writing

UBC 4/20 Day 7: Avoidance, Fear, and Understanding Myself

I have a counseling appointment today, via computer. I really like this therapist. I met her fact-to-face just once after social distancing became a recommendation, before it became a government mandate… so, that would have been three weeks ago. I feel like she’s going to be good for me. I also think she’s going to be somewhat hard-nosed and won’t let me get away with not doing my “homework.” So, here I am, cramming homework I had all week to do, into a few hours before it’s supposed to get turned in. Just like in high school or college.

Turns out that this is exactly part of the homework I was supposed to be working on. Avoidance.

What am I avoiding, exactly?

Well, the questions she asked me to consider at our last session were about me identifying my space in the world and in my life. Not where I feel I belong, but the space that belongs to me, specifically in my own home. What do I need to work on taking back so that I can feel safe and secure? Why is there such a strong sense of avoidance? What does avoiding look like? What am I avoiding?
Believe it or not, I think tackling the questions on avoidance will be easier than the other questions. Of course, that’s also a way of avoiding examining the other questions. Right?

Aaaaand avoiding dealing with the avoiding. It’s been about an hour, maybe more, since I finished that last sentence. So, back to the question: Why such a strong sense of avoidance? I think this is the point where my “stream of consciousness” writing style may come in handy.

Fear. Fear is at the heart of avoiding. At least, I think that’s what it is. If that’s true, then, I need to figure out what it is I fear. In the context of the initial questions about space and figuring out how to take back what is mine and what I need to do to work on to taking it back, what is it my fear?
It may be two things. The first is realizing that I’ve seldom, if ever, completely had my own space, or my own place in the world. I don’t think I even understand what that looks and feels like.

I remember being a young child where a couch was my bed and the living room was my bedroom. After that, when I had my own room, it became to catch-all. Whenever my mother expected people to come into our home, all the accumulated clutter from the public spaces was moved into my room and seldom, if ever moved back out. I recall one Christmas I had been given a peppermint candy cane log – it was HUGE. If memory serves, I had carved out space for it on my dresser and I was looking at it from an angle that meant I was on the floor. I have a sense that was because the floor was the only available space and it was also where I slept. After that life fell through and we moved again, I may have had my own room for a few months before my mom and I moved to live with my grandmother. It was a small, one bedroom apartment. More moving. Then mom died, leaving me in my uncle’s custody. Another one bedroom apartment for my uncle, his wife, and me. I was 12.

Eventually, I had a room to myself, but, it never felt like it was mine or my space because I never really felt like I belonged, that I was part of his family unit. Three more moves over the next four years. Some of the time I lived with my uncle, some of the time I lived with my grandmother. Sometimes I had my own room, but, mostly not. Then, at 16, I ran away. When you’re a runaway, you really don’t get your own room. I lived out of cars and hitchhiked across the country with my son’s father, until he almost killed me in front of our two year old son. At 19, I was a single mom, with no employment history or proven work skills. So, there was no way to afford my own space. When I did afford my own space it was either studio apartments or one bedrooms that I shared with my son. Sometimes there were roommates.

During the times when I might have had my own space, I wound up helping other people out and giving them a place to stay…often for extended periods of time. Including now, when my adult daughter’s family became houseless right after Thanksgiving. Her family of five plus one on the way moved into my tiny two bedroom, one bath apartment. Even before they moved in, though, my space wasn’t my own because her younger sister, who I was partially co-parenting, but mostly single parenting, is autistic and at 10 years of age refused to sleep by herself.

So, yeah, I have no clue how to own and occupy space that’s just mine.

The second fear is that, if I push the issue and push my daughter’s family out, I’ll be abandoning them, abandoning her, the way I was. Well, maybe not the way. After all, my mother’s undiagnosed, untreated mental health issues are what caused her suicide. But, she left me alone and, even as a 50 year old woman, there are times when I wish I had a mother to turn to. I don’t want her to ever feel that I won’t be available when she needs me and, right now, she needs me.

Finally, the third fear is intertwined with the second fear. I’m afraid of losing relationship with her and my grandchildren. Six years ago, my relationship was so broken with her that I had to find out from an old family friend that she had gone into premature labor and was in the hospital. She didn’t want me there. Now she’s about to give birth to baby #4. I don’t ever want to be in a position where I am not wanted or allowed to be in my daughter’s or grandchildren’s lives again.

Well, that’s enough processing for now. I know this was long. Thank you for sticking with me until the end.

