Still Pluggin’ On

That’s one of the best American phrases I’ve ever heard.  It means moving forward, even at a slower rate than one might want and against any odds.  That’s how I feel about work right now.  I’m still pluggin’ on toward that deadline looming not-so-distantly in front of me.  This means blog posts might be short or nonexistent this week.  I’ll do my best.  You have my word, dear readers, that I won’t take another seven-month break this time.

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Family

Looking through the window, you would think you were watching a family.  Two people are playing video games.  A baby is walking about with toys, showing his cars to everyone who will look.  Folks are gathered around the table, still strewn with dishes.  All of the people are related by blood or marriage.  Family.

Then there’s me.  The lone person in the room who isn’t actually attached to anyone.  This is the Thanksgiving celebration of my best friend’s father and family.  To some extent, I feel out of place.  A Pagan vegan amongst diehard Christian carnivores.  I used to think of myself as easy to throw away.  No divorce needed.  No separating the family in to factions.  They could just point me toward the door and send me on my way.  Little by little over this past nearly two decades, I am changing.

This year is different.  This year, I am trying to connect.  I’m trying to drop my well-honed guard long enough to let these people in.  And I am bloody terrified.  Immersing myself as part of the family feels dangerous.  The more people you love, the greater chance you have of being hurt.  The greater the chance for betrayal and pain.  Is it worth it just to be part of a family?  I’m still trying to answer that question, but I’m leaning toward ‘yes’ these days.

We have plans for most weekends in December.  Family plans, and it’s just assumed I’ll be there.  These people don’t consider that I won’t be part of family situations anymore.  It’s so odd.  I have no biological family, but I seem to have acquired a great deal of family somewhere along the way.  I sit surrounded by these people, terrified that they’ll see whatever it is in me that those who hurt me saw.  And then my best friend’s father nearly crushes me in a warm hug, telling me he loves me.  Part of me loosens a bit inside.  Part of me enjoys that.  Who would have thought a girl with no family coming from a history of SRA and garden variety abuse would find herself surrounded by the love of a family someday?

So t his is my struggle this holiday season.  I want to be present in the celebrations, rather than so mentally-guarded that I miss out on things.  I want to talk with people, even when I feel they’ll just judge me anyway.  I want to function as part of the family, comfortable in the knowledge that that’s how they see me.  I want to take this chance for once and hope things don’t come crashing down.  My past says this will end in heartache and loss.  My current mindset dares to hope it won’t.  Here’s to trust!

Even Now

My best friend and I, as I have mentioned before on this blog, text every night.  Between 8:00-10:00-ish, we talk about our days and anything else that happens to come up.  It’s a great time, even when the subject matter is dark, because we are together.

Tuesday night was different.  Tuesday night found me unsure of his feelings toward me and terrified that I’d done something to push him away.  He wasn’t joking around about anything.  He wasn’t laughing, so to speak, via text.  He was simply answering me in terse phrases.  I was scared.

I asked if he was ok, and he answered in the affirmative.  A few texts later, I told him I felt like I was texting an acquaintance.  He said he didn’t know what to tell me.  Through the rest of the conversation, he had to assure me time and again that he was fine with me and fine himself.  I’m sure it tested his patience, but he stayed right with me.  I love him for that and many reasons.

This conversation makes me angry, now that time has passed.  Within the confines of the cult, I learnt that no one would like me other than my ‘family,’ those responsible for my training.  I was taught that the people who profess to love you would leave any time they wanted.  I avoided getting close to anyone, because I knew they’d leave anyway.  And it was always me.  I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, fast enough.  Or I was too good and punished for showing up the others.  Whatever the reason, love brought pain.

Now, many years later, I find myself falling in to that trap of not trusting people.  Trust is so hard.  For a while, it was impossible.  I met my best friend in January 2001.  Almost 17 years later, I had such a hard time trusting him that, in one conversation, I assumed he was ready to end our friendship.  This is SRA.  The systemised method of breaking down your natural sense of trust and rebuilding it with a sense of suspicion toward anyone you were not programmed to love.

I often wonder what happens next.  Will my lack of trust run off my FOC sometime?  Will I ever be able to relax enough to accept that they truly do accept me?  SRA is so damaging on so many levels.  Even now, some 17 years after escaping, I bear the scars, and I am devastated to know these scars affect the ones I love the most.

Talking of Bipolar Disorder

Into A Pearl by the esteemed Justin Currie reminds me of what it’s like to live with bipolar disorder.  It’s not likely the inspiration for his song, but it really struck me.  The aspect of a ‘stranger in your world’ that ‘only you can smother’ speaks to me.  Justin is by far my favourite singer.  The front man of Del Amitri (my favourite band), he has a flawless solo career.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him twice in concert and would follow him all over the world if I could.  I never tire of hearing him.  Anyway, give the song a listen.  You might just relate to it, as well.

The Machines Are Out to Get Me

I have a work deadline looming.  This is a project that will be several weeks in completing, and the deadline draws ever closer.  What this means is I completely lose the ability to pay attention.  Yes, there are reports to generate, but there are also shiny objects just across the room.  Those are much more important, right?

Today was supposed to be different.  I actually had my notes out and was ready to go.  Then, when I turned on my laptop, it required updates.  This isn’t typically so bad.  However, it took almost two hours this time.  I finally got ready to work on this stuff, and the laptop decided that was not to be.  I know the importance of  updating Windows, and  I always install these updates.  This was just the master of bad timing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have reports to generate.  Or blog posts to write.  Or shiny objects to stare at.  Who knows?  scowl

Routine

Here in America, my home of late, we’re preparing for Thanksgiving.  I have loads to be thankful for.  My FOC, my cats, my good health.  All of that.  For a girl who grew up in a cult and nearly died escaping it, having a good life at all is miraculous.  Yet here I sit, typing away, confident in the knowledge that I am loved and wanted by a wonderful group of people (and wonderful cats).  Yes, I am thankful.

