of recovery – gratitude.

Being grateful is not something I’ve ever really learned to do. It fell into the same category of being happy and experiencing love – emotions that you have in response and reaction to external stimuli.

Maybe that is the way it is for some people. Not so much for me. Regardless of the origins, my emotional response system is broken and dysfunctional. Perhaps, someday, a miracle will happen and it will suddenly be fixed, restored to it’s original state of functionality and endless potential. However, I cannot continue to exist in this brokenness, waiting for that to occur. I suspect the “fix” will not be a sudden, miraculous, eventful shift from the way it is to the way I want it. I believe that before that miraculous shift can or will occur, I have to prepare for it.

One of my current favorite shows is Once Upon A Time. Fractured fairy tales and fictional characters intermingled with legend and modern living, messy, conflicted relationships, and difficult to track of all the moving pieces and shifting relationships that always seem to be the same while they grow and change, realizing that the good aren’t all good and the bad aren’t all evil, sometimes. Two of the central “bad guy” characters are Regina/Evil Queen and Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. Regina has made a deal with Rumple and gotten what she wanted only to discover years later that she was still left with an emptiness inside of her. She approaches Mr. Gold and demands that he help her acquire the thing she believes will fill that hole and fulfill her in the way her previous achievement had not.

Mr. Gold: Are you ready for this?

Regina: I need this.

Mr. Gold: They are not the same thing.

I need to be a happy, content, and thriving person. I want it. I truly do. However, nothing in my life experience or in the ways I’ve learned to live my life have prepared me to be such a person. I’m fairly certain that the opportunities to experience this kind of life have been there, but I have always managed to dismiss or destroy them because they didn’t satisfy the twisted expectations of what I thought they meant. Kind of like Regina has done.

I want to be ready to experience this kind of life. In order to experience it, I have to practice it.

If you don’t have gratitude, you can’t be happy. If you don’t appreciate what you have, you can’t be content. If you aren’t grateful for and appreciative of what you have, you won’t take care of it and it won’t thrive.

What I have is enough. For this I am grateful.

The time I have is enough. For this moment I am grateful.

The people around me are enough. For them I am grateful.

Who I am is enough. For me I am grateful.

Above everything, God is enough. For this I am grateful.

Pinterest and other mania

A few of you have already discovered my recent advent onto the Pinterest boards. When the nosy, gossipy, poser known as Facebook asked: What’s happening? I made my reluctant confession.

What’s happening Facebook? Glad you asked. thanks to Marisa, and several others, I have succumbed to peer pressure and personalized a Pinterest.

Yes, it is true. I avoided it for over a year. I was intimidated by it. All the crafty, talented, creative, and beautiful people on the interwebs were posting all of these things that showed off skill, passion, humor, and inspiration. The Muses have evolved into the 21st Century and Occupy Pinterest.

I considered myself museless. Seeing all the things that I had never learned to do, had the patience for, or believed could ever be part of who I am was as dissatisfying and disheartening as window shopping and Sears-booking. If you have to ask what Sears-booking is, well, you are way too young. However, I won’t hold that against you.

Sears-booking is what people did before internet, cable television, and malls. Families would obtain a Sears catalog, once a year I believe, and it would become their window to the world outside of their homespun existence. It may have been the first concentrated marketing effort to convince people that their lives and what they had in them wasn’t enough. In 1894, a time when the household management was the woman’s domain, clothes were crafted from homespun cloth, sewn with detailed attention and love to last from one child to the next, and the next, and the next, to be saved for the following generations, the Sears book was the inspiration for making new patterns, implementing do-it-yourself innovations in the home, and the wishlist of the entire household.

The 1943 Sears News Graphic wrote that the Sears catalog, “serves as a mirror of our times, recording for future historians today’s desires, habits, customs, and mode of living.” ~ History of the Sears Catalog

It sounds a lot like Pinterest to me.

But I digress.

The point is this. I avoided Facebook for years believing that I had no place in that sphere with my depression, self-imposed isolation, and complete loss of passion and interest in life. One incredibly devastating and traumatizing event happened, in a series of such events, in my life and as a result I located my father, whom I had not seen since I was less than a year old, and a connected with a sister who had suspected of my existence when I’d had no knowledge of hers. At her urging, I joined Facebook. It was the second step in this journey of healing and recovery I embarked on in 2010.

I’m realizing I have believed these lies about all the things I’m NOT over the truth about all the things I AM. The power of believing, not just believing but immersing myself in them for so long has been similar to the pickling process (as I understand it). It took a pure, firm, healthy cucumber and transformed it into a smaller, wrinkled, more sour version of itself. It’s tasty for those who like pickles, but probably not a whole lot of fun for the cucumber, if a cucumber had feelings, that is. Writing this analogy just gave me a new revelation and understanding. The end result is not bad, it just means the cucumber has been transformed by it’s experiences and is different than it once was, but it’s purpose is the same: So it is with me.

AH HA!!!!!