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UBC 4/20 Day 6: Living

Reaching out, all I grasp is air.
Seeking what is not there.
Feeling the edges of despair.
Apathy says, “I don’t care.”

Opening my eyes, I see nothing.
Looking for one special thing.
Wanting a reason to sing.
Hope says, “Wait for spring.”

Walking into the void,
Fear being destroyed
I’m no longer paranoid.
Faith says, “Life’s to be enjoyed.”

Listening in the emptiness.
Hearing my inner distress.
I sense love’s caress.
“You are mine,” Divinity says.

lem 04/2020

Challenge (almost) complete, but not over

I started a 29th blog post yesterday. However, I was running late on getting it done. Then, I got a call from a family member facing a minor crisis. wp-15644976270724186864348788725799.jpgWhile helping to resolve the crisis, I dropped my phone on a four lane, very busy, street and watched several vehicles run over it.

It’s still powered on and functioning internally, as near as I can tell, but the screen is totally shattered. The only reason why it’s even still on the device is a testament to the kind of screen protector it had on it.

I wasn’t ready to upgrade the phone. However, I’d already planned on leaving Apple behind. After an hour and a half at the Sprint store, I wound up with a Pixel 3a XL. So far it’s pretty intuitive to use and it’s soooo lightweight compared to the iPhone X I had. I’m pleased about that.

I’m super bummed at this point, though, because I’m not sure if my phone was automatically backing up to the cloud. Nor do I have a clue as to how to download all the pics and things from the cloud. There’s an iCloud sync app I’ve downloaded, but, for some reason, I’m not allowed to use it until Friday, August 2nd. Oh well, I can be patient.

In other news:

I’m super happy to report that when I got home Sunday night, after a busy weekend, I checked the mail and found an acceptance letter from the Peer Support Specialist Training I applied to a couple of weeks ago.

I was pretty sure I was going to get in, but, it was such an exciting relief to actually read the words!

Now comes the hard part…figuring out what to do next. The initial training ends on December 6. That certification, in and of itself qualifies me for an entry level position. Do I try to find a short-term job that will only be 3-7 months long, which is unlikely. Or, do I find a job, knowing that as soon as I graduate, I’ll be looking to move on into a Peer Support Specialist role? That doesn’t feel good to me. Kind of unethical. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I just had an idea! I can register with a temp agency and do some office or customer service work to tide me over while I get my training done.

Glad that’s figured out. Moving on.

This is my last post of the July 2019 Ultimate Blog Challenge. I managed to post 29/30. So, all in all, with everything else I’ve had going on, that’s a pretty good record. In the past, I would have counted that missing one as causing this whole endeavor to have been a failure. But, that isn’t true, is it? I did good.

On Sunday night, we discussed the difference between a destination mindset vs a journey mindset.

The way I would have previously seen less than 30/30 as a failure, is a destination mindset. Meaning, achieving the goal of 30 posts in 30 days was the mission and the only thing that mattered. It’s a very limiting mindset, isn’t it? It’s rigid and perfectionistic. It’s self-defeating. At least, for me, these things are true.

What’s the alternative? What is the journey mindset? It’s a way of thinking and being that makes the things experienced and people encountered on the way the point and purpose of being on the path to reach a destination.

To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This mindset enables the one on the journey to stay present in each moment, learning and growing, as well as achieving the end result of arriving at a destination point. It is a mindset that inherently causes one to realize that there’s always more to explore and experience. It also instills the ability to see the value in savoring the moment instead of just getting through it in order to get to the next moment.

For me, this month’s UBC has been a journey. I’ve experienced a lot of growth inside of myself. It’s grounded me, causing me to stay present and connected to the moment I’m in, because I had to pay attention to what was happening in order to write about it. It stretched me to explore things I never would have chosen to do on my own, in my egocentric life. I got the opportunity to make some new friends and learn to look at some different viewpoints.

I’m not sure what kind of writing schedule or routine I’m going to set for myself now. I know I need to figure it out. It will happen. I’ll be staying in touch and updating probably once a week, if not more often.

Thanks for journeying with me.

Incongruity

It seems that my ability to write and post on the weekends is consistently challenging. Today, instead of my Peer to Peer class, I was gifted with the opportunity to attend an art therapy collage class, followed by lunch with the friend who had gifted me with the opportunity.

I’ll be sharing more about that in the next day or two.

In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with one of my poems from a couple of years ago. I hope you enjoy.