I am not, however, thankful for bipolar disorder.  It will be the unwelcome guest this holiday week.  I’ll miss my nightly chat with my best friend Tuesday and Thursday due to his family obligations.  My work schedule is different.  My adopted grandmother of sorts and I will spend a day cooking together (great, but still out of the ordinary).  And all the while, I’ll have to monitor my mood for shifts caused by the lack of routine.

If you have bipolar disorder, you know this dance.  Your mood is stable.  Friends and family arrive.  Your anxiety rises.  Partway through the new terrain that is this holiday week, your anxiety peaks just in time for everyone else to settle in.  Your thoughts start racing from the anxiety, and pretty soon you start to feel the deliciously dangerous tug of mania.  This is what a significant change in routine can do to me.

Self care is so important during these times.  If I feel my thoughts start to race, I just go to my room and write or breathe or meditate.  Whatever it takes.  I check in with my best friend via text just to say goodnight.  Even if we can’t actually chat, that brief connection makes a major difference.  I force myself to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.  That part of my routine remains intact.  I used to think of this sort of care as selfish.  Now, I see it as necessary.  Without taking care of myself, I have nothing to give to others.

So this is my takeaway for all of you out there dealing with mental health issues this week: take care of yourself.  Your family, whether biological or just in the heart, wants to spend time with you.  Don’t let your disorder take your place.

Successful Bloggers

I’ve always found that idea interesting.  What makes one a ‘successful’ blogger?  Sure, some make money on blogging.  But what makes that blog any more successful than the blog with That One Post which helped That One Person?  Blogging is interesting.

As bloggers, we all assume the Internet could use what we have to post.  For many (read: most) bloggers, this involves finding a central topic and writing posts about that.  These blogs give perspective.  We, as readers, get to see a person’s views on a topic given many different ways.  These blogs allow us to think through the main topics, as well.

Other blogs follow a set format.  They focus on pictures, give the daily news or provide a type of commentary on many different topics.  These are the blogs that show their topics.  I enjoy blogs like this; it’s easier, sometimes, to say in pictures what can’t be said in words.  I’m grateful to bloggers with that sense of creativity.

So there are bloggers with topics and bloggers with templates, all organised and neat.  And then there’s this blog, disorganised and wild, much like its creator.  Success, for me, would mean that this blog has reached That One Person who has benefited from the mental health knowledge and experience passed along, as well as That One Person who just needed a laugh and happened to find it on these pages.

Thanks for reading, folks.  You are the success of this blog.

Time Marches On

The passage of time can be something of a trigger for me.  I am not a snowflake.  I’ve had my share of trauma and am here to tell the tale, so to speak.  But I do have triggers.  Typically, I can work with or simply avoid them.  Not so with the passage of time.

We’re headed in to a time of  year that is difficult for me.  The anniversary of my sister’s death looms ever-present as we near early December.  This will be the 17th anniversary, but it still feels new on that day.  Time has done nothing to touch that.  I think of her still as a twelve-year-old girl, smart and witty beyond her years, touching the lives of everyone who knew her.  My therapist asks me what I think she would be like now, but I have  no answer.  I’m stuck in the year of her death.  She’s frozen there.  I can’t take on the task of bringing her to this time of my life.  I guess I fear she’ll simply leave again.

Every December, I mark another year that has passed on the calendar, but my mind stays in 2000.  My sister took my heart with her on that rainy afternoon, and, in at least part of my mind, time has stopped there.  It’s hard to move on when you’re clinging desperately to the past with a child’s false hope that maybe you can stop it happening if you just try hard enough to return there.

Bittersweet

If I had to pick a single adjective to describe my life, ‘bittersweet’ would be the one.  There have been so many losses over my life that it seems every memory is tinged with sadness at times.  The happy memories of those I’ve lost are always there, but the sting of their absence is, as well.  And so it is with this holiday season.

My best friend’s brother died very suddenly in early August of this year.  Having been part of their family for almost seventeen years, I feel this loss acutely.  We’re all working through in our own way, sometimes even with each other.  When we’re together, though,  there is an absent presence.  We gathered a few weeks ago to spend time with each other, and it was clear someone was missing.  My best friend and I, along with his two surviving brothers, sister-in-law, parents and nephew all came together for games and a meal.  It was a wonderful afternoon full of love and laughter.  And unspoken loss.  Bittersweet.

Death has a way of bringing everyone together before splitting them in to separate groups when the public mourning is done.  Last year, my best friend’s grandmother died.  It’s been quite a time for his family.  This year, they won’t all be together for Christmas.  With the matriarch missing, the siblings have decided to gather with their own families of children and grandchildren.  No more big family Christmases to be had, now the centre point is gone.  Everyone will be with their separate families, and there will be love among all, still.  They just won’t be together as they have been in the past.  Again, bittersweet.

The thing we have to remember about the word ‘bittersweet,’ though, is that it is a compound word.  Separately, the words are opposites.  Brought together, they are two sides of the same coin.  You can’t have sweet without bitter, simply because the sweet of any relationship will end.  Whether by lack of compatibility or by the separation of death, the sweetness ends.  The trick is to enjoy the sweetness so much that, when the time of bitterness comes, its sting won’t be so bad.