Back to Pinterest. A day or so ago (I lose track, insomnia will do that to a person) Amy West, a bloggess extraordinaire I met through Le Clown’s blog, A Clown on Fire, with her post, “Zen and the Art of Blogging,” put out a Facebook feeler to see if any other bloggers who were mom’s wanted to participate in an an ongoing project with our children and art and blog about our activities, as a way of getting more engaged and connected to our children and our creativity. I volunteered, though my bleary eyes initially thought her broadcasted request had said it didn’t involve art or children. Yeah, insomnia will do that too. Pinterest is part of the process, optional, but still part of the process. When it comes to this blogging and social media thing, I’m starting to adopt the attitude of, “Go big or go home.

Speaking of going home . . .

It seems as though we are looking for a new one. If we get the one I found on Craigslist last night, Mr. Jade will have his new home in the same place ours will be; on the bank of the Umpqua River in rural Oregon close to the coast. It will be a five mile walk down a graveled drive with only five or so neighbors to reach the main road, which is a State Route. A wood stove for heat (I’ve never had that before, a little scared) and my only access to the outside world will be the internet and Direct TV service provided by the landlord.

For years I’ve lamented not being the domesticated woman of yesteryear and being capable of scratch cooking and homesteading activities like organic gardening and fallen into the easy excuse of fibro-fatigue and convenience reheating and mixing of pouches, boxes, and processed foods. Initially we will be without a vehicle, as I have been for the past couple of years. There is also no public transit system within walking distance since the main road will be five miles away. Therefore, Keith and I are in talks about postponing his hearing aids so I can get a freezer to place on the 60′ covered deck and stocking up on non-perishables, frozen meat, fruits, and veggies and equipping me with the necessary tools to cook and bake, as well as household necessities. It will be sink or swim and I’m determined not to sink. So, Pinterest and other internet resources to guide me in the process, here I come!

Prayers and positive thoughts about us getting this place and making this move within the next 30 – 45 days will be very welcome and much appreciated.

I’m back . . . and so is Jerry

Internet once again inhabits my home. Thanks to the cable company’s desire to connect “new” customers, Jerry went in and signed up services in his name and paid an initial start-up fee that was significantly less than the accumulated charges on the bill in my name.  We will be making small weekly or semi-weekly payments until my balance is paid off, because we owe the money.  Now we have a much less expensive monthly package and will be able to manage things better.  That’s the plan anyway.

Since Jerry is home for the next four days, my appearance here will probably be much less than when I was without internet because we will be muy occupado much of the weekend and he really does cherish his home time with me and Luna.  So, I will try to honor that as much as possible.

Saturday is going to be full and busy.  We are meeting a friend of mine at the gym to hang out and swim, before we head off to visit our “old is new again” church family, then across the city to celebrate a great-niece’s first birthday.  After that, I get to go out, meet up, and interact with people I once attended middle & high school with.  One of whom is my friend we’re swimming with in the morning.

This is the semi-official 25 year high school reunion for the class I should have graduated with.  Not really sure how I feel about it.  My brain is trying to do what it’s done for over three decades now and shut off the valve or shove it behind a door and lose the key.  I don’t think that works well anymore.  Leakage and explosions tend to abound.

I reconnected on facebook with many of these people I once shared the same hallways and breathed the same air with, a few years ago when I got dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century after I signed up for facebook under the duress of having found my father and sister and she pressured me into it.  Initially I was bombarded by friend request from all the family I never knew I had and whose language I can barely read, understand or speak.  Next came the people I knew from the various faith communities I had been part of over the years.  Much to my surprise I got some friend requests from people I never even thought remembered I had existed in the same world as them, some of whom I had managed to forget about myself.

Quickly, much like the old Faberge shampoo commercial (Please tell me some of you are old enough to remember that.  If you aren’t and don’t, please don’t tell me. The white hair and 25 year HS reunion are enough to remind me I’m getting older), I began getting and making “friends” and so on, and so on, and so on, with names familiar from days gone by, that I had hoped thought were gone forever.  High school was not a highlight in my life.

I wound up attending a small gathering of these people from my bygone era and came to the astonishing realization, that since I had moved on and grown up, at least a little, they had as well and while we would never be best friends, I could certainly “like” their status updates and food photos.

Then I got the invite to this reunion thing.

All the old tapes started playing and I’ve been dithering about in my mind, despite me posting a public statement that childcare permitting I would possibly be there.  All the while being in a mental and emotional dither about whether or not I would really go through with it.

Back and forth mental discussions about all the reasons why to avoid it, mostly around my physical limitations (read: low self-esteem and poor body acceptance), our finances (it’s $15 at the door for the food and I will probably prefer water anyway, maybe one mixed drink), and all the what if’s that could possibly go wrong . . . one of which was Jerry winding up on Home Time. Hmmm, Law of Attraction anyone?