Incongruity

The incongruity in between
how I see vs how I am seen
is too great to fathom,
an impenetrable chasm

My lens has been distorted,
the images contorted,
stretched beyond my limit,
formed by my inner critic.

Meeting and getting to know you,
questioning all I thought I knew,
an unknown truth being revealed,
my heart growing, being healed.

New beliefs being conceived.
A wider world being perceived.
Connected across distance,
a gift of your existence.

©️ 2017

Who knew I was a perfectionist?

Not me.

How can I possibly be a perfectionist? My life’s kinda, sorta, really a mess. I mean, I regularly accumulate two or more weeks worth of laundry to put away. After all, I spent Sunday morning folding and putting away three bags of clean laundry and still probably have three loads worth to still put away. (Who knew I had that many clothes?!?!?) I have bags of non-perishable groceries, purchased IN FEBRUARY, which still need to be put away.

Pretty much every surface above the floor is occupied with stuff. Papers are EVERYWHERE: loose on various pieces of furniture, in boxes, in bags, in boxes of bags…And notebooks, lots of notebooks. Every therapy group and class has a notebook, as does my Peer-To-Peer class, and I have a full notebook of all my job readiness stuff – the most organized thing in my life.

My adult kids suspect that I may be a paper hoarder.

Maybe they’re right.

Or, maybe, just maybe my therapist is right. Maybe I’m a perfectionist.

I have difficulty with little goals. You know, the little daily goals that list makers have. Tasks that need completing in that day’s 16, mostly functional, productive hours.

Little goals never seem like enough. For me, that is, not for others. I’m a “go big or go home” kind of gal. Unfortunately, if it looks like I’m not going to be able to complete the big goal, I get overwhelmed and shut down. I’m fairly certain that’s why I haven’t written anything longer than short flash fiction or a blog post. The thought of curating and editing what I’ve written on the blog feels monumental and overwhelming, on several levels.

It’s always been that way academically, too. Good enough is seldom good enough for me. In retrospect, it’s partly that mentality that precipitated me running away from home when I was 16, which you may or may not have read about here and here. Since I’d missed 1/3 – 1/2 of the first term of my Junior year, I was convinced that there was no way I could catch up and earn the grades I would need to take advantage of the potential scholarships which had been implied with the recruitment letters I had received from Whitman College, Harvard & Radcliffe, and the combined branches of the military (I was offered my choice of ROTC scholarships).

All or nothing. All too often it has turned to nothing.

I realized yesterday that particular attitude is manifesting again in my job readiness process.

There’s a thing called the NCRC (National Career Readiness Certificate).

The NCRC is a multi-functional, Nationally Known and recognized credential designed to document the current essential skills of job seekers and students. A Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum certificate can point to a specific industry and/or job type that is translates into a “right fit” for an employer.

There are three assessment tests: Reading, Math, and Locating Information using graphics, ie. maps, charts, and other visual representations of data. There are four levels of achievement: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. I’m fairly certain I could earn Gold or Platinum for Reading assessment. I might be able to do Silver or Gold for the Locating Information assessment. However, I’m pretty sure my math skills are rusty enough that I could only score a Bronze for that assessment. Pesky fractions and geometry!

I could handle all of that, except, it’s a 3 for 1 kind of deal. What that means is that there’s one overall score/rating. It isn’t an average of the three. It isn’t the middle score. It certainly isn’t the top one. Nope. It’s the lowest one. So, if I score a Platinum rating for Reading, a Silver for Locating Information, and a Bronze for math, my overall rating is Bronze. The thought of that makes me cringe. I’m better than that, dammit! (or so I tell myself.)

The assessments are offered twice a month. Which means there have been at least two or three opportunities to take it that I have passed up, in favor of other job readiness activities which may or may not hold universal weight with potential employers. I haven’t taken it because I wanted to figure out how to brush up my math skills first.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation for Health Careers NW. “Health Careers NW is a WorkSource program that provides coaching, training and job placement support to low-income adults interested in a career in healthcare. . HPOG is a study funded by the federal government which is being conducted to determine how these training opportunities help people improve their skills and find better jobs. which is a potential opportunity to get training funded and employment supports.”

During the orientation, I found out that there aren’t any child care funds available. However, the person giving the orientation suggested that obtaining the NCRC certification opens to door up to travel funds and other benefits. It also might make child care funds available. When I raised my objection regarding the probability of me getting a Bronze for Math, she told me that it doesn’t really matter what the level is, what matters is getting the certificate and that any assessment can be retaken.

I still have an internal resistance to doing this. HOWEVER, I’m going to see what I can do tomorrow to register for the orientation and assessment sessions on the calendar for Wednesday. After all, it probably holds more weight than the Google applications computer course I’m signed up for and can take at any time.

So, as I stated in a prior post, I’m going to Just Do It!

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

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…barely functioned yesterday.

I rescheduled the meeting with the employment specialist…again 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…and 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?

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.

In recovery: sharing my story

I may or may not have mentioned that one of the myriad of things I’m doing, for myself and for my employment readiness, is NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer class. On Saturday mornings for several weeks, I get together with a group of other people also experiencing mental health issues and we learn with and from each other about what our mental health conditions are and do and how to live with them. Yesterday was the day to share our stories.

I’ve shared bits and pieces, summaries and rants, and some full out essays on my history in various other posts in the past. I’m not doing any of that, this time. I’m going to transcribe what I shared in the group. Then, I’ll let you know what makes it different.


WHAT HAPPENED?

Sentinel Event – what was the spark that you believe led to your mental decline? (Ex: job loss, housing loss, win the lottery, broken relationship, life gain, etc.)

I’ve known for decades that I experienced depression. I’d begun to suspect PTSD and Bipolar 2 for a couple of years. On 12/06/13 there was an explosive breakdown of my family.

Behavior/Symptoms? Progressive onset?

Hyper-reactivity; rapid and disorganized speech; getting “stuck” or “lost” in the stories of my trauma experiences.

Difficulty accepting or asking for help:

Decades of denial of manic/hypomanic episodes and “manipulating” psych service providers to only see and treat the depression. Ignoring symptoms of anxiety. Initial refusal of meds for Bipolar, Anxiety, and Depression.

WHAT HELPS?

Wellness strategies (Ex: Self-care, medications, sleep, self-talk, spiritual)

Medications, DBT, Therapy, Engaging with my faith community, Writing/Blogging. Need to increase physical activity and nutrition.

Results/Reflection

Improved and restored relationships with my adult children. Increased self-awareness. Hope for the future.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Successes: Continuing to work towards employment – doing the PSS/PWSS Training and volunteering; continue therapy and do possible med adjustments.

Hopes: Financial independence and self-sufficiency

Dreams for the future: Write/publish a book.


The assignment was to write this outline to tell our story in a way that would be five minutes or less in order to allow others time to tell their stories. That’s not something I could have done five years ago. Probably not even a year ago.

Remember how I identified getting stuck or lost in my trauma stories as a symptom or behavior? It’s a manifestation of PTSD. I didn’t know that five and a half years ago when my life imploded. Turns out that PTSD flashbacks don’t necessarily manifest themselves in vivid reliving or re-experiencing the moments of trauma. PTSD manifests differently according to the variations of the trauma and the individual. My trauma was successive and chronic. I dissociated as my coping mechanism – didn’t even realize I was doing it. So, I could share my story, but, I couldn’t just summarize it, keep it brief, or access the mental shut off valve to my mouth even as I wanted to stop.

This is probably the thing that’s driving my fearfulness around doing job interviews. Not being able to briefly describe what happened, without going into excruciating detail from the beginning of time, and turning into a sobbing mess.

My adult daughter thinks I’m too honest for my own good. Wait. What? How can you be too honest? Well, by telling more than was asked and spiraling into details they don’t need to know. So, some of the most common interview questions are psychological landmines for me.

I know that if I “finesse” my answers to avoid mentioning the mental illness, that I will be lying by omission. Lying, misleading, and manipulating people to get what I want is something I absolutely cannot bring myself to do, 99% of the time. (The truth is we all lie a little, even if it’s just to ourselves. So, no one is 100% truthful, 100% of the time.) There’s a trauma story there. That story rises to the surface and can be seen in my facial expressions and body language if I attempt to verbally manipulate someone. That’s kind of disastrous in an interview. So, I’m going to have to tell my truth when I’m in the interview room.

The fact of the matter is that the mental illnesses of Bipolar 2, PTSD, and Depression live in my brain and sometimes come out to play, without invitation and at inopportune times. Most of the time, they’re well behaved because of the meds and the retraining of my thinking processes through therapy. But, once in awhile, they like to party like Beetlejuice and wreak a little havoc.

So, I have to learn how to be brief, concise, and honest and keep the story reined in. I didn’t think that was something I could do. But, after sharing my story, like that, in a room of my peers, I am slightly more confident I can do it in an interview.