However, as it came closer and the organizer updated with RSVP requests, I put out an offer to be a designated driver if I could get a ride, not really expecting anything to come of it.  But hey, I think that’s what I was kind of hoping for anyway.  What to my surprise should happen, but I get, not one, but two phone calls from out of towners who I had really and truly been friends with back in the day.

Despite my dithering and inclination to stay isolated, it seems I am supposed to attend this event and perhaps finish reaching the realization that if I’m an adult then they are too.

I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with the same friend we’re meeting in the morning today.  It was like coming home.  Something that I’ve never really had much of.  I think it was only the third time in my life that I’ve truly had a feeling where I was exactly where I belonged. I was with someone safe and loving who cares about me and lights up with arms wide open to welcome me into her life.  It was the second such occurrence with another human being.

You don’t miss what you don’t know until you experience it for the first time and realize it’s what was missing all along.

A good time was had by all

This has been an emotionally difficult week for me.  A confluence of hormones, circumstances, the stage of the depression cycle I experience, and how the people important to me in my life react to their own issues, have created the perfect storm of emotional disruption for me.  So much that I decided to seek out the EAP services offered by my employer.

The inciting incidents were a conflict at work that was contributed to by and blew back onto my relationship with my fiancee and having a dear friend offer condolences for a post she had seen on facebook, where my adult son publicly named another woman his mom and me as his incubator. I was very hurt and somewhat offended by my son’s post, but knew if I reacted or responded to it – publicly or privately to him – it would not end in a healthy way for either of us.  I don’t have very many people in my life that I can turn to, but I do have a couple of online groups where I can seek out support, encouragement, and acceptance without getting a bunch of negative feedback.  So, I did post an update that included details about what my son had done, but also included other things going on in my world.

It was two more days before I could actually meet with the therapist from the EAP program, and since I knew I only get three sessions total, I had some time to think about what I wanted to achieve from that session.  I thought about what I believe my core issues to be.  I spent some time on the phone with a friend talking out my side of the issue with my son.  So, by the time I actually met with the therapist, while I was still highly emotional, I was able to be rational as well.

I went into that appointment believing a lot of negative things about myself – specifically that all the years of counseling, classes, reading, groups, and treatment I’ve participated in to deal with my depression and the effects of childhood dysfunction and recover from unhealthy choices made in adolescence and early adulthood have done little to no good and I’m still a completely screwed up person.  I’ve done such damage to my oldest two children, that I have developed this second skin of mommy guilt that tells me because I wasn’t a good parent then, I am incapable of being a good parent now.  Somehow, all of my errors, mistakes, and deficiencies mean that I shouldn’t feel good about myself, who I am, or what I’ve accomplished and that I should have given up believing myself capable of healthy change and function.

The feedback that I got from this counselor was very soothing for me.  She told me she was impressed that while it was obvious I was being overwhelmed by my emotions, I was thinking and speaking in a way that showed I was capable of very rational thought.  She stated that it was obvious that I’ve done some work and validated the good parenting I am doing now.  When I explained that I had chosen not to confront or engage my son in any way regarding his post she validated that decision.  I told her that I have struggled with following through on the 4th step in the 12 step process, primarily because I’m afraid of being so emotionally overwhelmed that I will become immobilized – which is something that almost happened this week – she stated that she thought that was a wise decision on my part because it shows that I am being realistic about myself and the circumstances in my life.

We went on to discuss the resources and support I do have in my life that I can build on.  We agreed that I need to look at Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) in learning how to deal with the emotional responses that overwhelm me.  In the next two sessions, we’re going to focus on some of those things and she’s going to look for affordable options for me to have ongoing treatment without insurance.  I left her office feeling much more focused and confident that I can get through this.

I got to spend some time with my son yesterday afternoon.  I followed through on my decision to not engage him about his post.  I did give him something that I knew he felt he was owed by me, that I didn’t necessarily agree that I owed him, but had decided it was worth it in order to settle accounts and work toward restoration of relationship.  I didn’t make a big deal of it or go into a lot of discussion about the whys and wherefores of it.  He thanked me for proving him wrong and hugged me. Then he informed me that this other family had decided that they were going to adopt him, officially, and he would be changing his name.  I have some feelings I haven’t really looked at regarding that, yet, but it will happen.  My response simply was that he was an adult and it was their choice.  I did ask if he’d informed his other sister, because I believe she will have a much more intense personal reaction and will wind up feeling even more alienated than she already does.  But that’s their relationship with each other and not mine to meddle in.  Subsequently, he and I spent a couple of hours watching Youtube videos, chatting about facebook games, bad Syfy tv, and politics.

Last night I got to have dinner at a restaurant with four of the people I love the most, three of whom happen to be some of the most difficult people for me to deal with individually, much less together.  Add into the mix that they historically don’t do well in each others presence.  So, eating out in a public place with my fiancee, my son, and my friend who had notified me of my son’s post, along with my three year old daughter, had me in a bit of an inner turmoil.  Thankfully, less so than if I hadn’t met with the EAP Therapist.  There were a couple of bumps in the road, but overall, a good time was had by all.